Referencing and avoiding plagiarism

Information and examples about how to use the APA referencing system for your assignments.

What is APA referencing?

APA referencing is a system that

  • shows where you found the information you are using.
  • acknowledges the creator(s) of that information.
  • allows your readers to find the information you have used.
  • uses a reference list and in-text citations to acknowledge the source of information.


  • provide details of the original sources of information.
  • are listed in a reference list at the end of an article, book, or your assignment.


  • are similar to references but occur in the body of the text.
  • are used by an author to show which reference supports a particular statement.
  • are sometimes called in-text references.

Why it's important to reference

  • Research, writing, ideas, pictures, etc. are thought of as belonging to the author or artist.
  • When you use an author's research, writing and/or ideas as a resource, they don’t become yours, they still belong to the author.
  • Referencing is used to acknowledge the author's ownership.
  • Referencing also shows
    - how much research you have done
    - gives evidence of the validity of your opinion, and
    - allows readers who are interested in the topic to go back to the original source.

What needs referencing and what doesn't?

Always reference

  • the words, opinions and ideas of others – whether you find them in a book, journal, newspaper, report, conference paper, legislation, website, email, blog, on the radio or TV, in a lecture or conversation, or anywhere else.
  • direct quotes and paraphrases of the words, opinions and ideas of others.
  • data, statistics, tables, graphs, code, audio and video material, illustrations, photographs or any other type of image.

You don't need to reference

  • your own ideas (as long as they haven’t been published or written in a previous assignment; in this case, you need to reference them.)
  • common knowledge. This means something that lots of people will know, or information that can easily be found in many sources.

How to reference

Open Polytechnic students are required to use the APA system of referencing - this is what determines the the style and format of your references, i.e. how they are written.

There's help with using APA referencing on this page:

How to use APA referencing

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is using someone's writing and ideas without acknowledgement.

As plagiarism may be penalised by the Open Polytechnic, it's important that you avoid plagiarising. You can avoid plagiarising if you reference your work correctly.

How to avoid plagiarising 



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