Referencing and plagiarism

Referencing is when you acknowledge that you have used other people’s words or ideas in your assessment. Learn about what, why and when to reference here.

Watch this video to get an overview of what referencing is:


What to reference

You must reference any source you refer to in your assessment, i.e. ANY words, ideas, facts, theories, images or information taken from ANY source requires a reference. This includes:

  • books
  • articles
  • reports
  • webpages
  • images
  • etc.

An exception is when the information is common knowledge, e.g. The Covid-19 virus was discovered in 2019.

Referencing is needed when:

  • You have copied the words exactly from another source (direct quote)
  • You have used information from another source and put it into your own words (paraphrase)

Why you need to reference

You need to reference to:

  • show where you found the information you used
  • acknowledge the creator(s) of that information
  • allow your readers to find the information you have used
  • avoid plagiarism

What is plagiarism

If you don’t reference when you use someone else’s work, it is plagiarism.

Plagiarism is when you use someone else's work and present it as your own, even if you do it unintentionally. It includes:

  • not acknowledging sources
  • copying the work of another learner
  • copying from textbooks, online resource or other work without correct citation
  • not acknowledging sources, including your own work used for other purposes.

What the Open Polytechnic does about plagiarism

The Open Polytechnic regards plagiarism as cheating. We use similarity detection software to identify plagiarised work.

Learner misconduct involves any form of unacceptable or improper behaviour by learners, including misconduct during assessment (cheating).

Learners who assist or encourage another person to act in a manner that constitutes misconduct are dealt with as if they had committed misconduct themselves.

Learners suspected of academic misconduct are informed and the process is followed as stated in the Academic Statue section 13.

If you are found guilty of plagiarism, you will lose marks and could incur even more severe penalties. You could also be penalised if you allow another learner to copy from you.

See our Academic integrity page to learn more about being honest, respectful and ethical in your study and assessments.


APA referencing

There are many different referencing styles, each with its own set of rules. For Open Polytechnic assessments use the American Psychological Association 7th edition referencing style. This is commonly known as APA 7.

APA referencing:

  • is a system that determines the style and format for how to write your references
  • uses a reference list and in-text citations to acknowledge and identify sources.

Quick referencing APA guidelines (PDF 47 KB; opens in a new window)

Guide to APA referencing (PDF 395.11 KB; opens in a new window)


What’s the difference between references and in-text citations?


  • show the full details of the sources of information you used for your assessment
  • are listed alphabetically (usually by author or editor) at the end of your assessment.

Note: Put your reference list at the end of your assessment, starting on a new page labelled 'References'.

In-text citations:

  • are used when you quote or paraphrase a source
  • are short and occur in the body of your text, along with the information used from the source
  • show which reference supports a particular statement or idea in your writing
  • link to a corresponding full reference
  • are formatted slightly differently, depending on whether you are paraphrasing or quoting.

For information and examples on doing references, and using quotes and paraphrasing check:


When to reference

You must reference every time you use:

  • the words, opinions and ideas of others, no matter where you find, read, watch or hear them
  • 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 when using:

  • your own ideas (unless you included them in an earlier assessment)
  • common knowledge – this means something that lots of people will know, or information that can be easily found in many sources.

Here’s an example of what would be considered common knowledge:

The world started with the big bang.

Check out the Scribbr website’s section on common knowledge and have a go at the Common Knowledge test.


Got a question?

If you want to talk with someone about referencing and avoiding plagiarism, contact The Library and Learning Centre | Te Whare Pukapuka Wāhanga Whakapakari Ako. 

Contact the Library and Learning Centre