Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The Importance of Quoting and Referencing

The Importance of Quoting and Referencing

Academic writing is primarily involved with the spreading of information and with analyzing data in meaningful ways. Since its inception, the academy has become an industry which trades in knowledge and understanding. Academics are employed by universities in order to do research and to produce knowledge, data and analyses as products that have great value.

The academic products produced by academics and researchers include books, academic papers, seminars and courses, and all of these products are part of a multi-billion dollar global industry. These products can be extremely valuable to individual academics or researchers, as they can sell them or use them to advance their careers. The products are also valuable to universities and research institutions, who receive funding based on their research outputs and teaching standards, or who sell their products to private industry.

For this reason, it is extremely important for academics and research institutions to protect their intellectual property. It is improper to use information which was produced by someone else, and which carries such great value, and then sell it as your own work or to advance your own career or qualifications. This is called plagiarism. If you use someone’s intellectual property without crediting them, it is like stealing the ideas that they have worked months or years to produce, and when you steal something of such great value, you can be held liable both legally and in terms of your academic qualification or career. Even plagiarizing yourself is an offense in some cases if you try to sell the same ideas to two different academic journals, or if you don’t explain that you’ve produced and profited from that intellectual property before.

Because of these factors, and because academia is also an industry which relies on building knowledge and understanding based on what came before, it’s necessary to give full credit to the person who originally developed an idea. We do this through citation and referencing. The system of referencing was developed in order to make sure that we can use the information which others have produced in order to create new understanding and develop ideas without stealing the intellectual property of others. By referencing, you are acknowledging that you were not the one who came up with a particular idea, and you give credit to the person or people who built the foundation for your own research.

In addition, it’s important to refer to the works of others because it shows that you have made an effort to understand your field as well as you possibly can. If you can show that you’ve read the works of multiple other researchers before conducting your own research, you demonstrate that you’re part of the academic conversation, and you show that you have broad knowledge in your field. It’s important to do a literature review before embarking on new research to make sure that you are not reinventing the wheel; someone else might have done the research in exactly the same way that you’ve done it, or they might have already developed research instruments that you could use in your study without inventing new ones. An extensive list of references shows that you’ve considered these possibilities and read widely.

Citation can be done through paraphrase or through direct quotations. You’ll use different methods depending on the context. Paraphrase should be used most often, especially for studies that fall outside of the literature analysis field. You should rephrase the information in your own words to show that you have a good understanding of the meaning. Sometimes, when you only rely on quoting information in the direct words of the author you refer to, you don’t show that you truly understand what the work discusses. If you can paraphrase it and explain it briefly for the reader, you demonstrate a closer engagement with the source material.

For example, a quote in an article might look like this:

“The fundamental difference between the micro and macro factors involved in utilitarian systems are the rights and perspectives of individuals. Individuals might perceive micro factors as unfair; however, macro factors might be deemed much fairer.”

If this quote is from page 35 of a book by Robert Phillips, published in 2013, you could paraphrase it as follows:

Robert Phillips holds that micro factors might seem unfair to individuals, even when they understand macro factors to be more fair. The individual rights and perspectives constitute the main disjuncture between the micro and macro factors (2013, p.35).

You’ve given the same information in your own words, and shown that you understand the point that the author was making. You won’t need to provide quote marks around this paraphrase, since it doesn’t take the words of the author directly. The reference is included at the end of the information taken from the individual author. If the information comes from more than one page, give a reference for each page next to the relevant information, or, at the end, reference it as (p. 35-37).

Direct quotations are used when the author has given a highly technical definition which would be very difficult to reproduce in your own words, or when the way that the author says something is important for the work you are writing. In literature or poetry analysis, it’s important to use direct quotations so that the meaning of the lines won’t be lost. If you really can’t find a way to say something more clearly than the author, or in a way that adds to the understanding within the context of your work, then you can give it as a direct quotation. For most fields, direct quotations should be avoided as far as possible, unless they are absolutely necessary, as it comes off as though you are not processing the information but merely reproducing it. Paraphrasing shows that you are taking the work of others, thinking about it, and explaining it within the context of your own work.

In the next chapter we’ll look at the style for direct quotes and for in-text citation.

Review Your Learning:
      Academic writing constitutes a product which is the intellectual property of the author and/ or of the institution which produced it.
      Plagiarism is using the ideas of others without crediting them for their work.
      You should try as far as possible to paraphrase the information of other thinkers or researchers rather than giving only direct quotes.