Referencing and Plagiarism

Whether you like it or not referencing is an essential academic skill that you not only need to learn, but to master. Poor referencing and plagiarism are a sure way of losing valuable marks.


By now you should be aware of what referencing is, why it is important, how to reference; and that Boston Media House makes use of the Harvard Referencing System.

The purpose of this post is not to teach you how to reference correctly, you have already been taught that in your Academic Literacy 1 class, but rather to highlight where students go wrong when referencing and to provide you with tips on how to make referencing a little easier.

Where Did I Go Wrong?

a) Not referencing in-text 

This refers to when you quote, summarise, paraphrase or re-word another persons idea/s within your assignment.

When citing in-text, you need to provide the:

1) author or editor’s surname/s,

2) year of publication, and

3) page number/s of where you have drawn the information from.

For Example:

Smith (2012, p. 88) states that ".....quotation.....".


When looking at the first generation,"..........quotation........." (Smith, 2012, p. 88).

The only time you need not include the page number/s is when you paraphrase or summarise an entire piece of work.

For Example:

Smith (2012) asserts that change through the generations is continuous and inevitable.

By not acknowledging the original source or author of an idea which you have included in your assignment you are committing plagiarism; an offense Boston Media House takes extremely seriously:

“…Any student who is found to have plagiarised will be penalised and may in addition face disciplinary action, which may include receiving 0% for the assessment, a warning letter and/or a disciplinary hearing, which could result in their expulsion from the Institution. (Boston Media House, 2017, p. 27)

Do not assume that your lecturer will not notice if you fail to reference an idea or quote within your assignment, because chances are someone else in your class has used the exact same idea or quote and you will be caught out and you will be penalised for plagiarising.

b) Not checking that ALL in-text references are linked to a corresponding reference in your reference list (and vice versa)

For EVERY in-text reference you have made within your assignment there MUST be a corresponding reference in your reference list.

For Example:

In-text reference –

Smith (2012, p. 88) states that ".....quotation.....".

Corresponding reference in your reference list –

Smith, W. (2012). The Generation Gap: Are we really so different?, London: Routledge.

When grading you on the technical aspects of your assignment if a lecturer picks up that you have included references in your reference list that are not cited in your assignment OR you’ve cited references in your assignment but have provided no reference in your reference list, you will be penalised.

If you do not know what is being referred to by the “technical aspects” of an assignment, please go read: Understanding an Assessment Brief.

c) Not realising that you have plagiarised


  • directly quote
  • summarise
  • paraphrase
  • re-word
  • refer to
  • copy

another person’s work / ideas / thoughts / creations / writing / inventions / theory / compositions / opinions / pictures / designs / artwork etc. you MUST acknowledge them as the original source.

When in doubt, ask yourself: “Is this 100% my own, original thought / idea / composition?” If there is any doubt that it is not 100% yours: go back, find the source of your inspiration / idea / thought and reference them.

Unfortunately for you “I didn’t know I was plagiarising” is not an accepted excuse at Boston Media House and you will end up being penalised.


Tips for Referencing 

  • When researching your assignment, highlight any direct quotes or ideas you plan on using in your assignment – this will assist you when the time comes to start drafting your response, as well as your reference list. 
  • Get into the habit of writing down the referencing information and page number/s of the source immediately, whilst you are using it. If you wait to sift through all your readings or sources once you’ve completed your assignment you a) may not be able to remember which source it was you used and, b) you may not be able to go back and check on the details.
  • Don’t rush when creating your reference list. Give yourself enough time to ensure that you are following the correct Harvard Referencing format; and that for every in-text reference you have a corresponding reference in your reference list.


Boston Media House. (2017).  Student Rulebook, 2017.  Johannesburg, South Africa.

Palgrave Study Skills. (2015). Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism. Retrieved from: [Accessed: 21 August 2015].

University of Leicester: Student Learning Development. (2015). Ten Tips for Good Referencing. Retrieved from: [Accessed: 21 August 2015].