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The Importance of Referencing in University Assignments

Many students find the task of writing academic assignments complicated. This is because the majority of students have little knowledge on how citing academic work should be done. Failure by the students to reference their work opens them to criticism by their assessors. Despite these views among the students, referencing remains an important aspect of academic writing. It is therefore important that the students conceptualize the importance of referencing. The first step to making the students see referencing as an important and easy aspect of academic work is to make them see the need for referencing rather than leaving them to have a narrow view of why their work should be referenced.

On many occasions, students fail to understand the essence of referencing. According to Hartley, (2008), students have a misinformed view of the importance of referencing. To many students, the only reason why academic work should be referenced is to avoid plagiarism. Whereas referencing work is a good way of avoiding plagiarism, it is not the only reason why academic work should be referenced. It is therefore evident that the essence of referencing, according to Hjortshoj, (2009) is beyond the plagiarism issue. Nevertheless, referencing is a vital tool for writers to avoid copying other peoples’ work without recognizing and appreciating their efforts.

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As already identified, citing one work helps in avoiding plagiarism. According to Danarell, Badcock and Miller,( 2005) plagiarism occur when one copy phrases of published work either directly or in a closely related format and presents it as his or her original work without acknowledging the original author. A writer who references his or her work therefore easily manages to avoid this academic theft by giving the original writer credit for what has already been done. The new writer, therefore, is seen to acknowledge the contributors of the field of study by citing what he or she has learnt from the previous writers.

Secondly, referencing academic work helps it gain academic authority (Hjortshoj, 2009). When a writer references his or her work, the impression that the ideas presented in the work are well internalized after considering what the other writers have to say on the subject being researched is created. Academic authority is an important aspect of academia as it gives credibility to what the writer is communicating. It differentiates academic work from non-academic one hence making it gain the convincing authority that the writer is well informed on what he is writing. it also shows that the writer is building on the wealth of knowledge based on what the others have already formed the foundations.

The third importance for referencing academic work is to give credit to authors who have already made tremendous contributions in a given academic field. When work is referenced, one recognizes that the work that was done by a given author whose work is being referenced was consulted and that the writer found this work to be useful in completing the assignment at hand (Hjortshoj, 2009). It also shows that the work done by the previous writers was of good quality and thus can only be built upon, corrected or criticized based on the quality of the previous writer and the views of the new writer.

Despite the enumerated importance of referencing academic work, students have continually found it hard to reference their work. As noted by Hartley, (2008), the main reason why students find it hard to reference their work is because they fail to realize that citing the work consulted has more and perhaps greater benefits than avoiding plagiarism. Lack of this knowledge has been cited by Hartley, (2008), as the main cause as to why many students leave huge sections of their work unreferenced which opens them to criticism by those tasked with the responsibility of assessing them. The referencing problem that has been witnessed among the students has been greatly aided by the perception that referencing is hard. Students also lack the knowledge on when and how they should reference their work.

Students’ perception that referencing is hard is caused by the fact that they lack the knowledge of how they should carry out other people’s views. Many students are of the view that work should only be referenced when block citations of a specific writer are used. However, any time an idea that is not common knowledge to everyone is used in academic writing is used by a writer; it should be referenced to ensure that the source where the idea was obtained is acknowledged. To change the belief that citing work is hard among the students, it is important to make the students fully aware of why they should reference their work. The students also can be trained on how to communicate academically by ensuring that they gain the needed knowledge of how citations should be done. This shall help them in properly citing work.

In conclusion, citing academic work is a vital element that helps students achieve at least three major objectives which are avoiding plagiarism, gaining the needed academic authority and giving credit to authors who have contributed in the field being reviewed. Due to the importance that comes with referencing academic work, students should change the perception that referencing is hard. This shall greatly aid in helping them conceptualize the art of citing.


Danarell, R. Badcock, J. and Miller, R. 2005, Author-date (Harvard) referencing guide, 3rd ed, School of Nursing and midwifery, Flinders University: Adelaide.

Hartley, J. 2008. Academic writing and publishing: a practical guide, New York: Taylor & Francis.

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