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Direct quotation, paraphrasing & referencing

Direct quotation

There are two ways of incorporating other people’s ideas. The first is direct quotation:

In his guide Writing at University: Some Handy Hints David Kennedy notes that,
“In academic writing you must always indicate when you are using someone else’s ideas. If you don’t then you may find yourself accused of plagiarism.”

(Kennedy, 2003: 12)


The second way is to incorporate what another author has said into your own text. This is known as indirect quotation or paraphrasing:

Among the many guides to writing at university, one of the clearest accounts of how to reference sources and avoid plagiarism is that of Kennedy (2003) who gives examples of different ways of referencing.


In the writing you do at university you will be expected to demonstrate both knowledge of your subject and the ability to go and acquire that knowledge. This means that you will have to go and look at the work of others.

For example, if you are answering the question “Discuss Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital and Thornton’s theory of subcultural capital and how they might be applied to student life”, it is clear that you are being told to go away and find out about Bourdieu’s and Thornton’s ideas.

So in the part of your essay that is about Bourdieu you might write a sentence that begins something like “Bourdieu first defined cultural capital in the early 1960s as ….”. In academic writing, you must say where – i.e. in which book or article – Bourdieu made this definition. You must give clear details of the book title, the date it was published, who published it and where. This is called referencing. It is sometimes also called citation. The books, articles or other materials you quote from are called sources.

So ‘referencing’ means giving evidence for statements in your essay that appear in the form of quotes, quotations or paraphrases from other authors. To put it another way: ‘referencing’ means showing the origins of the information you use in your essay.

Why is it important to reference your sources properly?

First, your tutors will be able to see evidence that you have done useful and relevant research for your assignment. They will be able to see what sort of reading you are doing – are you just looking at the course books or are you reading around the topic? Are you reading the right books? For example, it would be odd to write about Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital without referring to what Bourdieu himself has written about it.

Second, as I’ve already said, if you don’t reference your sources you could be guilty of plagiarism.

Third, including full details of your sources allows the reader to follow them up if they want to. It may be that the quotation you use from a particular book prompts the reader to want to go and find that particular book.

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