The Role Of Citation And Referencing In Avoiding Plagiarism

You likely already know that one of the best ways to avoid plagiarism in your work is to cite your references. Not only does this help you avoid plagiarism but it also clearly separates your ideas from the ideas of the person (or people) you are referencing. This allows your own ideas to stand on

You likely already know that one of the best ways to avoid plagiarism in your work is to cite your references. Not only does this help you avoid plagiarism but it also clearly separates your ideas from the ideas of the person (or people) you are referencing. This allows your own ideas to stand on their own merits while lending credibility to your presentation, and if someone wants to learn more, including references will help them continue their research.

Because there are so many different types of research to reference, guides known as Referencing Styles have been developed to make it easy to correctly cite your research. There are several different styles, so you’ll want to consider which style you prefer and then use that style consistently when citing your references.

Referencing styles are not the same thing as in-text citations and in-text citations are not the same thing as a bibliography. Clear as mud? Not to worry, Originality.AI is here to help you make sense of it all.

How to Reference Correctly

At the very least, you’ll want to include the title, author, date and publication of the material you’re referencing. When it comes to web pages or online journals, this becomes a little more difficult, as pages can move and URLs change all the time. That’s why when citing an online reference, it’s important to also include the access URL and the date you visited it.

As you’re doing your research and come across important tidbits that you want to include, it’s a good idea to make a note of that publication and relevant details on a separate document. This way when it comes time to cite your references, you don’t have to go back trawling through your browser’s history to find that worthy snippet.

Many academic institutions, as well as content publishers, subscribe to a service called Cite Them Right Online, which includes a wide range of examples and specific cases and how to cite them correctly, including how to avoid plagiarism in groups and how to cite something if the information within is confidential.

Cite Them Right Online includes information on how to cite most any type of content, including specific and unique situations and how to handle them

When Should You Cite?

This is the question on every good content writer and publisher’s mind. When, exactly, should you cite someone else’s work? Bryan Greetham, author of How to Write Better Essays, offers a six-point code[1] that outlines when to cite someone else’s work:

Distinctive ideas

Whenever the ideas or opinions are distinctive to one particular source.

Distinctive structure or organizing strategy

Even though you may have put it into your own words, if the author has adopted a particular method of approaching a problem, or there is a distinctive intellectual structure to what’s written, for example to an argument or to the analysis of a concept, then you must cite the source.

Information or data from a particular source

If you’ve gathered information from a source in the form of facts, statistics, tables and diagrams, you will need to cite the source, so your readers will know who gathered the information and where to find it.

Verbatim phrase or passage

Even a single word, if it is distinctive to your author’s argument. You must use quotation marks and cite the source.

If it’s not common knowledge

Whenever you mention some aspect of another person’s work, unless the information or opinion is widely known, you must cite the source, so your readers can follow it up.

Whenever in doubt, cite it!

It will do no harm, as long as you’re not citing just to impress the examiner in the mistaken belief that getting good grades depends upon trading facts, in this case references, for marks.

As you can see, this six point code was taken verbatim from Greetham’s own essay. In wanting to be clear about separating my ideas and explanations from his, I’ve referenced him in the footer of this online article, including details on the website where the code was found.

The Importance of Citing and References for Online Publishers and Content Creators

For content creators, writers and online publishers, plagiarism goes far beyond the danger of getting a failing grade as you might have done had you plagiarized during your school years. Online, sources can be found in seconds, and stealing someone else’s content or passing off their ideas as your own can have severe consequences.

For example, the original creator of the content could press legal charges against the publisher and the author, seeking monetary damages. In addition, Google and other search engines will rank the plagiarized content lower (if they rank it at all). Content that is knowingly taken from another site can also harm the reputation of the publisher and the writer. If readers and the search engines can’t trust that the content is authentic, why should anyone else?

How to Avoid Plagiarism as a Content Creator or Publisher

Whether you’re a marketing agency, content creator or publisher, or you want your writing to understandably stand on its own merits, it’s important to know how to not just properly cite your references, but also avoid slipping into the temptation of copying others’ work and ideas in the first place.

Creating the kind of content that ranks highly in the search engines and is engaging to readers takes time and is worth the effort, but in order to shortcut the process, even well-known professionals have been known to swipe a sentence or two from somewhere else. Again, it’s perfectly fine and often encouraged to borrow others’ thoughts if you reference them correctly.

To get around this, some content publishers will use online tools or AI that attempt to summarize content in their own words. However, the AI is only as “intelligent” as the material it is being fed, and more advanced plagiarism checkers, like Originality.AI can instantly pick up on this use of paraphrasing to spot content that’s “the same but different.”

Great Content is Original Content

Online, things change so quickly that yesterday’s content may well be outdated by today. Although that’s an extreme example, it’s worth remembering that online, we often borrow or cite other peoples’  work by throwing a link back to them and sometimes including their socials. This is especially common among bloggers and content writers, particularly when there are notable quotes from experts or statistics they want to include.

Although a backlink isn’t the same as a detailed reference or citation, it nevertheless shows your intent in separating your ideas (or words) from someone else’s. The same applies to social media. So whether you’re referencing a tweet, a Facebook post or a statistic, it’s just good netiquette to link back to the original.

Create a Set of Content Guidelines

Last but not least, if you want to encourage others to reference and cite you as an expert, one of the best things you can do that’s fully worth the time and effort to do it is create a set of content guidelines. HubSpot has a great set of guidelines that are written in plain English and are easy to follow, no legalese needed! And because their content is often well-researched and documented, countless bloggers, marketers and content creators link back to them.

Hubspot’s Content Guidelines are easy to read, easy to understand and easy to follow!

To create your own set of guidelines, think about how you want (and don’t want) people to use your content, including any images or videos you buy or have created. For example, HubSpot loves when people share their social content via retweets or shares, but draws the line at people using their content to make money, which being that it’s given for free, is understandable!

To make it easier for people to cite their work, they also include a content attribution policy that, while not nearly as long and detailed as an academic reference, is nevertheless easy to follow. The easier you make it for people to reference your work, the more likely they will be to link back to it!

Checking Content for Originality

It’s good to know the importance and the impact of properly citing or referencing someone else’s ideas, words, or other information to not only give them a nod of appreciation, but also avoid plagiarizing from their work. At the same time, you want your own ideas to stand on their own merits, supported by the credibility and authenticity of others’ views, research or perspectives. It can be a delicate balance at times, but doing so is not only worth the effort, it’s simply the right thing to do.

Now, more than ever, online plagiarism is rampant and writers everywhere often take shortcuts by using content without proper attribution or citations. Whether you’re an agency looking to crack down on potential copyright infringement or you’re a website buyer who wants to make sure the content on your pages is authentic, there’s now a better way to check for originality, by using Originality.AI.

Originality.AI has evolved to leverage artificial intelligence not to produce content, but to check and see if another AI has. It can even detect, with up to 94% accuracy, the nuances in content that has been created by the latest iteration of ChatGPT and other AI writing tools. Google’s stance on the matter is clear, and as a result, content publishers, agencies and writers should pay attention and always make sure that whatever they produce is brimming with… originality.

[1] Greetham, Bryan “The Study Space: Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism” 1, January 2023.

Sherice Jacob

Plagiarism Expert Sherice Jacob brings over 20 years of experience to digital marketing as a copywriter and content creator. With a finger on the pulse of AI and its developments, she works extensively with to help businesses and publishers get the best returns from their Content.

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