Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ
Isn’t it always best to let the source speak for itself by making an exact quote?
Answer: It is mainly in literary history you need to make long quotes of texts, which you then analyze. In other subjects you should only make exact quotes of very special wordings (which are ground-breaking or striking), and also statements which you question and want to discuss, or if you risk altering the meaning by rephrasing it. When you rephrase a text in your own words you are forced to understand the original text. Your own text will also become more fluent, and it becomes more natural for you to include your own reflections. In addition, exact quotes often require more space than a summary.

How can I avoid plagiarising a source by mistake. It is impossible to remember where you got all ideas from?
Answer: The only way is to make careful notes while you read. As soon as you make a note about something you want to include in your work, make sure to also note the source. Also see: When do you not need to add references? about common knowledge.

Everything comes from a source – parents, teachers, books, TV, the Internet. You can’t write a single word without adding a reference!
Answer: Start by considering if the information you want to use can be seen as ‘Common knowledge’, see page: When do you not need to add references? If this is the case you do not need to include a reference. Also check with your teacher/instructor what is considered common knowledge in your course. If the information is specific for a certain source, e.g. research results, new ideas, personal opinions, you must always include a reference. The same rule applies if you have used specific wordings/exact quotes, when, apart from stating the source, you must also mark the quote (quotation marks or block quotation).

If I thought of an idea myself and then read about it in a book or an article, must I cite the source then – the idea was my own?
Answer: By citing the source you show that you are familiar with what has been done within your subject field. To show that you did not get the idea from someone else, but thought of it yourself, you can shortly describe what led you to the idea and then add something like:

…, the same thought has been presented by XX (2006).

You can also include a section where you describe how you differ from XX in the treatment of the subject.

Is it not enough to just include all the sources in the reference list?
Answer: You must also refer to the source in the text in direct connection to the place in the text where you used it. This is needed for it to be possible to distinguish what is your own text and what you have got from others, and also in which way the different sources have influenced you. In addition, it should be easy for your readers to know which of your sources they should go to if they want to read more about a certain part of the text.

If I don’t cite correctly, will I be suspended from my studies?
Answer: You are in a learning process where you should acquire an academic way of writing. If you are at the beginning of your studies, the demand that you should master this completely is not as high, but the higher level you are at, the more the demands increase.

If you are not certain what you need to refer to, ask your teacher or instructor. It is always wise to refer to the source once too often, rather than too seldom, by way of precaution. If you think that your text becomes unreadable with too many references, you can ask your instructor what you should do. At a lower educational level, instead of making text references in each sentence, it may sometimes be OK to write something like:

The information in the following paragraph was collected from XX (2008).

You may not cut and paste though, you must still write the text in your own words.

How much must I change a sentence so that it won’t be considered as plagiarism?
Answer: There is no percentage you can use to know how much you need to rephrase a sentence, but if you feel that you need to ask, you are probably close to plagiarising. Avoiding plagiarism is not about learning to rephrase sentences in a new way. It is simply about understanding the original source, and then using the information in a way that fits with your own work.

Sometimes you can’t rephrase the text. There is only one way to write it, and everyone writes it the same way. Should you really fill the text with quotation marks in such cases?
Answer: Within several sciences, e.g. science and medicine, the scientific language is highly standardized and compressed and does not leave much room for varying ways to express yourself. Similar to the way each subject field has common knowledge, there are also common phrases which do not require quotation marks, as they are so frequently used and nobody can claim being the first to have used the phrase. This is especially common in the parts of the text that concern method and results. Once you have read a few scientific works you will get a sense of what can be considered as common phrases and what are specific wordings that require quotation marks. Always remember to refer to the original source!