How Do I Cite Correctly and Avoid Plagiarism?


    • Every single instance when you use extensive phrases and substantive ideas that are not your own, you must acknowledge the source from which you haven taken them.


    • When you quote someone’s words directly, you have to place these words in quotation marks.


    • In the case of quotes longer than three lines, block and indent them in order for them to stand out more clearly. You may reduce the font and/or the line spacing if you wish. Don’t use inverted commas. Use blocked quotes sparingly.


    • If you express another’s words or ideas by paraphrasing them, you have to use your own words. (Use your word processor’s “thesaurus” feature to help you find different words for the same concept.) It is not enough simply to change the word order or to substitute one or two words only.


  • You may also summarize more lengthy material in your own style and word choice. If you repeat the author’s own phrases / sentences place them in quotation marks. (For example:

According to Bell (2002), businesses using customer information for marketing purposes puts them in a “morally ambivalent” position.)

    • When you use your own words to express the ideas of someone else, you must still quote the source, even though you then do not have to use quotation marks.


  • It is important to keep a list of all the references you use as you go along, rather than trying to list the whole lot at the last minute. You are then bound to lose track of some of the things you have read.


 Citation styles

There are a number of different styles and conventions which are widely used. Well-known style manuals include the Chicago Manual of Style, and those published by the American  sychological Association (APA), the Modern Language Association of America (MLA) and The (British) Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA). One of the best-known, but also one of the simplest, is the “author-date” style for citations and reference lists (sometimes known as the “Harvard method”). Scientific publications often use the citation or style guides published by societies and institutions in their own disciplines. In all cases, consistency in presentation is the most important consideration.

For theses and dissertations it is essential to make sure of the specific details of the citation convention required by your department and then to pay particular attention to capitalization and the use of italics (or underlining) and to check punctuation very carefully. External examiners usually pay particular attention to citations and references.

It is essential to remember that all full bibliographic references, regardless of style, essentially have to convey the same kind of information and consist of the same elements, although the basic order may differ slightly according to different conventions. The purpose of all citations essentially is to provide sufficient information for an item to be found. All citations should therefore contain, in the order prescribed by the citation style, the following elements:

    • Name of the author(s) or originator(s) of the document you are using as a source.


    • Date of publication
    • Title of the publication (and, if it is part of a larger work, e.g. an article in a journal, or one paper in an edited collection, also the title of the whole publication)


    • Publication details (Place of publication & Publisher if the item is a book; Volume and/or issue number if the item is a journal)


    • Inclusive page numbers if the reference is to an item smaller than a whole book.


Citing sources within the text

The author-date citation method is very well-known and well established in the social sciences and is increasingly used in literary studies as well [1]. To show that you have borrowed words or ideas from elsewhere, you have to indicate this in your text, to the reader. Use the “reference indicator” which contains brief publication details in round brackets. It may appear in either of two ways within your text:

    1. When the name(s) of the quoted author(s) form part of a sentence, the reference indicator consists of the date and the page on which that quotation appears. For example:In her analysis of reading comprehension among primary and secondary school pupils, Pretorius proposes that inadequate reading skills play a significant role in the poor academic performance of many South African scholars [2].


    1. Where the sentence does not specifically state the original author’s name, the reference indicator has to include the surname(s) of the author(s), followed by the date and the page on which the specific quotation appears. For example:In an analysis of reading comprehension among primary and secondary school pupils, it was found that inadequate reading skills play a significant role in the poor academic performance of many South African scholars [2].



This article is taken from

Bak, N. (2003). Guide to academic writing (p.49).University of the Western Cape. retrieved from link

The references listed by the auther:

  1. Visser, N. 1992. Handbook for writers of essays and theses. (2nd ed). Cape Town: Maskew Miller Longman
  2. Pretorius, E.J. 2000. What they can’t read will hurt them: reading and academic achievement. Innovation 21: 33-41.

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