Using and citing sources

The NTNU University Library offers courses and guidance in the use of reference management software, e.g. EndNote. The courses provide the training you need in your subject area.

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Why should you cite the sources you are using? #

It is important to cite the sources you use in your paper or scientific text to show the reader where you found the information, thus ensuring academic integrity.

When you write a scientific report or paper, your professor will expect you to use sources in your work. This means that you must actively search for and make use of knowledge and information about your topic.

A large part of what you write will be based on the work of other authors’ ideas, arguments, reasoning, theories, collected data, empirical findings, etc. When using another author’s work in your own, you must always write where you found this information.

The correct use of sources shows that you:

  • recognize other authors' work
  • have read literature on your topic
  • place your work in a larger academic context
  • master the technique of naming sources

Correct use of sources also makes the reader capable of:

  • identifying and retrieving the sources you have used
  • identifying your own paragraphs, ideas and conclusions

When should you cite your sources? #

It may be difficult to know when to cite your sources, but a rule of thumb is that we want you to cite your sources when you:

  • refer to
  • use quotes
  • paraphrase, that is use indirect quotes

It is not necessary to name sources when writing about something that is publicly known and accepted. For example, it is not necessary to cite sources if you write that Norway voted “No” in the EU referendum in 1994.

Citing sources #

A reference consists of two elements:

  • in-text reference
  • entry in a reference list

In this module, you will learn how to refer to literature in your text, in-text references, along with how to set up a reference list.

How to cite sources #

Two of the most common systems of citing sources are Harvard and Vancouver. Harvard is an author-year system and forms the base for the Harvard style and the APA style. Vancouver is a number system.

Reference styles #

  • APA style is used in the social sciences, arts and humanities
  • Chicago style is used in the social sciences, arts and humanities.
  • Harvard style is used in the social sciences, technology and natural sciences.
  • Vancouver style is used in medicine and the natural sciences, and sometimes in technology.

There are different traditions for the use of systems and styles in different study programmes. You should check your department's recommendations before writing your paper. Remember, once you have chosen a system and a style, you must use it consistently throughout the entire paper.

References in-text #

When referring to literature in your text, you may use:

  • references
  • quotes
  • indirect quotes (paraphrasing)

References #

In scientific texts, you should try to avoid using generalized terms such as “several studies” or “these researchers”. You need to specify which studies and which researchers. When you want to refer to other researchers' work, without using quotes or paraphrasing, you must use references.

Quotes #

A quote is a word-for word rendering of something somebody else has written. When using quotes, you should mark these in a way that makes it easy for the reader to see what is a quote and what is your own text.

Indirect quotes (Paraphrasing) #

An indirect quote (paraphrasing) is a rephrasing of the original text. It may be easier to use paraphrases than quotes because they can be adjusted to fit your own text. A paraphrase can also show that you understand the contents of the original text.

Reference list (Literature list) #

A reference list is the same as a literature list. It is a list of all the sources you have referred to in your paper.

  • In the APA, Harvard and Chicago style you write the reference list alphabetically by author’s surname, followed by year, in chronological order.
  • If you use the Vancouver style, write the reference list in the order in which the references appear in the text.

A bibliography is a separate list of sources you have read but not referred to, and a list of the sources which are relevant to your topic.

Reference management tool #

Using a reference management tool helps makes it easier to have an overview of sources you are using in your studies, research and publishing. A reference management tool can also help you to create and format citations and reference list in your manuscripts.

A reference management tool can help you to:

  • Collect, organize and retrieve references in your own reference collection.
  • Insert references in text and create correct citations and reference lists in different reference styles.

Some reference management tools can find and import full text versions (pdf files) of your references.

Other reference management tools #

The reference management tool EndNote is available for students and employees at NTNU, and the library offers courses and guides.

In addition, you can download free reference management tools.

  • EndNote basic is a free web-based version of EndNote. This version does not offer as many functions as the full version of EndNote.
  • BibLaTeX (BibTeX) is a tool you can use with LaTeX. It is specially well suited to text with formulas.
  • Zotero is a free reference management program. Zotero is not as advanced as EndNote, but can be easier to use.
  • Mendeley is a tool for reference management and collaboration.

Export/Import to reference management tool #

Most databases have an “export” function that allows you to gather information from a database and copy it to your reference management tool, e.g. EndNote or BibTeX. They have different options – look for words such as “export”, “cite” or similar.

Tips: Copy the title of the journal you are using and paste it into Google Scholar. There, click the import button. Remember to check the data. Sometimes an error finds its way into the process.

Videos that show import to EndNote (only in Norwegian):

Detail from the video about import to EndNote

Courses in the use of reference management tools #

Overview of future courses

What is plagiarism? #

Plagiarism means that you publish other people’s work as your own. Plagiarism is regarded as cheating and is strictly forbidden. It is also considered a violation of academic integrity. Plagiarism can result in failing and expulsion from the university indefinitely.

This means that copying from books, articles, etc. or using “copy and paste” from the Internet without referencing is not allowed. You must write where you found the information, that is – referring to the source. Information about academic misconduct at NTNU (only available in Norwegian).

Examples of plagiarism #

  • Publishing someone else’s work as your own.
  • Using someone else’s text or ideas in your work without referencing them.
  • Reproducing a text word for word without citing it, and without referencing it.
  • Rewriting (paraphrasing) a text without referencing.
  • Present your own previous work in whole or in part without providing any source (self-plagiarism)

How to avoid plagiarism? #

To avoid plagiarism, you must cite the sources you used in your work. Learn how to cite sources.

You should keep a good overview of the sources while working on your paper. Write down important information about the sources as you work. If you are writing a paper with many references, you could use a reference management tool to gather and save references

Checking for plagiarism #

Plagiarism detection tools have been developed. NTNU uses the Urkund tool for plagiarism control.

Reference: Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2016) Cite them right: the essential referencing guide. 10th edn. London: Palgrave.

Contact #

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