Differences between citation and paraphrase; reference, bibliography and plagiarism

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When we create something – a technical article or report, a literary work, a paint or a photography, whatever- we often go to other´s work to use as supporting documentation, source of information or just inspiration.

Source: Wikipedia

For example, when drafting a document we can use external sources which may help us in many different ways (data, graphics, ideas,…). At the same time, in order to issue the recognition to its owner, we must choose among lots of alternatives and include the due credits at any part in our document.

To recognize the other´s work is paramount but, let´s be honest, we don´t use to devote the time and care it deserves.

So, this is a necessary summary-post about the different ways in which we use external works and how we can express in our work the recognition to the sources we used.

An explanation: this reminder-post deals with the specific case of creating technical documents (reports, studies, results of a research, articles, entries in blogs)

Citation, paraphrase and support for your argumentation

The difference between citing and paraphrasing is more formal than anything else.

When we use an autor´s literal words, word for word, we are doing a citation and it will be between double quotation “… bla…bla…bla…”.

Whereas when we refer to an existing idea but we use our own words to express it, we are paraphrasing.

Many times -I do most of times- we use external work as a general support for our arguments´consistency, without citing nor paraphrasing specific words or ideas.

References, bibliography and plagiarism

In order to recognize the due credit for other author´s work we cited, paraphrased or used as support, in our document we must include a references list and a section with the bibliography.

There are lots of methods and styles to build references and bibliography and, with the raise of the Internet, the options have multiplied. But here I will refer to a classical style, which is the one I will apply in this blog from now on.

A reference collects the identification data of the specific source we cited or paraphrased. Every reference may go immediately following the citation or paraphrased quote between brackets (…reference…) and/or be part of a numbered list of references [1] [2] [3]… at the end of our document or at the end of a section or page.

These may be some references´patterns:

To an article in a journal:

[1] SURNAME, Name. Date of publication. Tittle of the article. Place of issue. Journal´s name.

To a book:

[2] SURNAME, Name. Year of publication. Tittle of the book, edition. Publisher. Pages of the reference.

To the content in a web page:

[3] SITE´S NAME. Date of publication. Tittle of the article. URL address. Date of the consultation.

Bibliography is the list of documents we cited, paraphrased or used as a source in general to support our work. So, bibliography contains all the references specifically cited or paraphrased as well as any source consulted. Bibliography uses to go at the end of each work.

These may be some bibliographies´patterns:

To newspapers and magazines:

NAME OF THE JOURNAL. Tittle of the articleDate of publication. Date of the consultation.

To a book:

SURNAME, Name. Year of publication. Tittle of the book, edition. Publisher.

To a web page:

SITE´S NAME. Date of publication. Tittle of the article. URL address. Date of the consultation.

As said, this is just a way among many others to build references and bibliographies. Anyway, the most important thing is to identify clearly the external works we used as a source.

If someone uses others´work and doesn´t gives a duly and correct recognition, the resulting work is plagiarism and this puts under suspicion the work and its author´s solvency, in the broadest sense of the term.

So, despite I always link every source I consult, from now on I will also build the references and/or the bibliography in every post, starting with this entry.


DELTF UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY. 2014. Information literacy 1. http://tulib.tudelft.nl/publishing/how-to-cite/. Consulted 13 Sept 2015.


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