Good academic practice helps you to make clear the difference between information you find and your own ideas. You can be transparent about when you use other people's work at the same time as demonstrating your own understanding of the topic.
There are some specific academic skills that support good academic practice, such as:
- reading and note making
- critical thinking
- writing and using other people's ideas
- working together.
Reading and making notes
Academic study involves a lot of independent research. You will need to find and use information to explore topics in your subject area and to complete assignments. How you keep track of this information has a big impact on your academic integrity when you come to write and present your work.
Keep track of your reading
When you make notes about your reading and the ideas you have come across, keep a record of the details, such as title, date of publication and authors of the source of information.
When you come to use this information or ideas later – whether that’s in a seminar, presentation, or written assignment – you will know exactly where you found that information.
It is up to you how you keep track of your reading. We recommend that you keep all your notes from your reading either in one physical notebook or in an app such as OneNote. You could also keep a spreadsheet or chart of the brief details or a summary of each document you read. Find out more about organising your notes from your reading.
Some students find reference management tools, such as Endnote, can be helpful. These are designed to help you organise and store your references which can save you time and reduce the chance of plagiarising when you are writing an assignment. Find out more about installing and using Endnote.
Make good notes
Effective note making is part of good academic practice and can help you avoid accidental plagiarism.
When you make notes from a source of information like a book or journal article, avoid just copying and pasting text directly, even though it is tempting! Instead, summarise the key message and paraphrase key ideas and information in your own words. This helps you consolidate your understanding and develop your own ideas about the source and the topic.
If you do copy and paste quotes from sources (for example, if you are going to analyse the exact wording the author is using), make sure this is clearly marked in your notes by using quotation marks or colour coding. Add the details of the source, including the page number(s) where the quote can be found. This will help you separate the quotes from your own words so that they don’t appear in your assignment as if they were your own ideas. Find out more about effective note making.
A key part of academic practice is critically analysing and evaluating the ideas and information you encounter. When you read, it is important to ask questions about what you’re reading, and to reflect on the usefulness and reliability of the information. You might also start thinking about how the information in one source connects with other sources you’ve read or seen in class, and whether you agree or disagree with the author’s point of view.
It is important to demonstrate that you are thinking critically about the information you find, so that your tutors can see how much you have understood the topic and what your own position is. So when you refer to information sources in your assignments, you will also include your own analysis of those sources, your response to their arguments, or your thoughts about how different sources can be combined or compared to give a deeper understanding of the issue.
Writing critically gives your work more depth and, crucially, allows you to demonstrate the extent of your learning.
Writing and using information sources in your work
When you refer to information in your assignments, it is important to show that you have identified and understood the key points the authors were making, and how these contribute to what you are saying. The best way to do this is to summarise the author’s points using your own words, as this allows you to show your thinking much more clearly than if you used a direct quote.
In some subjects, for example in most science subjects, it is very rare to use direct quotes. Instead, you should summarise information in your own words.
In the arts, social sciences and humanities, it can be more common to directly quote sources, especially when you might need to carefully analyse the specific vocabulary the author used. If you are directly quoting a source, make sure you use quotation marks around it, include a citation next to the quote, and provide a corresponding reference in the reference list.
Citing and referencing
One of the key aspects of academic integrity is acknowledging other people’s contributions to your work. This means making it clear when you are using other people’s ideas (including text, images, data, performances, sound, etc) and giving the details of the source. We do this by using citations and references.
Citations are used within your work, placed directly next to any information that you are referring to or quoting (including information you use in figures, tables or images as well as text). Depending on the referencing style you are using, citations usually include either a number or the author’s name and the date of publication, and will correspond to a reference in the reference list at the end of your work.
You should include a reference to every source you have used or referred to in your work. References contain all the details someone would need to be able to find the original source of the information you used. The information you need to include will depend on both the type of source you are referring to, and also the referencing style you are using. Check the referencing style used in your School.
View more guidance on referencing at Leeds.
Collaboration and group work
It is natural to want to support each other on your course and within friend groups. There are times when this can be very beneficial, for example, reminding each other about deadlines, or explaining where to find something on Minerva. You could also set up a group chat or study group with course mates, where you discuss your thoughts on the topics covered in lectures and other teaching sessions.
It’s important to remember that when you start working on assignments, you need to make sure that you are working as an individual. This includes not sharing your notes with your friends, or telling each other what to write, or checking each other’s work. This is so that your work is truly a reflection of your own individual learning and efforts, and not anyone else’s.
Some of your assignments will involve group work. For group projects it’s important to work much more closely with each other, so that you can produce a coherent piece of work. In these situations you’ll need to share specific information and sources with each other and discuss as a group what you will say or do.
Make sure that you are all clear about the design of the assignment, and whether it is entirely a group project or whether each individual person needs to submit a separate piece of work at the end. If there is an individual element, you will all need to make sure you work on this part on your own, without sharing notes or agreeing with each other what to say.