Academic Writing

Citing sources

 Why?

One of the most important aspects of academic writing is making use of the ideas of other people. This is important as you need to show that you have understood the materials that you have studied and that you can use their ideas and findings in your own way. 

According to Cooley & Lewkowicz (2003, ch. 2), there are 5 main reasons for referring to the work of others:

1.to acknowledge the work and ideas of others in order not to be accused of plagiarism;
2.to show your familiarity with the subject/context;
3.to discuss/evaluate/analyse other researchers - show your support for/refute other researchers’ work;
4.to support your own ideas/points of view and give authority to your statements;
5.to create a research space by showing what has already been done and what has not been done.

1 Acknowledge the work of others

Example

Despite the successes, the use of precast concrete in the construction industry has resulted in some problems (Wong and Yeh, 1985; Gibb, 2001).

2. Showing your familiarity with the subject

by, for example:

  • paraphrasing/summarising the ideas
  • generalising from specifics of examples
  • drawing conclusions from what you have read
  • synthesising and reformulating arguments;
Examples

Likewise, Organ (1988) stated that the failure to find a relationship between satisfaction and performance was due to the narrow definition of job performance.

For example, Herzberg (1966) indicated that the motivational values in job design was not only essential for job productivity, but also bring benefit to the individual worker.

3. Discussing/evaluating/analysing other researchers

by, for example:
  • presenting opinions,
  • comparing & contrasting different authors,
  • evaluating different authors in your context: strengths & weaknesses,
  • agreeing & disagreeing,
  • confirming & conceding,
  • taking up a position.
Examples

Presenting opinions:

Smith (1995) presents a convincing argument in favour of introducing a system for measuring performance.

This point is reinforced in the EU Industrial Relations in Europe 2004 Report, which claims that 'coordination, based on shared understanding and mutual trust, may be more important than centralisation of wage-setting' (2004:56). This clearly demonstrates that national peak-level employers' associations do play a key role in the process of collective negotiations.

Differing opinions:
 

Giddens (2000:69) indicates that the 'knowledge economy' reflects the dominance of dynamic 'knowledge' sectors such as finance, computers and software, telecommunications, biotechnology and the communications industries, where highly skilled, flexible 'wired workers' are employed within collaborative small business networks in an entrepreneurial culture. Curry (1993), on the other hand, suggests that the 'new economy', a related term, is based on smaller firms, industrial districts, flexible firm strategies and production networks and flexible technology, which echoes the flexible specialisation thesis.

4. Supporting your own ideas/points of view

by, for example:
  • providing evidence to support your own opinions/views – reference or quotation
  • exemplifying – to provide evidence/support – for instance, for example
Examples

Generalisation + evidence

Many researchers have taken an interest in the process by which management fashions become institutionalised. For example, Suddaby and Greenwood (2001), Sahlin-Andersson and Engwall (2002) and Hislop (2005) all distinguished stages of the process through which knowledge is produced, collected, processed, distributed, promoted and consumed. Certain actors have played an important role in circulating management concepts and recipes, acting as diffusion channels (Sturdy, 2004). Sahlin-Andersson and Engwall (2002) referred to these actors as “carriers [who are] concerned with management, pick up and circulate certain pieces of knowledge, they contextualise, frame, and package this knowledge” (p. 6). They act as transmitting agencies for management fashions.

Exemplifying:

In support of Mayo's opinion, Johnson (1949) stated that the group combination has important effect upon company programs.

When there is unanimity between an organisation and employee's values organisational commitment results. Schoorman and Mayer (1992) supported this assumption and explained how value commitment exits only when an employee acknowledges or believes in an organisation's goals and values. 

The best approach to managing people seems to be dependent on the person and context in his model of human nature. Human nature is complex and malleable, and thus human needs differ between individuals. This contingency theory of motivation (Schein, 1992) confirms this view by suggesting that motivation varies on a case by case basis. 

Meyer-Levy's previous research (1988) demonstrated that female employees tended to explore more detailed information before making decisions, while males relied on more general information, and their own opinions.

5. Creating a research space

Example

Bradfield and Crockett (1995) concluded that there is little evidence to suggest that employees' attitudes bear any simple or appreciable relationship to performance on the job. However, by contrast, Herzberg et al (1957) provided a quite different conclusion: there is frequent evidence to suggest that positive job attitudes are favourable to increased productivity. Facing these contradictory opinions, the relationship between job satisfaction and job performance will be examined in detail.

Further details

  • Reporting

One of the most important aspects of academic writing is making use of the ideas of other people. This is important as you need to show that you have understood the materials and that you can use their ideas and findings in your own way.

See: Writing Reporting Introduction

  • Evaluating other points of view

You need to be aware that other points of view exists and deal with this.

See:Writing Functions 12: Evaluating

  • Indicating a gap

A negative evaluation of ideas or research can be used to justify the present work by indicating a gap.

See: Writing Functions 19: Indicating a Gap

  • Comparing & Contrasting

When you are working with other people's ideas, you will compare and contrast the different ideas and your own, discussing advantages and disadvantages.

See: Writing Functions 13: Comparing

  • Synthesising

You will need to summarise other people's ideas, combine them and come to conclusions.

See: Writing Reporting Synthesis

  • Generalising

In most cases, the conclusions you come to and the points of view you hold will be qualified and generalisations will be made.

See: Writing Functions 14: Generalising

  • Expressing degree of certainty

You may also have different degrees of certainty about your claims.

See: Writing Functions 15: Certainty

  • Providing support

You need to provide evidence to support your points of view and conclusions.

See: Writing Functions 18: Supporting

  • Analysis

One thing that you learn in higher education is how to analyse. It is an essential part of writing critically.

See: Writing Functions 17: Analysis

  • Supporting an argument: Illustrating and exemplifying ideas

You can use examples to support your conclusions.

See: Writing Functions 8: Examples

  • Giving reasons and explanations

And you will always give reasons and explanations for your claims and points of view.

See: Writing Functions 16: Reasons

  • Working with different voices

You need to recognise and work with other people's points of view. Within all these opinions, you need to make yours clear.

See: Writing Functions 20: Voice

  • Taking a stance

You need to make sure that your point of view shows through clearly.

See: Writing Functions 21: Stance

  • Drawing conclusions

At various stages during your writing, you will need to sum up your argument and come to a conclusion.

See: Writing Functions 23: Concluding