Scientific writing differs significantly from other written activities such as drawing up a newspaper article, writing a novel or updating a blog. Scientific writing “does not lead a life of its own” but always exists in some relation to what others have previously written about the topic. All arguments presented in a scientific text must be reliably validated.
References help the authors to demonstrate the previous results they have been aware of, research methods they have used and how they have proportioned their own results to the interpretations of others. It is essential to report adequate details, i.e. references of the source publications used in the text. This is how the reader – for example, the supervisor of a thesis – can verify the reliability of the arguments used to support the presented hypotheses. In addition, references give credit to whom credit is due.
Sources can be utilised in two different ways:
- reference (summarising/paraphrasing) is a way of expressing the thoughts of another author in your own words
- citation (citing) is a direct quote from the text of another author. The citation is separated from your own text with quotation marks
The source publications used in a text must be referred to in a way that the references and citations can be easily recognised and found later on. If the source is not mentioned and if the quotation or material produced by someone else is presented as your own, you are guilty of plagiarism. It is a case of stealing intellectual property and it is strictly forbidden even when done unintentionally. Material found from the Internet is not available for everyone to copy and use freely. The copyright law applies also to the Internet.
The reference process consists of two parts:
- references (textual references)
- bibliography (list of references)
There are several different styles and ways of recording references and compiling a bibliography. Furthermore, different disciplines use varying reference and citation practices. Therefore, the authors must always make sure that the reference practice used in their text complies with the practices of the intended faculty, organisation or publication.
If you study at the University of Eastern Finland, you may find reference practices in UEF study communities.
Other guides to reference practices:
Reference management program offers several advantages. It helps you in building and maintaining your personal database of all literature you need in your work. You can easily import search results from many different databases into the program. A reference management program streamlines your writing process. The program allows you to insert citations in a manuscript while you are preparing it. When the manuscript is finished, you can print it out with citations and a bibliography in a style of your choice.
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