Why is it important to add references to your thesis?
Why should I reference my thesis?
It’s the first question every student attempting a thesis asks. Not at all surprising, given the amount of effort and endless list of referencing styles.
But what is its importance, why do professors insist on citations? The obvious answer that comes to mind is to avoid plagiarism accusations.
But there’s a lot more to the necessity of citations than just that.
In simple terms, referencing is the process of acknowledging all the sources you use in your work. These could be words and ideas, facts, images, videos, audio, websites, statistics, diagrams and any other data that you have borrowed (i.e, not your own).
A lot of your thesis is directly/indirectly derived from the work you read in your literature review. The references section helps your reader demarcate what your work is and what other work you have cited to make your point.
As far as citation styles are concerned, there are just too many to keep track of. Thankfully, they’re mostly sorted by discipline.
The commonly known/used formats include the Chicago Manual of Style, APA and MLA, but certain universities and schools also tend to have their own styles (OSCOLA, for example). To add to this, different styles also have specific requirements pertaining to what is being cited.
So with all the hassle involved, how necessary is referencing? And how much?
Let’s get to it quickly.
Why should I reference my thesis?
To avoid being accused of plagiarism
Like we mentioned right at the beginning, this one’s a no-brainer. You might think that paraphrasing certain sentences would make it your own and therefore eliminate the need to cite. That’s not true, however, and it’s extremely crucial to give credit to the right source.
Besides, researchers who may someday look at your own work to quote from are always hunting for the right source to cite from.
Just don’t be a copycat.
Shows what you know
You know the amount of reading, watching and curating of information that has gone into months of preparing your dissertation. Citing it will only show your readers the depth of your reading, and the vast literature involved will further lend weight to your work.
Lends credibility and authority to your own work
When you cite, you’re distinguishing your own words and thoughts from another person’s. Your entire thesis is essentially an argument you’re making to prove a point (your hypothesis). So the more data you have to back your argument up, the better!
People take plagiarism very seriously, although in some cases it could happen unintentionally. Accurate referencing depicts your honesty and the fact that you’ve tried your best to credit everyone involved in making your thesis what it is.
Some universities do have penalties in place in case of plagiarism, so it’s always better to be careful!
Now that you know exactly why referencing is important, don’t get carried away. How do you decide how much referencing is too much? Well, the answer to that is that it’s mostly a judgment call, subject to your word count, University requirements or as suggested by your dissertation/thesis guide.
What you must essentially remember while referencing is that it is data backing up your existing thoughts and arguments, not the primary body of your work. Check the credibility and authority of your sources, and pick those which will best illustrate and support your words while taking care not to let it cloud your own thoughts.
The Plethora of Thesis Referencing Styles
To help you identify the different types of referencing styles, here are a few simple examples of the book ‘Good Omens’ cited in various common styles:
American Psychological Association (APA):
Pratchett, T., & Gaiman, N. (1991). Good Omens. London: Corgi Books.
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Pratchett, Terry, and Neil Gaiman. Good Omens. Corgi, 1991.
Pratchett, Terry, and Neil Gaiman. 1991. Good Omens. London: Corgi Books.
Chicago (Notes and Bibliography):
Pratchett, Terry, and Neil Gaiman. Good Omens. London: Corgi Books, 1991.
Pratchett T, Gaiman N. Good Omens. London: Corgi Books, 1991.
Pratchett and N. Gaiman, Good Omens. London: Corgi Books, 1991.
Pratchett, T. and Gaiman, N. (1991) Good Omens. London: Corgi Books.
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