ON REFERENCE, FOOTNOTES AND PLAGIARISM
Plagiarism is considered a very serious academic “crime” and a disciplinary offence which could result in expulsion from the University. In the University of Hong Kong, plagiarism covers “all form of work submitted for assessment as part of a University examination” (e.g., theses, dissertations, take-home examinations, assignments and projects).
In the Fifth Regulation of the University’s Regulations Governing Conduct at Examination, “plagiarism is defined as the unacknowledged use, as one’s own, of work of another person, whether or not such work has been published.” Plagiarism is about reproducing others’ works in your own paper without stating the origins of your copied materials, be those from internet articles, other students’ old papers, academic journals, books, lecture notes or internet images. In short, if a student tries to present others’ ideas or works as if it was the work of the student’s own, it is plagiarism.
There are two forms of common plagiarism practices:
- Direct copy-and-paste, without referring to the source.
- Paraphrasing without disclaiming that it is not the student’s original idea, changing grammar, adding a few words, or translating a source without stating its origin source and vice versa.
Yet, as History is about gathering, analysing and evaluating evidences, interpretations and arguments, any student who had written a History essay would realize that it is impossible to write a paper without drawing from existing knowledge. How, then, to refer to other sources without plagiarizing?
* For further details concerning plagiarism, please refer to the What is Plagiarism?, a booklet on plagiarism released by the University of Hong Kong.
PROPER REFERENCING AND WRITING FOOTNOTES
1, Proper indications
To avoid plagiarism, make sure your readers know a certain proportion of your work contains the work of someone else by using proper indications. If you take a sentence or paragraph from other works without paraphrasing (direct quotation), you must present the copied materials in quotation (e.g., “omnia per ipsum facta sunt et sine ipso factum est nihil quod factum est”) or indentation, e.g.:
“In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum. Omnia per ipsum facta sunt et sine ipso factum est nihil quod factum est. In ipso vita erat et vita erat lux hominum. Et lux in tenebris lucet et tenebrae eam non conprehenderunt.” (Ioannes 1:1-5, Vulgate)
And you should present the source immediately after the copied passage.
To present the source (a practice also known as “citation), the name of the author, title of the source, publication date and page reference must be included. Different academic disciplines would present the sources in different styles, and the History Department’s “house style” is the Chicago style.
For example, if one wants to cite some information concerning Yellow Fever on page 113 from Michael Oldstone’s book Viruses, Plagues, and History: Past, Present, and Future, the footnote should be as follows:
Michael B. A. Oldstone, Viruses, Plagues, and History: Past, Present, and Future (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 113.