Better Marks with Good Referencing

Image of student writing an assignment

Read the Referencing and Plagiarism Awareness LibGuide and take the quiz to test your knowledge.


Don't Plagiarise!

What Is Plagiarism and What Happens If You Plagiarise?

Plagiarism is passing off someone else's work as your own e.g.:

  • failing to cite an author who's book or article you have quoted from in your assignment
  • copying and pasting text from the Internet into your assignment without indicating the source
  • copying some or all of a friend's essay into yours
  • buying an essay online or from another source

Find out more about what the university considers to be plagiarism and what happens if you plagiarise, in the Regulation on Unacceptable Academic Practice.

  • The consequences are serious; taught students can be excluded from the university and research postgraduates can have their thesis failed.
  • When you hand in an assignment you must sign a cover sheet to indicate that you understand the consequences if you plagiarise
  • The university online submission software Turnitin will check your assignment for evidence of plagiarism and whoever is marking your assignment will see the report it produces

Turnitin: Interpreting the similarity report

What is the Similarity Report?

A Similarity Report shows textual matches or similarities between your assignment submitted to Turnitin and a range of online sources including Turnitin’s own repository of previously submitted work. Turnitin's online sources include: web pages, essay mills, online journals, articles and publications. The report is generated once you have submitted your assignment to Turnitin.

What is the Similarity score?

The similarity score is the percentage of text in the assignment submitted to Turnitin that matches or is similar to online sources. A score of 0% indicates that no matches have been found, and 100% means all the text is matching. Note that matching text is likely to include correctly referenced and quoted text as well as text which has not been referenced at all.

Is it a plagiarism detector?

Turnitin does not check for plagiarism in a submitted assignment. The software cannot tell whether a submitted assignment has been plagiarised, it can only state how much text has been matched or is highly similar to external and other sources.

The Similarity Report is useful for checking that online sources in an assignment have been properly cited and referenced as well as for deterring plagiarism and encouraging good academic practice.

In order to establish whether the use of unfair means has occurred, the Similarity Report must be interpreted by an appropriate member of staff in your department.

What does the similarity score indicate?

Most original student assignments will contain some text matches. There is no ideal percentage to aim for as percentages are dependent on the subject and requirements of the assignment. This ‘at a glance’ guide should not be used as a measure of plagiarism as even a 1% score could potentially be plagiarised.

If you have used quotes and referenced correctly, there will be instances where a match is found. The similarity score highlights any matching areas in your assignment so your department can use this to investigate if the match is or is not acceptable.

Similarity reportSimilarity report description

Accessing the Similarity Report

The Similarity Report can only be viewed after you have submitted your assignment to Turnitin and if the assignment has been set up by your department to allow you to see the associated Similarity Report.

To view your Similarity Report on an assignment you have submitted (whether it has been marked on not):

  1. Log in to Blackboard and open My Modules
  2. Go to the module you submitted your assignment to.
  3. Navigate to the Turnitin submission point that you submitted your assignment to.
  4. Click on the Similarity score or View to open your assignment with the similarity score:feedback studio in Turnitin similarity report
  5. Your assignment will open in Feedback Studio
Viewing your matches
  1. To view the Match Overview, click on the red similarity score from the toolbar:
    match overview in Turnitin similarity report
  2. The right hand side panel shows matches found from either websites, journals, articles or other student submissions:
    match overview in Turnitin similarity report
  3. To see a match breakdown for a particular source, click the arrow to the right of the source. This will open up a pop up text box which shows the matching text and direct links (where available) to that source. Each match has its own corresponding colour.
  4. You can also click directly on one of the matches highlighted in your assignment to bring up the pop up text box.

    text matching in Turnitin similarity report
  5. Text that is matched from different sources will be highlighted with different colours.
  6. To view more information about matched text including source details, click on the source number within the paper:

    similarity report score
  7. In the pop-up box you will see further details of the source of the matched text within your assignment:
    similarity report score
  8. To see the source in more detail, click on Full Source View at the top right-hand corner of the pop up (circled in red in image above).
  9. The right-hand panel will show Full Source Text:
    source text in Turnitin similarity report

This function allows you to filter out certain matches.

  1. Click on the Funnel style Filter icon on the right hand panel in Feedback Studio .filter icon in Turnitin similarity report
  2. Choose whether to exclude Quotes or Bibliography.
  3. Choose whether to exclude matches that are less than either a percentage of the whole text or are under a specific word number.
  4. Click “Apply Changes”.
Further support

See Turnitin’s Help pages for lots more detail on viewing and interpreting the Similarity Report. Turnitin also have a useful interactive demo where you can try the Feedback Studio and find out more.

Do the Epigeum Online Tutorial!

  • Do the Epigeum Avoiding Plagiarism online tutorial and gain the certificate to show you understand what constitutes plagiarism!
  • This FAQ explains how to register for the tutorial
  • Epigeum focusses on the Harvard style which is not the referencing style used in all academic departments at Aberystwyth University, however the tutorial will help you understand fully the concepts of successful referencing in academic assignments.
  • Students and staff can use the Epigeum tutorial thanks to a site subscription by the AU Aberystwyth Business School

Further Hints and Tips

  • Look at the marking scheme for your assignment - how many marks can you gain for your bibliography and what are the criteria you need to meet?
  • Ensure you have allowed enough time in your assignment planning for the reading and the referencing
  • Read widely: start with the Aspire reading list in your Blackboard module and develop your subject searching skills during your course. There's advice on this in the guide What to Read and How to Find It
  • Don't over-rely on one or very few books or other information sources for your assignment
  • Organise your references while you are researching for your essay - more on this and referencing software at Aberystwyth University below
  • Contacts for help, advice and training


Follow the Style Guide!

Academic departments often produce a style guide that you must follow when preparing your assignments. It may include advice on line-spacing, font size etc. and how they expect you to format your citations, footnotes and bibliographies - for example:

  • using a specific bibliographic style e.g. Harvard, MHRA, MLA, IEEE etc. or perhaps creating a bibliography that is correct, complete and consistent without following a named style
  • using in-text citations or footnotes (or both)
  • creating bibliography ordered e.g. alphabetically by author, title or in date order

Style guides often contain examples of bibliography entries for different resource types such as books, journal articles, web pages etc.

Find links to most of the AU style guides on the AberSkills site under Departmental referencing guides. You may also find links to the style guide for your academic department in Aberlearn Blackboard or among the departmental web pages.

It is important to follow the style guide recommended by your academic department if you want to gain all the marks available for the citations and bibliography in your assignment.

If your department does not supply a style guide, at least ensure your referencing is complete, correct and consistent.


In-text Citations, Footnotes and Bibliographies

What is a bibliography?

A bibliography is a complete list of resources you use when writing an assignment or dissertation and is usually located at the end of your work.

Bibliographies may be constructed

  • in alphabetical order (by author, surname etc)
  • in the order in which the sources appear in the your work
  • by year of publication (descending)

and may or not be numbered.

Information sources you have used for your work could include books, articles, websites, video, sound recordings, data gathered through experiments, interview transcripts and many more.

Here are two references, a journal article and a book, from a bibliography:

McInnes, C. (2002). Fatal Attraction? Air Power and the West. Contemporary Security Policy, 22(3), 28-51.
Gat, A. (2001). A History of Military Thought: from the Enlightenment to the Cold War. New York: Oxford University Press.

What are in-text citations and footnotes?

An in-text citation or footnote can reference to a particular book, journal article, web page etc. at a chosen point in your assignment. You may provide an in-text citation or footnote to refer to

  • a single quote
  • a single page or range of pages
  • a chapter
  • an entire book, article etc

You may wish to

  • quote directly e.g. from a book, article, web page
  • refer indirectly to content e.g. theories, interpretations, descriptions of events
  • refer to a number of sources which support a particular argument
  • refer to sources that you found useful in enhancing your overall knowledge in an area of research
  • include empirical data gathered by yourself and/or others

In-text citations

An in-text citation is typically the author's surname and the year of publication, possibly including a page number or range of pages, in round brackets e.g.

Here is an example citing a quote from a specific page:

... at the end of the first world war", (Smith, 2005 p56).

This is an example citing information from a range of pages:

... a number of causes for the conflict are discussed (Smith, 2005 pp34-39).

The source referred to by the in-text citation is included as a full bibliographic reference in the bibliography at the end of the work.


A footnote is typically a numbered bibliographic reference in a smaller font size at the end of a page, possibly including a page number or range of pages e.g.

1 McInnes, C. (2002). Fatal Attraction? Air Power and the West. Contemporary Security Policy, 22(3), 28-51.
2 Gat, A. (2001). A History of Military Thought: from the Enlightenment to the Cold War. New York: Oxford University Press.

which is in turn referred to by a number (also in superscript) in the appropriate place on the page.

The bibliographic reference (normally omitting page references) is included in the bibliography at the end of the work.

Would I use in-text citations and footnotes for bibliographic referencing in the same assignment?

Not normally but some bibliographic styles require a footnote for the first time a source is cited, then in-text citations for subsequent citations of the same source.

Storing References You Have Found

Many online information sources contain features to help you store your search results for later use e.g. in Primo you can store your search results in your E-shelf. Try to get into the habit of storing the records for the information sources you find so you don't have to find them again when you are creating your bibliography.

There are also features to allow you to export search results to reference management software e.g. EndNote. Find out more about EndNote at the end of this guide.

Software for Referencing

Reference management software available at Aberystwyth University to help you organise your references and format your citations and bibliographies.

Other reference management software is available; although we don’t support it we may be able to help you use it with Primo and other information resources.