How to Confidently Refer to Other Texts in Your Writing – TUB-Thump 014


Talking about other people, concepts, and theories in your coursework doesn’t need to be difficult. But it does need getting your head around.

That’s why Episode 014 of TUB-Thump is a quick-fire round of advice on how to confidently refer to others as you write. And you’ll get my take on what it really means to be original in your writing.

I’ve even got a bell to identify each of the points as I whizz along. What’s not to like?

That said, I was clearly too near the mic in today’s edition of the show, and I said “put” far too many times…a lethal combination! Bonus game: count how many times I annoy the mic by making a P sound.


Here are the show notes for the 7-min episode:

  • 00:50 – Originality in your writing isn’t about creating brand new theories and ideas. It’s generally about bringing your voice to what’s already out there and casting your own mark on it. That means referring to other people, other theories, and other works.
  • 01:10 – Explain in your own words.
  • 01:50 – Get the meaning/explanation right when putting it in your own words.
  • 02:10 – Use a direct quotation when making a powerful point or their specific words matter.
  • 03:00 – Don’t spend too long describing in your own words. Distil it so you make the point, then get on with your own point.
  • 03:40 – Refer to a range of texts. Don’t focus too much on a limited number of sources.
  • 04:15 – Let your voice shine through.
  • 04:40 – Make all your references abundantly clear. The most annoying thing is accidental plagiarism (useful video from the University of Reading below).

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

Don’t Plagiarise it. Remix it!

Academics have been remixing since forever.

You cannot move forward without taking from what is already behind you.

Yet remixing is different from plagiarising.  Academics reference the work they’re using and explain how they reached the detail they’re presenting.

photo by Thomas Hawk

photo by Thomas Hawk

There is a common misconception amongst students that you shouldn’t reference too much, because it looks like you haven’t done any thinking yourself.  But the more you refer to, the broader your research has been. Your scope widens as you read more, leading to more citations.

A high number of references is a healthy sign.  Those references have to be relevant, mind!

As you bring all these works together, you are creating a brand new work.  Remix. Mashup. Collaborate. From all this comes your own unique work.  You rely on others to make your own mark.

Coursework is a continuation of other people’s work, full of quotations, and full of ideas.  Even a groundbreaking, brand new finding/viewpoint must interact with previous research.  And each interaction requires an explanation of where it came from.

Additionally, if you have an opinion and want to back it up, it’s acceptable to find similar arguments elsewhere.  I spoke to one student who said they kept having to change their conclusions because they were the same as someone else’s view.  But there’s no harm in holding a similar view.  It’s just as natural to agree with others as it is to disagree with them.  Agreements in academia are helpful, because it’s material to back up your arguments.  It would be more difficult to back something up if everyone else disagreed with you!

Look at enough journal articles and you’ll start to see exactly how much academics manage to reference throughout their writing.  They don’t leave references out through fear of looking unoriginal.  When they discuss what has gone before and refer to previous findings, they are still creating a brand new work.

Your essays aren’t always unique research projects or a demonstration of new findings.  You may simply be discussing the merits of a statement or exploring a particular concept.  In doing so, your job is to cover as much ground as possible through primary resources and secondary material.  Should you find opinions that go against what you want to argue, bring that up too.  Explain why you don’t agree and back up with even more references on top of your own findings.

Next time you see an academic paper where the bibliography takes up the same number of pages as the article itself, hopefully you’ll understand why this happens!

It’s bad to plagiarise.  It’s great to remix!