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If in doubt, reference!

We want your time here to be successful, and to help you with your written assignments we have some important information and advice for you.

You and perhaps your families are making a major investment in your study here because you want to achieve a university qualification that you can be proud of and which others will respect. We want our qualifications to be respected and thus we have strict rules about plagiarism, the acknowledgement and referencing of the sources of the content of your assignments (sources such as books, articles, lectures, readings and the internet), and your use of other students' work.

 It may be that your previous teachers and educational institutions did not expect you to reference all the material from other sources in your assignments. We do! If you fail to reference everything by other people and organisations in your assignments you may well find yourself facing a formal discipline process for plagiarism, which the University regards as a serious type of misconduct. It is irrelevant whether you intended to misrepresent the work of others as your own. If you do not reference everything by other people and organisations it is plagiarism and that is misconduct.

The University's Assessment Regulations (published in the Calendar) state that plagiarism is prohibited. It defines plagiarism as: “presenting as one’s own work the work of another, and includes the copying or paraphrasing of another person’s work in an assessment item without acknowledging it as the other person’s work through full and accurate referencing; it applies to assessment presented through a written, spoken, electronic, broadcasting, visual, performance or other medium”.

The information on this page should enable you to understand the expectations of the University in regards to referencing the work of others. Please speak to your lecturer if you have specific questions about referencing which are not covered on this page.

All Your Own Work

To complete your qualification and graduate you must pass a set of courses. Your assignments, tests and examination scripts are assessed to determine the quality and grade of your work. The assignments you submit must be 100% your own work: they must represent your understanding of the subject, and your understanding of the work of others. A vital element of showing that you understand the work of others is your acknowledgement of their work. You do this through proper referencing.

Sometimes you will quote the work of others directly, using quotation marks (““) around the quotation and giving the exact location of the words you have quoted. Sometimes you will paraphrase the work of others. “Paraphrasing” means summarising the work of others in your own words, emphasizing what is especially relevant to your assignment, developing their work for your assignment. When you paraphrase you must still acknowledge the source by proper referencing of the relevant work.

Sometimes you may work with other students in a group, discussing the topic and the material recommended by your teacher. It is acceptable to help each other understand the topic and the material you have to study but it is not acceptable to copy each other's assignments. What you hand in must be 100% your own work, even though you have studied together and helped each other understand what you are studying. If you use another student's ideas you must acknowledge his or her contribution with a proper reference.

In summary, you must acknowledge (by proper referencing):

  • the direct quotation (even if it is only a few words);
  • the paraphrasing of the words of others; and
  • the use of printed or electronic material to give you ideas, facts, understanding or inspiration.
If your course includes group work, or you have formed an informal study group, you must acknowledge all of the following:
  • substantial assistance by others with understanding material;
  • ideas and views developed through group work;
  • material developed by group work; and
  • significant or substantive editing of your written work by others.

There are a number of different styles and ways of referencing all these sources. Good academic work requires that you use an appropriate style and way of referencing. Specific guidelines and requirements for referencing will often be stated in Departmental and/or Faculty handbooks and the Library has information leaflets on various styles and ways of setting out references.

Student Learning Support (SLS) also offer a  number of online materials which may assist you. You can also contact SLS by emailing

What To Avoid

What happens if you don't follow this advice? When one of your teachers thinks that one of your assignments has problems with acknowledgement and referencing, he or she has to decide whether to treat it as a mistake or as misconduct – i.e. plagiarism. If they decide it is a mistake they are likely to explain the mistake to you, so you don't make it again, and they will give the assignment a mark that reflects, among other things, the inappropriate acknowledgement and referencing. You are expected to learn quickly how to acknowledge correctly by using the appropriate style of referencing, and you will be told all about this in your first classes and in handouts you will receive. 

If they decide that you have had opportunities here at the University of Waikato to learn about acknowledgement and referencing but have failed to do so, they are more likely to decide to treat your poor acknowledgement and referencing as possible misconduct. This means your assignment will be referred to the University's discipline system.

How is your teacher likely to make this decision? If your assignment includes some or most of the following, your teacher may decide to treat the problem as a mistake: the acknowledgement and referencing problems are relatively minor; it is very early in your academic career at the University of Waikato (it is one of your first few assignments); and there has not yet been much opportunity to explain to you and other students about acknowledgement, referencing and plagiarism in your classes. If few or none of these apply, your teacher may decide to treat the problem as misconduct (plagiarism).

If your assignment is referred to the discipline system and it is your first referral for misconduct, it is likely that you will be offered a “summary jurisdiction” hearing with the Chairperson of the Student Discipline Committee, who represents the Vice-Chancellor, the executive head of the University. The letter requesting that you attend this hearing will explain about summary jurisdiction and the about alternative that you have the right to choose, which is a formal Discipline Committee hearing. (If it is not your first referral for misconduct you are likely to be referred directly to the Discipline Committee).

If the teachers or staff supervising a test or examination think a student has cheated in the test or examination, they will be referred to the same discipline system for a summary jurisdiction or Discipline Committee hearing.

The University of Waikato and your teachers want you to be successful and to gain your chosen and respected qualification. Therefore, please study this information and advice, making sure that you understand the acknowledgement and referencing which is required in your work here (and at all New Zealand universities).

For more information, please refer to the University's Student Discipline Regulations