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Module Seven - Academic writing and referencing


Students at university need to build a clear understanding of the nature of academic and professional writing.

In the course of your study, you will produce many different types of written assignments, including essays, business reports, and perhaps a dissertation or thesis in postgraduate studies.

When you are writing at university remember to:

  • Use formal language and correct punctuation, grammar and spelling
  • Use a formal order or structure to present ideas
  • Be objective rather than personal with ideas expressed clearly and logically
  • Explore alternative explanations
  • Support your writing with author citations

Thinking as a scholar

To write in an academic style you build on the ideas of others and ensure that you acknowledge those ideas by citing and referencing. By doing so, you are adhering to the principles of academic honesty.

A researcher needs to know what has already been researched and what others have written about, so they read the literature - articles and books written about a subject. In this way, a researcher can see how their own ideas fit in with what has been written before about a topic, and perhaps disagree, and add their own thoughts and insights to the ideas and opinions of others.

Remember to record details of all information sources you have used so these can be acknowledged in your bibliography.

Academic literature

Academic literature usually originates in a university or research organisation. It will report research findings conducted by academic or research staff. It will often be published in a scholarly journal, book, conference paper, or report.

You will need to access scholarly ideas and research by using academic literature. You will also be able to add to the body of knowledge through your own writing.

Example of an academic article   [view/annotate inline]

Academic literature is published in a structured form. An academic article shows features such as title, author, author's affiliation, and an abstract or summary. Most academic articles have in-text citations and a reference list at the end. Take a look at the elements of this article.

You can see how the details of an academic article look as a citation:

Costello, D. M. (1993). A cross-country, cross-industry comparison of productivity growth. Journal of Political Economy, 101(2), 207-222.

Finding and reading academic articles

Many databases are either scholarly in orientation or allow you to filter for academic material. Academic articles are peer-reviewed or refereed and have been approved by an editor and other academics.

Scholarly articles are research articles written in a scholarly environment, and use the same rigorous conventions of abstract and references to cited sources, and may also be reviewed by peer academics.

There is a difference between academic and popular journal articles, as explained fully in our guide.

Watch this short video (3:13) which highlights the main differences between academic and popular journals.

Reading an academic article is a skill. Check out Article critique from Massey University, How to read an academic article (University of Washington).

The literature review

One of the first activities in researching for a major project report, thesis or dissertation will be to review the existing literature.

A literature review can be defined as an extensive, detailed survey of relevant research and/or theory related to a specific topic. A good literature review does not just describe previous research but is analytical and evaluative.

See also:

The scholarly publication cycle

Because publishing is so important to the research process, it is interesting to know about scholarly publications and the role they play in research.

Ideas and research lead to articles, which are then submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Important articles are soon cited by other researchers. This can be used as proof of the influence of an author's research.

Peer-reviewed journals are given a weighting based on the impact of their contents on other researchers. This is called a journal impact.

View this short presentation on journal impact factors.

There is pressure on researchers now to make the results of any publicly-funded research freely available and so this is modifying the traditional publication process. The result is the move to Open Access publishing. Authors make their creative works freely available online. This is done through direct listing, institutional repositories, or as part of the traditional publishing process.

Universities and research organisations now make their research available digitally through institutional repositories. The University of Auckland research repository is ResearchSpace. If you are a postgraduate you may deposit your thesis with ResearchSpace so that, if desired, it can be viewed by researchers throughout the world.

Paraphrasing and quoting

The main thinking and ideas in your written work comes from you, but in academic writing you often need to include other people's ideas and research to support your own ideas. To succeed in academic and professional writing, you need to learn how to integrate ideas from other sources into your writing using paraphrasing or direct quoting.

In deciding whether to quote or paraphrase, quoting is best reserved to use when you think an author has expressed something well or a statement will validate your own opinions. It is important, however, to prove that you can understand ideas by showing that you can render someone else's words into your own way of expression and this is the value of using paraphrasing.

Paraphrasing is a valuable skill because ...

  • The analytical skills required to paraphrase helps you to understand the author's meaning.
  • By restating the ideas from another source in your own words, you are proving to the reader that you understand the original.
  • The use of paraphrasing shows the reading and research you have done for an essay or report as evidenced by your in-text citing and reference list.
  • By the use of paraphrasing, opinions and ideas from other sources can be combined with your own ideas to strengthen and support your writing.
  • By using in-text citing and a reference list as part of correct paraphrasing you are remaining academically honest in your written work and avoiding plagiarism.

Direct quotes
Use direct quotes very sparingly, only where necessary to reinforce or justify a view. If you use too many direct quotes, your reader will wonder what your own ideas are.

The examples below use APA Style where both paraphrasing and quoting require an in-text citation with the full citation details in the reference list.

The complete reference will be added to your reference list - see next section Referencing and citing.

A passage or remark you have quoted directly from someone's work.

Original text
Mill's Reef Winery is a small family-owned business. It was recently targeted for a takeover, but family members resisted the bid. This boutique winery, based on Waiheke Island, has enjoyed recent success in the competitive New Zealand wine market by winning the Wine Association's gold medal for its pinot gris.

Example of quoting
"Mill's Reef Winery is a small family-owned business" (Poulin, 2010, p.91).

Tips for quoting

  • Use quotation marks
  • Copy the author's exact words
  • Give reference details, including page number.


Re-stating another author's ideas using your own words.

Original text
Mill's Reef Winery is a small family-owned business. It was recently targetted for a takeover, but family members resisted the bid. This boutique winery, based on Waiheke Island, has enjoyed recent success in the competitive New Zealand wine market by winning the Wine Association's gold medal for its pinot gris.

Example of paraphrasing
The award-winning wine producer, Mill's Reef Winery, was subject to a failed takeover bid (Poulin, 2010).

Steps to effective paraphrasing

 Step 6Add an insight or idea of your own that supports and integrates the ideas you have used from other sources.
 Step 5Add a citation (author/date) after the paraphrased piece of writing in your essay to acknowledge that this particular idea did not come from you. 
 Step 4Check your writing with the original piece to ensure you have conveyed the ideas of the original and that your version accurately expresses all the essential information, but in your own words.
 Step 3Think about what the author is saying and write down the ideas in your own words using your writing style.
 Step 2
Identify key information that you would like to use in your writing that will help to support or strengthen your own ideas or viewpoints.
 Step 1
Read the original piece of writing until you understand clearly what the author is saying.

The thought of combining other people's ideas with your own ideas in your writing can be daunting, but if you learn to do this by paraphrasing you are well on the way to achieving excellent academic writing skills and academic success.


Academic Honesty 

Why should I learn about academic honesty? How will this help me to become a better writer? 

Academic honesty is part of being a member of a scholarly community such as the University of Auckland Business School. Knowledge in any subject can only be built over time through the sharing of ideas. However if you are going to use or build on the ideas of others, the original source and ownership of these ideas must be properly acknowledged.  

If academic and professional writing is all about using and incorporating the ideas and research of others, then you must learn to correctly provide the source for the ideas you are using by correct citing and referencing. 

The University regards academic honesty very seriously and the academic integrity website provides key principles and practices underlying academic honesty. 

If you develop good skills in paraphrasing, quoting, citing and referencing, then it will become virtually impossible for you to ever be accused of cheating or academic misconduct. Beyond ensuring your academic honesty, these skills will impress your lecturers and help you to get higher marks in your courses.

APA referencing style

The Business School uses APA Style for referencing. It requires citing, both within the body of written work (in-text citation) as well as creating a reference list.

A reference list at the end of the document includes only those sources actually mentioned (cited) in the assignment. This is quite different from a bibliography which would include all material used in preparation for the assignment even if the material has not been specifically referred to in your assignment, e.g., background or future reading.

APA has rules for citing all types of materials; books, journal articles, websites, TV programmes and other media. You must also acknowledge the source of material such as data, images, diagrams or tables.

Tools which will help with referencing and managing your information include:

  • APA Referencing: A Guide for Business Students This has been written specifically for University of Auckland Business School students. It includes examples of in-text citations and referencing for a wide range of information sources and formats.
  • Referencite is the University's central academic referencing resource. Click the Overview button, and then follow the guide down the right-side column. There you will find plenty of useful advice that will be of help to you in your writing and referencing.
  • Quickcite shows how your reference should be cited according to APA style.
  • Some journal databases now include a Cite this function. This allows you to preview a selected reference according to different referencing styles, including APA.

Watch this example from Business Source Premier (BSP).

  • RefWorks and EndNote are reference management tools. You can store your references in these systems, and then use these references in your assignment. RefWorks and EndNote format the references to a chosen referencing style such as APA.

Tip: You need to pay attention to the differing formats in which information is found as the referencing rules will vary according to format.

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