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Route 4: Ethical Use of Information

Page history last edited by Elaine Shallcross 10 years, 11 months ago



Learning Outcome: an ability to organise, apply and communicate information

Learning Outcome: an ability to synthesise and create bibliographies



Route 4 guides you through important ethical issues concerning the use of information owned and created by others.

Included on this page are collections of resources designed to help you work through this stage. Feel free to download and print them off!


Start at the top and work down the four InfoPaths that make up Route 4...



Route 4A: Being aware of copyright

Most printed and electronic documents are protected by copyright legislation. You are allowed to photocopy or print off journal articles and chapters in books for your own personal research purposes. What you can't do is photocopy, download or print all articles from one issue of a journal or an entire book, whether they are in electronic or paper format. Publishers of electronic materials monitor usage of their full text titles and any inappropriate use of material is reported to us; it could result in the entire University being denied access to full text electronic services in the future.


More information is provided at our copyright awareness web page and a library information guide on Copyright, Photocopying and Scanning in PDF format is available online hRoute 3: Evaluating Information ere.


Route 4B: Knowing how to avoid plagiarism

Be under no illusion, plagiarism - copying another person's words or ideas without proper acknowledgment - is cheating. It is regarded by the University as a serious academic offence that can result in serious disciplinary action.


It's so easy to copy and paste significant portions of web-based text into your work, so how do you use the information you have found ethically? Here are some guidelines:

  • Take careful note of the sources of information you wish to refer to in your work. You will need this information for your bibliography (more about this later).
  • Attend academic writing and avoiding plagiarism workshops organised as part of your course. Please don't think that these workshops are not important - they are. Registers of attendees are often taken and lecturers take a very dim view indeed of students who do not participate in these classes.
  • If there are no workshops organised in your particular courses, check guidance on what constitutes plagiarism provided within your School or speak with your supervisor.


Here are some practical tips on avoiding plagiarism:

  • Paraphrase in your own writing style your interpretation of the work of others and refer to these sources of information consistently both within your text and in full in your bibliography. 
  • Show very clearly by using "quotation marks" any text that is lifted directly from work belonging to someone else. Direct quotes longer than two or three lines should be inserted as a new paragraph, indented and single-spaced, to show clearly that these are not your own words. They should also be referenced both within your text and fully in your bibliography.


This link takes you to a Student Learning Service web page that explains the definition of plagiarism and how to avoid it.


Route 4C: Recording the details of what you have found

It's so easy to get engrossed in reading and making notes on an interesting source of information, then forget to make a note of where it was found. I think we've all done it! It's much more difficult to go back and find the original source AND it takes up a lot of precious time. Here are a few hints to save you time:

  • If you want to refer to text in a book make a note of the author, edition, title of the book, year of publication, place of publication and publisher, and page number(s).
  • If you want to refer to a chapter or text in an edited book make note of the author(s) of the chapter, title of chapter, editor(s) of the book, title of the book, date of publication, place of publication and publisher, and page number(s).
  • If you want to refer to a journal article make note of the author(s) of the article, date of publication, title of article, title of the journal in which its published, volume and issue number (if it has one), and page number(s).
  • Don't leave any of these details out. They are important details that must be included in your bibliography.
  • You can record bibliographic details of your references on index cards, on a Word document, spreadsheet or an Access database.
  • Make sure that you take the bibliographic details of a book from the title page inside the publication rather than the cover.
  • If you produce a bibliography manually make sure you follow the guidelines for the referencing style required by your School. Be consistent in the way you reference your sources (see Route 4D).
  • There are a number of books in the library that give examples of referencing styles. Look on the library catalogue for a book by Richard Pears and Graham Shields entitled Cite them right: the essential referencing guide. It is a good source of information on how to reference different types of material for several of the important referencing styles available.


You may want to consider using online services rather than record everything manually. The library provides support and training on a web-based service - RefWorks. Alternatively, Zotero is freely available (although it is not supported by the University), or there is an option in Word 2007.

We estimate that it takes around 2-3 hours to learn how to use RefWorks. But the benefits of using reference management software far outweigh the time it takes for you to learn how to use it. Here is a bit more information about RefWorks:

  • You can register an account (which won't cost you a thing) and have access to your database of references from any computer with internet access.
  • You will have support and advice on how to use RefWorks from experts in the library.
  • You will have an opportunity to attend RefWorks workshops to learn how to use it properly.
  • RefWorks stores the references you find in your searches, and generates bibliographies and in-text citations in a style of your choice - at the click of a button.  
  • A quick guide to using RefWorks is available online here
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: RefWorks is not suitable for law students required to use the OSCOLA referencing style.


Route 4D: The importance of using a referencing style consistently

There are many different referencing styles that you could use. Your department may have a preference, so check your course guide.

It is ESSENTIAL to list everything you refer to in your written work to avoid committing plagiarism.

A library guide on referencing and citing is available online here that explains how to record what you have read and referenced. Alternatively, use the library catalogue to look up a publication by Richard Pears and Graham Shields entitled Cite them right: the essential referencing guide available in the University Library.



Web pages:

Student Learning Service: Avoiding Plagiarism

Library Service: Downloading from electronic resources

Library Service: RefWorks at the University of Aberdeen

Library guides:

QG GEN008: Copyright, Photocopying & Scanning - Your Responsibilities

QG GEN008: Referencing and Citing

QG RFW001: RefWorks - A Quick Guide

Information skills workshops (free of charge):

Course booking online (includes information on how to cancel a booking)


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