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About Documenting Your Work

What is documentation?

Documentation is providing the necessary information to give credit to the author or creator of a work, idea, or theory that you are using in your research. Most university assignments involve using some secondary source research; that is, reading and applying research done by other people. Documentation involves providing a citation in the body of your essay or report in the form of an in-text citation, footnote, or endnote (depending on the style you are using) AND a list of references with full bibliographic information placed at the end of your essay or report.

Tip:

Some students think it is enough to provide either the in-text citations or the references list (or a bibliography). NOT TRUE. You must always provide both (unless told otherwise by your instructor).

Why is it important to properly document work done by someone else?

Providing correct documentation ensures academic integrity. It allows your instructor to see what parts of your assignment are based on your ideas and interpretation and what parts are based on other people’s ideas (your secondary sources). If you do not provide documentation, you are guilty of plagiarism which is a form of cheating. At UOIT, penalties for plagiarism can range from a zero on the assignment to a grade of F in the class. In the most severe cases, you will be dismissed from the university and a note will be placed on your permanent academic file (including your transcript). Anyone reading your transcript will be alerted to your academic misconduct.

Tip:

Some students think citations are only required for direct quotes. NOT TRUE. You must give documentation for BOTH direct quotes and for paraphrases or summaries (indirect quotes).


Providing correct documentation ensures your professors that you are doing quality research. It demonstrates to your professors and other readers where you obtained your information. It demonstrates that you obtained your information from reputable sources and your research is credible. Documentation allows other researchers to replicate your research. Just as in science labs you document every step of your experiment, your citations and references also document your research.

How can I avoid plagiarism?

As you are conducting your research, keep a running list of all the sources you use and careful notes of what you learned from those sources. Develop a good system of note-taking, whether on paper note cards or electronic files. Keep the bibliographic information with the notes on the content of the source. You do not want to be left with a great piece of information and no idea where it came from. While many students find it useful to keep a separate document to track the sources, when you hand in your assignment the references list should not be a separate document.

Tip:

If you submit your assignment electronically, do so using only one file with a unique filename (such as, yournameassignmentnamenumber.doc). Don’t submit one file with the title page only, another file with the assignment and another with the references.

What type of documentation should I use?

There are several documentation styles. The style you need to use depends on your course discipline and preference of the instructor. At UOIT, the most common are APA and MLA. It is important to check with your professor as to which method is required for your course.
MethodUsed for
APA (American Psychological Association) Social Sciences, Sciences, Education, Engineering, Business, Health Sciences
MLA (Modern Language Association) Humanities and Arts
CMS (Chicago Manual of Style) Humanities (such as History)
IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Engineering
CSE (Council of Science Editors) Biology and General Science
ACS (American Chemistry Society) Chemistry
AIP (American Institute of Physics) Physics
AMS (American Mathematical Society) Math and Computer Science
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