Responsible use of scientific sources

In academic writing you almost always make use of the work of others. It is important to refer correctly to the sources you are citing. On this page you will find information about correct referencing.

There are two ways in which you are allowed to use the work of others in your own publications:

  • Quoting: to copy verbatim
  • Paraphrasing and summarizing: putting a passage in your own words

In all cases you must mention the source. If you do not mention your source, you commit plagiarism.


Quoting is to copy a piece of text word by word. You use quotes to illustrate your point or if you want to analyse the original phrasing of somebody else.

Quoting is allowed, provided that the following conditions are met:

  • The source is stated correctly
  • The quote is copied word for word (no changes or translation)
  • Beginning and end of the quote are clearly indicated (for example by using quotation marks)
  • The quote is relevant to your argument and is only a small part of your text. A quote is not meant just to embellish your publication

Paraphrasing and summarizing

There are two ways to represent ideas from a publication in your own words:

  • Paraphrasing:  you keep the drift of a passage from the original text, without copying it literally.
  • Summarizing: you give a brief overview of the content or of the ideas from (a part of) a source.You put into your own words the most important and most relevant information from that source.

Paraphrasing and summarizing are allowed, provided that you meet the following conditions:

  • State the source correctly
  • Indicate clearly which part contains your own ideas and which is the part you have copied

Citation styles

Whether you quote, summarize or paraphrase, you must always mention the source. There are various styles to refer to the literature used.

Well-known citation styles are:

Reference management

We advise you to use a reference management tool if you refer to (lots of) sources. Such a tool helps you to collect and arrange the sources used. You will work more efficiently and effectively. You could use for instance: RefWorks, Endnote, Zotero or Mendeley.

More information about using sources