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Information Literacy

Good Scientific Practice

One prerequisite for academic research to be ethically acceptable, reliable, and the results to be credible, is that the research has been carried out according to sound academic principles, which includes the critical evaluation of sources, and respecting the rights of the creators of any sources used in the research.

In this section you will learn more on:

  • source evaluation
  • reference practices
  • why plagiarism is not a good idea

Source Analysis

When you have found the publications you think might be useful to you, it is time for their critical evaluation. You need to be especially careful when analyzing sources on the open web. It is preferable to use primary sources rather than secondary ones for e.g. your theses. Take at least the following points into consideration:


  • Find out when the publication or the web page has been created and when it was updated, or if there are new editions available.


  • To whom is the material directed? Does the material have a specific target audience?
  • Is the material well-written and does the language contain the terminology appropriate for the subject?


  • What information does the author give about him/herself? Has the author published other works on the same subject?
  • what is the author’s background organization and what are its views on the subject?
  • If the material is published online, where is the web page located and who is in charge of it (a company, a government body, or e.g. a private individual). Are there advertising on the web site?
  • Has the material been peer reviewed?


  • How are the statements in the material argued and are any sources or links presented for checking the facts
  • Is the material comparable with other material on the same subject and to what you already know about the subject?


  • Why has the material been made; what was the purpose of producing it and its academic goal?
  • Who has funded or sponsored the research or publication?

Watch the video to learn more on evaluating sources with the CRAAP test:

Reference Practices

Any arguments you present in a written assignment or in your thesis must be based on your own analysis and on research that has been published before. It is vital to have clear and logical source annotations so that the reader will know what you base your arguments on. Source references give the reader the opportunity to learn more about the topic.

The main point about references is that they have to contain enough information, and that they are presented in the same way throughout one publication.

Different types of sources (e.g. books, e-books, articles, news papers, Youtube clips etc etc) are cited in different ways. You find more information about reference practices in Arcada’s Writing Guide. The appendix 1 shows examples on how to refer to different types of sources.

Harvard Citation Format

There are many different citation styles and formats such as APA, CBE, Chicago, Harvard, Vancouver etc. At Arcada the Harvard format is recommended (also called the author-year system). The purpose with each style is to show what and who's ideas is presented and also give the reader a chance to find the source. Learn to indicate references accurately, carefully and logically from the start of your studies.

This example pictures how to refer to a book and to an article:

Here is an example of how to refer to a scientific article and a printed book using the Harvard reference style. When referring to the article, show the name of the author(s), the publication year, and the page numbers put in brackets. The page number can be left out when referring to the entire publication but necessary if referring to a specific part (Hanssen & Alpers 2010, p. 201). When referring to a book use the same system. Check for more details in the Arcada Writing Guide. It is important that you consistently use the same format throughout your text and in your list of references (Hamp-Lyons & Heassley 2006, p. 83).


When writing the list of references the book and the article should be referred to as follows:


List of References

Hamp-Lyons, L. & Heasley, B. 2006, Study writing: a course in writing skills for academic purposes, 2. ed., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Hanssen, I. & Alpers, L. 2010, Utilitarian and common-sense morality discussions in intercultural nursing practise, Nursing ethics, 17(2), pp. 201-211.


The details included in the book reference are:

  • Hamp-Lyons, L. & Heasley, B. = last name of the authors and initial letters of the first name
  • 2006 = year of publication
  • Study writing: a course in writing skills for academic purposes = title of the book (written in italics)
  • 2. ed = edition of the publication
  • Cambridge University Press = publisher or issuing institution
  • Cambridge = place of publication

The details included in the article reference are:

  • Hanssen, I. & Alpers, L.= last name of the authors and initial letters of the first name
  • 2010 = year of publication
  • Utilitarian and common-sense morality discussions in intercultural nursing practice = name of the article
  • Nursing ethics = name of the journal (written in italics)
  • 17 = volume of the journal
  • 2 = issue of the journal (of volume 17)
  • pp. 201-211 = the page numbers of the article


For further details not mentioned in the Arcada Writing Guide we recommend having a look at these resources:

Reference Management & RefWorks

RefWorks is an online research management, writing and collaboration tool. It is designed to help students and researchers easily gather, manage, store and share all types of information, as well as generate citations and bibliographies. In order to use RefWorks you have to sign up for an individual account with your Arcada e-mail.

Attention! Your password must differ from your Arcada login!

There are other options for reference management available as well, such as Mendeley or Zotero. We recommend that you choose the tools most suitable to your personal preferences.

Don't plagiarize!

Plagiarism means unauthorized citing, e.g. presenting someone else’s thoughts and ideas as your own, without mentioning the source. When you refer to someone else’s texts you must indicate where the information came from. You have to give the source, whether you quote directly from the source or paraphrase it in your own words. It is also considered plagiarism if you give the source but do not indicate that the text is a direct quotation.

Citation is plagiarism if you do not mention the source of your information – whether that source is a book, a journal, the research plan of a fellow student, or a web page. This means that e.g. copying text from an electronic information source and pasting it in your own work counts as plagiarism unless you indicate where the information came from. Self-plagiarism is reusing or recycling your own previous texts without mentioning the source. Your own past works should be cited to as any other sources.

You do not have to mention a source if it is a general condition, fact or other generally known piece of information, such as “the sun rises in the East”.

Plagiarism is explained in the tutorials below. In the first tutorial the plagiarism detection software Turnitin is mentioned. Arcada uses the software Urkund instead of Turnitin. Unauthorized citation is fraud, which may lead to your work being failed or even you being temporarily banned from the university.


An in-text reference should be indicated so that the reader clearly can see the difference between the quoted part and the author’s own analysis. The in-text reference should also direct the reader to the correct place in the list of references with more detailed information about the source.