January 26th, 2018

Referencing: What to do with the information you found

Guest post by Alia Qatarneh 

Alia will be available to discuss this post and answer your questions about Genes in Space at the next #GenesInSpaceChat on Tuesday, January 30th at 8pm EST. Submit your questions for Alia HERE.  

There is a lot that goes into writing a Genes in Space proposal. One of the most difficult things to do is to select a specific topic that you formulate your proposal around. If you’ve checked out our Tips for Contestants page, you’ve seen that the third tip is to research. Researching your topic will help you narrow your focus and identify a specific question that you are interested in and passionate about.

But how do you incorporate the facts you’ve found during your research into your proposal? Can your entire proposal be comprised of references? Should you reference at all? What about copy and paste? 

This blog post will explore what referencing is, why is it important, and how it can benefit your proposal.

What is referencing/citing?

When you are writing your proposal and you want to use someone else’s ideas, work, or words, you must reference them. Referencing means that you include the source where you found this work, ideally giving credit and acknowledging the authors who wrote the original work.  

Why is referencing important?

Referencing is important because it gives authenticity to your work, exhibits that you have efficiently researched your topic, gives others credit for their ideas, and helps your readers find the original work if needed.

How does referencing benefit your proposal?

Part of the process of scientific investigation is building upon the works of other scientists. Referencing their work allows you to authenticate your own proposal question with established ideas and facts. Keep in mind that the people reading your Genes in Space proposal are members of the scientific community. As scientists, we’re inquisitive so we may want to know more about your proposed question. It’s not uncommon for us to look at the references you list, especially for out-of-the-box proposal ideas. Adding references to your proposal is not required, but don’t be afraid to cite! It will demonstrate that you have read the current research on your topic of interest.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism refers to deliberately incorporating or presenting someone else’s work as your own. There are many forms of plagiarism that you should be aware of including: 

  • Verbatim plagiarism: when you actively copy and paste text that you’ve found online without quotation marks or a citation.

  • Mosaic plagiarism: when you copy bit and pieces from something you’ve found, changing a few words here and there without quoting or referencing.

  • Uncited quotation: when you use quotation marks but you do not reference where the quote came from.

How do you avoid plagiarism?

  • Keep track of your sources. Most of you will be using online sources to support your proposal. We suggest your print or save an electronic copy of each of your sources.

  • Develop your own thoughts and ideas by taking notes and reflecting on the research you’ve found. This will help you write consciously in your own words.

  • If you are going to use a direct quote or a summarized thought from research you’ve found, reference it! You can reference within the text of your proposal by adding the author and date of the research in the format of (Author, Date) or by numbering in the format of (1). This is an in-text citation. Then in the reference space provided at the end of the proposal, you can reference the work by writing the title of the research, the author, the date, and any link you can provide.

Let’s look at this a little more closely.

Example of text found during research

“Each PCR assay requires the presence of template DNA, primers, nucleotides, and DNA polymerase. The DNA polymerase is the key enzyme that links individual nucleotides together to form the PCR product. The nucleotides include the four bases – adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine (A, T, C, G) – that are found in DNA. These act as the building blocks that are used by the DNA polymerase to create the resultant PCR product.”

Garibyan, Lilit, and Nidhi Avashia. “Research Techniques Made Simple: Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).” The Journal of investigative dermatology 133.3 (2013): e6. PMC. Web. 28 Nov. 2017.

Example of Plagiarism

Every PCR assays require template DNA, primers, nucleotides, and DNA polymerase. The DNA polymerase is the prime enzyme that connects individual nucleotide together to create the PCR product. Found in DNA, there are four nucleotide bases- adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine (A, T, C, G) and these act as the building blocks that the DNA polymerase uses to create the resulting PCR product.  

Examples of Citing Properly

Example 1:

To run a successful PCR reaction, one must include template DNA, short DNA primers, the four nucleotide building blocks, and a stable DNA polymerase (Garibyan, L., & Avashia, N., 2013).

Example 2:

One of the main components to a PCR reaction is the workhorse- DNA polymerase. “The DNA polymerase is the key enzyme that links individual nucleotides together to form the PCR product” (Garibyan, L., & Avashia, N., 2013).

Learn more about how to cite properly by checking out these resources: