Good Academic Practice

Good academic practice goes beyond understanding and avoiding plagiarism, although this is a key part of it. This webpage contains information and advice on attaining good academic practice, including help to avoid plagiarism, useful courses and workshops, and relevant digital tools. There is also additional information available on the study skills and training page of the Oxford Students website. 


Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition. Plagiarism may be intentional or reckless, or unintentional. Under the regulations for examinations, intentional or reckless plagiarism is a disciplinary offence. You can find out more about plagiarism on the official plagiarism webpage of the Oxford Students website.

Plagiarism Avoidance Courses

All students will benefit from taking an online course which has been developed to provide a useful overview of the issues surrounding plagiarism and practical ways to avoid it.

If you're a postgraduate student and you want to learn about academic writing skills and avoiding inadvertent plagiarism, the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) offers free awareness and avoidance sessions. Topics include paraphrasing and summarising, referencing, and how to use Turnitin (plagiarism awareness software). Attendees also have a chance to submit a document to Turnitin, so bring along an electronic copy of an article or chapter you have written. 


Giving credit to the authors of the ideas and interpretations you cite, not only recognises their work, but provides a solid theoretical basis for your own argument. Your ideas will gain trust if they are supported by the work of respected writers. Transparent source use allows you to situate your work within the debates in your field, and to demonstrate the ways in which your work is original. It also gives your reader the opportunity to pursue a topic further, or to check the validity of your interpretations. When writing, consider the ways in which your work depends upon or develops from other research and then signal this with the appropriate citation. Make clear your reasons for citing a source. When paraphrasing an idea or interpretation you must ensure that your writing is not too closely derived from the original, and you must also acknowledge the original author.


There are numerous referencing systems in use across the University, but there should be clear instructions about referencing practice in your subject handbook. Your tutor can direct you to an appropriate style guide, while there is also a range of software that you can use to keep track of your sources and automatically format your footnotes and bibliography (for example, EndNote and Reference Manager). If you require EndNote training, the IT Learning Centre offers a free introduction to EndNote, which is open to all students. 

Be meticulous when taking notes: include full citation details for all the sources you consult and remember to record relevant page numbers. Citation practice varies but, depending on the type of text cited (book, conference paper, chapter in an edited volume, journal article, e-print, etc.) the elements of a reference include:

  • author
  • title of the book or article
  • title of the journal or other work
  • name of the conference
  • place of publication
  • date of publication
  • page numbers
  • URL
  • date accessed.

When using e-print archives you should bear in mind that many contain articles which have not yet been submitted for peer review. It's good practice to review the later, published versions for important changes before submitting your own extended essay or dissertation. It's also sensible to get into the habit of referencing all your work so that you learn the techniques from the start. Leaving all the footnotes until the week your dissertation is due is a recipe for disaster. One of the best ways to learn referencing practice is to imitate examples in your subject, and to seek advice from your tutor in cases of difficulty.

Courses and workshops

These courses and workshops focus on general skills and resources which will contribute towards attaining good academic practice.

Research and library skills

If you're a new student, you'll attend an induction session at your subject library as part of your orientation. Specialist librarians offer advice on print and electronic holdings as well as bibliographic search tools. In some subjects training sessions are provided for those undertaking independent research. Your course handbook may contain information on e-resources of particular relevance to you.

Subject libraries also provide induction and training sessions in catalogue and specialist database searching, online bibliographic tools and other electronic resources. Ask your tutor or subject librarian for details. Small group and individual tuition can usually be arranged. The Bodleian also has a wide range of scholarly electronic resources.

Information literacy

In addition to software training provided by IT Services, there is a wide range of information skills training available through the Oxford University Library Services, including practical Workshops in Information Skills and Electronic Resources (WISER). You may register for free taught courses or pursue online self-directed courses at your own pace. Visit the IT Services website.

Digital tools

There are a range of digital tools on offer within the University, to help improve your academic experience. Where possible, do make the most of what is available to you, and encourage your tutors to utilise the digital tools which can help with everyday learning. If you're curious about the range of tools available for teaching and learning, visit the Centre of Teaching Learning website


Canvas is the University’s premier virtual learning environment (VLE) for teaching and learning. After a successful early adopter phase which started in June 2018, Canvas is now being rolled out to academic, award bearing programmes of study across the collegiate University. 

Canvas is easy and intuitive to use. Depending on how your academic has set it up, you can use it to: 

  • access your course materials
  • get feedback on your work
  • start discussions and collaborate with other students or academics
  • access your reading lists where available


Cabinet is an online platform designed to support the use of objects and images in teaching. Its ultimate aim is to make material culture as accessible for learning as traditional text-based sources. Cabinet allows its users to digitally take objects out of their glass vitrines and museum archives, to virtually enter the classroom, lecture hall or student dorm.

It provides an intuitive and flexible interface for uploading and presenting 2D and 3D digitised images from collections in Oxford and elsewhere, which can be made available together with contextual information, notes, annotations and guidance on how to explore the material. In Cabinet, you can zoom, spin, annotate and discuss objects.

A major feature is the ability to explore full-colour 3D models of objects, ranging from minute artefacts a few centimetres across to entire monuments from the Oxford landscape. The combination of objects, tools and written information provides a rich, interactive environment for teaching and learning, increasing the potential for fruitful individual and collective study.

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