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Supervisor comment: 'a patchwork quilt made of sentences from Wikipedia is poor academic practice'

On the one hand you are fortunate enough to have every kind of resource at your fingertips, but how can you be confident that what you are reading is a reliable source of information? Any article/site/publication that is not peer-reviewed by subject specialists should be treated cautiously. A wiki which allows anyone to edit material is by its very nature already a piece of 'patchwork'. Essays uploaded to, for example, are not necessarily models of good writing and are often not focused on your question.

The university provides guidance on assessing the reliability of sources.

To avoid unwitting plagiarism and to improve the quality of your writing, it is advisable to avoid such 'quick fix' routes altogether and turn to your supervisor or Director of Studies for advice on reliable further reading. You could be directed to lecture notes, books, reviews, articles, occasional internet materials; but be aware of the differences between each of these. Reviews and articles contain opinions about certain aspects of a topic, and if you adopt these views, you must ensure that you make appropriate reference.

Practice selecting relevant sources

Try not to allow concerns about plagiarism to inhibit your reference to external sources or use of diagrams and tables. We all stand on the shoulders of others and yet can critically evaluate arguments, opinions, evidence and build upon or adapt these to suit our own position or purpose.


Imagine you have decided to include one of the following sources in the essay How are proton gradients established and used by cells?

  1. Diagram 1
  2. Diagram 2
  3. Diagram 3
  4. Diagram 4
  5. Table

Take the following into consideration:

  • Which do you feel would support the argument most effectively?
  • How would you reference each one? Do you need to cite a diagram reproduced by hand?
  • Which would you reject completely and why?

Now click here to see supervisor's feedback on each of the sources listed above.

Practice selecting reliable sources


The following sources could all potentially be referenced, either directly or indirectly, within an essay asking for a comparision and contrast of eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells. The question is, which of these are reliable sources? Sources are deliberately not confirmed at this point in order to draw your attention to the detail of each. You need to look for clues in the text to make your judgement.

  1. Source 1
  2. Source 2
  3. Source 3
  4. Source 4

Now click here to see supervisor's feedback on each of the sources listed above.