Referencing and attribution

What’s the difference between referencing and attribution? 

Referencing acknowledges how someone else’s work has influenced or supported yours, like when you quote or paraphrase someone’s writing in your assignment.

Attribution acknowledges the owner of a work that you have reproduced or redistributed as a whole, for example if you use someone else’s image to illustrate your work. Attribution is related to copyright.


What is referencing? 

In academic work, we acknowledge other people’s ideas by citing their work using an in-text reference and an entry in a reference list.

You need to cite or reference other people’s work whether you paraphrase it or quote it directly.

For an introductory guide to citation, referencing and academic writing, see QUT Cite|Write.

Why do you need to reference sources of ideas?

It is important to acknowledge the source of ideas that you use to support your argument because it:

  • gives appropriate credit to the people whose ideas you are using
  • maintains academic integrity by honestly representing your work
  • shows the depth and quality of your research
  • establishes the academic foundation on which your work is built.

If you don’t reference appropriately, you may breach the principles of academic integrity and you may be penalised.

How to reference

You should use the APA style for all referencing in this unit.

Tools to help you with APA referencing:

If you’re referencing something unusual or have a tricky question, try:

Attribution, copyright and Creative Commons

What is attribution? 

Attribution acknowledges the creator or copyright holder of a work that you are reproducing or redistributing as a whole.

For example, if you want to add someone else’s image (which is a whole work in itself) to your assignment, you must make sure you have appropriate permission and attribute it correctly.

Appropriate permission may be:

  • the explicit permission of the copyright holder
  • a Creative Commons (CC) licence that allows reuse.

Why do you need to attribute works you reproduce? 

Attributing other people’s work correctly is important because it:

  • gives appropriate credit to the people whose work you are reproducing
  • maintains academic integrity by honestly representing your work.

If you don’t have appropriate permission to reproduce a work or if you don’t attribute it correctly, you may infringe copyright, which may have legal consequences.

What is Creative Commons licensing?

Creative Commons licenses allow content producers to share their work with others. The licenses provide a standardised way for content owners to indicate the conditions under which people may reuse or redistribute their content without infringing copyright. The licences allow users to reuse, remix and share the content legally.

Where to find Creative Commons licensed material

CC Search  is an aggregated search of common sources of Creative Commons licensed materials.

You can also just try a Google search for something like ‘how to find creative commons licensed images’ (obvious but effective!).

Sites our teaching staff use include:

  • Unsplash for photos
  • Flickr for photos (search Flickr and then choose Creative Commons only from the Licenses dropdown menu to refine your results)
  • The Noun Project

How to attribute Creative Commons licensed material

The CC Wiki provides advice and examples of best practices for Creative Commons attribution.

This infographic is also helpful for attributing CC photos.




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