As I don't like looking up the internet and read all the materials or references and all that when doing assignment, thus I try to pay full attention during lectures and/or tutorials. Therefore, my assignments are often long and with minimal to no plagiarism detection rate as all the contents are written by myself from my own knowledge - not paraphrasing. Perhaps I'm not until the stage where I need to often look around for more materials I guess? I'm currently still a year 2 undergraduate.

There's sometime where I have to lookup on the internet so adding references is unavoidable in this case. But in general, I ended up having my assignment to contain only a small amount of references, maybe 3 to 5. My plagiarism detection result is usually just around 0% to 1%. Or even in most cases, I just refer to my lecture notes and that's it.

But recently as I enter year 2, this started to give me problems. I just ended my first semester and was given lower than usual marks for my assignment, with the lecturer commented that the amount of references and/or citation is insufficient, although the plagiarism checker finds no match. Hence, marks are being deducted.

Therefore, my question is:

  1. Should the amount of references/citation be taken into account when grading?
  2. Let's say, this idea or knowledge is on my mind, or maybe I learned it from lecture, and it is sufficient for me to complete my assignment, without the need to actually refer back or anything. Should I take the extra effort to find out the related sources and reference or cite them?
  3. Or, is my way of doing assignments actually wrong and improper? Should finding external sources of information as references when doing assignment is actually a must?

I also need to clarify that all my assignments are getting reasonably good grades. Please do correct me if I got any idea and/or concept wrong.

  • 3
    For what it's worth, reading and internalizing a source doesn't really make the knowledge "yours", it just increases the amount of time between when you read the source and rephrased it in your own words. I think you'd agree you should cite a source if you're referencing it while writing your paper. But what about if you referenced it 1 hour earlier? A day earlier? A month? There's not really any point at which you can say your knowledge did not come from some outside source, it had to come from somewhere originally. Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 18:17
  • 1
    There's no general answer to this question. It will vary depending on the instructor, the field, the expectations of each assignment and so on. If you're unsure about the expectations with regard to citations, contact your instructor and politely ask for clarification. Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 19:13
  • Simplest solution could be to use the references that are given in the lectures - no need for extra sources here. Generally, it seems that you have a wrong understanding of references - which probably isn't your fault, it's something that you should learn at university/high school - and thus sth you could ask your teacher to teach you/the class.
    – Mark
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 1:00

3 Answers 3


Plagiarism is not about whether your work passes some % threshold on software that detects plagiarism.

Plagiarism is the representation of words and knowledge/ideas as your own. When you learn from a source, you need to cite that source when you write about it.

Over time, some knowledge becomes so commonly known that it doesn't need to be cited any more in most cases; for example, Newton's laws. Lecture content might sometimes fall into this category and sometimes not, you can ask your instructor for guidance on their expectations. However, most of the content in a paper you write at a college level will come from a source you need to cite, unless it's work you've physically done or your own unsupported opinion.


It's not clear what field these assignments are in, but as a second-year undergraduate, learning how to cite properly is a reasonable educational goal.

I would advise you to review the syllabus and/or assignment guidelines to see if an expectation for citations was written out. For example, I have had assignments where it was OK to cite things as "(lecture, 10/29)."

If the expectations aren't clearly set, I would ask your professor in your next class session what the citation expectations are.

And stop worrying about the plagiarism checker.


An undergraduate should be learning how to teach themselves. This includes following the process of:

  1. Identifying what you do not know.
  2. Identifying information sources that can help you learn.
  3. Absorbing that information.

Including extensive references in your writing is one way to show that you have completed those three steps. This is why you are (sometimes) graded based on references.

If you plagiarize, your grade should not be reduced; it should be zero.

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