Guidelines for Essays and Assignments, Term papers and Take-home examinations, Proseminar and Seminar papers, Research papers, Pro Gradu theses Contents

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for Essays and Assignments,

Term papers and Take-home examinations,

Proseminar and Seminar papers,

Research papers, Pro Gradu theses...

1. Academic integrity 2

2. Documentation standards 4

2.1. Harvard style 5

2.2. MLA standard 7

2.3. MHRA style 9

2.4. Citation forms for CD-ROMs and Internet sources 11

2.5. Footnotes and endnotes 12

3. Layout 12

4. Structure 13

4.1. Scientific writing 13

4.2. Literary essay, argument 14

5. Style 15

5.1. General readability 15

5.2. Quotation and paraphrase 16

5.3. Presentation of linguistic data, examples, tables 18

5.4. Cohesion and transitions 20

5.5. Hedges and academic modesty 23

5.6. Words and expressions to avoid 24

6. Useful reading 27

7. On-line Resources for Guides to Research Writing 28

University of Helsinki, Department of English
Compiled by Andrew Chesterman et al.

Revised September 2001 by Laurel Bush, Arja Nurmi and Nely Keinänen

Updated October 2001 by Arja Nurmi

To the reader: These Guidelines are not a complete guide to academic writing and documentation, but they do outline some of the most important aspects of this style. For more detailed information, e.g. on special kinds of bibliographical entries, see the references in section 6, especially the Chicago Manual of Style and the MLA Handbook.

In these Guidelines, note particularly the ways in which Anglo-American writing norms differ from those which are customary in Finnish, Swedish or other languages you may use in your university studies.

1. Academic integrity
As a university student you will find yourself having to process more information than ever before in your life. Many students do not, however, appreciate that much of the information they work with is the result of work which has already been done by others, and is, as such, intellectual property. Students who would regard walking away with another person’s coat as theft are often surprised to discover that copying sentences or entire paragraphs and submitting them as part of their own work without acknowledging the source is also stealing. The name for this offence is plagiarism.

Since plagiarism is universally regarded as a serious offence, the traditions of academic writing have developed various strategies for acknowledging the use of information derived from another source. The easiest way is to use quotation marks, reproduce the exact words which were used in the original, and indicate the source from which the passage has been taken.

More elegant than quoting is paraphrasing. When you paraphrase you restate the basic argument or facts in the original using your own words. A paraphrase is about the same length as the original. The best way to do this is to take notes based on the original, think about what you have written, and then produce the paraphrase looking at neither the original nor the notes. This should ensure that the wording will differ from that of the original, and that you have understood what you have read. Since a paraphrase is something you yourself have created, it is not going to be enclosed in quotation marks. On the other hand, you must indicate that the argument or fact you are discussing is based on someone else’s work by using a phrase such as: “As argued by Cohen ...”, “Lass has claimed that ...”. If you include information derived from other sources in your work without quotation marks or acknowledgement, you have made yourself guilty of plagiarism.

Plagiarism is often committed inadvertently. Everyone knows that English is spoken in Great Britain, so acknowledging a source when including such a fact in a paper would be absurd. On the other hand, not everyone knows, nor does everyone agree, that the English phonemes /r l j w/ can be classed together as liquids, as argued by Roger Lass in The Shape of English on page 92. Since this view is neither a general truth nor a non-controversial analysis, a student including such a statement in a paper has the obligation to acknowledge the source from which it derives. As you progress in your studies you will develop a feeling for the type of information which requires acknowledgement.

Let us look at some examples of work submitted by students and see the degree to which they have been academically honest. One of the questions on a take-home examination asked the students to discuss the contribution made by Amerindian languages to the American English vocabulary. Most of the students turned to A.H. Marckwardt’s American English. On page 31 Marckwardt states:

“Without exception all the Amerindian loan words are nouns, indicating in a sense the most superficial type of borrowing and reflecting a casual rather than an intimate mingling of the two cultures. However, just as native English words do from time to time change their grammatical functions, so may the borrowed terms, once they have become a part of the language.”

Now let us look at three ways in which students used the information given there.
1. An honest paraphrase

The Amerindian loans are all nouns without exception, which implies that in fact the borrowing has not been very extensive and that it has not had any far-reaching effects on the English language. [The student has obviously taken some effort to express the idea in her own words, and she has succeeded in reducing the argument to its essentials. The book, but not the page reference, was acknowledged.]

2. A deceptive paraphrase

According to Marckwardt, all the Amerindian loan words are, without exception, nouns. However, just as native English words change their grammatical functions, so may the borrowed terms, once they have become part of the language. [The student has basically just restated Marckwardt’s words; she cited the book and the page reference in a footnote. While this student could not be accused of academic dishonesty, her work clearly indicates intellectual sloth. Dishonest paraphrases are definitely not recommended.]
3. Clear plagiarism

All the Amerindian loan words are nouns. This indicates, in a sense, the most superficial type of borrowing and reflects a casual rather than an intimate mingling of the two cultures. However, just as native English words sometimes change their grammatical functions, so may the borrowed terms, once they have become part of the language. [Neither the book nor the page reference were cited, although the passage is reproduced almost verbatim. This is a clear case of plagiarism for which a student should obviously be penalized.]

A third method of handling sources is summary. As the name suggests, summaries are shorter than paraphrases. You still need to acknowledge your source, however, and include the appropriate page numbers in an internal citation.

Learning how to process information properly requires considerable practice. Attention will be focused on various aspects of academic writing, taking notes, and conventions for acknowledging your sources in tutorials, written English classes, proseminars and seminars. (See also section 6. below.)

2. Documentation standards
There are several standard formats for documentation and bibliographies. Anglo-American ones tend to differ from Finnish ones in several respects. Two common formats are introduced below: one commonly used in linguistic publications and one in literary publications. Journals and publishing houses usually have their own house styles, as you can see if you have a look at the bibliography of any book or journal, and you should obviously check these if you are submitting a manuscript for publication. For non-published works (essays, seminar papers, Masters’ Theses) the most important thing is to include all the necessary information in a consistent manner. If you prefer another Anglo-American standard to the two presented here, you may of course follow it.

Whatever system you use, note the following points. (For examples, see sections 2.1. and 2.2.)

(a) References in the text should contain enough information to enable the reader to locate the right entry in the bibliography or list of references, where full details are given.

(b) If you call your list References or Works Cited, it must contain all and only the works you have actually referred to in the text itself. If you call your list Bibliography, on the other hand, it may also contain other works you have consulted and found useful, but not actually mentioned in the text. You can also split your list into References and Other Works Consulted if you wish. Your choice of name for the list will depend partly on what standard format you are using.

(c) Bibliographical entries must include, for books: author(s) or editor(s), first names or initials, year of publication, place of publication (the town, not the country), publisher (not printer). Also state the series name plus number, if the book is in a series. For journal entries, give name of journal, volume and/or part number, page numbers. For an article in a collection, include editor’s name plus page numbers of the article. Dictionaries are listed by title; dictionary editors are not mentioned. (For further details, e.g. on the correct format for less common kinds of entry such as dissertations, unpublished manuscripts and the like, see the books listed at the end of this handout, especially the MLA Handbook or the Chicago Manual of Style.)

(d) Do not use hyphens to link two authors — readers may assume a single author with a double-barrelled surname.

(e) If you refer in the text to an article in an edited collection of papers, list the work alphabetically under the name of the actual writer of the article, not the editor of the collection.

(f) If you need to refer at second hand, because you do not have access to the primary source but only know of it through a secondary source, you can show this e.g. thus: Jones 1874, as cited in Smith 1990. Both Jones and Smith then get full entries in the Bibliography.

(g) Page numbers in text references are only for the passage to which specific reference is actually made, not to the whole paper or book. They are of course obligatory for quotations, paraphrases and summaries.

(h) It is not an Anglo-American convention to cluster references at the end of every paragraph to show where the ideas came from. References in an English text tend to come earlier in the paragraph, as the ideas are introduced.

(i) Unlike Finnish, references are usually given inside a sentence, before the full stop, regardless of whether they refer to a single sentence or a longer passage. References given outside the full stop of the text-sentence typically form a sentence in their own right — see the examples below.

2.1. Harvard style
Documentation in the text. The Harvard style, which has many variants, is commonly used for English-language publications in linguistics, and also the social and natural sciences. One variant is presented here, but please note that in the electronic guides listed in section 6 many of the details vary.

References in the text are based on the author-plus-date system, plus page number if necessary (i.e. when the reference is so specific that it can be pinned down to a particular page, or if it is a quotation). These documentary references should be given in the text itself, built into your own sentence, not in footnotes or endnotes. If you refer in the course of the paper to two or more publications by the same author in the same year, the form is e.g. Jones 1983a, Jones 1983b. Page numbers are preceded by a colon and a space e.g. Jones 1999: 123.

You can vary the ways in which you indicate the reference. Placing the source early in the sentence, as a person, focuses on the source itself and relates the idea to it; placing the source at the end, as a work, focuses more on the idea.
Examples showing reference to the author as a person, within the sentence:

Lyons (1988: 254) describes this as ...

Brown and Gilman (1972) argue that ...
Examples citing a work itself, within the sentence (NOTE PUNCTUATION!):

Such styles are typically labelled ‘clear’, ‘elegant’ or ‘refined’ (Crystal and Davy 1969: 10).

Studies in quantitative stylistics have operated with various stylistic features: word length (Winter 1969), sentence length (Yule 1938) ...

... which is favoured in formal language (Quirk et al. 1972: 869-871).

Examples with reference outside the sentence (NOTE PUNCTUATION!):

Nominal clauses have been subject to a similar analysis, yet there remain a number of problems with this approach. (See e.g. Binns 1986, Wallace 1989.)

... with this approach. (Cf. Binns 1986, 1990; Wallace 1989.)
In documentation, ‘see’ indicates a direct reference, while ‘cf.’ (meaning ‘compare’) indicates a more indirect one.
Bibliographical references. These are listed alphabetically under the heading References (or Bibliography). Examples (NOTE PUNCTUATION!):
Bloomfield, L. (1933) Language. New York: Holt.

Brugmann, K. (1906) Grundriss der vergleichenden Grammatik der indogermanischen Sprachen. 2nd edition, vol. 2, part 1. Strassburg: Trübner.

Chomsky, N. (1957) Syntactic structures. Janua linguarum, 4. The Hague: Mouton.

Collins Dictionary of the English Language. 1985 edition. London and Glasgow: Collins.

Dorian, N. C. (1984) Review of Minority languages today, ed. by Einar Haugen et al. Language, 60, 165-9.

Hockett, C. F. (1964) The Proto Central Algonquian kinship system. In Goodenough, W. ed. Explorations in cultural anthropology. New York: McGraw-Hill. 239-58.

Taavitsainen, I. and S. Nevanlinna (1999) ‘Pills to purge melancholy’ — Nonstandard elements in A dialogue against fever pestilence. In Taavitsainen, I., G. Melchers and P. Pahta eds. Writing in Nonstandard English. Pragmatics and Beyond, New Series, 67. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 151–169.

Zwicky, A. M. (1985) Clitics and particles. Language, 61, 283-305.
A bibliographical entry for an article in a collection may either appear as a full entry in its own right, as illustrated in the entry for Hockett (1964) above; or else the article entry can give a short reference to the book and the book itself is then given a full entry in its own place. This latter alternative is useful when you are including entries for several articles in a single collection. Hockett’s article could be listed thus, with a separate entry for the book itself:
Goodenough, W. (ed.) (1964) Explorations in cultural anthropology. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hockett, C. F. (1964) The Proto Central Algonquian kinship system. In Goodenough, W. ed., 239-58.

2.2. MLA standard
Documentation in the text. This style, standardized by the Modern Language Association of America, is traditionally associated with literature and humanities publications. (See the MLA Handbook for full details.) The latest version of the standard follows the Harvard one in placing short documentary references in parentheses in the text itself, rather than footnotes. The main difference from the Harvard style is that the MLA does not refer by author plus year but by author plus (underlined or italic) short title (and of course page where necessary). However, a title is not necessary if only one work by the author in question is cited. The documentation is normally given within the sentence:
The elaborate scenic devices in Richelieu’s theater constituted what Stephen Orgel calls “a prime instance of royal liberality” (Illusion 37). [The author of the work cited is mentioned within the text itself and thus there is no need to repeat the author’s name in the parenthetical documentation. A shortened version of the title was given because another work by Orgel was cited elsewhere in the same article. See the bibliographical entries below.]
Daughters “were often unwanted and might be regarded as no more than a tiresome drain on the economic resources of the family” (Stone, Family 112). [Since there is more than one work by Stone cited in the article, both author’s name and short title (plus page) are given in parenthesis.]
As Ronald Paulson correctly asserts, Pope requires an “other,” something to which he can respond and that his response will supersede or correct (88, 99-102). [Since the name of the author cited is included in the running text, and only one work by him is cited in the article, all that is necessary here are the relevant page numbers.]
References. The MLA standard includes the same information as the LSA, but in a slightly different format, with the year of publication at the end. The bibliographical references for the above text references are included in the following examples (note the use of italics, and the quotation marks round journal articles or papers in a collection):
Orgel, Stephen. The Illusion of Power: Political Theater in the English Renaissance. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975.

---.”The Poetics of Spectacle.” New Literary History 2 (1971): 367-89.

Oxford English Dictionary, The. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1933.

Paulson, Ronald. “Satire, and Poetry, and Pope.” In English Satire. Ed. James Sutherland. Los Angeles: Los Angeles Clark Memorial Library, 1972. 57-102.

Shackleton, Mark. “Native Myth Meets Western Culture: The Plays of Tomson Highway.” In Migration, Preservation, and Change: Papers from the Seventh Maple Leaf and Eagle Conference on North American Studies at the University of Helsinki, May 14-17, 1998. Ed. Jeffrey Kaplan, Mark Shackleton and Maarika Toivonen. Helsinki: Renvall Institute, University of Helsinki, 1999. 47–58.

Stone, Lawrence. The Crisis of the Aristocracy: 1558-1660. Abridged edition. London: Oxford University Press, 1971.

---.The Family, Sex, and Marriage in England: 1500-1800. New York: Harper, 1977.
You can also divide your references into Primary Sources (e.g. data sources, literary texts studied) and Secondary Sources (e.g. critical works).

2.3. MHRA style
Documentation in the text. The MHRA style is a British English counterpart of the MLA. Detailed instructions on the style can be found in the MHRA style book.
References. The MHRA style includes the same elements as Harvard and MLA, but again in slightly different order and form. Book and journal titles (as well as the titles of films, videos, radio and television programmes, computer programmes and internet references) should be in italics. Titles of articles and parts of publications (e.g. short stories or poems) should be between single quotation marks. Single quotation marks are also used for unpublished items.
Orgel, Stephen, The Illusion of Power: Political Theater in the English Renaissance (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975)

Orgel, Stephen, ’The Poetics of Spectacle’, New Literary History, 2 (1971), 367-89

Oxford English Dictionary, The (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1933)

Paulson, Ronald, ‘Satire, and Poetry, and Pope’, in English Satire, ed. by James Sutherland (Los Angeles: Los Angeles Clark Memorial Library, 1972), 57-102

Shackleton, Mark, ‘Native Myth Meets Western Culture: The Plays of Tomson Highway’, in Migration, Preservation, and Change: Papers from the Seventh Maple Leaf and Eagle Conference on North American Studies at the University of Helsinki, May 14-17, 1998, ed. by Jeffrey Kaplan, Mark Shackleton and Maarika Toivonen (Helsinki: Renvall Institute, University of Helsinki, 1999), 47–58

Stone, Lawrence, The Crisis of the Aristocracy: 1558-1660, abr. edn (London: Oxford University Press, 1971)

Stone, Lawrence, The Family, Sex, and Marriage in England: 1500-1800 (New York: Harper, 1977)
Punctuation and quotations. Always begin quotations with single quotation marks. Use double quotation marks for quotations within quotations only (called ‘nested quotations’.) Avoid the use of quotation marks to indicate ironic, jocular, or coterie language. Ending commas and ending full-stops should appear outside quotation marks unless the quotation forms a complete and independent sentence. Shorter quotations (less than fifty words) should be set in the body, with single quotation marks. For quotations within quotations, use double inside single. Avoid using quotation marks to signal irony, humour, or doubt. Long quotations should be indented and separated from the main body by a line space at the beginning and the end. Ellipsis should be indicated by three spaced points placed within brackets [. . .].

First lines of paragraphs should be indented, except for the first paragraph of the paper. The first line of notes should be indented. The second line (and subsequent lines) of bibliographical items should be indented; this is called ‘reverse indentation’ (or ‘hanging indent’ in word processing software).

Dates should have the following format: 28 September 2001; October 1999; 1650s; 1875-77 (except in headings: 1771-1773); seventeenth century (but seventeenth-century author). Except in dates, figures should be spelled from one to ninety-nine in the body of the paper. Abbreviations like Mr, Dr, UN are written without points.

2.4. Citation forms for CD-ROMs and Internet sources
The MLA Handbook (5th edition) recommends that bibliographical citations for electronic sources should include, in addition to the normal applicable requirements for printed sources, the following (where relevant):

  • the medium of publication (e.g. CD-ROM, Diskette, Magnetic tape);

  • the vendor’s name (e.g. in the case of information databases);

  • the electronic publication date;

  • the name of the repository of an electronic text (e.g. Oxford Text Archive);

  • the date of your access to the information.

  • for online publications the uniform resource locator (URL), including the accessmode identifier (http, ftp, etc). If it is necessary to break the URL, only break it after a slash.

Some examples (in the MLA format):

Angier, Natalie. “Chemists Learn Why Vegetables Are Good for You.” New York Times 13. Apr. 1993: C1. New York Times Ondisc. CD-ROM. UNI-Proquest. Oct. 1993.

Coffey, Neil. “Re: yorkshire dialect.” Online posting. 11 Aug. 2001. 31 Aug. 2001. .

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. “Dejection: An Ode.” The Complete Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Ed. Ernest Hartley Coleridge. Vol. 1. Oxford: Clarendon, 1912. 362-68. English Poetry Full-Text Database. Rel. 2. CD-ROM. Cambridge: Chadwyck, 1993.

“Ellison, Ralph.” Disclit: American Authors. Diskette. Boston: Hall, 1991.

Everett, Dan. “On Nonobjects of Syntactic Study.” Online posting. 10 July 2001. LINGUIST list. 31 Aug. 2001

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