Make sure you check that your essay conforms to each of these specifications:
Use A4 paper and one side of the paper only.
Essays should be double spaced.
Leave a margin on the left-hand side of at least 30mm.
Conventionally the first paragraph under a heading starts full left, but otherwise indent the first word of a new paragraph by at least 20mm.
Write your student number, year, and tutor’s name at the top of the page. DO NOT include your name.
Write out the question or title in full. When you are invited to discuss texts of your own choice, it is a good idea to say which ones you have chosen (perhaps in brackets).
Film, book, play, journal and newspaper titles should be italicised, e.g. The Third Man; The Guardian; The Merchant of Venice; Shakespeare Quarterly.
Titles of poems, journal articles or chapters in books are given in ‘quotation marks’. E.g.: ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’; ‘A Sense of Place in The Third Man’.
Grammar and Spelling: Some Common Mistakes
Misuse of apostrophes. Use an apostrophe to indicate possession of an item, not the plural: ‘the book’s cover’, not ‘the book’s I have read’. Watch out for plural possessives (‘the film’s form’ = the form of the film; ‘the films’ form’ = the form of lots of films).
It’s (with an apostrophe) means IT IS. In an academic essay, you should never use it because it is an abbreviation. Its means BELONGING TO IT.
Inconsistency between subject and verb. ‘The language and genre of the play indicate that it…’, not ‘indicates’: ‘language and genre’ is the subject of the sentence and is plural, so the verb (‘indicate’) also takes the plural form.
There are several ways of referencing an academic essay but in Humanities we have agreed to use the Harvard (or ‘author/date) system, although footnotes or endnotes are also fine. There is an online tutorial which teaches you how to use this at: https://github.com/Informs/Informs-Open-Source/tree/master/informs
Please consult the guidelines listed below and follow them carefully when you write your essay.
It’s very important that each reference you make in your essay to another source (primary or secondary) should be adequately referenced. In the author/date system all quotations must be laid out in the following way (see Essay Writing Guidelines above):
Film titles are written in italics like volume titles. The first time you cite a film you should put the director’s name and date of the film in brackets e.g. Sense and Sensibility (dir: Ang Lee, 1995). Films are listed separately at the end of your essay under Filmography.
All volume titles (book or play titles plus titles of poetry or short story collections) should be written in italics e.g. The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales, Four Quartets, Middlemarch (no quotation marks are needed).
Quotations are followed by the information necessary to refer the reader to the bibliography and to the page(s) in the book, essay, or article (surname, date, and page numbers in brackets). For example:
Henry James himself was a pioneer, in both practice and theory, of the basic ideas that authors are separate from their characters, that characters have limited knowledge, and that stories can be presented from multiple points of view (Stillinger 1991, 5).
And a quotation from Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein would look like this (notice that the full stop goes at the very end, after the bracket):
And now, once again, I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper. I have affection for it for it was the offspring of happy days, when death and grief were but words, which found no true echo in my heart (Shelley 1818, 1997).
Debts to general ideas are recorded in a similar fashion. For example:
Stillinger (1991, 5) has argued that Henry James was one of the first to reinterpret the relation between author and characters.
There is no need to repeat the author's name in the reference if s/he has already been mentioned. When a film or other specific text is the focus of your discussion, you should give a full director-date reference on its first appearance.
Short quotations (less than 40 words) should be enclosed in single quotation marks and run on with the main text e.g. Seamus Heaney’s claim that Ted Hughes ‘creates a primeval landscape where stones cry out and horizons endure’ (Heaney 1980, 151) is particularly evocative.
Long quotations should be indented and therefore do not require quotation marks (see above). A space should be left between your text and the beginning of the quotation.
When citing theoretical arguments, always cite the date that the book or the edition of the text was first published, unless it’s a translation or a new edition. Don’t cite the date of a later impression of a much-reprinted book.
In your bibliography, use a hanging indentation so that the second and subsequent lines of the references are indented (makes it easier to pick out a particular reference). To produce a hanging indentation in Word, highlight the required piece of text, and click on ‘Format’, then ‘Paragraph’: ‘Hanging’ is in the list of special indentation formats on the right-hand side.
If you’ve cited more than one work by the same author, use a long dash or series of short dashes before the title in the second citation and omit the author’s name. Put the works in chronological order.
For a much fuller account of both systems see the MHRA Style Guide, which you can download free here (see especially p.44 onwards):
The bibliography should be organized alphabetically by authors’ or editors’ names. For essays you should include all works you have consulted (including all films), not only those you have quoted from or referred to. Books, articles, essays, and web-sites are included in the same list but they are styled differently.
Example of a film With listings of films, the title comes first, rather than the director’s name. The country in which the film was produced should also be included. Note that this does not necessarily refer to the country in which the film was shot. For example, James Cameron’s film Aliens was shot largely in Britain while Titanic was shot largely in Mexico, but these are both US productions.
Bubble (2005) Steven Soderbergh, U.S.A.
Example of a TV programme If known the episode number, episode title (where relevant) and broadcast time and date should be included. The West Wing reference below includes both the production date of the programme, and the broadcast date:
Newsnight, BBC2, 2004, 28 October, 22.00
The West Wing, Episode 2, ‘Post hoc, ergo propter hoc’, 1999, Channel 4, 2002, 15 March, 19.35
Example of a book Books are always listed in this format: author’s name / date of publication (in brackets) / title (in italics) / place of publication / publisher
Bordwell, D. and Thompson, K. (2004) Film Art: An Introduction,
London and New York: McGraw-Hill
Example of a chapter in a book If you are listing a particular chapter in a book (for example an edited collection of chapters), you need to include the details of the chapter (including the pages) and the details of the book:
McLuhan, M. (2004) ‘Visual and Acoustic Space’ in C. Cox and D.
Warner (eds.) Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, New York and London: Continuum, pp. 7-9
Example of an article in a journal Here you have to include the volume and part no. of the journal, and well as the details of the article. In this case the article listed is from Volume 11, no. 7 of the journal, Sight and Sound:
Williams, L.R. (2001) ‘Sick Sisters’, Sight and Sound, Vol. 11, No. 7, pp. 28-9
Examples of websites and articles from online journals For an article in an online journal, give the name of the author, the title of the article, the journal name, the issue number, the date, the paragraph numbers (if any), the URL address and the date on which you accessed the document. Take care to preserve case in URL addresses, since it may be important. You can also break URLs across lines, but where possible, arrange for breaks to occur at punctuation separators.