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2 Scholarly conventions
The aim of this module is to ensure that you understand the conventions by which scholarly research is presented to examiners within the academy and to journal editors, agents and publishers outside it.
Whether you are a student on one of our MA programmes or are a PhD student, your final submission must meet the highest standards of academic and scholarly presentation. If you are a creative writer, your portfolio will be a synthesis of creative and scholarly writing. That writing has to succeed as academic work within the academy and also to reach out to scholarly and literary publishers beyond it. A truly innovative portfolio might subvert some of the norms of orthodox textual presentation, since for creative writers presentation and ideas about literary form are closely linked. Nevertheless, it's important that you understand the basic conventions of scholarly and professional presentation. See also the companion module on Academic and Professional Presentation.
If you are presenting the results of detailed investigation and critical reflection in the humanities or social sciences, you will want the clarity and consistency of your thinking to be reflected in the way you present your final submissions. A recognition of the importance in your own writing of scholarly conventions will enable you to communicate more effectively with other scholars in your field.
Whenever you draw on someone else’s work, you have to acknowledge your source. Doing so:
• enables readers to better understand the intellectual context of your own writing;
• can support your analysis by providing allied arguments, salient examples and relevant information;
• and constitutes an essential aspect of academic integrity: see below, Academic integrity, on acknowledging the work that has influenced you and the importance of avoiding plagiarism (passing off someone else’s work as your own). Your acknowledgements should give readers sufficient information to enable them to locate your sources for themselves.
There are two main types of acknowledgement:
• Within the text you should provide references identifying all quotations, paraphrases or ideas attributable to another person’s work. These can be either footnotes or endnotes, or can be incorporated in the body of the text.
• At the end of your piece of work you should provide a bibliography. This is an alphabetic list of all the sources that you have consulted, including background reading that you have done whilst carrying out your research (as well as books and articles, this might contain internet material, videos, sound archives, illustrations, etc.).
There are several different academic referencing systems. In the humanities, you will, for example, come across '''the Harvard Style''', which is one of the more widely used styles of referencing (since it’s not 'owned' by any institution, there are no absolutely definitive rules, but there a good standard guide will provide a consistent format for you to follow '''the MLA style''' (see A Research Guide for Students ); and '''the Chicago Style''' (see Quick Guide ). The usual rule is that you may choose which form of referencing you prefer as long as you keep consistently to that style throughout your piece of work. Our recommendation here is that you follow the style guide of '''the Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA)''', and the examples given below should cover most questions you have about referencing. However, if there are instances that do not seem to be covered, you will find a downloadable version of the MHRA Style Guide ; a very useful summary of the MHRA style is provided by the postgraduate online research training site .
References in footnotes or endnotes. Footnotes and endnotes should be numbered consecutively throughout the essay or, in a dissertation or book, throughout the chapter, using Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, …), not Roman (i, ii, iii, …); place the note number at the end of the sentence or immediately after the quotation (with no intervening space); you might want to group references into a single note (see below).
After the first reference to a text, subsequent notes should give a shortened form of the reference: they can be in the body of the text (see below) or in a footnote or endnote that provides last name only of the author and a short form of the title (generally the first half of a title if it’s a long one), plus page number(s). For example, your second reference to the James Frey book on writing a novel (mentioned in full below) could be: Frey, How to Write, p. 93.
Notes in the body of the text. Referencing in the sciences and social sciences generally relies on notes in the body of the text, parenthetically giving the author’s last name, date of publication and page(s). Even if you are following one of the humanities style sheets and are mainly using footnotes or endnotes, it can be convenient to reference frequently cited sources in this brief form within the text. If you wish to do this, you can footnote the first mention of a text and then add a sentence to the effect that all other references to this text will be given parenthetically. If the title or the author's name are included in the sentence itself, they can be omitted from the parentheses following the quotation or paraphrase, but the page number(s) should always appear in the parentheses, not in the text of your sentence. For example:
• Lawrence described Ursula as having “a full mystic knowledge of [Birkin's] suave loins of darkness” (320); or
• Ursula is described as having “a full mystic knowledge of his suave loins of darkness” (Lawrence 320); or, if you are discussing more than one Lawrence novel, you can identify the text by date or abbreviated name,
• (Lawrence 1922: 320) or (Lawrence WL 320).
You then also have to give a complete list of the texts to which you have referred at the end of your piece, in your reference list or bibliography section.
When to use italics and inverted commas. Full-length works (i.e., works that have been published between their own set of covers as self-contained books, whether they are as long as Ulysses or as short as The Waste Land) should be in italics (even if you are referring to an extract from these works reprinted, for example, in an anthology); titles of shorter poems, short stories, essays, chapters of books, or articles in learned journals (anything which is a part of a larger work) should be placed within single inverted commas, with no italics (NB: The Chicago Manual of Style referencing system does not put chapters and articles in inverted commas).
Keeping references from getting out of hand. Dr Johnson warned that the effect of too many notes is that “the mind is refrigerated by interruption”: try not to multiply the number of your notes unnecessarily. Though you must give a source for everything that requires a reference (see above), there are various ways of minimising the interruption to your text:
• you can add simple references (e.g., to a book already cited) to the body of the text;
• you can group a number of notes together in a single note (if, for example, more than one source or several pages of the same source are mentioned in the same paragraph);
• and you should bear in mind that there is no need to repeat in your notes information that is already in the text (e.g., title of a book or name of the author).
Below are some examples of the author-date style of referencing widely used in the physical, natural and social sciences. The manual followed here is The Chicago Manual of Style: an online ‘Quick Guide’ is available, covering numerous other common examples of materials cited in this style (both reference-list entries and in-text citations). This system of referencing, more concise than the usual humanities referencing systems discussed below, cites sources briefly in the text, generally in parentheses, using the author’s last name and date of publication. Full bibliographic information for these citations is then given in a list of references at the end of the piece. The following examples give the bibliographic entry and additionally an example of how each source would be cited in the text itself.
Book - single author
Book - two authors
Book - more than three authors
Chapter in book – single author
Journal article - single author
Journal Article - two authors
For further examples see the Chicago Quick Guide
The footnote/endnote and bibliographic style recommended for humanities students in this module is that set out in the MHRA Style Guide. Some of the examples here are given in two forms, the second in the style that should be used for footnotes or endnotes, to help clarify the small differences (e.g., order of first and last names) that there are between bibliographic and footnote/endnote citations. The usual advice given is that for online sources that are analogous to print sources (e.g., articles published in online journals) their print counterparts should be referenced with the addition of a URL; for electronic sources that have no direct print counterpart it is important to give as much information as you can in addition to the URL (some examples are provided in the following list).
Book - single author
Book - two authors
Book - four or more authors
Book translator, editor or compiler instead of author
Saunders, Corrine, ed., A Companion to Romance (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004)
Book editor, translator, or compiler in addition to author
Chapter or other part of a book
Chapter of an edited volume originally published elsewhere (as in primary sources)
Preface, foreword, introduction, or similar part of a book
Book published electronically
Article in a print journal
Article in an online journal
Popular magazine or newspaper article
Thesis or dissertation
Paper presented at a meeting or conference
Weblog entry or comment
Film, DVD or video
In drawing on the work of others, it’s important that you incorporate their words or ideas thoughtfully and fluently into your own arguments. Never just insert a quotation to demonstrate that you’ve read a particular book or article. Every reference should justify its place in the context of your own analysis. It should be
• comparatively brief unless you are going to analyse a quotation itself in some detail
• germane to your own line of argument
• well-integrated with the surrounding text
• added in a clear and grammatical way
There are different conventions for short and long direct quotations (a direct quotation gives a writer’s actual words, in the same order as the original):
Short quotations (fewer than four typed lines of prose or three lines of verse) can be incorporated into your text, enclosed in single or double quotation marks – unless you are working to a publisher’s style sheet, it’s your choice, but you must be consistent. For example: Orhan Pamuk described a novel as “a basket that carries inside it a dream world we wish to keep forever alive, and forever ready”.
Longer quotations (more than four typed lines) should be placed in a free-standing block of text, and quotation marks should be omitted. Start the quotation on a new line, with the entire quote indented one inch from the left margin; maintain double-spacing. For example:
Above all, a novel is a basket that carries inside it a dream world we wish to keep forever alive, and forever ready. Novels are held together by the little pieces of daydreams that help us, from the moment we enter them, forget the tedious world we long to escape. The more we write, the richer these dreams become; and the more we write, that second world inside the basket becomes broader, more detailed, more complete. We come to know this world through writing, and the better we know it, the easier it is to carry it around in our heads.
You can also paraphrase your source, using your own words to try to convey a similar meaning.
For example: Orhan Pamuk compares our experience of reading novels to the escape from reality that we find in daydreams.
Paraphrases obviously do not need quotation marks, but they must be referenced in exactly the same way as direct quotations. They can often be more effective than direct quotations, because more smoothly assimilated into your own line of thought, but you must be careful to preserve the meaning of the original quotation.
There are various ways in which you can make changes to direct quotations:
• You can omit parts from any section of a quotation by using an ellipsis, which consists of three dots (...). For example: “The more we write, the richer these dreams become... We come to know this world through writing, and the better we know it, the easier it is to carry it around in our heads.”
• You can insert your own words, or different words, into a quotation if you put them in square brackets ( [ ] ). This is most often done in the interests of clarifying a partial quotation. For example: “daydreams…help us, from the moment we enter [novels], forget the tedious world we long to escape”.
• You can draw attention to an error in a quotation, for example a spelling mistake or wrong date, by writing [sic] in square brackets - meaning that it was written “thus” in the original.
• You can emphasise something in a quotation by using italics, and state parenthetically that the emphasis is your own. For example: “the more we write, that second world inside the basket becomes broader, more detailed, more complete” (my italics).
Trust and integrity are essential elements in any writer’s relationship to the context within which they do research. Where present, they help to ensure respect for the work of other writers; they underwrite the independent insights contained in your own writing; they are the prerequisites of making the “independent contribution to knowledge” required of a piece of successful postgraduate research. The seriousness with which academic integrity is regarded is reflected in the seriousness attaching to a charge of plagiarism.
The Lancaster University Working Party on Plagiarism (28 May 2003) gives the following definition of academic integrity:
As this document argues, “true academic discourse” is impossible without integrity, and the University is therefore committed to defending the institution’s academic credibility, making sure that students receive credit for their own work, defending intellectual property and protecting the standards of the degrees it awards.
Plagiarism involves the unacknowledged use of someone else’s work and passing it off as if it were your own. This form of cheating includes:
• commission or use of work by the student which is not his/her own and representing it as if it were, or purchase of a paper from a commercial service, including internet sites;
• submission of a paper written by someone you know, whether a fellow student or a person who is not a member of the university;
• duplication of something the same as or almost identical to work that you have previously written yourself, without acknowledgement of the borrowing;
• the act of copying or paraphrasing a paper from a source text, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, without appropriate acknowledgement.
Avoiding plagiarism. This last form of plagiarism - the unacknowledged borrowing of words or ideas from a source text - is the kind of plagiarism that tends to be least clear-cut and most difficult for students to be certain about: it can be very blatant, but also takes much less obvious forms, and students often protest that they have done it without the conscious intention to deceive. Even unintentional plagiarism, however, is a breach of academic standards, and the remainder of this discussion therefore concerns ways of recognising and avoiding plagiarism of the source texts you are using in your research.
You should seek to be absolutely scrupulous in your note-taking and referencing. The notes you take should make quite clear where things come from, referencing all material you have consulted; it should be evident whether you are giving a direct quotation from your source or a paraphrase; you should additionally reference facts and ideas you have encountered in your reading. You are committing plagiarism if you copy without acknowledgement:
• an idea;
• a particular phrase;
• whole sentences or paragraphs, whether verbatim, or with changes of wording.
The Department of English & Creative Writing gives the following example of how to avoid plagiarism. Taking an extract from Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), p.12, the departmental Style Sheet provides examples of the three main types of plagiarism (the unacknowledged importation of ideas; of striking phrases; and of blatant copying) and advice on how to avoid them. The Eagleton passage is as follows:
The fact that we always interpret literary works to some extent in the light of our own concerns – indeed that in one sense of ‘our own concerns’ we are incapable of doing anything else – might be one reason why certain works of literature seem to retain their value across the centuries. It may be, of course, that we still share many preoccupations with the work itself; but it may also be that people have not actually been valuing the ‘same’ work at all, even though they may think they have. ‘Our’ Homer is not identical with the Homer of the Middle Ages, nor ‘our’ Shakespeare with that of his contemporaries; it is rather that different historical periods have constructed a ‘different’ Homer and Shakespeare for their own purposes, and found in these texts elements to value or devalue, though not necessarily the same ones.
Possible types of plagiarism are:
Plagiarism of ideas
The plagiarist wrote: One reason why some texts have maintained their value over time is that the reader will always read the text from his or her own experience.
S/he could have avoided plagiarism thus: As Terry Eagleton points out, the reason why some texts have retained their value over time is that the reader will always read the text from his or her experience (Literary Theory, p.12).
You can see how much better the legitimate version sounds anyway: your argument has been backed up by a good authority whom you could then go on to use to make your argument more sophisticated than the initial unacknowledged idea. The bibliography (at the end of the essay) would, of course, have included Eagleton, Terry, Literary Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996) - the entry which should also be present in each of the below cases.
The striking phrase
The plagiarist wrote: Different historical periods have constructed a ‘different’ Homer and Shakespeare for their own purposes.
S/he could have avoided plagiarism thus: Different historical periods have, according to Eagleton, ‘constructed a “different” Homer and Shakespeare for their own purposes’ (Literary Theory, p.12).
Blatant copying: verbatim or near-verbatim copying of the critic’s statements
The plagiarist wrote: Of course, it may be, that many of us still share many preoccupations with the actual text; however it could be that we have not actually been valuing the same text at all even though we may think we have.
Or perhaps our plagiarist decided to rephrase it slightly (this is still plagiarism even if some of the actual words are different): It is possible that many people still have similar concerns as the book has; but it could be that they are not prizing the same book even though they think they are.
S/he could have avoided plagiarism thus: Eagleton claims that, ‘It may be, of course, that we still share many preoccupations with the work itself; but it may also be that people have not actually been valuing the “same” work at all, even though they may think they have’ (Literary Theory, p.12).
Or, to avoid plagiarism, s/he could have tried a more sophisticated version that neatly shortens the quotation to what is really essential for the present argument and doesn’t waste words: Eagleton claims that although ‘we still share many preoccupations with the work itself … it may also be that people have not actually been valuing the “same” work at all’ (Literary Theory, p.12).
© Lee Horsley and Graham Mort, 2007
We also wish to acknowledge the Lancaster University Department of English & Creative Writing Style Sheet, 2006.
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The pilot of the new programme of interdisciplinary virtual Research Training is now running. It started on 21st April 2008 and has enrolled 22 students from a range of departments within FASS.
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