Writing an Essay (3):

Notes, References and Bibliography

This page should be studied in conjunction with the page on Paraphrasing, Summarising and Quoting. Please note that, these days, the style of referencing, etc., used by the English Literature Department at Sophia is the one used in the MLA handbook. You should check with the latest edition of the handbook to see the details of layout, etc., which change from year to year and may be a little bit different from the way they are explained here. UPDATE (September 2015): There is now a very useful site called EasyBib, which creates bibliographical references automatically. I don't see anything wrong with using it, but please note that it often cannot find all the necessary information by itself. There may be gaps and mistakes. If you use EasyBib to generate references, you need to check the reference yourself and try to find missing or incorrect information.

There is useful information on this topic, with examples, here. There is also a very useful site on academic writing here.

When we use information from another source we should usually say what the source is. Whether the information has been paraphrased or summarised, or whether it is given in the form of a quote, there should be a reference.

There are two reasons for this. The first is so that, if someone reading your text is interested in that information, that person can go to your sources and get more details. The second reason is that by giving references you draw a clear line between your own ideas and opinions and those which you have got from other people.

You do not need to give references for information which is commonly known, or can be easily found from a wide range of different sources. For example, if you say, for example, 'William Wordsworth was born in 1770', you do not need to give a reference, but if you say, 'Wordsworth believed that things as they really are do not matter; what matters is the way things appear', then either it is your idea (and you should give some source in Wordsworth's works to explain why you had that idea), or it is borrowed from someone else (and you should give a reference, saying who that 'someone else' is).

So, how do you give a reference? Remember that the purpose of the reference is so that a reader can go to the source and read that source. As long as your reference makes it possible for the reader to do that, any way of giving a reference is all right. Here is the MLA way, which is the style used by the English Literature Department as Sophia:

The word 'romantic' (which had a negative meaning when it was first introduced on the 17th century) started to be used to mean 'attractive, suited to please the imagination'. (Praz, pp. 11-12.)

In itself, 'Praz, pp. 11-12' is not enough information for the reader to find the book, so we give the full details of the book at the end of the text in a bibliography, or list of works cited.

A bibliography is a list of all the books we have used in writing our essay. The details of each source should be given like this:

PRAZ, Mario, The Romantic Agony (Oxford University Press; Oxford, 1933; edition used, 1951)

That is, first we give the surname, then the first name (or initials - 'Praz, M.'). Then we give the book title, followed by the publisher, the place of publication, and the date of the first edition. If we are not using the first edition we should give the date of the edition we have used. All the sources you have used in writing your essay should be listed by surname in alphabetical order.

In a literature essay, the list of works cited is divided into two parts, 'Primary Sources' and 'Secondary Sources'. Primary sources are literature texts (for example, Shakespeare's plays, Wordsworth's poetry, Dickens's novels). Secondary sources are texts written by critics or biographers.

Some essays may also include web page addresses. These should give the URL address (the one that begins 'http://www.') and, if possible, the title and author of the web page. Again, the idea is that an interested reader should be able to go to that source and read it. UPDATE (September 2015): More recent editions of MLA say that URLs are not needed; the reference should give the author of the web page, the title, etc., in enough detail that the source can be found without a URL.

Another type of reference that is sometimes given is to a teacher's lesson, or to a conversation you have had with an expert. References of this type should include a date if possible. For example, 'Prof. Yamamoto, British Cultural History class, November 18th, 2015 ', or 'Watanabe sensei, private conversation, January 12th, 2014 '.

References can also be given at the end of the essay, in the form of notes. You may also use notes to give extra details which you feel are interesting but not important enough to put into the main essay. For example:

Praz, pp. 11-12; in the 17th century, Praz tells us, the word 'romantic' was usually coupled with words like 'chimerical', 'ridiculous', 'unnatural' and 'bombast', but by 1757 J. Warton was describing a tragedy as 'romantic and uncommon' and 'highly pleasing to the imagination'. (ibid.)

Each note should be numbered, 1, 2, 3, 4... A fully referenced essay of 1,000 words may have anything from about twenty to more than a hundred notes or references, depending on the type of essay.

If we refer to a source, and then, immediately afterwards, refer again to the same source, the second reference can be given as 'ibid.' (from the Latin for 'the same'). If we refer to a different page of the same source we can give the reference as, for example, 'ibid., p. 34'.

If we refer to a Japanese text, that text and its author should be given in romaji. If we quote from a Japanese text we should translate the text into English (you can give the original in romaji as well, if you like), and the reference should look like this:

(Nakamura, p. 74; my translation)

This just describes one way of giving information about your sources; there are other ways. The English Literature Department uses the MLA style; for details, see your copy of the MLA handbook. However, the basic thing to remember is, whatever way you use, to give clear information that will enable your reader to check your sources. See also the section on what kinds of sources are suitable for an academic paper.

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