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English and Cultural Studies

Essay Style Guide
An Introduction to Basic Principles and Practices of
Quotation and Citation
Scholarly writing follows conventions, but these conventions vary according to the
disciplines studied. The ultimate arbiter of written style is usually the publisher of a work,
perhaps a journal or a publishing house. This short guide is not exhaustive, but offers some
important guidelines for the style we wish to see in the Discipline of English and Cultural
Studies at The University of Western Australia.
By “Style” we mean, in this context, mainly two things. The first is how to quote another’s
work in your own. Because ECS is centred around the interpretation of texts, we will be
constantly referring to texts, and often wishing to show a text in its exact words. For this we
need to quote, and so we need a system for doing so. The second thing is how to reference
work that we either quote from directly, or draw from in other ways. In other words, we need
a system of referencing (citation).
The Purpose of Quoting and Citing in English and Cultural Studies
One thing that sets ECS apart is that we tend to quote and cite in a subtly different way from
other disciplines. Most disciplines quote and cite works as authorities for ideas. We do this
as well, but often we are quoting, say from a novel, not as an authority, but so as to discuss a
passage. In this sense, our quotations are often not authorities, but exhibits, a bit like in a
court of law, that we explain or interpret, or even, to stretch the analogy, as witnesses that we
will interrogate and cross-examine.
What is Quoting?
In written work it is only possible to quote words, and the term quotation is generally used
only in relation to words. In an interactive document, a website for instance, one can use a
screen to “quote” directly from a movie or television show by inserting a clip, but this would
generally be called something other than quotation—perhaps presentation.
If quoting is confined to words—that is, to that which can be written—we know that words
themselves occur in a range of contexts that might interest us in ECS. We can, for example,
quote words that are spoken, a practice which is common in newspaper reports. In ECS, we
often want to quote dialogue from dramatic texts, such as plays, movies, or television.
More typically we will have access to a written text. Perhaps a script in the case of plays,
movies and television drama. Or, in the case of books, we have before us either prose or
poetry. Quoting prose is easy—sometimes too easy! We just copy the words out exactly and
put quotation marks around. In the case of poetry, we would need to be mindful of the line


This can sometimes be difficult and that is why there are ways of removing words (using ellipsis. or less than 3 lines. the parenthetical systems and the footnote / endnote systems. Systems of Citation Broadly speaking there are two systems of citation in common use. and part of the ingredients of a poem’s meaning. are sometimes used as rules of thumb) then you would generally try and fit the quotation into the tissue of your expository prose. The exception. for the very common case in which we quote from a novel which contains a passage of dialogue. stopping a digital film “evokes [for the spectator] the ghostly presence of the individual celluloid frame” that was the filmic unit of the older cinematic technology. Quoting: Rules to Follow The first decision is really determined by the length of the material you want to quote. and also to give line numbers to aid your reader. Also notice how punctuation goes inside the quotation mark. if your argument would be best illustrated by quoting an entire verse. He shrugged. as they are considered an important element in the form. If you want to quote a longer section of writing or speech. “You know.uwa.) 2 .au/current-students/guides. Bill nodded. (Mulvey 26) The key thing here is that the quote maintains the grammar of the sentence that is hosting it. Because block quotes are demarcated spatially they do not need to be placed in quotation marks. remember to signal any line breaks by using the forward slash "/". and it is an important one for us in ECS. An excellent overview of these systems is available on the UWA Library website at http://www. how the commas and full stops are placed inside the quotation mark in this dialogue. you could do something like this: For Laura Mulvey. notice how dialogue needs quotation marks even if a block quote as a whole does not.breaks. online source. “…”) and adding or substituting words (using square brackets) to help massage a quotation into grammatical consistency with the sentence of which it is now a part.” he said. “I’ll tell the women we’re going.” Bill said. Then Jerry said. it would look like this: Jerry finished his beer and then mashed the can. but if you only need to quote a couple of lines within the body of your own writing. or commonly these days. Perhaps. Block quotes should be indented by one tab and have one line-space above and below. “How about a little run?” “Sounds good to me. whom may be working from a different edition. is that dialogue is still placed in quotation marks. (This link is also promulgated through the relevant CARS—Communication and Research Skills— use a block quote. that is. If it is relatively short (less than 30 When discussing poetry.” (Carver 50) In this quote. So. then you should use the technique called a block quote.

MLA’s emphasis on page number shows that it is a system deriving from the practice of textual criticism. or item Individual art-work in a series Newspaper or Journal Article 3 . as this is the dominant system for English and Literary Studies. the in-text citation is author-date—(Johnston 2012). we will accept citations that follow other systems. But once you buy it. There. including the MLA. we follow the MLA system. Titling Because we are a textual discipline.” This corny saying should serve you well. copies are available in the reference section of the library. The down-side of the MLA system is that the hand-book is not freely available online. The in-text citation is a pointer to the full bibliographic details (author. The basic operation of the MLA system is given in a single page on the Library site. Alternatively. which is often trying to point the reader directly to a page. Music Video Television Episode Web-page. you will see all the major referencing systems. It costs about $36 dollars to order it from their website and have it shipped to Australia. That’s it! Once you get the basic format. Here are the main kinds of texts you might encounter: “Long” Works Novel: American Psycho Anthology: The Waste Land and Other Poems Play: Major Barbara Feature Length Movie: The Birds Television Series: American Dad Website Painting or other work of visual art Newspaper or Journal “Short” Works Story: “The Metamorphosis” Poem: “Ode to a Grecian Urn” Short Play Short Film. is a list of examples to cope with all of these possibilities. the in-text citation is author-page number—(Johnston 35). you will see that the basis for this system. publisher. In other parenthetical systems. place of publication. In ECS. That said. provided they are used clearly and consistently. you also receive life-time access to their online version. date of publication) that are collected in a List of Works Cited. The only trick is that “a line” means “underline” and nowadays it is conventional to italicise instead of underlining the titles of “long” works. is a short in-text citation that points to a more detailed list at the end of your document. In MLA. This is placed at the end of your essay and is listed alphabetically by author. if you click on the MLA link. we need to observe the common rules for titling works. if it’s short quotes work fine. as with all parenthetical systems.In the library’s list. The basic rule of thumb here is that “if it’s long it needs a line. the further problems all relate to exceptions and twists—How do I cite an anonymous web-article? A poem on a vinyl record? Multiple authored essay in an essay collection with more than one editor? Translation of a medieval Latin manuscript? Which edition do I cite? And so on—the bulk of most hand-books.

“Tell the Women We’re Going. London: Reaktion Books. Print. New York: Modern Language Association. 2006.List of Works Cited Carver. Laura. Print and Online. 2009 [1981]. London: Vintage Books. 4 . 2009.” What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Mulvey. 48-56. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th Edition). Print. Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image. Raymond.