This is a very brief guide for undergraduate students writing their first term paper. It is not intended to be comprehensive or to include every fine point that is covered in a full length style guide. But it does provide a reasonable format that will be acceptable for most arts and science, education and management disciplines, including environmental studies and geography. No matter how much academics emphasize the substantive content and originality of a term paper, the basic mechanics of grammar style and documentation are the most common complaint of readers.
STRUCTURE OF THE PAPER
It is essential to organize the paper in a logical sequence. It is not unusual to experiment with several different sequences of material as the paper develops. But no matter how you structure your paper it must have an introduction, a body, a conclusion, and a list of references. The paper should begin with an introduction that explains the goal of the paper, shows why it is an important topic and states how you will accomplish the goal. The main portion of the paper is called the body and it should be divided into one or more major sections. At the end of the text you will need a conclusion to summarize the results of the body of the paper and demonstrate that you have achieved the goal that you stated in the introduction. The conclusion may also discuss the implications of your conclusions and propose directions for further research. A list of the books and articles consulted in your research is the final section headed “REFERENCES”.
Headings and Subheadings
It is usually helpful to separate each major section of the manuscript with a heading. Major headings are typed in capitals. Further divisions using underlined subheadings is recommended for lengthy sections. Subheadings should be capitalize the initial letter of all words except prepositions, and articles, the subheadings in these guidelines provide examples.
Italics are used for words in foreign languages and to identify the titles of published books, journals, popular magazines and newspapers. In years gone by, when typewriters could not form italics, underlining was accepted as equivalent to italics thus book titles were traditionally underlined. Now that italics are available with all word processing software, underlining is going out of usage for titles and foreign languages in favour of italics.
Quotations longer than three lines should be single spaced and double indented in lieu of quotation marks. Page references must always be given at the end of quotations. If more than 10 percent of an essay is made up of quotation the originality of the paper is compromised. In general quotations are used for two purposes. One is to provide evidence of a specific argument which you wish to discuss. The second is to include a particularly apt piece of prose which succinctly expresses an idea which you want to incorporate. Avoid quoting material that must have parts excluded. If it is absolutely necessary to omit parts of the text signify the gap with three periods (an ellipsis) e.g. “To be … is the question”.
Endnotes and Footnotes are NOT commonly used in Environmental Studies / Geography
Endnotes (grouped at the end of the paper) or footnotes (typed at the foot of the page) are becoming obsolete for science-based papers. Footnotes or endnotes are seldom used as a reference system in the social, natural, or management sciences. (Notes are still commonly used in humanities such as philosophy, history, and English literature.)
“Author-date’, or ‘Parenthetical references’ or, equivalently, ‘in-text referencing’ are now the preferred method for giving credit for ideas or quotations (see the references heading below, and Attached Geography Style Sheet).
Numbers of 10 or greater and all decimals should be expressed as numerals. Exact numbers less than ten should be spelled out, except for: (a) numbers referring to tables and figures (e.g., Table 4); (b) numbers preceding the word percent (e.g., 5 percent); (c) numbers preceding units of measure (e.g., 7 kilometres) or (d) dates. Never use a numeral at the beginning of a sentence. The “#”, “%”, and “&” symbols should never be used in text, spell out the word in full.
Many insist that Canadian spelling conventions should be followed in a Canadian university (e.g. colour, honour and labour not color, honor or labor; metres not meters). Use the simplest constructions available (oriented not orientated). Avoid contractions in formal writing (e.g. it’s). Normally abbreviations are not used, though in some technical writing they may be acceptable, especially for units of measure.
If you wish to use an acronym it should be defined first unless it is in popular usage (e.g. “U.S.A.”). However you might wish to discuss, “The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)…” Once the acronym has been defined, you may use “UNESCO” in all subsequent references.
And above all, “it’s” is a contraction for “it is” and should never be used in a term paper. The possessive adjective “its” requires no apostrophe just as “my” “his” “her” and “our” require no apostrophe.
The spell checker included with your word processing software is very useful but it is vital to use it intelligently and carefully. Many technical terms are not included in the word processor’s dictionary even though they are found in the literature.
TABLES AND FIGURES
Tables and figures (graphs, diagrams, or maps) are vitally important to geographic papers but they must be referred to and discussed in the text. Photocopies are acceptable in a term paper but only if all of the photocopied material is relevant to the point at hand. An edited and typed table or an original graph is a much more effective way of documenting your argument than a sheaf of photocopies. If you use photocopies of tables or figures you must include the source.
Sources for tables and figures must be acknowledged. The word “SOURCE:” followed by a full citation should be at the base of all tables and figures.
Tables should be numbered consecutively. The table number and its title should appear above the table. Tables must be integrated into the text.
A “figure” is a graphic such as a map, line graph, or diagram. Figures should be numbered consecutively. Figures also must be integrated into the text. The Figure number and title of the figure should be placed at the foot of the page. Neatly hand drawn figures and freehand lettering are quite acceptable for term papers.
Whenever you use a specific fact or develop a concept that has been obtained from a source document you must give a reference for it. Using the words or ideas of another person without giving due credit is plagiarism which is an academic offence and subject to disciplinary action.
A complete list of references in alphabetical order by first author’s family name should be placed on a separate page, following the text, figures and tables. It should be headed “REFERENCES”. Multiple publications by the same author should be listed in chronological order with a letter code if two or more were written in the same year (see item d. below). Only work actually cited in the paper should be included. Note that every style guide and journal use a slightly different format. The following examples illustrate a reasonably common format for references.
Sample Reference Entries
a. Single-authored book:
Yeates, M. 1990. The North American City. New York: Harper and Row.
[N.B. The title of a published document is always italicized.]
b. Multiple-authored book:
Miernyk, W.H., Shellhamer, K.L., Brown, D.M., Coccari, R.L., Gallagher, C.J., and Wineman, W.H. 1970. Simulating Regional Economic Development. Lexington: D.C. Heath and Company.
[N.B. The abbreviation “et al.” should not be used in the reference list no matter how many authors there are.]
c. Selection from an edited collection:
Mera, K. 1978. “Population concentration and regional income disparities: A comparative analysis of Japan and Korea.” In Human Settlement Systems, edited by N.H. Hansen. Cambridge: Ballinger, pp. 255-75.
[N.B. The title of the article or chapter is in quotation marks, the title of the published book is italicized. The abbreviation “pp.” stands for “pages’.]
d. Journal articles:
Scott, A.J. 1982a. “Locational Patterns and Dynamics of Industrial Activity in the Modern Metropolis” Urban Studies 19: 111-142.
______1982b. “Production System Dynamics and Metropolitan Development.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 72: 185-200.
[N.B. The first article appeared on pages 185 to 200 of Volume 19 of the journal. Since there are two references by the same author which were published in the same year they are distinguished with a and b after the date.]
e. Working, research or discussion paper:
Boyce, D., Kohlhase, J., and Plaut, T. 1978. Estimating the value of development easements on agricultural land. Philadelphia: Regional Science Research Institute, Discussion Paper 105.
f. Institutional books and reports with individual author:
Irwin, R. 1977. Guide for local area population projections. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Technical Paper 39.
g. Institutional books and reports with no author specified (corporate author):
Statistics Canada. 1979. System of National Accounts, National Income and Expenditure Accounts. Catalogue 13-201. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services.