The Preparation of Papers

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  • Introductory Note
  • Preface
  • Schedule for the Preparation of a Paper
  • Research
  • In-text Citations
  • Quoting
  • The Use of Sources Illustrated
  • Works Cited and Works Consulted
  • Preparing the Final Manuscript

Note:  Most of the learned journals and university presses in this country use the standard style of The MLA Handbook.  Along with The MLA Handbook, Diana Hacker’s Rules for Writers provides a clear and concise guide to writing papers in accordance with the MLA style.  The Barnard English Department recommends that first-years purchase a copy of Hacker’s guide.  The page references provided for Rules for Writers correspond to the fourth edition.  All Barnard students are expected to learn to use these forms accurately and automatically, with the few exceptions noted below.

The Chicago Manual of Style should be consulted to find the forms applicable to publications of a kind not illustrated here or in The MLA Handbook.

In the sciences and in some other disciplines, conventions other than these and additional to these are used:

Anthropology The style of professional journals of Anthropology, e.g., American Anthropologist
Government, Economics The Chicago Manual of Style
Psychology The style of the journals of the American Psychological Association (APA)
Chemistry Formats for articles and for references differ widely, even within chemistry.  Before writing any report, consult with your research advisor so that you know the preferred style for your area.
Physics & Astronomy A Bedside Nature: Genius and Eccentricity In Science 1869-1953, Ed. Walter Gratzer
Other Sciences The style of the journals of the individual sciences.

If you are in doubt about which form to use, consult your instructor.


The Barnard English Department has prepared the attached guide to writing a paper because we are your readers.  As readers, we want to focus on the content of your paper without being distracted by unconventional methods of typing and documentation.  The students who follow the straightforward and practical advice given here, in The MLA Handbook, and in Diana Hacker’s Rules for Writers will be able to write and document their papers with maximum clarity and minimum fuss.  They will also become more sophisticated readers, understanding the conventions practiced by their own sources.

Further, it is our responsibility to draw the attention of every Barnard student to the section in this guide on the use of sources.  All students must understand the definition of plagiarism and the consequences.  They should understand, as well, that no student may submit the same paper in more than one course without the express permission of both instructors involved.
The purpose of “The Preparation of Papers” is to minimize the number of distractions which divert both teachers and students from the intellectual exchange that is their proper purpose.


Papers are usually due on a specified date.  You will find it to your advantage to organize your time around the stages of preparation listed below, and to budget your time realistically in advance.

  1. Explore the suggested fields of interest and select the topic to be investigated.  Be sure that your topic is not impossibly broad or vague.  On the other hand, be sure that your topic is not so narrow that you will not be able to find a sufficient amount of information.  Also, be sure that it is appropriate to the course and the course level if you have the opportunity to and decide to formulate your own topic.  Most importantly, WRITE ON WHAT INTERESTS YOU!
  2. Consult your instructor about the assignment.  A meeting with your instructor when deciding upon a topic, to discuss the chosen topic, and/or to discuss the paper once the writing process has commenced will undoubtedly benefit the final product.  Don’t be afraid!  Many instructors will also comment on papers via email.  Make sure to note the instructor’s office hours and do not hesitate to contact him or her concerning the assignment.
  3. Compose a loosely structured list of ideas and questions surrounding your topic to help focus and organize your thought process.
  4. Research.
  5. Organize research.  Decide what research is most relevant to your topic.
  6. Outline the paper.  This outline should include a paragraph defining the scope and purpose of the paper, the supporting quotes you have gathered from primary and secondary sources, and a list of possible topics for the body paragraphs.  The topics and the quotations you select will obviously correlate.  Once you have established the proper connections between topics and quotations, construct a potential order for the paragraphs that you believe will produce a cohesive paper.
  7. Remember that the outlined paragraph structure has mobility.  Try out more than one arrangement of your material.  Arranging and rearranging your material will expose contradictions, inadequacies, and duplications.  It may reveal new relationships among facts and evoke new questions.
  8. Write the first draft following the outline.  Don’t worry if the paper transcends the outline.  It is only a guide, and your paper may very well begin to go in a different direction than the outline intends once you actually begin to write.  
  9. Revise and correct the draft.  This revision process can include both personal and peer review.  Making an appointment with a Barnard Writing Fellow can greatly aid the revision process considering she is a well-trained peer reviser.  For more information on the Writing Fellow program visit  
  10. Type the final draft.  This draft should include in-text citations (see pg. 8), a “Works Cited” page (see pg. 13), and possibly a “Works Consulted” page (see pg. 13), prepared in accordance with the forms indicated in The MLA Handbook.  For more information on the MLA visit  You might also consult The Bedford Handbook by Diana Hacker to ensure that your paper is free from errors in its final form.  For more information on The Bedford Handbook visit      
  11. Always save text as you are working, and always keep a backup file or a backup disc.
  12. Remember to return library books to their appropriate libraries on or before their due date.  There are serious consequences for pending library fines, especially for large amounts, such as the Registrar’s refusal to comply with a transcript request form and the inability to graduate.  By logging onto CLIO via the Barnard Library webpage and clicking on the “My Account Information” tab, students can renew online any books checked out from a university library.


In Rules for Writers consult pp. 366-472.
To access Barnard’s “Research Guides for Specific Courses” visit

  1. Once you have your topic and want to begin the research process, you will first want to consult CLIO and the list of databases provided via links on the Barnard Library webpage—  This list of databases includes both an A-Z title listing and subject category listings for reference works and indexes.  During the course of your first-year English class, your professor will take the class to the library to learn how to use both CLIO and the databases.  In addition, you can always make a private appointment with a reference librarian.         
  2. While finding potential sources in CLIO and online journals and indices, it is wise to use the EndNote bibliographic software available for downloading, free of charge, from the AcIS software server—  The EndNote program allows you to search for and store citations in library catalogs and databases and cite them in papers and bibliographies using any citation format your paper requires.   
  3. Do not waste your time exhaustively gathering material from a single source before you have made a preliminary examination of other available sources.
  4. Give the exact source, paper or electronic, and precise volume and page reference for the material you collect.
  5. Your notes should be drawn from scholarly editions where available.  Textbooks, encyclopedias, unedited reprints, general histories, and popular anthologies may be useful in getting you started on your search for a topic, but they are inadequate as tools for serious research.
  6. Use the citations and bibliographies of the secondary sources you collect to lead you to other sources.  Going back to the primary sources whenever possible will prove very valuable to your paper.     
  7. Think as you gather supporting material.  Research is not merely the transferring of material from books to files.  It is a selective and critical process and can be a creative one.
Credibility of Sources

Primary Sources:  Use the best available standard edition. To identify the standard edition, consult The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, or the appropriate bibliography for your subject.  If necessary, consult a librarian.

When judging primary sources, consider the following questions:

  • Are the principles used in editing the text described?
  • Are variant readings provided?
  • Is a publishing history provided?
  • Is the text annotated?

Secondary Sources: Do not use an outmoded secondary source if you can find a more authoritative treatment of the same subject.

When judging secondary sources, consider the following questions:

  • Is the work indexed by subjects as well as by proper names?
  • Is it documented?
  • Does it have a bibliography?

Consider whether or not the discipline in which you are writing encourages the use of online sources.  For example, when writing an English paper you probably would not use an online source, while a Philosophy or Psychology paper may be more conducive to their use.

When possible, use several sources so that you can check the reliability of one against the other.  Don’t accept uncritically everything you see in print or online.

Organization of Sources
  1. Organize your material in a way that will be clear and intelligible to you, especially if you plan to take a break from your research and return to it later.  Record your judgments or queries in square brackets to distinguish what is yours from what belongs to your sources.
  2. Give the exact source, author, call number, and precise volume and page reference for the material you collect.  Articles may be unsigned, but the authors may be identified in a general index (magazine) or in a table of contributors (encyclopedias).  If you are unsure of anything you recorded previously, verify the source and page reference.  Saving your sources’ bibliographic information is made easy with CLIO’s “Bookbag.” For more information on the “Bookbag” visit:
  3. Make sure that you have not misrepresented the meaning of the source.  If you summarize, guard against the omission of important ideas or significant context.  If you quote, be sure that all omissions and all insertions are correctly indicated (See pg. 10).  For quotations taken from more than one page, use a virgule (/) to indicate the page division.
  4. If you paraphrase, indicate where you have done so.
  5. Use quotation marks for all quoted matter, even two word phrases or single words used in an unusual way in the source.  If you have retained any of the original wording, mark it clearly with quotation marks so that you will be able to distinguish it from your own wording (See pg. 11).
  6. If your evidence is inconclusive, or if you have found disagreements among your authorities, resolve the problems as well as you can without distortion or suppression of your findings.  Be willing to admit there are gaps in the evidence or questions you have not been able to answer.  If time allows, you may still wish to consult additional sources.
  7. When you have decided what collected material is most valuable, you will be ready to write your paper.


In Rules for Writers consult pp. 410, 412-417 for MLA and pp. 448, 450-52 for APA.

The purpose of citations is to acknowledge debts and to allow the reader easy and quick verification of the findings presented in the paper and to see the materials in their original contexts.

You must use a parenthetical citation for the following:

  1. For facts and figures not generally known.
  2. For facts generally known but debatable.
  3. To give credit for borrowed opinions.  You must have a citation for any opinion you find in your sources, even if you formed the same opinion yourself before you found it in a source.
  4. To identify the source of a direct quotation.

You may use a footnote or endnote for the following:

  1. For explanatory information that would be intrusive or digressive if included in your text.
  2. For interesting incidental information or speculation not immediately germane to your subject.
Guidelines for Annotation (placing parenthetical citations & footnotes/endnotes)

The aims of annotation are accuracy, economy of the writer’s space and the reader’s time, and intelligibility.  The MLA format aims to retain accuracy and increase economy without sacrifice of intelligibility.

Because complete information about any book cited or referred to is contained under “Works Cited” or “Works Consulted” (see pg. 13), there is no need to supply it in the text.  The information supplied in the notes, therefore, should be only as much as is necessary to allow the reader to locate that information in the list of Works Cited or Works Consulted.  Unless the note contains explanatory material, it appears parenthetically in the text.

  1. The note contains: the author’s last name; if necessary, the title (abbreviated but intelligible) and/or volume; the page reference.
  2. When writing the note consider the following:
    • Have you already given any of this information in the text?  For example, if you have mentioned the author’s name, there is obviously no reason to repeat it in your note.
    • Have you used only one book by that author?  If so, his or her last name alone will refer the reader unambiguously to that book in your list of “Works Cited.”  Therefore, there is no need to cite the title in your note.
  3. Mention the source in the first sentence that depends on the cited material.  Give the parenthetical citation at the end of the final sentence that draws from the source.  If the parenthetical reference falls at the end of a sentence, it is a part of the sentence; it is consequently placed before your end punctuation (e.g., period).
  4. If the parenthetical citation falls at the end of a block quotation it is placed after the end-punctuation (see pg. 8).
  5. Within the note, punctuation is minimal, e.g. (Sappho 23); e.g. (Milton 4: 663).
  6. Mark footnotes or endnotes by a superscript numeral placed after the material to be documented.  Number the footnotes or endnotes consecutively throughout the paper.  In your final review of the paper, make sure that the superscript numerals correspond to the proper notes.  For footnote and endnotes forms, consult the MLA Handbook or Rules for Writers.


In Rules for Writers consult the Index.

  1. Quote accurately and fairly.  Spelling, punctuation, and paragraphing must conform exactly with the original.  Do not quote out of context.  Mark all omissions within a sentence by an ellipsis (3 spaced dots).  Mark all omissions at the end of a sentence by a period followed by an ellipsis.  Set all additions, modifications, and interpolations in square brackets.
  2. Quote appropriately and with discretion.  Quote only for good reason.  Quote only when your own words will not do as well or better.  In general, avoid quotations from secondary sources.
  3. Quote gracefully.  Work the quotation carefully into the text, without distorting either your own syntax or that of the quoted material.  Always supply a transition to a quotation, so that your reader will understand your reason for quoting.  Your lead into a quotation should provide an appropriate identification for the source.
  4. Acknowledge clearly.  If possible, mention the source in your text by citing author and title.  Refer to an author first by his or her full name, thereafter by his or her last name alone.  Do not refer to deceased authors as “Mr.” or “Ms.”; use aristocratic and honorary titles cautiously and sparingly.
  5. Indent all long quotations.  For quotations of over four lines of prose or over three lines of poetry, use the indented form, without quotation marks.  Indent prose and verse ten spaces at your left margin.  If you put two lines of poetry in your text, separate them by a virgule (/) with a space on each side.  
  6. The punctuation of quotations within a text follows these conventions: periods and commas fall within the quotation marks; semi-colons and colons fall outside the quotation marks; exclamation and interrogation points fall according to sense—within the quotation marks if they are part of the quoted matter; outside the quotation marks if the are part of your text.  (These conventions are those of American printers; British printers have different conventions.)


In Rules for Writers consult pp. 392-94 and pp. 399-402. 

Every Barnard student is expected to use sources correctly and honestly, acknowledging in parenthetical notes all borrowed materials: facts, opinions, and quotations.  The difference between borrowing and plagiarism is illustrated below: the first two samples show the correct use of borrowed matter and the last two illustrate plagiarism.  The word “plagiarism” derives from the Latin plagiare, to kidnap.  It means to take and use as one’s own the thoughts or writings of another.  This sort of kidnapping is unethical and can have legal repercussions.  Published authors accused of plagiarism find themselves in court; Barnard students must be tried by the Honor Board.  Depending on the circumstances involved, the consequences may include a failing grade on the paper, a failing grade in the course, and in extreme and repeated cases, expulsion from the college.  Students should also be aware that Barnard College has recently purchased an account with “” to combat digital plagiarism.  Educators use this service to compare potentially plagiarized papers with billions of pages on the Internet and in the “” databases.

In the passages below compare passages C and D, under the “WRONG” heading, with the quotation from Randall Stewart used in passage B, under the “RIGHT” heading.  You will find that C and D are plagiarized.  Observe that a note does not make these passages right.


A.  Direct and accurate quotation.  In general try to avoid quotation blocks like the one below.  Use them rarely and only for a reason.  The writer’s topic is the ideal wife in Hawthorne’s tales.

The newlywed Hawthornes settle in Concord, choosing for their residence the large old house called the Old Manse, where Emerson once lived.  Randall Stewart describes their life in Nathaniel Hawthorne:

The routine at the Old Manse was comparatively simple.  Hawthorne was busy mornings in his study (except in the summer months) writing for the magazines. After dinner, which came in the early afternoon, he walked to the village post office, and on his return stopped for an hour in the reading room of the Athenaeum.  After supper, or tea, Hawthorne and Sophia sat together in his study while he read aloud from the English classics, beginning with Shakespeare and Milton.  For exercise Hawthorne hoed vegetables in the summer and shoveled snow and chopped wood in the winter, while his wife marveled that a “seraph” could perform such mundane tasks. (64)

Several of Hawthorne’s short stories show that he values domestic contentment of this kind.

B. The writer’s own words and documented context with acknowledgment of borrowed matter.  The writer’s topic is still the ideal wife in Hawthorne’s tales.

According to their own reports, the newlywed Hawthornes lead a life of idyllic simplicity in the Old Manse; the place is Paradise, and they are Adam and Eve (J. Hawthorne 1: 273-75, 288-290).  This domestic bliss is perhaps owing to Sophia Hawthorne’s conviction that her husband is of an angelic nature; seeing him wield hoe or shovel, she “marveled that a ‘seraph’ could perform such mundane tasks” (Stewart 64).

In Hawthorne’s tales, wives rather than husbands are angels—angels and at the same time good housekeepers.  In “The Snow Image,” Hawthorne suggests his admiration for the mother in the tale because she can move out of the gross actualities of housework to the idealities created by the imagination (Works 11: 7, 20).

The items referred to parenthetically in passages A and B would appear in alphabetical order on the “Works Cited” page.

Works Cited

Bell, Millicent.  Hawthorne’s View of the Artist.  Albany: SUNY Press, 1962.

Hawthorne, Julian.  Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife.  2 vols. Cambridge: Harvard
     UP, 1884.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel.  The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. 
     14 vols. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1963-80.

Stewart, Randall.  Nathaniel Hawthorne.  New Haven: Yale UP, 1949.


C.  Close paraphrase with or without acknowledgment:

A day at the Old Manse followed a simple pattern.  In the morning, Hawthorne worked at his writing; in the afternoon, he went down to the Mill Dam to look for mail and to spend an hour at the Athenaeum.  In the evening, he and Sophia read aloud, choosing from the best of the English authors.  Like any other householder, Hawthorne got his exercise from the usual chores.  Seeing him engaged in common labor, his wife marveled that with his angelic nature, as it seemed to her, he could do such menial jobs.

D.  Direct quotation without acknowledgment or slightly altered quotation (as below) with or without acknowledgment:

The routine at the Old Manse was simple.  In the mornings Hawthorne was busy in his study writing for the magazines.  After dinner, he walked to the village post office and, on his way back, stopped to read for an hour at the Athenaeum.  After supper, Hawthorne and his wife read aloud from the English classics, beginning with Shakespeare and Milton.  For exercise in the summer, Hawthorne weeded the garden; in the winter he shoveled snow and chopped wood, while Sophia wondered how he could perform such mundane tasks.


In Rules for Writers consult pg. 411, pp. 417-34, pp. 446-47.

  1. A “Works Cited” page should be included at the end of your paper.  This page lists all the sources you have referred to in your paper and cited in your parenthetical notes.
  2. You should include a “Works Consulted” page if there are any sources that proved very useful to you or heavily influenced your paper that are not directly referred to or cited in your text.
  3. The information must be accurate.  On the “Works Cited” and “Works Consulted” pages, make sure the information listed on a given work corresponds to the information provided on the title page of that work.
  4. Unless your instructor requests otherwise, follow the standard forms indicated in Hacker’s Rules for Writers, which in turn follows The MLA Handbook:
    • Arrange items alphabetically, under the authors’ last names
    • Use hanging indentation
    • Think of each item as composed of three units:
      • author’s name, with last name first
      • title
      • place, publisher, and date of publication
      • do not forget to italicize book titles and titles of periodicals
      • do not forget to double-space
  5. If you are quoting from a reprint instead of a standard edition, use the following form:

    Mead, Margaret.  Blackberry Winter: My Early Years.  1972.  New York: Pocket, 1975.


  • Remember spacing (see attached sample from The MLA Handbook).
  1. Double-space all pages.
  2. Leave a margin of 1 inch all the way around.
  3. Indent 5 spaces for the first word of each paragraph.
  • Supply Identifying Data
  1. Give your name, the designation of the course, and the date of the day on which you submit your paper.
  2. If the paper is no more than five pages long, this information may be written in the upper left corner of the first page.  Use a separate top page if the paper is more than five pages long.
  • Your title
  1. If the title is not on a separate page, it should be centered on the first page of your text, two lines under the date and 2 or 3 inches from the top of the page.  If the title is on a separate page, begin your text at least two inches from the top of the first page.
  2. Capitalize all words in your title except articles and prepositions.  Do not underline the title, and do not put a period after it.  Begin your text two lines below the title.
  • Number all pages, except the first.
  • Fasten the pages securely.  Make sure that your pages are in the right order, and fasten them together with a staple in the upper left corner.  Do not use a stiff binder unless so instructed.

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