Presentation of essays

There is more then one "correct" citation style. However, in the Chinese Studies program of the University of Sydney (and in Asian Studies units offered exclusively by Chinese Studies staff), you are expected to make consistent use of the style summarised below unless a different style is prescribed for a particular unit of study by the instructor or coordinator of that unit. The need to adjust to the different styles required in different disciplines and by different journals and publishers is a fact of academic life. It is a good idea to accustom yourself to it now. The style we prescribe below approximates to that used in leading Chinese and Asian Studies journals such as T'oung Pao and The Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies.

In advanced classes, your instructors may issue supplementary guidelines regarding the citation of specialised sinological resources. Please follow these guidelines carefully. In matters of citation, it is sensible to observe the established conventions of the discipline.

Assessment cover sheet

When you hand in essays and other assessments to the department, a School of Languages and Cultures assessment cover sheet must be attached to the front. Download a copy of the assessment cover sheet.

The cover sheet includes a plagiarism declaration that declares the work you are submitting is your own. You must sign this declaration before submitting your assessment. If your assessment does not have a coversheet, or if you have not signed the coversheet, your work may not be marked.

Lodge your assessments at the School office, located in Room 506 of the Brennan MacCallum Building, opposite Manning House (map). The School counter is open from 10am to 4pm. Hard copies of the cover sheet are available here. The School does not provide submission receipts – we recommend that you keep a copy of your assessment as proof of completion.

How to do the bibliography at the end of your essay

List all the written sources you have used in alphabetical order by the author’s surname. Do not use "bullets" and do not number the sources. You can use the "hanging indent" feature of your software (in Microsoft Word, go to the "Format" menu, choose "Paragraph," find "Indentation" and then open the menu under "Special") to mark one entry off from the next, in just the same way as you see done in published books.

Remember that only books and articles that you have actually cited in the body of your essay should be included in the bibliography. This is because the purpose of each entry is to give the reader all the information necessary to identify and check your source. Bibliographies are not intended to impress the marker with the vast amount of reading that you did in preparation for your essay. What will impress the marker is the skill with which you used your sources in the body of the essay.

How to enter a book in your list

The correct format is:

  • Author. Title. Place of Publication: Name of Publisher, Year of Publication.

The title should be in italics or underlined. For example:

  • Dutton, Michael. Streetlife China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.


  • Dutton, Michael. Streetlife China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Capitalise the first letter of every significant word in the title. For example:

  • Ahern, Emily M. The Cult of the Dead in a Chinese Village. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1973.
  • Walder, Andrew G. Communist Neo-Traditionalism: Work and Authority in Chinese Industry. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.

If the book is a single, long piece of work by the same author(s) and you have read only one chapter, you should still quote only the title of the book, not the title of the chapter that you read. In this matter, you should be cautious about following the example of the unit of study syllabus, which, in identifying assigned readings, may quote the titles of the chosen chapters for the sake of clarity. In a bibliography, to quote only the book title when you have read only one chapter is not seen as dishonest. With ordinary single-authored books, keeping chapter titles out of the footnotes and bibliography is standard scholarly convention.

If the author is Chinese but the book is in English, you should spell the author's name in the way in which it is spelled on the title page. Let us take the case of the Chinese historian called 瞿同祖. If you are citing any of his Chinese-language works, and you are using pinyin as your standard romanisation system, then you should transcribe his name as Qu Tongzu in the entries for those works.

However, if you refer to either of Professor Qu’s important English-language books, you should use the older transcription style (known as Wade-Giles) that was used by his publishers: Ch'u T'ung-tsu.

If you refer to both his Chinese-language and his English-language works, a convenient solution is to put all the works under one romanisation in the bibliography, and use a cross-reference–e.g., "Ch'u T'ung-tsu. See under Qu Tongzu."

What if the book is in Chinese or Japanese?

For citing modern-style books in Chinese or Japanese, the correct format is as follows.

Author (use a standard romanisation; put the surname first as usual and do not put a comma after it; add the characters if possible). Title (use the same romanisation, and add the characters if you supplied them for the author’s name) (Translation of title, with capitalisation for proper nouns only). Place of Publication: Name of Publisher, Date of Publication.

For example:

  • Dai Yi 戴逸. Qianlong di ji qi shidai 乾隆帝及其时代 (The Qianlong emperor and his times). Beijing: Zhongguo Renmin Daxue chubanshe, 1992.
  • Kishimoto Mio 岸本美緒. Shindai Chûgoku no bukka to keizai hendô 清代中国の物価と経済変動 (Prices and economic change in Qing China). Tokyo: Kenbun shuppan, 1997.

Citing traditional Chinese books can be more complicated. Here are two possible models. The first is for the original edition of a traditional string-bound book. The second is for a modern facsimile reprint of a revised edition. Examine the bibliographies of the English-language books you read for other possibilities. If you are taking a unit of study in which you are likely to cite several traditional Chinese books, the instructor may provide supplementary guidelines.

  • Qiao Guanglie 喬光烈. Zuile Tang wenji 最樂堂文集 (Collected writings from the Zuile Hall). 1756.
  • Shen Zhiqi 沈之奇. Da Qing lü jizhu 大清律輯注 (Penal statutes of the Great Qing Dynasty with collected annotations). 1715. Revised edition by Hong Gaoshan 洪皐山, 1746. Reprint (3 vols.), Beijing: Beijing Daxue chubanshe, 1993.

What if the book is a translation?

When the book is a translation, it is usually appropriate to identify the translator after the title, as follows:

  • Chu T’ien-wen. Notes of a Desolate Man. Translated by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.


  • Will, Pierre-Etienne. Bureaucracy and Famine in Eighteenth-Century China. Trans. Elborg Forster. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990.

However, if you wish to emphasize that it is the work of a particular translator to which you are referring, or if the English-language book comprises a scholarly study as well as a translation, you should put the translator's name first, as follows. You will need to add the author's name only if it is not stated in the title of the translation (as in the fourth example below).

  • de Bary, Wm. Theodore, trans. Waiting for the Dawn: A Plan for the Prince. Huang Tsung-hsi’s Ming-i tai-fang lu. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.
  • Graham, A. C., trans. Chuang-tzu: The Seven Inner Chapters and Other Writings from the Book Chuang-tzu. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1981.
  • Brooks, E. Bruce and A. Taeko Brooks, trans. The Original Analects: Sayings of Confucius and His Successors. A New Translation and Commentary. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
  • Goldblatt, Howard and Sylvia Li-chun Lin, trans. Notes of a Desolate Man, by Chu T'ien-wen. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

It is also sensible to put the translator’s name first when the author is unknown, disputed or known only by a pseudonym, or when the book is plausibly claimed to represent the work of others besides the ostensible author. This is the case with both the Zhuangzi (Chuang-tzu) and the Analects

How to enter a journal article in your list

The correct format is:

  • Author. “Title of Article.” Title of Journal Volume Number, no. Part Number (Year): Page Numbers.

The title of the article should be in ordinary type, with no underlining, but it should be between quotation marks. The journal title should be in italics or underlined. Capitalisation should be used for the first letter of each significant word in both the article title and the journal title. For example:

  • O’Brien, Kevin J. “Villagers, Elections, and Citizenship in Contemporary China.” Modern China 27, no. 4 (2001): 407–35.


  • O’Brien, Kevin J. “Villagers, Elections, and Citizenship in Contemporary China.” Modern China 27, no. 4 (2001): 407–35.

If the title is in Chinese, you should follow the model below (the addition of characters is optional).

  • Lai Huimin 賴惠敏. “Qianlong chao Neiwufu de dangpu yu fashang shengxi” 乾隆朝内務府的當鋪與發商生息 (The pawnshops of the Qianlong-period Imperial Household Department and its interest-bearing loans to merchants). Zhongyang Yanjiuyuan Jindaishi Yanjiusuo jikan 中央研究院近代史研究所集刊 28 (1997): 133–75.

What about essays (article-length studies) in edited volumes?

Make a separate entry for each essay that you cite, and put the entry under the name of the author of that essay, not the editor of the whole book. Here’s how:

  • Wolf, Margery. “Child Training and the Chinese Family.” In Family and Kinship in Chinese Society, ed. Maurice Freedman (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1970), pp. 37–62.

How to do citations in the body of your essay

When should exact page references be provided?

  1. It is MANDATORY to (a) USE QUOTATION MARKS ("...") and (b) provide an exact page reference to your source whenever you directly quote. Long quotations can alternatively be indented - set one tab-stop in from the left-hand margin - as you see done in books. However, in a short essay there should be few, if any, long quotations.
  2. In principle, a page reference should be provided for any information in your essay that is not common knowledge. You must provide page references for all the evidence you cite in order to support your argument. All major claims made in your essay must be properly documented through exact page references.
  3. Whenever you borrow an idea from another author, you must acknowledge that you borrowed it by providing an exact page reference to the passage in which that author expressed the idea in question.

What format should page references take?

Basic guidelines, including how to cite books

Please use footnotes, not endnotes. The notes should be numbered consecutively throughout the essay. Find out how your computer software manages footnotes.

Let us imagine that you are writing an essay comparing polygamy in China and Africa, and, in the text of your essay, you state that two scholars, Georges Balandier and Jacques Maquet, have argued that the main significance of polygamy in Africa is economic. Let us also assume that this is the third time in this essay that you need to give a reference. Put a superscript 3 (3) after the full stop at the end of the sentence in which you made this statement. Then, in the footnote, write as follows.

3. Georges Balandier and Jacques Maquet, Dictionary of Black African Civilization (New York: Leon Amiel, 1974), pp. 261–62.

Please notice carefully the differences between bibliography and citation format. First, surname and given name are in their normal order, not inverted. Second, footnote citations are supposed to give a sense of flowing, which is why you have commas and brackets replacing the full stops of the bibliography format.

You may well prefer to use superscript (and no full stop) for the footnote number. You may find that your software is set to produce superscript as the default.

3Georges Balandier and Jacques Maquet, Dictionary of Black African Civilization (New York: Leon Amiel, 1974), pp. 261–62.

How to avoid one very common error. Please note that "pp." is correct when the information or quotation that you are documenting is spread over more than one page. If you are citing only one page, just write "p."

It is necessary to give the full publication data in the footnotes only the first time you cite a particular source. The second and third times you can leave out the details, and you can even abbreviate the title. Thus your second citation of Balandier and Maquet might look like this:

7. Balandier and Maquet, Dictionary of Black African Civilization, p. 39.

or even this:

7. Balandier and Maquet, Dictionary, p. 39.

If you cite the same work in successive footnotes, you can use the abbreviation "Ibid." This basically means "in the same work [as the one I have just cited]." Thus, if you are citing Balandier and Maquet in both note 7 and note 8, note 8 can read as follows:

8. Ibid., pp. 76–77.

However, if in n. 9 you cite, say, Kathryn Bernhardt, Women and Property in China, 960–1949, and in n. 10 you cite Balandier and Maquet again, you cannot use "Ibid." in n. 10. "Ibid." in n. 10 would refer to Bernhardt’s book.

How to cite journal articles

Suppose that you have written:

  • Joanna Waley-Cohen has suggested that one of the great eighteenth-century emperors of the last dynasty had a "near-obsession with warfare."5

Your footnote would read, if this were your first citation of this particular article by Waley-Cohen,

5. Joanna Waley-Cohen, "Commemorating War in Eighteenth-Century China," Modern Asian Studies 30, no. 4 (1996): 871.

A further citation of Waley-Cohen later in your essay could read simply:

12. Waley-Cohen, "Commemorating War," p. 877.

or, of course:

12Waley-Cohen, "Commemorating War," p. 877.

How to cite an essay (article-length study) in an edited collection

Let us suppose that you have said:

    James Farrer uses the term “culture of desirability” to characterise the ambience of contemporary Shanghai discotheques.15

Your footnote would read:

15. James Farrer, "Dancing through the Market Transition: Disco and Dance Hall Sociability in Shanghai," in The Consumer Revolution in Urban China, ed. Deborah S. Davis (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), p. 234.

or simply (if this is not your first citation of Farrer’s essay):

15. Farrer, "Dancing," p. 234.

How to acknowledge a quotation that you found in a secondary source

Suppose that a book that you are using quotes a passage from a book (or other written source) that you have not read, and you want to use this quotation in your essay. How should you present the page reference? Keep two principles in mind:

  1. That you want to be as helpful to the reader as possible - and the reader needs to know who actually wrote the words in question.
  2. That you must be honest, which means avoiding giving the impression that you yourself did the research that led to the discovery of the quoted passage.

So, you need to give both the name of the original author (or equivalent information if the author’s name is not available) and the name of the author who did the work of finding the quotation. For example:

10. Newspaper report in Dagong bao, 14 July 1934, quoted in Lucien Bianco, Origins of the Chinese Revolution, 1915–1949 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1967), p. 89.

In addition, if you actually reproduce the quotation in your essay, it is a good idea to provide a meaningful introduction in the text, so that the reader knows what she or he is reading. For example:

    "As one newspaper reported during 1934," (and then reproduce the quotation).

Bianco’s book would appear in your bibliography, but not the Dagong bao.

How to cite material that you found in a published anthology

Follow the same principles as for when you are citing quotations that you found in a secondary source (see above): be (1) helpfully informative, and (2) honest. Exactly how you word your citation may depend on how the editors have presented the selected material. Use your discretion. Here are two possible models.

3. Xunzi, "A Discussion of Heaven," translated in Sources of Chinese Tradition, second edition, vol. 1, comp. Wm. Theodore de Bary and Irene Bloom (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), p. 171.

Your bibliography would include an entry for Sources of Chinese Tradition, but not for Xunzi’s "A Discussion of Heaven."

8. Po Hsing-chien (Bo Xingjian), "The Story of Miss Li," trans. Arthur Waley, in Anthology of Chinese Literature from Early Times to the Fourteenth Century, ed. Cyril Birch (New York: Grove Press, 1965), p. 303.

Your bibliography would include an entry for Anthology of Chinese Literature, but not for Po’s "The Story of Miss Li."

In the second model, the old "Wade-Giles" romanisation system is used because it was used in the anthology being cited. You have the option of adding the pinyin version in brackets, as shown. Do not include a pinyin version unless you are confident that it is accurate.

How to cite material that you found in a unit-of-study reader from the Copy Centre

You can normally ignore the fact that the sourcebooks (aka "readers," "reading bricks") prepared by your instructors are also a kind of anthology. When citing material that you found in a sourcebook, just take the publication data provided on the photocopied title page or in the syllabus, and cite the work as if you had found it yourself in the Fisher Library. This will look more professional, and your instructor knows the truth. Do the same with online readings, keeping in mind that the publication data in the syllabus are probably the most reliable.

However, if you cite material that you found in a sourcebook for another unit of study at this or any other university, then the principle of honesty should take priority. Include the details of the sourcebook (essentially, the unit of study code and title, the year, and the name of the university) at the end of your citation.

Avoiding plagiarism

Below you will find some constructive hints that may help you to avoid plagiarism.

  • Take a pride in doing your own writing. Every essay assignment, every Chinese-language composition, is an opportunity of doing something creative. Cherish that opportunity.
  • When preparing to write an essay, first read your sources. Next, put them all away and make your essay plan. Then, with the books still closed, begin to draft your essay. Open the books only when you want to check your facts or find some passage that you want to cite, quote or critique. Close each book as soon as you have finished consulting it, pausing only long enough to acknowledge your use of it with an exact page reference (the page reference is essential).
  • When taking notes from books that have to be returned to the Library, put quotation marks (“…”) around ANY material that you copy, and make a note of the page(s) where you found it. This should save you from inadvertently copying material that you thought you had put into your own words.
  • Use direct quotation from secondary sources (e.g., scholarly books and articles) very sparingly. Quote from a secondary source only if you have a very good reason for doing so, e.g., you are about to examine the passage critically and first need to establish for your reader exactly what the author said.
  • Remember that there are no marks for copying at university. Quoting carefully selected material, with full acknowledgment, for a specific purpose is different from mere copying and is legitimate provided that it accounts for only a very small proportion of your essay.
  • Whenever you directly quote material, always put quotation marks (that is " ") around it (with longer passages, you can alternatively indent the quotation–but in a short essay there should be few if any long quotations). This is in addition to the exact page reference to the source and is, arguably, even more important. For example:

    CORRECT: As Meisner has noted, “Inequality is hardly a novelty in rural China”–and then a footnote or other appropriate citation of the source, which is Maurice Meisner, Mao’s China and After: A History of the People’s Republic, third edition (New York: The Free Press, 1999), p. 467.

    INCORRECT: Inequality is hardly a novelty in rural China–and then a reference to p. 467 of Meisner’s book.
    With the second version, the absence of quotation marks implies a claim that you personally authored the quoted sentence. As that claim is false, the offence of plagiarism has been committed.
  • Whenever you quote, quote exactly. If you leave words out, use ellipsis marks (...); if you want to draw attention to a specific passage, put it in italics and add the words "emphasis added" in brackets at the end of the quotation; if there is an error in the original and you want the instructor to know that it's not yours, put the Latin word sic in square brackets immediately after the offending word; and if you need to insert words for the sake of clarity, put them in square brackets, like [this].
  • Do not attempt to avoid plagiarism by making a few trivial alterations such as changing the word order, changing “a” to “the,” replacing words with synonyms, etc. For example:

    SOURCE SENTENCE, also from p. 467 of Meisner’s Mao’s China and After: “But government leaders have been less concerned about the reappearance of old beliefs and values in the countryside than about what they describe as ‘extravagant’ spending on traditional marriages, funerals, and festivals–for such expenditures drain the capital available for financing land improvements, the purchase of new farm equipment, and water conservation.”

    ACCEPTABLE when followed by an exact page reference: Writing in the 1990s, Maurice Meisner noted that central government disapproval of the revival of old ways in rural society focused on practices that had economic consequences–essentially, the squandering of money that could have been invested in agriculture on life-cycle rituals and religious activities.

    UNACCEPTABLE even if followed by an exact page reference: But government leaders have been less worried about the reappearance of antiquated beliefs and values in rural China than about what they call “extravagant” expenditure on traditional funerals, festivals, and marriages, given that such spending drains the capital available for funding land improvements, water conservation, and the acquisition of new farm equipment.

    In the first version, the student has stood back, asked what the source sentence essentially means, and then re-expressed that meaning in completely different words. An additional merit is that the student has established some critical distance from the source sentence by recognizing that what was true when the source sentence was written may or may not be true today. By contrast, the second version preserves the structure of the source sentence and makes only trivial alterations in the wording. It is still basically Meisner’s sentence. Even if an exact page reference is given, the marker will identify this version as a case of plagiarism.
  • Even legitimate paraphrase (saying the same thing as your source but putting it into your own words) should not be allowed to occupy too much of your essay. If you find that you are writing whole paragraphs of summary or paraphrase, ask yourself why. Where is your essay going? Are you leaving enough space for your own creativity? All the time you are paraphrasing, it is as if you are letting someone else determine the content of your essay. Stop, stand back, and take control.
  • Some grossly dishonest behavior, such as paying someone else to write an essay or wholesale downloading from the internet, happens because of panic. Here are some things you can do to avoid the commonest causes of panic:
    • Budget your time carefully. Plan ahead. Start work on essays early.
    • Improve your essay-writing skills before the next assignment comes up. Visit the University’s Learning Centre website. Identify the courses that best fit your needs and find out how to enrol in them. These courses are in high demand, so act promptly.
    • Talk with the unit of study coordinator. That’s what consultation hours are for.
  • Remember that most university instructors can smell plagiarism and other forms of cheating. Don't risk it!

What if I still have questions?

Take the plunge and consult a published style guide. The department recommends The Chicago Manual of Style (fourteenth or later edition), published by the University of Chicago Press. This has an excellent index and is probably the most authoritative style guide in the English-speaking world - although not every publisher or journal follows all its guidelines exactly.

If a 921-page style manual is too intimidating and you would prefer a guide that was written especially for students, try:

Kate L. Turabian. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Sixth edition, revised by John Grossman and Alice Bennett. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.