Student Resources

    * A. The bibliography
    * B. In-text citations
    * 7.1 Honours thesis
    Sample title page for Honours thesis
    * 7.2 MA long essay
    Sample title page for MA long essay or dissertation
    * 7.3 MPhil thesis
    * 7.4 Doctoral thesis

2nd edition 2005 Revised by Jane Simpson

Some material in this guide is copied or paraphrased from the Department of History, University of Sydney
"A Short Guide To The Writing and Presentation of Papers and Essays" 5th edition 2000 Compiled by
G. B. Harrison (1991), Revised by S. Garton (1997), Revised by K. K. Macnab (2000),
viewed 9/4/02


This style sheet is intended to help you as a basic guide to some of the things we expect from the essays and the papers that are an essential part of your training in linguistics. It will also give you advice about methods of preparing your work.

Being able to write standard academic English and to present it in a consistent way according to the conventions of the discipline (linguistics in this case) is an important part of your university education, and will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.

If you have questions that remain unanswered after you finish reading the stylesheet, please ask your teachers for further advice, or go to courses at the Learning Centre.


When you choose your essay topic, make sure that you understand exactly what the question or essay title means, and what it is that you are required to do. Make certain that you understand all the parts of a question. Many poor essays, papers and examination answers are the result of not thinking carefully about the question.

Don't forget that the aim of your essay or paper is not to tell a story, but to deal analytically with the linguistic problems or issues that are raised by the essay question. When you come upon authors whose
opinions conflict, you'll need to note this, and to understand clearly how they argue their cases. In your essay you might not be able to resolve the conflict, but you must let your reader know that such a
disagreement exists.

When you discuss such a conflict, analyse the logic of the argument, and look carefully at the nature and extent of the evidence which has been produced to support it. Has the author accounted satisfactorily for the evidence? Has all the relevant evidence been examined? Does the author show bias or prejudice that might distort their judgement?


a. Write out the exact bibliographical details of the book, journal, web site or other source that you are reading. Section 5, Bibliographies and Footnotes, will explain what those details are. You will need them whenever you want to check your notes. You will need them again when you are writing your essay, and providing it with a bibliography and footnotes. If you do not get the full details exactly right at this stage, you are making trouble for yourself later. If you use a computer, we recommend using a bibliographic database programme, such as EndNote - it will save you a lot of time. It can be downloaded from the Library website.

b. Take care with the quality of the sources you consult and decide to use. Very general and/or popular sources should be avoided, except possibly to give you an initial overview.
Particular care needs to be taken with material found via the Internet. While there is excellent material to be found on the Internet, there is no quality control over what is placed on the Internet. Assess all such information critically and collect all the information that you'll need to cite the Internet site in your essay.

c. Quoting
When you write out a passage from a text that you want to quote in your essay, make absolutely certain that you have done so accurately. Put quotation marks around it, and write the number of the page on which you found it in the margin of your notes.

d. Summarising other people's work
Taking notes efficiently will save you time in the long run by encouraging you to read carefully, and by ensuring that the results of your reading remain permanently and easily accessible to you. When you find an argument that seems important, summarise it in your own words. It might help to number those points. Write on your notes the number of the page where you found this material so that you can cite it in your essay. Summarising material in your own words makes you think through the material, absorb it, and understand it. It also helps you avoid plagiarism.

Plagiarism is the unscholarly practice of writing essays that are no more than a patchwork made up of passages paraphrased, or taken entirely, from the writings of other people, especially if you don't cite your sources. Plagiarism is heavily penalised in this University. On your essay coversheets, you'll be asked to sign confirming that you have read and understood the University's policy.


1: Don't leave the essay to the last moment.
2: Write a draft. Leave it for a day or so and then return to it. Try to read the draft imagining you are a reader unfamiliar with the topic, and see what is unclear.

i. Markers can’t make comments on the text of a paper or essay if there is no room to do so.
All written work should have a margin of at least 25mm on all sides
ii. Markers can’t spend their time deciphering poor script. All written work must be easily legible.
You don't have to type your essays, but do write them clearly. Make certain that you proofread your work, and make all the necessary corrections.

iii. Use a reasonable sized font - preferably 12 point, and with at least one and a half spacing throughout.
"Times' is easy to read.

iv. Make sure that your pages are in the right order, and that each one is numbered.

v. Footnotes can be at the foot of each page or at the end of the essay.

vi. If you quote or refer to an author's work in the text, use in-text citations and give the author's surname,
The 'mental lexicon' (Aitchison 1994:10) is the number of words an individual knows.
Make sure that all the details of the reference are in the bibliography.

vii. Some students are upset when they get back an essay that has been criticised because of poor
expression or style (including punctuation). Check out
Bailey, R.F., A Survival Kit for Writing English, 2nd ed., Longman Cheshire, Melbourne, 1984. U808.066/25

viii. Linguists do use the first person singular (In this paper I shall argue that semantics consists of two distinct processes...), and first person plural (In short, we need to have a theory of inference before we can identify the components of a theory of semantics). However, avoid phrases like I think that..., or In my opinion ..., or In my opinion I think that ... Unsupported opinions are common in conversation, but in academic writing any judgement you make must be supported by evidence. You have to show why your readers should agree with you.

ix. Introduce other authors' arguments as well as citing them. One way of doing this is as follows:
Aitchison (1994:8) claims that people are fast at distinguishing real words from invented words.
Aitchison (1994:9) argues for the existence of a structured mental lexicon on the basis of the number of words an individual knows, and the rapidity with which an individual can retrieve words.

x. Everyone writes in their own way. However, some things to avoid, unless you feel quite confident, are:

  • hackneyed phrases and cliches
  • using jargon words
  • long sentences

Make sure that the word you are using means what you think it means. And think about whether you could say what you mean more simply and more concisely. Sometimes it helps to read what you have written aloud. It also helps to think what your main idea is, and how you might explain it to an intelligent layperson, your parents perhaps.

x. Check with your lecturer what they feel about sections with sub-headings. Some like them; some don't.
In any case - don't overuse them - if your essay makes clear what the topic under discussion is, then you don't need a heading.

xi. Don't use symbols or shorthand such as & for 'and' or BTW for 'by the way'. Symbols and abbreviations such as these are useful for notes, but are not acceptable as a rule in the texts of books or journals, and are not admissible in your written work here.

xii. Footnotes are used sparingly in linguistics writing for material or arguments that would otherwise interrupt the flow of the argument. They are normally not used for citation of references. The best position for footnote numbers as a rule is at the end of the relevant sentence or passage. Number your footnotes consecutively through the piece.


Every piece of written work you submit must be accompanied by a bibliography and citations of work in the text. This 'critical apparatus' shows your readers exactly what materials you have used, and allows them to check your arguments and evidence. Thus it must be accurate and detailed.

There are several systems current among academics for citing work, and you will come across many of them. The simple basic method set out and explained below is acceptable throughout this Department. It does not cover all the problems that may arise, so consult your teachers if you have any difficulties, or check out a style guide for a linguistics journal such as Linguistic Inquiry.


This should contain a list of all the material you have consulted. This includes books, articles, reports, websites, CDs...

Dictionaries and encyclopaedias are included if you are using them as data for your essay, but not if you just check that you are using a word correctly, Set the material out in alphabetical order by author
or editor at the end of your essay.

You can omit the article The from the titles of encyclopaedias, dictionaries, journals, and newspapers printed in English.


  1. The full name of the author or editor as it appears on the title page. If there is more than one author or editor, give the other(s) also.
  2. The full title of the book, as it appears on the title page. If a book has a title and a subtitle, give both.
    If they are not connected by any punctuation on the title page, put a colon (:) between them in your bibliography.
  3. The relevant volume number(s) if the work consists of more than one volume.
  4. The number of the edition, unless it is the first edition.
  5. The publisher’s name.
  6. The city where the book was published. You may have to add the state or country if confusion is possible (Cambridge MA, Cambridge UK). If it was published in more than one place simultaneously, you need give only the first city mentioned.

Some examples:

Aitchison, Jean. 1994. Words in the mind: an introduction to the mental lexicon. 2nd ed.. Oxford:Basil Blackwell.

Bach, Kent, and Robert M. Harnish. 1979. Linguistic communication and Speech Acts. Cambridge, MA:MIT Press.

Butt, Miriam , and Tracy Holloway King. eds. 2001. Time over matter: diachronic perspectives on morphosyntax. Stanford:CSLI.

Lyons, John. 1977. Semantics. 2 vols. Cambridge, U.K.:Cambridge University Press.

(a) the list has been set out alphabetically by author or editor. The surname has been put first.

(b) the title, and nothing but the title, is put in italics or underlined.

(c) Chapters are given only when they appear in an edited collection of individual contributions. In this case, treat the chapter as you would a journal article, giving also the details of the book in which you found it, including the page numbers.

Hale, Kenneth. 1982. Some essential features of Warlpiri main clauses. In Papers in Warlpiri grammar: in memory of Lothar Jagst, ed. S. Swartz. Work-Papers of SIL-AAB Series A. 217-315. Berrimah, Australia:Summer Institute of Linguistics.

Four pieces of information are needed about every article:

  1. The full name of the author. As with books, list your articles alphabetically by author. Put the surname first.
  2. The full title of the article. You can put this between single inverted commas, or not. The only other occasions on which you use inverted commas are to show the title of a chapter, a title within the title of a book, the title of an unpublished work such as a doctoral thesis, and to enclose direct quotations.
  3. The full title of the journal. Underline or italicise this exactly as you would the title of a book.
  4. Supply enough information for the reader to find the precise place in the journal. Give the volume number, issue number (if relevant), year, and pages on which the article appears.

Hale, Kenneth. 1983. Warlpiri and the grammar of non-configurational languages. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 1 1:5-47.

Use a consistent way of citing internet sites.

The following information is needed about every source used from a world wide web site:

  1. The full name of the author [surname first] [if possible] If you can't find an author, cite the author as ANON.
  2. The full title of the site
  3. The date of the site's creation and/or updating. [if possible]
  4. The nature of the site. Is it an encyclopaedia, set of primary sources, series of essays, or something else, was it created by an individual, organisation, or institution, and what was its purpose?
  5. The Uniform Resource Locator [URL] (the website address). Present this between angle brackets < >.
    You may want to use a different fixed width font, such as Courier.
  6. The date you looked at the site

Anon. 2002. Citations and style guides. Document created by Fisher Library, University of Sydney, Australia. , viewed 9/4/02.

Bresnan, Joan. 1996. 'Lexicality and Argument Structure.' Invited paper given at the Paris Syntax and Semantics Conference, October 12-14, 1995. Corrected version: 12:57 p.m. April 15, 1996.
27 pages (postscript). Online at , viewed 9/4/02.

B. In-text citations

B.1 When to use them
You must provide an in-text citation when you quote someone's work or refer to it. You should give the author's name and year, and a page reference. Here are examples.

If the quotation is short, include it in the body of your paragraph, surrounded by inverted commas.
"But the new Gricean pragmatic theories appear to be in no better shape" (Levinson 2000:256)

If it is long, finish the sentence that introduces it with a colon (:), and then give the quotation a new paragraph to itself. Indent this paragraph i.e. set it out well back from the margin so that it is
differentiated from your normal text, and do not put inverted commas around it. In either case, you must give the source in an in-text citation.

But the new Gricean pragmatic theories appear to be in no better shape. (Levinson 2000:256)

If you wish to omit something within the passage to be quoted, replace it with an ellipsis (...). The ellipsis consists of three stops only.

If you need to add a word or phrase of your own to the original text of the quotation to make something clear, put your own word or phrase between square brackets and your initials. This signals that the material they enclose is not in the original text. e.g "the [JHS: large] difference".

If the passage you are quoting contains a quotation, put the latter between inverted commas (double if you have used single inverted commas around the quotation).

You should also use in-text citations when you are:

  1. Referring to an argument, theory, point of view, etc. in published or unpublished material
  2. Referring to figures, maps, diagrams, percentages and statistics from other authors
  3. Producing information or evidence which you have read, and which is either not widely known or is disputed.

You don't need to give an in-text citation for obvious truths, such as the fact that humans by and large speak languages. But you do need to give an in-text citation for things which are not obviously true,such as the assertion that mental models of language may influence behaviour (Aitchison 1994:69).

B.2 How to present in-text citations


If you give a reference to a book or article, and then refer to exactly the same work without referring to any other work in between, write Ibid. (= ibidem = in the same place) plus the relevant page number(s).
Ibid. in an in-text citation refers the reader only and always to the book or article given in the intext
citation immediately prior to it, e.g.

The assertion that the mental lexicon is structured (Aitchison 1994:69) is reinforced by psycholinguistic data (ibid: .214-221).

If you are citing something which is itself a citation, then cite both the original (e.g. Thieberger 2004) and the source, e.g. (Thieberger 2004 in Smith 2005:69).


The thesis should include the following:
Title page - this is the first page of the thesis and displays the author's name, the title of the thesis,
the degree for which it is being submitted and the year of submission (examples of title pages
for different theses are given below)
Table of Contents
List of Tables and List of Figures (where applicable)
Each chapter should begin on a new page - include introduction and conclusion chapters
Bibliography (see above for examples of format)
Appendix (where applicable)

Other conventions:

If you wish to make reference to an author's work in the text use in-text citations, giving the author's name, the year of publication, and the page numbers where relevant, eg (Bloomfield, 1933: 240-241)
or (Hockett, 1964) ensuring that all the details of the reference are made in the bibliography.
You can get friends or relations to proof-read your thesis. Non-native speakers of English are encouraged to get native English speakers to copy-edit their theses. This does not mean writing the thesis - it means correcting grammar and academic style

Use paper of standard A4 size.
Leave wide margins, at least 25mm on all sides but preferably a left margin of about 30mm
Theses should be typed on one side of the paper with one and a half spacing throughout.
Pages must be numbered consecutively in Arabic numerals from the first page of the first chapter.


7.1 Honours thesis
These are set by the Department, and are given below.

7.2 MA long essay
These are set by the Department, and are given below.

[[anchor||mp7.3 MPhil thesis
These are set by the Faculty.

7.4 Doctoral thesis
These are set by the Faculty.

The expected length of the thesis varies according to the weighting of the thesis and coursework components:
Currently (2005) we expect a thesis of approximately 20,000 words, excluding references, appendices and
illustrative data quoted in the text.

Submitting the thesis
Submission takes three forms:

  • three copies on the due date. These may be on regular paper, with soft covers and spiral or perfect
    binding, and they may include the hardbound copy discussed below.
  • an electronic copy for uploading, archiving and possible publishing on the University website.
    You'll be asked to fill in a deposit form for this.
  • one hardbound copy on acid-free (archival bond) paper should be submitted for the Departmental Library, together with a letter indicating whether you are happy for the Department to copy the thesis on request from interested people. The hardbound copy may be submitted up to a week after the softbound copies.

Sample title page for the Honours thesis

7.2 MA long essay/dissertation
The expected length of the long essay or dissertation varies according to the number of semesters involved. Consult your supervisor and the postgraduate coordinator for advice.

Submitting the thesis
Submission takes three forms:

Sample title page for the MA long essay/dissertation

Sample title page for the Honours thesis

 A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment
of the requirements for the degree of
Bachelor of Arts (Honours)
Department of Linguistics University of Sydney 

Sample title page for the MA long essay/dissertation

A long essay/dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts 
 Department of Linguistics University of Sydney
 MAY 2010


Grade Descriptors