Essay Presentation

In this section, we offer some brief pointers: advice on how to approach your assignments. Following this, we have included a more detailed section on 'Essay Writing' and a 'How to Reference' guide, which shows you how to go about providing references and bibliographies. Finally, there is a brief guide to the use of the humble apostrophe.

General advice for writing assignments

First, read the instructions for each assessment task very carefully. Additionally, in units where they are offered, make sure that you take advantage of tutorials, particularly in the weeks when major assignments will be discussed. Your tutor will be able to explain what we expect of your written work.

Briefly, the most important requirements are

Acknowledging all the sources that you quote, summarise, refer to or mention in passing: In addition to the University’s commitment to Academic Honesty as a core value, providing references serves the pragmatic purpose of allowing a reader to follow up your sources to check them, to contextualise the material, or simply to pursue something that interests them. You need, then, to provide sufficient information to allow the reader to find the passage that you are using—including the page number.

Assembling an argument: This means asserting a proposition, providing evidence and data to support that proposition, and leading the reader through that material in a way that is logical and convincing. Make sure that you plan your arguments, breaking your assignment into sections. Work up your key sentences: the big sentences that will head up each section, and each paragraph. Work out what evidence you need to present to the reader, and in which order. Consider how best to present that evidence (descriptions, quotes, facts and figures, observations and so on). Consider whether the evidence you have presented sufficiently supports your propositions. Consider how to build a mass of evidence to make your argument convincing.

Writing in a clear, grammatical manner: Do not try to write in a manner that you think is ‘academic’: just write! Use sub-headings where appropriate. When you need to, use the first person singular (“I”). Always read your work out loud to check that it makes sense. Remember the reader, and imagine that you are trying to engage with that reader as you write. Explain, explain, explain—that is your main obligation as a writer: to explain something about which you have developed an understanding to someone who may not share that understanding. Help them to move towards your understanding.

Again, make sure that you read each assessment task carefully. Make sure that you take advantage of your tutor and the lecturers, bringing your questions to tutorials—these are your opportunity to develop your grasp of what is required throughout the unit of study.

Essay writing

An essay is not simply a form of assessment. An essay is itself a learning activity; we ask you to write essays not just to check what you have and have not learnt, but to help you to develop analytic, organisational, creative and presentational skills.

An essay should present an argument, supporting that argument with appropriate evidence. That evidence can be drawn from a range of sources—in a discipline like Performance Studies, you may well be drawing upon sources other than those used in other disciplines. For example, you may need to write about people performing. The second year core units, PRFM2601 and PRFM2602, are designed to furnish you with some ways to approach the problems this presents.

When you do quote, draw upon, paraphrase or otherwise use another person’s ideas, whether written or otherwise, you must provide references. If you do not, you risk the accusation of plagiarism.

Tips for writing essays

  1. Start early! Do not wait until the last minute. As soon as you get the question, get to work.
  2. Plan your work before you start—what do you need to read? How will you organise your time?
  3. Make an outline of your essay. What are you going to argue? Make sure that you ‘shape’ the essay in a manner that supports your argument. This argument will be your answer to the set question. You may wish to start your essay with a clear statement of this argument, and a short preview of how you will support it. The bulk of your essay will be the presentation of that supporting material. Preparing an outline will help you to decide what that material needs to be, and the order in which you wish to present it.
  4. Read more. Arrange your material.
  5. Write a draft.
  6. PRINT OUT THAT DRAFT AND READ IT! It often helps to read your work aloud, either to yourself, a trusted friend or family member or a compliant pet.
  7. Redraft your essay in the light of the experience of point 6.
  8. Submit your essay.
  9. After it’s been marked, collect your essay (!) and go through the marker’s comments/corrections.


If you experience difficulties with essays, assignments or associated tasks, the first thing to do is to let your lecturer or tutor know. Also, please do not hesitate to make an appointment with the course co-ordinator if you would like follow-up feedback on your writing—we would much rather put time into diagnosing any problems and suggesting ‘remedial treatment’ than simply having to make the same comments/corrections next time around. In the meantime, you might want to look at the study skills and essay writing courses available through the University's Learning Centre or brush up on your basic grammar using the online resources available online provided by the Department of English.

How to reference

There are two acceptable methods of referencing sources:

  1. footnotes or endnotes; or
  2. in-text referencing.

The Department of Performance Studies has no preferred method, although individual lecturers or tutors may have a preference—it may be useful to check with them before writing. However, it is vital that you do use one method or the other, and do so consistently within any one essay or assignment.

How to reference when using footnotes (or endnotes)

  • you should use footnotes to acknowledge all borrowed material, whether alluded to, paraphrased or quoted;
  • mark the reference with a small number, raised above the text, at the end of the reference;
  • number the footnotes consecutively throughout the work—that is, don’t restart the numbers each new page;
  • place the notes either at the bottom of each page (convenient for the reader), or collect them all at the end of the essay (endnotes). Do not use both endnotes and footnotes.

The first footnote referring to a particular text or source should include full bibliographic details, including the page on which the referenced material may be found.

A bibliographic reference must include (in order):

  • the author’s (or authors’) name (or names);
  • the title of the book (in italics) or article (“in quotation marks”);
  • if the text is an article, the name of the journal or publication in which the work may be found, in italics, including volume and number and/or month;
  • the place of publication of the book;
  • the publishing house or press;
  • the date of publication; and
  • (if a journal article or chapter in a book) the page numbers on which the referenced material may be found.

How to reference when using in-text referencing

  • do not also use footnotes or endnotes for referencing (a very occasional note relating to the issues being discussed in the body of the text is OK);
  • when you quote, paraphrase, refer or allude to an author’s work, indicate the source in your text by providing, in brackets, the author’s (or authors’) name(s), the date of publication, and the relevant page numbers (omitting the abbreviations p. or pp.).
    –for sole author: (Ginters 1997: 6);
    –for two authors: (Fitzpatrick and Day 1994: 45) and
    –for more than two: (McAuley et al 1998: 34).
  • where an author has published more than one work in a single year, identify each by using a letter suffix: (Rossmanith 2001b: 2);
  • at the end of your essay, include an alphabetical list of full bibliographic references (by Author) including ONLY the works referred to in your text.

Presenting the list of references

Use the following format:

  • Author’s name (surname first)
  • Date of publication
  • Title (books in italics, articles or chapters in “quotation marks”, followed by the title of the journal/book in italics)
  • Volume/Number/Month of journal
  • Page numbers in journal (or book, if reference is to a chapter)
  • The name of the press or publishing house (if a book)
  • The city of publication



Schechner, Richard 2002 Performance Studies: An Introduction Routledge, London and New York.


Gay McAuley 1998 "Towards an ethnography of rehearsal", New Theatre Quarterly, Vol. 53, 75-85.

Other sources

The Internet


  • the date the source was originally published
  • the title of the article, in “quotation marks”
  • the title of the book or journal in italics
  • the page numbers
  • the fact that your source was on the Internet
  • the Internet protocol (WWW, Telnet, FTP, etc.)
  • the Internet address/URL/pathway
  • the date you accessed the site

Seton, M. and McGillivray, G. 1999 “Post-graduate stress and completion rates” Proceedings of Australian Post-graduate Association pp. 3-7. Internet. World Wide Web. (last accessed 12 August 2002).



  • the title of the performance “in quotation marks”.
  • the principal artist/s (director/conductor/performers etc)
  • the company mounting the production
  • the site of the performance
  • the date of the performance to which you are referring.

“Khaash” Akram Khan (choreographer/dancer), Akram Khan Company, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, August 20, 2002.

Film, Sound Recordings, etc.


  • the title of the film/recording
  • the principal artist/s composer/s etc.
  • the production company
  • the year of its release
  • format

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1994), video.

For further information on referencing, go to the library and ask the staff at the information desk to direct you to the most appropriate style guide for your referencing method.

The apostrophe

The apostrophe is used to indicate ABBREVIATIONS.

For example:

  • can not: can't
  • do not: don’t
  • it is: it’s

The apostrophe is used to indicate POSSESSION (i.e. ownership).

It comes immediately after the thing/person who possesses. For example:

  • Laura’s pen: the pen of Laura
  • the boy’s room: the room of the boy
  • the boys’ room: the room of the boys
  • the students’ meeting: the meeting of the students
  • the child’s ball: the ball of the child
  • the children’s ball: the ball of the children

The apostrophe is not used for possessive pronouns—my, your, his, her, its, our, their.

For example:

  • the government and its branches
  • the theatre and its architect

You would never write "the boy and hi’s dog", would you?

The apostrophe is never used to indicate plurals.

For example:

  • thousands and thousands of years ago
  • teachers like students who can punctuate
  • Australians live in Australia

Incidentally, you do not need an apostrophe when writing dates:
e.g. "I was born in the 1970s."