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A Guide for preparing Papers and research reports
This is a guide for term papers, research reports, and other
scientific and technical writing assignments. Why not print it out now for future
reference? NOTE: While it should be acceptable for most purposes, your instructor
may have specific requirements for a given assignment, and those requirements will always
take preference over the this guide.
STRUCTURE OF THE PAPER........
A well-written paper will present your argument clearly and accurately.
The introduction will indicate what you intend to
present and why, and will include a review of the literature to date. This literature
review should NOT be a series of single paragraphs, each summarizing one previous work.
Instead, it should demonstrate to the reader the current state of knowledge about the
topic. (Note that you must have done your homework in order to write the review!) You need
to identify and compare opposing schools of thought, discuss the development of knowledge
and arguments, and especially identify the weaknesses and uncertainties. The natural
"conclusion" of the literature review is your research question (RQ), sometimes expressed as
an hypothesis. The entire paper should address the RQ as proposed, and will
thereby contribute to the current understanding of the subject.
The "Methods" section should contain all the
technical, procedural, and analytical details needed for another researcher to replicate
The "Results" are often presented separately
from the "Discussion" section, although in some cases, for
instance in an epidemiological survey, a combined "Results and Discussion"
section is clearer for the reader. Note that 'raw' data (such as original observations) rarely
belong in a "Results" section; some degree of analysis should normally
have taken place to clarify and consolidate. If you think the reader might benefit from a
table of raw data, consider including it as an appendix. The "Discussion"
should examine and interpret the results in the light of the original study question, and
these results should also be compared with the findings of previous papers which should
have been introduced in the literature review. Do not hesitate to discuss weaknesses in
your paper - whether procedural, analytical, a design flaw, or unforeseen limitations with
access to data. Be self-critical. Most readers are generally willing to accept such
admissions on face value; few readers, however, will tolerate any suspicion of
cover-up, falsification, or deliberate omission of important results. At the very
least, the reader and the world want to be aware of potential pitfalls, and to be
cautioned about interpreting results.
Write the "Abstract" after the paper is
complete (in draft form). It should summarize what appears in the text, and should be
helpful in allowing the reader to gain a good image of the research question, the process,
and the results. Avoid abstracts which tease the reader into having to read
the full paper to find the results.
ORGANISATION OF THE PAPER
labelled sections, chapters, headings and sub-headings will benefit both the reader and
the writer of the paper. As the very first step, try setting out what the
"contents page" of the final paper will look like. Show the hierarchy of all
proposed headings and sub-headings. When you are satisfied that all relevant parts of the
subject are reflected and in the right sequence, avoiding extraneous material and
repetition, you will have the skeleton for the developing paper.
PRESENTATION........ Unless your instructor requires the work to be presented in a particular
way, use the following as an always-acceptable guide: Paper should be standard
letter sized, white bond, with vertical configuration (except for necessary maps, charts,
or tables). Bind using a single staple at the top left corner or use a 19-hole
punch with plastic comb binding ONLY. Avoid card or plastic covers, 3-ring binders,
Duo-Tang, or any other device likely to impede access and annoy the instructor. Font
should be 12-point, with Times Roman or Arial/Univers preferred. Avoid using decorative or
display fonts for other than the title and main section headings. One-inch (2.5cm)
margins, and no more than 1.5 line spacing to keep the text together.
Number the pages right from the first draft. That way the reader (including you)
will be able to refer to specific places in the text that need changing. In
academic work, the front pages (the abstract, contents, all the lists and
acknowledgements) are often in Roman numerals (i), (ii), etc., while the
"Arabic" numerals (1,2,3 etc.) begin on page 1.
REFERENCING . . .
You need to document any fact, idea, conclusion, opinion, data, or other
information arising directly from the work of an individual or organization
so that any reader can retrieve and verify that information.
Direct word-for-word quotes
must be shown in quotation marks, with the source given, and if the quote is
more than three lines or so, you should indent that passage,
and single-space the lines. Italics are generally required for
Facts, ideas, principles, and
findings must also be attributed to their author or source, even if
paraphrased (not in the original words). Do NOT use
quotation marks for this, but show the source either following the mention
in the text, or if the whole paragraph is considering it, show the source
immediately following that paragraph. This applies to charts,
photographs, tables, diagrams and other illustrations, and
also to information that you have taken from spoken or broadcast
do NOT need to document opinions which are clearly your own, or common knowledge, with which your readers should already be
familiar. For example, the assertion that . . . large cities have been subject to air
pollution since the industrial revolution . . . Is considered common knowledge, and would not require a specific
The failure to attribute material to its correct source (plagiarism) is
very serious, and carries severe penalties. Plagiarism can apply to a sentence as well as
to the entire work.
Each discipline has traditionally claimed its preferred style of
referencing. The in-text style recommended here is author-year, in which the author=s surname (without initials,
Dr., Prof., or other forms of address)
and the year of publication, are shown in parentheses at the appropriate place in the
text. The following are specific cases and examples of in-text citation using author-year
In-Text citation: examples.............
Single author: When the author
is named in the text, the year can be shown separately. Otherwise the name and year are
. . . Pogson=s (1990) principle has now been challenged (Davis
2005) . . .
Single author with more than one publication in the same year:
Show the separate publications by means
of a,b, etc. after the year:
. . . The first reference to this effect was made by Philips
(1998a:137), and within six months several others followed (Philips, 1998b:43; Jones,
Multiple Authors: When a work
has two or three authors, mention all the names. For a citation with more than three
names, mention the first, followed by A et
al.@ (in italics and without a period after A et@ ,
but with a period after al.)
. . . This work (Zahorsky et al., 1996) confirmed
an earlier finding
(Fuehauf, Zamm, & Friml, 1972) . . .
Two or more works by different authors: List in alphabetical order, together with the years of publication, and
separated by semi-colons:
. . . Attempts were made to
isolate the organism (Todd, 1993; Wylie, 1987; Ziltch, 1992)...
Several references to the same work
These can be
distinguished by adding the page numbers following the year and a colon:
. . .
which the author described as a 27
nm particle (Wilm, 1980:342) . . .
A work authored by an agency or institution: A first citation would read:
Subsequent references may use the abbreviation provided
that the reader is not left in doubt:
(Medical Research Council [MRC]. 1992) .
. . . Plans to replicate the controversial study have been announced
Show the word 'anonymous'
and the year (to appear under 'A' in the reference list):
. . . In a guide to water safety (Anonymous 1991) . .
Statutes and other legal materials
These are treated as references to
works without authors. Cite the first few words of the reference and the year. Note that
court cases cited in the text are underscored.
. . . provision for this has been made elsewhere (Ontario Regulation
243/84) . . .
. . . (Libis v. Hrycyna, 1988)
Information conveyed through
conversations, letters, memos, etc, does not represent data, and should not be included in
your reference list. It can be included in the text showing the communicator's name and
date when the communication took place, OR as an explanatory footnote:
. . .
the information had been received two days before (K Pivnic, personal communication, April
10, 1998) . . .
Footnotes Footnotes represent a valuable opportunity to provide further
depth or to discuss other relevant points. Try to keep them always on the same page that
carries the topic.
addition to the reference list, some publications in the social sciences or humanities
contain a separate bibliography of publications having relevance to the topic but not
necessarily the source of specific references. A separate bibliography is not generally
found or encouraged in science, health science, or technology papers.
list The complete list of references
should be shown at the end of the paper, arranged in alphabetical order. The
following are examples of references modelled after the Vancouver Style, a format
agreed upon by a number of biomedical journals at a conference in Vancouver in 1978.
Note that the title of the book or periodical is shown in italics (previously
underscored), while the chapter name or the title of the paper within a journal is not.
Note also the punctuation and sequence of information.
At the back of the paper in the Reference list
one or several authors:
TF. Demography in Health Planning. London. Oxford Univ. Press. 1985;223.
Fruehauf ED, Friml P, & Schmidt W. Culture and Disease.
Toronto, McGraw-Hill, 1970; 152-154
as an author:
Council (Canada). Investigating Outbreaks.
Ottawa, Flegon Press, 1992;
& Katz MM, (Eds.). The Psychology of Depression:
Contemporary Theory and Practice.
New York. Wiley, 1984;34.
Watson SW, Crum
Q, & Spigot H. Orthogonal polynomial regression
models applied to urinary
incontinence. J Environmental Health, 1990;31(3):101-115.
Well Disinfection. Toronto, Selby Publications, 1997.
Editorial. New Scientist, 2000; 42(9):6
Regulation 243/94. Toronto, Queens Printer for Ontario, 1988; s.12
K. CBC Television program The Nature of Things.
Broadcast 2 Oct.
second publication by the author in the same year
PG. Omphaloscepsis. Toronto. Oxford Univ Press. 1998a; 151.
Murray PG. Omphaloscepsis revisited. Toronto. Oxford Univ. Press.
A paper cited
within another publication
Farnsworth M. The
biology of the flea. London. Plenum Press. 1954:124; cited
by Cooper T. Parasitology.
New York. Howlett Press. 1997; 202.
included in a collection or as a chapter in a book:
Swift G. Blood
lead levels in Toronto children. 1997. In: Chester D, & Löffler A. Children=s
Health in Ontario: A
Review. Toronto. McGraw Hill Press. 1999; 122-45.
from the World Wide Web. As a rule, use
www sources of the same type and credibility that you would use in printed references. The
most desirable would be refereed works, or information from recognized institutions.
At all costs avoid using unknown personal opinions, or
unless it is your purpose to demonstrate this material.
A uniform resource locator (URL), by itself, is not
acceptable as an entry in a reference list. The reference should begin with the
author, institution, date, place, etc. The URL then becomes simply the electronic address
of this source. Always record the date you found the source. e.g.:
Silverman FW, Harvard Dental Review, 1997. <http://www.harvard.edu/~hdr/hdr_home/4927.htm> Accessed 1998
indicating initials and abbreviated credentials are no longer required.
op.cit, loc.cit, ibid. These are Latin abbreviations indicating,
Awork already cited@,
Alocation already cited@,
Athe last work cited@. They are now rarely used.
The page number is included for all book references unless the
reference is made to the entire work, not to a specific passage or item. For journal
articles or short pamphlets, the range of pages is sufficient. The abbreviations p,
pp, and pg are no longer required.