Style Sheet for Research Papers

Diane Crowder

(version 7, updated Oct. 2002)


General considerations for writing term papers


1.  The sooner you define your topic, the better.  With OCAAT, students must locate and request any interlibrary loan materials by the second week of the term.  This means in many cases coming up with a topic on a book you haven't yet read.  It is wise to skim all texts rapidly in the first week, look up book reviews (even of the English translation), etc. to help you decide on a topic.  See the instructor.


2.  All term papers should be typed, double-spaced, with at least a 1" margin all around.  A separate cover sheet should have the title of the paper, your name, the date, and course number.


3.  Plagiarism will not be tolerated.  Reread the section of the Compass defining plagiarism.   Any idea not your own must be attributed properly to the source.  (See below for acceptable forms of attribution.)  Unintentional plagiarismC the failure to cite your source for an idea or a factC is still plagiarism.  The penalty for plagiarism is an F on the paper and notification of the Registrar=s office that you are guilty of cheating.  BE CAREFUL!  Students found to have cheated twice are expelled from the College!


4.  Never write out your paper in English and then try to translate it into French.  This invariably leads to awkward and incorrect sentences, and can even disintegrate into gibberish as you try to translate complex ideas word for word.  Write even your first draft in French.  This will help you spot quickly those ideas you have which are (in English) too complex for your level of French.  If you cannot figure out how to say what you want in French, try (1) paraphrasing it in another way with words/phrases you do know, and (2) breaking the complex idea down into its constituent parts.  When you get stuck for a phrase, look it up in a GOOD French or French-English dictionary.  Read the entire entry in the dictionary to be sure you get the exact phrase you want.



Stylistic considerations


1.  Direct quotations from either the text you are studying or other sources should be indented from the left margin if over 4 lines and no quotation marks should be used.  Quotations shorter than four lines should have either French (<<    >>) or English ("    ") quotation marks and are not set off from the rest of the text.




(Less than 4 lines)  Comme Louis XIV a dit: << L'état, c'est moi.>>


(More than four lines)   Dans Virgile, non, Monique Wittig a bien dit:


La compréhension après un long exercice va au-delà des

accidents subis et travaille aux moyens disponibles pour arrêter

ici et maintenant le procès en cours.  Le malheur qu'on veut

faire cesser n'arme-t-il pas (p. 35)?


You should not alter in any way a direct quotation.  Thus, when quoting directly from an English source, you must leave the quotation itself in the original English, and not try to translate it.


2.  Indirect quotations or paraphrases must be clearly marked as such, and must not be intermingled with your own ideas in a way that makes it hard to tell whose ideas they are.  Paraphrases from English sources should be in French.  The best way to do this is the introduce the paraphrase with the name of the author, and end it with either a footnote or a text citation (see below for forms of this).


Examples:  Selon Vosteen, les oeuvres de Daumal servent de transition entre le fantastique du 19e siècle et la perte de foi du 20e. 


Comme Simone de Beauvoir le montre bien, la femme est l'Autre pour l'homme, et non le contraire.  (Deuxième Sexe, introduction)


3.  Two common flaws in French term papers are (a) a lack of proper organization and transitions, and (b) failure to maintain a consistent use of verb tenses.  Your opening paragraph(s) should make clear what it is you want to demonstrate in your paper (your thesis) and the various steps you will take to demonstrate it, so your reader has a clear idea of where you plan to go. 


 (a) Conjunctions and transitions help to show the relationships between different ideas.  Such useful terms as those listed below (among others) can smooth the way:


néanmoins = however

bien que, quoique (+ subjonctif) = although

d'abord...puis...ensuite...enfin =

jusqu'à (+ nom) ou jusqu'à ce que (+ subjonctif) = until

je vais montrer = I am going to show

par contre = on the other hand

d'un côté .... de l'autre côté = on one side...on the other side

selon = according to

ainsi, donc = thus, therefore

en conclusion

on voit que = we see that

il est évident que


(b)  The major errors in verb tenses include:  (1) use of the present for events in the past or future, (2) failure to use the subjunctive, and (3) incorrect use of the passive voice.  For the subjunctive and the passive, review these tenses and their uses in a reference grammar before writing your paper.


Formal writing permits what we might call the indefinite present when speaking of a writer's ideas, even if the writer is dead.  However, it is not acceptable for historical facts.  Consider the following example in English:


Stendhal intends the reader to identify with Mme Bovary, even as he mocks her pretentions and her inability to reconcile herself to her milieu.  He wants his character to symbolize a certain bourgeoisie of the provinces.  When he said that he was Mme Bovary, it is (was) this identification he had in mind.


Stendhal wrote in the 19th century.  The formal indefinite present is used in this paragraph to talk about his intentions, his ideas, because we assume the work still should have these effects today.  However, the underlined verbs said, was, and had must be in the past because these refer to an event which occured during his lifetime.  The phrase " is (was) this identification..." could use either tense, since this clause reverts back to Stendhal's ideas.  Finally, the whole paragraph could have been written in the past.


Citations and Bibliography


There are two reasons for citing your sources.  First, it properly gives credit to the person who wrote what you are citing.  Second, it tells the reader exactly where to go to find the full text you are referring to.  You need to cite clearly, in such a way that your reader can clearly distinguish your own ideas from those of the people you are citing.


1.  Primary sources are the actual poems, novels, or plays you are writing about.  Since normally you will be writing about one or two works in a paper, and citing them often, the usual practice is to use a parenthetical note in the text at the end of the sentence or paragraph.  .  This avoids a long string of "ibid." and "op. cit." footnotes, is clearer for the reader, and easier for the writer.  In these two examples, the writer is referring to only one work by Wittig, so it is clear in the second example that the page number is from Virgile, non:


Dans Virgile, non, nous nous trouvons dans un enfer peuplé entièrement d'âmes damnées féminines.


Manastabal sauve Wittig de la mort, pour l'emmener ensuite aux limbes, qui se trouvent dans un bar à San Francisco.  (19)


If you are treating more than one work by an author, use a short version of the name of the work, to make clear which work you are talking about:


Wittig parfois décrit un paradis terrestre (Corps 20), et parfois un enfer terrestre.

 (Virgile 35)


2.  Secondary sources include any books, articles, electronic, audio, video or internet sources you consulted.   Modern usage tends to treat these the same as primary sources, using parenthetical textnotes.  There are many different styles for citations, which tend to be identified with different disciplines.  In literary writing, the most common styles are the MLA, the Chicago, and, for undergraduates, the Turabian.  The reference section of the library contains all these style manuals, which give numerous examples of the way to indent, punctuate, etc.  For French classes, use MLA style.   MLA style is the one I=ve used in the above examples, and you have no footnotes or endnotes unless they are explanatory and not citational.   Cite all sources with parenthetical citations within the text. 


3.  Bibliography

In most cases you list only those works consulted that you actually cite in your paper.  However, often you will have consulted other works which, while not actually quoted from or referred to in your paper, provided you with some background material.  In this class, your bibliography should include all primary and secondary sources you consulted during your research.  These are listed in alphabetical order by author, and are typed separately at the end of your paper.  Consult your style manual for details of spacing, punctuation, etc.  Do not use different style sheets for notes and bibliography -- be consistent.  Here are some examples of MLA bibliography entries.



Crowder,Diane G., "Amazons or Mothers?  Monique Wittig, Hélène Cixous and Theories of Women's Writing,"  Contemporary Literature 24.2 (1983), 117-144.



LeGuin, Ursula K. Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places. New York: Grove Press, 1989.


Web page:

Romance Language and Literatures Home Page.  1 Jan. 1997.  Dept. of Romance Langs. and Lits., U. Of Chicago. 8 July 1998.<http://humanities.uchicago. Edu/romance/> [note: the first date is the date the page was created or its last update.  The second date is the date you accessed the page.]



Boyle, Jane. ARE: Utopia.@ E-mail to Daniel J. Cahill. 21 June1997.





└──┘  Read primary text.


└──┘  Define the question you have about the text that you will try to answer.


└──┘  Break your main question down into its logical subquestions.


└──┘ Research bibliography in library and order interlibrary loans.


└──┘  Read secondary sources and take notes as answers to questions.


└──┘  Write first draft.


└──┘  Correct for organization of ideas, grammar, spelling.


└──┘  Rewrite final version with notes.


└──┘  Compile and type bibliography.


└──┘  Doublecheck spelling and grammar.


└──┘  Retype final draft as needed.


└──┘  Add cover page.