Usyd Essay Writing Guide

Guide to Essay Writing - General Format


2.0 General format

  • 2.1 Format
    You should allow margins of at least 4 cm to allow the reader to comment on your essay. Please make sure that the essay can lie flat and that the margin is accessible. Write on one side of the paper. Pages should be numbered. Your writing should be legible and typing errors should be corrected. BE KIND TO YOUR READER.
  • 2.2 Form and expression
    The essay should be presented as a continuous argument - not in note-form. In short essays, lots of sub-headings are distracting and often lead you to oversimplify your argument. Your argument should have its own shape. Paragraphs should help the reader by showing how you develop major themes from groups of sentences dealing with specific aspect of that theme.
    The argument should be clearly presented. Remember that the rules of grammar and punctuation are not arbitrary irritants: they are vital to the clear expression of an idea. For example, if a verb does not agree with its subject, your reader may easily get confused, just as he/she will not know what you're trying to saying if a sentence does not have a subject and a verb.
    Remember that, if your reader has to spend his/her time correcting rudementary grammatical and spelling errors, he/she is the less likely to be sympathetic to what you are saying. In addition, avoid empty phrases, or meaningless purple patches. You need to ask yourself all the time - what are these words saying?
    Remember that your reader will have been reading many other essays and will welcome the clear expression of an individual argument.
  • 2.3 Titles
    Italicise or underline titles of works of art and books. Use quotations marks for articles, chapter headings from books, unpublished material and theses.
  • 2.4 Quotations
    Quotatons of up to three lines should not be separated from the main text; they should be indicated by single quotation marks. Quotations of three or more lines should be separated and indented (in single-space if your essay is typed double-space). In such cases, do not use quotation marks,
    e. g.: Roberts stated that he wishes to represent 'the delight and fascination of the great pastors life and work'. However, he also painted the deep quiet space of nature; lingering where the wandering almost silent river bathes the feathery wattle-branches; sometimes on a hillside watching the sun setting over range and valley...
    These statements reveal that he was no longer as interested in the representation of urban life as he was when he first returned from England.
  • 2.5 Non-sexist Language
    Be careful not to use words in a way that implies only male experience and authority, or infers that general human types are men (for example do not automatically assume that an author or an artist is a 'he'). The 'he/she' or 's/he' form is clumsy, but when used appropriately, can be a useful corrective. Do not use they as a singular pronoun.
  • 2.6 'Apparatus' - footnotes or endnotes, bibliography list of illustrations and appendices
    There are a number of technical devices used to give authority to your interpretation, to give additional information, and to indicate the sources of your factual material, quotations, etc. These include a bibliography, appendices and footnotes. In the history of art, lists of illustrations and captions to illustrations have a particularly important role.
    This section spells out recommendations for the 'apparatus' supporting essay or thesis presentation. You do not have to follow them in every particular (e.g. you may choose the use Latinisms and to list publishers in your notes, but whatever you do you must be consistent). The golden rule is to use the 'apparatus' as an essential aid to your reader. It should therefore be immediately clear. It is worth mastering these devices as soon as possible, so that you can come to use them almost without thinking.
    Note: required forms may vary from publisher to publisher, country to country. Those recommended here are drawn from standard modern practice in Australia.

Guide to Essay Writing

Guide to Essay Writing in Art History and Theory by Professor Virginia Spate

with assistance from other members of the Department of Art History and Film Studies, University of Sydney, January 1998


1.0 Introduction

  • 1.1 General comments
  • 1.2 Writing a preliminary draft or drafts
  • 1.3 Re-writing the draft
  • 1.4 Visual material
  • 1.5 Quotations

2.0 General format

  • 2.1 Format
  • 2.2 Form and expression
  • 2.3 Titles
  • 2.4 Quotations
  • 2.5 Non-sexist language
  • 2.6 'Apparatus' - footnotes or endnotes, bibliography list of illustrations and appendices

3.0 Footnotes

  • 3.1 Footnotes, notes or endnotes
  • 3.2 Reference to footnotes/ notes
  • 3.3 Location of footnotes/ notes
  • 3.4 form of footnotes/ notes. First reference
  • 3.5 Form of footnotes/ notes subsequent references (incl. Latin abbreviations)
  • 3.6 Footnotes/notes conclusion

4.0 Bibliography

  • 4.1 Bibliography
  • 4.2 Useful Guides to special problems
  • 4.3 Abbreviations
  • 4.4 References to works of art
  • 4.5 List of illustrations and captions

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