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Writing About Literature: Documentation


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Writing about Literature: Documentation


It means acknowledging and referring to the sources from which a writer has taken information and materials from while writing a research paper. The source might be a primary one when the paper is dealing with a specific literary work or works be a certain author or it might be a secondary source when the materials referred to are of other authors who wrote on the same subject/author that the writer is writing his/her paper on. This documentation is important for two reasons: (a) to give the readers an opportunity of checking any information that he may doubt of been misinterpreted, (b) to avoid plagiarism by announcing the statements that are not of his own and are taken from other people.
Documentation could be done through one of the following ways:

• Textual documentation

Almost all the literary papers by nature are dealing with one or more literary works which means certain text or texts are been studied. Titles like "Symbolism in William Blake's Tiger" indicate that the material that is used in the paper will a poem with the mentioned title. Essays and most of the newspaper articles that deal with one single short work without suing secondary sources are using this kind of documentation which is also called informal documentation. The name of the author and the title of the work on which the paper focus on are mentioned near the beginning of the essay as well as some other references like " in the opening scene"," in act 2…"or" in the end of the play…".

Principles and guidelines

1. Titles of poems, articles, short stories are put in quotation marks while titles of plays, magazines, newspapers, and books are underlined. Quotation marks are used for titles of selections or parts of books. Using italics scripts in printed matter is the equivalent of the underlines in the manuscripts. 2. The first word and all the important words are capitalized in titles. Articles, prepositions, and conjunctions are not capitalized unless they begin the title. 3. When the first line of a poem is identically repeated there is a possibility that the poem had no title and the editor or the anthologist might have used the first line as a title, in that case the researcher may use it as a title but should not refer to it as a title. In this situation the words are written in the same way they appear in the original text. 4. No reference to page numbers should be present in the body of the discussion because a page is not a structural part of a literary work. Instead the writer may refer to paragraphs, sections, stanzas, lines, acts, or scenes. Page numbers should appear in the parenthetical documentations that will be discussed later. 5. Numerical references are used when they precede the unit they refer to while numbers are used in case they follow the unit (third stanza, fourth line, line 4 , stanza 10, etc…). Numbers are used when we refer to big numbers not to waste space and irritate the reader. Never use" in sixty-seventh and sixty-eighth lines" instead use" in lines 67-68.

• Parenthetical documentation

This kind of documentation allows fuller and more precise accrediting. In a lengthy work a phrase like" in the middle of scene 3" is not sufficient to let the reader to locate the page easily. To help the reader to get to the target text easily a page number as well as the book and the edition for which the reference is made is necessary to be clearly indicated.

Principles and guidelines

1. For the first citation from a book, give the author's name; the title of the selection; the name of the book from which it is taken; the editor (preceded by ed.) or the translator (preceded by trans.); the edition if there has been more than one; the city of publication; the publisher; the year of the publication, and the page number. 2. After the first reference, only the page number is enough for the principle primary source. If the paragraphs are numbered their number could be used instead of the page numbers. For long poems, line numbers or stanza numbers might be better to use while no line number is used for short poems. For plays in verse, citation by line number (preceded by act or scene number) is usually more useful than citation by page number. 3. Documentations for run-in quotations follow the quotation marks. The period is removed to the end of the documentation if the quotation ends with it. If it ends with the exclamation or question mark it is left in its place but a period is put after the documentation. 4. With block quotations, parenthetical documentation follows the last punctuation mark without putting any further punctuation marks at the end of the parenthesis. 5. Whenever possible one note to be used to cover a series of short quotations to avoid excessive documentation. In case of short poems, there is no need for further documentation after the first reference. Well known sayings and proverbs need no documentation as well. 6. In a formal paper all quoted materials are documented yet not only quotations need documentation. If a writer declare that a turning point in along story starts with a minor event, it may be more important for a reader to know the page number of that event than any other quotation from the story. In the similar cases judgement should be exercised to avoid over documentation of every detail of the story at the same time to avoid missing any important documentations.

• Documentation by work cited

When the secondary sources are used in the paper the writer might be asked to prepare a list of "Works Cited" that is usually located at the end of the paper on a new page. The writer should locate each instance in the paper where he/she has quoted from or paraphrased a source or where his/her ideas have been formed by reading a source. The author's last name and the page number to which the writer is indebted are indicated. If a writer is writing a paper on Emily Dickinson and one of the sources is David Porter's book The Art of Emily Dickinson's Early Poetry then the cited reference will looks like (Porter 12). If two works by the same author is cited the work for which the reference is make should be mentioned e.g. (Porter, Early Poetry 12). The key principle is to keep the parenthetical citations as brief and as clear as possible. If it happened that two authors of whom their works have been cited and they both have the same last name, the first names are used in addition to their last names. Some technical aspects are as follow: - The list should be double spaced. - Use of the proper abbreviations. e.g. "Harvard UP" for "Harvard University Press" - The use indent after the first line of an entery. - When two titles are by the same author, the second and any subsequent listings of the author's name should be replaced by a straight line.

• Documentation of Electronic Sources

Since much of what is available on the internet is uncredited of incorrect many instructors do not encourage and sometimes even do not permit using electronic sources taken from the net. However if it is allowed to be used, the sources are cited in the paper as parenthetical references and then included in the list of Works Cited. Examples include personal websites; online books; magazines; and newspapers. Unlike textual sources which usually clearly state author, title, date of publication, and publisher, electronic sources may not provide such information. The parenthetical citation normally will include the name of the author and the page number. If the source is not paginated the name of the author will suffice. Paragraph, sections, or screen numbers are used after the author's names are used if available. In the list of Works Cited, Internet sources should include both the date of the electronic publication (if available) and the date in which the source was accessed by the writer and should also include the URL. An e.g. is :

Gray, Wallace. "James Joyce's Dubliners: An Introduction by Wallace Gray." World Wide Dubliners by James Joyce. Ed. Roger B. Blumberg and Wallace Gray. 1977. Brown U. 5 Sep. 2004

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