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A Student Guide: How to Reference for A Level Coursework

The below guide as to how to write references for A Level coursework uses the MLA citation style. This is of course not the only citation style and is not inherently better than others, but the key is to be consistent.

Italics Vs Quotation Marks

  • If you are citing any complete work, for example, a novel, a volume of poetry, an anthology, a film, a TV series, a play, or a newspaper then you should cite that text using italics.
  • For example, The Great Gatsby, The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Spring and All, Death of a Salesman, Hamlet, The Guardian, The Wire, Game of Thrones, Forrest Gump.
  • But, if you are citing a work that is contained within another work, for example an individual poem, a television episode, an essay, a journal article, or a short story then you cite that using single quotation marks.
  • For example, ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’, ‘The Death of an Author’, ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’, ‘Sonnet 101’, ‘The One with the Candy Hearts’, ‘In the Penal Colony’.
  • However, not every poem goes in quotation marks. It just depends if it was published within a volume or as a self-contained entity. For example, The Waste Land is in italics because it was published in book form. Paradise Lost is also in italics because it is a self-contained book and was not published within another work.
  • Also, if a poem is titled the same as the volume that doesn’t matter. You would write: ‘Spring and All’ is contained within Spring and All.
  • Finally, what do you do if a complete work is contained with a larger work, for example an anthology?
  • For example, Death of a Salesman is contained within The Norton of American Literature.
  • You need to go back to the original publication: Death of a Salesman was originally published as a self-contained work so it will always be in italics
  • It doesn’t matter if Hamlet or The Waste Land is in an anthology; they will never be ‘Hamlet’ or ‘The Waste Land’.

Double Spaces

  • Always double space
  • Everything, other than footnotes, must be double spaced
  • How to double space: highlight the text, right click, go to paragraph, go to line spacing, click on the drop down box and choose double.

Quotation Marks

  • When quoting something, always use single quotation marks
  • Double quotation marks are the American version
  • So, ‘The Waste Land is amazing’ not “The Waste Land is amazing”.
  • The latter is tantamount to writing color instead of colour
  • If you are quoting within a quotation then you can use double marks. For example, Just above the writer wrote ‘According to Bob, The Waste Land is “an amazing poem that changed the tone of poetry forever”’.

How to Cite within an Essay

  • It is essential that any work that you make use of within the essay is cited appropriately and accurately.
  • You are using the MLA style, which means you do not cite with footnotes, but rather parenthetically.
  • Footnotes can still be used in your essay, but they would be discursive, which means they can add information that is relevant, but does not fit in the main body of the essay. Do this sparingly.
  • So, each time you quote from any text, whether it is the primary text or an article, you insert a page reference in brackets next to that quotation
  • For example: When Faulkner writes that the sun was ‘glistening’ (106) he accentuates its beauty.
  • If you are analysing one specific passage and quoting from it frequently within a short space in your essay then just reference the final quotation. For example, When Faulkner writes that the sun was ‘glistening’ and that it was like a ‘jewel’, which had been ‘pocketed in the sky’ (106) he accentuates its beauty.
  • If it is not clear where the quotation is from either because you do not state the writer in the main body or because you reference more than one text from that writer include this information parenthetically. For example, just as the sun was ‘glistening’ (Faulkner 106) so too Eliot describes the moon as ‘shining’ (334).
  • The idea is that a reader would be able to look at your quotation and know the author and text (both usually evident in the main body of the essay) and also page number (cited parenthetically) and then look at the relevant entry in the bibliography and as such find the full and precise reference.

How to Write a Bibliography

  • The bibliography is a complete list of all sources that you have referenced throughout the essay and it comes at the end of the essay
  • Surname, forename. Title of text including editor if relevant. (Place of publication: publisher, date). This is for anything other than a journal article.
  • For example, Emerson, Ralph Waldo. The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson ed. by Alfred R. Ferguson et al. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971)
  • Frost, Robert. ‘The Pasture’, Frost: Collected Poems, Prose, & Plays, ed. by Richard Poirier & Mark Richardson (New York: Library of America, 1995)
  • Eliot, TS. ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, The Complete Poems & Plays, (London: Faber & Faber, 2004)
  • Faulkner, William. Light in August. (London and New York: Vintage, 2002).
  • If you are citing a journal article then use the following format: Surname, forename. Name of article using ‘’. Name of journal using italics. Issue number. Publication date. Page numbers of the article within the journal.
  • For example: Brinkman, Barth. ‘Scrapbooking Modernism: Marianne Moore and the Making of the Modern Collage Poem’. Modernism / modernity. 18.1. (2011). 43-66.
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