Essay Formats and Notes for Fantasy & Science Fiction


All papers must observe the heading conventions and word limits indicated in the syllabus.

All shorter papers, as the syllabus says, must fit on one sheet of paper, no matter what. Please adjust your font face (e.g., Times New Roman instead of Courier) and/or size (e.g., 11 instead of 12) and/or line spacing (e.g., 1.9 instead of 2) if necessary to accommodate this. Do make sure to leave decent margins and stick with what is basically double-spacing so that your discussion leader can make annotations most legibly.

All longer papers, as the syllabus says, must fit on three or four sheets of paper, no matter what. Again, please adjust the text as necessary.

(See also A Note on the Forms of Literary Argument.)


Notes in essays in papers in this course should follow these rules:

To understand these rules more clearly and to see examples of them in use, please read the rest of this page.

Quotation citations should be interlinear and parenthetical in the form "blah blah 'feh feh' (x) blah" where blah represents your words, feh represents the quoted words, and x represents the page number. Paraphrase and plot citations should also be interlinear and parenthetical (e.g., "when Robert said he needed an intimate companion (x)" or "when Victor decided to destroy the monster (x)" respectively). The vast majority of the citations in papers in this course should be of this form and require no supporting works cited footnotes if you are referring to books in our course in the editions listed on the syllabus. Interlinear, parenthetical citations do not have to be counted as words in the count you put in your header.

Works cited footnotes are needed if you are citing an edition or work not on our syllabus. When these footnotes refer to books, they should contain only the minimal bibliographic information necessary to distinguish the work from all other works. Basic bibliographic information includes at least author, title, publisher, and date.(e.g., "Rubble, Barney. The History of Rocks. Flintstone, CA: Flintstone University Press, 4004 B.C.E."). You should also provide additional information if necessary to identify the work uniquely. For example, if, like Frankenstein, a book exists in more than one edition from the same press, you might need to indicate the name of the editor of the edition you are using. Works cited footnotes should be used only to provide information identifying the work cited. Citation of the footnoted work should still be interlinear and, when page-specific, parenthetical. Works cited footnotes do not have to be counted as words in the count you put in your header.

Works cited footnotes are also be needed for non-book sources. If you are making reference to a web page, the footnote should contain the author if known, the page title, the URL, and the date accessed. If you are making reference to a private communication (e.g., a discussion you had with a professor in her office) or to a lecture (e.g., something you heard in class), the footnote should contain the name of the speaker, the type of communication, the place, and the date (e.g., "Bigdome, Nigel. Private communication. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, dd/mm/yyyy" or "Einstein, George. Lecture. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, dd/mm/yyyy"). Again, make the specific references in the text using as little parenthetical information as possible while still making the basic distinguishing facts clear. For example, if you are referring to the whole to a web page about Mary Shelley and it is the only web page you are using in your essay, you should have the works cited footnote and your text might not even have a parenthetical citation (e.g., "blah blah, according to at least one web source."). More commonly, you will find it clearer and more elegant to use a parenthetical citation (e.g., "blah blah (Smith)" or "blah blah (Title)" using the former where an author is known and the latter if only a web page title but no web page author is known.

In all cases of citation, if it can be done elegantly, it is best to make your citations interlinear and, ideally, make the source of the citation known in your text (e.g., "As Rubble says, 'feh feh' (x)."). If you cannot make the source known in your text itself, add it to the parenthetical reference (e.g., "blah blah blah (Rubble x) blah"). If you have two works by the same author, whether footnoted or not, and you cannot elegantly distinguish them in your own text, do so by a short form of the title in your parentheses (e.g., "Hawthorne blah blah flower imagery blah 'feh' ("Rappaccini" x) and also 'feh feh' ("Heidegger" x)" referring to two stories by Hawthorne, "Rappaccin's Daughter" and "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment"). If you need to provide the author and the title parenthetically, do so (e.g., "blah blah the passion for science 'feh feh' (Hawthorne, "Artist" x) and blah blah (Poe, "Valdemar" x)."). Words used in your main text (e.g., "As Rubble says") are to be counted as words in the word count you put in your header; words used in parenthetical citations, including the name of an author and the short form of a title, are not to be counted as words in the word count you put in your header.

In this course, discursive (that is, non-works cited) footnotes are almost always inelegant. In essays this short, if something is worth saying at all, the writer probably ought to find the right place to put it in the main flow of the text. If, despite this general presumption against using discursive footnotes, you find yourself in a situation in which you believe a discursive footnote is the best way to pursue your discussion, any words contained in that footnote do count as words in the word count you put in your header.

In the above examples of citations and notes, I have stuck fairly close to what is known as MLA (for Modern Language Association) style. Beginner and advanced help with MLA style is available online and linked through our Supplmentary Materials section. In addition to MLA style, there are several other well respected citation and note styles, e.g., APA and Chicago Manual of Style style. These styles differ from each other in several points (e.g., what punctuation to use in a parenthetical citation) but all are systems for presenting all necessary information in a clean and unobtrusive way. If you feel more comfortable using a different (non-MLA) standard style, that preference is completely acceptable in this course so long as your citation and notation practices follow the bulleted rules above.

For discussion of when to use outside sources, see Using Outside Sources in Fantasy & Science Fiction.

For further information about citation format (and about writing in general), see the U-M Sweetland Writing Center Writing Resources & References page.

Copyright © 2004, 2011 Eric S. Rabkin