Usyd Writing History Essay

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

Guide to Essay Writing - Footnotes


3.0 Footnotes

  • 3.1 Footnotes, notes or endnotes
    As a rule-of-thumb one could say that, although footnotes or notes are necessary, your interpretation should be able to stand without them. Thus, you should not carry on your main argument in footnotes. Generally speaking footnotes should be used to back up the argument by giving sources. Occasionally they can be used to present subsidiary arguments or useful details which would clutter your main argument.
    Appendices can be useful in presenting a detailed argument the 'result' of which you can use in your text, (e.g. a complex argument about the disputed dating of a specific work). An appendix can also be used to provide detailed information which can then be used in a summarised form in the text (e.g. an essay on women artists of the 1970s might include an appendix of lists of exhibitions with an analysis of how many male and how many female artists exhibited). Appendices are best avoided in short essays.
  • 3.2 Reference to footnotes/ notes
    When to use notes is a question of judgement. As a general rule however, you should use them to indicate the sources of:
    (i) facts which are not generally known or agreed upon
    (ii) information which cannot be taken for granted (e.g., percentages of male and female artists in exhibitions in a certain year)
    (iii) particular approaches or interpretations
    (iv) quotations
    (v) it is not necessary to footnotes facts which are generally known
  • 3.3 Location of footnotes/ notes
    Notes may be placed at the foot of the page ('footnotes') or at the end of an essay ('notes' or 'endnotes'). If you are writing a thesis of several chapters, place the notes at the end of the thesis, not at the end of a chapter (they can be difficult to find). If you have a great number of notes located together at the end of a long essay or thesis, it helps your reader if you indicate the pages or chapters to which they refer at the top of the page.
    The most convenient reference to a note is numerical. The number should generally be placed at the end of a sentence or, if necessary to be very specific, at a break in the sentence (e.g. at a comma, a semi-colon or brackets.)
    1. 'New Painting', exn cat., John Smith Gallery, London, 1-3 May, 1912
    2. Not to be confused with Stampnich
    3. Collected Works, London, 1980
  • 3.4 form of footnotes/ notes. First reference
    The first time you refer to a source you must give all bibliographic details. Subsequent references must be shortened.
    Author's full name (or that of editor or compiler). In notes, the first name and/or initials precedes surnames. In a bibliography the surname comes first.
    Complete title of book (exactly as given on title page, underlined or italicised)
    Name of translator if any
    Edition, if other than the first
    Number of volumes
    Where published
    Date of publication (you can, if it is relevant, refer to the date of the first edition)
    Volume number, if any
    Page number(s) of particular citation
    It is not necessary to list the publisher; if you do, be consistent and list the publisher for every entry.
    Ludmilla Vachtova, Frank Kupka, London, 1967, 13-17*
    *Sometimes you will find that the page reference is indicated by p. (page) or pp. (pages). Today, however, the tendency is simplified and the 'p' is often omitted.
    Benedict Nicolson, Joseph Wright of Derby: Painter of Light, 2 vols, London, 1968, I, 95
    Bernard Smith, Australian Painting 1788-1970, 2nd ed., Melbourne, 1971, 170
    Periodicals, poems, chapters of books, essays and articles in collections, the rule is to use quotation marks when citing a reference that is part of a whole (an article is part of a journal; a chapter is part of a book, etc).
    Author's full name (as with books)
    Title of article (in quotation marks)
    Name of the periodical (underline)
    Volume number (if necessary)
    Date of the issue
    Page number(s) of the particular citation
    Marianne W. Martin, 'Futurism, and Apollinaire, Art Journal, Spring 1979, 256
    It is not necessary to give volume and issue numbers when a month and year are sufficient to identify the source. But one has to be careful of some northern hemisphere journals which use the seasons - which, of course, are different from ours.
    Poems, chapters of books, essays and articles in collections
    The same form applies as for articles.
    1)Guillaume Apollinare, 'Zone', Oeuvres Poetiques, Paris 1962, 149; first published in Les Soirees de Paris, Nov. 1912, 24
    2)Guillaume Apollinaire, 'Modern Painting', Apollinaire on Art: Essays, ed. Leroy C. Breunig, trans. Susan Sulleiman, London 1972; first published as 'La Peinture moderne, Der Sturm, Feb. 1913, 2-3
    Exhibition catalogues
    Title of exhibition catalogue
    Museum/gallery or other location
    City and date
    Page reference
    Example: Fernand Leger, exh. cat., Musee des Arts decoratifs, Paris 1971, 65
    The authors of a catalogue used not to be listed; today they are:
    Example:Meda Mladek and Margit Rowell, Frantisek Kupka. 1871-1957. A Retrospective, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1975, 64
    Authors full name
    Title of thesis
    Type of thesis
    University or College
    Date of thesis
    Example: Lindsay Errington, Social and Religious Themes in English Art 1840-1860, Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1973
    Since this entry is unpublished, the title is neither underlined nor given quotation marks.
  • 3.5 Form of footnotes/notes: Subsequent references (incl. Latin abbreviations)
    After the first full reference to a book, article, etc., subsequent references should be shortened. Enough information should be given to allow easy identification. For example:
    5. Fernand Leger, exh. cat., Musee des Arts decoratifs (Paris, 1971), 65
    6. Ludmilla Vachtova, Frank Kupka, London 1967, 13-17
    7. Vachtova, Kupka, 75
    8. Marianne W. Martin, 'Futurism, Unanimism and Apollinaire, Art Journal, Spring 1979, 256
    9. Martin, 'Futurism, Unanimism and Apollinaire', 268
    10. Ibid., 270 (if same page, Idem can be used)
    Avoid using the Latin abbreviations 'op.cit.' or 'loc. cit'. Students almost invariably use them incorrectly. A shortened authors name and shortened title immediately gives the reader the unambiguous information that is required. 'Ibid' and 'idem' are more useful, but should be used only when the preceding note to which they refer is immediately visible - it is irritating if the reader has to search through the preceding pages to find the relevant note.
    You do, however, need to recognise what these words signify as you will encounter them - particularly in older texts:
    'ibid.' (Latin, ibidem = 'in the same place'); used when references to the same work follow one another (as in n. 10 above). A page reference is necessary. 'idem' (Latin = 'the same'); used to refer to the same reference and same page number (as in n. 10 above).
    'op. cit.' (Latin, opere citato = 'in the work cited'); used to refer to an already cited book.
    'loc. cit.' (Latin, loco citato = 'in the place cited'); as with op. cit. but used for the location of an article, poem, etc., in a book or journal.
  • 3.6 Footnotes/endnotes conclusion
    There are other more detailed conventions of usage, but the above information provides a basic guide. Remember that the conventions of footnotes are not designed simply to be irritating to the writer, but are a common language which will provide the reader with everything needed to locate your reference. It is worth mastering these conventions as soon as you can, as you can then relax and need not check up every time you make a note. Examiners or markers can become extremely irritated if they are not used correctly and may even give the essay back to you, reserving the mark until you have corrected them.

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