🧭 The Guide
SUNY Geneseo’s Writing Guide

Research and Writing

The meaning of the term research is not the same for all academic disciplines. Nor do the various disciplines adhere to one set of conventions for using and referring to research in written work. If you are expected to incorporate research in a writing assignment, you should begin by visiting the Writing in a Discipline page of The Guide, or by selecting the department of your professor from the drop down list in the navigation bar at left.

At Geneseo, Milne Library has a multitude of resources that will help you with research, including indexes of periodical articles, catalogues of other libraries and government resources, databases, and internet search tools. You can access much of this information from the Library’s website. If you have a question, you should never hesitate to ask one of the reference librarians for help.


According to the SUNY Geneseo Undergraduate Bulletin:

Plagiarism is the representation of someone else’s words or ideas as one’s own, or the arrangement of someone else’s material(s) as one’s own. Such misrepresentation may be sufficient grounds for a student’s receiving a grade of E for the paper or presentation involved or may result in an E being assigned as the final grade for the course.

Any one of the following constitutes evidence of plagiarism:

  • direct quotation without identifying punctuation and citation of source;
  • paraphrase of expression or thought without proper attribution;
  • unacknowledged dependence upon a source in plan, organization, or argument.

Writers should note that even a borrowed idea will be considered plagiarized unless the source of that idea is appropriately noted in the paper.

Writers who cite sources properly draw attention to the original ideas in their essays. When you distinguish your thinking from that of a critic or researcher, your professor will be able to give you the appropriate credit for your work.

Proper handling of quotations

Writers in different disciplines quote other writers for various purposes. Make sure you understand the purpose of quoting for the discipline in which you are writing.

No essay in any discipline should include too many quotations. Even in papers in the Humanities disciplines, whose purpose might be textual analysis, writers must make sure that their original analysis dominates their essays. In such essays, direct quotation should make up no more than 10–15% of a paper.

Select quotations carefully. Only quote passages whose specific wording is absolutely necessary to convey your point. Otherwise, paraphrase your source, including the same citation information you would include with a direct quotation.

Punctuating quotations

In American usage, brief quotations are marked by double quotation marks. Quotations within quotations are marked by single quotation marks. Line-level punctuation (period or comma) goes inside the quotation marks unless the quotation is followed by parentheses. Then the punctuation follows the closing parenthesis. Note the following examples:

Zora Neal Hurston explains the relationship of self and place in the introduction to her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, “Like the dead-seeming, cold rocks, I have memories within that came out of the material that went to make me” (28).

Fielding satirizes the hypocritical intellectualism of the clergy through the utterances of Parson Barnabas in Joseph Andrews. Pushed for an explanation of spiritual requirements by Joseph, who believes he will die shortly, Barnabas defines by tautology: “Joseph desired to know what [Christian] forgiveness was. ‘That is,’ answered Barnabas, ‘to forgive them as—as—it is to forgive them as—in short, it is to forgive them as a Christian’” (Fielding, 49).

If you include a lengthy quotation in a paper (a general rule is more than four lines of prose), set it off in a double-spaced block, 10 spaces (approximately one inch) from the left margin. Do not put the quotation in quotation marks. The indentation tells the reader that this is a quotation. With blocked quotations, the parenthetical citation follows the period at the end of the quotation.

In her “Author’s Introduction” to Frankenstein, Mary Shelley pondered Lord Byron’s proposal that the four friends each write a ghost story:

I busied myself to think of a story—a story to rival those which had excited us to this task.One which would speak to the mysterious fears ofour nature and awaken thrilling horror—one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdlethe blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart. (ix)

Introducing quotations

Include a signal phrase or tag line to introduce a quotation to your reader. It is not sufficient simply to include the citation after the quotation. Quotations without introductions are called “dropped quotations.” Note the following examples:

  • Dropped quotation: Many readers are frustrated by reading Dante’s Inferno. “The great Christian epic is a flabbergasting work, crazily methodical, both sublime and grotesque, cruel, dismaying, a work that bursts the usual moral and literary categories” (Denby, Great Books, 229).
  • Revised: Many readers are frustrated by reading Dante’s Inferno. When David Denby returned to Columbia to take “Great Books” again, he observed, “The great Christian epic is a flabbergasting work, crazily methodical, both sublime and grotesque, cruel, dismaying, a work that bursts the usual moral and literary categories” (Denby, Great Books, 229).