Commonly Recognized Research Paper Conventions

by George Brosi

Only use sources explicitly attributed to a specific individual or enumerated group of individuals. Thus, do not quote, paraphrase or summarize material in a pamphlet or even a newspaper article which does not list an author or authors.

The first time you use the name of a person--an historical figure, an author or even a fictional character--employ the full name. If you have not previously referred to another person with the same last name, you may subsequently refer to that person by last name only or by first and last name. This applies regardless of gender, race, or age. This convention means that you never need to use "Ms.," "Dr." or other abbreviated titles.

Before using any abbreviations, write out all the words and put the abbreviation in parentheses immediately afterwards. For example, "The Kentucky Educational Reform Act (KERA) has many negative impacts. KERA, for example . . ."

Do not use parentheses except, as above, when introducing abbreviations and when employing parenthetical documentation.

Never use short-cuts such as "etc," or the ampersand, "&."

Write out any numbers you can convert into three or less words. For example, "one million," "seventeen," "thirty-three." On the other hand, always employ numerals to denote dates. For example, "3000 B.C.E." or "after the year, 1, the Romans . . ." "1492," "1993." Note that in academic circles B.C.E., Before the Common Era, has superseded B.C., Before Christ, as a more universally acceptable convention, world wide. When employing a numeral, utilize accompanying symbols, such as "$" and "%." When writing out the number, write out "dollars" and "percent."

Do not utilize contractions. Write out, "do not," "it is" and other pairs of words which, in informal writing, sometimes are contracted into "don't" and "it's." The apostrophe, of course, still must be employed to denote possessives.

Do not divide single words into syllables at the end of a line. However, when two words are hyphenated to denote one concept, such as "so-called," a hyphen may be used at the end of the line.

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Last updated: 25 September 1997