Topic outline

  • Welcome to the SED Writing and Reference Guide. Here we aim to provide you with the information you need to develop your writing and referencing skills. 

    [images: Liber fortunae, also known as Experimentarius. Bodleian library; debbie tucker green, Ear for Eye (Royal Court), photo: Stephen Cummiskey); Dickie Beau, Re-Member Me (Arts Centre Melbourne); Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African. Written by Himself (London: Printed for and sold by the Author, (1789)]

  • Writing Support Sessions for Students in the English Department

    Michael Wheare  is the Writing Support Tutor for English students. In this section you can book an informal online 1-1 session with him in which you can get help and advice with any aspect of your academic writing. Alternatively, you can email Michael directly ( with your essay questions.

    He also runs online Workshops on specific skills like referencing, or using quotations, and online Writing Sessions which focus on practical productivity and supporting you to get more writing done.  

    **Writing Support - Summer 2024 - Dissertations, Resits and Late Submissions**

    Online 1-1s are currently available. 
    Email to arrange an appointment.

  • QM Library: Academic Skills Enhancement

    Queen Mary Library Academic Skills Enhancement offers a range of support for students in developing the skills they need to excel at university:

  • Referencing

    The School of English and Drama uses a version of the MHRA (Modern Humanities Research Association) Style Guide for referencing. In this section you can find the latest version of the SED Quick Reference Style Sheet and – following student feedback – the SED Expanded Reference Guide and the SED Quick Reference Guide for theatre, television, social media etc.

    We have also developed an interactive tutorial for referencing – the Citation Online Tutorial (COLT).

    If you want to access the full MHRA Style Guide, it is available to download here.

    Cite Them Right Online contains clear guidance on the MHRA referencing style 

      • You can choose a source to reference from a drop-down menu or by using the search facility
      • Cite Them Right Online shows you how to create the reference in the style you need
      • There are examples to copy, and a 'You try' box so you can build your reference on screen
      • You can check these against a correct example
      • You can then export the prepared reference straight into your coursework
  • Language and expression

    There are a number of resources on the web and in the library that can help you avoid common spelling and grammatical errors in your writing and help you strike an effective academic tone. We've collected a number of useful websites and other resources, which can be found below. See especially the QMUL resource, Academic English Online for help with grammar, punctuation, coherence and cohesion. Remember though, that resources from outside the School of English and Drama abide by different style and referencing guidelines; make sure to always use the SED Style Sheet and related guides (Expanded Style Guide and advice on referencing theatre etc.) when referencing and formatting your work.

    QMUL also has three Royal Literary Fund (RLF) Fellows who are able to work one-to-one with anyone who would like help with their writing. For more information see our page below.

  • Paragraphs

    Paragraphs are important to your essays; they structure your arguments and help orientate the reader.

    QMUL's web resource Academic English Online has some excellent guidance on paragraphs.

  • Laying out and submitting your essays

    During your time studying in SED, your essays will need to be formatted and submitted in a particular way. Most professional organisations have these sorts of requirements that writers need to satisfy if their work is going to be accepted. Ignoring some requirements, such as word limits, can lead to your work being penalised. 

    Aim to make your work as clear and readable as possible.  We have produced a one-page printable check list that you can use before you submit your essays, to ensure that you are following all the requirements (e.g. what font size and spacing to use) -- see below. 

    Every assignment submission page has instructions on submitting your work and there is further advice in the Student Handbook.

  • More advice on writing essays

    This section brings together ideas to help you improve your essays in terms of answering the question; constructing arguments; writing clearly and effectively; and using quotation effectively. 

  • Turnitin Reports -- Test Your Assignments before Submission

    In line with schools across the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, the School of English and Drama facilitates three assignment submission points for Turnitin testing. This enables you to upload a file and preview the kind of Turnitin report that will be generated for the teaching staff marking your work. 

    Turnitin is a digital portal that many educational institutions deploy (among other reasons) to detect plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct in student coursework submissions. All the coursework assignments you upload to QMplus are already processed through Turnitin. The most visible response that Turnitin makes to your file submission is to return an 'originality index score' out of 100% (with a marked up copy of your text) for assessors to consider. The higher the originality index score, the more matches Turnitin has found between your file and other material in its database repository.

    In the School of English and Drama, all academic staff marking coursework are expected to review their class's originality index scores, and to pay particular attention to unusually high scores (or any other irregularities that emerge).

    SED cannot provide any guidance about what constitutes a high or low originality index score: this is always a matter of contextual interpretation, and depends on the kind of coursework that has been set. A close-reading exercise, for example, that quotes repeatedly from literary sources, will normally receive a much higher originality index score than a piece of creative or reflective writing containing no quotations or bibliographical references. This does not mean that the former is more likely (or the latter, less likely) to have been plagiarised or referred for an investigation into potential academic misconduct.

    You can read more about Turnitin in the School handbook for students on taught programmes.

    A few observations / rules before you get started:

    1. There is no requirement for any student ever to use this Turnitin test faciliity.
    2. Make sure you know why you're using this Turnitin test facility before starting to do so. Learning your Turnitin originality index score will normally make little or no difference to how you prepare your text for submission. 
    3. Turnitin is simply a computer database that compares your uploaded file with material in its repository to look for text that matches in both locations. The reports that Turnitin generates always require  critical interpretation.
    4. The Turnitin repository contains (a) digital texts that you can readily find elsewhere on the internet; (b) published works that are not freely available online (but are usually behind paywalls); (c) student submissions from previous years at QMUL; (d) student submissions from most other institutions that deploy Turnitin. Turnitin is also increasingly looking to incorporate methods for detecting text created by artificial intelligence (AI) such as the Chat GPT large language model.
    5. If your written work is all your own, and your citations are thorough / honest, you have nothing about which to be concerned in relation to academic misconduct.
    6. A high score does not mean your work is plagiarised: it may simply indicate that you have included lots of quotations and bibliographical references that can be matched elsewhere. There's not necessarily anything you need to worry about in this instance.
    7. If your Turnitin score is low, but your written work contains plagiarised or poorly cited material, you may still face an academic misconduct investigation. Turnitin is only one evidence base of several that may be considered in relation to academic misconduct. 
    8. Turnitin reads ALL the text in your assignment file, including the coversheet. This means that short assignments typically attract high Turnitin scores, because in such instances the text of the coversheet forms a relatively high proportion of the total words that Turnitin processes. 
    9. This is a self-service facility with no routine support available to help you interpret your Turnitin report.
    10. Turnitin may help you to identify instances in your work where your citations are missing or insufficient. You can use that information to improve your coursework before submission. However we encourage you to use the resources available elsewhere on this QMplus page to understand and learn more about how to prepare writing to a high scholarly standard.