SOAS University of London

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Independent Study Project guidelines


These guidelines provide you with specific information on the use of sources, referencing and citation for ISPs in the Faculty of Languages and Cultures, which are likely to include a certain amount of foreign language data and material.

General information about ISPs is available in the UG Handbook (Section: Code of Practice: Independent Study Project), and you are strongly advised to consult these.

You are also encouraged to make use of the support for essay and ISP writing available from Learning and Teaching Development. The LTD offers on-line help, workshops and one-to-one tutorials which cover many aspects of academic writing relevant for ISPs.

Please also note that some departments or programmes have more specific ISP guidelines. In case of doubt, always follow the more specific guidelines.

Sources and referencing

Usage and amount of references

Select an appropriate amount of references for your ISP, so that the research is well founded, more is better than less. Although no clear numbers as to how many sources should be used can be given, it is vital that the paper is not based upon a few works only. When in doubt, please contact your supervisors with your list of references as early as possible.

All works cited in the text should appear on the list of references. Works that are not cited should not be listed in the bibliography. It is important that quotations in the text, and information in the bibliography are formatted to the appropriate academic standard. Please see the referencing guidelines issued by Learning and Teaching Development.

Usage of foreign language sources

The ISP is also about showing how well you can deal with foreign language material. Although no clear quota can be given – as it depends on the topic – a sustained use should normally be made of a substantial amount of foreign language materials and sources and the materials from both languages should be referenced in the text and relevant to the argument. When in doubt, please contact your supervisor.

Usage of internet sources

In general, published sources such as books and academic articles are the more reliable source of information and to be preferred over internet sources.

Use ONLY reliable internet sources, such as governmental or institutional websites (e.g. the UN, EU, Amnesty International, University websites, papers written and posted by academics).

Wikipedia, other similar reference sites as well as blogs or chat rooms ARE NOT to be used in an ISP. This is because Wikis and blogs are sometimes deliberately inaccurate. If you find relevant information on an unreliable website, check this information in a reliable source, and use this as a reference.

HOWEVER: It is acceptable to make use of Wikipedia or any ‘popular site’ IF these are the OBJECT of analysis and NOT a source of information (e.g. an ISP on the usage of language in relation to emoticons in blogs or chat fora would naturally need to refer to the webpages in question). Nevertheless, even such an ISP does need to make use of books in order to introduce the topic and give it a theoretical backing. It should not consist of the analysis of the webpages only.

If you do need to quote from the internet, make sure that the day you last accessed that particular site appears in the list of references, since the internet is not a reliable medium when it comes to permanent access to information, even governments and NGOs update their homepages and delete documents.

It is better to print out anything you might want to use immediately because it could be deleted as you progress with your ISP. In addition, having a hard copy also means that you can show it to your supervisor upon request.


Citations in text

To avoid plagiarism issues, all direct and indirect quotes should be made clear in the text, either by inserting the reference in brackets in the texts or in a footnote.

PLEASE NOTE: Even referring to somebody’s ideas, or information taken out of a book needs to be properly referenced. ISPs will receive a lower mark when they are poorly referenced even if the research was original.

Please avoid ‘ibid.’ when you refer to a text you have quoted before. Although it is still widely used in academic texts, it is very confusing for your audience. Instead, please repeat the name of the author, the name and the page number (e.g. Smith 1999: 12). Please also refer to the guidelines of Learning and Teaching Development.

References from non-English texts

Indirect references can be treated like English sources. Direct quotes should be translated into English. If no official translation exists, your own translations can be used, but you should highlight them as such by inserting ‘my translation’ or ‘translation by the author’ in brackets behind the quote (e.g. Yamada 2006: 12, my translation).

Some useful hints concerning format and presentation (a digest from LTD)

  • An ISP should be printed double-spaced, using clear fonts such as Times New Roman (nothing fancy or funny!)
  • You may use non-Roman script, but a transcription also needs to be given. Any non-English word that is not self-explanatory or firmly located in the English language needs to be written in italics and be glossed or explained.


General appearance

An ISP should have:
  1. A cover sheet containing title of the ISP, your name, student ID, degree, the date of submission and the word count.
  2. As submission of the ISP is now through Moodle, the plagiarism declaration will be contained on the submission link and so students must select the tick box to show that they have read and agreed to the School's declaration on plagiarism.
  3. A table of contents (if applicable):
    Please do try to structure your ISP along numbered sections; it makes it a lot easier for you to write, because it helps you structure your thoughts – and it also makes it easier for your examiners to read it and follow your train of thought. Please make sure that your ISP has page numbers. Your table of contents should have the page number for each section correctly. The table of contents should also include the bibliography and any appendices of your ISP.
  4. The actual text of your ISP, which should be no longer that 10,000 words, “including footnotes, but excluding captions, bibliography and appendices of original source materials not written by the candidate.” (Code of Practice: ISP, p. 4) There is no specific penalty for work that is under-length. Under-length work is dealt with by the normal provisions of the marking scheme.
  5. Bibliography: should contain all works cited in your ISP and none that you have not used. It needs to be sorted alphabetically, online sources without a clear author need to be listed separately. Please make sure that your reference and citation style is consistent, and follows an accepted style format (such as the Harvard reference style). Reference to works in non-Roman script should include Romanisation. Please note that poor referencing will result in a reduction of the mark, so please make sure you reference properly.
  6. Appendices: Anything that is unavailable to your examiners, or texts that you wish to analyse more profoundly, plot synopses of films, dramas… anything that is vital to the understanding of your ISP can be put in an appendix – IF you are referring to it in your actual text. Please make sure there are appropriate references in your main body, this is to avoid that your ISP appears as consisting of two parts.

If you are unsure about how to reference, please refer to the information provided by Learning and Teaching Development on their Study Skills webpage.