Writing Guidelines

The Department of Geography, Planning and Recreation at Northern Arizona University has adopted the following guidelines for the writing of class paper by students in geography and planning courses and theses and practicums written by graduate students. 

These guidelines take precedence over any other writing guidelines students may have picked up elsewhere on or off the NAU campus.


1. Put references in your text immediately after the first sentence in which the references is cited. Do Not put references at the end of the paragraph in which it is cited.

2. Proper reference format within the text is: (Lastname 1999: Page#) -- where Lastname=the author's last name, 1999=year of publication 
- if you are citing a direct quote or data, you must include a : [colon] after the year, followed by the Page Number(s) from which the quote came. Otherwise, the page number(s) is optional.

3. Put references before the final period in the sentence. An example of a proper use of in text references is: 
... and the population reach 55,000 in 1995 (Wright 1996: 337).

4. Always cite the reference source for information you obtained from somewhere other than your own mind. To not do this is Plagiarism. If several contiguous sentences, or an entire paragraph, of information comes from the same source, you need only reference it once in that paragraph.

5. "References Cited" should be used instead of "Bibliography" at the end of your papers.

6. The proper format for References Cited is:

Lastname, Firstname. Year. Book Title. CityPublishedIn: Publisher. 
Lastname, Firstname. Year. Chapter Title. In Book Title, ed. Firstname Lastname, pp.#-##. CityPublishedIn: Publisher. 
e.g. -- Smith, John P. 1556. Introduction. In T.C. Barnwood, ed., Geographies, pp. 3-12, London: Cheshire. 
Lastname, Firstname. Year. Article Title. Journal Title Vol#(Issue#):Page##-##. 
e.g. -- Smith, John, and Harney, Percy. 1910. New Discoveries in South America. Geography 12(3):56-61. 

See any recent issue of the Annals of the Association of American Geographers for variations on different types of sources.

Electronic media citations - Including the WWW, E-Mail and CDRoms

In general, the proper format for citing a website is:

Author. Year. Title of Article. Title of Webpage, http://fullURL.., accessed Day Month Year. 

  • Example: Wikipedia. 2006. Tourism Geography. Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tourism_geography, accessed 8 November 2006. 
  • Author could be person, if one is cited somewhere, or an association or company that owns or sponsors the website.
  • Year is the year that the website material was published or posted, if that information is available. If it is not available, then use the year that you last accessed the website.
  • Title of Article or story, if there is one. Skip this if there is no specific title for what you are citing other than the name of the webpage.
  • Title of the Webpage -- hopefully you can at least find this.
  • Full URL - people should be able to copy the URL, paste it into a browser and immediately go to the webpage that you are citing. Note that if you found the page through a search, there may be a lot of supplemental material included in the URL. You might try stripping the URL of question marks and try to find the core URL that will still get someone to the reference.
  • Date Accessed - the date of the last time you successfully accessed this webpage.

Here are some related guidelines: 

Page formatting

7. Always use page numbers for papers that are more than one page in length. The preferred location is in the middle bottom of the page. (This allows consistency when printing or photocopy back to back.)

8. Unless you are told otherwise, 1.5 line spacing is preferred for most class papers. Double (2.0) line spacing may be preferred for Theses (check with your chair). - NEVER turn in a paper single spaced.

9. Always put Two Spaces between sentences when typing on a typewriter or computer/word processor.

10. Direct quotes that extend beyond two page lines in length must be indented on both sides and single spaced.

Abbreviations and contractions

11. Avoid using "etc." or "et cetera..." - you should not assume your reader knows what you mean, and it is a sign of lazy thinking.

12. "e.g." means "For example" or "Such as" - an example of proper use is: ... many western states are in the Sunbelt (e.g., Arizona, Nevada and California). 
"i.e." means "That is" - an example of proper use is: He was not wrong (i.e., he was correct) to say ....

13. The Possessive if "It" is "Its" -- NO Apostrophe. "It's" (with an apostrophe) means "it is" 
- other possesives include "his" and "hers"

14. Do Not use Contractions in formal papers. For example: use "Do Not" instead of "Don't" and use "Is Not" instead of "Isn't"

Grammar and usage

15. The plural of a year does Not use an apostrophe. "1990s" is Correct; "1990's" may be widely used, but it is Wrong.

16. Avoid separating two words with a slash "/" - in most cases a simple "and" will do. 
--- Also Do Not use "and/or" - in most cases a simple "and" will do.

17. "There" = location (There it is.) 
"Their" = possessive (it belongs to them) 
"They're" = contraction of "They are"

18. It is preferable to use "that" instead of "which" whenever possible. Use "which" only when the word "that" is too awkward.

19. Do not end a sentence with a preposition (common prepositions include: of, by, with, at, in, on, to, for, between, from, and through.)

20. USE YOUR SPELL CHECKER - if you are using a word processor

21. USE YOUR GRAMMAR CHECKER - if your word processor has one (and most do these days)

More writing tips