I am writing an introduction of about three to five thousand words for a translation of a novel. In this introduction, my goal is to explain some of the context of the novel and briefly introduce the key themes within. There have been a couple of doctoral theses about the text and some other relevant work that provides a lot of useful information, so my temptation would be to use these in the introduction and include a list of 3-5 references with the introduction. Then again, it's an introduction, not an academic paper, and I also worry whether including quotations and references might be just a bit clunky for a short introduction. I could just ask the publisher directly what they would prefer, but I wanted to get a general, community sense of best practices first.

Should I include quotations and references in an introduction?

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    It's "not an academic paper" in that I'm not submitting it to a journal. But I would still classify it as academic. The translation is being published by an academic press. I did the translation as an academic pursuit, with no financial remuneration. Similarly for the introduction, it is an academic introduction to a text that will be included in university coursework. All of this to say that your contention that this is off-topic is non-obvious to me. Could you point me to a guideline or a meta post that would support your contention?
    – Shane
    Feb 8 '16 at 18:07

I would recommend thinking about the prefatory material like the introduction to a journal special issue: it's entirely reasonable for such a work to have its own meaningful content and own set of references, even though the work as a whole is strongly dependent on the larger work to which it is attached.

I would thus recommend writing up the introduction just as you usually would, with ordinary references , etc. You can consult with the publisher to see if they want you to use a special style for references. If, for example, an explicit references section is deemed ugly by the publisher, they may still be happy with footnote-style references or abbreviated references inline with the text.

Ultimately, remember that one of your key responsibilities as an academic writer is to make sure that your reader has pointers to all of the material that they need in order to be able to interpret a work in context, whether that be through standard references (i.e., "[Whirlygig, 1987a]") or even the narrative itself (i.e., "as Whirlygig noted in their article 'On becoming very dizzy' in 1987, ...").

  • Thanks -- I agree that those responsibilities are primary and must win out in any battle with aesthetic considerations. I'll write it as you suggest and see what the publisher has to say about it.
    – Shane
    Feb 8 '16 at 18:42

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