Editing is easy, all you have to do is cross out
the wrong words.
Ideas to Help
with the Difficult and Scary Process of Writing
Writing and Pain – includes tips for making writing a less painful experience.
These notes cover common errors and bad habits to look out for, focusing on
careful word choice, as well as tips for grammar, metaphor, tone, structuring
OWL, a multimedia online writing lab that helps students with the writing
process, documentation, grammar, avoiding plagiarism and other topics. The lab
can be accessed from computers, tablets or smart phones. An independent study
found students who used the OWL improved their writing skills and processes,
and increased their final grades by an average of 6.6 points.
Be clear about your message and who your audience/community is. Keep
your core message in mind to keep your writing on-target and relevant.
your point clearly, you first must have a clear point to make.
paragraphs are better.
easy on the jargon. Avoid sounding like those generic jargon-spouting
executives that the “Dilbert” cartoon pokes fun at. If you use legal,
technical or foreign jargon, will your readers know what you mean? If
there’s no other term but the jargon, be sure to define the terms. Make
your website content (and other messages) accessible to those who don’t
know your topic as well as you do.
R-E-C-E-S-S Model for editing your own work
of Carl Sessions Stepp, University of Maryland)
Citelighter -- An academic research
platform that allows students to save, organize and automatically cite content.
Students can open Citelighter in a Google doc to have their research appear
next to their writing.
EasyBib -- This bibliography generator
helps students determine what style they need and how different citations appear.
On its website,
Kentucky Virtual Library provides a
detailed, student-friendly interactive map of the research process, called
How To Do Research, which spells out the steps for making the most of the
research process, from planning to searching to taking notes and ultimately
using gathered information effectively.
There are many popular sources
of information that can provide an excellent starting point for your research.
However, if you will be writing a college-level paper, chances are your professor
will require that most, if not all, of your sources be scholarly. The following
links can take you to some good general information on evaluating your references.
Eventually, though, you are going to have to be able to differentiate scholarly
sources from other sources and be able to use your library to find scholarly
sources. The next two sections deal with those topics.
Search for a title in Ullrich’sPeriodicals Directory
in your College library. Once you find it, check the document type for
the terms academic/scholarly (what you want) OR consumer/popular (not what you
In order to choose the best references for your
research, you need to understand the difference between popular publications and
scholarly publications, and be able to identify a sources as one or the other.
Scholarly (or academic) publications
are peer-reviewed or refereed publications. Scholarly journals
and books (1) are used to distribute
research throughout an academic discipline such as Economics, Geography, Political
Science or Sociology, and (2) are usually not available for free online and are
never available for purchase at Wal-Mart. However, all college libraries purchase
access to scholarly journals and books
so students will have access to them. The following chart should help you differentiate
between scholarly sources of information and popular sources of information.
Staff writers and journalists
Scholars, including college students
Editorial board made up of other
scholars and researchers ... scholarly journal articles are ALWAYS peer-reviewed
and tell you that
Shorter articles written to entertain,
inform or elicit an emotional response
Longer articles written in a formal,
scholarly style to share facts and research with the academic community
None or a website for more information
Footnotes/endnotes and bibliography/reference
(often also includes methodology – how the author did what he/she did)
Usually published frequently (weekly
Usually published less frequently
Numerous ads for a variety of
If there are any ads, they are
usually for scholarly products such as books or academic software
Usually numerous and with every
Fewer, often include charts and
graphs to support research findings
Usually glossy and larger in size
Usually smaller in size, thicker
and have a plain cover
in College Libraries and Databases
Yes, and more often than scholarly
Yes, but not every academic source
is in every library
Always a .org or .com site and
often has free limited access
Usually a .edu site (rarely .org,
never .com) with no free access beyond article titles
(but having a .edu site does NOT make it a scholarly source)
Psychology Today, Rolling Stone,
New York Times,
Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian, National Geographic,
National Review, Atlantic Monthly (magazines you might
subscribe to or buy at a newsstand)
Journal of Southern History,
Annual Review of Psychology,
American Literature, New England Journal
following are not scholarly publications.
information from publisher sites
information from educational sites
information from online or F2F lecture notes / materials
reference books -- dictionaries, encyclopedias and etc.
online reference sites
governmental agency publications
think tank publications
interest group publications
information from news bureaus -- AP, UPI and etc
working papers, reports, briefings or etc from an organization
How do I find scholarly publications?
When colleges purchase access to a scholarly source, it
usually means they purchased access to a database, which contains thousands
of titles that can be searched for specific information.
Not every title in a database is a scholarly publication.
When searching for articles, most databases give you the option of limiting your
search to refereed, scholarly or peer-reviewed publications,
all of which are scholarly publications.
Choose a database.
Databases are collections of thousands of publications organized by subject.
Libraries have many different databases covering every academic discipline. Some
databases are multidisciplinary, containing publications that cover a broad
range of subjects and include both popular and scholarly sources. Other databases
are subject-specific and include mainly scholarly
and specialized articles. The following
multidisciplinary databases are good places to start research.
Academic Search Complete, 1990-present -- scholarly, popular
and newspaper articles from across
disciplines, includes full text
Academic One File, 1980-present -- scholarly, popular
and newspaper articles from across
disciplines, includes full text
Info Trac Custom Newspapers--
full-text articles from over 100 newspapers
LexisNexis Academic and
JSTOR are also good multidisciplinary databases.
To find a subject-specific database or other multi-disciplinary databases, ask
your librarian. You can access most databases online from home with a user name
and password provided by your library. I’ve listed just a few of the databases in
my fields in the table below.
To search a database, choose keywords which
represent the main concepts of your topic. In order to find the best articles for
your research, choose a number of keywords for each concept, including synonyms
and related terms. Then combine them using AND
AND narrows your search by looking for
articles that contain all of the keywords.
OR broadens your search by looking for
articles that contain any of the keywords.
Search for information about female college students with eating disorders.
female college students OR
the complete article.
When you find an article you like, it's very important that
you actually look at the hard-copy or electronic version of the complete
article and not just the summary given in the database. The database gives you the
information you need for your reference list. It does not give you the information
you need for your paper.
All databases list citations which you
can use to find the entire article. Some also provide abstracts (brief summaries)
of articles, while others contain the full text of the article. If the article is
not full-text in the database, make sure you write down all of the information necessary
to find it -– title, author, journal name, date of issue, etc.
When you click on the database link a number of things
may happen. You may go (a) directly to the article, (b) to information about the
journal volume/issue the article is published in and the have to use the information
to find the article or (c) to the database search screen and search the database
using the title of the article. Be sure to check the date ranges of the database
against the article’s information to make sure the full text of your article is
contained in that database.
If your library doesn’t own the journal or magazine
you need, you can request the article for free through Inter-Library Loan by filling
out a request form. Your library will get the article from another college.
Databases Your College Library Might
Business Abstracts with Full Text
Business Source Complete
Foundations and Trends
in Business and Economics
Market Line Advantage
National Bureau of
Economic Research (NBER)
of the United States
World Agricultural Economics Abstracts
Arctic and Antarctic Regions
Columbia Gazetteer of the World
Dictionary of Geography
General Science Abstracts
Water Resources Abstracts
Air University Library Index to
Bibliography of Asian Studies
Chinese Academic Journals (in
Eastview Universal Database (in
Reports: Latin America
HAPI: Hispanic American Periodicals
HLAS: Handbook of Humanities and
International Political Science
Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
Annual Review of Sociology
Annual Reviews Online
of Sociology Online
Family Studies Abstracts
Roper Center for Public
RAMBI: Index of Articles on Jewish
Rural Sociology Abstracts
Social Services Abstracts
What is a research paper?
A research paper is not "about" a subject.
paper should have a thesis -- a clear point of view. It is not simply a generalized
discussion of an issue. The focus of the paper is not the views of others but
your opinions and interpretations.
A research paper is not a summary of everything you can find.
is not to collect everything you can find out about a subject and summarize
it. Although you should review as much material as possible, you should select
sources that directly support your thesis. A research paper has a clear focus.
The more narrow you make your subject, the easier your paper will be to write.
A research paper is not a list of quotes.
of your paper is your point of view, your commentary. Direct quotations, facts
and statistics may be woven throughout your paper, but they should support your
position. Your commentary should do more than simply introduce or link quotations.
A research paper does not support a pre-conceived point of view.
up facts that support what you already believe is not genuine research. You
should examine evidence then form an opinion. A research paper comments on the
quantity and quality of sources. It distinguishes between reliable and biased
sources, between authoritative and questionable statistics, between fact and
A research paper does not present the ideas of others without documentation.
papers must use documentation methods to prevent writers from plagiarizing sources.
Do not borrow ideas, statistics or facts without noting their original source.
Is there an easy
way to complete my footnotes/endnotes and references?
1. Create a new file in your computer called references.doc
2. Whenever you start to read a book, article or government document,
open references.doc and type in the full citation.
3. Take the time now to format the citation correctly. You have
to do it sometime, why not now? After a while, you'll get used to the formatting
style and do it automatically.
4. Whenever you take notes, make sure that you keep track of the exact
page number from which you are taking notes, even if you are not taking exact
5. Generally, it is better to carefully write down the full and exact
quotes rather than to paraphrase. If you keep the full quote, you can paraphrase
later without re-looking at the source.
6. Once you start writing your paper, make sure you include appropriate
citations as you go along, including page numbers. It really will
be a hassle later (trust me) if you don't do this as you write.
7. In-text citations with a reference list at the end is by far the easiest
way of doing your citations.
8. If you keep a correctly formatted reference list of all your potential
sources from the beginning, then your reference list will be done when your
note-taking is done. If you include good citations as you write, then your footnoting/endnoting
will be done when you finish your writing. Much easier than saving them to the
What makes a paper good?
1. A paper of just about any kind has to be based around a clear, simple
thesis which (a) makes one simple point and (b) sums up your reasons
for reaching that conclusion. The body of the paper is designed to use the evidence
at your disposal to convince the reader you're right.
2. In many cases (especially if you aren't terribly self-confident about
writing), your final paragraph will really be your thesis. If it is noticeably
more profound, interesting, detailed, etc. than your first paragraph, cut and
paste it at the top of your paper and edit your paper with that as your thesis.
3. Work on the assumption that you need to leave yourself time to write
at least two drafts. Many people write six or seven before they have things
the way they want them.
4. Each concrete point you raise in the body of your paper should be used
to show the reader explicitly (a) how it helps support your thesis and (b) how
it is connected to the other points you raise.
5. There should be one idea per paragraph and one paragraph per idea.
6. Write with an audience in mind: someone who is (a) smart, (b) likes
you and (c) doesn't know much about the material.
7. Only use phrases, words and expressions which you'd include in normal
conversation (profanity aside, of course). In short, if you write the way you
speak, you'll communicate the most effectively.