How do I create effective introductions?
An introduction should capture your reader's attention with the impact of a good first impression then move your reader gradually from your general opening statements to a specific controlling idea as you present your thesis statement. Hopefully your intro will influence the reader to decide that you are well-informed and have something interesting to say. Check out these resources on the Web for more information:
- Instructional Video: Writing an Effective Introduction
University of Maryland University College’s very own Effective Writing Center has the best instructional video available on seven different intro strategies.
- An Intro to Academic Intros (PDF)
David Taylor's jewel of simple techniques for penning an academic introduction.
How do I write great conclusions?
A conclusion makes your reader realize that your paper was worth reading. Your conclusion might begin by reminding your reader of your thesis and then highlighting main points from your argument, but you want to do more than simply restate your thesis. In the conclusion you want to strengthen your essay by providing additional insight to your argument – by giving a sense of the lingering possibilities of the topic, its larger meaning, its implications. To consider how to write your conclusion, think about how you would answer the question "So what?" It sounds ridiculous, but it works because it shows you the perspective your reader will take toward your writing and allows you to explain the significance of your paper. Check out these Web sites for more information:
- Instructional Video: Conclusions
Once again, University of Maryland University College's Effective Writing Center offers the latest and greatest instructional video on writing a conclusion to end all conclusions.
- Conclusions Handout
This handout from University of NC-Chapel Hill's Writing Center includes a section using the "so what" strategy and also a section on weak conclusions.
How do I come up with a thesis statement?
The thesis statement, or statement of purpose, is the central idea that controls and unifies your paper. It is the point you want to make; and the idea, attitude, claim, or opinion that you hope your readers will accept as true and carry away with them after they finish reading. Read on for more information:
- Why Should Your Essay Contain A Thesis Statement?
The EssayInfo Writing Center has explicit examples of what makes a good thesis statement and why it's important to write an effective one.
- Constructing Thesis Statements
This handout from the University of NC-Chapel Hill Writing Center has great advice on why a thesis is important and how to construct one, using plenty of examples.
- The Thesis Statement
University of Arkansas Quality Writing Center discusses the idea of a working thesis and how your main idea might change as you work on your paper. This Web page thoroughly discusses aspects of a good thesis with examples for each, as well as how to avoid common errors.
How do I know when to use a comma?
The correct use of commas can be confusing, but there are a few general rules that can clarify this pesky punctuation. Check out the following sites:
- Comma Rules
The Writing Center at St. Cloud State University has this simple yet clear Web resource about comma usage.
- Rules for Comma Usage
Capital Community College Library offers guidelines for proper use of comma, an intriguing exercise to try with your instructor, and several interactive quizzes.
- Comma-splices/fused sentences
Check out these brief yet clear guidelines on correct comma usage from Big Dog's Web site.
What is plagiarism, and how do I avoid it?
Stealing and passing off the ideas or words of another as your own is known as plagiarism. Generally-known facts (like George Washington was the first president of the United States, or Lincoln died on April 15, 1865, from an assassin's bullet) do not normally need acknowledgment because they are available from innumerable sources, are not disputed, and have simply become common knowledge. But summarizing or paraphrasing the ideas or arguments of another person without acknowledging the source of the ideas or arguments constitutes plagiarism. You avoid plagiarism by crediting your sources. Read more at these Web sites:
- How to Avoid Plagiarism
Perhaps the best interactive Web site around on plagiarism and how to avoid. You even get a frameable certificate at the end to show your teacher and friends.
- Paraphrase: Write it in Your Own Words
See Purdue University's Online Writing Lab site with information on supporting an argument with outside sources and learning to borrow information without plagiarizing. Check out the link to a page of exercises on paraphrasing.
- Plagiarism: What it is and How to Recognize and Avoid It
Explore great examples of acceptable and unacceptable uses of paraphrasing from Indiana University, Bloomington's Writing Tutorial Services.
Where can I go for help with formatting APA citations?
APA's Publication Manual provides complete style guidelines, and should be consulted first in all matters concerning APA style. Here are two Web resources to give you online access to APA style guidelines:
Where can I go for help with formatting MLA citations?
All guidelines for MLA style are in the MLA Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (2nd edition). If you are asked to use MLA format for a research paper, the book to consult is MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (6th edition). Here are two Web resources:
- MLA Formatting and Style Guide
Check out Purdue University's Online Writing Lab's information on MLA guidelines.
- A Writer's Practical Guide to MLA Documentation
Capital Community College Library offers an exhaustive list of MLA style guidelines and research techniques. Don't miss the links on the menu bar to the left - they offer a wealth of information about using MLA.
How do I analyze sources?
When doing your research, you need to critically evaluate the data that you find for its usefulness and validity. Here are Web resources to help you out.
- Evaluating Sources of Information
Check out the ever-popular Purdue University's Online Writing Lab for down-to-earth help in sifting through and sorting out all the information available to you.
What are the differences among writing genres like book reviews, business letters, memos, journals, essays, research papers?
For each assignment it is important that you know what writing genre you need to follow. For all writing formats it is essential that you know your audience, how the writing will be read or used, the purpose, the layout, the level of complexity of the content, whether the sources of information need to be primary or secondary, the structure, and the style.
- How to Write a Book Review
Lexington Community College gives a clear description of a book review and how it is not simply a summary of a book but rather your reaction to its success.
The Writing Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute deals with many aspects of writing an effective memo.
- Instructional Video: Developing Transitions
This outstanding video from University of Maryland University College's (UMUC) Effective Writing Center covers the need for transitions between sentences and paragraphs.
- Instructional Video: Effective Paragraph Development
This outstanding video from UMUC's Effective Writing Center covers how to write a great paragraph.
- Online Guide to Writing and Research
UMUC's "Online Guide" set a new standard for academic writing advice when it was first published. It remains one of the most linked-to writing sites on the Web.