Why Should “Good” Be Good Enough?

By Shay Digenan


Do you consider yourself a good writer? Go ahead, it’s okay to admit it. I’ve certainly never had a problem saying that I think I am. In fact, during my first two years of college, I thought I was so good that I never once visited the University Writing Center (UWC) or used any of the resources it provides, including any of its online guides, citation tools, or even this blog. Sure, I made it out of English 101 and my Core Humanities courses all right, but I’m positive that everything I wrote could have been improved by an appointment at the UWC (and when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING).

Rattling off paper after paper with the same structure, the same points of view, and the same small mistakes often left me wondering why I had that minus symbol after my letter grade when I thought I deserved a better score. To be quite honest, it wasn’t until I became an employee of the UWC that I realized what a vast difference just one half-hour appointment can make on an assignment. As you can imagine, it was also around this time that I began to regretfully look back on those first two years and kick myself for not taking advantage of a monumental resource I’m convinced every writer on this campus can benefit from.

In order to prevent you from repeating my mistake, I’ve laid out the top three reasons why even experienced writers should use the University Writing Center.

  1. Everyone sees things differently. I realize that this sounds incredibly philosophical—and it can be, if that’s what you’re looking for. You have the ability to book an appointment at the UWC at any stage in your writing process, which means if you want to come in and brainstorm ideas with nothing more than a prompt in hand, you certainly can. From a more concrete perspective, this also means that simply having a consultant look at a different way to phrase a sentence can add variety to your paper and make the difference between another monotonous essay and a piece that engages the reader.
  2. It can help you get out of your head. When we spend a lot of time researching, discussing, and writing about a topic, it’s easy to begin omitting information that may seem like common knowledge but might not be to the reader. There’s also been times when I’ve rephrased a sentence or a section so many times that to me it looks right, but in the grander scheme of things makes no sense at all. One of the best strategies I’ve seen demonstrated at the UWC is when consultants read a paper under the assumption that they have no previous knowledge of the topic at all to pinpoint areas where enough explanation is not included.
  3. Broaden your horizons. Surprising as it might be, it’s safe to say that almost no one is “experienced” in every type of writing that exists. As students, most of us have done a substantial amount of essay writing. Unfortunately, most of these essays are all of similar structure and style. Visiting the UWC is a great way to better your knowledge of different types of academic writing and non-academic material. You can even book an appointment for personal work, like poetry.

I know you’ve heard it before: College is a time to try new things. While visiting the University Writing Center might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear this adage, I can guarantee that everyone who comes in will learn something that they didn’t know before—no matter how experienced you consider yourself.

Posted in General Writing Advice | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Gninnalp Sdrawkcab (or Backwards Planning)

By Kylie Lohmeyer


We’re about half way through the semester here at UNR, and as much as I’d like to say that I’ve successfully battled back and refused to let school work get the best of me, I can’t. I’ve always been one to attribute success in school to the amount of long nights spent in the KC and the copious amounts of coffee needed to stay awake during all-nighters. This is a bad idea—DON’T measure success by how long it takes you to complete a task!

If you’re anything like me, then you get distracted easily. And sitting on the second floor of the library certainly doesn’t help when you have a love for people watching. You need to refocus. A useful question to ask yourself in preparation for managing the assignments of every semester is “How am I going to make the most of my time?”

Yes, this deals with every procrastinator’s nightmare: planning. Planning is a skill, and it requires practice in order to master it. I love organizing, and I love the idea of planning. I am a colored pen fanatic, and if you take a look at my planner, it’s a rainbow of upcoming appointments and exams. However, even I struggle with sticking to my to-do lists.

The key to being a successful planner is knowing yourself—know where you stand with assignments and don’t be afraid to admit how long it truly takes you to complete a task. Once you know this, you will be able to engage in the art known as backwards planning. Sounds fancy, right? Little do you know, you have probably done this on multiple occasions.

Backwards planning is a method in which you begin at the end of your project and then plan backwards from there. It allows you to focus first and foremost on your end goal, and then you can create smaller sub-goals to help you actually get your assignments done.

Here’s the step by step “backwards plan” I use to help me stay organized:

  1. State your main purpose or assignment; for example, “I want to ace my physiology exam.”
  2. Where are you with your assignment? Focus on how much you’ve already accomplished; for example, “I finished reading chapter 1.”
  3. The fun part! Write out a schedule for yourself; for example, “I don’t have class on Friday, so I will study for anatomy from 2-5 pm.”
  4. Account for possible mistakes and write them down. We can’t always control our environment, and life isn’t always fair.
  5. Account for down time. You don’t have to study 24/7—it’s ok to have some fun! Accounting for this time will help you regain focus and get back on track; for example, “I planned to study for physiology on Fridays from 2-5 pm, but instead I am going to go to the movies this Friday.”
  6. Admire the beauty of the schedule you made, and try your best to stick to it!

Just remember that not every method works for everyone, and organization is really a personal preference.

Posted in General Writing Advice | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Acing the Free-Response Exam

By Nate George


“Will the test be multiple choice?” you ask the professor, nearly certain of the answer.
Clearing his throat, the professor responds, “The exam will have both multiple choice and free-response sections.”
A slight chill fills the room as the chattering students fall silent. They stare blankly ahead, unsure of what they have just heard. Abruptly, an ear-shattering war cry breaks the trance as a student leaps from his seat and begins rushing towards the professor. It is at this moment that total bedlam erupts. Students begin smashing Macbooks over each other’s heads while others sharpen pencil darts to throw at the TA. As the room starts to go up in flames, one lone student remains seated. Seemingly unfazed by the short-answer exam, this student is prepared. This student could be you.

There are a few main concerns students have regarding free-response exam questions. The first, and possibly the most intimidating, is the time constraint. Students become so shaken by the concept of a time limit that they are afraid to provide an in-depth response to the questions, fearing that it will take too long. The simple resolution to this issue is to plan ahead. The more familiar you are with the exam material, the more in-depth you can get in a free-response question without taking an excessive amount of time.

You may also want to set a time limit for yourself on each question to ensure that you can complete the exam within the time constraints. One strategy is to look at the clock during the exam and tell yourself to only spend a certain amount of time on a particular problem. This can be practiced at home by timing yourself as you answer study guide questions. There is no room for perfectionism when taking a free-response exam. If there is still time left after you complete the test, feel free to return to responses you struggled with to revise them, but ensure that every question on the exam has been answered before you begin your revisions.

When taking a free-response exam under time constraints, it is common for students to misinterpret what a question is asking. This comes into play particularly on essay questions. Whether it is a failure to address all parts of the question or simply a misunderstanding of what the professor is asking, these issues are easily resolved. The key to fully grasping the meaning of the question is to simply dissect it into different parts. For example, a question may ask:

“Since 1776, America has been at war for 222 out of its 239 years. These wars include the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I and II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and Iraq War.  Of these wars, which do you feel was the most instrumental in cementing the United States as a world superpower? Explain why. ”

In this instance, it may be beneficial to break the question down into two parts. First, simply answer the question:

Of these wars, which do you feel was the most instrumental in cementing the United States as a world superpower?

This question can be answered in one sentence:

Of these wars, I feel that the ________ War cemented the United States as a world superpower.

It should be noted that it might be wise to select an answer that has the most evidence behind it, even if you don’t personally agree. The second part of the question is going to be the meat and potatoes of your response:

Explain why.

 These may very well be the most daunting two words a student hears during their four years of college besides student loans. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. All you have to do is give the reader (your professor) evidence as to why your statement is true. This may include providing statistics, counterarguments, and expert opinions. Professors often want you to cite material from the class, so don’t forget to include that in your answer as well. This process may be time consuming, but it is necessary to provide a comprehensive response to the entire question.

Now, as the apocalypse unfolds around you at the mention of free-response, you can remain focused on getting that A without breaking a sweat.


Posted in Specialized Writing Advice | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rhetorical Strategies: Logos, Ethos, Pathos, Kairos

By Aaron Smale


When crafting arguments based on your reasoned opinions, sometimes you’ll hear the terms logos, ethos, pathos, and even kairos from time to time.  Even though these are established components in approaching arguments, they can be hard to use effectively. No matter what the purpose of your argument is, all of these strategies will be present. As you learn to use these rhetorical strategies, you’ll find that your arguments can become more credible, cohesive, timely, and persuasive depending on how you balance them within an argument.

Logos deals with the “word” or message of your argument, complete with claims backed up by reasoning and evidence related to your topic. For example, if your paper argues against smoking in the US, statistics about the rising prevalence of certain respiratory conditions or cancers related to smoking helps provide clarity in your argument.  Demonstrating a possible link with research and evidence frames your argument in a way that makes sense to your audience. Logos can also refer to how your argument is organized, structured, or presented depending on how your message needs to be tailored to your audience or purpose.  Where you place your evidence and how you structure your claims may change based on what information and reasons are most valued by your target audience. Your paper against smoking in the US may need to be organized differently if you’re trying to signal the need for more cancer research to combat these diseases or if you are trying to call attention to the need for stricter anti-smoking legislation.  Logos can also be used to introduce counterclaims and illustrate other aspects of the issue. Generally, it is helpful to think about logos as the strategy that asks: “What proof or evidence helps this argument make sense?”

Ethos deals with the “character” or trustworthiness of the speaker presenting the argument. This rhetorical strategy is also referred to as an appeal to credibility. With this in mind, ethos is often used to demonstrate how well-informed you are as an author or speaker, how your perspective stacks up against other arguments, or how capable you are in analyzing related sources “conversing” with each other. In your paper arguing against smoking, a strong ethos would be present if you cite a pulmonologist who has operated on several patients with diseases caused by smoking.  If you had a family member or someone close to you impacted by a smoking-related disease, this could help establish ethos in your paper as well.  Ethos also deals with refuting counterarguments in order to prove your thesis is still correct. Ethos can take time to build, but it can be lost instantly if you make a hasty generalization or a faulty claim. A good question to ask yourself regarding ethos is: “Do I know enough about this topic that my audience will trust me?”

Another important rhetorical strategy, pathos, appeals to your audience’s general perspective, emotions, or empathy regarding your topic. Employing pathos can help your audience emotionally invest in your argument and relate to your purpose. When arguing against smoking in the US, you might employ pathos by referencing testimonies of smokers who have lost limbs or organs due to smoking or even showing pictures of the heavy physical costs of smoking cigarettes. Using pathos helps to engage your audience. This strategy presents a viewpoint of your argument that can actually be conceptualized in showing how it could impact your audience or people they care about. By focusing on your audience’s general perspective of your argument, the audience is more likely to take action or make a change regarding your issue.  Regarding pathos, some helpful questions include: “How does my audience feel about this issue?” and “What will engage my audience so that they will take action regarding this issue?”

Finally, kairos is a strategy that deals with the “right time,” timeliness, or currency of your argument. This strategy also involves the setting or place of your argument and where you will be engaging your audience. For example, your paper will demonstrate a stronger use of kairos if you present your findings on a new method of quitting smoking to heavy smokers than if you were to present those findings to non-smokers or people who have already quit. If you make a claim that cigarettes should be taxed more, kairos will help you conceptualize why they should be taxed now given that taxes on cigarettes increase semi-frequently and many arguments have been made in the past about why they should be taxed.  When using kairos, it helps to ask: “What does your argument present now that makes an impact on this issue?” or “Why does this argument apply more at this point in time?”

The most effective arguments find a balance between logos, ethos, pathos, and kairos depending on the needs or perspectives of the audience.  Knowing what these strategies aim to accomplish can help you test the strength of your argument and ensure that you are making the points that you intend to make. Knowing the important characteristics of these strategies can also help when gathering and analyzing sources because you can test to see if an author is focusing on one strategy over another based on the purpose of the text.  These strategies not only help you construct strong arguments, but make you a more confident writer as well.

Posted in Specialized Writing Advice | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Using Active Listening to Better Your Writing

By Ash Thoms


Have you ever listened to one of your friends ramble on about classes and life and  responded only with the occasional “uh-huh? Yeah. Of course.” They continue to recount the happenings of their lives as you mutter occasional agreement. Eventually they ask, “Are you even listening to me?”
We all do it at some point. There are conversations that we tune-out of, things that we just can’t keep our attention on.

The opposite of this is active listening. Active listening is being entirely engaged in a conversation. It is concentrating on and absorbing the words being spoken. Active listening means that you are doing more than just waiting for your turn to speak, you are absorbing the conversation.

I’m sure, at this point, you’re wondering why I’m talking about listening on the University Writing Center’s blog. The point of this post is active listening not only enhances your communication but also your writing skills.

You likely already know that active listening is great for communication. Imagine if you took in all of the information from every conversation you’ve had. Think about the connections you would be able to form. Think about the incredible relationships that would come from it. Think about the concepts you would be able to put together in your brain if you were actively engaged in conversation or actively engaged in listening to your professor speak.

Now, take all of that information—how would you be able to transfer it to your writing?

If you are an active listener, you’ll (potentially) be able to:

  • Take the information from conversations and use it in your written work.
  • Take the information from your professors and classes and use it in your written work.
  • Make connections between concepts you may not previously have understood.
  • Recall more of the information you hear and use it in your written work.
  • Listen to what your prompt says and the arguments for and against it.
  • Write better papers.

I probably grabbed your attention with that last bullet, right? “Ash, how would being an active listener allow me to write better papers? That seems a little far-fetched.”

Stick with me, I’ll explain.

Besides giving you information and connections between information that you may not have otherwise had, you also get incredible insight into the stranger parts of the English language. Think about it for a minute: how much of the English language—or any language—would you understand if you had never heard it? Sure, you can learn from a book, but with any language the best way to learn is to listen and speak. Talking with, and listening to, native speakers gives you information about the language that you would not have any other way. The little (or not-so-little) parts of the language that you would not otherwise understand come across in the conversational aspects of them. If you’d never heard a pun before, would you understand how absolutely atrocious (or awesome) they are? Probably not!

Actively listening to conversations and discussions allows you to better understand the language. Having a better understanding of the language allows you to better use the language in your writing.

So, the next time you’re in a conversation, discussion, class, or any situation in which you could practice active listening—give it a go. Put all of your attention into the conversation that is occurring and see what you can get out of it!

Posted in General Writing Advice | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Steps for Writing a Successful Slide Show

By Jose Olivares


PowerPoints; love them or hate them, sometimes you just can’t get away from them. They’re fantastic at helping convey information to your peers, coworkers, and professors in a creative manner. Here are some tips to consider when building your next PowerPoint.

Once you have all of your sources and material, it is time to begin planning out the slide show. Planning is one of the most important steps to focus on when working on a PowerPoint. It is vital to remember that the purpose of a slide show is to AID your presentation, not BE your presentation. It’s often helpful to keep these four concepts in mind when planning out your project:

  • Purpose (Why are you presenting this?)
  • Content (What information do you need to get across?)
  • Audience (Who are you presenting this to?)
  • Context (Where will you be presenting this? In a big room? Small room? What time of day?)

After you have answered all of those questions and figured out your main purpose for the presentation, it is time organize the material. Organization is key for a successful slide show. The best method (although potentially time-consuming) is to gather all of your material in a Word document, begin to compile the information, and remove any unnecessary fluff. Make sure you leave only the most important material to include in your presentation.

After you’ve organized your material, you can begin writing for the slide show. When writing, remember to draft your points in a Word document in order to catch any mistakes without the many distractions that the PowerPoint program may provide. It can also be helpful to strategically organize your slide arrangement beforehand to make sure your argument is presented clearly.

More often than not, people will include giant paragraphs of information on a slide. Avoid this as much as possible! You only want the most important, key points outlined within a few bullet points. Keep in mind that your audience is not going to remember every single bit of information you throw at them, so do not overwhelm them with too much material. Just include the key points that you’d like them to take home. A good rule to follow is the “Five by Five” rule: Five bullets per slide and five words per bullet. The less text, the better.

Remember: the PowerPoint is an extension of your presentation, not the presentation itself. Allow the audience to listen to you speak on the points outlined in the slide show. It may be a good idea to include brief questions for your audience, too. This can encourage discussion and improve the overall quality of the presentation by allowing some interaction.

Once you’ve organized and written out your main points, place them in the slide show. The beauty of PowerPoint is that you can be creative, but you should be strategic with this freedom. Try using size, color, and type contrast to highlight different bits of information. If you do decide to play with the formatting, be consistent with it for the entirety of the presentation.

Make sure you’re constantly reviewing the spelling, punctuation, and grammar as you place finishing touches on your slide show. While rehearsing your presentation, keep in mind the most important aspects: purpose, content, audience, and context.

You will never go wrong if you act kindly and empathetically towards your audience. Place yourself in their shoes: What would you like to see up on a slide show? PowerPoint slide shows can be a lot of fun to work on, so don’t let them stress you out. Good luck!

Posted in Specialized Writing Advice | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Positive and Negative Sentence Construction: Is Your Statement Half Full or Not Empty?

By  Jacob Trujillo

closer look

At first, the choice between making a positive statement or a negative statement seems insignificant. We naturally go back and forth between the two on a daily basis in conversation, and it becomes such second nature that we hardly acknowledge the difference. However, when writing an academic paper, it’s important to note the distinction between constructing a positive sentence and a negative one. It ultimately comes down to a question of clarity and concision.

Positive sentences simply state a fact—what something or someone may be, can do, or contains. They are straightforward and to the point. For example:

  1. There are few frogs in the pond.
  2. She continued to eat the salad.

Negative sentences are structured differently and only express what is not. For example:

  1. There are not many frogs in the pond.
  2. She would not stop eating the salad.

Positive sentences are typically clearer and more concise than negative sentences (Long Beach City College WRSC, 2009); they are more direct and use fewer words (Williams & Bizup, 2015). Negative sentences can carry the same meaning but run the risk of meandering away from the main argument and convoluting its message. It is safer to get directly to the point and say what you mean. It can be especially confusing for your audience if you use both positive and negative formations in the same sentence, such as, “Only if you have neglected to perform the assigned task will you not be able to participate in the discussion.”

Using a negative sentence can be more appropriate if you are purposefully trying to emphasize the negative (Williams & Bizup, 2015). For example:

  1. There is no evidence supporting this claim.

In this sentence, you are placing the emphasis on the fact that no evidence exists for this claim. Although, you could still re-write it as a positive sentence.

2. This claim is unsupported.

Every sentence has the ability to be either positive or negative. Generally, a positive sentence structure is the better choice. Keep your audience and the purpose of your paper in mind as you write: how can you make your argument clearer and more concise?


Long Beach City College WRSC. (2009). “Writing Clear Sentences: Avoiding Negative Sentences.” Writing in the Technical Fields. Long Beach, CA: Inter Board Committee of Chairmen.

Williams, J.M., & Bizup, J. (2015). Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Posted in Specialized Writing Advice | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Writing Introductions

By Sierra Becze


Oh, the introduction of a paper. Much like the first impression someone makes, an introduction can be a deal breaker for whether or not you continue interacting with this individual or reading a paper.

Imagine you’re at a dinner party. While you’re eating cocktail weenies and drinking sparkling cider, you hear a strange, distant clucking noise. Soon, you meet an individual named Craig. Craig is sporting a chicken costume, complete with a copious amount of feathers and shoes that resemble chicken feet. If that wasn’t enough to move far, far away from this man, his poorly timed jokes and cringe-worthy comments are enough to ensure you avoid a second encounter.

Don’t let your paper have the same first impression as Craig and send your reader running for the hills. While I might not be an expert on dinner parties, I have written my fair share of introductions and can help you avoid being the Craig of your paper.

“The Introduction-Less Introduction”
As Craig is shoving way too much food into his mouth, he begins to tell you a story about the time his mother-in-law accidentally spilled pasta all over his shag carpet. This encounter is especially uncomfortable because he jumps right into his story without properly introducing himself. Much like with an introduction for a paper, if the reader has not been properly introduced to your topic and what you are going to write about, then the encounter can be confusing and uncomfortable. When writing a paper, it is critical to introduce to your reader your topic and what you are researching, arguing, etc. One way to do this is to read over your introduction and ask yourself if the reader read only this part, would they understand what I will be talking about in the remaining portion of my paper? If the answer is yes, chances are your introduction is strong.

“The Thesis-Less Introduction”
When a dinner party encounters a man in a chicken suit, the guests are left wondering what is happening and why that person is there. The experience can be uncomfortable and awkward. When an introduction doesn’t have a thesis, the reader may be unsure of the paper’s purpose, much like our friend Craig’s purpose at the dinner party. By including a thesis, your argument or topic can be made clear and apparent to the reader from the start. The thesis can be compared to the host of the dinner party; it is their sole job to inform the guests (or readers) what the costumed chicken man’s (or paper’s) purpose is.

“Not-Keeping-the-Audience-In-Mind Introduction”
Craig’s less-than-funny, combative jokes don’t come naturally and are a turnoff to the rest of the guests. The same thing can happen in an introduction if you force too much description, information, or the wrong tone. Keeping your audience in mind when writing an introduction (and the rest of your paper) can be a way to ensure that it does not seem strained. Craig’s crude jokes may have been a hit at a sports bar, but his dinner party audience doesn’t appreciate them. This can be compared to an individual writing a creative piece. This type of writing allows for an imaginative introduction, whereas a research paper would call for a more factual one. By writing an introduction with your audience in mind, the opening paragraph will seem natural and not forced.

“The Out-of-Place Introduction”
For a dinner party, you’d typically wear a nice outfit; however, Craig’s attire seems out of place. The obnoxious feathered costume is no match for the slacks and button-ups of the other guests. If an introduction seems out of place, it can cause your entire paper to feel off. If you are writing an argumentative paper about why writing is important to society, then don’t start it by talking about the importance of a different subject, such as math or science. If you do and try to connect it back to your topic, the introduction can seem out of place and end up confusing your reader. Make sure your attire (your introduction) fits the dress code (your entire paper).

After a long and uncomfortable night, Craig announces that it is time to go home. As the crowd sighs in relief, a violinist enters the room. Her attire and presence fits the audience and dinner party, and she starts playing an enchanting melody. If you realize your introduction fits into the category of being a “Craig,” don’t be afraid to boot it to the curb. Only then will there be room for a captivating violinist to complete your dinner party instead of a man doing the chicken dance.

Posted in Specialized Writing Advice | Tagged , | Leave a comment

In-Text Citation Styles

By Dawson Drake


Citing sources is a crucial part of academic writing and serves the purpose of giving legitimacy to your argument. Different formatting styles grant us as writers a variety of ways to express our sources of information. The three common styles–MLA, APA, and Chicago–each have a different method of citing, and these methods allow different strategies for presenting your sources when writing.

MLA is often the most familiar citation style to students, especially those who aren’t in writing intensive majors, because it is used in the English, humanities, and core writing classes. A general MLA in-text citation is incredibly simple. After a piece of information is presented, you put the source author’s name and page number in parentheses. For example, if quoting a book, your in-text citation would appear as follows:

Michael Jackson was a very popular musician whose “unstoppable cunning as a songwriter made him the uncontestable king of pop” (Smith 69).

Or, you can name the author of the source within the sentence itself and then include the page number at the end of the sentence in parentheses:

According to Smith, “Micheal Jackson’s unstoppable cunning as a songwriter made him the uncontestable king of pop” (69).

By providing the author and page number, MLA style allows the writer to analyze literature very thoroughly. We know who wrote the information and where that information appears in the source.

APA style is frequently used in the social sciences as well as general research-driven writing. APA provides the name of the author of a piece of literature as well as the year it was published. This is so the relevance of the source can be established by how new it is. APA also allows flexibility in that the citation may be presented in a few different ways, as long as the year and author are provided in the text. For example, if paraphrasing, you could provide the author and year in a few ways:

Steinberg (1997) states that Supertramp’s effect on musical culture survived from the 1970’s until the early 1990’s.

Or as:

Supertramp’s effect on musical culture survived from the 1970’s until the early 1990’s (Steinberg, 1997).

If giving a quote, the rules still apply the same way (note that a page number is provided for quotes):

Music is constantly evolving, and “Supertramp influenced the way musicians write from the peak of his career until very recently” (Steinberg, 1997, p. 420).

APA’s flexibility makes it inviting to writers, especially in the sphere of researched-based writing where the manuscript must be professional and under the orthodoxy of a field.

The Chicago Manual of Style is a bit more obscure to most collegiate writers, but it is in many ways superior to APA and MLA, depending on the purpose of the writing. It is seen often in the fields of history or in longer researched-based texts, such as books. The basis of Chicago style is footnotes. Citations and asides are given in footnotes rather than in the text like the aforementioned citation styles. So, if you are citing a piece of information, a sentence would read as:

The Tempations’ impact on the world of Rhythm and Blues, and all music for that matter, was only reinforced further when they were the first Motown group to receive a Grammy for “Cloud Nine” in 1969.¹

With a footnote citation at the bottom of the page:

¹ Gonzales, Stefano Alexi, Jr., and Felix Der HausKatze. Motown Classics – A Book That Doesn’t Exist! 23rd ed. Vol. 1. Nowhereton: Fake Books Publishing House, 2001.

The Chicago footnote method is incredibly beneficial for the narrative of an argument. An author can generate very powerful continuity to the writing, both practically and aesthetically, by using footnotes to place an extensive citation out of the prose. The reader can check the footnote for the source if interested, but he or she is otherwise able to focus on the argument of the text itself. Footnotes may also be used to contextualize an argument further, which is helpful for technical or in depth ideas that an expert may already understand but a less informed reader may need clarification on.

There are many other citation styles beyond these three that have different weaknesses and strengths for different writing scenarios. For further information on these citation styles, you can visit resources such as the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) or the Harvard Writing Center websites. You can also come visit us at the University Writing Center on the 3rd floor of the Pennington Student Achievement Center! We offer one-on-one consultations for citations as well as a variety of style guides and resources.



Posted in Specialized Writing Advice | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

All About Abstracts

By Chelsea Weller


What is an abstract?
An abstract is a concise, stand-alone summary of the work at hand. The specific content within an abstract can vary depending on the style of abstract you are writing. The three styles of abstracts are descriptive, informative, and critical:

  • Descriptive Abstracts are generally for shorter papers and are around 100 words long. These are written to outline the content and give the reader an idea of what to expect in the paper. These should include all of the major parts of the content, including the purpose or thesis, methodology, and scope of the work.
  • Informative Abstracts are usually for longer, more technical research and can range from one paragraph to one page depending on the length of the document that the abstract is written for. These abstracts include all of the main content points with explanations. In addition to everything that is included in a descriptive abstract, informative abstracts should also include the results, conclusion, and recommendations.
  • Critical Abstracts are the least common out of the three types. These will critique an article and often compare it to the writer’s own research, kind of like a really short reading response paper.

If you are writing an abstract for scholarly purposes, you likely have some requirements provided to you by your professor or the publication. These requirements may include length restrictions (min or max), intended audience, or style. The various styles often dictate the content of the abstract. If the style of the abstract is not provided to you, you may want to consider asking what information is desired.

Try these techniques to make writing an abstract easier:

  • Don’t write the abstract until you have finished writing the rest of the paper.
    • Since you probably only want to write this abstract once, do it after the ideas and text of the document are finalized.
  • Reverse outline your paper to identify the main points and critical information.
    • Identify the purpose of what you are writing and what the most crucial supporting ideas are.
  • Try explaining your paper to someone who is unfamiliar with the topic and record it.
    • From my experience, it is much easier to talk about my ideas than to write about them. This helps my writing to be less repetitive.

Abstract Template
For descriptive abstracts, simply address the question. For informative abstracts, explanations and some elaboration is necessary. The following template may be utilized directly for scientific research or modified for other applications. The typical formatting of an abstract is double-spaced 12 pt Times New Roman font.


Firstly, say the topic that your work is going to address and reference existing research or

work if relevant. Second, introduce what problem you are addressing or what your thesis

is. Third, why hasn’t this been specifically addressed yet? Fourthly, give some insight into

your approach or new perspective and how it is enabling this research to become possible.

Fifth, summarize the methods utilized in addressing the problem. Sixth, describe the

implications of this new research.

Abstracts are essential not only for publishing work but for readers to determine the relevance of an article to their research. No one is going to read an entire article unless they have read the abstract and identified that article as something relevant to their research. You don’t have to memorize exactly what goes into each type of abstract, but it is important to understand the use and usefulness of abstracts in general.

Abstracts. (n.d.). The Writing Center. Retrieved from http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/abstracts/

How to Write a Scientific Abstract in Six Easy Steps. (2010, January 26). Serendipity. Retrieved from http://www.easterbrook.ca/steve/2010/01/how-to-write-a-scientific-abstract-in-six-easy-steps/

Posted in Specialized Writing Advice | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment