Learn now to make an appointment here. While there is no substitute for getting feedback on your writing from a skilled reader like a CLAS writing tutor, the resources below will help you address some common issues writers face.
Your Rhetorical Situation
One of the most important aspects of writing is understanding your rhetorical situation—the circumstance in which you are writing. When thinking about your rhetorical situation, answer the following questions:
- Who is your audience?
- What is your message or argument?
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- In what context are you writing?
HarvardWrites, a resource from the Harvard College Writing Program and the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, offers thorough advice on making effective academic arguments and participating in a scholarly conversation in your field.
Your Writing Process
We suggest that you develop your texts in various stages of a process. While the writing processes of different writers can vary, many processes share some of the same stages such as brainstorming, outlining, drafting, and revising. The Writing Center at George Mason University provides a helpful series of Quick Guides on different stages of the writing process as well as other writing-related subjects like doing research and writing in different genres.
You may also want to check out these Strategies for Essay Writing from the Harvard College Writing Center, including tips on developing a thesis, crafting topic sentences, and writing conclusions.
The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also has a large collection of tips and tools that can help you with various aspects of writing. Additionally, this collection includes a number of helpful instructional videos.
Structure and Organization
While there are many different patterns of organization used around the world to structure writing—all of them having their own merits—most professors at universities in the US will expect a linear, thesis-driven organizational approach. The Odegaard Writing & Research Center at the University of Washington provides a succinct guide on How to Organize and Structure Your Paper.
Citing Your Sources
While various fields have different preferred citation styles, one important fact is common to all fields in American academia: you must credit the sources of all words, work, or ideas that are not solely original to you—whether you are quoting, paraphrasing, summarizing, or simply using an idea that you got from someone else.
The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin – Madison offers helpful guides to the most common citation styles:
You may also want to check out this LibGuide from our own Sawyer Library on Citation Tools in Sawyer Library Databases.
Grammar, Style, and Usage
The Sawyer Library provides a helpful LibGuide of resources on grammar, style, and usage.
While many of your readers may expect adherence to the “rules” of grammar, style, and usage that you find in the above LibGuide, such “rules” are socially determined and are often used by dominant groups (intentionally or unintentionally) as a tool of exclusion based on race, class, or national origin. For a discussion of the often problematic ideologies that underlie common assumptions about writing in “Standard English,” see Laura Greenfield’s award-winning essay, “The ‘Standard English’ Fairy Tale,” which you can access here (Suffolk login required).
The Center for Learning & Academic Success affirms the right of all students to use their own language and encourages students to utilize the resources of their home languages (rhetoric, vocabulary, style, etc.) in their writing—especially in early drafts. We celebrate linguistic diversity as well as the practice of code-meshing (the mixing of various forms of language to create exciting, new linguistic varieties). For an explanation and example of code-meshing and the ways that a home language can be effectively combined with academic English, see Vershawn Young’s widely acclaimed essay, “Should Writers Use They Own English?” which you can access here (Suffolk login required).
While we encourage students to develop their writing voices using various forms of language in their writing, a critical part of writing tutoring appointments at the CLAS is the discussion of the rhetorical situations (see above) in which students are writing. Thus, we encourage students to analyze the purpose and audience of their writing and suggest that students decide upon the best form of language to use to accomplish their purposes for writing.
Statement on Inclusive Pronoun Use
The CLAS supports the International Writing Centers Association’s position statement accepting the singular use of they/them pronouns. This statement indicates in part:
The International Writing Centers Association [IWCA] affirms the right of students to use the pronouns of their choice in their academic writing, including the singular they. The singular they has a long history in spoken and written English (as early as the 1400s in the [Oxford English Dictionary]); it permits writers to avoid specifying a gender when doing so may be irrelevant, inappropriate, or needlessly restrictive. In a written text, it also has the important advantage of accurately representing people who use they as their gender pronoun. Singular they in academic writing acknowledges and affirms the lived realities of writers who themselves use singular they, as well as for writers who wish to affirm the reality of transgender and gender non-conforming people. Along with other gender neutral pronouns, the singular they helps validate the identities and stories of people who identify beyond the gender binary.
Along with the IWCA, we realize that some faculty may resist inclusive pronoun use and the singular they. Therefore, we suggest that students who wish to use the singular they include in their papers the following footnote adapted from the IWCA position statement:
In this paper, I deliberately use the generic singular “they.” This usage has historical precedence for the last 400 years. Further, it includes people whose gender identity is not represented by the he/she binary, which erases many members of our community. This impulse toward inclusive linguistic representation is already seen in style guidelines by professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA). The use of singular “they” is endorsed by the International Writing Centers Association, a conference of the National Council of Teachers of English.
Formatting Your Paper
Since many professors have personal preferences about the formatting of student papers, you should always check your syllabus for paper formatting instructions. If your professor would like you to use one of the standard style formats, you can find annotated sample papers in a few of the most popular formats below:
Whether it’s from a couple of trusted colleagues, a publication editor, or a peer-review panel, serious scholars seek feedback on their writing. No matter how strong we are as writers, we can all benefit from receiving feedback from skilled readers because we all have blind spots in our writing and can never truly experience our texts as our readers experience them because we produced those texts. Therefore, seeking feedback should be part of every writer’s writing process. As a Suffolk student, you have the opportunity to receive feedback from skilled peer and professional writing tutors here at the CLAS—totally free of charge. Schedule your appointment today!
Resources for Writers in the MBA Program
For resources specifically geared toward writers in the MBA program, see MBA Writing Resources.