Guide to Writing Papers
If you are to write a good college paper, this takes more than just a good understanding of the material you are covering in the paper and a good vocabulary. It also requires that you understand the basic mechanics of writing such a paper. For the papers that you write for me (and, I would think, for most instructors here at Villanova), you must follow the guidelines below.
READ THESE CAREFULLY, AS I FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES WHEN I GRADE!
1) MOST IMPORTANTAcademic Honesty/Dishonesty
When you write a paper that takes information from a source (i.e. it comes from someone other than you), you MUST give credit to that source. This can occur in one of two ways. First, if you directly copy the words of that person, they MUST appear in QUOTATION MARKS AND a citation must be given. Your other option is not to directly copy the words, but REWORD the authors (or authors) ideas IN YOUR OWN WORDS. Even if you reword the authors (or authors) ideas, you MUST provide a citation, showing where the information come from.
PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING: If you do not follow these guidelines, you are guilty of ACADEMIC DISHONESTY. This will result in (at the very least) you FAILING the assignment or FAILING the class, or (depending upon the violation) EXPULSION from the university (consult your Villanova student handbook or the Villanova home page if you have questions about the universitys policy regarding this). In other words, this is a part of writing college papers--and a part of acting as a responsible member of a community--that you must learn.
In this period before the great philosopher and teacher Socrates, whom we will soon study, Parmenides emerged as the most radical mystic. [from Craig R. Smith, Rhetoric and Human Consciousness, page 44]
As Smith tells us, "before the great philosopher and teacher Socrates, . . . Parmenides emerged as the most radical mystic" (Smith 44).
The Greek philosopher Parmenides was "the most radical mystic" of his time (Smith 44).
Before Socrates emerged to challenge the norms of Greek society, the philosopher Parmenides developed and espoused a controversial brand of mysticism (Smith 44).
In the time before the great teacher and philosopher Socrates, Parmenides was the most radical mystic.
Parmenides was the most radical mystic in the period before Socrates.
Before Socrates emerged to challenge the norms of Greek society, Parmenides emerged as the most radical mystic.
Please notethese last 3 examples are still dishonest, even if you provide a parenthetical citation after the sentence, because they require quotation marks also!!
e.g. In the time before the great philosopher and teacher Socrates, Parmenides was the most radical mystic (Smith 44). [quotation marks still needed!]
To summarize: you can either quote the author(s) in full, OR entirely reword an ideabut, in either case, you need to provide documentation of the source.
Here is an example, from one of my own essays, demonstrating the proper form:
Motives, then, show us the importance of symbolic action and communication. These symbols are what make us human; having acquired a grasp of language, we build up orientations, which affect our subsequent interactions in the world. Burke contends that part of being human is necessarily having a point of view on the world, having an orientation (Burke 257). In sum, for Burke: "Our minds, as linguistic products, are composed of concepts (verbally molded) which select certain relationships as meaningful. Other groups may select other relationships as meaningful. These relationships are not realities, they are interpretations of realityhence different frameworks of interpretation will lead to different conclusions as to what reality is" (Burke 35).
ONE LAST NOTE: If one of your paragraphs consists entirely of paraphrasing (and uses no quotes or partial quotes), you should give a parenthetical citation at the end of that paragraph, for all the information used in the paragraph. Here's an example, again from one of my own essays:
Burke himself, supporting the above claim, insists that such a claim misrepresents dramatism. Dramatism is not merely a perspective or metaphor, but a discussion of what human beings are. To claim otherwise, according to Burke, is to collapse an important distinction between metaphorical and literal speech (Burke, 89-90).
At the end of your paper, you need to provide a full bibliographic citation for every source you have drawn on for your papers content (including our course texts, if you use the authors' ideas). You can do it according to different style manuals (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.), but you must pick one. Do not just "make one up" in your own style! Get into the habit of writing bibliographies correctly! Here is an example of both a book and an article, according to the MLA style manual:
Burke, Kenneth. Attitudes Toward History. 3rd ed. Berkeley: U of California P, 1984.
Burke, Kenneth. "(Nonsymbolic) Motion/(Symbolic) Action." Critical Inquiry 4.4 (1978): 809-838.
Style books, if you do not own one, are available in the library and, in some cases, on line. Ask a librarian if you cannot find them.
NOTE: For directions regarding how to cite an (approved) internet source, click here. It contains pages of instructions on just how to do this!
3) Acceptable Sources
For a college paper, I find encyclopedias and dictionaries to be unacceptable sourcesthey are way too basic to be helpful. Books and academic journal articles (located in the library stacks and/or located online) are best, although, in some cases, newspapers and/or magazines will be best--these are also frequently available on-line. However, all internet sources that are not online academic journals (i.e. personal homepages, posted lecture notes from another university, etc.) MUST be cleared with me before you use them in a paper. There is a lot of junk on the web, and so I want to be able to determine whether or not it is a GOOD source to use!
You must avoid run-on sentences, misspelled words, endless paragraphs (that go one full page or more) sentence fragments, and incorrect punctuation. Questions? Ask me!
5) Writing a Scholarly Essay
I don't have an unusual set of expectations here: an introduction (along with a thesis: the sentence declaring the basic point you'll be making in your essay), transition sentences, a conclusion, and a bibliography (as noted above). If you're unclear about what these should be like, you might look to a web page put together by a colleague of mine, Dr. Michael L. Kent, currently teaching at Montclair State University. He's got all sorts of information on writing essays, tips on scholarly writing, and even some stuff on APA style: click here.
6) Personal voice
Although I know some professors here think differently, I feel that it is fine to use first person ("I") when writing an essay. After all, arent you writing it? Its not writing itself! Creativity and use of personal voice is a plus, as long as it is not at the expense of the other requirements for the assignment!
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