Writing is a challenging task for many writers. Many of us need all the support we can get. The following websites and short videos highlight some of our writing consultants' favorite resources for writing and writing-related tasks.
Getting Started & Staying Organized
These graphic organizers can assist you in planning your writing projects and staying organized while you are writing. Some writers find it helpful to first express visually what they ultimately hope to express verbally. Many of these will also work for presentations, studying, etc. Try a few out and figure out what works best for you.
Plagiarism is a serious academic offense. In academic and professional writing, we need to be careful that we always document where our information and facts come from, what sources have shaped our own ideas, and what in our text was not written by us. The sites we included here will assist you in becoming more knowledgeable about plagiarism and learning how to avoid it.
The UB Plagiarism Tutorial provides a broad overview of what plagiarism is, why it is ethically important to cite properly, and how to avoid plagiarism. It also includes links to most commonly used citation styles, such as APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), Bluebook (for legal writing), and Chicago Style.
This website has diverse and detailed information about plagiarism. It is sponsored by the company that distributes the software turnitin.com, which assists writers in detecting and avoiding plagiarism in their writing. It has a feature called “Ask the Experts” that allows you to ask questions about plagiarism-related issues. You can also look up older questions that other writers have asked.
Knowing how to properly and correctly document the sources you used for writing your paper is not only important in order to avoid plagiarism; it is also important because well-documented texts allow all of us, in our various professional and academic communities, to share information and develop ideas. Citation Manuals are, therefore, not just guides that tell you how to create a bibliography or reference list; they also tell you how professionals in various fields communicate with each other. In addition to the printed version of citation manuals, the sites listed here can assist you in navigating the jungle of accurately referencing and properly documenting ideas and facts.
APA format is used in many social sciences, such as psychology, criminal justice/criminology, public administration, etc. This APA Formatting and Style Guide, developed by the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University, breaks down the complexities of formatting a paper, documenting in-text citations, creating reference lists, including tables and graphs, etc. according to APA style. Make sure you check out the APA sample paper, which shows you an example of a student research paper formatted according to APA guidelines.
If the Purdue OWL has not given you all the answers you needed, check out the blog maintained by the American Psychological Association (APA). This blog is constantly updated and will offer guidance on text genres that the publication manual, on which the Purdue OWL is based, might not include, for example how to cite social media sources.
The UB School of Law lists some really good sites for law students, including a link to Peter W. Martin’s Introduction to Basic Legal Citation.
The MLA format is used in many disciplines in the humanities, such as literature, composition, communications, etc. This MLA Formatting and Style Guide, developed by the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University, breaks down the complexities of formatting a paper, documenting in-text citations, creating reference lists, including tables and graphs, etc. according to MLA style. Make sure you check out the MLA sample paper, which shows you an example of a student research paper formatted according to MLA guidelines.
The online Chicago Manual of Style is a great online source for academic and professional writing, not just for documenting your sources, but also for formatting your papers. For citations help, check out “part three” on this site, which will lead you to the two ways of citation explained in the Chicago Manual of Style, either using footnotes and a bibliography, or using author-date references. Using the version with footnotes and bibliography is frequently used by historians.
The Turabian Style of in-text citations and references is based on the footnote and bibliography style of the Chicago Manual of Style. This handout provides a brief overview (just two pages) on how to cite major genres that are frequently used in research papers.
WARNING: This tool is not fool-proof! You should still familiarize yourself with how citations and references/works cited/bibliographies need to look like, based on the citation style that you are using, EasyBib is a great online resource that can assist you in generating citations in MLA, APA, and Chicago formats for your bibliography. It allows you to get a head-start on organizing your sources, especially for lengthy research papers.
Effective writers often distinguish themselves by the wide variety of expressions and words they use. This is why continuously expanding your vocabulary can be really important. Having a broad and sophisticated vocabulary will make writing longer research papers, executive summaries, business memos, etc. a lot easier and will assist you in composing persuasive, informative, and effective texts.
This site can assist you in expanding your vocabulary and donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program for every correct answer. Please check out our short video about this free resource to test and build your vocabulary.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary is a classic among dictionaries. On this site, you can look up the meanings of words and their pronunciation. In addition, you will also see sample sentences that use the word (super useful to check out) as well as synonyms of the term you are looking up. You can also sign up via email to get the “Word of the Day,” another great way to expand your vocabulary. The site also has tons of videos, quizzes, and other nifty little things about the English language.
Learning More about Grammar
Many writers know somewhat intuitively what is right or wrong in a sentence, but cannot really explain why. Some writers struggle with proper grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, etc. No matter in which camp you fall, these sites will give you the tools to brush up on our grammar, improve your knowledge, or just do some grammar exercises, once in a while or regularly, to stay in grammatical shape.
This website has a great deal of useful information about English Grammar. It has a wide list of topics, including business writing, prepositions, and style guide. By clicking on any of these topics, you will get to tons of exercises and examples, not just for grammar related questions, but also for general writing. Make sure you check out the “Online Exercises” as well as the videos and writing guides!
This no-nonsense website will give you plenty of opportunity to review important grammar lessons. It features lessons on topics such as verb tenses and modal verbs. Each lesson usually has an introductory page with basic explanations, followed by a multitude of exercises where you can check your knowledge and get more practice. Also, the site has a weekly lesson that you can keep up with every week for your regular practice. The site is developed primarily for students for whom English is not the first language, but can be useful to any writer who wants to deepen her or his understanding of the English language.
This short, 2.5 page handout on some of the major punctuation rules will give you the basics you will need to know to master punctuation in the English language. For practice exercises and more in-depth explanations, you can consult the other two site listed in this category or the Online Writing Labs (OWL) that are listed in the category below.
Getting Assistance when the ALC Writing Center is ClosedWe love working with all the writers at UB and are always willing to engage in a conversation about writing, but there are limits to our availability. This means that we might not always be able to be there to answer your questions or provide you some feedback on your draft. This is why we have included the following links, which you can access 24/7 to get at least some of your questions about writing answered.
Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)
This is the Cadillac of all the Online Writing Labs, lovingly called OWLs around the world! This site has a plethora of handouts on possibly every single aspect of writing that you can think of. It includes very general tips, from getting started and understanding the writing process to explanations of style manuals and grammar lessons.
This award-wining website offers writers a ton of information about many writing-related topics, from generating ideas and grammar essentials to argument & critical thinking. It also has a dedicated section on digital writing.