Horizon University Documents
Turabian Quick Guide – brief overview of Turabian citation style with examples
Finding and Using Sources – a brief guide to effective research
Basic Essay Guide – a brief guide to Pre-Writing and basic essay concepts
Starting any writing task can be daunting. Here are a few tips for helping students get a handle on their assignment:
- Read and reread the exact wording of your prompt or assignment. Underline key words and verbs that tell you the specific details of what you are supposed to do and the focus of your assignment. Ask questions if you have any, but you must have a clear idea about the assignment. Keep these goals in mind as you research and organize your writing.
- Notate your readings. If your essay is in response to a class reading, you need to carefully underline, highlight, use asterisks and notes to mark where you have found interesting ideas that can be included in your writing. Usually you will need to read it through twice—once to understand it, and once to study it and notice important ideas. When you notate your readings, you can quickly locate the ideas and quotes that were interesting and help you prepare for writing.
- Start thinking about and researching your topic right away. By getting familiar with the subject and its possibilities, you do a great deal of evaluating how you will approach the assignment long before you begin to write. You will find that much of what you want to do you will have already worked out before the writing begins.
- Keep a time schedule in mind and stick to it. Complex assignments can sneak up on us if we don’t plan a realistic timeframe for each stage: from generating ideas, to researching, to note taking, writing your rough draft, then allowing time to step away and return to revise your final draft.
- Have something to say. The point of the assignment is not to fill space or to parrot someone else’s thoughts and words, but to show how you are thinking about and interacting with the complex ideas you are learning. You will have a much easier time and enjoy the assignment if you find an approach that fits your interests, and is interesting to tell to others. When you actually have something to say, your writing comes alive, and almost writes itself.
- RESEARCH. Begin with some terms that are specific and related to your topic. You may need to Brainstorm or Freewrite a little on your topic to generate ideas and find a direction you want to focus on (See Basic Essay Guide Horizon U document). If you need some books, you can use the key terms to search the titles and subjects in your local public library’s catalog. If you need articles, first see if The William E. Nix Electronic Library (TWENEL)offers helpful information. Next you might want to see if our resources links have helpful information: Other Research Quick Links. Another helpful resource search engine can be Google Scholar.
- Search key terms. Use some of the terms you came up with that might locate articles on your topic. Think of synonyms of these terms if your first try does not yield enough information you can use. Many search engines like Google Scholar have the Boolean system, which means you can specify that your articles contain one term AND another term AND another term, so that your results will be more specific and fruitful. If there is a key phrase that is important to your research use “quotes” around it, and only articles with those phrases will result. For more search tips, go to Horizon University’s Finding and Using Sources.
- Use appropriate sources. Your research should reflect the level of academic expectation of your assignment. Try to find books, journal articles and web sources that meet the appropriate level of expertise. Wikipedia and other non-peer reviewed websites may help in filling in basic information on your topic, but instructors generally prefer you get your quotable information from known scholars—depending on the topic. However, very often at the end of Wikipedia articles there is a list of scholarly resources with hyperlinks that might be considered appropriate for your research. But be discerning about who the author and the organization is when you use information, and make sure they don’t have a bias viewpoint you did not intend to use in your essay. For excellent quick tutorials on research, view the Horizon University Finding and Using Sources.
- Don’t copy and paste information. To be sure you are understanding the information you will use, and to avoid plagiarism, open a blank Word document so you can hide the web source behind it. Read what you want to use, then switch to the blank document and write it in your own words. This will help you avoid plagiarizing, and you will understand how to incorporate it into your essay better. Only copy and paste the rare exact quotes you will use, and then cite it. Paraphrasing and summarizing should be more frequent in your essay, and shows that you have mastered the concepts, but you must still cite the resource, so always accurately copy all the bibliographic information you will need from every source you consult.
- Keep records of all your sources. Be sure you know what citation style you are supposed to use for the assignment (likely Turabian/ Chicago). You will need detailed information of the websites, books, and other sources you use for your citations and reference page. For specific details and full text samples of using Turabian/Chicago manual of Style, visit Purdue OWL/ Chicago Manual or The Writing Center (University of Wisconsin) or Horizon University’s Turabian Quick Guide document.
- Jot yourself notes. Have a word document open for jotting your ideas, notes, citations, quotes. . . Using bullet points is helpful for keeping thoughts separate, and for arranging at any time under headings to help you organize.
Tackling the Writing
Many students struggle just to begin writing their assignment. Here are some tips for getting on track: (See Horizon University’s Basic Essay Guide )
- Don’t start from the beginning. Students who are still learning to write generally think that good writers start their essay with the first sentence of the introduction. But good writers rarely do. When they do, it is typically a placeholder so they can move on, and will go back and revise it later.
- Take notes in a Word document. Again, when you are doing research, or planning your essay, open a Word document and begin jotting bullet points on what you find or ideas you have. Don’t be concerned about the order, just get them down. These random notes will start to fill out and you will see connections between them as you go along. Later, when you start your paper, begin writing above your notes, then you can scroll down for reminders, ideas, details that you jotted and incorporate them one by one.
- Look for connections. Once you have jotted some notes and have done your research, see how they can be grouped together. Take a minute to see if this process generates new ideas about what you might want to say and jot them with those that are on the same topic. Ask yourself what is the interesting focus of the assignment and research, and give yourself a chance to just note whatever options or directions or main points that come to mind.
- Find the argument. Every essay makes some kind of claim. Out of what you have researched, and what you have been thinking about, can you find one main argument (thesis) that states what your paper will assert? Will your essay explain something? Try to argue something? Observe something? Describe something? (See Horizon University’s Basic Essay Guide )
- Support your claim. What ideas help you establish and demonstrate your main assertion or focal point? Often these answer the How, What, and Why questions the reader will have about your assertion. You need to explain to your reader the specifics of what you found. Essays commonly have three or so main supporting ideas that they use to fill in the details of their main assertion, but you must decide what supporting ideas and evidence is appropriate for your essay.
- Organize. Look at your notes and think about what might be the most effective order for organizing the supporting information into paragraphs that have one main idea each. You might cut and paste your notes in that order to make it easier for writing. This order can be changed if your writing leads in another direction—that is what cut and paste is for.
- Who is your audience? Of course it is your instructor, and you must always have your instructor’s expectations in mind. However, you need to imagine an appropriate audience other than your instructor so your writing will have a purpose. Above all, you should imagine that your reader does not already know what you will explain. Imagine your peers, who have a similar background knowledge as you, but have not done the research you have, or have not heard your specific idea before. Keep this target audience in mind, and your writing will be more clear and effective.
- Can I say “I”? You must ask your instructor. While we grew up in schools that told us not to use “I” most scholars and academic journals use “I” quite frequently. It is important to know when it is appropriate to use it, and most essays use it only in explaining the author’s process or assertions. In general an essay full of personal opinion is weak. Ask your instructor, and then use it discretely.
- Start writing what you know you want to write. Don’t start where you have no strong direction—like the beginning. In most essays writers have a least one strong ready-to-go concept where they can start writing. Once you get going on that, you might find that new ideas about what to say for the other points will begin to come to mind. Just write what comes, including quotes as needed, and if you think of an idea, scroll down and jot it before you forget. (See also Horizon University’s Basic Essay Guide )
Finishing the Product
- Focus on a strong intro. Now that you know what you wrote about, take some time to craft an introduction that will prepare the reader for your main assertion. You must have a sense of what will set the tone for your paper, but your intro should demonstrate a level of interest that reflects your topic. Try to write something that you would like to read in an introduction that would get you interested to read more on the topic. If you sound bored, the reader will be bored. If you are confused about what to say, the reader will be confused about what you are saying. Remember, find something interesting about the topic, and say it.
- Craft a reflective conclusion. You want to give a sense of summarizing your claims from the essay, but not as a format you follow. Remind the reader of the richness of the information just presented in the essay, and how it combined to support the main assertion and ideas. The last sentence should generally be memorable—a final grand statement about what it all means, or how significant what you have explained is in a broader sense.
- Citations. It is easier to note citations as you reference them in your essay, but if you haven’t, then do it now. You will want to follow one of the many Turabian/ Chicago quick guides available (some listed in the links below). Most Word programs (Word for Mac too) have done the hard work for you.
- Simply click on the “References” tab, and you will see options for selecting
- a style type (Turabian)
- Insert Citation drop down menu
- New Citation
- Bibliography/References (will create your References or Works Cited page)
- Insert footnote (if used)
- Insert Endnote (if used)
- You can even insert the bibliographic information into the footnote/ endnote
- Find out from your instructor if you must use in-text citations (parenthetical, author/date) and reference list or bibliographic footnotes/endnotes (NB in Purdue OWL) and bibliography. The program will format it for you, but you want to know which options are preferred, if any. Also consult Purdue OWL/ Chicago Manual or The Writing Center (University of Wisconsin) or Georgetown University for details and full length samples, or Horizon University’s Turabian Quick Guide document.
- Do you need a cover page and header? Most instructors want Turabian style cover page and a header with page numbers (possibly name also). See full samples at Purdue OWL/ Chicago Manual
- Save your essay and walk away. But you are not finished. You must take a break from it and come back at another time. Allow enough time so that you can re-read your essay and make changes. YOU WILL MAKE CHANGES. You must. It is only your first run through it.
- Read your essay out loud. The best way to catch errors and awkward sentences is to read it out loud—every word. Your eyes will get lazy and your mind will tell you that the words are right if you only look it over, and reading out loud helps avoid this. You will have a better essay if you take this time to improve it.
- IT’S A WORD PROGRAM. Cut and paste and move whatever you need to make it better.
- Intro and thesis. Is it as clear as it can be?
- Topic sentences. Do the first sentences of your paragraphs transition from the ideas of the last paragraph, and cover only one main idea for the current paragraph? If your paragraph contains more than one main idea, then you might have two paragraphs, or something might need to be moved to another more suitable paragraph.
- Could the order be changed to make it stronger? Sometimes when we write we discover ideas that we did not expect to, but they are not always in the best order. Evaluate how your ideas are connected to help the reader understand and get the most out of your assertions.
- Are your ideas clearly explained? Smooth them out. Sometimes our sentences are too long and complex and they just need to be two. Sometimes we miss a step in connecting thoughts for the reader. Sometimes something just doesn’t fit or help explain our argument.
- Little word changes. They can make a big difference. Don’t get complacent. Keep searching for clarity.
- One last time. Read it through again and tweak it as needed. Save it to your computer and FLASHDRIVE (you never know when you wish you had it with you). Now print (or upload) it.
- CONGRATULATIONS! You did it!
- Simply click on the “References” tab, and you will see options for selecting
Research and Writing Support Links
San Diego Public Library – general research and database access (a San Diego Public Library card is required to access and search the database.)
CLIP—Cooperative Library Instruction Project – For excellent quick video tutorials on research and writing
Purdue OWL—Online Writing Lab and Resources – For extensive guidance on a wide range of writing tasks including Turabian/ Chicago Manual of style
Turabian Quick Guide – Horizon University document. A brief overview of Turabian citation style with examples
Finding and Using Sources – Horizon University document. A brief guide to effective research
Basic Essay Guide – Horizon University document
Georgetown University – For Help with Turabian Style
The Writing Center (University of Wisconsin) – For Help with Turabian Style, general grammar and other writing suggestions
University of North Carolina – Guidelines for writing a persuasive essay
Free Turabian Style Citation Generator – plug in your bibliographic information to generate citations and reference/ works cited page
Merriam-Webster – Dictionary/Thesaurus
Grammarbook – quick grammar and writing rules