Help for Writers
Community Writing Center. Saint Mary's College Writing Center is a community service designed to help young writers with their work. Students at any level of writing proficiency may consult with peer tutors to become stronger, more confident writers throughout their academic careers. Contact the Writing Center by clicking here. Tutors can help with the following concerns. Other helpful links are provided below.
Thesis. Theses are statements that express original ideas. These ideas should be formulated as a result of your research, class discussion, or personal experience. Often, your thesis will change as you develop your ideas. Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said that he wrote his own opinions because it helped him formulate his thoughts. He learned that by writing your ideas down, “your reasoning will either make sense or it won’t. And if it doesn’t, you change your vote, or you change your whole approach” (“Justice Stevens” 2010). So, if you find yourself stuck with regard to your thesis, try some of the brainstorming techniques such as mind-mapping/clustering, freewriting, outlining, and charting. There are also online brainstorming tools such as the free application FreeMind™, which help guide you through a mind mapping process. Another great brainstorming app is Inspiration™, available on all Regina Lab computers. (You may wish to download a free trial of the latest version, Inspiration 9™.)
Development is how your ideas progress and connect. One of the best ways to ensure a clear organization is to create an outline before you write. Not only will this allow you to chart your ideas and evidence, but the process of creating an outline will also clarify your thoughts. To see a refresher on creating formal outlines, see Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL). Have you already written your paper and want to check your organization? Do you know why Paragraph 3 follows Paragraph 2? We have developed a handy worksheet (pdf) about reverse outlining to help you check your paper's organization.
Support is the evidence you provide that proves your ideas and thesis. This evidence can be gleaned from your class discussions, your own reflection, or from research. To learn how to do advanced research, visit the Cushwa-Leighton Library’s helpful Web site or talk to one of the librarians. They can walk you through the many online databases, inter-library loan process, or take you on a tour of the library holdings. For online resources about the research process, consult the Purdue OWL or the Texas A&M OWL. Then, once you find the sources that you’re going to use in your final paper, don’t forget to cite them. Whether you summarize, paraphrase, or use a direct quote, you need to tell the reader where the information originated. Acadia University has created a helpful online tutorial to walk you through when to cite and avoiding plagiarism.
Style & Mechanics are difficult to separate. The more comfortable you are with grammar and mechanics, the more likely you are to vary your sentence structure, a key component of style. Style is defined by the ease with which a reader can understand your ideas. The better your style, the more engaging your writing will be. There are numerous resources online that provide you guidelines for improving your grammar. The sites listed below are some of the most helpful. Since they are generally organized through university and college writing centers, they are focused on a student audience. Many of them have tutorials, worksheets, and exercises so you can learn a skill and then review it.
- California Polytechnic State University – Academic Skills Center
- George Mason University – Writing Center
- Harvard Writing Center
- Purdue OWL
- Texas A&M OWL
- University of Michigan Sweetland Writing Center
Also, many Saint Mary’s students are asked to purchase a Diana Hacker grammar guide. These texts come with online access to grammar and online writing resources. Much of the content is available for free, even to those who do not have the guide.
One of our favorite grammar resources is Grammar Girl. Mignon Fogarty is not writing with a university writing center or program; she is part of a team of advisors about everything from cooking to etiquette. Not only is Fogarty entertaining, but she's also an excellent teacher on many of the most contentious of grammar issues.