By Bianca Chan
Having trouble writing that essay? Don’t know where to start? How do you even write a thesis statement and what in the world is Chicago Style? If you’re asking yourself any of these questions, or have other concerns about writing in university, Carleton offers several online and in-person writing services that can help you ace that next essay.
Writing in university can be tricky, especially if you’re an online student who may not be able to visit the library or see your professor in person very easily. Fear not! For those CUOL students, we’ve got a list of online resources that will surely help you with that upcoming assignment.
Citing Your Sources
This guide includes all of the major academic citation styles your professor or department prefers (if you don’t know what style to use, ask your professor!). All of these can be found online and the official style manuals are available at the Research Help Desk and Writing Services at the library, if you’re in the area.
Carleton University Research Experts by Field
Search for your specific field to find suitable and appropriate databases to conduct your research.
Many academic departments have writing guides on their websites. Below are a couple of examples:
- Carleton’s Department of History: Notes on Writing a History Essay
This guide includes tips and notes on how to write a history essay, including guidelines on how to plan out the essay and specific citation style tips.
- Carleton’s Department of Economics Writing Resources
This page includes some guidelines to academic essay writing for economics (but can be useful for all students!), basic manual of style, what makes an outstanding university-level essay, and advice about plagiarizing and paraphrasing.
Writing Services (Centre for Student Academic Support)
Writing Services offers free support to all students (all departments and levels of study) to help make your writing more academic, more coherent, more comprehensive and more concise. They offer both in-person and online support.
All in-person appointments are drop-in and are available on the 4th floor of MacOdrum Library. The support tutors can:
- Help you figure out what you want to say and how to say it;
- Give you the tools to express your ideas clearly;
- Help you improve critical thinking skills;
- Work with structuring and organizing your writing;
- Help with introductions and conclusions;
- Develop an argument;
- Give you tips on citation and bibliographic format;
- Teach you how to better proofread and edit your paper.
Writing Services conducts online appointments via BigBlueButton, using an online forum. Students can upload documents to a virtual meeting room and tutors can comment and mark areas for revision. Simultaneously, students can chat by text or voice with their tutors.
Visit the Writing Services website to set up your online appointment.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017 | Categories: News from CUOL!
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Writing an outline for your essay requires you to come up creative ways of structuring your ideas.
Taking the time to draft an outline can help you determine whether your ideas connect to each other, what order of ideas works best, where gaps in your thinking may exist, or whether you have sufficient evidence to support each of your points.
A good outline is important because:
- You will be much less likely to get writer's block because an outline will show where you're going and what the next step is. Use the outline to set goals for completing each section of your paper.
- It will help you stay organized and focused throughout the writing process and helps ensure the flow of ideas in your final paper. However, the outline should be viewed as a guide and can be adapted as you begin writing. As you review the literature or gather data, the organization of your paper may change; adjust your outline accordingly.
- A clear, detailed outline ensures that you always have something to help re-calibrate your writing if you feel yourself drifting into subject areas unrelated to the research problem. Use your outline to set boundaries around what you will investigate.
- The outline can be key to staying motivated. You can put together an outline when you're excited about the project and everything is clicking; making an outline is never as overwhelming as sitting down and beginning to write a twenty page paper without any sense of where it is going.
- An outline helps you organize multiple ideas about a topic. Most research problems can be analyzed from a variety of perspectives; an outline can help you sort out which modes of analysis are most appropriate to ensure the most robust findings are discovered.
- An outline not only helps you organize your thoughts but can also serve as a schedule for when certain aspects of your writing should be accomplished. Review the assignment and highlight when certain tasks are due. If your professor has not created specific deadlines for handing in your writing, think about your own writing style in relation to other assignments and include this in your outline.
Steps to making the Outline
A strong outline details each topic and subtopic in your paper, organizing these points so that they build your argument toward an evidence-based conclusion. Writing an outline will also help you focus on the task at hand and avoid unnecessary tangents, logical fallacies, and underdeveloped paragraphs.
Identify the research problem. The research problem is the focal point from which the rest of the outline flows. Try to sum up the point of your paper in one sentence or phrase. This is your thesis statement.
Here are some sample research topics to consider:
- Too Broad: Effects of Volcanoes
- Too Narrow: The effect of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens on the regeneration of plant species
- Appropriate: The geographical impact of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens
- Too Broad: Deindustrialization in Canada
- Too Narrow: The effect of downsizing on the automobile labour force in Ontario, 1995 - 2015
- Appropriate: The changing distribution of the Canadian automobile industry
- Too Broad: Mortgage crisis in Canada
- Too Narrow: The long term effect of rising housing prices, unaffordable mortgages, and the influence of international buyers in the Canadian market
- Appropriate: The changing housing markets in Canada and its effect on real estate values
- Identify the main categories or topics. What main points will you analyze? The introduction describes all of your main points; the rest of your paper can be spent developing those points.
- Create the first category. What is the first point you want to cover? If the paper centers around a complicated term, a definition can be a good place to start. For a paper about a particular theory, giving the general background on the theory can be a good place to begin.
- Create subcategories. After you have followed these steps, create points under it that provide support for the main point. The number of categories that you use depends on the amount of information that you are trying to cover. There is no right or wrong number to use.
- Write an analysis (or synthesis) of your main points. You might express the main points in single sentences with supporting references from your annotated bibliography.
- Finish your essay with a conclusion. It should sum up your argument but without directly repeating statements from the introduction.
- Choose a topic narrow enough to find specific information, but not so narrow that you cannot find enough information.
- Before committing to a topic, scan a database such as Summon to see if you will be able to find enough information on that topic.
- Assemble a variety of information sources or data into a coherent argument to demonstrate the you understand the material.
- Do not expect to find a book or journal article with the exact title of your topic.
- Take advantage of the many online databases the library offers for finding journal articles.
- Scan the bibliography of an up-to-date book or article on your topic in order to gather additional sources.
- Ensure journal articles that you use for your paper have been peer-reviewed.
- All information cited in your paper must be properly cited. Take the time to learn about the specific style that is expected from your professor. View the Citing your sources help pages provided by the library.
- Ask for help at the Research Help Desk, located on the main floor of the library.