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Writing Center

10 Quick Tips

Need a quick refresher on academic writing? These 10 tips might help!

What’s the difference between a research and a persuasive paper?

In a research paper, you are choosing a question and then laying out the research to answer that question. In a persuasive paper, you are choosing a stance on a controversial topic and then presenting research and arguments that support your stance to persuade your reader. Both require fact-based research.

What’s a thesis statement?

A thesis statement is (usually) a single sentence that states the purpose of a paper. Think of a thesis statement as a road map; it should serve as a guide for you and your reader regarding what the paper will be about. In a research paper, it answers your research question. In a persuasive paper, it lays out a stance on a topic that you will then go on to support.  In order for a thesis to be effective, it must be more than a statement of fact; it must be a statement that can be argued both for and against.

How do I structure my arguments?

Most papers will have an introductory paragraph with a thesis statement at the end. This is followed by several paragraphs of arguments supporting your thesis statement. Each body paragraph should begin with a topic sentence which summarizes a concise point and then present supporting arguments and sources.

How do I write an introduction/conclusion?

An introduction should ignite reader interest, provide context for the topic at hand, and lay out your position in a thesis statement. A conclusion should summarize your arguments and reiterate for the reader why the thesis matters. Focusing on the a topic that is interesting or engaging to you personally is a good place to start.

How do I cite sources within my paper?

Whenever you pull information from another source to use in your paper, you need to cite it with an in-text citation. The exact information included varies by citation style, for instance; MLA requires author and page number while APA requires author and year of publication. Citation formatting varies by the type of source (newspaper, book, interview, etc.). Specific details on in-text citations styles for different kinds of sources can be found through OWL Purdue.

How do I create a works cited page?

A works cited page or bibliography is a listing of all sources used within an academic paper that is included at the end of the paper. Its purpose is to assist a reader to access your research as well. The formatting of works cited/bibliography pages varies by citation style (MLA, APA, CMS, etc.) but bibliographies must always list all sources referenced in the paper. Some people format their works cited as they compose the paper, while others gather all their sources in a separate document and format them correctly at the end.

What’s the difference between MLA and APA?

MLA (“Modern Language Association”) citations are used in papers written for the humanities, such as English, literature, or cultural studies. APA (“American Psychological Association”) citations are used in social sciences, including economics, psychology, business, and nursing. APA citations include year published because research in many fields that use APA citations is fast-moving, and information quickly becomes out-of-date. Other citations styles include Chicago (general research) and AP (journalism).

Can I use “I” in my papers? What about “you”?

Academic writing, unless otherwise specified, should be written in third person. This means that your writing should not directly reference you, the writer (“I believe” “When I had this experience”) and also should not directly reference the reader (“What would you do if” “You might think that”). It is important to make no assumptions about the reader of your paper.

Is my grammar ok?

A good way to check grammar is to read your sentences out loud! Sentences may be phrased incorrectly or include other errors in the rush of drafting. Purdue OWL offers assistance with grammar questions.

How can I get more help with academic writing?

Participating in a writing consultation the Writing Center is the best way to get help at any stage of the writing process or to learn more about these tips. During Fall 2020, we are offering live virtual consultations as well as written feedback consultations. We look forward to seeing you soon!

  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2021), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • The Tower, Carthage’s newest residence hall, provides some of the best views on campus — if not in the Midwest! In addition to #carthageviews of the lake from seven stories up, residents enjoy suite-style living and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about all housing options.

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wings, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • More than 90% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit The Aspire Center.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. More than 90% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • Carthage has ranked as a top Fulbright producer for four of the past five years. Read about Carthage Fulbright winners.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our science center, student union, athletic and recreation center, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 15 years.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors, and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from marketing to neuroscience, nursing to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our more than 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • More than 90 percent of students receive financial aid. Carthage awards more than $20 million in scholarship and grant assistance. That includes $5.5 million in competitive scholarships in business, mathematics, science, languages, the fine arts, leadership, and overall academic strength. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” recalls biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 35 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from $22,000 up to full tuition. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about Intellectual Foundations.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 13:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 130 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Fencing to Frisbee, Chem Club to Stand Up Comedy. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked in the Top 5 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …