Guides to Writing

Guides by Department

Online Writing and Other Resources

Online Resources

These off-campus web sites may be useful for the disciplines listed. 

Computer Science: 
Carnegie Melon Advice on Research and Writing

English and Humanities: 
- MLA guide to citations
MLA style guide at University of Southern Mississippi
Turabian Guide for writers of research papers

History Department of East Tennessee State citation guide 
The Nature of Historical Writing 
Reading, Writing and Researching for History

Bates College biology department, How to Write a Paper in Scientific Journal Style and Format
University of Richmond Writing in Biology 

APA Style Guide at University of Southern Mississippi
Biology SSGuide

Reference Works and Other Thoughts on Writing

Oxford English Dictionary 
American Heritage Fourth Edition
Encyclopedia Britannica
The Elements of Style 
George Orwell's "Politics of the English Language" 

Other University Writing Centers

Appalachian College Association (ACA) Virtual writing center 
Dartmouth's Materials for Writing Tutors
Hamilton College's Writing Center
Harvard Writing Center
Purdue Writing Center Electronic Handouts topics ranging from comma placement to research paper organization 
Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)
- University of North Carolina's ESL Tutoring Page
University of North Carolina's Writing Center
- University of Richmond Writing Center and Resource Page

Description of Letter Grades

The following description of letter grades on papers may be helpful:

F paper: Its treatment of the subject is superficial; its theme lacks discernible organization; its prose is garbled or stylistically primitive. Mechanical errors are frequent. In short, the ideas, organization, and style fall far below what is acceptable college writing.

D paper: Its treatment and development of the subject are as yet only rudimentary. While organization is present, it is neither clear nor effective. Sentences are frequently awkward, ambiguous, and marred by serious mechanical errors. Evidence of careful proofreading is scanty. The whole piece, in fact, often gives the impression of having been conceived and written in haste.

C paper: It is generally competent; it meets the assignment, has few mechanical errors, and is reasonably well organized and developed. The actual information it delivers, however, seems thin and commonplace. One reason for that impression is that the ideas are typically cast in the form of vague generalities—generalities that prompt the confused reader to ask marginally: "In every case?" "Exactly how large?" "Why?" "But how many?" Stylistically the C paper has other shortcomings as well: the opening paragraph does little to draw the reader in; the final paragraph offers only a perfunctory wrap-up; the transitions between paragraphs are often bumpy; the sentences, besides being a bit choppy, tend to follow a predictable (hence monotonous) subject-verb-object pattern; and the diction is occasionally marred by unconscious repetitions, redundancy, and imprecision. The C paper then, while it gets the job done, lacks both imagination and intellectual rigor, and hence does not invite a rereading.

B paper: It is significantly more than competent. Besides being almost free of mechanical errors, the B paper delivers substantial information—that is, substantial in both quantity and interest-value. Its specific points are logically ordered, well developed, and unified around a clear organizing principle that is apparent in the paper. The opening paragraph draws the reader in; the closing paragraph is both conclusive and thematically related to the opening. The transitions between paragraphs are for the most part smooth, the sentence structures pleasingly varied. The diction of the B paper is typically much more concise and precise than that found in the C paper. Occasionally, it even shows distinctiveness—i.e., finesse and memorability. On the whole, then, a B paper makes the reading experience a pleasurable one, for it offers substantial information with few distractions.

A paper: Perhaps the principal characteristic of the A paper is its rich content. Some people describe that content as "meaty," others as "dense," still others as "packed." Whatever, the information delivered is such that one feels significantly taught by the author, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph. The A paper is also marked by stylistic finesse: the title and opening paragraph are engaging; the transitions are artful; the phrasing is tight, fresh, and highly specific; the sentence structure is varied; the tone enhances the purposes of the paper. Finally, the A paper, because of its careful organization and development, imparts a feeling of wholeness and unusual clarity. Not surprisingly, then, it leaves the reader feeling bright, thoroughly satisfied, and eager to reread the piece.


According to the Sewanee College of Arts and Sciences Catalogue,
plagiarism is a form of cheating because the plagiarist copies or imitates the language and thoughts of others and passes the result off as an original work. Plagiarism includes failing to identify a direct quotation by the use of quotation marks or another accepted convention which delimits and identifies the quotation clearly, paraphrasing the work of another without an acknowledgment of the source, or using the ideas of another, even though expressed in different words, without giving proper credit.

Though different disciplines have different systems of documentation, every system exists to preserve the writer's academic integrity and to enable the reader to find and follow every significant external source. Some departments have guidelines posted on this site. 

A fine pamphlet from Dartmouth College provides an excellent explanation of plagiarism along with examples (correct and unacceptable) of how to use quotation, paraphrase, or allusion to the ideas of others. It is called Sources: Their Use and Acknowledgment. 

The Berkeley Library has an excellent collection of information on plagiarism and the necessity of careful citation and documentation.


Style manuals provide guidelines for how to format the elements of your citation. Many of these style manuals have been published by professional organizations (such as the Modern Language Association or the American Psychological Association) or by an individual whose authority is generally accepted within academic circles. Many of those listed (see link below) are on reserve in duPont Library.

In addition to providing guidelines for how to cite sources, these manuals give background information on other elements of style such as proper page layout, punctuation, quotations, etc. If your instructor does not make clear the best work for your class, you can link here to a bibliography of useful guides to documentation for various disciplines. Or you can find a carefully edited and annotated bibliography of style manuals for various disciplines at Duke University.

If you prefer to seek your guidance on line, the Duke University Guide to Library Research shows how to make the citation and how to construct notes and bibliographies in proper form in MLA, APA, Turabian, and Chicago Style format at this excellent site.

You can find authoritative advice on documenting references to electronic information following the system of The Columbia Guide to Online Style, by Janice R. Walker and Todd Taylor (Columbia UP, 1998). You can find a version at Columbia University Press.

compendium of citation guides in various disciplines is maintained by Karla Tonella at the University of Iowa. If you haven't found what you need, try here.

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The Sewanee Purple is the bimonthly campus newspaper. Positions are generally available on each publication to write, edit, photograph, design, sell, and manage. The editors are elected by the student body and the Order of Gownsmen from a list of nominees who have met the requirements for each office. Once elected, an editor has responsibility for selecting a staff. The Publications Board, a joint faculty/student committee, advises staffs, mostly in financial matters.