Friday, June 25, 2010

Research, Seventh of Eight Parts: Synthesis and Style

A long-term, documented essay project is much like a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.

First, you must choose the puzzle you will complete, using the clues provided in the pictures on the carton. Will you reveal a scenic landscape, multi-colored pebbles, or buildings in Rome? From all the possibilities, you select one—just as you selected a topic to study.

At home with your puzzle, you open the lid of the carton to reveal a jumble of meaningless pieces. Temptation steals in, urging you to slide the lid in place and bury the carton in a closet, but you persevere. You take a deep breath and begin to organize the pieces, one by one, blues and blacks and grays in separate areas along the edges of a large table. You reserve the center of the table for the edge pieces that you sort and join to identify the puzzle’s boundaries and parameters.

The sorting process described above compares to the time you invested in reading to become an informed expert and in writing notes. You organized a jumble of information, not by color or shape, but by topics and sub-topics, defining boundaries and setting parameters for your essay as you did so.

With the sorting over, you are now ready to fill in the picture—to put the pieces of the puzzle in place; in other words, you are now ready to synthesize the quoted, paraphrased, and summarized information into a new whole, using the plan or outline that you developed last week while referring to the note cards, picking up only those that relate to each topic as you write about it in detail. If you have followed the advice in the previous entries about research, your essay content will come from your brain. You will only need the cards to check facts, write exact quotations, and add in the correct page number of the original source as you create in-text citations. The cards merely support what you now know.

As you write, try not to focus upon matters of style such as word choices, sentence structures, or images. Instead, concentrate on being logical, accurate, and thorough, remembering your three tasks:

1. prove that you are knowledgeable on the subject;
2. prove that you have first-rate reasoning skills; and
3. demonstrate your writing abilities.

The first and second tasks are vital in achieving a great grade or impressing the boss so accomplish them as you develop a first draft. In addition, pretend that your reader has no information about the topic. This will urge you to add the details, background information, and evidence necessary for your reader to comprehend and understand. Save your third task for the revising stage.

As you write, review your plan (outline), abstract or précis. Revise these if necessary; remember that writing helps you discover so you may discover more about your essay’s organization as you go. You should also refer to your plan often, even if it does not need revision, to insure that you stay on track.

As you write, you should also insert the in-text (also known as parenthetical) citations so that you will not overlook a resource and accidentally commit plagiarism. Highlight the source when you actually quote, paraphrase or summarize information from it. This is a final, important organizational step because the Works Cited page lists ONLY those works that you have quoted, paraphrased or summarized, nothing else. A separate Works Consulted page can be created to list resources that you read but did not actually quote, paraphrase or summarize.

Once you have a completed draft, set it aside—at least overnight—so that when you return to it later, you will more easily and clearly see what you actually wrote rather than what you meant to write. Writers have to develop objective eyes, and time is one avenue to this skill.

Another easy trick to employ is to read your draft aloud. Because your mouth moves more slowly than your eye and because your ears are great editing tools, read aloud. You will hear the passages that are just too complicated or the ones that are incomplete. Stop and repair them, then begin reading aloud again.

Your ears will also notice when you have repetitive sentence patterns. Stop to combine sentences into new patterns so that you achieve sentence variety. Scratch out general, abstract words, and substitute specific, concrete ones. In other words, revise as you read, then start again, reading the entire essay from first to last word, this time listening to your changes and revising again as needed.

For matters of style, please remember that this blog includes several weeks when style was the lesson. For example, you may return to

1. February 28, 2010 to review sentence patterns, especially the use of anaphora,
2. March 7, 2010 to review word choices and appropriate vocabulary,
3. March 28, 2010 to review editing (revising) skills,
4. April 18, 2010 to review concrete language, or
5. April 25, 2010 to review specific, concrete language.

GUM (Grammar, Usage and Mechanics).

I have never written a perfect passage. I type the wrong letter. My hand lags behind my brain so that occasionally, I leave out whole words or use it’s when I need its. I need a proofreader, and I have one. Not only do I read, re-read, and read again what I have written, I ask a proofreader to read what I have written when I think I have a final draft before me and again, after I have posted to the blog. Even after my proofreader has announced that he finds no errors, I read the blog again, and much later, after blogs have been posted, I can still see places that could be edited and revised.

So the moral of my admission is: ask someone to proofread for you. Never assume that you have written clearly and flawlessly until you have released your writing to the eyes of another. Let that person tell you when a passage is muddy, and be grateful when your proofreader catches a spelling error, omission, or oversight.

Reading Challenge.

Read your final draft aloud one more time. Ask someone else to read what you wrote, take his or her advice, then read your final draft again.

Writing Challenge.

Listen to yourself, and rewrite when you tell yourself that a passage lacks sufficient evidence or explanation. Pay attention to matters of style and write so that you are proud of every word.

Connye Griffin is My Writing and Editing Coach.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Research, Sixth of Many Parts: Pre-Writing & Outlines

If you have followed the advice and steps in the last five blog entries, you:

1. persevered to learn a great deal about a subject;
2. organized the information, using topic headings and categories;
3. identified bias, errors in logic, and empty, emotional arguments;
4. placed quotation marks around passages and phrases that you copied from the original;
5. studied the style (MLA or APA) that you must use; and
6. recorded the information you need to cite your sources correctly.

Now you are ready to begin a draft, and for that, you should re-read earlier blogs. Return to the blog from February 21, 2010. The subject is beginning. In part, that blog reads:

If I dream of becoming fit and strong, I must begin to eat less and exercise more. If I long to play the piano beautifully, I must begin with scales and devote time to practice day after day, year after year. If I wish to write or need to write, then I must begin.

The question most often asked by those facing a writing task is how do I begin? My students often hope that I will answer that question with a foolproof strategy. Alas, the answer is neither foolproof nor magical. The answer is simply: begin.

Even if you are not sure what point you will prove and defend for your researched essay, even if you hate the first sentence, and even if you would like to start over, commit by beginning. You can always add, subtract, and re-write. You can use what you write to discover good phrases worth saving and main ideas. Writing helps you clarify your thoughts.

So, once again, you must persevere in spite of uncertainty and some level of confusion. You must be willing to write and revise in order to create a good researched paper so pick a point and start writing. You can always scratch out or modify the point of your essay as you go. The first line—the first draft—does not have to be perfect. For most writers, it will not be, but every writer simply must write in order to write.

John D. MacDonald, who wrote crime and suspense stories that thousands have enjoyed, said in an introduction to Stephen King’s collection of short stories entitled Night Shift:

"If you want to write, you write.

The only way to learn to write is by writing. And that would not be a useful approach to brain surgery.

Stephen King always wanted to write and he writes.

So he wrote Carrie and Salem’s Lot and The Shining, and the good short stories you can read in this book and a stupendous number of other stories and books and fragments and poems and essays and other unclassifiable things, most of them too wretched to ever publish.

Because that is the way it is done.

Because there is no other way to do it. Not one other way."

Here is a fill-in-the-blank thesis formula so that you can begin. It is not what you will insert into your final essay, but it is a place to start, a place for you to formulate your ideas:

The purpose of this essay is to prove (or disprove) that _______________, and the proofs will be 1) _______________, 2) ______________, and 3) ___________________.

With all those blanks, I’m sure you feel frustrated and unsure. Let me fill in all those blanks with a specific example: The purpose of this essay is to prove that anyone can write an excellent essay, and the proofs will be 1) the nature of the writing process, 2) the value of research, and 3) the importance of accurate record-keeping.

By the way, three proofs is an arbitrary number. Sometimes, you will have two major proofs (sections) and many sub-points within each section. Sometimes, you will have four or five proofs. Do not be confined to the five-paragraph essay, consisting of an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. College-level analysis does not fit into such a tidy pattern. Your researched information will determine the pattern, not some high-school essay form.

So what are some patterns—also known as outlines—that could be useful for advanced analysis and synthesis? I offer two to help you organize the information that you have gathered.

The argument pattern: this pattern has the advantage of allowing you to demonstrate that you, as the writer, are well-informed on both sides of the issue and that your argument is logical and unbiased. Here is what it looks like:

Thesis: Although opponents present strong evidence to the contrary, ____________ must [or should, must not, should not]____________________.

Here is another generic example filling in those blanks: Although some teachers oppose efforts to transform the English classroom into a writing classroom because of the after-class work load, teachers must offer multiple writing opportunities each week and school year in order for students to become better readers, thinkers, and writers.

1. Section 1 of the argument pattern is a multi-paragraph explanation of the writer’s point of view; using the example above, section 1 will explain how students benefit from writing often and writing for a variety of purposes.
2. Section 2 of the argument pattern is also a multi-paragraph explanation; in it, you, the writer, explain the opponents’ points of view, presenting them without bias, without characterizing the opponents as malicious or stupid, and without manipulating data to win a point. If one of the opponents’ points is true and irrefutable, you, the writer, grant the truth of it.
3. Section 3 of the argument pattern is the final multi-paragraph refutation in which you, the writer, take up each of the opponents’ claims in order to challenge them, weaken them, or outright shoot them down. This is the section where you show off your logic and knowledge. In the first two sections, you showed off your knowledge, research, and character.

Most college writing will require an argument. I have offered only one pattern. There are more. To study them, look at Corbett and Connor’s Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student or Shea, Scanlon, and Aufses’ The Language of Composition: Reading, Writing and Rhetoric.

A second useful pattern for your advanced, researched writing is an extended analysis. This pattern provides you, the writer, with the challenge and opportunity to select evidence wisely and therefore prove both knowledge and logic. You would choose this pattern if you need to compare, contrast, define, persuade, and/or explain characters, battles, strategies, leaders, philosophies, legal arguments, novels, or others points of view.

You may begin with the same fill-in-the-blank formula:

The purpose of this essay is to prove (or disprove) that _________________, and the proofs will be 1) ____________________, 2) ______________________, and 3) ______________.

For example: The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate the evolution of the right to free speech, and the areas of consideration will be 1) Constitutional language and interpretation, 2) legal precedent, and 3) recent decisions extending and limiting free speech. (Explanation and Analysis)

For example: The purpose of this essay is to prove that Hamlet and Macbeth are comparable characters who question the purposes of life, and the areas of consideration will be 1) the characters’ early heroic status, 2) the characters’ motivations to discover their purposes, 3) the characters’ treatment of others, 4) the deaths of each character, and 5) the legacy of each character. (Comparison/Contrast)

For example: The purpose of this essay is to prove that Longstreet was a better strategist than Lee, and the areas of consideration will be specific battles and specific uses of resources. (Persuasion)

I must stress once more that you will not transfer this formulaic thesis, word for word, into your final essay. In the final version, using the second example above, the thesis might read: The noble Hamlet and the ignoble Macbeth, titular characters in Shakespeare’s canon, are actually quite similar men. Each confronts challenges that test his beliefs in man himself and the purposes of life, and each does extraordinary damage to others as he rationalizes his purpose.

The formula is simply to help you begin and develop an outline.

GUM (Grammar, Usage and Mechanics):

Transitions are crucial, especially in lengthy writing. They are the glue that secures one idea to another, ties one paragraph to another, and knits sentences into paragraphs.

Some transitions are useful for lists: first, second, third, fourth, . . . .

Some transitions are complete sentences: Not only was Longstreet more concerned about the terrain when planning for the Battle at Gettysburg, but he was also deeply concerned about the number of men who would die as a result of walking uphill across open ground to the Union stronghold. (This would tie the preceding section about Longstreet’s analysis of terrain to the ensuing section about his concern for the men.)

Some transitions demonstrate the relationship between sentences:
Because of this, that . . . .
If X, then Y . . . .
Blah, blah, blah therefore (thus, hence, ergo) yada yada yada

Some transitions are useful for chronologies: first, then, next, finally . . . .

Use online resources or a writing manual to review transitions.

Reading Challenge, the First:

Search online for essay abstracts and examples of the précis. Each is a miniature essay and provides the thesis and the proofs (or areas of consideration) for the longer essay to come. Identify the thesis statements and observe how many sections (proofs) the writer will develop in order to prove his point or make his argument.

Writing Challenge:

Use the formulaic patterns herein to plan your own essay, then write an abstract or précis, relying upon your plan.

Reading Challenge, the Second:

Re-read your own abstract or précis. Evaluate your own use of transitions. Revise your abstract or précis as needed.

Connye Griffin is My Writing and Editing Coach.





Friday, June 11, 2010

Research, Fifth of Eight Parts: Plagiarism & In-Text Citations

Have you ever offered an idea that others in the group passed over without comment, yet later, someone else offered the same idea and received not only the credit for the idea but also all the praise? You probably felt undervalued because you had been treated unjustly. Avoiding plagiarism and being academically honest simply mean that you give credit to the person who originated the idea and put it into words.

Academic honesty requires that you give credit to those who have gone before you, those who first posed a question and developed an answer, those who set down the facts for our use later--those who synthesized information that fostered and furthered the body of human knowledge. Those are the people on whose shoulders you stand as you study and advance in your own understanding. Those contributors must show up on your Works Cited and Works Consulted pages. Not to list them, not to acknowledge them is to be academically dishonest, to plagiarize.

In other words, academic honesty requires that you acknowledge those to whom you are indebted for information and ideas. This bears repeating: academic honesty requires that you acknowledge those to whom you are indebted for information and ideas. To meet this requirement easily, recall the purpose and value of note cards explained in the blog last week. Note cards, carefully developed, will allow you to keep track of your sources and whether or not you have paraphrased, summarized, or quoted from various sources. In other words, note cards insure academic honesty.

If one important goal of writing a researched essay is to prove your knowledge, then it is an absolute no-brainer that you need to acknowledge your sources. By listing them, you announce to your reader, “Look at me. See what I have read and analyzed in order to bring you this new insight. My essay has weight because it includes verified facts, expert testimony, first-hand accounts, and logic.”

If another important goal of writing a researched essay is to prove your reasoning abilities, then you must put your reasoning on display. Wrestle with sources, identify their deficiencies or biases, and offer your own critiques so that readers can follow your logic to weigh the merits of your argument.

Above all, just do it! Acknowledging sources with MLA or APA’s guidelines is the right thing to do—even if you alter the original passage, even if you paraphrase or summarize. Again, that bears repeating: even if you alter the original, paraphrase the original, summarize the original, or quote the original source, you must let the reader know where the idea and/or information and/or words appeared first. Not to do so is to plagiarize.

In-Text Citations. Both MLA and APA have specific requirements for in-text citations. You can review the requirements by buying the manuals (links provided in this blog), searching online for help, or going to the appropriate section at http://owl.english.purdue.edu. You should refer to one of these resources as you write a first draft of your researched essay.

In general, as stated above during the plagiarism section, your job is to let your reader know who and what have contributed to your essay; i. e., what information, facts, opinions, and experts have shaped the insights that you develop and defend. And, you should let your reader know without overly complicating the essay itself. An in-text citation is one of the least intrusive ways to acknowledge sources, but the in-text form has not always been the preferred format. Indeed, until about 30 years ago, the preferred method was footnoting with the actual notes appearing at the bottom of the relevant page or as a separate section at the end of a long work.

Today, primarily as a result of MLA, footnotes are uncommon. I think you can appreciate why the change was overdue if you have ever struggled through an annotated edition of any classic work. Can you recall your freshman year in high school as you read Romeo and Juliet? Footnotes along the side, at the bottom, or on a separate page interrupted your reading. Still, they were often essential to your understanding. Your eye was drawn away from the dialogue, to the note, back to the dialogue, back to the note, and again to the dialogue as you tried to put the note in context and understand the help it offered. How much easier it might have been if the meaning of words had appeared in parentheses immediately after the somewhat archaic Elizabethan word that Shakespeare used.

In that spirit, MLA recommended, then required in-text citations that link to the Works Cited page. If you remember the link between the two citations—the first appearing in the text of the essay you write and the second appearing as a list of works at the end of the essay—you will easily understand what must appear inside the parentheses: a word(s) that can be found quickly among the many words on the Works Cited page.

What would be the easiest word to spot on the list? The first word of each entry, especially because the entries are alphabetized so the list can be reviewed quickly, easily. To this end, if you paraphrase, summarize or quote from a source, you will put the first word(s) of the Works Cited entry for that source inside parentheses at the point in the essay where you paraphrase, summarize or quote from it.

Usually, the first word in a Works Cited entry is the author’s last name. For example, a basic single-author citation for a book includes the information, order and punctuation shown below.

Last, First. Title. City of Publisher: Publisher, Copyright Year.

A parenthetical in-text citation for such an entry will include the first word—the author’s last name—and the page number for the page upon which the paraphrased, summarized, or quoted information appears. Thus, a complete parenthetical in-text citation for information appearing on page 34 in a book by one author will look like this: (Last 34).

Sometimes, however, you will use two works by authors with the same last name. In that case, you must add the initial of the first name to distinguish between the two works. For the generic example above, the parenthetical in-text citation would be (F. Last 34).

Occasionally, you will list two works by the same author.

Last, First. Title. City of Publisher: Publisher, Copyright Year.

Last, First. Title the Second. City of Publisher: Publisher, Copyright Year.

A parenthetical in-text citation for one of these works by a single author would be (Last, Title the Second 34).

There are rules and guidelines for works with no author, web articles, print articles, multi-volume works, classic works, the Bible, recordings, films, interviews, and more so a manual is essential, but the principles for a useful parenthetical, in-text citation are the same:

1. give your reader what he needs and can easily find on your Works Cited page,
2. give your reader enough information so that he can distinguish between the resources you have listed, and
3. include the page number of print sources so that readers can find the exact location of the paraphrase, summary, or quotation if they wish to do so.

GUM (Grammar, Usage and Mechanics):

Write accurate Works Cited entries for a book with one author, a book with three or more authors, a magazine or journal article, and an online resource. Pay close attention to the demands of spacing, punctuation, line alignment, and indentation.

Reading Challenge:

Using Time, Newsweek, newspaper articles, scholarly articles, and biographies, examine how writers integrate or imbed evidence, facts, and quotations effectively and how they acknowledge their sources using in-text citations or phrasing.

Note that quite often, journalists do not provide a list of works cited. Instead, they use phrases such as according to Joe Expert, the Director of Agency X charged with overseeing the latest debacle . . . . With such phrases, the writer can give readers almost as much information as a parenthetical citation and Works Cited entry.

Also, be alert to the ways that journalists establish their credibility and present their knowledge so that you too can vary the ways in which you acknowledge sources. MLA, APA and the Purdue University site provide for such variety and show how the parenthetical, in-text citation might become shorter as a result.

Writing Challenge:

Return to the editorial that you wrote after reading the blog entry for May 30, 2010. Integrate facts and quotations, using the methods you observed during the Reading Challenge above.

Connye Griffin is My Writing and Editing Coach.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Research, the Fourth of Many Parts, Note-Taking

In previous weeks, I have written that writing helps us discover what we know. When I begin to write, my point may be unclear to me, but as I add details and incidents, the shape of my journal, essay, or story begins to show itself to me. I become clear about what to include and what to exclude. Note-taking has the same power. By taking notes, you will uncover a thesis and realize what you need and do not need. (The blog for May 16, 2010 introduced the same idea; you may want to review it before continuing.)

Writing also helps us remember. If I underline portions of a text, highlight passages, and place sticky notes on the edges of pages, I am using some of the best reading strategies because they insure that readers think about what is important in the text and note what strikes them as well-said or significant. Still, these strategies are insufficient if the end-product is an essay.

Unless you happen to be like one of my former colleagues, underlining, highlighting, or posting on the page will not help you catalog and recall information. But let me detour a bit to tell you about my colleague.

Once at the Thanksgiving table, when his children were old enough to enjoy challenging their parents, my colleague had to defend his honor. He had asserted that a particular author, in a particular work, wrote certain words that sounded out of character to the children. They said so. My colleague claimed to be able to go to the book and find the passage in less than five minutes even though he had not read the book or looked up the citation in years. The children smugly invited him to do so, and he did.

You’re wondering—if your critical thinking has been turned on—if this Thanksgiving tale is true. You’re wondering if my colleague set up his children by researching the passage just before they came home for the holiday. Perhaps he did, but I don’t think so because this same colleague can recall the places and dates and foods he enjoyed for most days of his life. He has remarkable command of plots, settings, characters, and language in an endless array of books, non-fiction and fiction. He has a commanding memory.

My own memory is much less impressive. I often struggle to recall what I ate for breakfast. Sometimes I remember foods and places and perhaps the decade in which I enjoyed those foods and that place, but only if the memory links to some rite of passage or special occasion such as my thirtieth birthday, an anniversary celebration, or a vacation.

I think my memory is more typical than my colleague’s. I need to write in order to remember well. So take my advice; avoid shortcuts. Write what you learn as you conduct research. You will save yourself hours of heartache and effort.

Using a 3 x 5 lined or unlined note card, a 4 x 6 card, a spiral notebook, paper and a three-ring binder with index pages, or virtual paper in a word-processing program, begin to create a file by organizing what you read and learn. Invent topics or category headings as you go. For example, if your task is to research the United States deficit, you can count on The History of the Deficit as a category. You may not realize, however, until you have read extensively, that the deficit links to wars waged. Thus, better category headings would be: debt as a result of the Revolutionary War, methods used to retire the Revolutionary War debt, timeline for retiring the Revolutionary War debt, debt as a result of the Civil War, methods used to retire the Civil War debt, timeline for retiring the Civil War debt.

Having discovered this pattern and organized the information accordingly, when you are ready to write the essay, you simply pull all “debt” cards together, all “methods” cards together, and all “timeline” cards together. You refer to them as you write so that your facts are absolutely accurate and the citations complete. Your paper has actually organized itself because you imposed an order upon pieces of information as you found them. Thus, later, you were able to synthesize that information into a new essay that clarifies and provides insight into a complex subject, the deficit.

Underlining, highlighting and marking pages will not provide the same ease at the writing stage. What often happens mirrors Reese’s study habits in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle. Inspired to pass a class and aware that highlighting is an effective study technique, Reese remarks that he cannot see the value in highlighting. The camera focuses upon what Reese is actually doing, and the viewer sees that he has left no word untouched. Every word, every line, on every page is now bright, fluorescent yellow.

Many researchers fall victim to the Reese-syndrome if they fail to discriminate between pieces of information by imposing order upon what they read. Unless you label and categorize what you learn, you simply prolong your confusion. You must sort, in other words,analyze in order to synthesize.

At this point in the note-taking lesson, I must remind you of a lesson from the first blog about Research: when you experience frustration, persevere (May 16, 2010. Research, the First of Many Parts). Do not imagine that you alone lack a crystal ball, that you alone cannot create functional categories. You are not alone.

I cannot recall a serious research project for which I did not have a few files with little in them. At the beginning, I thought something would be important, but it proved to be unimportant. Often, I used a category heading that turned out to be inaccurate and was replaced by something better as I continued to learn. This will happen. Expect it, adjust, and continue. Push past frustration.

Finally, be sure that each note is complete. First, if you copy the words from the original exactly as they appear in the original, wrap them in quotation marks, insert the ellipsis if you leave something out, and pay attention to the punctuation in the original. Second, be sure to link your note to the source.

Some people start a list of sources, numbering each one and attaching the number to every note card or page of notes. Others begin their Works Cited page immediately, adding to it as they progress. These writers simply use the first word that appears in an accurate, complete citation, usually the author’s last name, to link their notes to the source. Of course, if you encounter two sources written by people with the same last name, you must add a first name to distinguish between them throughout your notes. If you do not know the author, then the first words of the title will suffice. Most important, however, is the page number of the original document on which the facts, ideas, or words appear. Without that page number, you cannot produce an accurate in-text citation.

Next week’s blog will explain in-text citations and Works Cited entries. I will also review plagiarism.

GUM (Grammar, Usage and Mechanics):

The Modern Language Association (MLA) provides a lesson for the ellipsis which is three periods, separated by a space (ideally, not a full space).

First, to type the ellipsis with the proper spacing, use the shortcut for your word processing program. Select the option key plus a semi-colon (;) for a Mac or alt plus 0133 in Microsoft. The ellipsis will appear in a line of text as … , and it signifies that something from the original phrasing has been omitted.

Second, if a portion of the original contains an ellipsis (…) of its own, you must distinguish between your ellipsis and the original author’s ellipsis. You do this simply by wrapping the original author’s ellipsis in brackets as shown next: […]. Any ellipsis that you introduce remains unwrapped by brackets.

Reading Challenge:

Explore the online formatting and citation resources available to you.

1. By selecting an online citation generator such as www.easybib.com, you can fill in the boxes with information required and receive mini-lessons as well. When I used this online resource to create a citation for this blog entry, I learned that the most recent edition of the MLA Handbook, the 7th edition, no longer requires a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) unless the reader cannot locate the resource without it. Since this blog is online, the URL is essential in locating this particular resource so the URL has been included; the mini-lesson helped me make the correct choice in preparing the citation.

2. MLA is not the only formatting and citing style in use. The American Psychological Association (APA) has its own style and its own style web site at http://www.apa style.org. From the Home page, you can select links to learn more, but like MLA, the online help depends upon the printed manuals that each organization creates.

However, www.easybib.com can also assist you with APA style, but only after you register and pay a low-cost subscription. Fortunately, a university resource that librarians everywhere recommend is http://owl.english.purdue.edu. This site provides explanations and illustrations for both MLA and APA, and it is free.

Writing Challenge:

Read and take notes. Be sure to use the online citation resources to create an accurate and complete citation for each resource from which you take notes.

Connye Griffin is My Writing and Editing Coach.