Academic Writing

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This section is, as you might have guessed, about writing academically. The public education system doesn’t seem to place a very high premium on writing skills anymore, which is a shame. The sad truth is that most students have no clue how to put together a decent paper once they hit college– in other words, right when they’re expected to already know how to do that. For many freshmen, there is significant culture shock mixed with panic and last-minute scrambling, all to receive a mediocre grade. I aim to help prevent that.

In this section, you will find articles detailing everything I know about academic writing, including tips and tricks I learned over the years to impress college professors. From grammar to word choice to formatting, eventually everything will be outlined here.

    Rules for Paper Writing: Best Practices

    I spent a couple of posts telling you guys what you shouldn't do when writing papers. Today, however, I'm going to take some time to outline some things that you should do if you want to get a decent grade.

    I put together some videos detailing the Fried Chicken Method, which was taught to me several years ago by my favorite professor, Dr. Ricciardi. It's a pretty straightforward method that deals mainly with paragraph construction. It's designed to be a system that can allow anyone of any skill level to write a solid paper. I'm going to take it for granted that you watched the videos, because I don't like retreading the same ground twice, and it really is a lot of information to type out here. Just... just watch the videos, okay? I put a lot of work into them. They're free.

    Whether you decide to use the Fried Chicken Method or not, there are some things that everyone should do in their papers.

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    Common Paper Writing Mistakes Continued: Five More Basic Errors

    In a previous post, I outlined simple mistakes that are made with startling frequency in college papers. Well, that didn't cover nearly all of the basic flubs I've seen over the years.

    For some, this will come as new information; for others, this will be an example of a crotchety old man yelling at the ocean. Considering that I've often said that I'm basically a twenty-something octogenarian, I'm okay with the characterization.

    Here's the rundown of an extra five errors.

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    Academic Fraud: Plagiarism, Deception, Fabrication and You

    In one of my first articles, I went off on something of a tangent when discussing plagiarism. Because the subject is so important to discuss, thoroughly and in detail, I thought that it would be a good idea to write an article covering some of the most prominent forms of academic fraud and dishonesty.

    Read this article carefully, because it might just save your college career.

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    How to Make Your Paper Longer, Part Two: The Sneaky Way

    I told you last week that trying to use tricks and chicanery to artificially inflate your paper's length is the wrong way to go about it. Before I go any further, I want to reiterate the reasons not to use the tricks I'm about to tell you. 

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    How to Make Your Paper Longer, Part One: The Right Way

    In my first video, I told the viewers that I wouldn't use that series to teach people how to artificially increase the length of their papers. That much is going to remain true-- for a short time. Today, however, I'm going to give you some advice on reaching your page quota the right way. There won't be any tricks or chicanery in this post; it is designed to actually boost your word count.

    The fact of the matter is that professors are increasingly requiring digital copies of papers. This is ostensibly to reduce plagiarism, but a side effect of that is that there is a handy little word counter in the bottom left corner of Microsoft Word, so the second they open your document, they'll know you've pulled a fast one. Even if that doesn't tip them off, they'll be able to see that you've messed with margins and spacing and font sizes. So, really, it doesn't pay to be sneaky very often anymore.

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    Advanced Technique: Integrated Quotes

    In my recent video, I mention that your quotes within a body paragraph should be "integrated." I give an example in the video, but, as I suspected, I feel the need to get more in-depth with it.

    First, you should know what an integrated quote is designed to avoid: an interruption to the narrative of a paper. There is nothing worse when grading a paper than finding an ugly six-line block quote smack dab in the middle of a body paragraph. It's a distraction that completely removes the reader from the point you were trying to make. Suddenly, the momentum you had built for your argument in the previous paragraph is stalled in your attempt to prove its relevance. 

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    Grammar: Your Friend, The Comma

    When I first started this website, I didn't think I'd be writing many-- if any-- posts about grammar. Then... well, I thought about papers my students and classmates had me review. One thing became abundantly clear: people have no idea how to use commas.

    Fear not. I use commas all the time, and I'll clear up any confusion surrounding the matter.

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    Common Paper Writing Mistakes, Part Zero: Basic Errors

    I've mentioned some of these in passing in previous posts and in videos on my YouTube Channel, and I've actually gotten some messages asking about some of the basic errors people make on papers. Rather than respond to them individually, I figured I'd just make a master post compiling the most common ones that are easy to avoid. 

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    Formatting: Parenthetical Citations Made Easy

    This is something of a follow-up to my previous post on in-text citations. Consistently one of the most common questions I get from students or classmates is "How do I format this citation?" And honestly? It's pretty straightforward most of the time. Here's the rundown.

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    Common Paper Writing Mistakes, Part One: Where To Put Citations

    This one seems to come up frequently. One of my classmates or students will email me a copy of their paper and ask me to take a look at it before they hand it in. I oblige, because I actually like editing (I'm one of those people) and I like giving friends a hand. Looking over the paper, the text itself seems pretty good, and I reword a few things for them or catch a couple of grammatical errors-- basic stuff. But there's one problem that is rampant throughout the paper: the writer clearly doesn't know where to put his or her citations, so he or she puts them everywhere. Or, there aren't any citations at all, and at the end they stick in a works cited page.

    I can't really blame them for not knowing; I can only assume they have never been taught. So I explain to them how to cite properly, fix it for them and move on. Well, to prevent future questions, I thought that I'd put together an article explaining when and where your citations belong in your paper. 

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