A Blog of Writing Resources from The University of Scranton's Writing Center

Category: General Writing Tips (Page 1 of 4)

A Great Shakespeare Resource



Litcharts is a great resource if you are new to navigating the works of Shakespeare. The website offers the original full-text of most of Shakespeare’s plays with modern translations on a parallel screen. The lines are color-coded, which makes it easy to read and compare the two versions of the text.  Additionally, you can get the act, scene, and line number by hovering over any piece of text. It also gives you the full reference for the webpage,  just in case you’d like to use any of their modern translations in a paper.  Check it out!

Shakespeare Translations at LitCharts



Free Dictate and Text to Speech Program

Speech Notes is a free website that will type your text as you speak it. In the column to the right, it has basic instructions for inserting punctuation as you talk. From there, it’s easy to copy and paste your sentences into a word document with the “Copy to Clipboard” icon. You can also upload your document directly to a google drive, Word document, or email it to yourself using the icons to the right. It’s functionality also available in multiple languages. Check it out!

In addition, you can also upload text, and it will read it aloud to you.  Just click “Text to Speech” at the top of the page:


Check it out here!

Writing a Paper for a Conference

Conferences are ideal ways to connect with professionals in your field and increase your visibility within your discipline. They are wonderful opportunities for professional development and presenting at conferences can be crucial lines for your CV.  However, crafting a paper to be accepted and later presented at a conference is a unique art. Here’s some of our favorite resources to guide you through the process.


1.) How to write a conference paper

2.) What to avoid when crafting a conference paper.

3.) Some possible templates to help you draft your conference paper:

4.) Here’s a sample conference paper

Our Favorite Resource for Literature Reviews

Our favorite resource for literature reviews was created by The University of Waterloo.  First, these modules define what literature reviews are, where they appear, and  why they are beneficial. The website talks about discipline-specific writing conventions and the different organizational approaches. Then, it walks writers through the process of composing literature reviews in a highly visual and interactive guide.  The images, in particular, can help writers understand the various forms of knowledge gaps. Ultimately, this is  a quick but highly beneficial resource that can guide novice writers who are unfamiliar with the conventions of literature reviews.  

      1.  Here’s the entire guide
      2. Here’s the recommended writing  schedule
      3. Here’s an annotated sample paper
      4. Here’s a template to help guide your writing process 

Tips for Writing a Philosophy Paper

  1. Philosophy papers are not reports, or research papers, or reflection papers. Generally, they ask students to use their reasoning skills to defend a particular idea or test the validity of an argument. Considering that, look at the prompt. Does your instructor want you to apply a philosophical argument to a new situation? Does the prompt ask you to amend an existing argument? Or object to an argument? Read the prompt closely and take a look at these frequently used tasks to better understand the prompt.


  1. Choose a stance to argue for or against. Do not choose both sides or neither side. Playing the middle-ground can be much more difficult and might require a longer paper.


  1. Have a precise thesis statement that defines your stance, how you will prove your stance, and why your stance should matter to your reader. Check out some adaptable thesis templates here.


  1. Define any abstract terms, concepts, or perspectives before you dive into your draft. Have the definitions accessible so you can use them correctly to support your reasoning. Make sure you are using philosophical terms correctly. Here’s a brief guide with frequent concepts. Here is a guide with vocabulary to help you describe arguments as you analyze them.


  1. Make a detailed outline before you start writing. When dealing with abstract concepts, it’s easy to go on tangents or lose focus. One possible way to approach these papers is to use the They Say/I Say method, which is further explained here.  Another point-by-point method of organization is here.


  1. Use your instructor’s office hours once you have a detailed outline to make sure you are on track for success.


  1. Write a brief introduction. Be concise and respond directly to the main question within the prompt.


  1. Don’t use too many direct quotes. Remember, philosophy instructors generally want to see your reasoning skills, not your summary skills. Select and integrate material from others that best illustrates or supports your idea. Don’t let them overshadow your ideas.


  1. Communicate your stance and thought process clearly. Avoid all vague words (a lot, stuff, things) and empty language (basically, just, great, fine)  unnecessary adverbs (really, very, importantly) that can distract your reader. Make sure you are choosing the most appropriate words.
      1. Use examples and illustrations to demonstrate your thoughts.
      2. Use transitions and signposts to indicate how ideas relate to each other.
      3. It’s wise to have a peer review your argument to make sure it’s clear with no gaps in your logic.
  1. Be confident—don’t preface your ideas behind phrases like “In my opinion,” “I believe,” or “For me at least,” because it discredits your argument.


Other Resources 

Student Sample Papers An Annotated Student Sample Paper

A Student Sample Paper with Instructor’s Commentary

Common Issues  in Philosophy Papers  Examples of What Not To Do
Strong Writing vs. Poor Writing

in Philosophy Papers

Examples of Student Writing

Commas and Colons and Semicolons, Oh My!

By Danielle DePasquale


In an effort to craft properly paced sentences, it can be tricky deciding which punctuation marks to use. We use periods, question marks, and exclamation marks in our writing without hesitation, as we are aware of the grammatical implications and emphasis they contribute. But, when it comes to commas, colons, and semicolons, we are often unsure. So, what is the difference between using a comma, colon, and semicolon? Over the past few years, this has been a frequently asked question during writing center appointments. While these marks are close in proximity on the keyboard and similar in appearance, each have a different role when formulating sentences. Let’s start with commas. Commas serve many purposes, but they most commonly function as pauses within a sentence. When writing, I often read my sentences aloud and put commas where I naturally take breaks when reading. Ultimately, their use or omission is up to the discretion of the writer. However, as in most principles, I advise against over or under use. I also wanted to make a quick mention of the Oxford comma, as this is another FAQ. When listing items or ideas, some may choose to use the Oxford comma, which is the last comma in the list. However, it is a more of a style choice. My recommendation is that if you choose to use the Oxford comma, just ensure that it is placed in the correct part of the sentence. The next debate is the use of a colon versus a semicolon. To put it simply, colons are used to introduce as statement. I like to think of a colon as an equal sign, as it precedes the announcement of an idea or quotation. In contrast, a semicolon connects two separate sentences that are related. The trick with using a semicolon is to ensure that each idea on either side of the semicolon reads as a full sentence. For more information, I provided a link with some examples of correct and incorrect uses of each punctuation mark in the hopes of making the differences clearer. Using such punctuation accurately will only enhance one’s writing sophistication and clarity.

When to Use a Semicolon vs Colon, Comma, and Em Dash (; : , —)


Rough Drafts

by Josh Vituszynski

I spent this past intercession on just about the last thing any right-minded student would want to do over break. I wrote an 80 page paper. You might ask, why did I imprison myself to the harsh confines of Microsoft Word during what should have been a month of freedom? Because I am working on a research project, and I spent the fall semester not only brainstorming, but also second guessing myself and my ideas. I continually hesitated to put words on the page because I was worried that I would not be able to handle writing a paper of such a large length. Going into the winter break, I knew I had to get a first draft together before the spring semester began. So, I decided to stop ruminating over my writing abilities and committed myself to writing what I needed to write. I decided that I needed to stop worrying so much about whether I was happy with the initial product. After all, who is totally happy with a first draft? If writing a paper is like shooting darts, and that final draft is the bullseye, then the first draft is target practice. Sure, it might be humbling to take those first few shots and nearly miss the target entirely, but most people cannot experience the gratification of hitting that tiny mark in the middle of the target without taking those first missed shots. Thus, over break, I swallowed my pride and wrote away. Some sections of the project seemed likes bullseyes from the get-go. Others, not so much. Nonetheless, I am far closer to a finished product with this current draft, rough patches and all. From this experience, I learned that writing requires the humility to dive in and work away, knowing that failure, setbacks, and struggle are ahead, but that these are all part of the uneven road toward what will eventually become a product worthy of pride.

All the Citation Resources You Need in One Place

Resources for APA (American Psychological Association) Format:

APA Quick Guide

The OWL at Purdue

Video Tutorials on creating APA Citations 

Video Tutorial on Page Set-up in MS Word

APA Student Checklist

Student & Professional Sample Papers:

  1. Sample Papers from APA Style 
  2. Sample Papers from The OWL at Purdue

Downloadable Template: 

  1. APA Downloadable Template for MS Word without Text
  2. APA Downloadable Template for MS Word with Sample Text 

Resources for MLA (Modern Language Association) Format:

MLA Quick Guide

The OWL at Purdue

Video Tutorials on MLA Citations

Interactive Practice Building MLA Citations

Student & Professional Sample Papers:

  1. Sample Papers from MLA Style 
  2. Sample Papers from The OWL at Purdue

Downloadable Template:

  1. MLA Downloadable Template for MS Word

Resources for Chicago Manual of Style:

Chicago Quick Guide

The OWL at Purdue

Sample Paper

AMA Style (American Medical Association):

University of Washington Resource

The OWL at Purdue

Sample Paper



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