In any writing-related course, there are a number of terms that instructors will expect all students to know and understand. While some of the terms may be familiar, others might feel more foreign. In order to succeed academically, it is vital to become familiar with the various writing and academic-related terms. Doing so will empower you as a student, both in and outside of the academic arena.
Thesis Statement: The one sentence (or, in a longer essay, 2-3 sentences) that clearly states the purpose, claim and/or argument of a paper. The thesis statement provides structure and direction for the paper and is ideally supported throughout the paper. Typically a thesis statement is located at the end of the introduction. A thesis statement may also state the specific audience for the paper and briefly list the main support points (this is called mapping).
More information about thesis statements and an exercise to help create one
Map Sentence: A sentence that lays out the main points to be detailed and supported in the paper. When included, a map sentence generally follows the thesis statement. Map sentences are common in shorter essay (3-4 pages or less), but are often less common in longer essays.
Topic Sentences: Sentences that begin each body paragraph in a paper, state the main idea of the paragraph, and link back to the thesis statement. Each topic sentence clearly supports the main purpose and direction of the paper and is located at the beginning of each body paragraph. Oftentimes a writer will use transitional words in creating topic sentences to demonstrate a clear link between the body paragraphs and the thesis sentence. These transitions include words or phrases such as “first of all,” “another reason…,” or “in addition to…”
Transitions: Words or phrases that are used in writing to create a sense of fluidity and structure in a paper. Transitions can be used to demonstrate a connection between various ideas, sentences, words or paragraphs, and make the paper easy to read and, oftentimes, the argument more compelling. Commonly used transitions are: in addition to, although, while, even though, therefore, consequently.
More information about transitions and a list of common ones
MLA Formatting: MLA (Modern Language Association) is the traditional style used to write papers and cite sources within the schools of liberal arts and humanities, such as composition, literature, and creative writing. The formatting requires a designated header, heading, in-text citation, Times New Roman font, 12 point font size and a completed works cited page.
More information about MLA formatting
APA Formatting: APA (American Psychological Association) is the traditional style used to write papers and cite sources within the social sciences, such as psychology, sociology and anthropology. The formatting requires a running page header, in-text citations, endnotes/foot notes and a reference page. Similar to MLA, APA formatting includes Times New Roman font and 12 point font size with the traditional 1 inch margins.
More information about APA formatting
Audience: Most writing assignments are designed with a specific audience in mind. This audience is the person or group of people the writing is trying to persuade or inform. Sometimes the audience is the instructor or peers, and other times the audience entails a much broader spectrum. For example, if you are writing an argumentative paper, who are you hoping to persuade? Who is/are the decision maker(s) for the change you are hoping to initiate? Being able to identify and consistently write for a particular audience will impact the way a paper is structured, the sources that are integrated, and the appeals and language used; audience is crucial in academic writing.
More information about audience
Annotated Bibliography: This assignment may accompany an academic research paper, oftentimes early in the writing process. The goal of an annotated bibliography is for students to research, evaluate and briefly summarize reliable, academic sources. As part of the annotated bibliography, students also properly cite the source, using either MLA, APA or Chicago Style formatting. Students then provide a brief summary and/or evaluation of the source.
More information about annotated bibliographies
Plagiarism: This refers to using the words and ideas of someone else without giving appropriate credit. Plagiarism can be either intentional or unintentional and include using a statistic or phrase from an academic source without proper MLA or APA citation or may include using an “idea” presented by an author as your own. Both intentional and unintentional plagiarism are serious academic issues and are not tolerated in any educational environment.
Paraphrase: Putting information, ideas, and concepts from a source into your own words. Be careful to ensure that you are using only your own words, ideas, and sentence structure. In addition to properly citing sources, paraphrasing is one simple way to avoid plagiarism.
More information about paraphrasing
Academic Sources: These are typically required in research papers to provide reliable evidence in support of the thesis statement or argument. Within the structure of the paper, various sources will be strategically placed to either support or refute a point within the paper. The types of academic sources are varied and include the following: books/text books, academic/trade journals, newspaper, government reports, legal documents, personal interviews and multi-media venues (websites, blogs). Some sources are more “academic” than others, and most instructors will advise which kind of sources are allowed and which ones are not. Generally, the best academic sources to find and integrate are peer-reviewed journal articles.