So for those of us who write blogs and even if you don't and you just read a lot of blogs, you probably know a thing or two about writing.  Last night in my Intro to Grad Studies class we discussed writing.  I just want to quickly make a few points since some of you may still be in school and some may be considering going back to school.

When we write for blogs we can be much more laid back and even miss some typos because those of you reading know what we mean to say and it gives some character to our style of writing.  It keeps it fun and it keeps readers interested.  The is even a different style of writing for newspaper and magazine articles...but what about for school.

Not only am I a grad student, but I also teach.  One thing that is a big no no is give facts that are unsupported.  Have references and even internal citations are critical for scholarly writing.  This is one form of plagiarism because if I am your instructor and I am reading your paper, I know you did not make those facts or stats up.  Another form of plagiarism is just flat out copying someones information and passing it off as your own.  Even if you paraphrase but do not give an internal citation, that is still not right.  I have in fact had to return papers with a zero grade for plagiarized work.

One thing that tips me off as an instructor is when the color of the font changes just slightly.  If you cut and paste from a website, it will lighten the font and someone will notice.  Sometimes even the font style will change.  These all tip professors off.  Oh, and your writting style is usually your own, so if this changes or your English language skills suddenly improve...good indicator the writing is not your own.  I always wonder why some students risk this, but they do.  Even if you do not mean to plagiarize, if it is unintentional, it is still plagiarism, so be careful and know the rules.

APA format is the most commonly used format for writing papers.  Click here for an awesome website to use for references.  If you are working on scholarly papers (papers for school) you will need to know this form...or maybe another form, but you will need to have a certain format and way to list your references.  There is no way around this. 

The last thing I want to point out is actual resource material.  For the school the best is journals and published books.  Many schools have libraries and databases you can use and this will get you what you need.  Google Scholar is good too.  We spent some time last night talking about Google Scholar and to tell you the truth, I almost forgot about this.  Usually .edu and .gov websites are good and reputable, but only some .org websites will be decent information.  Anyone can get a .org website, not just places like the American Dietetic Association...so be careful and always critically evaluate your source and if they may be biased or trying to raise money for themselves.

I have had students in my nutrition classes use websites that upon further investigation were really just trying to sell their products based on their "research" or were trying to sell their research in unknown or private type journals.  So, be careful and do not believe everything you read.  The idea is to evaluate what you read, that is what students do in the learning process.

So, with that being said, wikipedia is not a good source when you are doing work for school.  I will not accept work from students if they ahve used wikipedia.  Hopefully everyone knows this, but wiki is a changable site.  It can be edited by anyone.  This means I can go on and change it just before you look at it and you may have false information when you write yoru paper.  These may be written by someone who has no knowledge in the area or could be changed by someone as a joke, making it not a reputable source.  This is not to say all wiki articles are bad, it is just to say this should not be considered a scholarly reference.  I often tell students they can start there and then go to that quthors references if they have used journal articles or books.  I hope this whole wiki thing makes sense and why you can't or shouldn't use it in school. 

If you notice when I cut and paste on my blog I always set it apart from my own writing and I give the website from this information.  It is out of respect for the author I borrowed this from since it is not my own writing.  I try to avoid wiki on my blog, but sometimes this gives the most fun and easy to read information, but I always list it as from wikipedia.

So, whether you are writing for fun or for school, make sure your writing fits the tone.  With that being said, I want to leave you with this picture.  When Ryan and I first stopped and saw this, we just busted up laughing.  This is just an example of poor spacing on a store sign (and I am sure you have seen funny ones too), but this reads like a bad newspaper headline...almost like with a comic book tone to it.  It may take a minute, but look at this closely and see if you can see the oddness about this.
Oh, and happy writing...blogging or scholarly!!!

QUESTION:  What is the craziest billboard or store sign you have ever come across?  Are you familiar with APA format?  Let me know if you have any questions about writing for school.


Beth said...

Great tips Melinda. I write for work and for fun, and I'm always shocked when people don't seem to know the basic tips you're offering here.

Julie said...

awesome tips girl :) academic integrity is SO important! so it was really great of you to cover this! you're for sure an awesome teacher

sophia said...

I hate all these college writing formats..but wow, I did NOT know about the font lighting! Thank you for the tips!

Gina; The Candid RD said...

What's wrong with the sign?? I don't get it! It's weird that it says "ATM inside", then it goes to explain what food they have...doesn't it say "double spicy chicken sandwich?"

This post was very good Melinda, and a MUST READ for college students. When I was a TA it was almost sad some of the writing I saw. People were clearly taking information straight from other sources and I ALWAYS called them out. Ugh, isn't the point to LEARN in college?? Come on people. I also wish I would have known about Google Scholar. I only just learned about it about 6 months ago!!!

Anonymous said...

I remember using APA format in college.
I always try to site the source either way when blogging. It is important to give credit where credit is due.

Gina; The Candid RD said...

Yeah, the ATM inside is COMPLETELY random!! Sorry, I'm slow.
Hope your teaching went well tonight. Don't let them fool you with plagiarized work! :)

Nicole, RD said...

Wikipedia isn't a good resource!?! ;)

I love writing, but I have to admit...typos really annoy me! I'm very tolerant of typos others make, but I want to be a writer more than anything, so I try to be good!!

Shannon said...

Proper writing has been drilled into me so much that when I first started blogging, I had to keep deleting because it just sounded to proper! I still can't write with any lols or omgs. It just doesn't feel right!

Love the cows in your next post. Its the way it should be.

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