Writing Guide for My UHM LIS Students
Writing is an important skill in life, but is especially so for librarians and other information specialists. People judge you based on the quality of your written and spoken language. One of the objectives of my class is to help you become better communicators. With this in mind, I created this very brief handbook. I welcome your suggestions.
I usually spend a lot of time editing papers. I use standard editing marks, like those described the Chicago Manual of Style or online the Style Guide by the University of Colorado.
I often give extra-credit for papers that are revised according to my comments. In those cases you are to submit the new and old draft together. To be for extra credit, these resubmitted papers are to made available to students in future semesters.
For many, it is tempting to copy and paste a few words from the Internet or another source and pass it off as your own writing. That is not acceptable, however, in your work. It is plagiarism. If I catch use of someone else's work without proper citation you will receive an F on the paper at the least. Depending on the seriousness of the offense, you may be reported to the LIS Program or the university for disciplinary action. I strongly encourage you to learn more about Plagiarism at a fine page by Leeward Community College, and another at Fairfield University's Plagiarism Court.
You can avoid accusations of plagiarism by documenting anytime you use someone's words or ideas. Quotes should be clearly identified by quotation marks or indenting longer quotations. (Such block quotes should be single-spaced and indented on both sides, and have a footnote). Whether citing a quote, paraphrased information or ideas, you should cite the source completely.
You are encouraged to use the Chicago Manual of Style, the APA (American Psychological Association) Handbook, or the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. Humanists tend to use the Chicago or MLA styles, whereas scientists or social scientists tend to use APA or Chicago scientific style. Whatever style you use, I want you to cite specific page numbers either in footnotes or texts if material comes from a book, journal, or other published source. Online information should include the author of the information, title of the homepage, database, full URL, and date you downloaded the information.
Although I encourage you to consult a published guide, there are a few basic online guides, such as the one at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center.
Most of my assignments are either journals or formal writing exercises. Journaling is informal writing style. It is more free, more personal, which makes it easier to express your own opinion.
Most of the assignments, however, are formal writing exercises. These papers should be well thought-out in advance using a logical structure. It is often helpful to make an outline before writing, including introduction, and summary. Having a good title for your paper often helps writers to focus on developing a clear theme. Such formal papers should be written as if they could be published in an LIS journal.
Although it is tempting to gather information from full-text online databases, I strongly encourage you to use Library Literature and Library and Information Science Abstracts (LISA), or ERIC for school library media center librarianship. In many assignments I will be asking you to locate articles in peer-reviewed research journals.
The main path to becoming a good writer, in my opinion, is reading actively. See how other scholars write and learn by their example. You might have a thesaurus or good dictionary on hand, and possibly a writing guide.
Good writing does not happen overnight. My worst papers are the ones that are done at the last minute. Most writers need to go through a few drafts. Take time to organize your thoughts, write a little, revise, edit a printout, and then revise again. This is time consuming, but how one writes professionally. I often ask a colleague or friend to proofread my papers, and encourage you to do the same.
The Manoa Writing Program has information online, and also offers writing assistance for students. Struggling writers and Non-native English speakers should especially explore the program's services, although it is not a substitute for the Intensive English Program or ESL training.
Posted 24 January 2005. Revised 19 May 2005.
Revised 19 May 2005.