Standards for Written Work
Review the standards for written work both before and after writing;
they are used to evaluate your work.
You will be expected to meet professional standards of maturity, clarity,
grammar, spelling, and organization in your written work for this class,
and, to that end, I offer the following remarks. Every writer is faced
with the problem of not knowing what his or her audience knows about the
topic at hand; therefore, effective communication depends upon maximizing
clarity. As Wolcott reminds us in Writing Up Qualitative Research
(1990, p. 47): "Address . . . the many who do not know, not the
few who do." It is also important to remember that clarity of ideas,
clarity of language, and clarity of syntax are interrelated and mutually
reinforcing. Good writing makes for good thinking and vice versa.
All written work for the class must be done on a word-processor and double-spaced,
with 1" margins all the way around and in either 10 or 12 pt. font.
Certain assignments will demand the use of notes (either footnotes or
endnotes) and references. It is particularly important in professional
schools such as SILS that notes and references are impeccably done. Please
use APA (American Psychological Association) standards. There are other
standard bibliographic and note formats, for example, in engineering and
law, but social scientists and policy analysts ordinarily use APA. Familiarity
with standard formats is essential for understanding others' work and
for preparing submissions to journals, professional conferences, and the
like. You may also consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological
Association (2001, 5th ed.) and http://webster.commnet.edu/apa/apa_index.htm
(a useful if non-canonical source).
Never use a general dictionary or encyclopedia for defining terms
in graduate school or in professional writing. If you want to use a reference
source to define a term, a better choice would be a specialized dictionary
or subject-specific encyclopedia. The best alternative, however, is having
an understanding of the literature related to the term sufficient to provide
a definition in the context of that literature.
Use the spell checker in your word processing package to review your
documents, but be aware that spell checking dictionaries: do not include
most proper nouns, including names; omit most technical terms; include
very few foreign words and phrases; and cannot identify the error in using
homophones, e.g., writing "there" instead of "their,"
or in writing "the" instead of "them."
It is imperative that you proofread your work thoroughly and be precise
in editing it. It is often helpful to have someone else read your writing,
to eliminate errors and to increase clarity. Finally, each assignment
should be handed in with a title page containing your full name,
the date, the title of the assignment, and the class number (LIS 390.1).
If you have any questions about these standards, I will be pleased to
discuss them with you at any time.
Remember, every assignment must include a title page with
- The title of the assignment
- Your name
- The date
- The class number.
Since the production of professional-level written work is
one of the aims of the class, I will read and edit your work as the editor
of a professional journal or the moderator of a technical session at a
professional conference would. The reminders below will help you prepare
professional-level written work appropriate to any situation. Note the
asterisked errors in #'s 3, 4, 8, 10, 11, 14, 15, 18, 20, and 25 (some
have more than one error):
- Staple all papers for this class in the upper left-hand corner. Do
not use covers, binders, or other means of keeping the pages together.
- Number all pages after the title page. Ordinarily, notes and references
do NOT count against page limits.
- Use formal, academic prose. Avoid colloquial language, *you know?*
It is essential in graduate work and in professional communication to
avoid failures in diction -- be serious and academic when called for,
be informal and relaxed when called for, and be everything in between
as necessary. For this course, avoid words and phrases such as "agenda,"
"problem with," "deal with," "handle,"
"window of," "goes into," "broken down into,"
"viable," and "option."
- Avoid clichés. They are vague, *fail to "push the envelope,"
and do not provide "relevant input."*
- Avoid computer technospeak like "input," "feedback,"
or "processing information" except when using such terms in
specific technical ways; similarly avoid using content as
- Do not use the term "relevant" except in its information
retrieval sense. Ordinarily, it is a colloquial cliché, but it also
has a strict technical meaning in Information Studies.
- Do not use "quality" as an adjective; it is vague, cliché,
and colloquial. Instead use "high-quality," "excellent,"
"superior," or whatever more formal phrase you deem appropriate.
- Study the APA style convention for the proper use of ellipsis*. .
- Avoid using the terms "objective" and "subjective"
in their evidentiary senses; these terms entail major philosophical,
epistemological controversy. Avoid terms such as "facts,"
"factual," "proven," and related constructions for
- Avoid contractions. *Don't* use them in formal writing.
- Be circumspect in using the term "this," especially in the
beginning of a sentence. *THIS* is often a problem because the referent
is unclear. Pay strict attention to providing clear referents for all
pronouns. Especially ensure that pronouns and their referents agree
in number; i.e., "each person went to their home" is a poor
construction because "each" is a singular form, as is the
noun "person," while "their" is a plural form.
Therefore, either the referent or the pronoun must change in number.
- If" ordinarily takes the subjunctive mood, e.g., "If
he were [not "was"] only taller."
- Put "only" in its appropriate place, near the word it modifies.
For example, it is appropriate in spoken English to say that "he
only goes to Antone's" when you mean that "the only place
he frequents is Antone's." In written English, however, the sentence
should read "he goes only to Antone's."
- Do not confuse possessive, plural, or contracted forms, especially
of pronouns. *Its* bad.
- Do not confuse affect/effect, compliment/complement, or principle/principal.
Readers will not *complement* your work or *it's* *principle* *affect*
- Avoid misplaced modifiers; e.g., it is inappropriate to write the
following sentence: As someone interested in the history of Mesoamerica,
it was important for me to attend the lecture. The sentence is inappropriate
because the phrase "As someone interested in the history of Mesoamerica"
is meant to modify the next immediate word, which should then, obviously,
be both a person and the subject of the sentence. It should modify
the word "I" by preceding it immediately. One good alternative
for the sentence is: As someone interested in the history of Mesoamerica,
I was especially eager to attend the lecture.
- Avoid use of "valid," "parameter," "bias,"
"reliability," and "paradigm," except in limited
technical ways. These are important research terms and should be used
with care and precision.
- Remember that the words "data," "media," "criteria,"
"strata," and "phenomena" are all PLURAL forms.
They *TAKES* plural verbs. If you use any of these plural forms in
a singular construction, e.g., "the data is," you will make
the instructor very unhappy :-(.
- "Number," "many," and "fewer" are used
with plural nouns (a number of horses, many horses, and fewer horses).
Amount," "much," and "less" are used
with singular nouns (an amount of hydrogen, much hydrogen, and less
hydrogen). Another useful way to make this distinction is to recall
that "many" is used for countable nouns, while "much"
is used for uncountable nouns.
- *The passive voice should generally not be used.*
- "Between" is used with two alternatives, while "among"
is used with three or more.
- Generally avoid the use of honorifics such as Mister, Doctor, Ms.,
and so on when referring to persons in your writing, especially when
citing their written work. Use last names and dates as appropriate.
- There is no generally accepted standard for citing electronic resources.
If you cite them, give an indication, as specifically as possible,
| (where? how?).
See the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association
(2001, 5th ed., pp. 213-214, 231, and 268-281) for a discussion of citing
electronic material and useful examples. Also see Web Extension to
American Psychological Association Style (WEAPAS) at http://www.beadsland.com/weapas/#SCRIBE
- "Cite" is a verb, "citation" is a noun; similarly,
"quote" is a verb, "quotation" is a noun.
- *PROFREAD! PROOFREED! PROOOFREAD!*
- Use double quotation marks (abc.), not single quotation
marks (xyz.), as a matter of course. Single quotation marks
are to be used only to indicate quotations within quotations.
- Provide a specific page number for all direct quotations.
If the quotation is from a Web page or other digital source, provide
at least the paragraph number and/or other directional cues, e.g., (Davis,
1993, section II, ¶ 4)..
- As because.
- Use "about" instead of the tortured locution "as to."
- In much of social science and humanistic study, the term "issue"
is used in a technical way to identify sources of public controversy
or dissensus. Please use the term to refer to topics about which there
is substantial public disagreement, NOT synonymously with general terms
such as "area," "topic," or the like.
- Impact is a noun.
- Please do not start a sentence or any independent clause with however.
- Do not use the term subjects to describe research participants.
Respondents, participants, and informants
are preferred terms.
- Do not use notes unless absolutely necessary, but, if you must use
them, use endnotes not footnotes.
SOME EDITING CONVENTIONS FOR STUDENT PAPERS
||number OR insert a space (context will help you decipher
|| awkward (and usually compromises clarity as well)
||make into a block quotation without external quotation
marks; do so with quotations ≥ 4 lines
|| colloquial and to be avoided
|| sentence fragment (often that means that the verb is
||make into lower case
||what is the referent of this pronoun? to what or whom
does it refer?
|| word choice?