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BC3 Library: Academic Writing

Introduction to the Academic Writing Guide

This guide is designed to be a resource on writing for faculty and students. It includes resources on different aspects of the writing process from choosing a topic to structuring an argument to citing sources. There are resources on grammar and style and a video library.

How Do You Get Started Writing a Paper

Video Library

The video library covers a wide range of writing topics. 

OER (Open Education Resources) on Writing

Freely available textbooks on writing

Writing Help at BC3

For writing assistance, see BC3 Tutoring or email


Writing Process

Rhetorical Context: The larger social, historical situation in which the text will interact.

Any piece of writing is shaped by external factors before the first word is ever set down on the page. These factors are referred to as the rhetorical situation, or rhetorical context, and are often presented in the form of a pyramid. The three key factors–purpose, author, and audience–all work together to influence what the text itself says, and how it says it. 



Any time you are preparing to write, you should first ask yourself, “Why am I writing?” All writing, no matter the type, has a purpose. Purpose will sometimes be given to you (by a teacher, for example), while other times, you will decide for yourself. As the author, it’s up to you to make sure that purpose is clear not only for yourself, but also–especially–for your audience. If your purpose is not clear, your audience is not likely to receive your intended message (read more).


In order for your writing to be maximally effective, you have to think about the audience you’re writing for and adapt your writing approach to their needs, expectations, backgrounds, and interests. Being aware of your audience helps you make better decisions about what to say and how to say it. For example, you have a better idea if you will need to define or explain any terms, and you can make a more conscious effort not to say or do anything that would offend your audience (read more).


The final unique aspect of anything written down is who it is, exactly, that does the writing. In some sense, this is the part you have the most control over–it’s you who’s writing, after all! You can harness the aspects of yourself that will make the text most effective to its audience, for its purpose (read more).


Voice is conveyed through the author's choice of diction or level of formality. It should directly connect to the text's audience and purpose.

Picking a Topic IS Research


What is Critical Reading?

Reading (and thinking) acritically does not mean being critical about something and claiming it is flawed. Critical reading involves interacting with what you read. It means engaging with what you read by asking yourself questions such as, "What is the main point of this text?" "What is the author saying?"  It involves questioning, evaluating and analyzing. To read critically is to exercise your judgement about what you are reading, that is, not taking anything you read at face value. 


Critical Reading Technique:  Annotating Texts

What is Annotating?

Annotating is any action that deliberately interacts with a text to enhance the reader's understanding of, recall of, and reaction to the text. Sometimes called "close reading," annotating usually involves highlighting or underlining key pieces of text and making notes in the margins of the text. 

Why Annotate?

By annotating a text, you will ensure that you understand what is happening in a text after you've read it. annotating will help you summarize a text, highlight important pieces of information, and ultimately prepare yourself for discussion and writing prompts that your instructor may give you. (read more)


Articles on Critical Reading Skills

Reading an Assigned Research Article 

Critical Reading for Evaluation

Critical Reading for Analysis and Comparison



Annotating Text

How to Read a Scholarly Article



Taking Notes for Research Papers


Interactive Tutorial: Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Interactive TutorialAnatomy of a Scholarly Article


Thesis Statements

How to Write a STRONG Thesis Statement, Scribbr


Purdue OWL: Thesis Statements


Thesis Claims OWL Purdue


Structuring Arguments and Using Rhetorical Devices for Persuasion


Video: Rhetoric: Essentials of Argument


Helpful Web Sources

Library Research Tips and Techniques

Boolean Searching: Pirates vs Ninjas


Generating Search Terms


The CRAAP test is a method for evaluating sources that was designed by the Meriam Library, California State University, Chico. CRAAP is an acronym and stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose. It provides you with a list of questions to help you evaluate the information that you find. You will be more confident in selecting sources to meet the expectations of your assignment. Not all criteria apply equally at the same time to all resources.


Currency = The timeliness of information:

  • How old is it?
  • When was the information created, published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current enough for your topic?

Relevance = The importance of the information for your needs:

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (e.g. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Does it seem credible?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority = The source of the information:

  • Who is the creator and/or author and/or publisher and/or source and/or sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?

Accuracy = The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content:

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Does it have references?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem objective and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?
  • Why do you trust it?

Purpose = The reason the information exists:

  • What is the purpose of the information (e.g. to inform, teach, sell, entertain, persuade etc.)?
  • Do the authors and/or sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion and/or propaganda?
  • Is it objective or biased?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?


How to Spot Fake News




Why Fact-Checking?

When you find a source of information, how do you know if it’s true? How can you be sure that it is a reliable, trustworthy, and effective piece of evidence for your research? The following is a set of strategies to quickly and effectively verify your sources, based on the approach taken by professional fact-checkers. Fact-checking is a form of information hygiene—it can minimize your own susceptibility to misinformation and disinformation, and help you to avoid spreading it to others.

The following video discusses the results of a very interesting study of Stanford students, historians, and professional fact-checkers (Wineburg and McGrew). 

The Stanford Experiment

The SIFT Method

Mike Caulfield, Washington State University digital literacy expert, has helpfully condensed key fact-checking strategies into a short list of four moves, or things to do to quickly make a decision about whether or not a source is worthy of your attention. It is referred to as the “SIFT” method:



When you initially encounter a source of information and start to read it—stop. Ask yourself whether you know and trust the author, publisher, publication, or website. If you don’t, use the other fact-checking moves that follow, to get a better sense of what you’re looking at. In other words, don’t read, share, or use the source in your research until you know what it is, and you can verify it is reliable.

This is a particularly important step, considering what we know about the attention economy—social media, news organizations, and other digital platforms purposely promote sensational, divisive, and outrage-inducing content that emotionally hijacks our attention in order to keep us “engaged” with their sites (clicking, liking, commenting, sharing). Stop and check your emotions before engaging!

Investigate the Source

You don’t have to do a three-hour investigation into a source before you engage with it. But if you’re reading a piece on economics, and the author is a Nobel prize-winning economist, that would be useful information. Likewise, if you’re watching a video on the many benefits of milk consumption, you would want to be aware if the video was produced by the dairy industry. This doesn’t mean the Nobel economist will always be right and that the dairy industry can’t ever be trusted. But knowing the expertise and agenda of the person who created the source is crucial to your interpretation of the information provided.

When investigating a source, fact-checkers read “laterally” across many websites, rather than digging deep (reading “vertically”) into the one source they are evaluating. That is, they don’t spend much time on the source itself, but instead they quickly get off the page and see what others have said about the source. They open up many tabs in their browser, piecing together different bits of information from across the web to get a better picture of the source they’re investigating.

Please watch the following short video [2:44] for a demonstration of this strategy. Pay particular attention to how Wikipedia can be used to quickly get useful information about publications, organizations, and authors.

Note: Turn on closed captions with the “CC” button or use the text transcript if you prefer to read.

Find Better Coverage

What if the source you find is low-quality, or you can’t determine if it is reliable or not? Perhaps you don’t really care about the source—you care about the claim that source is making. You want to know if it is true or false. You want to know if it represents a consensus viewpoint, or if it is the subject of much disagreement. A common example of this is a meme you might encounter on social media. The random person or group who posted the meme may be less important than the quote or claim the meme makes.

Your best strategy in this case might actually be to find a better source altogether, to look for other coverage that includes trusted reporting or analysis on that same claim. Rather than relying on the source that you initially found, you can trade up for a higher quality source.

The point is that you’re not wedded to using that initial source. We have the internet! You can go out and find a better source, and invest your time there. Please watch this video [4:10] that demonstrates this strategy and notes how fact-checkers build a library of trusted sources they can rely on to provide better coverage.

Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media to the Original Context

Much of what we find on the internet has been stripped of context. Maybe there’s a video of a fight between two people with Person A as the aggressor. But what happened before that? What was clipped out of the video and what stayed in? Maybe there’s a picture that seems real but the caption could be misleading. Maybe a claim is made about a new medical treatment based on a research finding—but you’re not certain if the cited research paper actually said that. The people who re-report these stories either get things wrong by mistake, or, in some cases, they are intentionally misleading us.

In these cases you will want to trace the claim, quote, or media back to the source, so you can see it in its original context and get a sense of whether the version you saw was accurately presented. Please watch the following video [1:33] that discusses re-reporting vs. original reporting and demonstrates a quick tip: going “upstream” to find the original reporting source.




Online Verification Skills – Video 1: Introductory Video.” YouTube, uploaded by CTRL-F, 29 June 2018.

Online Verification Skills – Video 2: Investigate the Source.” YouTube, uploaded by CTRL-F, 29 June 2018.

Online Verification Skills – Video 3: Find the Original Source.” YouTube, uploaded by CTRL-F, 25 May 2018.

Online Verification Skills – Video 4: Look for Trusted Work.” YouTube, uploaded by CTRL-F, 25 May 2018.

SIFT text adapted from “Check, Please! Starter Course,” licensed under CC BY 4.0

SIFT text and graphics adapted from “SIFT (The Four Moves)” by Mike Caulfield, licensed under CC BY 4.0

Wineburg, Sam, and Sarah McGrew. “Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information.” Stanford History Education Group Working Paper No. 2017-A1, 6 Oct. 2017,


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Adopted from Introduction to College Research by Walter D. Butler; Aloha Sargent; and Kelsey Smith, which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Quoting Sources

Synthesizing Sources


How to Make an Outline


Paragraph Organization and Flow

Video: Paragraph Organization and Flow


Video: Drafting and Revising

Peer Review



Feedback and Peer Review


Peer Review Commenting Strategies

Revising and Proofreadng


Drafting and Revising

Global Editing and Revising

Cutting While Revising

How to Proofread Your Final Draft

OWL Purdue Resources

Sentence Structure and Style

Parts of Speech

  • Articles
    Articles are words that come before a noun and indicate whether the noun is specific/non-specific, as well as singular/plural. This document provides information about using articles in your writing along with specific examples.

  • Verb tenses
    A verb's tense indicates the point in time when the action takes place. This chart provides examples of English verb tenses and describes the situations in which they are most appropriately used.

  • Singular or plural?
    Nouns can be either singular or plural. A verb must always agree with the subject noun (i.e. a plural form of a noun requires the plural form of the verb).This document contains more information on how to distinguish between singular and plural.

  • Modal verbs
    Modal verbs, including words such as “can”, “could”, “will”, and “would", express likelihood, ability, permission, and obligation. This handout features a guide to using modal verbs in your writing, as well as many examples.

  • The Gerund-Participle Gerunds and participles are words derived from verbs which express action but do not function as verbs in a sentence. A gerund is a verb that functions as a noun in the context of a sentence. A participle is a verb which functions as an adjective or adverb. This handout gives an overview of how to use these kinds of words in your writing, as well as examples of common errors.

  • Prepositions A preposition is a word that modifies nouns, pronouns, adjectives, or verbs to provide information about time, space, or direction. This document provides more information and specific examples.