In order to make this Sound Writing handbook as easy to use and as accessible as possible, we’ve broken it into twelve chapters, each one focusing on a different aspect of the research and writing process. Clicking on a chapter title in the Table of Contents will take you to that chapter, which means you no longer need to flip through pages to find what you’re looking for!
Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 suggest techniques for researching, reading source material, and taking notes. This is a good place to start if you have an assignment prompt and want some advice on finding, reading, or analyzing sources.
Chapter 3 breaks down the basic parts of the argument, helps you to identify which argumentation style(s) to use, offers tips for making a strong argument, and covers how to develop, organize, and support your thesis.
Chapter 4 offers brainstorming techniques, planning strategies, and outlining formats to get your scholarly gears turning. It also breaks down the skeleton of the paper, offering tips on how to compose and organize introductions, topic sentences, body paragraphs, and conclusions. Writing is not a linear process, so you’ll likely still be conducting research and changing your argument as you go; to maintain your groove, refer to the sections on revising and adding new research. And if you find that you just can’t write any longer, take a look at the section on overcoming writer’s block and other obstacles for ideas on how to overcome anxiety and frustration, manage your time, and procrastinate (yes, procrastinate!) productively.
In Chapter 5, we compile guidelines from faculty members to help you navigate within and between the different disciplines you will encounter over the course of your education, as you fulfill your graduation requirements and generally become a more well-rounded, inquisitive, boundary-crossing liberal arts version of yourself.
Chapter 6 suggests ways to write with greater sensitivity to the social ramifications of certain English usages. We include a list of terminologies of oppression for the respectful writer to avoid and a list of possible alternatives.
Chapter 7 and Chapter 8 focus on the nitty-gritty, but necessary, elements of language, offering grammatical and mechanical advice and examples of how to cite your sources in keeping with the APA, Chicago, and MLA styles.
Chapter 9 considers the relationship between writing and speaking, and offers advice on how to convert your written argument into an oral argument. This chapter also includes suggestions for effective public speaking, for organizing your presentation, and for managing your time.
Chapter 10 marks the shift in the handbook from topics that fit squarely into reading and writing to topics about academic success more broadly. The chapter breaks into three main sections: talking to professors, managing time, and organizing your physical and digital materials. The strategies discussed are not the be-all-and-end-all of any of these topics; however, they give the reader a foundation of “best practices” for getting started.
Chapter 11 extends beyond academic writing to offer advice on writing tricky non-academic genres like emails to professors and employers, personal statements, and resumes and cover letters. Those non-academic genres are mostly short, but they’re every bit as challenging to write well as a long research paper is. Don’t worry; we’ve got your back.
Chapter 12 offers tips and tricks for using technology to help you as a writer, including how to get the most out of your word processing program, how to use Zotero to help you wrangle sources and citations, and how to use tools within Adobe Acrobat Reader to help you read and annotate pdf documents.
Appendix A (Glossary of Academic Terms) offers definitions of some of the new vocabulary you will be encountering in college—ranging from words you may see in assignments, to terminology associated with various research terms and kinds of sources, to rhetorical terms, to SAT-type words that you really will encounter in everyday usage.
Appendix B (Resources) offers links to supplementary aids such as videos, handouts, and example papers. These resources will help you make the best use of the handbook, whether you are using it in class as part of an exercise, or using it on your own for independent learning.