Confused about a writing term and want the definition? This is the place to look! Here you'll find our collection of common terminology associated with the writing process. Choose from the alphabetical listing below to get started, or scroll down the page.
Is your term not listed here? Send an email to the library at email@example.com and we'll add it to the list!
A detailed examination of a work in order to promote further discussion or provide an interpretation of its meaning.
An Annotated Bibliography is a list of the resources that you find during the research process. It includes a full citation of each resource and 1-2 paragraphs beneath the citation which summarize the source and its usefulness to your current project. An Annotated Bibliography can include sources you intend to use and sources you have investigated but do not intend to use for your assignment. In that way, an Annotated Bibliography is an organizational tool for longer research projects that helps you to maintain a running list of items you've found.
An annotation is an explanation or description of an item. In an Annotated Bibliography, the annotation summarizes the work and briefly discusses its application to your research.
APA style is a format for writing documents created by the American Psychological Association.
An attribution mentions the name of the author/owner of a resource. Attributions are a great way to properly transition quoted material into a paper without breaking up the flow of the writing.
Example: As Mr. Smith (2001) states, "there is no need to state the obvious."
In academic writing, the audience is the general reader who may be completely unfamiliar with your topic.
A bibliography is a list of resources used in a project. Typically the bibliography is formatted according to the type of style required (APA, MLA, etc.).
If a direct quote is more than 4 types lines of text, it should be formatted in block quote style. The entire quote is indented one half inch from the left margin, and quotation marks are removed.
The body of the essay consists of every paragraph between the introduction and conclusion paragraph.
The act of giving credit to someone for his/her words and ideas, typically done in a predetermined style (APA, MLA, etc.).
A prewriting technique that uses a series of connected bubbles in order to show the relationship of concepts. May also be referred to as webbing and/or brainstorming.
The conclusion paragraph is the final paragraph of an essay. It summarizes the main ideas, re-emphasizes the thesis, and draws the essay to a close.
Copyright indicates someone's ownership of his/her intellectual property.
Direct quotes are taken from a resource exactly as they appear in the resource. They are marked in quotation marks to show that they are direct quotes, and must always be cited.
Example: According to Dr. Smith, "direct quotes should always be cited" (142).
Documentation provides direct evidence in support of ideas and includes proper citation for source material.
A draft is an unpolished version of a work. In academic writing, a paper can go through many draft versions as revisions take place.
An endnote is additional information added at the end of a chapter or book. It is typically a reference, explanation, or additional comment on something within the text.
A formal outline uses a combination of Roman Numerals (I, II, III, IV; i, ii, iii, iv), letters (A, B, C; a, b, c), and numbers (1, 2, 3) to show the relationship between main points and sub-points in each paragraph of an essay.
Free writing is a prewriting technique in which you either write or type your thoughts non-stop and disregard issues with spelling, grammar, or style.
A footnote is placed at the end of a page and provides additional information or a reference for content on that specific page of your document.
Genre is the category into which a work belongs. Popular literary genres include romance, science fiction, and horror. Academic genres include narrative essays, argument essays, compare/contrast essays, and many other variations.
Citations are formatted with a hanging indent. The first line of a citation is always aligned with the left margin. If a citation is more than one line in length, every line under the first line is indented by one half inch.
An informal outline uses bullet points or numbering to show the relationship between main points and sub-points in each paragraph of an essay.
An in-text citation, also known as parenthetical citation, is an abbreviated form of a citation found within the body of your paper to show the connection between information presented there and the sources from which you obtained that information. The format of an in-text citation varies depending upon the style that you are using to format the paper.
The introduction of an essay provides readers with a broad overview of the topic and typically ends with a thesis statement.
Jargon is language used to describe something within a specific field. Experts within the field likely know the meaning of these terms, while those not associated with the field will likely require further explanation in order to interpret their meaning.
MLA style is a format for writing documents created by the Modern Language Association.
A personal story.
The act of taking notes.
An outline is a list of the concepts within your essay generated before you move them into fully developed paragraphs. Outlines can be either formal or informal, and can be a great organizational tool to help you merge your own ideas with your research before you begin drafting an essay.
Using someone else's words or ideas, but expressing them in different words. Even though the words are not the same, paraphrased material must always be cited.
An parenthetical citation, also known as in-text citation, is an abbreviated form of a citation found within the body of your paper to show the connection between information presented there and the sources from which you obtained that information. The format of an in-text/parenthetical citation varies depending upon the style that you are using to format the paper.
A common error when trying to paraphrase. Rather than completely re-phrasing to capture ideas, pieces of sentences and/or phrases are used from the original source but sometimes placed in a different order. The end result is usually direct quotes from source material that are not formatted in quotation marks.
Peer reviewed resources are materials checked by other scholars in the field for quality and accuracy before publication. They may also be referred to as scholarly or refereed materials.
The act of taking someone else's words or ideas and presenting them as your own. Plagiarism can be avoided by giving authors, creators, and/or owners full credit for those words/ideas through citation. Plagiarism can carry heavy penalties in the academic world. In life, plagiarism can be considered copyright infringement.
Point of View
The point of view, or POV, is the perspective from which a story or essay is written. There are three broad levels of point of view: first person, second person, and third person.
First person POV is the least formal perspective, and uses the pronouns I, me, my, we, us, and our to show a personal connection with the subject. It is often used in writing narratives.
Second person POV is used when you are speaking directly to your reader. Most textbooks and instructional manuals are written in second person POV because they are providing instructions to the reader. In second person POV, the pronouns you and your are used.
Third person POV is the most formal point of view, and is used in academic writing. It uses the formal pronouns he/she, him/her, his/her, it, and they.
Prewriting is often the first stage of the writing process. When you prewrite, you generate ideas that you could later develop into an essay or research project. There are many ways to prewrite, including concept mapping, free writing, and outlining.
A primary source provides original research or information from the era in which it covers. It was written and/or published during that specific time period. The Declaration of Independence is an example of a primary document.
A group of words taken directly from a resource.
Refereed resources are materials checked by other scholars in the field for quality and accuracy before publication. They may also be referred to as scholarly or peer reviewed materials.
In APA style, the References page is the list of full citations for resources used in your paper. It is located on a separate page at the end of your document.
Referencing is another word for citing. It is giving others credit for their words and/or ideas.
Scholarly resources are materials checked by other scholars in the field for quality and accuracy before publication. They may also be referred to as peer reviewed or refereed materials.
Secondary sources provide further analysis of a topic or era often by using primary source material.
In academic writing, style is the manner in which something is written or cited. Your writing style, including tone and point of view, can change depending on the type of assignment. Citation style varies by academic discipline.
A summary recounts the main points of a work without providing further analysis.
Theme is the subject matter of a work. In literature, the theme is the underlying meaning of the work.
The thesis statement, which is usually the last sentence in your introduction paragraph, provides readers with a strong argument for your paper. Every paragraph in the remainder of the essay should then support some aspect of your thesis.
The tone is the attitude or mood with which a piece of writing is constructed. The tone can be argumentative, informal, emotional, amused, sarcastic, formal, etc. The type of tone used depends largely on the expectations for the assignment.
The topic sentence is the first sentence of a paragraph and provides the main idea covered within that paragraph.
In writing, transitional words and phrases help to create flow by moving the reader from one topic to the next. This helps paragraphs to read less like a list of ideas and more like a cohesive piece of writing.
In academic writing, voice is considered the tone and point-of-view within your writing. It is the perspective from which a work is written.
Works Cited Page
In MLA style, the Works Cited page is the list of full citations for resources used in your paper. It is located on a separate page at the end of your document.