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Archive for December, 2011

References pages and in-text citations—APA style

Once you’ve located your research sources, you need to fit them into your paper and place them on your References page.  These can be tricky to do, so we’ll spend a little time explaining them.


In-Text Citations

There are two ways to use a source in the body of your research paper: as a direct quote or as a paraphrase

A direct quote is just what it sounds like—a direct, careful copying of the exact words of your source.  A direct quote will always be in quotation marks, with the exception of a block quote, which we’ll explain in a moment.  Direct quotes should be used sparingly—generally speaking no more than 10% of your paper should be direct quotes.  At the end of a direct quote, you place parenthetical documentation, also referred to as an in-text citation, that includes the author(s) last name, the date of publication and, in direct quotes only, the page(s) from which the quote was extracted.  An example of a direct quote follows:

At least one author maintains that “[f]lightless birds, although not obviously equipped to escape from predators, are in fact quite good at this activity” (Smith, 2009, p.231).


A block quote is a direct quote of more than 40 words.  It is indented five spaces from the left margin of the paper, as shown below:

Many people believe that flightless birds have no real method of evading predators, but one author notes that

[f]lightless birds, although not obviously equipped to escape from predators, are in fact quite good at this activity.  They are able, for example, to simply hide in the brush around them, which requires that they be masked with the proper camouflage, and they can certainly run away, sometimes at great speed.  In short, flightless birds are not the helpless prey they might seem to be at first glance (Smith, 2009, p.231).

  Note that a block quote does not use quotation marks—its indentation from the left margin indicates that it is a quote without the need for quotation marks.


A paraphrase is putting the source’s ideas into your own words—but note that because they are still the source’s ideas, you must cite them in text as such:

One author says that flightless birds can use camouflage or simple speed to evade predators; they are not as helpless as they appear (Smith, 2009).


The References page

At the end of your research paper you will have a References page to list all the research sources you’ve used in the paper.  These sources are listed on the References page alphabetically by author’s last name or, if there is no author, by the first major word in the title of the source.

It is very important that you use the author’s last name and year in your in-text citations for this reason: the in-text citation should clearly and accurately direct your reader to the source on the References page—that way your reader can easily find and read the source document if it’s of further interest.  So, for example, if you use (Smith, 2009) as your in-text citation but then use the title of the source as the leading line on the References page, your reader could become confused about which article is referred to.

Note also that you must use every source listed on your References page in the body of your paper, and they must all be cited using correct in-text citations.  In short, if a source is not used in the body of the paper it should not be on the References page. 


Your Troyka handbook, or the OWL at Purdue (Google ‘owl at purdue’), has extensive material on how to document your sources and how to set up your References page.  In fact, chapter 38b of your Troyka handbook contains a full APA-style sample paper; if you follow the model of that paper (or the sample APA paper on the OWL) you will have little difficulty using and citing your sources, and then placing them correctly on your References page.


Still somewhat confused by APA style?  Just need a hand getting started?  Want someone to review what you’ve written so far?  Or maybe you’ve got an MLA-style paper to write?  We can help!

These and many other services are offered at the ASK office—call 279-5636 to set up an appointment with one of our counselors or a peer tutor.  You’ll be glad you did.

Submitted by: Jeff Carter, Academic Skills Counselor/ Writing Tutor

Evaluating Research Paper Sources

When it comes to writing research papers the most important element is your research sources—it’s imperative that they be accurate, reliable, and timely.

So how do you determine whether a research source is accurate, reliable, and timely?  Here are some guidelines for doing this:


Do not simply use any website that happens to come up in a Google search—many of these may be unreliable, untimely, or inaccurate.  In short, unless you recognize the source (such as the AMA mentioned above, which is a .com), avoid using .com or .net sites as sources—these are for the most part private or corporate sites and are therefore not likely to be reliable.




If you follow these general guidelines you will produce a research paper that boasts correct use of sources and incorporates your own thoughts and expertise correctly into the work.


Now, the next tricks are to cite these sources in text and place them on the Works Cited (MLA style) or References (APA style) page.  See this blog next week for information on how to do these correctly.


And remember—if you’re encountering difficulties with your research paper overall, its in-text citations, or its References (or Works Cited) pages, contact the ASK office (ext. 5636) and make an appointment with one of our counselors for assistance.

Sumitted by: Jeff Carter, Academic Skills Counselor, Writing Tutor

What to Do Next If You Fail a Course

It certainly was not what you planned to do, but you failed a class at Keuka.  There are some key issues to consider:

The impact this grade will have on your transcript.


The impact this grade will have on your financial aid if


Consider the reasons why you failed.


Tell your parents or a significant other


Move on and let go.


Adapted from:

Lucier, K. L. (2011). What to do if you fail a class in college. Retrieved December 13, 2011, from College Life: AClass.htm?p=1

Submitted by: Kathy Snow, Academic Skills Counselor and Writing Tutor


There really is something about our English language that is positively perverse.

These sentences, for example, are all correct:

I would like to lie down for a nap.

She told me to lay the package on the floor.

Last night, she finally lay down to sleep after midnight.

I laid the book on the desk.

He has lain on the couch for three days.

She has laid the crucial groundwork.


Further complicating things is the fact that, like most languages, English started out as a spoken language, long before we figured out how to write it down.  And we still use “speech” words when talking about writing:

What did the article say?  How does that sentence sound to you?

So when words that mean very different things sound alike, that can cause problems.  Those words are called “homonyms”.

Peak, Peek, and Pique

“Peak” describes rising diagonals that meet to form a point, as in high mountains or the roofs of houses.

To “Peek” is to look quickly and surreptitiously.  (Are there any better games than “Peek-A-Boo”?)

“Pique ” has several meanings, but they are all related to “excite”:

My constant badgering finally aroused her pique (anger).

A peek at the peak piqued my interest in the architecture.



Allusion and Illusion

These words aren’t pronounced exactly the same, but close enough to confuse.

An “allusion” is a reference to something else:

“His argument contained an allusion to Emma Lazarus’s  Statue of Liberty poem.”

An “illusion” is an idea that is wrong:

“Three weeks in Iraq dispelled most of her illusions about the nobility of warfare.”


Elicit and Illicit

“Elicit” means to draw out:

“The lawyer’s objective in her cross examination was to elicit the truth.”

“Illicit” means not legal or against the rules:

“He lost his job because of his illicit use of company equipment.”

Capital and Capitol

“Capital” means money (as in “Das Kapital”); it is the root word of “Capitalism”.

It also means the city that is the seat of government.

The central official government building is often called the Capitol.

The capital of Pennsylvania is Harrisburg, where you can see the beautiful Capitol dome.

The Complete Sentence

One of the most common writing issues is the use of incomplete sentences.  I work with my students on this very frequently, and here’s what I tell them:

A grammatically complete sentence needs to contain a subject (the actor, a noun), a verb (action word), and an object (the thing acted upon, also a noun).  Simple example:

John (subject) walked (verb) the dog (object).

Of course, most sentences are more complicated than the example above, but they all need to contain a subject, a verb, and an object.  Slightly more complicated example:

John (subject), who was home from college during the month of January, and who had determined to go to three concerts while he was home, walked (verb) the dog (object) from his house to the playground and back, meeting Susan while he was there.

Now of course there are several nouns in this sentence, and there are several verbs as well.  But what writers refer to as the core sentence (the basic sentence once we’ve removed the extraneous information) is still ‘John walked the dog‘.  Look for the core sentence in even the most complex sentence you write, and make certain that it contains a subject, a verb, and an object–then you’ve got a complete sentence grammatically.

There is one other quality that a complete sentence needs besides a correct grammatical structure, though, and this one has to do with the meaning of the sentence.  It needs to be a complete and sensible thought.    This one is a little trickier, because it refers to the sentence having to make sense–that is, having to be clear and meaningful as it stands, by itself.  Example:

John walked the airplane.

This sentence contains a subject, a verb, and an object, but it’s a nonsensical thought; people don’t walk airplanes, do they?

Similarly, the following sentence, although grammatically correct, doesn’t contain a complete, coherent thought.  Example:

John, although he liked to skydive and was a trained spelunker, walked the dog to the moon.

One more time–this time with a clearly incomplete thought:

And he walked the dog.

This is what we refer to in the writing business as a ‘sentence fragment’ or an ‘incomplete sentence’—although it contains a subject (he), a verb (walked), and an object (dog), it is not a complete thought.  It’s actually likely to be a fragment that needs to be reconnected to the previous sentence.

Do you see where we’re going with this?  Grammatical correctness and a complete thought are both qualities that a complete sentence must possess to be really complete.  Remember as you craft your sentences to ensure that you have both the grammatical necessities and a ‘complete thought’ present in each one.

Questions on this or other writing matters?  Come visit us at ASK (call in at 279-5636)!  We also offer training in test-taking, test anxiety, time management, overall study skills, and more.