Writing Basics

Writing versus Grammar 

Good writing is not the same as good grammar. What do I mean by this? Good writing concentrates on stylistic, content and format issues; good writing is expected to demonstrate a basic mastery of the rules of English, but a mastery of these basic grammar rules is not enough.

Unfortunately, some of us tend to forget some of the basics from our earlier English classes. To test your mastery of English basics, please complete the diagnostic Prentice Hall Grammar Assessment Index (pick one form and complete all parts). Once you have completed the assessment, take a look at your results. Where are your strengths? What areas do you need to review? Please review the following links for a brief refresher of some of the key grammar challenges.


Spelling Tips


Capital Letters: OWL at Purdue University


Punctuation: The Writing Centre

Verbs, Pronouns, Adjectives and Adverbs:

Parts of Speech Review

Sentence Structure and Clarity:

Review: Sentence Structure

Paragraph Organization:

Organizing and Developing Persuasive Paragraphs


Identifying Topics, Main Ideas and Supporting Details

Types of Essays:

Types of Essays



Professional Writing in the Social Sciences

Read the following excerpt from Emily Donnelli, Assistant Professor of English at Park University for a discussion of the differences between writing for various disciplines:


Writing "across the curriculum," or, more precisely, within the disciplines and professions, incorporates the "language" and the procedures for exchanging knowledge within a particular field. It is essential that you learn how to communicate as a professional in your discipline or career path if you are to succeed.

Towards that end, this course will provide you with familiarity with the way different disciplines conduct research and communicate the results of that research. It will also give you some practical research and writing tasks focused on subject areas appropriate for your discipline.

The following virtual tour will acquaint you with some of the most valuable knowledge resources in your field.  As you take your tour(s), make sure to jot down notes (including sites) about what the tour taught you about the unifying values, assumptions and goals of various disciplines.

Writing in the Social Sciences

Work in the social sciences revolves around making sense of the human elements of our world. In the fields within the social sciences, researchers focus on the ways that people behave. Their methods include studies based on observations, interviews, surveys, and case studies.

Click Here to learn more about writing in the social sciences

Writing in the Natural Sciences

Writing in the natural sciences is one of the most important activities in this century, a century increasingly high-tech, global, and diverse. The scientific writer must combine theory and practice in his or her writing so as to reach the intended reader.

Click Here to learn more about writing in the natural sciences

Writing in the fields of Business

It is quite appropriate that writing in business should be included in a course on Advanced Expository and Research Writing. Although the basic goal of business writing is to persuade the reader to take a course of action, business and the other disciplines are being drawn closer together, in a world where technology is causing a global convergence.

Click Here to read more about business writing

Writing in the Humanities

Research in the humanities requires close reading or analysis of events and artifacts. Writers draw conclusions and to extend the ideas of others with their own interpretations.

Click Here to learn more about writing in the humanities

After completing the virtual tour, you probably noticed some difference among the disciplines in terms of how knowledge is defined and represented.  Underlying these differences are differences in the "epistemologies" of the field.  "Epistemology" can be broadly defined as a "way of looking at the world."  Each discipline has a unique lens through which information is gathered, analyzed and presented.

Please visit the following website, which includes, in tabular format, a comparison/contrast of various disciplines--their fields, genres, writing styles, documentation forms, and sources of evidence.  

Click Here to access a Chart of Disciplinary Knowledge

For a closer look at writing in various disciplines, watch the video "Writing Across the Disciplines." To view this video, you will need to scroll down to the appropriate video title and click on the VoD icon. If you have not registered for this free site, you will need to register prior to viewing the video.

Key Features of Writing in the Social Sciences 

As highlighted by the OWL at Purdue, writing in the social sciences includes the following principles:

  • Using Plain language: Psychology writing is formal scientific writing that is plain and straightforward. Literary devices such as metaphors, alliteration, or anecdotes are not appropriate for writing in psychology.
  • Conciseness and Clarity of language: The field of psychology stresses clear, concise prose. You should be able to make connections between empirical evidence, theories, and conclusions. See the OWL handout on conciseness for more information.
  • Evidence-based reasoning: Psychology bases its arguments on empirical evidence. Personal examples, narratives, or opinions are not appropriate for psychology.
  • Use of APA format: Psychologists use the American Psychological Association (APA) format for publications. While most student writing follows this format, some instructors may provide you with specific formatting requirements that differ from APA format.

For a detailed discussion of professional writing guidelines in the social sciences, see:

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