U.S. College Student Writing Guide

Our college student writing guide will help prepare you to write at a university level and give you the resources you need to improve your research and writing habits. Writing at the university level is more than simple grammar, punctuation, and getting ideas across. It is also about following the writing style rules used for your type of major, and accurately citing the sources you use in research.

Free Insurance Comparison

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about home, life, and car insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and has experience reporting, researching investigative pieces, and crafting detailed, data-driven features. His works have been featured on CB Blog Nation, Flow Words, Healing Law, WIBW Kansas, and C...

Full Bio →

Written by Chris Tepedino
Insurance Feature Writer Chris Tepedino

Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

Full Bio →

Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent Laura Walker

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right coverage choices.

Advertiser Disclosure: We strive to help you make confident insurance decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. We are not affiliated with any one insurance company and cannot guarantee quotes from any single insurance company.

Our insurance industry partnerships don’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own. To compare quotes from many different insurance companies please enter your ZIP code above to use the free quote tool. The more quotes you compare, the more chances to save.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by insurance experts.

Writing at the university level is more than simply grammar, punctuation, and getting ideas across. It is also about following the writing style (or styles) used for your type of major, presenting work in a standard and easy to read format, and clearly and accurately citing sources that you may use.

What is Citation and Citation Style?

Citation is used to clearly define the sources that we use in our writing. This may refer to books, journal articles, newspapers, or even university lectures. An average citation for a journal article includes the name of the article, author(s) name, year in which it was published, and the publication in which it can be found. The citation must also be noted within the writing to clarify what part of your writing is based on what sources. This is usually referred to as an in-text citation and includes the author’s name as well as year of publication, although it may be something as simple as a subscript or superscript (small number or letter that is slightly above or below the rest of the text) referencing a footnote that provides further information on the source.


Compare The Best Insurance Quotes In The Country

Compare quotes from the top insurance companies and save!

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Types of Citation Styles

APA style refers to the writing and citation style approved by the American Psychological Association. It is primarily used by students and professionals in the behavioral and social sciences. APA style dictates the format of a written work, as well as how numbers, names, citations, tone, verb usage, and other aspects of writing can be presented.

If you were to cite a journal article in APA style, the reference would follow this structure:

Last, F. M. (Date Published). Article title. Journal Title, Volume(Issue), page(s).

To learn more, visit the American Psychological Association.

MLA style is the Modern Language Association style of academic and professional writing. It is often used by professionals and students in the liberal arts and humanities. It includes specific rules for formatting a paper as well as rules on how to create citations.

If you were to cite a journal article in MLA style, the reference would follow this structure:

Last, First. “Article Title.” Journal title, Volume, year, page(s).

To learn more, visit the Modern Language Association.

Chicago style, referring to the citation and formatting style found in the Chicago Manual of Style, is primarily used in manuscript preparation and publication by people in literature, history, and the arts. It allows writers to use footnotes or endnotes for the purpose of citing sources.

If you were to cite a journal article in Chicago style, the reference would follow this structure:

Last Name, First Name. “Article Title.” Journal Name Volume number (year published): page numbers.

To learn more, visit the Chicago Manual of Style.

Turabian is based on Kate Turabian’s book, Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. It follows the same structure as Chicago style, but with some modifications to make the process easier for student writers.

To learn more, you can visit the University of Chicago’s page on it.

AAA is the American Anthropological documentation style. It also closely follows Chicago style, but with some basic differences in formatting.

To learn more, go to the AAA guide at the University of Vermont website.

CSE style refers to the Council of Science Editors documentation style that is used in the natural in physical sciences. It includes three documentation styles within it. Each one includes references at the end.

If you were to cite a journal article in CSE style, the reference would follow this structure:

Author(s). Year. Article title. Abbreviated journal title. Volume(issue):pages.

For more information, visit the CSE page on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s website.

How to Select a Citation Style

There are a few factors to consider when choosing a style to use. The first is the subject of the paper. Will you be writing about physical sciences, literature, psychology, or something else? Each field tends to have a preference regarding citation style. You should also consider what you are writing and what aspects of clarity or formatting are the most important to you. The styles each come with their own rules, and some may be more suited to your needs. Also, don’t forget to consider class requirements! A professor will often specify that papers should be written in a specific style, so it is best to submit a paper that meets their requirements.


Writing Tips

Grammar and Mechanics

It is important to brush up on basic writing skills. The majority of universities offer first-year English writing and literature courses to help with this. Always read over papers when you are done writing them and check for errors. Common errors can be found in the use (or improper use) of:

  • Conjunctions
  • Comma splices
  • Sentence fragments
  • Transitional expressions
  • Verb tenses
  • Participles
  • Definite and indefinite articles
  • Punctuation
  • Capitalization


Point of View and Voice

It is important to be consistent in the point of view and voice that you use, but also to choose those that best fit the requirements of your writing.

Voice is how your words are presented. The reader may not be able to hear you, but they will be able to get a sense of the style of speech that you choose to use. Point of view is a large part of that. The point of view in a paper is determined by the use of pronouns. The first-person point of view may use words such as I, me, or mine. The second-person point of view would use the word “you”. The third-person point of view would use words such as he, she, it, or them.


Being Clear and Concise

It is important to clearly articulate what you are saying, and to do it in a concise manner, to avoid confusion and to make sure that your ideas are coming across in a manner that can be easily understood. Here are some ways to increase the clarity of your writing:

  • Limit prepositional phrases
  • Use the active voice
  • Avoid the use of wordy phrases and verbs
  • Avoid using inflated words
  • Limit expletive constructions


Avoiding Bias

It is important to avoid bias in academic and professional writing. This level of writing requires objectivity and the ability to present information without obvious error. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Instead of being descriptive, be specific
  • Know sexual identity terminology
  • Use person-first identifiers
  • Do not make assumptions regarding demographics


Selecting the Best Choice of Words

Try to be precise and sensitive in your word choices. Make sure that they get your thoughts across without being misunderstood by others. Reread a paper before submitting it. If you are still unsure, have someone else look at it to check for anything that you may have missed.


Compare The Best Insurance Quotes In The Country

Compare quotes from the top insurance companies and save!

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Understanding Plagiarism

Plagiarism occurs when we use the ideas of another person without giving them credit. This can happen intentionally, but it can also happen by accident if we improperly cite something. Even using a direct quote and citing the source but failing to use quotes is a form of plagiarism. Without the quotes, it cannot be known that those were the exact words of another author.


Free Insurance Comparison

Compare quotes from the top insurance companies and save!

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption