Writing a Major Paper

Documentation Links:

Some university writing centers recommend Chicago Manual of Style format for papers in Information Services and Computer Science. CMS employs footnotes and Latin abbreviations. A useful overview of Chicago Manual of Style format is available on Purdue University's OWL (Online Writing Lab) site. If you prefer to use MLA format or APA format, they are acceptable. Purdue's OWL has good overviews of MLA format and APA format as well. Just be sure to be consistent in applying whatever format you use.

The Writing Center often refers students to the Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students written and maintained by several universities: Penn State, Georgia Tech, University of Illinois, University of Texas, and Virginia Tech.

You will want to be aware of Bridgewater College's plagiarism policy, Ethics in Academic WorkYou may find it interesting to look at the ACM Plagiarism Policy as well.

What to Pay Attention to:

Approaches to Writing:

Getting Started and Keeping It Going

  1. Give yourself plenty of time to write your paper. Try to write early, even if you don't have all the information yet. Most of the writing that professors complain about as poor writing was done hastily and/or at the last minute. So don't wait to have the perfect plan; once you start writing, you may find that you are refining your outline.
  2. As you think about your paper, make lists of info or lists of questions a reader might need answers to or flow charts showing the chunks of writing that your paper will need. This is important writing activity, even if you don't see finished paragraphs coming out of it. Jotting down the information you see as necessary to your reader can lead into outlining.  You may also use subtitling as a route into writing an outline, or start with a bare-bones PowerPoint as an organizational tool, which you can later fill out for your presentation.
  3. As you draft, if you don't know everything you need to include, skip parts. Get as much down as you can, because it's easier to revise to produce a good final product if you have plenty of material to work with (and cut from). Schedule times for writing and make good use of them.
  4. If you find yourself staring at the screen, waiting for inspiration, do something else for 10 minutes or 30 minutes--but with a firm commitment to returning to the writing at that point. Think of it as a doctor's appointment that you really need to show up for.
  5. And you don't need to wait till you've done all your writing before consulting a Writing Center tutor. Come in and talk through your ideas for the paper or your information, and a tutor can help you organize it. You can chat with a tutor on Facebook between 7:00 p.m. and midnight Sunday through Thursday, and even share your PowerPoint in Google Docs to get feedback from a tutor. Go to https://www.facebook.com/bcwritingcenter.


  1. When you revise, read your paper aloud. Listening to your paper as well as looking at it helps you focus on what it actually says instead of the ideas in your head. You'll catch places where you've left something out or said the same thing twice.
  2. Eliminate redundancy, or unnecessary repetition of the same wording, and wordiness as you revise. You can use repetition selectively to create emphasis and enhance clarity, but in most cases, you'll want to avoid saying the same thing more than once--at least in the same paragraph.
  3. Reading aloud will help you revise for transitional wording as well, the words and phrases that create "flow" in your paper.
  4. Be sure that you have cited all the sources you use. It is worth taking the time to insert citations as you go instead of going back to finish them later. That delay can result in overlooked citations. Also be sure that every source cited in the body of your paper has a corresponding entry in your bibliography.
  5. It is a good idea to have a Writing Center tutor help you look at your citation of sources. A tutor will point out any passage that needs to be cited and can help you with the format of your bibliography. While Web-based citation programs like EasyBib.com can be really helpful, mistakes sometimes creep in. The fresh look that an outside reader can bring to your paper may be well worth the time you took to get someone to look over the paper.


  1. Double-check quoted material, numbers, and dates for accuracy.
  2. Double-check the spelling of proper names or specialized terminology.
  3. Double-check paraphrased material to make sure you have not plagiarized.
  4. Double-check information and format in your bibliography.

Updated by A. L. Trupe Feb. 11, 2013