Librarians and other library staff are not able to offer you in-depth assistance in how to write your papers and presentations, but we can provide some basic guidance and point you to a number of useful resources that will help you as you write your papers.
The UVA Writing Center
The Writing Center focuses on the organization and structure of writing (they do not proofread), and also provides English as a Second Language support. The Writing Center follows the principles of writing and argumentation as described in The Craft of Argument by Joseph M. Williams (University of Chicago) and Gregory C. Colomb (University of Virginia). Visit the Center’s web page for more information and to schedule an appointment. Summer hours may be limited.
Plagiarism is taking someone else’s words or work and claiming it as your own. To avoid plagiarism, you must always properly cite any material you use in your papers that is not your own. You may wish to view the online plagiarism tutorial from Rutgers University for a somewhat tongue-in-cheek but still very serious review of what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it.
RefWorks is an online tool for helping you organize, maintain and properly format the references to sources you are using in your paper. Using RefWorks makes creating bibliographies and footnotes much quicker and easier. RefWorks is free to you while you are a UVa student. It requires a brief and simple registration. Ask for assistance at any library about how to set up and use your RefWorks account.
Create your RefWorks account and login to the RefWorks system here.
Access a variety of online tutorials about how to use RefWorks here.
Other Sources of Writing Assistance
Obviously, one resource you should never overlook is your class professor or instructor. He or she will be glad to help you with any problems you may be having understanding your assignments and writing your papers.
You also may find one or more of the following resources helpful:
Framing a Research Question
Most of the papers you will write as a student at UVa (and many of the reports and documents you will produce for employers and others once you graduate) will need to go far beyond a simple retelling of facts and figures. You need to look at your question from various angles, analyze the relationships among its parts, document your points with reliable, verified facts and figures, illustrate key parts with appropriate graphics, and try to get at some of the reasons behind the facts.
One way you could conduct this process might be to use a "Journalistic" approach. For each aspect of your topic ask yourself those tried-and-true questions that all good journalists learn early in their careers: who, what, when, where, how and why? Here's an example. The suggested questions are certainly not all that could be asked -- the specific questions you ask will vary with your topic. And not all the categories shown may be appropriate for a given paper, or some categories may require more emphasis than others for a given paper. Much depends on the needs/requirements of your instructor or other persons for whom you are writing and on the type of presentation and the thesis you are trying to prove or disprove. In the end YOU must use your own best judgment and analytical skills in determining how best to research and organize your paper and what questions best get at the points you are trying to make in it.
TOPIC: The invention and use of the pop-top aluminum can.
THESIS: The introduction of the pop-top aluminum can changed the beer and soft drink consumption habits of consumers, affected consumer health and safety, altered the nature of the container industry (especially for beverages) and affected the quality of the environment in various ways.