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The Anderson Learning Center: Writing Center

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The Writing Center is Here For You!

The Anderson Writing Center is here for you! 

Contact us any time, and we will respond to you as soon as we are available!

 We can help virtually through email, Zoom, or Ask a Librarian. 

Just send an email to:, and let us know what you need help with.

If you have a paper that needs reviewed, make sure you attach the paper.

APA/MLA Citation Guide is below!

Writing Center Hours

Citing Sources

Credo Instruct - Tutorial - Ivy Tech Library Information Literacy tutorials made up of a pre and post test and six modules with quizzes. The topics range from basic research skills, selecting and evaluating resources, and citation skills. This resource will replace IvyTILT.

All About APA  (American Psychological Association)

All About MLA (Modern Language Association)

OWL - Purdue University Online Writing Lab is one of the best web sites for help in research and writing.

NoodleTools - NoodleTools is an online research management platform that promotes critical thinking and authentic research. Students stay organized as they evaluate information, build accurate citations, archive source material, take notes, outline topics, and prepare to write. Quickly and easily generate accurate MLA, APA, and Chicago citations!

TUTOR.COM is a FREE service that students can use for various courses. You have 25 hours you can use each semester. They are available 24/7. You can access in IvyLearn under the IvyLearn Student Resource Center.

All about Writing!

Click on the links for information!


An Effective Thesis

An effective thesis should contain the general idea of your essay; someone should be able to read your thesis and know the overall main idea that your essay will convey.

It must be specific enough to focus your topic and convey what you think about it.

Avoid the following errors when writing a thesis:

TOO FACTUAL: Composting is a way to recycle at home by reusing food scraps.

This thesis tells us what something is—that won’t provide enough information for a good essay unless it’s only an informative essay.

REVISED:  Composting is the easiest and most economical recycling solution to have less household trash.

This thesis is much better because it tells us what the reader thinks about composting: it’s the best way to recycle!  It’s also an argument: sometimes you may need to write an argument, which means that you choose one side of a topic.  For example, someone else could say that traditional recycling is best, but this author is arguing that composting is best.

TOO BROAD:  When considering mental illness, many drugs are available to treat them. 

This is enough information to write a book on, not a five-page essay.  “Many drugs” could be a list of twenty drugs, and the author won’t have time to talk about each of those.  There are many mental illnesses as well.

REVISED:  Wellbutrin is a safe way to treat depression, but one must consider possible side effects when choosing medication.

This thesis chose one drug and one type of mental illness so that the essay will be focused and specific.


TOO VAGUE:  Limiting student parking is a great idea.

This thesis has a good start because it presents an argument, but the end of the sentence isn’t specific enough to write a good essay around the idea.

REVISED:   Limiting student parking to orange lots on campus will reduce traffic, give students access to all important buildings, and leave parking for other faculty and staff.

This thesis tells us what is good about student parking and specifically what their proposal calls for (limiting parking to orange lots).

Thus, a thesis should include:


  1. Your overall idea for the essay (theme, point)
    • If it’s an argumentative or persuasive essay, your overall idea should be an argument

A thesis may also include:

The main points of your essay.  Some instructors may require this for a thesis.  You can simply list your reasons, as the author did in the last example thesis above.



Created on 1/21/2021 by Stephanie M. Kurin


Finding essay topics

Your instructor’s given you a new essay to write, but how do you find a topic?  What do you do if you’re stuck?

First, read the assignment sheet.  Does it give any topic ideas—or topics to stay away from?

If you have a choice of topics, then consider the following:

  • What is your major or intended field of study?  Can you choose a topic related to that to help you learn more about it?

  • What’s a topic that has interested you and you want to learn more about?

  • What’s an interesting idea or new concept you’ve learned from the class that you want to explore?

  • What interests you outside of academics: what are your hobbies?  Can you share that passion with others?

  • What’s a problem you’ve encountered recently?  What stresses you out, and what can you do about it?  How would researching a topic help you answer that?

  • If you get stuck, ask a friend or someone who knows you well: what’s one thing you’re knowledgeable about and should share with others?


Created on 1/21/2021 by Stephanie M. Kurin


Addressing Audience

How do I address my audience’s needs when writing an essay?

Most students assume that the instructor will be their audience, and they sometimes think of their classmates as well.  While that is true, you’ll have a better essay if you write with a specific audience in mind.

Choose a specific audience.  For an essay about the common core, for example, you could say the audience is students, but that’s still a fairly general audience.  It would be better to instead write to “high school students within Indiana who are planning to attend college after high school graduation” or “students at Wilson high who want to go into trades.”

Questions to help you determine your audience:

  • Who do I envision as my readers?  Who will be most interested in my topic, or who will it be most useful for?

  • What do my readers have in common with each other and me that will help us find agreement?  If you’re writing to an audience who disagrees with you, finding common ground is especially important.

  • In what role do I think of my readers?  For example, are they reading primarily as parents of young children, people watching their budget, environmentalists, millennials, or religious fundamentalists?  How does this role affect the qualities they are likely to value in my subject?

  • What are the qualities—good and bad—that my readers think are important for evaluating this kind of subject?  Knowing this will help you find which main points you should choose and what you could use to evaluate your topic. 

  • What does my audience already know about this subject?  Will I be introducing the subject to them, or will they already be familiar with it, and if so, how expert are they?  Most often, readers will already know definitions of words and ideas, so you won’t need to define those.


Created on 1/21/2021 by Stephanie M. Kurin


How do I know if a paragraph and essay are well-developed?

Typically, a well-developed paragraph will include a topic sentence, a sentence or two explaining that idea, at least one example or source and explanation of that, and a sentence to wrap it all up.  While there’s no set length for a good paragraph, make sure your idea is well-explained before moving on.

Questions to use to help you develop further:

  • Have I fully explained my idea?  Have I told the audience what this idea is, why it’s important, and how it relates to my thesis?  Make sure you explain HOW the ideas are connected; remember the audience can’t read your mind, so they might not be able to immediately see how they’re connected.  If that connection isn’t clear, explain it.

  • Do I have at least one specific example in this paragraph?  A specific example is not general.  For example, in an essay on technology, instead of saying “People use technology on a daily basis,” say “My brother picks up his cell phone approximately every four minutes to check the time, text, or play his latest game,” which is much more specific and gives us a better idea of how technology is used.  Use examples from your research if your essay doesn’t allow for informal examples.

Questions to ask yourself to develop further:

  • How does this idea support my thesis?
  • Why is this idea important to my audience?
  • Is my idea for the paragraph fully explained?
  • How does this example or source support my point for this paragraph?


Created on 1/21/2021 by Stephanie M. Kurin


How do I know if a source is good?

Finding good sources takes time; you’ll want to evaluate what you have.  If you’ve found sources through the library, whether they’re articles or books, it’s likely they will work well, but even articles you found through the library can be too brief, general, or not specifically related to your topic.

If that’s the case or if you’re working with online sources, use these guidelines to help you find credible sources.

  • Consider the topic.  Is the topic of the chosen article specific enough to be relevant to your topic?  Is the article in-depth enough?  A one or two page overview may not be detailed enough to give you good information for a research paper.

  • Who is the author?  Conduct background research (google the author) so you know their credibility.

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.”  Oscar Wilde

If, for example, you found this quote and wanted to use to begin your essay, you would want to know that Wilde often wrote satire.

Look at the above article.  Consider googling the source if you’re not familiar with it or read the page’s “About” section.  The above source may look good at the outset, but it’s from a well-known satire page.

  • What is the author’s tone?  Any article with a condescending or negative tone might not be the best choice.  Ask yourself: is it biased, or balanced?

  • Does the author list any sources?  Where did they find their information?  Sources with citations are more likely to be credible.

  • Is this information current?  When was it published?  In some disciplines like English Literature, this may not matter as much, while the medical fields require up-to-date sources.


Created on 1/21/2021 by Stephanie M. Kurin


How do you write a good title for an essay?

Keep in mind that every good essay deserves a title!  While some people start an essay by writing a title, it’s probably easiest to wait until the essay is finished to write the title so that it accurately conveys the same idea as your essay.

There are 3 possible elements to a good title:

  1. Key terms: like subject headings.  What’s the main idea of your essay?  This should come through in every title.  Every title should include this at a minimum.

  1. The source: location or place of discussion.  This narrows the topic to a specific area or group of people, etc.

  1. The hook: the creative element that draws in the reader. You can also include a creative aspect like wordplay, alliteration, etc.  Most very formal essays (i.e. APA format like the sciences) will not have this.

Look at these example titles:

Adios, Franco!:  An Analysis of the Spanish Communist Party

          The first part of this title includes a creative element, and the second part includes the subject terms of analysis and communism.   It tells us the source of Spain as well.

Background Effects as Dramatic Technique in Shakespeare’s As You Like It

          This title includes the subject terms—background effects, technique, and gives a location, the name of a play: As You Like It.

Fast Food’s Feeding Frenzy

          This title uses a creative aspect, alliteration, to convey its subject.

Which of those aspects should you include in your title?


Created on 1/21/2021 by Stephanie M. Kurin


How to have good organization in an essay

  1. Begin with an introductory paragraph. 

See our handout on introductions for more tips.

  1. Have one overall idea and several main points to support that

Let’s say this was the author’s thesis:

Composting is the easiest and most economical solution to have less household trash.

His main points would be:

  • Composting is easy
  • Compositing is economical

Both of those support the overall idea that composing is the best way to have less trash. 

Choose at least two main points to develop in your essay; generally, an essay will have no more than five main points.

  1. Use topic sentences

A topic sentence is the first sentence of a paragraph that introduces us to the main idea of that paragraph.  Often, topic sentences will convey one of the essay’s main points. 

If we were working with the thesis from above, the author’s first topic sentence could read like this:

Composting is an easy way to reduce household trash.

The author has taken their first main point and included that into their first sentence of the paragraph. 

Figure out what your main ideas are, then have one or two paragraphs for each—the point should come through clearly in your topic sentence. 

You don’t have to have one paragraph per main point, but using topic sentences will help the reader see which main point you are discussing.

  1. Use transitions to connect paragraphs

Topic sentences can also function as transitions to help link the ideas in paragraphs together.

Again, let’s look at the above example thesis and topic sentences.  Your first body paragraph may not need a transition since you’re introducing your first main idea.  Remember, this was the author’s topic sentence:

          Composting is an easy way to reduce household trash.

In the second body paragraph, though, you’ll want to show the readers the connection between the previous paragraph and your new one.  Look at this topic sentence and transition:

          Not only is composting easy, but it’s economical as well.

They’re referring to the previous paragraph about composting being easy and then introducing their new idea—economy. 

Work to link your paragraphs together by showing the connections between them and how the ideas build on each other.

  1. Have a solid conclusion paragraph

Check out the document about conclusions to develop yours.


Created on 1/21/2021 by Stephanie M. Kurin


Principles for incorporating visuals

  • Avoid hard-to-read charts and graphs: they should be simple.  If you’re writing a three-page essay, a basic chart or graph works well; for a longer essay, you can use more complicated visuals.

  • Each visual should make or support a specific point, and the visual should be mentioned in the essay.  Visuals that aren’t integrated feel like they’re not part of the essay.

  • Visuals need to be cited, too.  Use your documentation format (APA, MLA, etc.) and include the parenthetical citation information after the visual.

Questions to ask when incorporating visuals

  • What argument or point does it make?  Make sure its argument also supports your overall idea.

  • Where should it be located?  Readers usually look at a visual first, so keep that in mind when you integrate it.

  • Will it be easy to read when shrunk or printed in black-and-white?  A pie graph, for example, may have colored sections that don’t translate to black-and-white.

  • Does it need a caption?  Most images should have a caption to help the readers better understand them and their part in the essay.

  • Is it distracting?  Does it draw too much attention to itself?

Don’t do this with your image:

Don't put the image in the middle of the page.  Put it to the right or the left so that you can wrap the text around it.   

Instead, use text wrapping

Use text wrapping (right click on image, then “wrap text“) to integrate your images into your project so that they don’t stand out.  Make sure that your text wrap does not make a column that is too narrow or make it hard for readers to follow your train of thought.  This allows your image to be better integrated into your essay.


Created on 1/21/2021 by Stephanie M. Kurin


Revision Tips and Techniques

How do I revise my essay?

Revision will probably be a more thorough process than what you’re used to doing.  Note that revision and editing are not the same; revision involves reworking your essay as a whole, and editing is what comes at the end.  Editing is more like proofreading, while revision involves making large-scale changes to your essay.

A few tips:

  • Set aside your draft for at least a few hours, if not a few days, before you revise.  This will allow yourself to look at it with fresh eyes.

  • Try to look at the essay as a whole; this means you won’t be tinkering with sentences.  Save that for later.

  • Don’t try to cover too many things at once.  Look at one aspect of the essay each time through: the first time, look at organization.  The second, revise for development, etc.

What will I be doing as I revise?

Adding.  You can add sentences, paragraphs, more examples, and more source information.

Deleting.  It might feel hard, but your essay will be better if you delete sentences and paragraphs.  Be ruthless!   Take out sentences you’ve already said or that go off-topic.

Moving.  Move sentences around; where do they fit better in a paragraph?  Should you reorder your body paragraphs?  Does one paragraph fit better at the beginning than the end?


What can I do to revise?

  • Look at the focus of your essay.  Did you do what the assignment asked?  Is the essay focused around one topic?

  • Look at your thesis.  Is it focused?  Use our thesis document to help you revise your thesis.

  • Use a checklist to help you make sure you’ve covered all aspects of a good essay—take a look at our revision checklist.


Created on 1/21/2021 by Stephanie M. Kurin


Self-Analysis for Revision

Use these questions to help you revise your essay.  Be honest when answering the questions and thinking about what might need revision.

  • Look back at your assignment sheet: have you covered each required item?

  • What is your thesis?  Does it give us a guideline for what the essay will say?  Does it make the same point as the rest of your essay?

  • List your main points.   How clearly does each one come through in your topic sentences?

  • How in-depth is your essay?  Do you give relevant sources, examples, or specific pieces of information for each main point?

  • If you’ve used source information, have you included both parenthetical citations and a Reference page/Works cited page?  If not, refer to the library guide for APA/MLA guidance.

  • What can you do to further develop the conclusion?  Make sure you’ve gone beyond summary.

  • How smooth are your transitions?  Where do you need to add further transition to move between paragraphs?

  • What could you do to make your writing more sophisticated?  Cut out extra words?   Lengthen or combine sentences?

Take one read-through of your essay to proofread only: look for unnecessary or missing commas, comma splices, and misspellings.


Created on 1/21/2021 by Stephanie M. Kurin


Tips for Writing Timed Essays

This document gives you an idea of what any timed, impromptu essay like a diagnostic essay or in-class essay, whether part of an essay on its own or part of an exam, might call for.   It also gives some tips for handling timed writing situations.

  • Read the prompt thoroughly! Understand what it’s calling for; highlight important information.  You may want to make a checklist of the required elements.

  • Make sure you have a specific thesis: what’s the one idea you want this essay to highlight?

  • The five-paragraph essay is a good format to use.  The first paragraph is your introduction with thesis at the end, second paragraph contains your first main point, third paragraph contains your second main point, fourth paragraph has your last point, and the fifth paragraph is your conclusion.

  • Develop your ideas—within the body of your essay, give specific examples.  Make sure your thesis is well-supported.  This is key because it’s often difficult to do within a time limit.

  • Pace yourself—leave enough time to finish.  Spend:
    • 5-10 minutes at the beginning planning/brainstorming,
    • most of the time writing,
    • and 5-10 minutes at the end proofreading.

After you’ve written the essay, go back and check the assignment again: did you fulfill all the required aspects?


Created on 1/21/2021 by Stephanie M. Kurin


What is argument?

An argument attempts to persuade your audience by stating a claim and supporting that with evidence.

What is a claim?

A claim takes a stand on one side of an issue.

Look at these two claims:

The simple vocabulary and rhyming lines of Dr. Seuss’ books are responsible for the imaginative flair in his work.

Dr. Seuss’ illustrations are responsible for the genius and popularity of his work because of his creative use of color and simple images.

They are both talking about Dr. Seuss’ work.  The first claims that the text is most important and responsible for the imaginative aspect, while the second claims that his illustrations are most important.  Either of those are strong claims.

What cannot be an argument?

Questions can’t be arguments

Who makes the key decisions in U.S. Cities?

This is not an argument; a question cannot be an argument because it doesn’t take a stand.

Revision:  The city governor should be responsible for key decisions in cities rather than the federal government.

This thesis is talking about the same idea, but it presents an argument about who should make decisions: this author is arguing that local government should be responsible rather than federal.

Statements or facts can’t be arguments

A quarter of a million babies are born each year with birth defects.

Pollution is bad for the environment.

Neither of these are arguments; a statement or fact cannot be an argument.  No one would argue that pollution is good for the environment, so it can’t be an argument.

Revision: To combat pollution, each driver should be limited to 20,000 miles a year.

The author is arguing a specific limit for drivers.  They’re still talking about the same topic of pollution, but their thesis includes a specific way to solve the problem.

Not choosing a side

This paper will consider the advantages and disadvantages of certain restrictions on free speech.

This sentence presents both sides without claiming one—you must choose one side (there could be two or more) to have an argument.

Possible Revision: This paper will consider the advantages of free speech.

This is still not an argument because they’re just telling us what will happen.  You must present a claim about your topic as well.

          Revision: Free speech should be allowed in schools because it will benefit students’ expression and self-awareness.

Features of an argumentation essay:

  • Claim/thesis: in one sentence, state your argument/position on your topic
  • Looks at both sides by including counterarguments
  • Tries to persuade your audience to share your point
  • Uses evidence (sources, examples) to support your point
  • Considers the needs of your audience


Created on 1/21/2021 by Stephanie M. Kurin


Writing a Good Conclusion

You can’t write a good conclusion until you’ve written your essay, so write that first and then come back and look at how you might want to revise it based on the suggestions below.

What should you avoid in a conclusion?

  • Avoid saying “in conclusion” to begin.  We want readers to know your essay is ending because you’ve left them with a sense of resonance, a feeling that the essay is over.  Do this through the language instead of telling them directly that it’s the end of the essay. 

  • Avoid only summarizing.  While some summary may be helpful, especially in a longer essay, avoid going back through your main points.  You’ve already said this in your essay, so a conclusion can seem repetitive if you’re only summarizing.  Instead, synthesize: work to show how your points fit together to prove your point.

  • Avoid restating your thesis.  Don’t copy and paste your thesis into the conclusion.  Again, you’ve already said it, so instead work to finish proving your point.

  • Avoid bringing in research.  The conclusion is the time to wrap up the essay, not bring in new information.  If there’s a quote you really like, look at where else in the essay you could use it.

  • Avoid asking questions.  The conclusion should be wrapping up your topic, not bringing up more questions to be answered.

  • Avoid conclusions that are too short.  A good conclusion should be at least a medium-sized paragraph long, but for an essay eight pages or longer, it may take a whole page to wrap up your essay fully.

What are some options that work well?

  • Show the readers the significance of your essay: why is this topic and your stance on it important?  How will it affect them, their city, and their world?

  • Challenge the reader to action.  What can the reader do after reading your essay?  Keep it reasonable: if your essay was on recycling, they won’t completely change their habits.  What are one or two small things they could do?  If you don’t want to address your audience directly, what should they be thinking about as a result of reading your essay?

  • Look to the future.  If your plan is implemented, what will change?  How will that benefit your audience?  What might happen in the future?

  • Offer a solution or a recommendation. If you’ve presented a problem, what are some good ways to solve that?  What will be helpful?

  • Reframe.  Take your topic and look at it from a new perspective. 

  • What further research should be done?  This can be a helpful strategy for an academic research essay, study, or review of a study.

  • End with a resonant sentence.  Your last sentence should wrap things up and provides a feeling of finality for the readers.  We want to leave the readers with a sense of resonance, a feeling that the essay is over and has been significant.


Sample conclusions:

This one is too brief, only includes basic summary, and ends abruptly.

If seems we can really only speculate as to what Shakespeare is trying to say about life in King Lear.  There are no religious morals or Elizabethan motifs jumping out at us like handy crutches.

This second conclusion wraps up the essay and ends with a memorable sentence.

So, if by a series of occurrences very close to the core of the man, Lear, this king becomes aware of life just as it is lost to him forever.  The only non-static character in the play, Lear becomes the tragic one.  The tragedy is one like saving a man’s life so that he may be executed.  But, in that saving, Lear is, if only briefly, whole, magnificent, wise.

Example paragraphs from “Closers,” Writing with Style by John R. Trimble


Created on 1/21/2021 by Stephanie M. Kurin


Writing a Good Introduction

Tips when writing an Introduction…

  1. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so use your first sentence wisely.

  1. Your introduction is an important road map for the rest of your paper, so introduce your topic.

  1. Ideally, your introduction will make your readers want to read your paper.

  1. Start by thinking about the question (or questions) you are trying to answer: how can you bring up that quandary in your introduction?

  1. Make sure your introduction is specific, not general.  If your essay is about baseball, don’t begin by talking about sports: jump right in with your topic.

  1. Pay special attention to your first sentence—it needs to engage your audience.

What not to do…

  • Don’t apologize, using phrases like “in my opinion”

  • Don’t announce what you intend to do.  Avoid phrases like “In this paper I will…”  Just tell us the point instead.

  • Don’t wander: stay focused on introducing your topic.


Possibilities for your Intro…

You can…

  1. Begin with a question (appropriate for more informal essays)

“Have a minute? Good. Because one minute may be all it takes to save the life of a child—your child. Accidents kill nearly 8000 children under age 15 each year. And for every fatality, 42 more children are admitted to hospitals for treatment. Yet such deaths and injuries can be avoided through these easy steps parents can take right now. You don't have a minute to lose.”

  1. Begin with a fact or statistic (good for research essays and more formal essays)

  1. Begin with a quotation (good for research essays and more formal essays)

“’The rich are different,’ F. Scott Fitzgerald said more than seventy years ago.  Apparently, they still are.  As an examination of the tax code shows, the wealthy receive many more benefits than the middle class or the poor do.”

  1. Begin with a surprising fact or statement

“The most widely read writer in America today is not Stephen King, Michael Chrichton or John Grisham. It's Margaret Milner Richardson, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, whose name appears on the "1040 Forms and Instructions" booklet. I doubt that Margaret wrote the entire 1040 pamphlet, but the annual introductory letter, "A Note from the Commissioner," bears her signature.”

  1. Begin with a contradiction

“Many people think that after the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, the colonists defeated the British army in battle after battle, but this commonly-held belief is incorrect.  The truth is that the colonial army lost most of its battles.”

  1. Begin with an ORIGINAL  definition (not a dictionary definition)

“Democracy is a form of government in which power is given to and exercised by the people: this may be true in theory, but some recent elections have raised concerns about the future of democracy.  Democracy in our country seems to be more about who has the money to give power to politicians.” 

  1. Begin with an anecdote or story (appropriate for personal or narrative essays)

“Mike Cantlon remembers coming across his first auction ten years ago while cruising the back roads of Wisconsin. He parked his car and wandered into the crowd, toward the auctioneer's singsong chant and wafting smell of barbecued sandwiches. Hours later, Cantlon emerged lugging a $22 beam drill-for constructing post-and-beam barns—and a passion for auctions that has stuck like glue. "It's an addiction," says Cantlon, a financial planner and one of the growing number of auction fanatics for whom Saturdays will never be the same.”

*example paragraphs taken from


Two Introduction Examples from Writing with Style by John R. Trimble       

The first draft, a fairly basic introduction that gives background information:

Shakespeare’s Hamlet, admired for its poetic style and intriguing characters, has remained a classic for over three centuries.  The character of Hamlet is probably one of Shakespeare’s most perplexing and most pleasing.  He is easily identified with because of his multi-faceted personality and his realistic problems.

The second draft, which begins with an attention-getter:

He killed his brother.  He married his brother’s wife.  He stole his brother’s crown.  A cold-hearted murderer, he is described by his brother’s ghost as “that incestuous, that adulterate beast” (I.v.42).  The bare facts appear to stamp him a moral outlaw.  Nonetheless, as his soliloquies and anguished asides reveal, no person in Hamlet demonstrates so mixed a true nature as Claudius, the newly made King of Denmark.

Which of these is more interesting?  Why?  What can you do to make your introduction more like the second draft?


Created on 1/21/2021 by Stephanie M. Kurin