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University Writing Center

The USC Upstate University Writing Center is dedicated to assisting both experienced and inexperienced writers at all stages of the writing process, in any discipline. We assist students with pre-writing, revision strategies and proofreading techniques. Tutors can offer help with global aspects of your writing such as organization and structure, or provide instruction on word choice, punctuation and grammar. Tutors also assist with other writing projects such as resumes, cover letters, admissions essays and more.

The Writing Center is conducting appointments virtually through Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. To schedule an appointment, contact director Brock Adams at badams@uscupstate.edu.

Location: All appointments will be held virtually until further notice.

Contact: badams@uscupstate.edu.

Students can come in for one-on-one tutoring or sign up for a distance tutoring session at any stage in their writing process, which includes:

  • Brainstorming
  • Developing outlines and drafts
  • Organizing drafts
  • Learning practical strategies to address specific writing challenges
  • Reviewing patterns of grammatical error (not proofreading)
  • Reviewing papers for unintended plagiarism and reviewing documentation styles
  • Receiving limited instruction on database and other library searching
  • Preparing graduate school essays, resumes and other school-related documents

Tutors are very busy during midterms and the end of the semester. Please plan ahead and contact Brock Adams at badams@uscupstate.edu.

Who are the Writing Center tutors?

Tutors are University students who have been selected to work in the Writing Center because of their outstanding tutoring, editing, and writing ability.

Why should I come to the Writing Center?

Students who come to the Writing Center benefit from sharing their writing with a fellow student who is both knowledgeable and service oriented. By working with tutors, students have the opportunity to learn more about writing and to become better writers over time.

How long are the tutoring sessions? What should I bring? Will I need an appointment?

The Writing Center provides free 30- or 50-minute, one-on-one tutoring sessions. Please bring your assignment instructions along with your paper draft. Appointments should be scheduled in advance with the Writing Center, but walk-ins may be occasionally accommodated.

What should I bring to my appointment in the Writing Center?

Bring a copy of your writing assignment instructions and a draft of your paper to discuss with your Writing Center tutor.  

How do I sign up for online tutoring?

The Writing Center is pleased to offer distance tutoring via Skype for Business. This service is intended for students who are unable to come to campus – particularly students taking courses at the Greenville Campus and students who solely take online classes.

There are two options for participating in distance tutoring: Students may use their own computer or students can use the distance-tutoring portal at the Greenville Campus library.  

Students who attend classes at the Spartanburg campus are ineligible for this service. These students are encouraged to take advantage of the face-to-face sessions offered at the Writing Center. 

To prepare for a distance tutoring session, please follow the directions:

  1. Schedule your appointment: Call the Writing Center at 864-503-5883 and make an appointment. Be sure to specify that your appointment will be a distance-tutoring appointment, which will allow your tutor to prepare appropriately.
  2. Prepare for the appointment: Before the appointment, email a copy of your assignment and whatever work you have done so far (notes, a draft of the paper, etc.) to writingcenter@uscupstate.edu.
    1. If you are using your own computer, make sure that you have Skype for Business, a camera and a microphone on your computer. All students and faculty can access Skype for Business.
    2. If using the Distance Learning Portal located in the Greenville Campus Library, arrive at the computer at least five minutes before your appointment. The library staff will provide you with a username and password that you can use to login to Spartan Greensky where you can access Skype for Business.
    3. Log into Skype for Business. This is done by using your Upstate email address and password. 
    4. Test your equipment. By clicking on the gear icon in Skype for Business, you can access video and audio settings. Check to make sure that the camera, microphone and headphones are all functioning. If one is not working, the problem can usually be solved by selecting the correct hardware from the drop-down menus. 
  3. Connect with the Writing Center: At the time of your appointment, you can use Skype to call the Writing Center at this address: writingcenter@uscupstate.edu. If you've provided your email address, your tutor might even call you first!
  4. Work with your tutor: Your tutor will explain how to share your screen. From here, you’ll proceed with the appointment as usual.

If you have technical difficulties in the process, feel free to call the Writing Center for help.

FAQ for Writers

How do I write a personal statement for graduate school?

Be sure to write a draft of the statement and discuss it with your advisor or other professors before you submit your application. For suggestions on writing a statement, see the University of California-Berkeley tips for graduate school statements and the Washington University guide to "Writing a Statement of Purpose." Drew and Karen Appleby list several tips for avoiding application mistakes in "Kisses of Death in the Graduate School Application Process," published in Teaching of Psychology 33.1 (2006): 19-24. Several online communities also offer advice and serve as a sounding board for students applying to graduate school.   

How do I do writing assignments in my life sciences courses, like biology lab reports or scientific research papers?

Like all writing, the expectations and format of your writing changes depending on your audience. When your audience is a group of life scientists, they have specific expectations for evidence, organization, and writing voice. The Harvard University Guides to Writing in the Displines (available online at Harvard Writing Project) offers great tips and examples to help you approach writing assignments in art history, history, life sciences, philosophy, life sciences, and more.  

Is it OK to use Wikipedia when I am doing research?

In some cases Wikipedia is a good place to get started finding out background information, but in most cases Wikipedia is not an appropriate for formal research and research-based writing because 1. it is an encyclopedia; 2. it is written by its users, not by experts in the field; and 3. there is no single expert authority who edits and vouches for the information. Wikipedia is big, it's free, it's easy to use, but it's not very credible. 

When do I cite?

Any time you paraphrase or quote directly from a source, you need a citation at the end of the sentence. In MLA Style, this means including the author's last name or title of the article, if there is no author, and the page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence.   

  • If you use the exact words you found in your source, then the quoted passage needs to be in quotation marks and cited at the end of the sentence that contains the quote.  
  • If you use the basic idea of the source but restate it in your own words, voice, and style, then you have paraphrased, and you need to cite your source at the end of the sentence. Be aware that simply rearranging the author’s words or phrases, or replacing single words, is sometimes called patchwriting.  This is considered plagiarism because you are relying too heavily on the author’s sentence structure.  You are also not demonstrating that you understand the author’s point.
  • If you paraphrase most of a sentence, but use a few of the source's exact words, a memorable phrase or a particular way of wording an idea, you should put the quoted phrase in quotation marks, leave the rest of the sentence as a paraphrase, and cite the source at the end of the sentence that contains the quote.  
  • If you summarize a source by explaining the overall ideas of the source completely in your own words and usually reducing the length of the information from the source, you may refer to your source in a signal phrase (e.g. "According to xxx,") at the start of the summary. If this summary extends longer than a sentence or two, you should continue to refer to the source to let readers know when the summary ends and your own ideas begin again.  
  • You do not need to cite common knowledge, like an historical fact (e.g. the date Columbus landed in the New World, or the name of the first president of Russia after the end of the Soviet Union). However, if you quote a sentence about an historical fact, you must place the quote in quotation marks and cite your source at the end of the sentence with the quote.  
  • Remember you must include any source you refer to in the body of your paper in your Works Cited or References at the end of your paper. 
How do I avoid unintentional plagiarism?

Be aware of your use of any sources, including  Internet, television, film, images, conventional articles and books. Know what counts as someone else's intellectual property (their words, their ideas, their graphics), and cite them properly whenever you use another's work. 

How do I format my Works Cited without using tabs?

Use Microsoft Word formatting options to create a hanging indent for your MLA Works Cited page. Once you enter your Works Cited entries, highlight them all, then press Ctrl-T.  

In Pages for Mac, you may use the Bibliography Section Template to generate a new section at the end of your paper, already formatted with hanging indents. You may also highlight the items in your Works Cited, then click Inspector on the Toolbar. Press the T for the Text Inspector. Then click Tabs. Set First Line to zero and then set Left to 0.5 inches.  

In both Pages and in Word, you can set indents by dragging the margin and first line markers on the ruler on the top of your document. Highlight the paragraphs of your Works Cited page, then slide the left margin marker to 0.5 inches and the First Line marker to zero.  

How do I alphabetize my Works Cited if some sources do not have authors?

Alphabetize your Works Cited entries by the first word (skip "The" or "A") in each list item. Often this word will be the author's last name, but sometimes this may be the name of an organization or government, or it may be the title of an article, Web page or computer program. See the example under unconventional sources above for proper alphabetizing. In the example, "Audio Commentary" comes before Chase, David.  

How do I format block quotes without using tabs?

Use Microsoft Word formatting options to set the left margin at one inch for your block quotes. You may move the left margin for that paragraph using the ruler at the top of your page, or by clicking twice on the increase indent button. Remember, in MLA style, block quotes start one inch away from the left margin and extend all the way to the right margin of your page. Also try to limit the number of block quotes in your papers. Your ideas should take center stage.