Last month, Professor Randy gave his first two tips on Writing Your Paper Well, and Michael explained Microsoft Word's Table of Contents feature. They continue their Fall article series in this newsletter.
by Professor Randy
Welcome to this third instalment of “Getting an A on Your Next Paper.” In the first article, I looked at four tips for preparing to write your paper well (write when your mind is fresh, know the purpose of your paper, develop an outline, and research and organize your ideas). Last month, I gave two tips on writing your paper well (understand your purpose and make it central, and use headings to organize your paper). In this article, I will look at another tip for writing your paper with excellence.
Tip #7 - Integrate Relevant Ideas from Other Sources
Many professors require their students to integrate information from various sources into their papers. As you gather information, it is important that you stay focused on the purpose of your paper. As you find information that aligns with your purpose, put it in the appropriate place in your outline. If the information does not fit, discard it or add another heading to your outline that accommodates the new information. Make sure that you include the appropriate bibliographic information for future reference.
As you may be aware, not all sources have equal value. Books published by reputable publishers (e.g. Harvard Press) usually carry the most weight. Peer-reviewed journals are next, followed by other books, journals, magazines and websites. Most students are able to access journals and magazines online through their university’s library - an excellent way of getting quality information that is readily accessible and quick to read.
Once you have placed your information under your outline headings, it is time to write about the information. Use the information that best achieves the purpose of your paper. Go beyond simply reporting what you found in your sources. Compare and contrast sources with each other (this kind of integrative thinking delights most professors). Feel free to offer your informed opinion based on the information you have collected. If you use ideas from others, make sure that you cite the appropriate source (the EazyPaper software makes this an easy process).
If you follow this tip and the others in past newsletters, you will have a good chance of producing an A paper. Next month, I will share some tips on editing your paper well, which can often increase your mark by a whole letter grade. Until next time...
Writing in style (Part 3 of 4)
by Michael Hu
In my engineering days, I had to write reports with dozens of figures and label them in sequential order. Adding a new figure required re-numbering the subsequent figures and their cross-references — a manual, error-prone process. What I needed was a way to auto-increment figure numbers, and auto-synchronize cross-references to them. Word can do that for you. First, insert a picture as shown in the red circle of Figure 1:
Figure 1: Inserting a figure and cross-reference
Then right-mouse click the picture and select "Insert caption." You now have a picture labeled Figure 1. Repeat these steps for Figure 2, Figure 3, etc.; the figure numbers will automatically update to keep their sequential order. To insert a cross-reference to a particular figure, click the button circled in blue in Figure 1. Select Figure and Only label and number in Figure 2 and then click Insert; the resulting cross-reference will stay synchronized to its corresponding figure.
Figure 2: Inserting a cross-reference
You can cross-reference tables, headings, and more. But what you're actually cross-referencing are blocks of texts that are styled as captions of headings. And since they're styles, the captions and headings can be formatted any way you like. In fact, the auto-numbering system for figure captions is just a style option that you could apply to any style, including Headings. So, if you wanted auto-numbered headings like 1.1, 1.2, or 1.2.1, then modify your style and select Format->Numbering.
Styles are powerful, so I'll need one last article in this series to explain advanced styling techniques. Next time!