There are many great resources for writers available. Two of the most comprehensive are the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Writing Center. You'll find everything here, from the structure of academic writing to grammar and punctuation. See below for direct links to particular topics and a few more of our favorite sites. For help with speaking, conversational fluency in English, and digital projects, see the other Rhetoric Centers.

The basics of academic writing

The key to writing good papers is understanding that academic writing is based around a claim that is backed up with evidence. The resources below describe some of the key features of academic writing and are designed to help you master the rules of the game. 

Writing in College: A short guide to college writing by Joseph M Williams and Laurence McEnerney. This guide teaches the basic principles of academic writing and is oriented towards first and second year students. A great resource for students, and for instructors to use with their students. From the University of Chicago's Writing Program.

Six key features of academic writing: This handout maps out the structure of an academic paper, breaking it down into its component parts.

Moving from the the five-paragraph essay to college writing. From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The argument, the centerpiece of the academic paper. From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For information on how to structure a paragraph, UNC has another helpful handout.

Writing Tips: Thesis Statements. From the Purdue OnLine Writing Lab (OWL).

Developing a good argument. OWL at Purdue. You might also look at the article on common literature essay prompts.

Hedging is an important skill for writing cautiously and factually. From the Newcastle University Writing Development Centre.

Avoiding bias. From the Walden University Online Writing Center.

Revising drafts. It's always a good idea, and this article explains why and gives helpful tips. From the UNC Writing Center.

How to quote a source. This resource from The University of Wisconsin - Madison Writing Center discusses how to situate quotes in academic writing.

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos: Three Ways to Persuade. Dr. John R. Edlund of California State University, Los Angeles explains these famous rhetorical angles.

An example of mapping a controversy. John J. Wolfe III

Professional development writing

The Pomerantz Career Center assists UI students with resumes, cover letters, personal statements, and more.

Writing the Personal Statement. OWL at Purdue.

Write a Graduate School Essay that Will Knock Their Socks Off. This guide from Peterson's discusses what to include and what to leave out when writing a graduate school application essay.

How to Write a Cover Letter. From the University of Wisconsin - Madison Writing Center.

Application Essays. From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You might also have a look at the guide to business letters.

Resumes and Vitae Guide. Tips on how to write resumes and CVs. From Virginia Tech.

Citing sources

Purdue's Online Writing Lab has the most comprehensive descriptions of the three most commonly used citation styles, Chicago, MLA, and APA. See here for a side-by-side comparison of reference lists and in-text citations.

Also from OWL, a comprehensive list of the styles used in different disciplines from the most common to the more obscure.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also has an easy-to-read summary of in-text and reference list citations using MLA, APA, Chicago and CBE/CSE

On the Hacker Handbooks site you'll find a comprehensive research and documentation section that covers several of the main citation styles.

APA Style Blog can answer many of your more obscure questions about APA. Type them into the search box on the right. Hosted by the American Psychological Association.

A step-by-step MLA formatting guide for your Word documents. From UMUC.

The Chicago Manual of Style online at the UI library. Log in with your hawkid and password.

ESL resources

ESL resources at OWL. A great collection of resources for students and instructors at Purdue's Online Writing Lab.

Key Concepts for Writing in North American Colleges. Purdue OWL.

Glossary of English Grammar Terms. This glossary from gives definitions for grammatical terms like 'clause' or 'stative verb.'

English Grammar Guide at This site explains some advanced English grammar topics in detail.

The Basics of English Language. This guide from has resources for parts of speech, clauses, verb tense, and vocabulary building.

Advanced English Lessons. This guide from provides explanations and interactive quizzes on advanced English grammatical structures.

Punctuation and grammar

Punctuation is important. Poor punctuation can lead to all kinds of confusion, as we all know from the joke about the panda who walks into a bar. It also results in lower grades and unfair assumptions about the writer's intelligence or level of education. Fortunately, it's easy to learn and quick to fix! There are thousands of good websites about punctuation out there, and here are a few of our favorites.

The Oatmeal Grammar Comics. From how and when to use whom, to the ten words you need to stop misspelling. In particular, check out the comic 'How to use a semi-colon: The most feared punctuation on earth...'

Rules for capitalization: When you need an uppercase letter at the start of a word.

The Punctuation Guide: Comma. A thorough guide to comma usage. The rest of the website is similarly helpful for different punctuation marks.

Grammarly Handbook. This site provides in-depth articles on topics like parts of speech, mechanics, syntax, and even planning and organization for writing.

Twelve Common Errors. The guide from the University of Wisconsin - Madison covers common issues to look out for when you're proofreading your writing.

Plagiarism: What it is and how to avoid it

Plagiarism is copying words or language created by someone else and presenting it as your own. Most students understand it as copying a paper written by someone else, or asking or paying someone else to write their paper, but it also includes accidentally or deliberately copying strings of words from the sources you are citing without putting them in quotation marks. Plagiarism is considered a form of academic dishonesty and can result in a fine, an F for the assignment, failing the course or even expulsion. 

See here for the University of Iowa's policy on plagiarism and other forms of academic fraud.

Indiana Bloomington's plagiarism website provides a good overview and examples of plagiarism. Students are advised to do the practice questions and take the certification test to ensure they know exactly what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. Instructors can ask students to complete the test and submit the certificate of completion as a course assignment. To prevent accidentally copying the language in a source, we suggest taking notes and working from your notes and not with the original text open in front of you.

University of Southern Mississippi's guide has explanations and interactive quizzes to help recognize and avoid plagiarism.

University of Wisconsin - Madison has a concise guide to what information needs to be cited. It also includes articles on how to paraphrase an argument or couch a quote.

Other UI writing support services and centers

The Judith Frank Business Communications Center provides help to Tippie undergraduates (with all papers), pre-business students (only Tippie course assignments), M.Ac. and MBA students.

The Accountancy Writing Program works with all students with a declared major in Accountancy.

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication Resource Center offers writing and research assistance for students with journalism writing assignments.

The Pomerantz Career Center offers help with CVs, resumes and personal statements. Schedule an appointment here.

The University Housing Tutoring Program offers free, walk-in help with rhetoric and other writing, and the tutors are located right in the residence halls.

The Teaching and Writing Center, History Department is a writing tutorial center which provides assistance with assignments for undergraduate History and American Studies courses.

Hanson Center for Technical Communication, College of Engineering is a writing tutorial center for undergraduate engineering majors.

The Writing Resource assists College of Education graduate students.

Writing Resource Center, College of Law is for students, faculty, and staff in the College of Law and non-law students enrolled in a law school class.

The Writing and Humanities Program helps medical students with a wide variety of writing, including things like CVs, research papers, or even creative writing.

The Graduate College provides one-on-one consultations and feedback on job application and fellowship materials to graduate students.

The Center for Teaching offers graduate students and faculty one-on-one consultations on developing teaching philosophies.

Invitations to Write

The beloved Lou Kelly, director of the Writing Center from 1965 to 1989, developed a series of invitations to write which are still used in the Writing Center today and by instructors across campus. In response to the many requests for copies, we've posted them below. There is also a very useful list of writing prompts collected by the New York TimesOver 1,000 Writing Prompts for Students.

Autobiography of a Reader

College: What language is spoken here?

Creating Words: Is lexicography for you?

Culture Shock

Creative Writing Invitation II: What does creativity mean to you?

Creative Writing Invitation III: Where to you get your creative energy?

Creative Writing Invitation IV: Free-writing -- knocking down the walls.

Creative Writing Invitation V: Writing vivid description.

Creative Writing Invitation VI: Where are you?

Creative Writing Invitation VII: Character development and dialogue?

Creative Writing Invitation VIII: Writing your own story?

Growing Up with TV: A sequence of two invitations

Indulging Dreams

Instances of Injustices: A sequence of two invitations

An Invitation to Evaluate Your Work

An Invitation to Talk on Paper

An Issue of Interest to You: A sequence of three invitations

More Creative Writing Invitations I: Ways to get the creative juices flowing.

More Creative Writing Invitations II: Invitations to go somewhere new.

More Creative Writing Invitations III: Invitations to go deeper.

Roots: Where do you come from?

Self as Writer

The Skills Exchange

For Instructors

2023-2024 Tutor Guide: Policies and Procedures for UI Writing Center instructors

WCONLINE Videoconferencing system overview (video)

The Document Review System (video overview)

Teaching Rhetoric at Iowa: An explanation of the goals of Iowa's Rhetoric course, and some tips and strategies for teaching.

The Australian Society for Evidence-Based Teaching: Reports on research in education and translates it into teaching practices.