HSSC Guidelines For Writing Papers

Requirements For A “C” Paper:

  1. Write on the assigned topic
  2. Provide a thesis statement (a statement you defend/explain in the body of the paper)
  3. Make an attempt to support the thesis with reasons, examples, evidence, and references to appropriate texts
  4. Demonstrate that you have read the pertinent material with some attention (e.g., your details are generally accurate and your interpretations do no violence to the text)
  5. Avoid errors of usage, style, grammar and spelling that impair understanding of the meaning of your paper

Requirements For A “B” Paper (In Addition To Those For A “C” Paper):


Your thesis statement is coherent and clear


Your support for the thesis is largely successful (e.g., your reasons/evidence in favor of the thesis are both plausible and relevant, your examples helpful, and your textual references pertinent)


You demonstrate a solid understanding of the material by offering clear expositions of pertinent passages and by identifying aspects of the text (or the subject matter) relevant to the issues involved


When applicable to the topic of the essay, you attempt to take the “other side” into account (e.g., you consider alternative accounts or objections to your thesis that reasonable people might bring up)


Your citations are properly done (MLA style for literature courses, APA for many others)


Your paper is largely free of errors of style, usage, grammar, and spelling

Requirements For An “A” Paper (In Addition To Those For A “B” Paper):


You show insight, originality, creativity, or imagination (e.g., through at least one of the following):

  • A novel but well-defended interpretation of some significant view or problem
  • A presentation so clear or concise that important features of the subject become more accessible to the reader than they were in the text and class discussion
  • An application of the subject to a novel situation (e.g., to apply a solution to a new kind of problem, or to forge connections with other areas of endeavor)
  • An illuminating reformulation of the issue under discussion
  • A very perceptive argument that goes well beyond what appears in the text or was discussed in class


When applicable to the topic of the essay, you not only take the “other side” into account but actually give strong reasons why your own approach is preferable


Your paper is virtually free of distracting errors of style, usage, grammar, and spelling

Additional Considerations:

The BANNED ERROR LIST will be applied and the grade lowered when applicable.

Your paper will receive a grade of C- or D if it fails to fulfill the requirements for a C or if its number of banned errors brings it below a C, but only as long as you still demonstrate that you have read the material for the course.

If not even the last requirement is met, your paper will receive an F.

Essay Organization 

A paper should begin with an introduction that states a clear and focused thesis. If a primary source is to be discussed in the paper, the author’s name and the work’s title need to be included in the introduction.

Body paragraphs should focus on and develop aspects of the thesis stated in the introduction. The process of development can make use of many approaches: analysis, logical argument, and explanation. Transitional words and phrases need to be used between sentences and paragraphs. It is wise to begin a paragraph with a topic sentence which is a one-sentence summary that tells readers what to expect as they read on. Just keep in mind that these developing paragraphs need to include three things: statement, evidence, and amplification.

Conclusions take many forms, but they should generally leave the reader with a sense of completion and resolution. The conclusion of a paper calls for expansion and/or speculation on the implications of the analysis.

All sources used in papers, whether directly quoted or paraphrased, must be documented in the manner required by your instructor. Documentation styles and manuscript formats include MLA (Modern Language Association system used by many English and humanities journals); APA (American Psychological Association system used by many social science, natural science, and medical journals); and The Chicago Manual of Style used by most history and some humanities journals.

Banned Error List

A paper with one of the errors listed below loses half a letter grade (e.g., from B to B-). Additional errors of the same category (e.g., three sentence fragments) will not lower the grade further, but additional errors in other categories will (one-half letter grade per category).

1. Fragments: Fragments are groups of words that appear to be sentences but lack either a subject or a verb or both.

Incorrect: We talked about what we like to do most. For example, swimming and golf.

Correct: We talked about what we like to do most: swimming and golf.

NOTE:  Professional writers often make intentional use of sentence fragments. Once you are a professional writer, you too will be free to employ this device.

2. Comma Splices: A comma splice results when two sentences are joined by only a comma.

Incorrect: Most people fall in love at first sight, I fall in love at first sound.

Correct: Most people fall in love at first sight, but I fall in love at first sound. Or: Most people fall in love at first sight. I fall in love at first sound.

3. Subject-Verb Agreement: Readers are confused when the subject and the verb of a sentence do not agree in number (singular or plural) or person (first, second, or third).

Incorrect: High levels of air pollution causes damage to the lungs.

Correct: High levels of air pollution cause damage to the lungs. (The subject is levels, not pollution.)

Incorrect: My sister and my friend has paintings in the show.

Correct: My sister and my friend have paintings in the show. (The subject refers to two people.)

4. Run-ons: These occur when two sentences are fused together with no punctuation.

Incorrect: In life, Chopin's mother did the same as Chopin's character Mrs. Mallard does in "The Story of an Hour" she takes advantage of the unplanned circumstances.

Correct: In life, Chopin's mother did the same as Chopin's character Mrs. Mallard does in "The Story of an Hour": She takes advantage of the unplanned circumstances.

5. Pronouns: A pronoun takes the place of a noun in writing and needs to agree in number (plural or singular) with the noun.

Incorrect: A hero has tremendous influence on the people around them.
Correct: A hero has tremendous influence on the people around him.

Pronouns should not have ambiguous or vague references:
Incorrect: Wildlife has been subjected to both pollution and the destruction of natural habitats. This has led to a decline in wildlife population.
Correct: Wildlife has been subjected to both pollution and the destruction of natural habitats. This combination has led to a decline in wildlife population.

6. Other problem areas:

Do not confuse its and it's. It's means it is. Do not confuse your and you're, nor who's and whose. Do not use there for their or for they're, nor to for too or for two.

THESE EXAMPLES ARE MERE ILLUSTRATIONS. A good writer’s handbook will explain in greater detail what these errors are and how to avoid them.


Minor Writing Errors To Avoid

Acronyms: First occurrence of an acronym is not spelled out for the reader.

Abbreviations: Abbreviations are punctuated incorrectly, e.g., do not contain periods.

Apostrophes: Confusion between apostrophe plus s (single possessor) and s plus apostrophe (more than one possessor).

Common misspellings: Two categories: a) those words that a spellchecker should detect, and b) those that a spellchecker cannot ensure are correct.

Category B examples: then/than; two/to/too; its/it's; are/our; in to/into; with out; through out; there/their/they're

Incorrect plurals: companys; societys

References: In-text references are missing or incomplete; reference list at the end of a paper is improperly formatted or punctuated; a particular documentation style is not used consistently.

Quotations: Proper formatting for punctuation and indentation of quotations is not followed; missing quotation marks; improper or missing attributes in body text.

Numbers: The numbers zero through nine are not written out; numbers beginning a sentence are not written out.


Commas: Commas are missing after each item in a series comma is not inserted after a subordinate clause that begins a sentence; commas are missing in dates.

Colons and Semicolons: Colons and semicolons are used interchangeably; both are used incorrectly; both are omitted when required.

Hyphenation: Words that should not have a hyphen contain one; words that should be hyphenated are not.

Contractions: Contractions should not be used in formal writing.

Capitalization: Proper nouns are not capitalized; titles of works are not capitalized (or italicized); use of random capitalization-not conforming to any rule of capitalization; indiscriminate use of all capital letters when mixed case is more appropriate or legible.

Passive Voice: Use of a passive voice construction when the subject of the sentence should be the actor.

Labeling: Missing, ambiguous, or incomplete labeling of tables and figures.

Headings and Titles: Headings and titles in body text are not clearly distinguishable from actual body text; heading levels are not discernible.

Language Register: Writing should not read like speech unless this is the intention of the author. Colloquial phrasing, and expressions, slang and jargon should be avoided.


Understand Plagiarism And Avoid It

Before you start to accumulate notes for your research paper, ask yourself if you fully understand what constitutes plagiarism. At one extreme is the gross offense of trying to pass off as one’s own the exact words of another; at the other extreme is the subtle matter of “borrowing” a fine phrase to dress up one’s own writing. Through ignorance a student may in all honesty misuse his/her sources in such a way that he is guilty of plagiarism; but he/she is nonetheless guilty.

An analogy to other kinds of dishonesty may help. To use another’s words or ideas is roughly the equivalent of stealing the funds of a fraternity for one’s own use. However, funds are made up of concrete money; words and ideas are abstract, and consequently the line between honest and dishonest use may be harder to define. There are, of course, correct and honorable ways of borrowing money. Forms of acknowledgement have to be included with your use of source material in the same way that legal forms have to be filled out before a bank will let you use its money.


Examine the following discussion of degrees of plagiarism:

1. Word-for-word plagiarism. This includes (a) the submission of another student’s work as one’s own;  (b) the submission of work from any source whatever that is not properly acknowledged by parenthetical citation and/or reference in the paper itself; (c) the submission of any part of another’s work without proper use of quotation marks.

2. Patchwork-quilt plagiarism. As our grandmothers used to put together large quilts out of scraps of cloth, a student may make the mistake of passing off as an original paper one that is stitched together from phrases and sentences taken from his sources. If he/she does not include quotation marks around all such borrowings, he/she is committing plagiarism. Mere rearrangements of phrases into a new pattern does not confer originality.

3. Unacknowledged paraphrase. An author’s discovery of fact or original interpretation of fact is as much his property as his exact words are. Restatement by paraphrase means you must give credit to the original sources in parenthetical citations.

-- adapted from the Harbrace Guide to the Library and  Research Paper, by Donald A. Sears, pp. 38-39.

From Lawrence Institute of Technology Catalog, pg 17:

        “Academic dishonesty includes plagiarism, cheating, forgery, or other acts that deceive or defraud in regard to a student’s own academic work or that of others.  Questions of academic dishonesty are reviewed by the Dean of the School responsible for the courses in which they occur.  When  necessary, cases of academic dishonestly may be referred to the Student Discipline Committee.  The usual penalty for academic dishonesty is failure in the course on the first offense and expulsion from the College on the second offense.”


When you quote directly from the work of an author, you must use quotation marks. If you paraphrase (use the author's idea, your words), you must use your own language and sentence structure completely. In either case, parenthetical citation must be provided. If you fail to give full credit for words or ideas you borrow, you are guilty of a form of literary dishonesty known as "plagiarizing."

I. Here is an example of plagiarism:



The expanded scope of business activity, the wave of mergers and consolidations, and greatly expanded product lines in most industries have brought the need for new methods, new ideas, new techniques for doing the job better. Creative problem solving has therefore assumes front track importance.

The increased scope of business activity, mergers and consolidations, and greatly expanded product lines in most industries have brought about the need for new methods, ideas and techniques for doing a better job. For this reason, creative problem solving has assumed first rank importance.

 Here are two examples of proper form:

I. Direct quotation-

               (Note form: single -spaced, block style, double-indented, no quotation marks.)

               the expanded scope of business activity, the wave of mergers and
               consolidations.................(Lazo, 120)

II. Legitimate paraphrase -

(a) Lazo and Corbin believe that management must apply more creative thinking in order to solve today's complex business problems (120).

(b) Lazo and Corbin suggest that today's new and complex business problems require "creative problem solving" (120).

Works Cited

Lazo, Hector, and Arnold Corbin. Management in Marketing. New York: McGraw-Hill
       Book Company, Inc., 1961.

**NOTE TO READER: The given information has been posted for the intention of avoiding plagiarism. The citations used are to be used as an example of how not to plagiarize and not taken as following any of the more formal writing styles specific guidelines. Please reference guidebooks, or ask your instructor, for proper citation when using writing styles such as MLA, APA, and Chicago.