Academic research and professional writing are powerful vehicles for communicating your thoughts and ideas not only in your field of study but also in the global workplace.  University writing assignments allow you to practice academic and professional writing in a way that supports ethical and honorable writing choices that clearly communicate your ideas and learning.

Your classes and programs are designed to guide you step-by-step through the development of your written communication skills.  For example, assignments provide the paremeters of each writing situation, so following the instructions is important in getting started and successfully completing each piece of university writing.


  1. Considerations of Audience—In the university, you are writing for an audience of peers and members of the academic and professional community.  Your audience determines how broadly or narrowly you describe your topic, what examples to use, and which words are most important.
  2. Critical Thinking–University writing involves critical thinking as you analyze and evaluate research and readings to form new ideas.
  3. Original Contributions—University writing seeks to contribute an original idea to a larger conversation.  Within this conversation, you can analyze, evaluate, argue, create consensus, and solve problems. University writing creates opportunities for learning, discovery, innovation, and making change.
  4. Scholarly Research—University writing consults and cites scholarly research to create a non-fiction, research-based discussion.
  5. Formal Style—University writing uses a professional, polite tone and Standard English for word choice, grammar, and punctuation.
To write with integrity, be honest with your reader and yourself.  Know when and how to use APA or the required documentation style for your class or course of study, and be sure to accurately implement it.


University writing assignments are designed to guide you toward critical thinking, meaningful learning, and the confident demonstration of knowledge.  Using research allows you to advance your learning beyond common knowledge and build on the ideas of others. Reading the works of others helps writers

  • discover ideas and topics;
  • collect details, data, quotations, and similar evidence;
  • narrow your focus;
  • craft a thesis;
  • support or counter assertions, claims, and facts;
  • develop your own perspectives on a topic;
  • and select the most effective and relevant evidence from all you have read.

Writers also use research in their writing to communicate professionally within their fields and across the disciplines. Research-based writing does not simply report others’ ideas and words, but instead builds on them to demonstrate a writer’s understanding and credibility as an ethical researcher, effective communicator, and critical thinker.  Writing with integrity requires creating an original piece of writing while discussing the original ideas and properly integrating and citing these research-based ideas in your writing.


There are three ways to integrate research within academic and professional writing.

  1. Quoting: Using a source without altering it in any way—the work is used word-for-word.  It is critical that quotation marks enclose all directly quoted passages.
  2. Paraphrasing: Using a source by breaking it down and placing it in your own words—the meaning is extracted or restated in new wording and phrasing in just as many words or slightly more words than the original.
  3. Summarizing: Using a source by synthesizing many points or simplifying a long text into a brief synopsis in your own words.
To write with integrity (and avoid plagiarism) when integrating research, cite all borrowed information according to the citation style you are using.



Citation or citing sources means to include select information about books or articles you read on a topic and use in your paper.  Citation is required when quoting, paraphrasing, or using the ideas (artwork, photos, videos, etc.) or words of others. There are two main terms associated with citation: in-text citation and reference list entries.


  1. Citation clearly differentiates original ideas from what information already existed.
  2. Citation supports arguments in a field of study.
  3. Citation enables readers to locate your sources and additional information.
  4. Citation ensures ethical research and scholarly practice.
  5. Citation guarantees proper attribution of all ideas and avoids plagiarism.
Why does plagiarism matter?
Plagiarism compromises a writer’s integrity and reputation and usually results in serious consequences, both within the university and in the world of work.  Fortunately, guidelines have been established to help you with academic and career-related writing.  Your classes are designed to give you practice using one such approach.
Why does plagiarism matter?
Plagiarism deprives writers of the opportunity to join ongoing conversations about a topic.  It compromises a writer’s integrity and reputation and usually results in serious consequences, both within the university and in the world of work.


The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) establishes a national standard for the layout of an academic paper and gives a comprehensive method for referencing sources used in these types of papers.  APA is one citation style that is commonly used in academic and professional writing.  Please check your assignment instructions for your professor's citation expectations.  In the professional world other citation styles may be used.

The Elements of an APA Paper

There are three major elements in an APA-formatted paper: 

1. manuscript format (header, margins, font, spacing, etc.);

2. in-text citations, often formatted as parenthetical citations; and

3. reference list entries, sometimes called references or full citations. 

In-Text Citation Examples

Signal phrase to cite a paraphrase: Smith (2010) recognized that more online learning opportunities are needed to reach marginalized high school students and decrease the dropout rate.

Signal phrase to cite a quote (Note the page number is added at the end of the quote in a second set of parentheses): Smith (2010) stressed, The importance of dedicated study time for online courses is crucial for student success(p. 3).

Parenthetical citation to cite a paraphrase: Online learning opportunities are needed to reach marginalized high school students and decrease the dropout rate (Smith, 2010).

Parenthetical citation to cite a quote: Many researchers have agreed: Online education is a viable way to help working adults earn a college degree, but it is not for everyone (Smith, 2010, p. 4).

No Author?

If there is no individual author, name the corporate author or sponsoring organization: 

(National Geographic, 2011, p. 78)

If there is no individual or corporate author, use a shortened version of the title for the in-text citation:

(“Whales of the Atlantic,” 2010)

No year or page number?

No year? Use the acronym for “no date” in the citation:

(Sagorski, n.d.).

No page number?  Use the paragraph number.  To determine it, begin at the title or heading and count the paragraphs to get to the one that contains your quote:

(Sagorski, n.d., para. 4).


APA Reference List Entries

Reference list entries are formatted on a separate page at the end of your paper and provide the full bibliographic information for each source cited in text.  The references tell who the author is, when the publication was, what the title is, and where the source was published.  In APA Style Central, you will find the specifics for formatting references.