Resources For Writers

This page is intended to gather online and on-campus resources for writers at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. While these sources cannot take the place of conversations with informed readers, and the challenging work of writing and revising, they contain additional writing-related information. 

Each of the links on this page are maintained by their respective creators. The links may change without notice and the creators assume all rights and responsibilities for their contents.

I would like help understanding this assignment or genre.

Make sure to read the assignment sheet, rubric, and/or writing prompt carefully as you develop your writing. Writing consultants also recommend looking at several examples of successful writing in your genre or related to your project. Many professors have examples of successful student essays they are willing to share.

It can often be helpful to think of understanding an unfamiliar writing assignment with key moves in mind. Which sources of evidence am I expected to use? What can I assume about my audience? What is the overall purpose of my writing? Writing consultants can help clarify reader expectations, ask other writing-related questions, and name additional resources.

Resources:

  • Purdue OWL’s “Understanding Assignments” page contains reader-friendly information for the key steps in understanding typical college writing assignments. Specific pages include information on research papers, research posters, and annotated bibliographies. 

  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill “Brainstorming” page includes several different strategies for developing ideas with specific audiences and purposes in mind. Specific strategies and examples include free writing, bulleting, and similes, among other idea development strategies.

I would like help with a personal statement, resume, or cover letter.

Personal statements 

Personal statements are often short pieces of writing designed to tell the story of why the writer is a good fit for a scholarship, program, or opportunity for which they are applying. In addition to Writing Center consultants, there are additional readers available at UNL to read and provide feedback on personal statements and scholarship essays. These include your UNL professors,  staff at the UNL Career Services, or  staff in the Office of Graduate Studies. Like consultations in the Writing Center, those services are available at no additional cost for current UNL students.

Other Resources:

  • Jane Marshall’s personal statement video from Imperial College in the United Kingdom is approximately five minutes long and describes key recommendations for writing personal statements using animations. A detailed 37 minute-long video from Marshall is also available.

  • Purdue OWL’s “Writing the Personal Statement” page provides general recommendations for planning a personal statement. This page also links to example statements and a page describing key features to avoid.

  • The Professor is In is a blog and podcast designed to help graduate students find academic jobs, and it was created by former anthropology professor Karen Kelsky. This site includes regularly updated posts on writing CVs, teaching statements, abstracts, and other common forms of academic writing. This website does include advertisements to outside academic career consulting.

Cover Letters

Cover letters are short business letters designed to show readers how the writer is a benefit to the organization. Cover letters are often required in professional, non-profit, and academic jobs. Writers might also be asked to write a cover letter when applying for a scholarship or other awards. The expectations for each type of cover letter will vary depending on the target audience and context. Keep in mind networking and personal referrals are often valuable additions to writing a cover letter.

  • The Harvard Office of Career Services’s “Resumes and Cover Letters'' handout contains several examples of both forms of writing, as well as explanations of the key features of each. A handout specific to academic CVs and cover letters is available as well.

  • The University of North Carolina’s “Academic Cover Letters” page describes the key features of cover letters for research and teaching-oriented professor positions.

  • The UNL McNair Scholars Program is a federal program designed to help students from underrepresented backgrounds apply to doctorate programs. Benefits of being a McNair fellow include conducting independent research with a UNL professor, help developing a CV and personal statement, and opportunities to apply for scholarships to cover the costs of graduate school. Acceptance into the program requires an application, two UNL faculty member letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

  • The UNL College of Law has several pages designed to help students interested in legal careers write job-search related documents including resumes, cover letters, and professional writing samples.

Resumes 

Resumes are short formal documents listing a job applicant’s education, work history, and other professional qualifications. The format and content of resumes are dependent on the field.

  • UNL Career Services has a detailed page with examples and writing recommendations for many forms of writing related to job searches including resumes and cover letters.

  • The UNL College of Business “Master the Application Process” page has example resumes and cover letters. The page also includes a list of key terms for those interested in working in business, finance, and human resource-oriented positions.

  • The University of Nebraska Omaha’s “Resume and Cover Letter Resources” portal contains pages with example student resumes in different industries. UNO also includes pages for members of the LGBTQIA community and people with disabilities in the job seeking process. 

I would like help writing a literature review.

Literature Reviews 

Literature reviews are a form of academic writing designed to describe the current state of research on a topic, phenomenon, or theory. Usually, literature reviews have the additional purpose of showing a gap in previous research with the intent to describe a need for the writer’s own project.

Resources:

I'm stuck with my writing.

Nearly all writers experience moments when they are unsure how to move forward in their work. Perhaps they feel a need to share perfect prose before giving themselves an opportunity to explore meaningful ideas. Perhaps they are waiting for inspiration for a new short story. Maybe they received so many comments they aren’t sure where to start addressing them. If those examples sound like you, you are not alone. Those experiences are widely shared among college students, faculty members, and literary writers.

Writing consultants are happy to address these challenges during appointments. Other useful information can be found in the “I don’t know how to use feedback” tab. 

Resources:

Writer’s Block

  • The University of Toronto has developed a page of useful writing advice which can guide you through each phase of the writing process, including planning, researching, using sources, and revising. These resources are intended for both college students and faculty members.

  • Purdue OWL’s “Symptoms and Cures for Writer’s Block” offers recommendations for situations that make writing difficult including not finding a good starting place, not enjoying the assigned topic, and becoming easily distracted.

  • Paul Silva’s How to Write a Lot is a book designed to offer practical recommendations for academics interested in writing more. Silva often applies his background in psychology to point out empirical evidence supporting his claim that writing regularly, as opposed to waiting for inspiration, produces better writing. The full book is available through UNL Libraries and a summary of key tips is available through the University of Vermont Graduate Writing Center.

  • Penguin Random House lists the advice of anonymous published writers for overcoming writer’s block.

  • Dana Shavin describes typical cases of writer’s block with recommendations to work through them in her “15 of the Most Common Causes of Writer’s Block—and How to Cure Them.”

  • Maria Konnikova’s article “How to Beat Writer’s Block” summarizes psychological research into methods some writers use to continue to write. Konnikova finds writers who allow for imperfection and learn creative imagery techniques often return to their work.

  • Write or Die is a free website that uses that “gamifies” the process of getting words on the page. Users can pick an amount of time they want to write for and/or how many words they want to write and once the clock begins, if the user stops writing for more than a few seconds the game is lost and so is the writing. Some writers find this added pressure helpful for getting words down when they feel stuck.

Deep Revision

  • The UNL Writing Center’s “Revision Practices” page describes several strategies for making major changes to a piece of writing, as well as detailed recommendations for productive peer review feedback. This resource is intended for writers and writing instructors.

  • Grand Valley State describes revision strategies for writers interested in revising short in-class writings into more polished pieces. The “Creative Writing Revision Strategies” is intended for poetry and fiction writers, but these strategies can be useful for writers of other genres. The “Revision Strategies” is intended for revising writing in academic and professional contexts.

  • The University of Houston's “How to Create Storyboards” describes how the process of creating a storyboard can help writer’s reimagine their work and experiment with new organizations.
I would like help getting my writing to flow.

When writers say they’re having trouble with “flow,” they might be using this word to refer to a number of different issues in their writing. Often, it refers to the progression or connection between ideas from paragraph to paragraph and/or sentence structure to sentence. Or, sometimes flow can refer to the style of writing: the choice of words, order of words, or structure of sentences.

Writing consultants often recommend reading text out loud to listen for moments that sound off. At the sentence level, varying the length and structure of sentences often produces a more pleasing cadence.

Resources: 

  • The North Carolina Chapel Hill Writing Center’s “Flow” page describes several strategies for revising writing for increased coherence and rhythm.

  • The University of Massachusetts Amherst’s “Flow and Cohesion” page also contains recommendations for several revision and textual editing strategies.

  • George Mason University Writing Center’s “Common Writing Terms and Concepts” page explains typical writing phrases, such as draft, thesis statement, and signal phrase. Understanding these key terms can allow for more specific revision language. 

I would like help understanding feedback.

Receiving reader feedback is often challenging. Many writers experience intense emotions when receiving negative feedback and are unsure how to continue working on their projects. However, most writers experience intense emotions during their writing lives. During an appointment, writing consultants are always happy to help you process and make sense of any feedback you receive. 

 The resources in this section describe the purpose of different reader comments, such as writing teachers who encourage more writing and peer reviewers who determine the quality of academic work. These resources also offer recommendations for forming a revision plan to incorporate reader feedback. 

Writing is often an isolating experience. Participating in a writing group is one way to become accountable to trusted readers for meeting writing goals. The “writing group” resources describe the benefits of forming such a group and list  key considerations such as intellectual property, member responsibilities, and meeting format.

Resources: 

Understanding Reader Comments

  • The North Carolina Chapel Hill Writing Center has pages describing the ways writers react to reader feedback. “Getting Feedback” names how feedback helps writers in college settings and offers recommendations for responding to different reader comments.  The “Responding to Other People’s Writing” page names key principles to keep in mind, such as be specific, speak from your own perspective, and tailor comments for the writer.

  • The University of Illinois Writers Workshop’s “Incorporating Peer and Instructor Feedback” page describes several activities for prioritizing feedback from multiple readers before starting revisions. Example recommendations include making a chart of the feedback and making a revision plan. The related “Dealing with Critical Feedback” is especially applicable to graduate students and those writing peer-reviewed journal articles.

  • Penn State’s Undergraduate Learning explains seven primary purposes of teacher comments. Understanding these different purposes can help writers interpret their reader’s intent to make informed choices about how they plan to respond.

  • The “Teach Quality Commenting Skills” page from Eduglogs.org describes several purposes and classroom activities for students to learn writing for different audiences.  

Writing Groups

  • UNL’s  Office of Graduate Studies offers a webpage describing benefits and key considerations for starting a writing group. This information comes from Stanford’s Sohui Lee, Julia Bleakney and Sarah Pittock’s “Starting an Effective Academic Writing Group.”  Key considerations include meeting times, format, and member commitment.

  • UNL has a creative writing club available for undergraduate students interested in sharing their fiction, poetry, drama, and creative nonfiction.

  • The Nebraska Writing Project offers tips and contact information for forming writing groups. Although the National Writing Project is primarily designed for writing teachers, the recommendations are applicable to other writers as well. 

  • UNL’s Fundamentals of Research Writing “Peer Feedback in Writing Groups” page describes practical recommendations for providing constructive criticism.

  • The University of Illinois Writer’s Workshop “Long-Term Writing” page contains several links for working on extended projects such as journal articles, novels, and dissertations. Subpages include creating writing groups, writing and well-being, and dealing with critical feedback, among others.

  • Retired University of Louisiana--Lafayette English professor Ann Dobie’s“Guides for Starting Your Own Writing Group” describes additional considerations for forming a public writing group. Dobie also reviews books focused on writing groups.

I would like help writing an introduction or conclusion.

Getting started or figuring out how to end a piece can be challenging. Often, talking through ideas can be a helpful way to figure out what you want to say and Writing Center consultants are always eager to help with this. 

Resources: 

  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Writing Center’s “Introductions” page provides an overview of introductions to college-level humanities papers with examples. The page recommends starting a paper with an interesting example, a quotation related to the paper’s central argument, or an engaging question.

  • The University of Southern California Libraries “Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper” page synthesizes recommendations from multiple writing centers to describe the elements of an introduction in a research-based paper including carving out a research niche and engaging the reader. Although this guide is designed primarily for writers in social and behavioral sciences, the recommendations can also be useful for writers in other research and empirical fields.  

  • Pima Community College writing professor Mark Fullmer recommends writing introductions by starting with what other researchers have said. This page also contains examples of academic introductions and conclusions.

  • The MIT Comparative Media Studies department recommends introductions feature a quotation, concession, paradox, short narrative, or analogy among other recommendations. This page explains each term and provides example opening sentences.

  • Pat Thomson, University of Nottingham Education Professor, describes introductions in academic journals in terms of  making a good first impression. This page also includes the slides from a 2012 introduction workshop.

I have a lot of feelings about my writing.

Writing is often anxiety producing even for well-regarded published writers. The first half of the resources in this section offer pragmatic ways to ease anxiety working on a project including seeking multiple forms of social support. See the "I'm Stuck with my Writing" for resources on writer's block and deep revision. Often, talking through these feelings with someone else can be helpful. During an appointment, Writing Center consultants are happy to talk with writers about any aspect of the writing process, even the feelings and emotions that can surround it.

The second half of the resources on this list are specific for moments when writers would like additional support due to their protected identities, and options for reporting harassment and prejudice.

Resources: 

Writing Anxiety

  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s page on “Writing Anxiety” offers several recommendations to manage stress after turning in a paper. Specifically recognize writing is a complex process and consider finding multiple forms of support.

  • The nonfiction writer Jane Anne Staw shares her experiences as an anxious writer struggling to write thank you notes and transitioning into writing with more confidence through writing poetry. Staw’s recommendation to focus on a specific manageable aspect of a larger writing project can apply to both creative and academic writers.

  • Amy Green, a psychologist, reviews social scientific research on anxiety among academic writers. Green finds that high self-efficacy, or confidence in writing abilities, is correlated with decreased writing anxiety. Among the recommendations Green finds are reviewing one’s own writing, writing regularly, and participating in an accountability writing group.

  • UNL’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers several resources for students experiencing anxiety, mental health concerns, or who are interested in processing their experiences with a trained professional. CAPS also offers support groups at no additional cost for students who have paid student fees, including an alcohol and drug harm reduction group, international student support group, and graduate and undergraduate support groups.

Reporting Discrimination

  • The UNL Office of Diversity and Inclusion offers links to University resources for students of underrepresented groups including the Black Student Union, Services for Students with Disabilities, and violence prevention among other resources. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion also offers graduate assistantships, resources for faculty members, and awards for leaders on campus. 

  • The UNL Office of the Registrar describes the process graduate and undergraduate students can pursue in which their grade was prejudiced or capricious. According to the Office, the first step is to talk to the course instructor and communicate with the Dean of the College the course took place in.

  • According to the UNL Institutional Equity and Compliance, “It is the policy of the University of Nebraska to administer all of its educational programs and related supporting services in a manner which does not discriminate based upon age, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sex, pregnancy, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran’s status, marital status, religion or political affiliation.” The policy continues, “Any unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, whether verbal, physical, written, or pictorial, which has the purpose or effect of creating a hostile environment for the person subjected to the conduct, or any solicitation of sexual conduct of any nature when submission to or rejection of such contact is used as the basis for either implicitly or explicitly imposing favorable or adverse terms and conditions of academic standing constitutes sexual harassment and will not be condoned or tolerated. Moreover, sexual misconduct including stalking, dating or domestic violence and sexual assault is prohibited.” For moments when those policies are broken students and staff have multiple options for reporting and support through the TIPS  Incident Reporting System, the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance, Title IX Office, the police, and the national Department of Education.

I would like help citing sources.

Writing consultants are happy to talk about questions relating to citations. In addition, here are a few tips and resources related to citation:

  1. Use an up-to-date and credible source for developing your citations as you work on your papers. 

  2. Be sure to keep track of your sources as you use them so that you know where a particular idea or quotation came from and can properly cite it.

  3. Make sure to include the page number for all direct quotations and to put all sources you used in your paper in your works cited or references page. 

  4. Make sure to ask your readers their citation preference and note many academic journals use a custom citation style. 

  5. The UNL Libraries also have detailed pages about keeping track of research and citation information. 

Resources: 

MLA 

MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most often used in classes in the humanities and modern languages. This citation style is recognized by a works cited page and parenthetical citation that includes the writer's last name and a page number for each direct quotation. 

  • Purdue OWL MLA includes examples of citations for different source mediums including books, articles, and social media posts. Purdue OWL also includes example student papers written in MLA format. This is a popular source among writing consultants. 

  • MLA Style Center is run by the Modern Language Association and includes in-depth information for citing specific sources and formating a works cited page. Print editions of the MLA Style Guide are avaliable through the UNL Library system. 

APA

APA (American Psychological Association) style is most often used in classes in social scientific fields and nursing. This citation style is recognized by a references page and parenthetical citations that include a writer's last name, the source’s year, and the quotation's page number. 

  • Purdue OWL APA includes examples of citations for different source mediums including books, articles, and social media posts. also includes example student papers written in APA format. This is a popular source among writing consultants. 

  • APA Style is a website run by the American Psychological Association that includes open access pages with example title pages, reference lists, citations, and examples of acceptable paraphrases. 

Chicago 

Chicago citations are most often used in history, literature, and art. Chicago has two different citation systems. The note-bibliography style uses footnotes that cite each source and may also provide important commentary. Each source is also cited in a bibliography at the end of the paper. The author-date style does not use footnotes, but instead has parenthetical citations that include the source's author's last name, the source's year, and page number. All sources are also cited at the end of the paper in a references section. Many sources contain information for both styles of Chicago citations. 

  • Purdue OWL Chicago  includes examples of citations for different source mediums including books, articles, and social media posts. Purdue OWL also includes example student papers written in Chicago. This is a popular source among writing consultants.

  • The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition is the definitive source for conventions and questions related to Chicago citations. An active UNL library account is required to view this resource. 

Other citation resources 

Plagiarism

I want to learn more about writing in a particular class.

Talk to your faculty member in office hours and ask questions in class about the assignment. Writing consultants usually recommend showing your faculty member the work you have done on the assignment and arriving with specific questions in mind.

Read in the genre you will write in. For example, if you are writing a master’s thesis in applied psychology, make sure to read recent theses, especially those from recent UNL graduates, to gain an idea of the expected features of your project. Advisors, faculty members, and research librarians can help find related examples.

The resources listed below are suggestions and are not a substitute for conversations with experts in a specific field or reading mentor texts.  

Resources: 

General information about writing in a specific discipline

  • UNL Libraries “Subject and Course Guides” links to research librarians, guides for some specific classes, guides to the subject area of related classes, and many contain links to key journals and citations style information. 

  • The University of Vermont’s tutor tips represent ten years of writing advice in specific disciplines in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields. All entries are made by tutors and often include sample papers as well as interviews with Vermont professors with recommendations for writing in their specific discipline. The Graduate Writing Center resource page contains information specific for graduate student writers. 

Writing in the Humanities

The Arts and Humanities UNL Library Research Guide links to pages for English, history, graphic design, Great Plains Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Literary Analysis and Close Reading 

  • Loyola University Maryland describes key considerations for writing literary analysis papers with information from multiple literary writing sources and lists key guiding questions for analyzing specific passages.

  • The UNL English library guide contains links to dictionaries, anthologies, and databases. These sources are especially useful for finding sources and more information about specific literary terms. There is an additional film studies and theater arts guide that contains information on diversity, ethics, and creativity in movies.

Historical Analysis

  • The University of Montana Writing Center provides a guide to writing in history courses with example paragraphs from an analysis essay.

  • The Rutgers history professors Matt Matsuda and John Gillis created a short guide for undergraduate students that especially emphasizes the purposes of historical writing, a description of key questions faculty use for evaluation, and example Chicago (14th ed.) citations.

  • The Harvard Writing Center’s “Writing the History Paper” page  contains much of the same information as the two sources above and includes citations to other useful sources about writing in history disciplines.

  • The UNL History library guide contains links to information for databases for secondary sources, information for finding primary sources, and the catalogue entries for reference books.

Philosophy

  • The UNL Philosophy library guide contains links to databases for dissertations, academic articles, and print books.

  • The Harvard Writing Center’s “Brief Guide to Writing the Philosophy Paper” uses examples to describe conventions in philosophy such as defining technical terms, answering objections to the thesis, and using evidence.

  • University of North Carolina philosophy of language professor Jim Pryor describes his guidelines for writing a philosophy paper. This page relies on multiple examples of philosophical reasoning and paper structure. Pryor’s website also links to pages on reading in philosophy, an introduction to problems in philosophy, and links to other philosophy related-resources.

Writing in the Fine and Performing Arts

Artist’s Statement

  • Jennifer Shaiman’s “How to Write an Artist Statement” page on the University of Oklahoma Writing Center website describes the purpose of different types of artist statement and the typical purpose of the different sections in a long statement.

  • The Cleveland Institute of Art has several pages dedicated toward writing artist statements. The “Writing an Artist Statement” page describes general writing tips and brainstorming exercises designed to introduce artwork for gallery viewers. The “Information in Cleveland Institute of Art Library” briefly describes several books that are useful for visual artists writing process as well as links to websites that contain artist statements. Many of these resources can be found through the UNL Libraries catalogue system.

Creative and Imaginative Writing

Consultants at the Writing Center can help creative writers throughout all stages of brainstorming and publishing in their writing processes. 

  • Purdue OWL’s “Creative Writing” subpage describes the basic elements of different fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction genres. These pages also contain references to other creative writing related books. Purdue OWL also has a “Professional Resources for Creative Writers” page that describes the typical features in an inquiry letter and biographical note. The “Activities for Remote Creative Writing Classrooms” page describes several brainstorming exercises such as imitating writing a favorite writer’s style, experiment with unusual sentence structures, and write two versions of a fairy tale.

  • The UNL creative writing program in the English Department offers workshops, literary internship and publishing opportunities, and public lectures form well regarded creative writers. Key resources include the literary publications Prairie Schooner and Laurus, the  Creative Writing Reading Series, and the department’s award-winning faculty.

  • The Nebraska Writer’s Collective is a local creative writing-focused nonprofit organization that regularly works with UNL students. You can also look on social media and in local newspapers for the names of other creative writing focused writing groups, organizations, and publishers.

Writing in the Social and Behavioral Sciences

  • See also literature reviews and IMRaD format

  • The UCLA Writing Center’s “Writing in the Social Sciences and Education” page contains to links to several useful writing-related resources including workshop videos, recommendations for publishing articles, and tips for grant writing.

  • The UNL Libraries “Psychology” and “Sociology” research guides contain links to books on discipline specific research methodologies.

  • UNL Libraries offers a “Data Management” guide that contains information for storing and naming data for quantitative and qualitative researchers. The page contains links to information on security, preservation, and sharing, among other topics.

  • The UNL “Methodology and Evaluation Research Core” offers consultations and workshops related to grant writing and research methods focused on social and behavioral scientific fields.

Writing in STEM Fields

Writing lab reports

  • The University of North Carolina’s “Scientific Report” page describes the central purposes of the features of lab reports and offers recommendations such as communicating with lab partners and considering whether active or passive voice is acceptable for a specific report. The related “Sciences” handout also offers general descriptions of precise vocabulary, phrasing, and sentence structures.

IMRaD format

  • The Texas A & M Writing Center’s “Lab Reports” page describes the key features of the introduction, methods, results, analysis, and discussion (IMRaD) organizations. This page also contains links to pages on writing accessibility in the sciences and the practice of scientific writing.

Writing research grants

  • The University of North Carolina’s “Grant Proposals (or Give me the money!)” page describes the process of applying for research funding and contains an example budget proposal.

  • Karen Kelsky of The Professor Is In blog shares her “Foolproof Grant Template.” The template moves from naming a general topic, showing how current knowledge is incomplete, and detailing the writer’s specific project. Kelsky also describes the key template proposal features with examples. This blog also contains links to other academic related writing advice including Kelsky’s phrases to avoid in grant writing and writing research statements.

  • UNL Libraries’ “Grants & Funding Sources” page contains links to grant research and writing resources for UNL students and Nebraska residents. The Library system can offers access to the Foundation Center grant database, research librarians, and a grant writing guide.

Writing in Professional and Applied fields

  • See Personal Statements, Cover letters, and Resumes

Writing Publicly

Where else can I get writing support at UNL?

In addition to the Writing Center, there are several other offices on campus with staff trained to help students on writing projects and presentations. 

For qualified students, the UNL TRIO Programs through Student Support Services provides additional writing-focused tutoring. 

In addition to making appointments in the Writing Center, international students and multilingual writers can receive English language assistance through the English as a Second Language Support Lab and the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures’ Language Lab

Students enrolled in qualified Communication Studies classes can make an appointment in the speech lab for assistance on oral presentations. 

In addition, the UNL Libraries system contains resources that include information on different citation systems, research support requests, and research guides for different academic disciplines. 

For graduate students completing theses or dissertations, the Office of Graduate Studies provides  information on and guidelines for appropriate styles and formatting for these documents.