Writing in the Disciplines & Across the Curriculum

OVERVIEW

Each discipline has its own style, structure, and format when it comes to academic writing. This section provides resources on writing in specific disciplines, broken down into the following five general academic categories: Business & Communication, Humanities, Social Sciences, Sciences, and Mathematics.

The Humanities category is further broken down by subject and common rhetorical writing tasks in that discipline: analysis, argument & persuasion, cause & effect, classification, comparison & contrast, definition, description, and narrative.

Also see: Citing Sources for discipline-specific citation styles | Professional Writing for common non-academic writing resources such as writing for email, for the web, and for the job search.

Approaching an Assignment in Any Discipline (Bedford/St. Martin's) Demonstrates how students can critically read assignment guidelines by identifying field-specific terms, the purpose of the assignment, and the types of evidence needed to complete the assignment.

Model Papers (PDF format) (Hacker A Writer's Reference companion website)
Sample papers include: MLA papers, MLA Argument Papers, MLA Analysis Papers, MLA Literature Papers, MLA Paper-in-Progress, MLA Sample Outline, MLA Annotated Bibliography, APA Papers, APA Annotated Bibliography, CMS Paper, and CSE Paper.

Sample Documents in Design (Re:Writing from Bedford/St. Martin's)
Sample documents in Business and Technical Writing, Humanities, Applied Sciences, and Literature.

^ top

BUSINESS & COMMUNICATION

Business Writing (Writing@CSU)
An online writing guide about writing for business. Sections address writing business letters, resumes, press releases, and executive summaries.

Business Writing Tutorial (Writing@CSU)
Online activities for "writers who are writing in business." Specific tasks addressed are letters, memos, and press releases. Site Access: To access these exercises, you need to register with Writing@CSU. Registration is fast and simple.

Communication Studies (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"This handout describes some steps for planning and writing papers in communication studies courses."

Writing Business Letters (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) "This handout will help you write business letters required in many different situations, from applying for a job to requesting or delivering information. While the examples that are discussed specifically are the application letter and cover letter, this handout also highlights strategies for effective business writing in general."

Writing for a North American Business Audience (Purdue OWL)
"This handout provides examples and information (written for non-North Americans) on how to write for a business audience. It includes information on getting to the point, keeping it simple, active and passive voice, nondiscriminatory language, and verb overgeneralizing."

Writing for an Indian Business Audience (Purdue OWL)
"This handout provides examples and information on writing for both domestic and international audiences doing business in India. It includes information on letters and memos, as well as important stylistic considerations. The handout concludes with comments on some important characteristics of English writing in India, and on the status of English in business writing compared with native Indian languages, such as Hindi and Bengali."

^ top

HUMANITIES

Resources for writing in the Humanities are broken down into the following sections. See resources for each below.

HUMANITIES > GENERAL

Four Keys to Writing in the Humanities (Mark T. Unno, University of Oregon) “One of the challenges of writing papers in the humanities is that courses and instructors have different requirements and expectations. Nevertheless, there are certain things that tend to be consistent across the curriculum, such as focus and simplicity, basic forms of argument, documentation, and writing as a craft. When you begin to understand these basic elements, then the variety of requirements and expectations will actually become a source of inspiration and wisdom rather than confusion and frustration.”

Writing in the Humanities (The Institute for Writing & Rhetoric, Dartmouth College)
This is the introductory page to a collection of resources on writing papers for fields within the humanities. The information focuses on issues that impact writing academic papers in these and related disciplines: Art History, English, Film, Music, Religion, and Philosophy.

Writing in the Humanities and Arts (UCLA Graduate Writing Center) “The books and articles below offer advice on writing dissertations, theses, articles, proposals, and abstracts in the humanities and arts (although some of these sources address a broader audience).”

^ top

HUMANITIES > ART & ART HISTORY

Art History (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"This handout discusses several common types of art history assignments, and talks about various strategies and resources that will help you write your art history papers."

A Guide to Writing about Art (Univ. of Iowa Writing Center) "We write about art to clarify and to account for our responses to works that interest, excite, or frustrate us.  When writing a paper we not only look at what is in front of us, but what is within.  Here is a basic checklist to keep in mind when drafting a paper."

Montclair State University Articles and Databases: Art and Design (Montclair State University, Sprague Library)Montclair State students and faculty can access art-specific databases through Sprague Library. You will need to enter your NetID and password.

Writing Across the Curriculum: Writing About Art (Hunter College Writing Center) (PDF) This handout explains different types of art history papers and includes a series of rhetorical questions for analyzing paintings, portraits, figural scenes, landscapes, sculptures, and architecture.

Writing an Art History Paper (Maeve Gately, Hamilton College)This page discusses the different ways to approach an art history paper and includes sample excerpts.

^ top

HUMANITIES > DANCE

Guidelines for Viewing Dance; Writing Critiques for Dance Performances (University of Richmond Writing Center and Myra Daleng & Anne Van Gelder, Richmond Department of Theater & Dance)
Ideas and suggestions for writing a critique of a dance performance. One of the most interesting sections of the handout is the "Dance Critique Pet Peeves" that lists words and phrases to avoid when writing a dance critique. There is also a checklist for writing a critique at the end. Also see: Research-Based Writing

Writing a Dance Critique (Martha Talman, Dixie State University Library) (PDF)This handout presents five steps to critiquing a performance and includes questions for evaluation.

^ top

HUMANITIES > DRAMA

Drama (UNC Chapel Hill, The Writing Center)“This handout identifies common questions about drama, describes the elements of drama that are most often discussed in theater classes, provides a few strategies for planning and writing an effective drama paper, and identifies various resources for research in theater history and dramatic criticism.”

Guidelines for Viewing Dance; Writing Critiques for Dance Performances (University of Richmond Writing Center and Myra Daleng & Anne Van Gelder, Richmond Department of Theater & Dance)
Ideas and suggestions for writing a critique of a dance performance. One of the most interesting sections of the handout is the "Dance Critique Pet Peeves" that lists words and phrases to avoid when writing a dance critique. There is also a checklist for writing a critique at the end. Also see: Research-Based Writing

How to review a play (University of Wisconsin – Madison, The Writing Center)Here are some tips to help you before you begin writing a play review. This page offers advice on what you can do to prepare before the play and what types of questions you should be asking yourself during the play.

^ top

HUMANITIES > FILM

How to Write About Film: The Movie Review, The Theoretical Essay, and The Critical Essay (The Writing Center, University of Colorado) (pdf) A guide to thinking critically about film using Timothy Corrigan's three major genres.

Lights, Camera, Brainstorming: Writing About Film (Agnes Scott College) (PDF) This handout provides suggestions for what to do before, during, and after watching the film.

Montclair State University Articles and Databases: Performing Arts (Montclair State University, Sprague Library) Montclair State students and faculty can access film-specific databases through Sprague Library. You will need to enter your NetID and password.

A Short Guide to Writing About Film (Timothy Corrigan; page created by A. Robert Lauer, University of Oklahoma) Lauer extracted key concepts from Timothy Corrigan’s A Short Guide to Writing About Film, 5e to create this page, which discusses central terms and conventions used in analyzing films.

Writing a Film Analysis (Mc-Graw Hill) (PDF) This PDF discusses the conventions of writing about film and includes sample student papers.

Writing About Film (Simon Fraser University Library)“This guide has been designed as a starting point for research into writing about films.”

Writing About Film(Thompson Writing Program, Duke University) (pdf) "This handout discusses ways to approach film as a visual medium. It offers suggestions for focus, prewriting tips, and guidance on how to think critically about a medium many of us think of as popular entertainment. It does not include a comprehensive list of technical film terminology, although it does provide links to several sources that do. This handout deals with decoding film as a viewer, considering how film appears rather than how it was made."

^ top

HUMANITIES > LITERATURE

Book Reviews (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"This handout will help you write a book review, a report or essay that offers a critical perspective on a text. It offers a process and suggests some strategies for writing book reviews."

Guidelines for Writing a Literature Review (Helen Mongan-Rallis, University of Minnesota Duluth) Mongan-Rallis uses Galvin's Writing Literature Reviews: A Guide for Students of the Behavioral Sciences, 3rd ed., to reiterate and expand upon a step-by-step approach to writing a literature review. She mentions technology that is useful in composing/organizing a literature review and includes links to additional resources.

Introduction to Modern Literary Theory (Kristi Siegel, Mount Mary College)Siegel explains 18 literary theories and includes suggestions for further reading.

Literary Theory and Schools of Criticism (Purdue OWL)“This resource will help you begin the process of understanding literary theory and schools of criticism and how they are used in the academy.” The sections on this page include:

Literature (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"This handout describes some steps for planning and writing papers about fiction texts."

Literature Reviews (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"This handout will explain what a literature review is and offer insights into the form and construction of a literature review in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences."

Writing About Fiction (Purdue OWL)“This handout covers major topics relating to writing about fiction. This covers prewriting, close reading, thesis development, drafting, and common pitfalls to avoid.”

Writing About Literature (Purdue OWL)“This handout provides examples and description about writing papers in literature. It discusses research topics, how to begin to research, how to use information, and formatting.”

Writing About Literature (UNLV, Writing Center)This page covers a number of topics, from active reading and prewriting to developing a thesis statement, using quotes, and structuring an essay.

Writing in Literature (Detailed Discussion) (Purdue OWL) “These sections describe in detail the assignments students may complete when writing about literature.”

^ top

HUMANITIES > MUSIC

Writing about Music (Hunter College Writing Center) Provides an overview of writing about music, with a discussion of common assignments, writing a thesis statement, using sources, documenting sources, analyzing, and giving examples.

Writing about Music (Univ. of Iowa Writing Center) Discusses different elements to consider when writing about music, from who your audience is to addressing the genre.

^ top

HUMANITIES > PHILOSOPHY

A Brief Guide to Writing the Philosophy Paper (Harvard College Writing Center) An introduction to writing a philosophy paper, which includes useful examples.

How to Write a Philosophy Paper (David Clowney, Rowan University)Begins with general tips on writing a paper and then offers suggestions for writing interpretive, analytic, and exploratory papers.

Philosophy (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"This handout discusses common types of philosophy assignments and strategies and resources that will help you write your philosophy papers."

Tips on Writing a Philosophy Paper (Douglas W. Portmore, Arizona State University) (PDF) This thorough handout discusses thesis statements, structure, content, rhetorical considerations, documentation, and style for a philosophy paper.

^ top

HUMANITIES > POETRY

Analyzing Poetry (Georgia Perimeter College) (PDF)“The following list is a guide providing characteristics to look for when analyzing poetry.”

Glossary Terms (Poetry Foundation)A complete glossary of poetry terms. You can search for terms alphabetically or filter them by “Forms & Types,” “Rhythm & Meter,” “Schools & Periods,” “Techniques & Figures of Speech,” and “Theory & Criticism.”

How to Read a Poem (University of Wisconsin – Madison, The Writing Center)This source provides questions to help you identify a poem’s subject, context, form, and language.

Image in Poetry (Purdue OWL)“This section covers images as they appear in poetry and covers related terminology, definitions and origins of images, uses of images, and several exercises.”

Poetry Explications (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"A poetry explication is a relatively short analysis which describes the possible meanings and relationships of the words, images, and other small units that make up a poem. Writing an explication is an effective way for a reader to connect a poem's plot and conflicts with its structural features. This handout reviews some of the important techniques of approaching and writing a poetry explication, and includes parts of two sample explications."

Poetry Terms: Brief Definitions (Washington State University)A dictionary of poetry terms.

Writing About Poetry (Purdue OWL)“Writing about poetry can be one of the most demanding tasks that many students face in a literature class. Poetry, by its very nature, makes demands on a writer who attempts to analyze it that other forms of literature do not. So how can you write a clear, confident, well-supported essay about poetry? This handout offers answers to some common questions about writing about poetry.”

^ top

HUMANITIES > RELIGION

Religious Studies (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"This handout will help you to write research papers in religious studies."

^ top

HUMANITIES > RHETORICAL TASKS

analysis | argument & persuasion | cause & effect | classification | comparison & contrast | definition | description | narrative

In academic writing, one can be asked to do many different types of writing. Some papers have you conducting research, while others require you to formulate an argument or write a critique, and some often have you do a combination of research and argument. This section includes resources on the following specific types of academic writing: analysis, argument & persuasion, cause & effect, classification, comparison & contrast, definition, description, and narrative. (See Conducting Research for resources on writing research papers.

Analysis

How to Analyze a Text (Goshen College English Dept.) Includes strategies and principles for analyzing a text, along with sample analysis paragraphs.

How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay (PDF) (Bucks County Community College) Breaks down the "elements of a solid essay" to guide readers in their own literary analyses.

Writing a Literary Analysis Paper (Univ. of Iowa Writing Center) Covers the different components of a literary analysis paper, including the introduction, thesis, body paragraphs, and conclusion. It also includes a discussion of doing close readings and considering the historical or cultural context of a text.

^ top

Argument & Persuasion

Argument (Writing@CSU)
An online writing guide to "help writers better understand how to plan, organize, develop, support and revise a written argument." Sections of the guide address the parts of an argument, the Toulmin Method, and adapting the argument to the audience.

Argument Tutorial (Writing@CSU)
Online activities to "help writers better understand how to plan, organize, develop, support and revise a written argument." To access these exercises, you need to register with Writing@CSU. Registration is fast and simple.

The Argumentative Essay (Purdue OWL) An introduction to writing an argumentative essay.

Developing Strong Thesis Statements (Purdue OWL) Tips for making your thesis statement debatable and narrow enough. It also includes definitions/examples of the four categories of thesis statements.

Writing an Effective Thesis Statement: The Six-Step Method (Univ. of Iowa Writing Center) "Here is a six-step method for constructing a strong thesis statement for an essay which analyzes a persuasive argument."

^ top

Cause & Effect

Types of Papers: Cause & Effect (Roane State Community College, OWL) Discusses how to choose and narrow down a topic for a cause & effect essay.

Writing Cause and Effect Papers (Butte College, Center for Academic Success)This is a tip sheet on examining “the reasons for and the outcomes of situations.”

^ top

Classification

How Do I Write a Classification/Division Essay? (Academic Resource Center, Wheeling Jesuit University) Ideas on how to conceptualize and structure classification and division essays.

Types of Papers: Division & Classification (Roane State OWL) This page covers division and classification papers and includes links to sample essays.

Writing a Classification Paper (Butte College, Center for Academic Success)This is a tip sheet on prewriting, developing a thesis, organizing, and using effective language in a classification essay.

^ top

Comparison & Contrast

Compare and Contrast (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) (VIDEO) "Learn strategies for comparing and contrasting ideas—strategies that can also help you generate ideas for other types of writing."

Comparing/Contrasting (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"This handout will help you first to determine whether a particular assignment is asking for comparison/contrast and then to generate a list of similarities and differences, decide which similarities and differences to focus on, and organize your paper so that it will be clear and effective. It will also explain how you can (and why you should) develop a thesis that goes beyond "Thing A and Thing B are similar in many ways but different in others."

How to Write a Comparative Analysis (Writing Center at Harvard University) "To write a good compare-and-contrast paper, you must take your raw data--the similarities and differences you've observed--and make them cohere into a meaningful argument. Here are the five elements required."

^ top

Definition

Definition Essay (Northland Community College) Suggestions for selecting a subject, structuring, and writing a definition essay.

Types of Papers: Definition (Roane State OWL)This page covers word selection for a definition paper and includes a sample student essay.

^ top

Description

Things to Consider as you Write your Descriptive Essay (St. Cloud State University) Considerations and conventions for writing a descriptive essay.

^ top

Narrative

The Narrative Essay (Purdue OWL) Outlines the conventions of a narrative essay.

Types of Papers: Narrative/Descriptive (Roane State Community College, OWL) Tips for writing concrete and vivid descriptions.

^ top

SOCIAL SCIENCES

Anthropology (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"This handout briefly situates anthropology as a discipline of study within the social sciences. It provides an introduction to the kinds of writing that you might encounter in your anthropology courses, describes some of the expectations that your instructors may have, and suggests some ways to approach your assignments. It also includes links to information on citation practices in anthropology and resources for writing anthropological research papers."

A Brief Guide to Writing the History Paper (Harvard College Writing Center) "A concise introduction to some of the basic conventions of writing in history. Intended for an undergraduate audience."

History (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"This handout was written with several goals in mind: to explain what historians do and how they approach the writing process; to encourage you to think about your history instructor's expectations of you; and to offer some strategies to help you write effectively in history courses."

Sociology (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"This handout introduces you to the wonderful world of writing sociology. Before you can write a clear and coherent sociology paper, you need a firm understanding of the assumptions and expectations of the discipline. You need to know your audience, the way they view the world and how they order and evaluate information. So, without further ado, let's figure out just what sociology is, and how one goes about writing it."

Writing in Political Science (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"This handout will help you to recognize and to follow writing practices and standards in political science. The first step toward accomplishing this goal is to develop a basic understanding of political science and the kind of work political scientists do."

Writing in Political Science: An Introduction (Dave Roberts, UR Writing Fellow 07, University of Richmond Writing Center)
A guide that dissects what is involved in writing in the field of political science.

^ top

SCIENCES

A Brief Guide to Writing in Chemistry (Kenyon College) "This document is a guide to assist students in chemistry courses with writing and formatting laboratory reports and research reports."

Chemistry Example Lab Report (University of Delaware) An example of a lab report from a chemistry course at the University of Delaware that includes commentary.

Chemistry Lab Resources (Purdue University Libraries) "Here you can find tips about organizing your lab notebook, how to effectively create graphs and table for lab reports, places to locate protocols and property information, and how to properly cite resources."

Laboratory Report Instructions (Reed College). A manual to writing each section of a lab report. The site also includes examples of well-written and poorly written lab reports.

Science Writing (Writing@CSU)
Online activities for writers in the sciences. Specific tasks addressed include generating ideas, using descriptions in science writing, revising organization in science writing, and revising a science argument.
Site Access: To access these exercises, you need to register with Writing@CSU. Registration is fast and simple.

"Write your Writing: How to sharpen your writing and make your manuscripts more engaging" (The Scientist.com Magazine of the Life Sciences)
Contributor Judith Swan offers "ways to improve your writing practices and tips on how to align your writing to your readers' expectations." *Subscription required for access.

Writing Biology Lab Reports (Writer's Web - University of Richmond Writing Center)
A guide for writing biology lab reports with sections on writing the abstract, the introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, and works cited.

Writing in the Sciences (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"Every element of style that is accepted and encouraged in general academic writing is also considered good practice in scientific writing. The major difference between science writing and writing in other academic fields is the relative importance placed on certain stylistic elements. This handout details the most critical aspects of scientific writing and provides some strategies for evaluating and improving your scientific prose."

Writing in Science (Writing@CSU)
An online writing guide that addresses the challenges and issues involved in scientific writing. Sections include Writing the Scientific-Format Paper and Achieving the Scientific-Voice.

^ top

MATHEMATICS

AMS Author Handbook (American Mathematical Society)
This is the most widely recognized handbook for writing in mathematics.

AMS Author Resource Center (American Mathematical Society [AMS])
Provides links and tools to assist in writing, editing, illustrating, and publishing mathematical works.

Guide to AMS Editor's Package (American Mathematical Society)
This link from the AMS website covers formatting for papers/monographs using LaTeX software, a common program for setting math type used here at MSU. It also provides templates to create title pages, bibliographies, etc. for LaTeX users.

MRef (American Mathematical Society)
This is a citation generator for standard references that include links to the MathSciNet database.

Overview of AMS-LaTeX Software (American Mathematical Society)
This is an overview of the AMS-LaTeX software.

^ top