Writer’s Block: How Do I Unblock It?


          Hello, Marauders! Welcome back to another weekly blog post from yours truly, the Writing Center. Today we’ll be talking about the dreaded problem of WRITER’S BLOCK. This is when you are trying to write something–anything–and for some reason, you simply cannot do it. You cannot figure out how to start, where to start, what to write, or maybe even why you’re even writing it in the first place. There’s a creative blockage that’s hindering your ability to write. So, what can we do about this? 

A Real Life Example from Emily, A Writing Center Tutor 

          Writer’s block can happen to anyone at any stage of their creative process. For example, the topic that my fellow blog writer, Jake, and I decided to write about this week was, obviously, writer’s block. And as I sat down to write it, I thought, “Oh, dear. What a topic to be writing about when I don’t even know what to write or how to write about it.” I started by writing the introduction, explaining what writer’s block is, the problems that it causes, etc. etc. But I didn’t really know where to go from there. So I googled it and glanced over the first results that popped up. Then I sat back and scrolled on my phone for a little (typically I would advise to NOT do this when trying to write, especially if it’s an academic paper or big project). Then I thought, “Let’s make a list. Lists are good. Lists are helpful.” I began to get over my writer’s block when I focused on breaking the big project (writing a blog post about writer’s block) into smaller pieces (such as the sections of the post, and two or three main ideas that I wanted to get across). I figured the easiest way to start was to offer at least 3-5 pieces of advice on how to deal with writer’s block. That way, I had a measurable goal that was realistic and manageable. I reminded myself that I wasn’t trying to cover EVERYTHING, but rather just some tidbits of information that I think are important and will be helpful to fellow students. So, here are the 5 helpful tips I found on how to deal with writer’s block: 

      1. Get some words onto the page (University of Illinois Springfield). Don’t wait for “inspiration to strike.” So how do you get words on the page? 
      2. Start brainstorming ideas for the topic. Pick ones that are interesting to you, or ones that you think you’d enjoy exploring further. From here, you can start outlining and coming up with main points or main ideas that you want to express (Purdue OWL). 
      3. Use visuals! Visualizing the problem and having something concrete in front of you can be a big help during the writing process (MasterClass). Use Post-It notes, circle important information, annotate, put a question mark next to something if you find yourself asking, “What does this mean?” etc. Personally, I like to highlight as I’m reading the articles that I’ve found. I’ll highlight quotes that stand out to me, or information that I think will be necessary or useful for my topic. 
      4. YOU DON’T HAVE TO WRITE THE INTRODUCTION FIRST! Sometimes writing introductions is hard. I totally understand. I like to write my body paragraphs first, because I’ve done the research, I have my quotes and evidence, and I know the topic pretty well at this point. So it’s easier to write about my main points, and once I have that, then I go back to my introduction. 
      5. Ask for help. If you still feel stuck and you don’t know what to write about, or how to narrow a topic down, or how to determine what’s important information and what’s not, go to a tutor or a teacher and ask for help! Bring your work and your ideas with you and bounce them off of another person. Having someone else present is so helpful because you can pick their brain and they can help you see the issue from a different angle and fresh perspective. 


          Oh! One more bonus tip: Put your phone in a place where you physically can’t see it or easily reach it. Put it somewhere where you have to get up and walk to get it. Seriously. Even if you do this for only 30 minutes, it can help you focus better on your work and get rid of distractions. Anyway, I hope you found these tips (and my personal experience) helpful! It may sound cliche, but the best remedy for writer’s block is to just start writing. Jot some words down on the page. Start mulling over ideas. And, of course, feel free to stop by the Writing Center for additional help! We can help you at any stage of the writing process, including brainstorming and outlining. Our hours are 1-9 PM on Mondays through Thursdays, and 1-4 PM on Fridays. With that being said, good luck and happy writing!

The Origins of In-Person, Zoom, and Online Appointments: A Story by Jake


Hello, all you Writing Center Blog Fans! We are back with another fan-freaking-tastic adventure into the inner workings of the Writing Center. From the outside, it may seem like a simple place full of exuberance and jubilee, but trust me, on the inside we put ourselves through the wringer to give you the writing support you need. For us to do our job, so that you can work towards your future job, we need to know what location is most comfortable for you to receive our help. Because of this, we put our greatest minds together and developed a three-pronged approach to conquer the art of tutoring.

Trust me, it’s as mysterious as it sounds—I still have only gathered fragments of its origin from its founders, as they travel to lands unknown when the subject is broached. Where they went was beyond me, but I hope one day I can frolic with them in the fields they permanently toil or the sea they permanently tread. And if the stars align just so, we may one day stumble through rolling green hills together and slip into an ocean as blue as the fresh morning dew. But until then, I will recount what I know of the origins of tutoring appointments here:

The Story

In-Person Appointments were the first to be discovered:

One day in a Writing Center not so far away (in fact, it’s located in the library next to the Starbucks), Tutor 001 was sitting alone clacking away, tapping their foot, and bobbing their head when they heard frantic footsteps from beyond the doorway. What could this mean, they thought, is the prophecy true? (Side note: this prophecy nonsense feels farfetched, but just go with it. Let’s just say Tutor 001 doesn’t have all their I’s dotted and T’s crossed, if you know what I mean). From the doorway, 001 heard a voice whisper, “Excuse me, I need help with a paper.” At this, 001 froze, the clacking ceased, the tapping quit, the bobbing stuck. Slowly, 001 closed their computer and turned to the doorway. Before them stood the very first In-person Appointment tutee. 001 assuredly ushered them in with a wave of their pencil-equipped hand and said, “Then you’re in the write place… you see what I did there?” The tutee, occupied with measured steps, missed the cheap pun and sank into the plastic chair next to 001. “I’m sorry I just walked in, I didn’t know where to schedule an appointment,” they whispered, with eye contact this time. At this, the look that would come to adorn 001 permanently cast over them (again, what comes next sounds like some bruhaha to me, but hey what do I know, I wasn’t there), and what they saw was a world full of picnic blankets and charcuterie boards, where people gathered in circles with homemade punch and scribbled away on personalized notebooks and spoke up for advice when struck by an impenetrable writer’s block. At this moment, 001 knew that what they said and did next would fill the first inkwell on the path to that promised land. They said, “No need to worry, I’d be happy to help you, and next time, you can schedule an appointment on a helpful tool called Starfish by selecting the In-Person session option.”

Zoom Appointments came next:

For many years, In-Person appointments were all the rage. Tutors 002-050 joined tutor 001 on the front lines and the tutee population grew exponentially. They spread their love of writing and editing everywhere they went, taking notes asking for help, and offering advice. The Tutors loved seeing their blossoming young tutees crane their necks over the shoulder of a new tutee bulb. Soon the passion for sharing carried them far and wide and, sadly, traveling back to the Writing Center (next to Starbucks) for an In-Person Appointment became a burden. With time, the essential lessons they learned from the Tutors were lost, and the tutees began offering unconstructive criticism and idolizing false cognates. The Tutors knew they had to act, but they didn’t know how. They gathered for weeks and weeks and made no headway; they were too stuck in their ways to see the answer right in front of their noses. They had met their match and needed something or someone to overcome it for them. And, lo and behold, that person was Tutee 001.

(To be honest, by now I doubt you’re reading this so I’ll just say that you can schedule Zoom appointments by clicking the Zoom check box on Starfish, which is a thirty-minute Zoom conversation with a tutor. There is also an Online appointment option, which is when you send your paper to writing.center@millersville.edu with your M#, the class that it is for, and what specifically you need help with, and we’ll leave comments and send it back to you. Please check out https://blogs.millersville.edu/writingresources/2023/04/28/scheduling-an-appointment-on-starfish/ to find out how to operate Starfish. Now, for those who’d like to keep reading, here you go).

From the first In-Person appointment, Tutee 001 knew they wanted to wander the land, spreading the wisdom bestowed upon them by Tutor 001. They never strayed from what they had heard: be calm, ask questions, lead and don’t direct, learn from the Tutee as they learn from the Tutor. In their travels, they learned what it meant to be both Tutor and Tutee; they swung their legs off the bridge lodged between the Tutors stuck in their ways and the Tutees lost in the haze. When they heard the battle cries sound from one end of the bridge at the other, they knew it was time to return to the Writing Center from which they came. It was time to toe the bridge.

To the Center they went and, upon arrival, were bombarded with disarray. Loose leaf papers were flapping in the currents sent by the air vents and red ink rivers running across the carpet, pouring out the fateful pens. There was no clacking to be heard, no sound bouncing from one bare wall to the next. Deep inside the walled fortress of the Center, Tutee 001 discovered Tutors 001-050 huddled together, quivering in their failure. They were a defeated bunch with haggard faces and still fingers and muffled moans. Tutee 001 stood in the doorway until the Tutors acknowledged the presence of one of their pupils, as they had done since the beginning. Tutee 001 declared, “You are a defeated bunch. You are weary and drained. You fear that you have failed. But defeat gives you a choice. Stay down, sprawled and subdued with inanition. Or rise up, proud and coalesced by determination. You must expand your teachings to the beat of your following. You must channel the power possessed in Zoom into your practices. You must enter the face-to-face communication digital landscape.”

At this rousing speech, Tutors 001-050 stood one by one. They raised their chins to the tarped-over skylight and watched as a corner broke its bonds and flapped in the fresh air, revealing the beaming sun.

Online Appointments came last:

One day, once the Tutors’ ranks grew beyond triple digits, the unassuming and quiet Tutor 0008 suggested an Online Appointment option be added to Starfish (cue nature sounds, opera, violin). Tutors 0001-9999 came together for the one and only meeting of the entire Tutor population. It drew crowds, stressed infrastructure, and caved bandwidth. Tutors 001-051 (minus Tutor 050, who was unfortunately lost to a printer accident), met in person. And of course, Tutee 001, spokesman for Tutees and Tutors Alike in Dignity Together in Common, sat to the right of Tutor 001 at the banquet table of the Original 50. Across from the head drilled into the wall was a gigantic screen that contained Tutors 0052-9999 in puny boxes, that rearranged themselves at will bouncing to and from as the clacking once did so long ago.

A hush fell over the room as Tutor 001 clamped their hands on the silver-plated armrests of their jeweled throne. Slowly they rose, as the chaos once made them do before, and declared, “We come together, both near and far, for the final proposition. Our methods are nearing perfection. We have become an assembly line, all both parts and tools. Today we add one last piece to our puzzle: Online Appointments. They can be selected on Starfish by the desired tutees. We will take their papers with tender hands and read as if they were to our left or right. We will pin our comments in the margins and send the paper back with a smile. We will do this, for this is our duty to the world.”

And that’s it. This was inspired by true events that happened during an unspecified time at an unspecified location. Take with you what you will, and come back next week for more Writing Center Blog fun :). Happy writing!

Some Writing Tips from Our Tutors!

Hello, Marauders! As you know, the Writing Center is here to help you with all of your writing needs, so I decided to ask around for some helpful tips and tricks—and who better to ask than our very own tutors? Sometimes we also struggle with writing. We understand it can be hard to write introductions, come up with thesis statements, figure out how to organize the paper, and everything else in between. So what are some strategies to help with these common problems? Here’s what our tutors have to say about it: 

Eden, English Writing Studies major/Anthropology minor: Getting started is the hardest part. If you can’t get started, start in the middle. Start with your body paragraphs or your supporting evidence. You don’t always have to start with your introduction or thesis. 

Anna, Secondary English Education major/Theatre minor: When you’re working on something, the most important part is writing the first draft. Because once it’s concrete, not just something in your head, you can work on improving and revising, and anything else to make it better.   

Lauryn, Secondary English Education major: You don’t have to write your paper in any specific order; you can jump around from section to section. 

Emily, English major/Writing Studies minor: After you’ve finished writing a first draft of your paper, READ YOUR PAPER OUT LOUD! After working on it for an extended period of time, it’s so easy to miss things no matter how many times you review it on your screen. Reading the paper out loud is so helpful in catching grammatical mistakes, missing punctuation, and hearing how the paper flows.  

Carson, Secondary English Education major: Always write your introductions last.  

Allison, English major/Art minor: In terms of writing advice, I think it’s really important to get into the practice of letting your peers read your work, even if it’s just like your best friend. Just letting someone else see it to review it and letting another person get another pair of eyes on it is an important part of the writing process in my opinion. 

Jake, Writing Studies major: Write a bad first draft. 

As you can see, there are lots of different approaches to writing. The important thing is to figure out what works best for you and your writing style, habits, and productivity. Writing is a process that involves a lot of different moving parts, and the journey is usually never linear. Author Akemi Dawn Bowman says, “Focus on your own journey, and try not to worry about what’s going on in the lane next to you” (“21 Authors Share One Piece of Advice for Writers”). I hope these tips and tricks from our tutors are helpful to you! As always, stop by the Writing Center for more help! We’re open Monday through Thursday from 1:00 PM to 9:00 PM and Fridays from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Feel free to drop in or better, make an appointment through Starfish (click here for instructions). Happy writing!

How To Make Your Paper Flow: Cohesion


          Hello, Marauders! If we remember from last week, we talked about how to make our paper flow by using two components called coherence and cohesion. We talked about coherence and how to achieve it (check out the post here: How to Make Your Paper Flow: Coherence). For a refresher, take a look at the terms defined below: 

        • Flow “refers to how easily a reader can get into the text. That is to say, how easily the reader moves past the text and into a reading experience where she or he [or they] is connecting with the ideas presented within the text” (Flow in Scholarly Writing). 
        • Coherence is when the reader can see that everything–ideas, evidence, argument, etc–is logically connected (The University of Auckland). 
        • Cohesion is the quality of sentences and paragraphs to “hang together” in a pleasing and clear way. 

          This week, we’ll look at cohesion and how to achieve it.

Cohesion: The Known-New Contract 

          Cohesion refers to how sentences and paragraphs connect to each other in a way that is clear and makes sense to the reader. Readers may refer to a sense of “flow” in texts with internal cohesion. When we encounter something “new,” our brains are set up to work through the new thing in terms of its relationship to what we already know. So, in a text, the reader expects the writer to make connections between the known and the new. This can be done within paragraphs and in the entire paper. 

Within paragraphs: To increase cohesion and help your reader through your paragraph, here are some things you can do to utilize the “known-new contract”:

        • All the content in your paragraph illuminates your key point/commitment sentence 
        • Repetition of key words and phrases 
        • Use of pronouns (he, she, it, they) and demonstrate adjectives (such, that, this, these, those) 
        • Use of transition words and phrase

In the piece as a whole: Your paragraphs need to “hang” together in such a way that your reader follows easily from one major “chunk” of your meaning to the next:

        • Logical progression of major ideas/chunks 
        • Transitions between chunks

To check if your paragraph has cohesion: Use a skeleton summary outline (which is a bare-bones version of your paper). For each paragraph:

        • Give a one-sentence summary 
        • Ask yourself, what job does this paragraph do? 

          This will help you to know if your paragraph does a good job of connecting ideas and thoughts in a clear way that is easy for the reader to follow and understand. 


          I hope this helps clarify what cohesion is and how to achieve it in your paper. Remember to follow the known-new contract. The goal is to connect information that readers already know to new information so it’s easier for readers to understand. As always, please feel free to visit the Writing Center for more help!

How to Make Your Paper Flow: Coherence


          Hello, Marauders! Welcome back to another info session! Today we’re talking about how to make our paper flow. Maybe you’ve heard your professor say, “Make sure your paper flows well!” What does that mean? Two important concepts that help increase the “flow” of a paper are coherence and cohesion. First, let’s define what these three terms mean. 

        • Flow “refers to how easily a reader can get into the text. That is to say, how easily the reader moves past the text and into a reading experience where she or he [or they] is connecting with the ideas presented within the text” (Flow in Scholarly Writing). 
        • Coherence is when the reader can see that everything–ideas, evidence, argument, etc–is logically connected (The University of Auckland). 
        • Cohesion is the quality of sentences and paragraphs to “hang together” in a pleasing and clear way. 

          When your paper has coherence and cohesion, it flows. It’s organized, it’s logical, and most importantly, it’s easy to follow and understand. This week, we’ll talk about coherence. Next week, we’ll look at cohesion. So, let’s take a look at coherence and how we can achieve it. 

Coherence: The Topic Chain  

          A great strategy to help you determine if you’re using coherence or not is something called the topic chain. BYU Writing Center offers some great insight into what the topic chain is and how to use it. 

        1. Topics are crucial because they focus a reader’s attention on a particular idea toward the beginning of each clause. 
        2. These ideas provide thematic signposts that focus your reader’s attention on a set of well-defined of connected ideas.
        3. If a sequence of topics seems coherent, that sequence will move your reader through a paragraph from a coherent point of view. 
        4.  But if your topics shift randomly, then your reader has to begin each sentence out of context, from no coherent point of view. 

          For example, take a look at the paragraph below, taken from David Herbert Donald’s book Lincoln. New York: Touchstone, 1995. Word Works: Learning through Writing at Boise State University. Number 97, March 1999. Published by the BSU Writing Center. 

 [1] Returning to Indiana, Lincoln dutifully handed over his earnings to his father, but he began to spend more and more time away from home. [2] The village of Gentryville lay about a mile and a half away, and he liked to go there and occasionally help out at James Gentry’s store or work with John Baldwin, the local blacksmith. [3] All the young men who were about to come of age and were restless in the narrow society of southern Indiana gathered about him, because he was always full of talk and plans and jokes and tricks. 

          This is not hard to read, but it is harder than it should be. Notice how the beginning of each sentence pulls the reader’s attention off to a different topic: “Lincoln handed over his earnings,” “The village of Gentryville,” “All the young men.” The reader has to wait to find out what sentences 2 and 3 have to do with the theme of Lincoln’s restlessness, the theme being set up in sentence 1. When this happens, your reader will feel dislocated, disoriented, and out of focus. 

          Abe Lincoln should be the topic of each sentence. By rewriting, we get: 

[1] Returning to Indiana, Lincoln dutifully handed over his earnings to his father, but he began to spend more and more time away from home. [2] He liked to go to the village of Gentryville, about a mile and a half away, where he occasionally helped out at James Gentry’s store, and he worked sometimes with John Baldwin, the local blacksmith. [3] As always, he was full of talk and plans and jokes and tricks, and he gathered about him all the young men who were about to come of age and were restless in the narrow society of southern Indiana. 

          Notice that Abe Lincoln is now the topic of each sentence: “Lincoln dutifully handed over his earnings,” “He liked to go to the village,” “He was full of talk…”. Every sentence is connected logically to one another by the subject, Abe Lincoln. Readers no longer have to wait to find out what sentences 2 and 3 have to do with sentence 1. BYU Writing Center states that you must provide your readers with a coherent point of view, with a logical continuity that will guide them not only through individual sentences but through whole paragraphs. 


          I hope that helps clarify what coherence is and how to achieve it! For overall coherence, all of your main points and ideas should make logical sense and connect to one another. The topic chain helps focus the reader’s attention on a particular topic throughout the entire paragraph and keeps your paper organized throughout. As always, feel free to stop by the Writing Center (Mon-Thurs 1-9 PM and Friday 1-4 PM) for more help! Happy writing!

The Difference Between Editing and Revising



          Hello, Marauders! Welcome back to another info session. Picture this: You’ve just finished writing a paper. What do you do then? Do you simply turn it in and be done with it? Maybe. Or do you go back and edit it? Reread it? Look it over to check for any mistakes or things you missed or need to add? Picture this: You submit your paper, but then you get feedback that tells you to edit and revise your paper. Are those things the same or different? What is editing and what is revising? Today we’ll be talking about the difference between editing and revising. These are two major steps in the writing process that are very important to distinguish! 


          So, what is revising? Basically, it’s when you look at your paper after you’ve finished a draft and you think, “What can I do to improve this? Does anything need to be changed? Does anything need to be eliminated?” MIT Global Studies and Languages states that when you revise, you are “re-seeing your paper in a new way.” 

          Think of it as big-picture stuff. Imagine the contents of your paper: your introduction, your thesis, your body paragraphs, your conclusion, etc. When you revise, you look at these sections more critically and analytically. You have all the information written down, so now you just need to refine it and flesh it out even more. You can ask yourself things like: 

        • Is my paper structured and organized in a way that makes it easy for the reader to follow and understand? 
        • Does my introduction give an adequate background or summary of the overall purpose/goal of my paper?
        • Is my thesis statement clear and concise? Or is it too broad or too vague? 
        • Do my body paragraphs and evidence support my thesis? 
        • Do I need to expand on certain ideas? 
        • Is this information important/relevant to my topic or do I need to cut it because it doesn’t fit within the scope of my paper? 
        • Does my conclusion summarize the main points of my paper and end with a strong concluding statement? 

          In short, revising focuses on improving the ideas and organization of your paper. When I’m revising, I always like to look back over the rubric to see if I’ve met all the major requirements. Have I answered all the prompts? Does my paper include all the necessary components (introduction, body, conclusion, etc.)? It’s also helpful to have someone read over it to help you find places where the paper works and where it doesn’t, like if it flows well, if it’s well-organized, and if it’s easy to follow and understand. 


          Now, what about editing? Whereas revising is big-picture stuff, editing is small-picture stuff. Editing is when you go through your paper and look for sentence-level issues, such as

        • Punctuation, grammatical, and spelling errors  
        • Sentence clarity 
        • Proper citations 

          Editing is getting nitty-gritty with your paper on a much smaller scale. At this stage of the writing process, you might be exhausted and ready to be done. I always like to advise people to read their paper out loud; it helps to catch places where it doesn’t flow as well, or if there’s a place you need another comma, or if you accidentally missed a word. Again, it doesn’t hurt to have someone else look over your paper–a fresh pair of eyes can catch things you missed even if you did read your paper out loud, and they might even have other suggestions on how to improve your writing.


           So, just to recap: Revising is looking at your paper as a whole and searching for ways to improve your ideas and organization. Editing is looking at your paper at the sentence level, searching for errors, and asking yourself if your sentences make sense. Please visit the Writing Center any time from 1 pm – 9 pm on Mondays through Thursdays, and on Fridays from 1 pm – 4 pm for editing and revising help! I hope this helps clarify the difference between these two important writing steps! Happy writing! 


Who is the Writing Center For?

          Hello, Marauders! Welcome back to another day of learning something important! Today, I’ll be talking about who the Writing Center is open to–you! Who can come to the Writing Center? The answer is everyone and anyone who needs help with a writing assignment! 

          Here at the Writing Center, peer tutors help students with brainstorming, organizing, revising, and more. Our peer tutors are students who help fellow students improve their writing and gain a better understanding of the writing process. If it sounds strange or bothersome to have someone your age be your tutor, don’t worry! It can be a little daunting to have a fellow student or potential classmate look at your writing and give you feedback on it. Maybe you’re worried that they’re going to judge your work or mercilessly rip it apart and point out all the mistakes and flaws in it.

           BUT! It actually isn’t as bad as you might think, and let me tell you why. At the Writing Center, we don’t judge your work and we don’t do feedback like that. We don’t sit and mark up your paper with red ink. Rather, we work WITH you to help you better understand the assignment, the requirements, your goals for it, and what YOU want to focus on. We understand the time and effort you put into writing that paper, and we understand that it may or may not have been your favorite assignment ever…

          After all, we are students too, just like you–which means that just like you, we are also learning and improving as we go. We also have questions and we also definitely don’t know everything! Our top priority is to help you the best we can to improve your writing skills and help you gain confidence in your writing. 

          I hope this helps clarify who the Writing Center is for. Some helpful reminders: 

  • We are open Monday through Thursday from 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm and on Fridays from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. 
  • We offer in-person, online, and Zoom tutoring sessions. Schedule an appointment with us through Starfish (see How to Schedule an Appointment on Starfish for instructions) or feel free to drop in! Our location is McNairy Library Room 106.
  • Contact us by emailing writing.center@millersville.edu or calling (717) 871-7389.

Remember: You are important to us and we want to help you become the best writer you can be! Happy writing!

Chicago Style In-Text Citations


          How’s it going, Marauders? We’re already in Week 6, and that means papers are rolling in and midterms are coming up. With papers and midterms come writing – MLA! APA! References! In-text citations! A Works Cited page! These are words that college students are well acquainted with, and today we’ll be talking about none other than in-text citations. 

          APA and MLA are the two citation formats that many are probably the most familiar with (check out our other blog post about In-Text Citations: APA and MLA for more information!). But there’s another one that occasionally pops up here at the Writing Center that’s far less common. Have you ever heard of Chicago, or needed to use it? What is it, and how and when do you use it? Chicago format is typically found in Business, History, and the Fine Arts (Pitt LibGuides). There are two main styles of citations that fall under Chicago: The Notes-Bibliography System, and the Author-Date System. 

The Notes-Bibliography System 

          The first citation system we’ll talk about is the Notes-Bibliography System. The following information is from Purdue OWL: Books and Purdue OWL: Periodicals. In the Notes-Bibliography System, the in-text citation does NOT go directly into the text. Instead, you put a little number at the end of your quote. The footnote or endnote (in other words, the in-text citation) for a book would look like this, and would go at the very bottom of the page: 

“Outside, the thunder growled. There was no sign of the sun; the wind had dragged the clouds across the entire sky. It was going to be a wild night.”

1. First name Last name, Title of Book (Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication), page number.

1. Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven King (New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2016), 118. 

          For a journal article found online in a database or something similar, the in-text citation would look like this: 

1. First name Last name, “Article title,” Journal Title, volume, issue # (month year): page number(s), date accessed, retrieval information (DOI or URL).

1. Henry E. Bent, “Professionalization of the Ph.D. Degree,” The Journal of Higher Education, 30, no. 3 (March 1959): 140-146, accessed September 25, 2023, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1978286

The Author-Date System

          The second citation system is the Author-Date System. In this system, you put the information (author’s last name, year of publication, and page number if available) directly in the text in parentheses, which is very similar to APA. The in-text citation for a book would look like this: 

“Outside, the thunder growled. There was no sign of the sun; the wind had dragged the clouds across the entire sky. It was going to be a wild night” (Stiefvater 2016, 118). 

          What would a journal article look like? Scribbr: Chicago In-Text Citations reports that the Author-Date style of in-text citations “looks the same for every type of source” (Caulfield 2019, under “Option 1: Author-date in-text citations”). For instance, if we take the journal article example in the Notes-Bibliography section and format it in the author-date style, the in-text citation would look like this: 

“The most important single factor obscuring the nature of the Doctor’s degree arises from the large number of degree-holders in the teaching profession” (Bent 1959, 141). 

          So, if you’re using the Author-Date System, the in-text citation would look the same no matter what kind of source you use. A book, a journal article, a website, etc. would all follow the same format: (Author last name year of publication, page number). 

Missing Information 

          Sometimes, there’s no author, no page number(s), or no publication date, which is all important information you want to include if it’s there. But if it’s not there, then what do you do? How does this change the citation? 

  • If there’s no page number, you can either omit it or you can specify where the information came from by using chapters, headings, or paragraphs (see above for example). 
  • If there’s no author, you can cite the organization’s name. For example: (Scribbr 2022).  
  • If there’s no publication date, write n.d. (which stands for “no date”) in the place where the publication year would go. For example: (Stiefavter n.d., 118). 


          Well, there you have it, folks! That’s a brief crash course on how to format citations in Chicago style. We talked about when Chicago format is used (most common in History, Business, and the Fine Arts). We also discussed the two different styles of in-text citations: The Notes-Bibliography System and the Author-Date System. Finally, we learned what to do if there’s missing information. For more helpful information about Chicago style, in-text citations, and references, visit Purdue OWL. For now, good luck and happy writing! You got this!

How to Schedule an Appointment on Starfish

Good afternoon, students and faculty of Millersville University! Recently, the Writing Center has switched the software for making appointments to Starfish. Some of you may have heard of Starfish before—most likely from the kudos emails in your Outlook inbox. It’s a new platform that helps connect MU students, professors, advisors, and more.

But since Starfish hasn’t been around very long, there are a lot of students who may not know how to use it, let alone how to use it for the Writing Center. So today’s post is going to be some straightforward instructions:

  1. Go to MU Logins  and Select Starfish: https://www.millersville.edu/logins/
  2. On Starfish, in the upper left-hand corner, click on the three lines, scroll down, and select “My Success Network.”  
  3. Scroll down to the box that says “The Writing Center,” click the “Schedule” button in the bottom left-hand corner, and follow the instructions. 

And that’s how you use Starfish to make an appointment for the Writing Center! You should get a confirmation email soon afterward. If you’ve gone through these instructions and are still confused, that’s okay. You can also set up an appointment by emailing us at Writing.Center@millersville.edu, calling us at 717-871-7389, or visiting us at McNairy 106 between 1 and 9 PM every Monday through Thursday and 1 to 4 PM on Fridays. Good luck, and see you at the Center!

The Difference Between Primary and Secondary Sources

Picture this: Your professor has just assigned a research project. They’re going through the guidelines: must be a certain number of pages, has to be double-spaced and in 12-point Times New Roman font, has to have a bibliography, etc. But then they say something you haven’t heard before: the project must have at least three-to-five primary sources.

So, what exactly is a primary source? Well, let’s back up a little. While doing research, it’s important to use sources to support the claims that you’re making and explain the evidence behind what you’re saying. A strong research project will always have sources. It lends the project credibility and gives you a better understanding of your subject (not to mention, it helps you avoid plagiarism charges).

With all that in mind, let’s get back to primary sources. In the broadest term possible, a primary source is something directly written about the subject of your research. They were created at the same time as the subject and were written about people who were there to see the subject take place. Think of them as “the raw materials of history” (Wesson). Primary sources can come in any kind of format, such as government reports, journals and autobiographies. Even other research papers (specifically those published in scholarly journals) can be primary sources!

But sometimes, you may find a source that was written about a primary source—things like textbooks, newspaper articles, and biographies. Those are called secondary sources. Although secondary sources don’t have the same type of “lived experience” as a primary source, they’re still quite valuable for contextualizing primary sources against new evidence, as well as helping you contextualize your own opinions on the subject (Streefkerk). Sometimes there can be an overlap between primary and secondary sources. For example: while news articles are considered secondary sources, the quotes in them can be primary sources if they were taken from people who witnessed or were involved with the subject. It mostly depends on your research question (“Primary Sources: A Research Guide”). Either way, no great research project is complete without either of them.

So now that we know what a primary source is, that leaves us with one question: Why are they so important? Well, primary sources allow a more in-depth look at a subject because it was written by someone who had tangible experience with it. Not to mention, there are less chances of bias or other people’s interpretation of the subject affecting them. You may not be able to find the full, unvarnished truth about a subject, but primary sources are often the closest thing to it.

Good luck, and happy writing!


Works Cited

“Primary Sources: A Research Guide.” Healey Library, https://umb.libguides.com/PrimarySources/secondary. Accessed 7 April 2023.

Streefkerk, Raimo. “Primary vs. Secondary Sources | Difference & Examples.” Scribbr, 20 June 2018, https://www.scribbr.com/working-with-sources/primary-and-secondary-sources/. Accessed 7 April 2023.

Wesson, Stephen. “What Makes a Primary Source a Primary Source?” Library of Congress Blogs, 4 October 2011, https://blogs.loc.gov/teachers/2011/10/what-makes-a-primary-source-a-primary-source/. Accessed 7 April 2023.