Scheduling 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 straight-forward instructions:

  1. Go to MU Logins  and Select Starfish:
  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 

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, calling us at 717-871-7389, or by visiting us at McNairy 106 between 1 and 9 PM every Monday through Thursday and 6 to 9 PM on Sundays. 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, Accessed 7 April 2023.

Streefkerk, Raimo. “Primary vs. Secondary Sources | Difference & Examples.” Scribbr, 20 June 2018, Accessed 7 April 2023.

Wesson, Stephen. “What Makes a Primary Source a Primary Source?” Library of Congress Blogs, 4 October 2011, Accessed 7 April 2023.

In-Text Citations: MLA and APA

Picture this: you’re writing something for a class and you need to look at outside sources for it. Finding the sources was easy, but your teacher wants you to cite those sources—not just in a bibliography or reference page, but in an in-text citation. You might be wondering, How do I do that? Well, that’s why for this week’s post, we’re going to talk about the in-text citations and how they work for two common citation styles. Let’s get into it!

First, a definition: an in-text citation is when you use an outside source to directly support a claim in your essay. They lead readers to sources that’ll help them understand whatever is being talked about in the text. In-text citations are less tricky than most people think, but the hard part is figuring out how to format them for a specific citation style.

The two citation styles that use in-text citations the most are MLA and APA format. MLA format is popular in English and other humanities courses. When you have an in-text citation for MLA, you want to cite your source by listing the name of the author in parentheses after the claim or quote, and then following it with a page number. Of course, that’s assuming you haven’t mentioned the author already. Here are a couple of examples of this in action:

And if you’re doing a quote that is four lines or longer, you want to give it its own paragraph:

APA format, on the other hand, is used for courses in the social sciences like psychology and social work (which makes sense, because it was created by the American Psychological Association). APA format works similarly to MLA format, except instead of listing the page number after the author/title, you want add a comma and list the date of publication:

Of course, that’s only if you’re not directly quoting the source. If you are, you also need to include the page number. Also, the date needs to go after the person who said it:

And just like last time, if you’re doing a quote that is four lines or longer, it gets its own paragraph:

And that’s how you do an in-text citation! Including them will only make your project stronger and your research more credible. Not to mention, it automatically makes you the coolest person in the classroom (Vitti 5). 

Joking aside—good luck, and happy writing!

How to Write an Outline

For this week’s blog post, we’re going to take a look at how to create an outline. An outline is a rough idea for any written subject. Outlines are an easy and time-efficient way to understand complex subjects, and they can help you learn about what you want to write about in a paper and why. And if you follow these tips, you’ll have yours done in no time. Let’s get into it!

Before you start, it’s important to know what you’re going to write about. Your professor probably gave you a general topic, but what are you specifically going to write about? What do you want to write about? For situations like these, it might be best to have a brainstorming section first. Brainstorming is a chance to get all of your ideas down without having to worry about what you’re going to do with them. Think of it as a chance to let your mind wander until you find a topic/aspect of your topic that interests you.

For example, let’s say your Digital Marketing professor wants you to write about one of the forms of online promotion and why it is beneficial. A good way to brainstorm for this would be to write down everything you know about the forms online promotion and see if there’s anything that interests you:

Once you have a better understanding of what you want to write about, you have to find your thesis statement. A thesis statement is essentially the main idea of your paper. It’s the specific viewpoint/opinion of your topic that you want to develop and explain to your audience. 

To continue the example: let’s say you’ve decided to write about blogs. Ideally, you’d try and craft a statement talking about what a blog is and how someone can use it for self-promotion:

When all that’s done, you want to organize your ideas through a bulleted list. You should have sections for your introduction, your main ideas, and your conclusion. In each of those sections, you should add what you want to talk about in them. Your introduction should include any relevant background information the audience needs to understand the subject. Your main points will include evidence to support them. And your conclusion will feature a restatement of your thesis and a review of your main points, and a potential call to action at the end of the post. At the end of everything, your outline should look something like this:

And that’s how you create an outline!  Remember, this is a great way to figure out what you want to do for an assignment before you even start writing. It may not be mandatory, but every little bit helps. Good luck and happy writing!

About Us

Hello, Millersville students and staff! Welcome to the Writing Center’s blog!

For those of you that don’t know what we’re all about, the Writing Center is a place where you can get help with, well, writing. Our mission statement comes down to five words: “Every Writer Needs a Reader”. So if you need help figuring out grammar or citation styles for a term paper, or if you want tips on how to create the perfect resume or cover letter, our staff of trained tutors can guide you through it. We help at any stage of the writing process, whether it’s brainstorming or implementing a professor’s feedback. And the best part is that we’re all students, just like you. We know what it’s like to need a second pair of eyes on something before you submit it. Whether it’s written up or typed down, we are more than happy to help.

If you would like to schedule an appointment, whether it’s in-person or over Zoom, you can email us at or call us at (717) 871-7389. We also accept walk-ins! You can find us at McNairy 106 (right across from the Starbucks) every Monday through Thursday from 1-9 PM, and on Sundays from 6-9 PM. Either way, we hope to see you around!

Grammar Guide III: Thesis Statements

Thesis statements are the bones of a paper but they can be hard to begin. This guide is full of tips & tricks to help create powerful thesis statements!


The first thing to do for your thesis statement is pick what kind of paper you’re  writing.

What this means: Narrow the focus of the work by deciding if it’s analytical, explanatory, narrative, or persuasive

Example: Making a claim about a topic(s) and justifying that claim = persuasive → “Millersville students enjoy the pond more than any other place on campus, this is because…”


Find a placement for your thesis statement that works for your paper. 

What this means: A thesis statement is traditionally at the end of the intro paragraph; however, for some papers it actually functions better within the conclusion to wrap up all the ideas. 

Example:Persuasive essays have a “convince” component therefore the thesis works better in the beginning; narrative essays have a “story” component so there is more placement flexibility


Don’t be afraid to change it!

What this means: Essays change and flow as you write them, sometimes thesis statements need to change and that is normal

Example: You originally thought more Millersville students liked the pond the most, as you research you find out they like the pond and the library equally – your thesis statement needs to mirror these findings. 


Make sure it is clear & coherent.

What this means: Your thesis statement needs to set up the focus for the paper, it sets the tone. You want it to be clear and direct to the point. You also want it to give a coherent tone throughout your paper.

Example: You don’t want to have a 5 sentence thesis statement filled with unnecessary information → clear. You don’t want your paper to have a professional tone and your thesis statement to be informal → cohesive. 


Thesis statements should be focused and avoid generalization.

What that means: Thesis statements need to have clarity and focus, generalizations do not stand up well because then the paper will have a general voice not a clear one.  

Example: “Many people feel the effects of climate change.” → TRY→ “Due to the expansion of knowledge on social media, more people are turning their attention to the effects of climate change.” 


Make sure the main topics listed in your thesis statement are the topics addressed in your body paragraphs. 

What that means: If you list certain main points within your thesis statement, they need to carry through to the body paragraphs and conclude together in the conclusion – WITHOUT adding extra main topics not included in the thesis.  

Example: “Students at Millersville enjoy reading, eating, and singing around campus because of the happy atmosphere the university strives to have.” → the body paragraphs should then address the 3 main topics, explain them, give background/evidence, and create a case. Then be wrapped up together in the conclusion. (An example on how not to do this is to take the same above idea, but add a random paragraph about doing theater and or adding new information not stated into your conclusion.)


Thesis statements DO NOT have to be only one sentence!

What that means: If your thesis statements need to be broken up into a few sentences that is okay! Especially if it is a very long paper with a lot of data to go over. However, it should be 1-2 sentences, 3 at the very very most. 

Example: “Students at Millersville University tend to like the company of furry friends over real ones. The love for animals on the campus is staggering, however, the dog is enjoyed more so than the cat, fish, or bird.”


Additional Resources to Utilize: 

Grammar Guide II: Commas and How to Use Them

Commas can be tricky, and knowing where to put them can be even trickier. This guide has resources and tips to help you along your comma journey!

Make sure to use a comma before any conjunction (and, or, but, for, nor, so, yet) that combines to separate clauses.

What this means: When you have two separate clauses in your sentence that are split by a conjunction (like “and” for example), you need a comma to separate those clauses properly

Example: Today I went to the store, and I bought some apples.

Make sure to use a comma after any dependent clause that is beginning a sentence.

What this means: A dependent clause is a clause that has a subject and verb, but does not make sense on it’s own. Due to the fact that it cannot stand alone, it needs a comma to separate it from the rest of the sentence.

Example: When I went on a walk today, the breeze felt amazing on my face.

Make sure to use a comma before using an appositive anywhere in a sentence.

What this means: An appositive is a phrase that “renames” or gives more information about another phrase in a sentence. When an appositive is being used, a comma must separate it from the clause(s) it surrounds.

Example: A dove, a type of bird, flew by me today on my walk. 

Make sure to separate items in a series with commas.

What this means: When listing anything in a sentence, the items must be separated by commas.

Example: I went to the store to buy eggs, milk, toilet paper, and chips, but they were out of everything!

Make sure to use a comma after an introductory element in a sentence. 

What this means: Starting a sentence with an adverb or words like “however”, “furthermore”, etc. require a comma after them before continuing the sentence.

Example: Finally, my family was able to get a nice picture for our Christmas card.

Always use a comma when implementing a quote into a paper. 

What this means: Before you begin a quote in your paper, if there is any writing before it, a comma must be used.

Example: As once said by Shakespeare long ago, “No”.

Use a comma when you are beginning any sentence with a stand alone “yes” or “no”.

What this means: Make sure to use a comma after “yes” or “no” if that is how you choose to begin a sentence.

Example: Yes, I unloaded the dishwasher this morning. 

Make sure to use a comma between two adjectives that modify one noun.

What this means: If you are describing something in your sentence with more than one adjective in a row, there must be a comma to separate them.

Example: The large, colorful rainbow curved right over my house. 

Be aware of using a comma before the word but, it should only be used when connecting two independent clauses. 

What this means: Only use a comma before but if the information before or after has a subject, verb, and can stand on its own.

Example: I wanted to speak, but I was unable to get out the words. 

Remember to not use a comma to keep a verb a part from the subject it’s relating to.

What this means: In this instance, commas are required if you have a list of things or are using a prepositional phrase.

Example: Wrong: My dog, is a very good swimmer. Right: The Cowboys, Seahawks, and Broncos play this Sunday.

Watch out for nouns used as compound subjects or objects that are separated by commas.

What this means: Nouns placed with each other as compound subjects or objects shouldn’t be put apart by commas. A comma in a situation like this would be an unneeded pause in the sentence. 

Example: Wrong: Matt, and Ben are going to get groceries. Right: Matt and Ben are going to get groceries. 

Make sure to refrain from comma use with compound predicates containing two verbs. 

What this means: Compound predicates, sentence subjects performing multiple actions, are meant to stay together when two verbs are in the sentence.

Example: Wrong: James is playing offense, and defense for the football team. Right: James is playing offense and defense for the football team.

Beware of the common mistake of comma splicing.

What this means: This is when two independent clauses aren’t made into two separate sentences, have a conjunction, or semicolon.

Example: Wrong: The mall was closed, we went back to the house. Right ways: The mall was closed. We went back to the house. The mall was closed, so we went back to the house. The mall was closed; we went back to the house.

Watch out for the use of commas with comparisons.

What this means: The word “than” doesn’t need a comma before when it’s being used to compare something in a sentence.

Example: Incorrect: My team is better, than yours. Correct: My team is better than yours.

Make sure to include commas with your interrupters or parenthetical elements.

What this means: Interrupters are ideas placed in the center of sentences that reveal how we feel, sound, and what we pay much attention to. Parenthetical elements are phrases consisting of more information than a sentence needs to complete it.

Example: Incorrect: My bike the best one I ever had is the fastest on the block. Correct: My bike, the best one I ever had, is the fastest on the block.

Remember to add a comma before a question tag.

What this means: Question tags make small phrases or a word ending statements a question. 

Example:  Incorrect: This is the best steak I ever had isn’t it? Correct: This is the best steak I ever had, isn’t it?

Please make sure to add commas with a direct address.

What this means: It’s appropriate to use commas after addressing people by name.

Example: Incorrect: Dad can I go to the playground? Correct: Dad, can I go to the playground?

Don’t forget to add commas with dates.

What this means: If a sentence has a date in month-day-year format, add a comma after it. If it’s a day-month-year format, no commas are needed. If a sentence includes a week day and date, add a comma. If there’s a month and year, no commas are needed. 

Examples: Incorrect month-day-year format: March 21, 2009 was when I first received my driver’s license. Correct: March 21, 2009, was when I first received my driver’s license. Incorrect day-month-year format: Make sure the rent money is given to the landlord by, 9 April 2018. Correct: Make sure the rent money is given to the landlord by 9 April 2018. Incorrect day week and date format: On Friday September 19 we will go get supplies for the party. Correct: On Friday, September 19, we will go get supplies for the party. Incorrect month and year format: The amusement park opens in, April 2012. Correct: The amusement park opens in April 2012.

Remember to add commas between coordinating adjectives.

What this means: Commas should be put between multiple adjectives describing a noun in a sentence.

Example: Incorrect: Dave can be a nice calm relaxed person in times of controversy. Correct: Dave can be a nice, calm, relaxed person in times of controversy.

Watch you use commas in sentences with “and”.

What this means: In sentences containing only two listed items with and, no comma is required.

Example: Incorrect: Jacob is a strong, and smart wrestler. Correct: Jacob is a strong and smart wrestler.

Make sure to include commas in sentences with lists.

What this means: Lists with more than two components need commas separating them.

Example: Incorrect: The Cowboys Jets and Eagles play at 1 pm. On Sunday. Correct: The Cowboys, Jets, and Eagles play at 1 pm. On Sunday.

Refrain from using commas to separate a verb and its object.

What this means: Commas aren’t allowed to put apart a transitive verb and its direct object.

Example: Incorrect: Charles is, studying for his test. Correct: Charles is studying for his test.

Make sure to add commas with nonrestrictive clauses.

What this means: Nonrestrictive clauses give more information than needed to talk about a thing in a sentence. They’re normally started with which or who, being added with a comma.

Example: Incorrect: James’s toy which his dad bought for him is a spider man action figure. Correct: James’s toy, which his dad bought for him, is a spider man action figure.

Watch commas with restrictive clauses.

What this means: These also include more information, but it’s actually needed for the sentence. They’re usually started with that or who, refraining from comma use.

Example: Incorrect: The toy, that his dad brought, is a spider man action figure. Correct: The toy that his dad brought is a spider man action figure.

Don’t use commas between correlative conjunctions.

What this means: These conjunctions are paired (either/or, neither/or, and not only/but also) and no commas are needed.

Example: Incorrect: Either John will go to the store, or Matt will go. Correct: Either John will go to the store or Matt will go.

Add commas between direct quotes and attributive tags.

What this means: Attributive tags phrases, such as “he said” and “she said” show quotes spoken by a person. In quotes, they may be before, after, or in the middle of them. Comma are required to separate them from one another. Attributive tags with quotes ending in question marks and exclamation points don’t require commas.

Example: Correct: “Dinner is ready,” Matt said, “come get your plate.” Incorrect: “Dinner is ready” Matt said “come get your plate.” Correct: “Put your clothes away!” my mom said.  Incorrect: “Put your clothes away!”, my mom said.

Remember the correct placement of commas inside quotation marks.

What this means: make sure to put a comma before ending a quote with a quotation mark.

Example: Incorrect: “Where is my watch”, said Peter. Correct: “Where is my watch,” said Peter.

Never put commas before parenthesis.

What this means: They are used when extra information in the sentence would mess up its understanding, if used as a nonrestrictive clause. Only put commas after you close parenthesis. Sentences without parenthetical statements that don’t need shouldn’t have commas added if parenthesis are put in them.

Example: Incorrect: By practicing great at training camp, (and out playing the other quarterbacks,) Jake won the starting job. Correct: By practicing great at training camp (and out playing the other quarterbacks), Jake won the starting job.

Watch commas between an article and noun.

What this means: Commas between an article and noun are not allowed.

Example: Incorrect:John asked me to go to the, store for him. Correct: John asked me to go to the store for him.

There are specifics to adding commas with As Well As.

What this means: Only use a comma with this phrase if it’s connected with a nonrestrictive clause.

Example: Incorrect: Dogs as well as mammals make decisions based on their animal instincts. Correct: Dogs, as well as, mammals make decisions based on their animal instincts.

There are specifics to adding commas with Such As.

What this means: If introducing a nonrestrictive clause, add commas with “such as.” If introducing a restrictive clause, commas aren’t needed.

Example: Nonrestrictive Clause: Mike’s cake, such as the chocolate one, looks delicious. Restrictive Clause: The cake such as the chocolate one looks delicious. 

It’s up to you to decide on using a comma before Too.

What this means: You don’t have to use a comma before “too,” but you can if you want.

Example: Correct: Jake is my friend, too. He, too, is my friend. Jake is my friend too. He too is my friend.

Pay attention to commas with addresses.

What this means: Commas are needed to separate address elements, also using them with city-state combos. 

Example: Incorrect: Philadelphia Pennsylvania is a great sports town.Correct: philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a great sports town. Incorrect: The perpetrator was seen going to Roosevelt Blvd. North Philadelphia Pa. 19152. Correct: The perpetrator was seen going to Roosevelt Blvd. North, Philadelphia, Pa. 19152.

Importance of comma use while addressing people.

What this means: Sentences directly addressing people or things need commas.

Example: Incorrect: Go home Bob. Correct: Go home, Bob.

Offset negations and commas.

What this means: Sentences with offset negations need commas. 

Example: Incorrect: The bike not the car has a flat tire. Correct: The bike, not the car, has a flat tire.

Commas with numbers

What this means: Numbers larger than 999 need commas in them, except year and house numbers.

Example: Incorrect: I made $1000 today. Correct: I made $1,000 today.

Commas and clarifications

What this means: Sentences with important clarifications need commas.

Example: Incorrect: Jackson Michaels is having a sale. Correct: Jackson, Michaels is having a sale.

Here are other websites to check if you need more help:

Grammar Guide I: Most Common Grammar Mistakes

The most common college writing mistakes, and how to fix/avoid them

Wrong Word

What this means: the word may convey a slightly different meaning than you believe it does, or it may mean something completely different altogether.

Example: “Perspective” and “Prevalence”: similar words, very different meaning

How to fix/avoid this common mistake: Make sure to check a thesaurus for any words you are unsure of, and do not ignore spell/grammar checks on your writing device. Have a peer read the work aloud as well. 

 Missing Comma After Introductory Element

What this means: After you introduce a sentence or clause, there needs to be a comma so that the reader knows where the rest of the sentence begins.

Example: “Determined to pass the class I studied every day.” should be “Determined to pass the class, I studied every day.”

How to fix/avoid this common mistake: When you read a sentence, make sure you can separate the subject from the rest easily. If not, the introductory element most likely needs a comma after it. When you are using a phrase to introduce the start of your sentence, there should always be a comma to break it up.

Missing of In-Text Citations/Documentation

What this means: This occurs when you don’t add where you get your information in your paper or quote words that aren’t your own. Even though you may have a reference list at the end of your paper on a separate page you must still add in-text citations. 

Example: There is going to be a new model of Toyota coming in 2022. If this isn’t in your own words, you need to put this in quotations and mention the source.  

How to fix/avoid this common mistake: Remember to make sure you quote words in your paper that aren’t your own or paraphrase your information, putting it in your own words. Also, mention the source.

Vague Pronoun Reference 

What this means: This is when pronouns (he, she, it) should be able to be easily related to being put in the place of a noun which is the antecedent. In situations where the antecedent is a few words or unidentifiable, make it simpler to understand. 

Example: The NFL changed its helmet policy, making some players resentful.

How to fix/avoid this common mistake: Make sure to identify what the players resented.


What this means: Although we have technical resources that will look over the mistakes we made in our paper, please realize that these resources may not catch all of them. This leads to common errors like the example below.

Example: We went to the Parkers’ house to enjoy there barbecue.

How to fix/avoid this common mistake: Take time to read over the paper yourself instead of relying on technology.

Mechanical Error with a Quotation

What this means: When you use someone else’s words without signaling that they aren’t your own, this is when this error takes place. This means you forgot to put quotation marks (“,”) around the quote. 

Example: Edgar Allan Poe stated we loved with a love that was more than love.

How to fix/avoid this common mistake: When you get to the person’s quote, start it as a new sentence and use quotations.

Unnecessary Comma

What this means: Sometimes when writing you add a comma because you think that it belongs in the sentence, but it actually just obscures the meaning.

Example: Many people, who enjoy TV, spend their time on the couch. 

How to fix/avoid this common mistake: Do not use commas to separate elements that need to be together to make sense, and do not use a comma after an “and” or “but” when those conjunctions do not separate the sentence into two parts. 

Faulty Sentence Structure

What this means: Starting out a sentence with one structure, and then ending it with another type.

Example: “The information that families have access to is what financial aid is available and thinking about the classes available, and how to register.”

How to fix/avoid this common mistake: Make sure to maintain a consistent grammatical pattern throughout your sentence, and read it out loud to ensure that it flows properly.

Unnecessary Shift in Verb Tense

What this means: Shifting between tenses in the middle of a sentence.

Example: She loved birds, she takes photos of them outside every morning on her walk. 

How to fix/avoid this common mistake: Make sure to check your sentences and if they are in present tense, keep the verbs in present tense throughout the entire sentence.

Comma Splice

What this means: Using only a comma to separate two clauses that could be in their own individual sentence. 

Example: Emily loves going to the park, she spends a lot of time reading under a tree when she goes to the park. 

How to fix/avoid this common mistake: Use a semicolon or period to separate the sentences and let them stand alone!

Run-on Sentence

What this means: Joining clauses that could stand alone without any punctuation in between them.

Example: Emily loves going to the park she spends a lot of time reading under a tree when she goes to the park.

How to fix/avoid this common mistake: Add a semicolon or period to split up the clauses.

Poorly Integrated Quotation

What this means: This is when quotes are just thrown into the paper without properly signaling that you’re adding them in first.

Example: “There is not enough time for them to change their ways on such short notice.”

How to fix/avoid this common mistake: In the sentence, say where you got the quote from before you quote your source.

Missing or Unnecessary Hyphen

What this means: Compound adjectives may or may not need hyphens depending on if it supports the noun coming with it.

Examples: There was a mouse-eating snake in the woods earlier.

There was a mouse eating snake in the woods earlier.

How to fix this/avoid this common mistake: Pay attention to if your adjectives are needed to represent the noun. 

Sentence Fragment

What this means: These occur when a sentence has a part in it that is put as a separate sentence when it should be a part of the whole sentence.

Example: Mark came home with much dirt on his clothes. From playing in the park all day.

How to fix/avoid this common mistake: Include the second sentence in the first because the second sentence doesn’t make sense on its own.  


Unnecessary or Missing Apostrophe (including its/it’s)

What this means: When a noun owns something, an apostrophe and s (Will’s watch) or the apostrophe by itself (mens’ sports) is needed. Some possessive pronouns don’t require apostrophes like these for example: his, hers, theirs. “Its” refers to something being owned by it and “it’s” refers to it is/ it has meaning.

Examples: Make sure to have Milo’s dog food ready by dinner time. The mens’ 100 meter dash is coming up soon.

How to fix/avoid this common mistake: Remember to that nouns that own with no “s” at the end of it need that and an apostrophe; just add apostrophes to words ending in “s.’” 

Missing Comma with a Nonrestrictive Element

What this means: Nonrestrictive phrases include extra text that a   sentence doesn’t need for the meaning of it. Commas are needed to tell them apart from the rest of the sentence. 

Example: Mike the best player on the court hit a buzzer beater. The clause needing commas around it in the sentence is “the best player on the court.”  Mike, the best player on the court, hit a buzzer beater. 

How to fix/avoid this common mistake: If extra words in the sentence can be avoided, then you shouldn’t add them in there. However, if need be, red over the sentence with extra words to determine if a certain clause needs commas around it. 



The Difference Between an Abstract and an Introduction

Introductions and abstracts are two things that seem very similar, but are actually quite different. However, once you know the difference, they are easy to keep separate from each other.


An abstract is, at its most basic level, a summary. It outlines all of the important parts of your paper to the reader, so they can figure out if your paper is worth reading. This is why abstracts are important in the scientific field. They are a fast way for someone to analyze what is going to be said, and if that information is going to be beneficial for them.


An introduction provides the reader with detailed background information about a topic. This helps the reader make sense of what is going to be said later in the paper. If they do not understand the most basic parts of your topic, then they are not going to understand what you are trying to convey.


Now that you know the difference between the two, here is some advice for writing them:


The abstract is easiest to write last. By that point, you will have already written everything else, and you should know the important takeaways of your work. In the abstract, you should introduce your topic, discuss why you choose this topic, state your hypothesis, and reveal the results of your study. Remember, the abstract is like a summary. You should not go into a lot of detail here. Provide the reader with enough information that they can digest what you are saying. You will explain everything else in detail later in your paper. 


The introduction is one of the most important parts of your paper. However, introductions vary based on the genre of paper. For this blog post, introductions for scientific papers are going to be discussed because abstracts are a staple of scientific reports. An introduction for a scientific paper should explain the reasoning behind why you choose this experiment, provide background information about the topic, reference other studies done on similar topics, and state your hypothesis. You want to make sure your reader can understand what is going to be said later in the paper. 


Here are a few websites that have some more information about the two: