Student Guides: Research and Writing Guidelines and Resources


All scholarly work must include full and proper citations, in which you acknowledge the source of any arguments, statistics, or exact quotes that you include in an essay. Either in-text (sometimes called “MLA”) referencing or footnote/endnote style (commonly called “Chicago Style”) referencing may be used in all of my courses at 2nd-year and above (for 1st-year courses you must use Chicago Style). You must, however, use one of these systems. For information on, and examples of, Chicago style see Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History (New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004). You can also find short, useful guides to both styles at

Proofing Abbreviations and Grammatical Terms

We will use the following set of abbreviations and grammatical terms when marking your essays.

run-on: a sentence where two sentences, which should be separate, are run together (Bill hit the ball he is a good batter.)

cs: comma splice: a run-on sentence where the two sentences are joined by a comma

lc: lower case (change the capital letter to lower case)

uc: upper case (change the lower case letter to a capital)

frag: sentence fragment (the sentence is missing a verb or subject—usually a verb)

sp: incorrect spelling

ds: change to double space

ss: change to single space

ID: identify (who is this person?; what is this organization?; etc)

awk: the sentence sounds awkward—thus, usually, obscuring your point. Re-word it

vag: vague: re-word in order to make the point in a more specific or detailed manner

ww: wrong word (the word doesn’t mean what you appear to be using it to mean)

nw: not a word

trans: transition: the point doesn’t appear to follow logically from the previous point

ref: what concept, person, etc. does this pronoun refer to?

?: I don’t understand what this sentence means/what you’re trying to say here

pv: passive voice. A way of structuring sentences that you should try to avoid as much as possible, although don’t be fanatical about it (as some people are): it does have its uses. In the active voice, the subject precedes the verb which precedes the object (“John hit Bill”), whereas in the passive the object precedes the verb (“Bill was hit by John”). The problem (or one problem ) with the passive voice is that it is often used to omit the subject entirely, thus hiding who actually did what (“Bill was hit”). It also makes your writing sound vague and hesitant.

clause:Any group of words containing a subject and verb (ie, a sentence, but can also refer to part of a sentence).

mm: misplaced modifier. Most easily explained using an example: “She served hamburgers to the men on paper plates.” The phrase on paper plates appears to refer to men, whereas it should actually refer to hamburgers. Generally phrases should come directly after the words they modify. Corrected: “She served hamburgers, on paper plates, to the men.” Or: “She served the men hamburgers on paper plates.”

dm: Dangling modifier. A word or phrase that modifies a word not clearly stated in the sentence. For example, “After reading the original study, the article remains unconvincing.” The doer of the action has not been stated. A corrected version might read: “After reading the original study, I find the article unconvincing,” where the doer of the action is “I.”

Writing Advice

Information on grammar and writing can be found in the Rampolla book. A comprehensive online resource is OWL (The Online Writing Lab) at Purdue University: A good set of basic guides to grammar and referencing can be found at the Queen’s University Writing Centre: