Student Writing Guide
The standard writing and citation style manual used at Regent College is Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 9th ed. (2018). Turabian is a condensed version of the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. (2017). Unless otherwise directed by a professor, students at Regent College are expected to follow Turabian. Individual professors may ask students to substitute another citation style (e.g., SBL). If in doubt, check with your professor or TA.
Prewriting refers to the stages of the writing process prior to your first draft. This includes brainstorming, narrowing your topic, researching, considering your audience, and organizing your observations and notes. Keep in mind different strategies may work for you as you work towards formulating your thesis and a structure for your paper. You might consider colour coding your notes, mapping, or freewriting. Read more about possible approaches here.
When you are asked to write an essay or research paper you are expected to present a clear thesis statement (or position to defend) and then construct an argument in support of your thesis. A thesis statement summarizes the argument of the paper in a succinct, propositional sentence, and typically appears in the introductory paragraph of your paper. A thesis statement gives a guiding focus to your paper. Some characteristics of a good thesis statement include:
- It makes a definite and limited assertion that needs to be explained and supported by further discussion.
- It shows the emphasis and indicates the methodology of your argument.
- It shows awareness of difficulties and disagreements.
Constructing an outline before you write your paper can help you plot out how you will support your thesis. An outline will help:
- Demonstrate how the argument of the paper will proceed through to its conclusion.
- Ensure that each section and subsection of the paper does, in fact, support the thesis statement.
- Prevent you from following unnecessary rabbit trails.
Your thesis statement indicates your position; the body of the paper, based on your outline, shows a logical progression of claims that leads to your paper’s conclusion. While we've stated this succinctly here, keep in mind that articulating a clear thesis and envisioning a focused structure for your paper is the result of a process. For ideas on how to approach this process (it may not be linear), visit our Additional Resources tab or make an appointment with the Writing Centre.
The aim of graduate education is not only to help students understand subject matter discussed in class, but also to improve academic writing skills. Good writing skills help to improve precision and clarity of thought. The following guidelines are offered with these goals in mind:
Courtesy and respect
As outlined in the Academic Catalogue, Regent College is a Christian academic community that takes relationships seriously, seeking to understand and live these relationships in light of our Biblical and theological commitments. The College welcomes students as varied as the whole people of God and seeks to create an environment in which students feel safe to engage in courteous and respectful conversation in the pursuit of truth, as we seek to be formed and reformed by the Scriptures. Among the implications of these commitments are the following:
Gender neutral language
Recognizing that the English language continues to change, and that words like “man,” “men,” and “mankind,” once intended to be inclusive of both genders, are now experienced as painfully exclusive, it is a commitment of the Regent community to prayerfully pursue in all our speaking and writing such goals as the:
- Achievement of thoughtful awareness of both genders in our use of language;
- Use of illustrations using examples from both genders; and
- Avoidance of stereotypical representations of either gender.
In written work we encourage students to work towards bias-free language, as a mark of our love and respect for our neighbours and out of a desire that both genders should feel included in our discourse and neither should feel excluded by it (see Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed., 5.251ff).
All persons and views discussed in written or oral presentations should be fairly represented and assessed. It is all too easy in argument to set up “straw women and men” whose views and opinions, inadequately represented, are then easily dismissed. Do not caricature others' work. It is a matter of respect and integrity that we avoid this in our discourse.
As mentioned, the standard style guide used at Regent is Turabian, which is a text you should become familiar with and turn to for guidance when you have questions about how to cite different kinds of sources in footnotes and bibliographies; about when to use a semicolon, colon, or comma; about how different forms of puncation relate to one another when placed next to each other; and about the many other grammatical and stylistic issues that you should attend to when writing. Whether or not you appreciate the importance of taking care with style, please note that it is important. First, because your writing will be clearer, and clearer writing is better writing. Second, because it is a matter of courtesy to your reader to present your work in as clean and readable a manner as possible. And third, because your professors care about these things and they do affect your grade.
What follows are some brief notes and advice for writing at Regent.
Unless instructed otherwise, your title page should include the following information:
- Title of your paper.
- Your name and student number.
- Name of your instructor (correctly spelled!).
- Course number and title.
- Semester and year.
- Word count, including footnotes but excluding bibliography.
Appearance on page
- Pagination of your paper should begin with page 1 starting on the body of the paper, not the title page. Page numbers should be indicated in the header, in the top, righthand corner.
- Papers should be double-spaced with one-inch margins on all sides; should use 12-point Times New Roman font; and should be left justified.
- While it may enhance the readability of lengthy papers to subdivide them into sections with headings, avoid dividing the paper into too many sections.
- Unless instructed otherwise, use footnotes rather than endnotes. Footnotes should be numbered consecutively through the body of the paper.
Some final advice
- Reading your paper out loud will often reveal where there are problems.
- Use the full words rather than contractions or elided forms. E.g., “do not” rather than “don’t, "is not” rather than "isn’t,” etc.
- Avoid split infinitives, which occur when one or more words is included between the infinitive marker “to” and the verb itself. E.g., “boldly to go” or “to go boldly” rather than “to boldly go,” etc.
- Do not confuse “its” (as in “its purpose”) with “it’s” (which is the contraction of “it is,” as in “it’s a fine day”).
- Ensure that possessives use apostrophes correctly. E.g., “the two sisters’ brother” and “my sister’s brother.”
- Proofread for missing or extraneous commas. (Review comma rules when in doubt.)
- Avoid the use of run-on sentences and incomplete sentences.
- Spelling is important! Use a spellchecker, but do not rely on it to catch everything. You will still need to read your paper carefully to catch the correct choice of, e.g., "compliments" or "complements."
- Attend carefully to the stated word limit.
[TITLE (TWO LINES DOUBLE SPACED IF LONG)]
AN ESSAY IN [COURSE NUMBER]
PREPARED FOR [PROFESSOR’S NAME]
[STUDENT NAME] [STUDENT NUMBER]
Word Count: ____