The Writing Center at Lewiston-Auburn College Campus

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. I’m worried about plagiarism. My instructor says that if I do it, I’ll get an F on my paper. How do I know if I’ve done it?

Most students who commit acts of plagiarism don’t realize they’re committing them. When writing academic papers, you should always remember that plagiarism doesn’t just refer to the widely-known idea of attempting to take credit for something written by someone else. In an academic environment, plagiarism much more frequently refers to the act of omitting proper citation from information you’ve gained from an outside source. Whether you’re paraphrasing, summarizing, or quoting, you should always remember to cite the source from which you obtained your information. Plagiarism shouldn’t be an issue as long as you’re thorough in acknowledging the origins of your research! If you are unsure about properly incorporating outside sources into your paper, come to the Writing Center for assistance.

Q. How do I find the resources I need?

Many options exist for finding what you need to help you complete your academic project. For information relating to formatting and style guidelines, consult the MLA and APA sections of The Bedford Handbook. Detailed information on both of these formats is also available in The MLA Handbook and the APA Publication Guide, respectively. If you’re looking for sources to complement and support your writing, check the resources available in the campus libraries as well as those available electronically via the USM libraries’ web page. Reference librarians are excellent people to consult for help with using databases! And, of course, a strategy meeting with a Writing Assistant at the Writing Center is always helpful.

Q. Will you edit my paper?

The purpose of the Writing Center is not to simply edit your document for you. Instead, our goal is to work alongside you to improve your own ability to write. Editing a paper for someone else removes that person from the equation—something we’d never do. By working with you on a writing project, we attempt to encourage independent development of your skills and ability. This ensures that you don’t remain dependent on the assistance of someone else in order to complete your own academic goals: our goal is to see your ability flourish, and this is the best way to bring that about. Think of your Writing Assistant as your personal trainer for writing. Just as you would not expect a trainer at the gym to do your exercising for you, your writing assistant will not edit but rather will help you become a stronger writer.

Q. Why am I asked to write in different academic styles for different classes? Why does it matter if I use APA or MLA?

As you advance in your education, your work becomes more specialized and specific to the discipline you have selected as a major. Because different disciplines have different approaches and priorities, many have developed official academic styles that best reflect the values of that discipline. For example, in the sciences and social sciences, the date of an experiment or the research is important. The reader needs to know if the experiment or study referred to in a paper is from 1969 or 2009. Therefore, the sciences and social sciences favor and in-text author/date style of documentation in their writing. APA is a popular version of this style.  

Many of the disciplines in the humanities, on the other hand, involve research from voluminous texts. In order to find a passage referred to in a history or literature article, it is crucial to know the page number of the text being cited. Therefore, many disciplines in the humanities favor author/page styles of documentation such as MLA or Chicago style (sometimes referred to as Turabian).

As you dabble in courses across the disciplines, you may be asked to write papers in various documentation styles, depending on your instructor’s disciplinary affiliation.  It is good practice for you to know that these variations exist! You do not need to memorize a particular documentation style, but you do need to know:

  1. That different styles exist.
  2. Which style your instructor expects you to use.
  3. How to find the specific rules and formatting for each style.
  4. That your friendly Writing Center is there to help you navigate the world of academic documentation.

Q. I am learning how to speak and write in English. Can you help me with my writing?

Yes! Many of the Writing Assistants have experience working with students who are new to the English language and appreciate the opportunity to work with them. In addition to their English ability, our Writing Assistants have developed skills and techniques appropriate to working with individuals for whom English is not a first language. From issues ranging from grammar and sentence construction to cultural awareness and language style, we can help you get past at least some of the hurdles that come with learning English.

Q. My paper is due tomorrow! Can you still help me?

Yes. However, please be aware of the fact that our Writing Assistants are only human and can only do so much in a short amount of time! Thorough examination and revision of even moderately-sized projects takes time, which means that we may not be able to work our way through the entirety of your paper during our session. Nevertheless, we do our best to work with you to produce the best document possible within the limits of the time we have. While we understand how tempting leaving these projects until the last minute can be, please recognize that we will be in a much better position to help you if you give us more time!