The following items are strongly recommended to be close at hand whenever you are writing a paper, whether you are a first year undergraduate or a graduate finishing a thesis:

  1. A dictionary of the English language.

  2. A handbook designed to aid in matters of form, grammar, style, punctuation, paragraphing, and mechanics. You can use information from this web page for some details. For more complicated questions, you can refer to handbooks like Hodges, Horner, Webb, and Miller's Harbrace College Handbook or Strunk and White's The Elements of Style.

  3. A spelling guide--a list of words which also indicates where the word can be broken (syllable breaks). Some spelling guides include helpful summary sections that provide information about such problems as forming plurals and possessives; using punctuation marks and the apostrophe; and placing parentheses, dashes, and quotations. Some summary sections also include rules for nouns, adjectives, and abbreviations.

  4. A book of synonyms and/or a thesaurus.

  5. A style manual or samples of articles and citations from journals, samples you can use as models for your paper. Graduate students will need the style manual because their questions will be more particular.

*NOTE: Many computer spell-checks, grammar checks, dictionaries, or thesauruses are not sophisticated enough for well developed research papers. Academic writing demands precise vocabulary and particular word choice. At the very least, you should have a dictionary, thesaurus, and English handbook available as you write.