Writing Help at the Library

Reading and writing are a huge part of being a college student. Essays, research papers and exams require students to think critically and put those thoughts into words. Many written assignments necessitate citations, with which students demonstrate that they have consulted sources and synthesized the information they discover with their own thoughts into a cogent analysis with original conclusions. The library is here to help!

The library on the main campus has some books at the circulation desk that students can use while visiting the library, which can help students with word meanings, spelling, citations and even finding just the right word to use in a paper. We call this collection “ready reference”; just come to the circulation desk to use any of these sources. Here is a selection:

  • Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (10th edition): Need to know what a word means? Obviously, a dictionary is what you need. This dictionary provides definitions, etymologies (look it up!), pronunciation and variations in spelling for thousands of words. Furthermore it has chapters on biographical and geographical names, foreign words and phrases and a handbook of style.
  • Webster’s College Thesaurus: When you’re writing and are looking for just the right word, consult a thesaurus. A thesaurus’s entries, like a dictionary’s, are arranged in alphabetical order. Rather than providing definitions of words, a thesaurus tells you words that are similar in meaning to the one you looked up. It also provides antonyms–words with the opposite meaning–for each entry.Both of the above resources are kept up-to-date and can be consulted at www.merriam-webster.com.
  • Stedman’s Medical Dictionary (28th edition): This dictionary is dedicated specifically to medical terms and is helpful especially for nursing, medical assisting and emergency medical science students.
  • The McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Misspelled and Easily Confused Words: Have I piqued (peeked? peaked?) your curiosity? Consult this guide either to figure out which spelling of a word fits the meaning you want in your writing or to learn how to spell a specific word. There is a section that covers each of these cases.
  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, MLA Handbook and A Form and Style Manual for Paralegals: These are handy guides that tell you how to structure your paper, format your citations and write for your specific audience. If you just need to know how to compose citations, the library has shorter guides for that too.

The library also has a variety of dictionaries and other reference tools, some of which can be checked out, including bilingual dictionaries. Consult the library catalog to see what we have and always feel free to ask a librarian for help.

Also, be sure to check the library’s home page for links to online tools, under the section “Research Help.”

About Stephen Brooks

Stephen is a reference librarian at Durham Tech. He has blogged previously at acqweb.org and for American Libraries magazine online. He enjoys reading 20th and 21st century literature, biographies and books about sports.