Skip to Main Content

Citing Sources: Paper Mechanics

This guide covers various citations styles including MLA, APA, and Chicago/Turabian, as well as techniques to avoid plagiarism in your work.


Welcome to the citing sources page. Here you can read about how to cite and avoid plagiarism. You can also get information on basic grammar mechanics.

Outlining your paper

Your paper is only as good as the outline!

Create a printable outline

Social Media

Help & Tips from USD's Writing Center

Listing of Common Grammatical Errors

The following is a list of common writing errors. If you don’t know how to correct these errors, be sure to look them up in a writing guide. The Writing Center has guides you may use, and our tutors can help you learn to correct these errors.

  • Lack of comma before coordinating conjunction connecting two independent clauses
    Incorrect: Sally went to the market and she bought some milk, bread, and eggs.
    Correct: Sally went to the market, and she bought some milk, bread, and eggs.
  • Comma splice: use of comma instead of semicolon between two independent clauses not connected by conjunction
    Incorrect: We went to the baseball game, after that we stopped to get something to eat.
    Correct: We went to the baseball game; after that we stopped to get something to eat.
  • Lack of comma after introductory phrase
    Incorrect: While the professor lectured I revised my paper.
    Correct: While the professor lectured, I revised my paper
  • Incomplete sentences
    Incorrect: Performing in front of a live audience.
    Correct: Performing in front of a live audience is the dream of many musicians.
  • Inconsistent verb tenses
    Incorrect: I am the best student in the class because I finished my exam first.
    Correct: I am the best student in the class because I always finish my exams first.
  • Incorrect use of similar sounding words and phrases such as everyday/every day, everyone/every one, "a lot," (not "alot"), lie/lay
    Incorrect: I liked the painting alot.
    Correct: I like the painting a lot.
  • Incorrect capitalization
    Incorrect: Whenever dad spoke, we all listened.
    Correct: Whenever Dad spoke, we all listened.
  • Misplaced punctuation with quote marks
    Incorrect: The author states "there are four major components to free will".
    Correct: The author states, "there are four major components to free will."
  • Incorrect use of subjective and objective pronouns
    Incorrect:  Sally wanted to meet up with Larry, Jenny and I.
    Correct:  Sally wanted to meet up with Larry, Jenny and me.
  • Poor logic of sentences—beginning of sentence does not link with the end


Working with thesis statements

Thesis: from the Greek, meaning "to put, lay down"; a proposition to be proved or one advanced without proof.

In writing, the thesis means the central idea or focus of an essay. The thesis is found in the thesis statement that is conventionally located at the end of the first paragraph, at the beginning of the first paragraph, or possibly, in the second paragraph. Rodrigues and Tuman (Writing Essentials) write that a thesis statement is "an assertion or opinion in need of explanation, support, or development—a position about the world that readers are unlikely to accept without elaboration or proof."

Where to look for the thesis statement in a draft you have already written: Look at the end of your first draft for the best statement of your thesis; it often takes writing the first draft to state clearly what it is you are arguing. Practice looking for thesis statements in your class readings (look at first paragraphs). Stories often do not have directly–stated theses. Articles often do.

When revising a thesis paper: Scan the paper to find the "working thesis statement." Remember to look at the end as well as the beginning. Sometimes, even in a draft, a clear statement of thesis is absent.

Once you find a possible thesis statement, determine:

  • Is the statement "in need of explanation, support or development"? If the answer is yes, you need to work for clarity. Some questions you might ask:
  • Is the statement too factual? A thesis implies an argument; a simple statement of fact contains no argument. For example, the statement "Golden retrievers can swim" contains no argument. There is no where to "go" with this statement. In this case, you might ask, "Golden retrievers can swim and what else? This may prompt the "next step" of your idea.
  • Is the statement too general? "Golden retrievers are the best dogs." The word "best" implies a kernel of an argument, but there is too much to "prove." Here you might ask "retrievers are the best at what?" You might answer they are the best swimmers. Now ask, "and so…?" Possible answer: Golden retrievers are excellent swimmers and, thus, they are the best rescue dogs." Better, but still a little thin in terms of developing a sustained and interesting argument. Now, work to complicate the statement.
  • Are there other characteristics you might add that will increase the complexity of your argument? Perhaps you have learned that "retrievers learn fast." You might revise your statement to: "Because golden retrievers are good swimmers, learn fast and are friendly, they make good rescue dogs." This may still seem a too simplistic.
  • Try adding the word "but" to your thesis statement (you may have to learn more about golden retrievers to do this). A possible revised thesis: "Golden retrievers are good swimmers, they learn fast, and they are friendly, but they are only average trackers; nevertheless, they make good rescue dogs." Now you have more to write about.

Copley Library

Profile Photo
Alma Ortega, PhD
University of San Diego - Copley Library
5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492

When chat is off feel free to email me your research and library related questions: or we can connect via Zoom: You can also call and leave a message: