Effective Technical Writing in the Information Age

Chapter 5 Introduction

Thank you for sending me a copy of your book.
I'll waste no time reading it.
—Moses Hadas

This chapter is an especially important one. With the explosion of available online information that has emerged since Al Gore invented the internet Wink, many students enter college with the attitude that they will never set a single toe in any library that has a hard-surface floor and stacks of shelved books. Indeed, it is possible to write many college papers using only internet resources, and many professors embrace the internet by assigning papers that promote or demand its use. Modern libraries must and do scramble to keep up as well, subscribing to online journals and CD-ROMs so that students can work in virtual space and download to their desktops with a single click of the mouse.

So how do you address this issue of effectively using and documenting sources, whether internet or print resources? The answer lies in applying professional standards to your work, recognizing how your research and writing process inform the product you produce, understanding how the modern library is best used, and mastering the mechanics of citation. The issue of mechanics—citing your sources properly, especially on your references page—remains a challenge for many writers, and the question of exactly how to cite web sources makes things even murkier. With various citation styles available and URLs that are longer than the alphabet, what is a writer to do?

The material in this chapter will help you to address these issues and provide you with resources where you can track down more information. Whatever your writing process, even if you are in the habit of resorting to the "patch and pray" method, my aim is to help you approach the writing process professionally, begin to understand how to assess the quality of all of your sources, whether print- or web-based, and clarify the mechanics of citation. So press on, and recognize that your facility at using resources highly influences your reader’s perception of your work.


For tips on how to integrate sources into your papers and an excellent overview of some of the most common options for the mechanics of citation, I recommend the pages at the following sites:

"Using Introductory Tags in Research Writing," from LEO: Literacy Education OnLine

"Style Guide Resources: MLA, APA, CSE, Chicago," from informED