Full OWL Resources for Grades 7-12 Students and Instructors
For resources specifically created for grades 7-12 students, see the other resources in this section.
For access to all OWL resources, click here. Please click on the links below to access Full OWL resources that may also be useful grades 7-12 instructors and students:
Starting the Writing Process - This resource contains tips for instructors and student on beginning writing.
Prewriting - This section explains the prewriting (invention) stage of the composing process. It includes processes, strategies, and questions to help you begin to write.
Writer's Block / Writer's Anxiety - This resource contains help for overcoming writer's block and a short series of exercises to help students begin writing.
Developing an Outline - This resource describes why outlines are useful, what types of outlines exist, suggestions for developing effective outlines, and how outlines can be used as an invention strategy for writing.
Paragraphs and Paragraphing - The purpose of this resource is to provide some basic instruction and advice regarding the creation of understandable and coherent paragraphs.
Transitions and Transitional Devices - This resource discusses transition strategies and specific transitional devices to help students' essays and sentences flow more effectively.
Research: Overview - This section provides answers to the following research-related questions: Where do I begin? Where should I look for information? What types of sources are available?
Searching the World Wide Web - This section covers finding sources for your writing in the World Wide Web. It includes information about search engines, Boolean operators, web directories, and the invisible web. It also includes an extensive, annotated links section.
Evaluating Sources of Information - This section provides information on evaluating bibliographic citations, aspects of evaluation, reading evaluation, print vs. Internet sources, and evaluating internet sources.
Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing - This resource will help you become more comfortable with the uses of and distinctions among quotations, paraphrases, and summaries. This handout compares and contrasts the three terms, gives some pointers, and includes a short excerpt that you can use to practice these skills.
Avoiding Plagiarism - This resource offers advice on how to avoid plagiarism in your work—there are few intellectual offenses more serious than plagiarism in academic and professional contexts.
Rhetoric and Logic
Creating a Thesis Statement - This resource provides tips for creating a thesis statement and examples of different types of thesis statements.
Establishing Arguments - This section discusses the thesis statement and explains argument in writing, which includes using research to support a thesis. This resources also discusses Aristotle's logical proof: ethos, pathos, and logos and the logical fallacies.
Logic in Argumentative Writing - This resource covers logic within writing— logical vocabulary, logical fallacies, and other types of logos-based reasoning.
Rhetorical Situation - This presentation is designed for instructors to use with students to introduce a variety of factors that contribute to strong, well-organiz ed writing. This presentation is suitable for the beginning of a composition course or the assignment of a writing project in any class.
Different Kinds of Essay Genres
Writing a Research Paper - This section provides detailed information about how to write research papers including discussing research papers as a genre, choosing topics, and finding sources.
Writing About Fiction - This resource covers major topics relating to writing about fiction. This covers prewriting, close reading, thesis development, drafting, and common pitfalls to avoid.
Writing About Literature - This material provides examples and description about writing papers in literature. It discusses research topics, how to begin to research, how to use information, and formatting.
Writing About Poetry - This section covers the basics of how to write about poetry. Including why it is done, what you should know, and what you can write about.
Writing Definitions - This resource provides suggestions and examples for writing definitions.
Style and Language
Adding Emphasis in Writing - This handout provides information on visual and textual devices for adding emphasis to student writing including textual formatting, punctuation, sentence structure, and the arrangement of words.
Conciseness - This resource explains the concept of concise writing and provides examples of how to ensure clear prose.
Paramedic Method: A Lesson in Writing Concisely - This handout provides steps and exercises to eliminate wordiness at the sentence level.
Sentence Variety - This resource presents methods for adding sentence variety and complexity to writing that may sound repetitive or boring. Sections are divided into general tips for varying structure, a discussion of sentence types, and specific parts of speech which can aid in sentence variety.
Using Appropriate Language - This section covers some of the major issues with appropriate language use: levels of language formality, deceitful language and Euphemisms, slang and idiomatic expressions; using group-specific jargon; and biased/stereotypical language.
Punctuation - This resource will help clarify when and how to use various marks of punctuation. When speaking, we can pause or change the tone of our voices to indicate emphasis. When writing, we must use punctuation to indicate these places of emphasis.
Proofreading Your Writing - This section provides information on proofreading, finding and fixing common errors.
Commas - This resource offers a number of pages about comma use.
Annotated Bibliography - This resource provides information about annotated bibliographies.
MLA Formatting and Style Guide - This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (6th ed.) and the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (2nd ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page. MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities.
APA Formatting and Style Guide - This resource, revised according to the 5th edition of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. APA (American Psychological Association) is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences.
Writing and Research Help by Email - Still have questions about your writing? Haven't found what you need? Send us an email! Our staff will provide individualized writing help online.
Invention for Secondary School Students: Introduction
Introduction to Invention (Grades 7-12)
The following Purdue OWL resource has been specifically designed to address various issues of invention that students in secondary school (grades 7-12) may encounter.
When you're thinking about invention, or what some might call pre-writing, here are some questions for you to consider:
- Have you ever struggled to come up with ideas?
- Have you ever had too many ideas and weren’t sure how to deal with them?
- Do you want to learn how to find your best ideas?
- Do you need to write a paper, poem, or story, either now or in the future?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then this information on writing invention is for you!
Think of the invention process as a way to create ideas. It’s the “stuff” that happens before you produce the writing that is read by others and/or graded by your teacher.
Every person goes about invention differently. The key is to find what works best for you. Try out the ideas in this section. Use them, blend them, and figure out what you like best.
These web pages are designed to give you the tools to begin the invention process. For additional information, see Introduction to Prewriting (Invention) handout on the Purdue OWL.
Beginning The Invention Process: General Guidelines and Ideas
Plan to spend time inventing ideas. Writing is not about getting information and ideas down as quickly as you can. Taking time to come up with ideas is the best way to make sure your writing will be unique and interesting, as well as being enjoyable to write.
Here are some ways to get the ideas flowing for any writing project you might do:
- List Ideas. Write a list of 10, 20, 50, or even 100 ideas you could use for your writing, no matter how silly they might seem. Write down every idea you think of. Then, go through and circle the ideas that would work best for your writing. Consider adding levels to your lists as well. For instance, if you write down a topic in your list, you can list supporting ideas underneath that main topic.
- Create a concept map (also known as a “cluster” map or a “bubble” outline). You begin with a single circle with your topic written inside it. Then, you draw lines to new circles in which you write ideas connected to the main topic. Then, off of the circles you just drew, draw lines to connect the circles that relate to those ideas.
- Outline the paper. Sometimes starting with an outline is the best way to invent writing. For example, you can use dashes (-) or asterisks (*) instead of letters and numbers in your outline if that makes the invention process easier for you. For more information on outlining, see Four Main Components for Effective Outlines handout on the Purdue OWL.
- Freewrite. Set a short time limit for yourself to write. Begin writing and do not stop writing until the time is up. Use the freewrite space to say anything that comes to mind about your topic, including any questions you still would like to answer about the topic. Keep writing even if you get off-topic. Do not try to self-monitor or work to control your writing (Goldberg 8). You might use some sentences and ideas, but be sure that the freewrite draft is not what you turn in as your final draft.
- Use sticky notes or note cards. Write individual ideas on post-it notes or note cards. Then, arrange the cards to find patterns and potential topic ideas. Use this to generate ideas and begin to organize your paper.
- Keep an idea journal. Have you ever had those moments where you think, “This might be interesting to write about?” Keep a journal (or computer document) of those ideas. When you are searching for your next paper topic, look back through the journal ideas you already have and see if you can use any of those ideas to “jumpstart” ideas for your current paper.
Examples of Invention Strategies
To see examples of these invention strategies, click here.
Applegate, Carey. Personal interview. 30 Nov. 2013.
Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1986. Print.
Johnson-Sheehan, Richard and Charles Paine. Writing Today. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc., 2013. Print.
National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers. Common Core State Standards Initiative. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington D.C., 2010. Web. 18 Aug. 2013.
Ramet, Adèle. Creative Writing. Oxford: How To Books Ltd., 2004. Print.
Spurgin, Timothy. The Art of Reading Course Guidebook. Chantilly: The Teaching Company, 2009. Print.
Sample Invention Strategies Handout
Invention for Secondary School Students: Creative Writing
Creative writing lets you break away from traditional or “normal” papers. You get to use your own imagination to write a story, a poem, a reflection, and more. However, creative writing requires different details that you might not find in another genre like research writing. A few strategies for starting your creative writing can be found in the next section.
Invention Strategies for Creative Writing
Warm Up First
- Warm up by writing something easy or something that you do not plan to use in your final product.
- Warm up by writing something that you know won’t be “perfect” or even close to the final product. Allow yourself space to write pieces that aren’t ideal. Just keep the pen or pencil moving (Goldberg 11).
- Form the habit of writing every day. Even if you don’t have something to say, writing everyday in a journal or notebook can help keep the words and ideas flowing.
Learn to trust your own voice and ideas (Goldberg 13). Your writing will be different from your friend’s work and your favorite author’s work, and that is just fine! You have something to say and an individual way to say it. Use your words and style to express your ideas. Sometimes creative writing can be scary because you just don’t know what to say. Trust yourself, and know that no one expects you to be a professional or perfect writer immediately. The more you write, the better you will become.
Look at Examples for Inspiration
Who is your favorite writer? Why? What does this writer do that makes him or her cool, fun, or interesting to you? You might look at these things:
- What is the topic of the writing? In other words, what is the writing about?
- What is the mood of the writing? Is it happy, sad, exciting, adventurous, mysterious, scary, calm, funny, etc…?
- What type of description does the writer use?
- Why do the characters interest you?
- What are the sentences like? Are they long, short, detailed, simple?
- How do your favorite stories end?
Consider looking at a variety of writers as well. Pick up pieces of writing that you haven’t looked at before. If you have a favorite writer or book, ask your teacher about other writers or books that might be similar. This can give you more ideas to spark your own creative writing. However, make sure that your ideas are your own or give credit to the to the other person’s ideas see the Avoiding Plagiarism handout on the Purdue OWL.
Creative Writing Invention Questions
When you begin to invent a piece of creative writing (like a story or a poem), asking yourself questions can be a great way to allow ideas flowing.
General Questions for Creative Writing
- Is there a story or message or moral that I think others should hear?
- Do I have any unique ideas or experiences that would be interesting and fun for me to write about?
- How can I make my writing different and unique to me?
- What makes me unique as a person? How can I show that through my writing?
- Who is my favorite author? What is my favorite book or poem?
- What does my favorite author/writer do in his/her work that I like? How can I do that too?
Questions For Inventing a Fictional Character
The following questions can help you create your own unique characters:
- How old is the character?
- What is the character’s greatest wish?
- What is the character’s greatest fear?
- What are the character’s hobbies?
- Where does the character live?
- What types of words does the character use? Does he/she speak differently than you do? If so, how?
- How does the character look?
- What does the character think about him/herself?
- What do other people think about the character?
- Where was the character at 10 minutes before the story begins?
- What can the character see? What is the setting?
- What is the character’s job?
- Who is the character’s best friend?
For more information on writing fiction, see the Fiction Writing Basics handout on the Purdue OWL.
Questions For Inventing a Poem or Prose Narrative About a Personal Experience
If you are writing about a personal experience, use these questions to remember the interesting details of that experience:
- What did I see?
- What did I hear?
- What did I taste?
- What did I smell?
- What did I touch?
- What did I imagine?
- What did it remind me of?
- Who else is in the story?
- What emotions did I feel?
For additional information on general invention strategies, click here.
Secondary Students: Invention for Research Writing
Invention For Research Writing
Writing a research paper is different than creative writing. Research involves looking beyond of what you already know in order to find answers to a question or questions. Therefore, the inventing process for a research paper will look different from the invention process for creative writing.
The First Steps of Research Invention
Identifying your research topic is usually the most difficult part of writing a research paper. The topic is the general idea that the research paper will focus on.
You can begin by reviewing the information contained in the Invention for Secondary Students: Introduction resource.
However, research invention strategies are different than more general writing invention strategies. As you work on your research writing, you should do the following things:
- Use the work of other people to both support your point, contrast with your point, and add complexity to your ideas. Remember to cite your sources.
- Look for a topic that other scholars have already researched at least to some extent. Use their ideas as a “springboard” for your own, but work to create your own ideas in your paper.
- Know that your ideas will probably change as you find more research on your topic.
- Plan to spend more time writing the research paper than you would if you wrote a reflection paper or an opinion piece. Welcome changing ideas and new ideas from different research sources, but begin early enough so you have time to revise and include the best and most convincing ideas.
- (If you are writing a persuasive research paper) Include research discussing the opposing viewpoint. Identify the opposing views, and then be sure to spend time discussing why your viewpoint is stronger or makes more sense.
For more information on choosing a topic, please see the Choosing a Topic resource on the Purdue OWL.
When You Begin to Find Sources for Research
There are a lot of articles, encyclopedias, and books in existence. Where can you begin to find the material you need for your topic?
- Talk with your librarian: Librarians aren’t at your school simply to put books away. They are trained to help you find sources and information, no matter what your topic is.
- Search through potential books: Don’t worry; you don’t need to read the entire book to find information in it. Learn how to use the table of contents in books to find exactly what you are looking for. Also, with many books, reading the first sentence of each paragraph can give you an idea of what that paragraph is about. If the first sentence of the paragraph applies to your topic, then continue reading the rest of that paragraph.
- Search online: The internet is filled with tons of information, some of which can be helpful for your research papers. For further information on how to get the most out of internet searches, see the OWL’s page “Searching with a Search Engine.”
- Search online journals (if available): Online journals are collections of scholarly articles written by some of the top scholars in different academic fields. Although the language might be difficult at times, journal articles can be very credible and helpful. Ask your librarian if you have access to online journals.
- Wikipedia (as a starting point only): Although Wikipedia has gained a bad reputation in recent years, much of the information on it is accurate and reliable. However, you should only use this information as a starting point. With most Wikipedia entries, writers share the sources used for the information. Try to find the actual sources used to create the Wikipedia article. Then, if that source is useful to you and it is credible, use it!
Tracing Backward to Find Sources
Once you find a source that works well for your topic, see if you can find a “Works Cited” page or information about what sources influenced the author of your particular source. Tracing backward like this can give you a wealth of information. Think of it as someone handing you a list of sources that might work very well with your paper topic.
Be sure that the sources you use are credible. This means that you must find good sources with information you can trust. But how do you know if you can trust a source? Here are some things to look for:
- Avoid sources with no author. If you find a source with no author, you often cannot know whether or not that writing can be trusted. This is especially true with online sources.
- Look for authors who are experts in their fields. Find authors who have higher education or who have worked in their field for a while. Avoid choosing a source by a random author who has no credentials.
Date of Source
- Check to see when the source was published. If you are writing on a topic in which the information has changed in recent years (especially scientific topics), the best sources might be the most recent sources.
- Look for sources that use evidence or other experts to back up their claims. Avoid sources that simply say an opinion without proving it.
- Find sources that have trustworthy publishers or organizations behind them. Do not use sources from sites like Ask.com or Yahoo Answers, since there is no professional organization or publisher backing up the writers’ claims.
Citing Your Sources
As you use other people’s writings, thoughts, and opinions in your writing, always remember to cite your sources. This means that every time you use a quotation, opinion, or though of another person, you must give credit to that person and the text that they wrote their thoughts in.
For information about citations according to MLA (Modern Language Association), see the MLA Formatting and Style Guide, or see the APA Formatting and Style Guide for APA’s (American Psychological Association) guidelines, available through the Purdue OWL.
What to do when You are Stuck
First, know that it is normal to feel stuck. This is what we call writer’s block. Sometimes you just do not know what to say next when you write. If this happens to you, try some of these ideas:
- Do not panic. Remember, feeling “stuck” is normal even for the most experienced writers. Think of your favorite author. He or she experienced writer’s block at some point, too.
- (If your paper is on the computer) Try handwriting the next part with a pen or pencil. Or, even try writing with something fun, like a gel pen or crayon.
- Take a step away from the writing. This will clear your mind. Take a walk, ride your bike, pet your dog, call a friend, etc.. Whenever possible, try not to force ideas.
- Start early with the writing process. If a teacher assigns a paper that is due in a week, start inventing right away. This will help you avoid forcing ideas or simply writing the first thing that comes to mind, even if it is not very good.
- Talk about your paper with a friend or family member, or even talk to the family pet.
- Talk with your teacher about his or her ideas to get “unstuck.”
- Have patience. Coming up with ideas takes time. Sometimes it takes a lot of time.
- Know that you can always change your ideas before you turn in the final draft of your writing.
- Try listening to music while you come up with ideas. While this might distract some writers, many writers find that music helps ideas flow. Try your favorite music or music that you think is calming.
- Do not worrying about grammar and spelling when you invent and write your first draft.
- Trust your voice and ideas. Do not compare yourself with other people and their work. Know that you have something special to say and your unique way of saying it.
See the Symptoms and Cures for Writer’s Block resource on the Purdue OWL for more information about beating the block.