Fresh Features for Smart Students

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The Citation Machine writing tools service is a popular tool best known for its citation generator and its grammar and plagiarism checker. But did you know that it also offers features that personalize the writing experience to your specific needs? Here are some of the awesome (and sometimes surprising) ways that the Citation Machine writing tools service can help you write your next paper quickly and effectively. 

We can educate you on citations

The Citation Machine guides and blog have a ton of helpful materials about proper citation formatting. You can find information on nearly everything from how to format your reference list, to citing a YouTube video, to what is an annotated bibliography, and so much more. Before handing in your next assignment, consider checking out our guides and blog to ensure that your reference list is as accurate as possible.

We have experts working for you

Citation Machine maintains its high level of citing accuracy and continued expansion through the efforts of our citation specialists. If you’re struggling to answer a specific citing question, fill out our Citation Question Submission form and a citation expert may be able to help you.

We can add new citation styles

While we offer thousands of citations styles (like MLA, APA, and Chicago style format) for free at, new citation styles are published constantly. If your school or professor requests that you use a citation style that we do not list, please reach out to our support team and provide them with a formatting guide for the style. They will pass this on to the Citation Machine citation specialists. If the style looks good and there is enough information about formatting the citation, these citation specialists will work to build the new style and add it to the style list! You can also reach out to us if you notice something could be improved with one of our existing styles, or if you know that a style has been updated to a new edition or version.

We have a top-notch support team

Are you having a tech issue while using our Citation Machine tools? Do you need help with creating citations? Do you have a suggestion for how we can improve our site? Our support team is ready to handle any of these questions and more. Click the “Contact Us” link at the top of the page, or simply go to to submit a question or request.

We love to hear from you!

More than anything, we love hearing from our users, and highly value their opinions and suggestions. We look forward to hearing from you!

Looking for another awesome resource? Read our Citation Machine grammar guides and learn about irregular verbs, positive and negative adjectives, relative pronouns, and other parts of speech.

General Strategies on Prepping for SAT Writing and Language

Studying grammar can be a pain. Punctuation? Subject-Verb agreement? Clausal errors? If you’re already shaking your head, don’t worry! Once you learn some key strategies, you’ll find that the SAT Writing and Language test isn’t so bad.

One of the best ways to prepare for the SAT Writing & Language test is to organize your preparation into three parts. Start your prep by understanding the structure of the SAT Writing & Language test. After that, master grammar rules and learn specific strategies. Finally, focus on pacing and endurance.

To get you started, here are some general strategies you can use to prep for the SAT Writing and Language test.

If you’re working on your writing skills, check out Citation Machine Plus’s essay checker and grammar guides! Review your paper for writing suggestions while also reading up on irregular verbs, what is a determiners, how to define interjection, and more!

Part One: Get to Know the Test

When it comes to test prep, it’s important to know test format inside and out. That way, you’ll be more relaxed. Here are some key facts about the SAT Writing & Language test:

  • The SAT Writing & Language test is the second section you’ll encounter (SAT Reading is the first).
  • You’re given 35 minutes to tackle 44 questions that are distributed among four passages.
  • There are two question types you’ll encounter:
    • Grammar: these questions will test your knowledge of grammar rules.
    • Essay editing: these questions will focus on identifying the best transition word between sentences, adding or deleting sentences, and more.
    • Keep in mind that some of the passages have graphs—you’ll also be asked about the data in these graphs.

Besides familiarizing yourself with the test structure, it’s also good to know that one of the main challenges of the SAT Writing & Language test is its placement in the context of the SAT as a whole. The first section you’ll encounter is SAT Reading, for which you’re given 65 minutes. You’re then given just 35 minutes for SAT Writing & Language. As long as you know that the change in the time allotted is basically cut in half, you can anticipate and prepare for this challenge.

Part Two: Master Grammar and Develop Your Favorite Strategies

When it comes to the SAT Writing & Language test, you’ll need to master grammar and develop strategies for tackling questions that ask you to edit the featured passage.

It sounds intimidating to learn grammar, but here’s a step you can take to make this process easier: take a SAT Writing & Language test without any prep. Go through and see which grammar questions you missed. Keep a running list of each question type. You can then see which areas are weak and review just those areas. For example, let’s say you’re strong at pronoun agreement but weak at punctuation. Save time by focusing your energy on punctuation since you’re already awesome at pronoun agreement!

Here’s a sample list of the general types of grammar questions you’ll encounter:

  • Punctuation
  • Sentence Clauses
  • Parallel List Structure
  • Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Verb Tense
  • Pronoun Agreement

Once you master grammar, focus on the question types that ask you to edit the essay. See if there’s a pattern. If so, focus on mastering that question type.

A general strategy you can use for questions related to editing the essay is to identify the paragraph’s main idea. By identifying the main idea, you can determine if a question’s proposed edit supports the paragraph. If not, you can eliminate that answer choice until you find one that does support the main idea.

Part Three: Work on Pacing

Be sure to initially focus on accuracy before adding pacing. Once you have decent accuracy on practice questions, you can start timing yourself.

Start working on pacing by timing how long it takes for you to complete an individual passage. Based off this initial time, you can see how much you need to speed up. For the SAT Writing & Language passages, you’ll want to complete each passage in about 8.5 minutes. Once you have individual passage timing down, you can start timing how long it takes for you to do two passages and go from there. For instance, give yourself 17 minutes to complete two passages. Add more passages to build your endurance for a full-length SAT Writing  Language test.

Cite sources for your next paper with Citation Machine! Whether you need APA citations, creating an MLA works cited, or are looking for an annotated bibliography example, Citation Machine has the resources you need to get it done right.

College Prep for Juniors: 4 Ways to Start This Fall

By Ella Chochrek

What you’ve heard is true: Junior year is a pivotal year in the college planning process.

For one, you’ll want to take your ACT or SAT this year—which means you’ll have to put in some study time. But junior year of high school is about more than just taking your standardized tests. You’ll also want to narrow down your college list, keep up your grades and start visiting schools.

Don’t know where to start? Not to worry! Here’s a short breakdown of what we think you’ll want to do in fall of your junior year to help you prepare for the college admissions process:

Preparing to write a research paper? Citation Machine Plus offers a grammar and plagiarism checker. That’s on top of the MLA and APA citation tools Citation Machine is known for. Check it out today!

Prep for College Entrance Exams

In the fall of your junior year, you should take a practice SAT and ACT to determine which test works best for you. Almost every college takes either test—and does not show preference for one over the other—so choose whichever one makes you most comfortable. Many students choose to take the exam for the first time in spring of junior year, with most taking the SAT/ACT at least twice. Make sure to take some practice exams before the real test, but if you feel comfortable with how you’re performing on practice tests, consider taking the exam in December to get your nerves out of the way.

Create a College List

Maybe you haven’t had the chance to go on college tours yet, but the fall of junior year is a great time to start narrowing down your list. After you take a practice SAT/ACT, you should have an idea of what schools you might be eligible for based on your grades and scores.

In addition to looking at the academic requirements for various schools, also consider what factors you’d like to define your college experience. Factors like location, size, specializations, and so forth. Do you want to take classes where you’ll get to know your professors well? A small liberal arts college might be best for you. Are you hoping to attend a school with tons of spirit? Consider places with strong Division 1 sports teams. Decide what factors are most important to you, and create your list accordingly.

Learn More About Colleges

Be proactive and keep on learning about different college opportunities. Go to college fairs, attend information sessions with college representatives that are held at your school, and visit college nights in your area. Fall of junior year can also be a great time to tour colleges yourself to get a feel of what you’re looking for in a college campus.

Bonus: If you know or have connections to someone who graduated from a college you’re really interested in, ask them if they’ll do an informational interview with you. It’s a great way to feel out the college’s culture.

Keep Up Your Grades/Extracurriculars

While college admissions can be a daunting and time consuming process, SAT/ACT prep cannot get in the way of your other school work. You may be taking challenging courses (like AP) this year, along with busy extracurriculars like the school band or the varsity basketball team. Stick with all of the things you’ve been involved in throughout your high school career so far, and try to keep your grades up—or even improve them. Colleges like to see an upward trend, and junior year is a great time to take on new leadership positions in clubs/sports or to get your grades up from prior years.

Power up your writing skills with Citation Machine’s grammar guides! Read up on what is a linking verb, learn to define adjective, see how pronouns are used, brush up on collective nouns, and other related topics.

General Strategies on Prepping for SAT Reading

Reading one 750 word passage is hard. Reading four 750 word passages in a row and answering 52 questions within 65 minutes seems impossible, but don’t fret! Once you get some key strategies under your belt, you’ll find that the SAT Reading test isn’t so bad.

Reading is one skill, writing is another. If you are looking for a convenient proofreading and preventative plagiarism tool, Citation Machine Plus can help!

One of the best ways to prepare for the SAT Reading test is to organize your preparation into three parts. First, get familiar with how the SAT Reading test is set up so you aren’t surprised on test day. Second, identify the strategies that work best for you. Third, work on timing and endurance.

To get you started, here are some general strategies you can use to prep for the SAT Reading test. To figure out which ones work best for you, try them out individually and see which ones stick!

Part One: Become Familiar With The Test

One of the best ways to prep for the SAT Reading test is to know what to expect. Understanding the test’s structure will make the test more predictable and less stressful. Here is a quick lowdown:

  • The SAT Reading test is the very first section you’ll encounter.
  • You’re given 65 minutes to tackle 52 questions that are distributed among five passages.
    • One of the passages will be from a piece of literature.
    • Another will be related to social science.
    • Two will be about science.
    • The remaining passage will either be a single passage or a pair of passages from a historical document.
    • Some of the passages will contain graphs.
    • There is no specific order when it comes to passage topic, but the first passage tends to be the literature passage.

Besides knowing test structure, it’s also good to know the main challenge that comes with the SAT Reading test: endurance. Sixty-five minutes is a long time and fatigue will be one of your main obstacles. Additionally, since it’s the first section, your brain may still be waking up.

Now that you know what to anticipate, let’s dive into some specific strategies you can apply.

Part Two: Develop Your Favorite Strategies

When it comes to the SAT Reading test, you’ll want to use strategies that fall under one of the following categories: strategies on how to tackle the passages and strategies on how to tackle the questions. Below are a few strategies you can use; try them all out and see which ones are your favorite!

Strategies on How to Tackle the Passage

1. Mark up the passage as you read it.

Annotating while reading will help keep your brain awake and improve your comprehension. While everyone knows to underline main ideas, you can also try circling proper nouns and numbers. By both underlining and circling, you’ll make it easier for yourself to go back into the passage and find the essential information you need.

2. Before reading the passage, scan the questions and underline any lines that are cited.

Try this strategy out if you don’t struggle with timing. Spend 30 seconds previewing the questions and marking up lines that are mentioned. That way, when you come across those lines when you read the passage, you can pay extra close attention to them.

Strategies on How to Tackle the Questions

1. Read the first half of the passage, answer the relevant questions, and then read the second half of the passage.

This strategy seems scary—start answering questions BEFORE reading the whole passage? Here’s what’s great about this strategy: you’re actually taking advantage of how the questions are structured on the SAT Reading test. For the most part, they are in chronological order, meaning that they follow the flow of the passage. The most notable exception is that the main idea question tends to be the first one, but you can just go back to it at the end. By breaking up the passage into two parts, you don’t have to remember every detail of the entire passage. For the paired passages, read Passage 1 first, answer Passage 1 questions, and then switch to Passage 2—don’t read both passages first and then tackle questions.

2. Eliminate answer choices by physically crossing them out.

Physically eliminating answer choices does two things. First, it helps you stay active during the 65 minutes. Second, you are telling your brain that you are no longer considering those options.

It’s common for students to eliminate three answer choices, but because they’re unsure about the last one, they’ll waste time and try to prove it’s correct. If you can definitely eliminate three answer choices, using your pencil to cross them out will mentally reassure you that the remaining answer choices is the correct one.

3. Bonus Strategy A: for main idea questions, revisit the introduction and conclusion.

Although you can re-read the topic sentence of each paragraph to get a big picture understanding of the passage, it’s just as effective to skim the first and last paragraphs. Because these paragraphs are designed to encapsulate the passage’s main ideas, they will provide the most summarized version of these concepts.

It’s also important to note what the difference is between a passage’s main topic and its main idea. Main topic is what the passage is about whereas the main idea is the argument. A common trap answer for this question type is that one of the answer choices will correctly describe the topic. But because the question is asking for the passage’s main idea, you want to identify the key argument.

4. Bonus Strategy B: for questions that ask for the best evidence, answer that question first before the original question.

You may have noticed that you’ll get a question on the SAT Reading test that’s followed by a question asking you for the best evidence to the previous question. The best way to tackle this kind of question is to actually answer the best evidence question first. This method allows you to use direct text to answer the original question. It’s much easier to find direct evidence first than to sift through answers that reword the passage. By finding the correct citation first, you’ll already have thee supporting evidence you need to answer the original question.

Part Three: Get Your Timing Down

Once you know the test inside and out and have identified the best strategies for you, you’ll want to focus on timing.

A lot of students make the mistake of immediately focusing on timing. You should first focus on getting your accuracy up. Once you can consistently get questions right, you can then shift your attention to timing.

To improve timing, first time yourself on an individual passage. You’ll want to give yourself about 13 minutes for one passage. Once you feel comfortable completing a passage in 13 minutes, start adding more passages. For example, try doing two passages in 26 minutes. As you slowly add more passages, you’ll build your endurance for a full-length SAT Reading test.

If you’re writing instead of reading, let help you cite your sources! There are tools to help you create MLA citations, an APA formatter tool, a guide on what is an annotated bibliography, and more!

Unusual Adjectives to Use in Your Papers

By Amanda Prahl

We’ve all been there: you’re writing a paper for a class, trying hard to demonstrate your mastery of the material, make a strong argument, and show your writing skills. You sit back to proofread… and realize you have somehow managed to use the same three adjectives in the entire paper.

Your vocabulary is an important part of any paper you write. The best bet is to walk the line between ordinary language that keeps your point clear, and unusual words that add specificity and show your mastery of language. When you’re proofreading a paper, it’s just as important to check for repeated simple vocabulary as it is to run a spelling and grammar check.

While most fields have jargon that can be used to demonstrate your expertise, these words are more often than not nouns. If you’re looking to expand your vocabulary in a way that can be applied to any paper in any discipline, your best bet is a different part of speech: the adjective.

Adjectives like good, important, and huge get used a lot, but they’re awfully generic. Let’s take a look at some adjectives you can use and how to incorporate them seamlessly into your own writing.


Definition: logical, clear, or convincing by virtue of its presentation

Use it for: Describing an argument, case, or theory (instead of “strong” or “good”)

Example sentence: The negotiators made their point with a compelling, cogent argument that convinced even the naysayers in the room.


Definition: self-evident, no need for a proof

Use it for: Something that is unquestionably true (instead of “obvious” or “necessary”)

Example sentence: It is axiomatic that germs cause disease, although humankind did not always understand this truth and instead subscribed to a wide array of quasi-scientific or superstitious explanations.

Also try: Innate or inherent, for something that is not learned (“I believe that kindness is innate in human nature.”)


Definition: unpredictable, likely to change without warning

Use it for: Describing something that’s hard to predict or that has shown a pattern of instability

Example sentence: Because of the erratic weather during the experiment, the instruments were unable to collect usable data.


Definition: lacking concrete definition

Use it for: Something that is hard to pin down or clarify precisely; something marked by a lack of clarity or precision

Example sentence: Although his speech was full of big ideas, the details on how he planned to achieve those goals were rather nebulous.


Definition: not adhering to a norm or expectation

Use it for: Describing something that breaks with the pack, often but not always morally or statistically (instead of “different” or “unusual”)

Example sentence: Aberrant behaviors, such as mood swings, may be an indication of a bad reaction to new medication.


Definition: lacking significance; foolish (usually with a connotation of complacency or insipidity)

Use it for: Something that is foolish or empty to a ridiculous degree; may be applied to living beings as well as concepts

Example sentence: The vacuous arguments they made betrayed their total lack of understanding of the situation at hand.

Each word suggested in the adjectives list above are unusual enough to add extra color to your paper, without being so obscure that they sound like showing off more than simply good writing. Continue to expand your vocabulary, and you’ll be impressing your professors in no time at all!

Grammar isn’t the only thing to think about: Did you create a bibliography or APA reference yet? Citation Machine helps you cite sources in thousands of citation styles like MLA, APA, Chicago Manual of Style, and more!

Smart Writing Tips for STEM Majors

By Caleigh Propes

Chemistry majors have alkynes of trouble with it. Physics buffs can be “Bohr”ed to death by it. Engineers can’t always make the transformation without resistance. Let’s face it—writing can be difficult for STEM majors.

As a molecular biology major, I feel your pain. But effective communication is one of the most important skills we can learn in college, as it’ll help us stand out when we enter the job market.

Even if you only need to pass one writing class for your major, it’s important to use the opportunity to hone your skills and remember that scientists can write well, too. With online tools like Citation Machine Plus’s own grammar check tool, there’s no reason that you can’t write with confidence

While you’re working on your writing, keep a few key things in mind: focus on your argument, cut out the fluff, and check your flow.

  1. Focus on Your Argument

The single most important component of your writing is your argument. Even the most complex syntax and elevated vocabulary can’t make up for a weak thesis or threadbare claims. When thinking through your thesis, take the time to look through multiple, peer-reviewed sources. Looking through academic journals can be a bit intimidating at first, but they have tons of thorough research.

Once you’re more informed on your topic, write a thesis that specifically addresses your assignment’s specifications. One trick is to rephrase the assignment as a question and then make sure your thesis answers that question.

As you write your body paragraphs, ensure you’re making claims that support your thesis, and always remember to pose a counterargument. If you’re not sure which style guide to use when writing your paper, ask your professor or look at your sources and see what style they are written in—MLA format, APA format, etc.—and that will point you in the right direction. (See an APA format examples here.)

Writing becomes so much more interesting when you love your topic, so try to find something within the assignment that speaks to you personally. You might even be able to find a subject that relates to STEM issues in some way.

  1. Cut Out the Fluff

 After forming our arguments, we STEM majors have a bad habit of making our sentences too complicated and fancy in attempt to woo our professors. Sound familiar?

It’s understandable that you want to show off your best writing skills, but the biggest giveaway of a novice writer is incorrectly used vocabulary. Even worse, some students stretch their sentences for miles without any extra benefit except reaching the dreaded word count requirement.

Even if your paper is a doozy of more than 15 pages, you still have to cut out the fluff. This means actively checking for lengthy or wordy sentences and avoiding passive voice at all costs. For example, instead of:

The revolution was caused by dissatisfied young people.

You’d write:

Dissatisfied young people sparked the revolution.

College professors in the humanities prefer active writing, which can be a hard shift for science students who are used to writing in the passive voice for lab reports. After you’ve written your draft, read it aloud. Listen for any instances of passive voice, and circle any words that you’re not quite sure you’re using properly. Then, cut out any unnecessary words and see just how concise you can make your writing. Your reader will almost certainly understand your argument better, even if you don’t feel like a budding Shakespeare.

  1. Check Your Flow

The last consideration for a smooth academic papers is its flow, or how it transitions from claim to claim.

Ideally, your transitions will be smooth and the topics will be related in a logical way, but this can be hard to nail on the first try without prior planning. This is where outlining becomes very important. Make a flowchart using a phrase-long descriptor of each paragraph, and rearrange them until the order makes sense. This is a great practice for identifying the most appropriate order for your paper, whether that be chronological or something more unique.

The flow will guide your reader throughout your argument, and your topic sentences will serve as their roadmap. Make sure these beginnings of your paragraphs are straightforward and direct your reader with the flow, instead of making them stop to piece together your ideas.

Even if you plan to spend the rest of your life working with derivatives and antiderivatives, writing will still be integral to your career in some way. After all, you’ll probably want to let the world (or at least your coworkers) know about your knowledge or discoveries.The good thing is that there’s likely no need to drastically change or enhance your writing. Focusing on a solid argument, keeping things simple, and checking your flow is a great three-step plan to get you on track to success. And don’t be afraid to ask for help from your TA, a tutor, or your campus writing center.

So, fear not, and don’t short-circuit your assignment. It’ll all be worth it in the end.

Step up your writing skills even more by reviewing our grammar guides! Learn what is a verb phrase, see predicate adjective examples, read a definition of a preposition, and more!

5 Mistakes a Grammar Checker Can Catch

Grammar Checker

You’ve just finished writing what you think is the perfect paper, or at least one within the required word count. A proofread is SO needed, but you’re totally brain dead after working on it for hours. At times like these, a grammar check could be a BIG help.

A grammar checker, like the one offered with EasyBib Plus, will scan your paper and automatically provide suggestions to improve your writing. Though not all encompassing, below are 5 general areas a checker can help you with.

Subject-Verb Agreement

Everyday, we do this naturally without thinking: matching singular or plural subjects with the proper verb forms. But subject-verb agreement can get complicated when we write longer sentences (is “boy or girl” singular or plural?), or when collective nouns appear (e.g., congress, parliament, police, etc.). A quick grammar check could help correct sentences like the following:

  • Incorrect: She wants to buys a car.
  • Correct: She wants to buy a car.

Spelling & Capitalization

Bet this is the first thing you thought of! It only takes one, annoying, mis-typed letter to mess up spelling—and it’s so easy to do. Sometimes, a word’s whole meaning changes (“I love coats” vs “I love oats”). Other times, we just look unprofessional or careless (no one wants to receive the message “How yuu doinG?”). Luckily, grammar checkers can easily see if a word is misspelled.

Bonus: They can also identify a proper noun that should be capitalized (e.g., Asia, Zeus, London, etc.).

One word of caution: A checker will sometimes miss words that are spelled correctly, but misused (e.g., I am the third sun in my family), so it’s still worth going over your paper yourself a few times.

Punctuation & Spacing

Depending on the checker, you can also catch common punctuation and spacing issues. These are mistakes we already know not to make but do  in a rush to finish a paper. Here are a few examples:

Missing commas after a dependent clause:

  • Incorrect: If I drink coffee now I’ll never sleep.
  • Correct: If I drink coffee now, I’ll never sleep.

Parentheses and quotation marks that aren’t in a pair:

  • Incorrect: Ask me that one more time.
  • Correct: Ask me that one more time.

An extra space between a period and the end of a sentence:

  • Incorrect: Nothing is better than a pet greeting you at the door  .
  • Correct: Nothing is better than a pet greeting you at the door.

Tense Agreement

Tense is a tricky thing. There are three main verb tenses (past, present, future), and we often go back and forth between them when we speak and write. However, when it breaks consistency, switching tenses messes up whole sentences. For example:

  • The family will lived in a house in New York.
  • I love singing and danced at music camp.

A grammar checker could help you catch some of these mistakes.

Word Choice

Ok, choosing “weak” words isn’t exactly a mistake, but it’s still something we shouldn’t do. There are around 170,000 words in English, but not all of them are destined for use in academic writing. Prime example: the adverb really. It’s a great word to use in conversation but often superfluous in papers. Take these sentences:

  • The argument starts off really solid but needs a few more points to make it convincing.
  • Test A results were really different from Test B results.
  • I really feel that Taylor Swift is an excellent songwriter.  

Now read them again without the word really or with a stronger word:

  • The argument starts off solid but needs a few more points to make it convincing.
  • Test A results were unexpectedly different from Test B results.
  • I feel that Taylor Swift is an excellent songwriter.  

Did we “really” need that word there? The meaning of the sentences remained the same but were communicated in a more efficient way. A grammar checker can call attention to certain “weak” words so you can create better sentences.

Even before your paper sees a grammar checker, you should have a completed bibliography (like an MLA format works cited). Haven’t crafted one yet? Try Citation Machine! We offer free citation creation services for MLA, APA citations, Chicago Manual of Style, and more!

How to Ace Writing 101

Read to write

by Mary Catherine Connors

Welcome to Writing 101, authors-in-training! By now I’m sure you’ve come to the alarming realization that, yes, you’ll have to (eventually) write an essay in this class. Don’t stress. The secret is, everyone’s first college papers are… well… they’re not exactly the Great American Novel.

Mine definitely weren’t. But that’s why Writing 101 is awesome—you can experiment with your evolving writer’s voice and learn from your instructor without the pressure of an upper-level course. There are also great tools out there that can help you turn in a polished essay, like our online plagiarism and grammar checker. Check it out!

Here are some tips to get your college writing career off to a smashing start:

1. Break Free of Your Paragraph Order

Here’s a little secret: you can write your paper in any! order! you! choose! It is truly the wild, wild west out here in these parts.

It’s difficult to write the introduction first when you have basically no clue what the rest of the paper will look like. By the time you finish typing, your thesis might go in a different direction than you originally intended, or you might uncover newer, better ideas as you write (aka the old ideas look less hot and more hot fire garbage after you see them on the page).

2. Pass It Around

Peer review is great for several reasons: your fellow students are already familiar with the material and what the professor is looking for in your writing. Your stream of consciousness (although vibrant, bold, and a little mysterious, I’m sure), doesn’t always clearly translate to your writing, so it’s helpful for another person to point out areas that aren’t so clear—before your instructor does the same.

3. Bow Down to the Word Count

If you’ve finally typed your last type and come to the horrible realization you’re 100 words below count, try going through your paper once more. There is a 100% chance that at least one topic in your paper is vague, awkward, or confusing. Flesh it out and you’ll have a more convincing, clearer argument in the end.

4. Stop by for a Chat

Don’t be scared to meet one-on-one with your  instructor or TA! It’s a grand time, I promise. But go after you’ve already brainstormed on the prompt. When your instructor asks what you’re thinking of writing about, it’s not helpful for you to shrug your shoulders and blurt out, “I dunno what are YOU writing about?” A little preparation can lead to a thoughtful discussion that will help you refine and streamline your ideas.

5. Learn From the Pros

Tackling an academic essay is difficult if you’ve never seen/heard/read an academic essay. But those rascals are everywhere—search online or pick up a used book on literary criticism and get reading.

Even if you have no earthly idea what the critical essay is talking about, study its structure—how does the essay begin, string its arguments into a healthy thesis, or address potential counterarguments? If you feel uncomfortable finding an essay on your own, ask your instructor for an example.

Need to cite your sources? For help making parenthetical citations, an APA title page, or citations in MLA style, it doesn’t get any easier than Citation Machine’s free citation generator!

6. Annotate as You Go

Best advice I’ve gotten from an instructor: always read with a pencil in hand. Put check marks by quotes that make you angry, happy, quizzical, or say yikes, what weirdo wrote this and why do I relate so much! Scribble down your interesting thoughts—you might need your brilliant, original ideas later when you’re researching paper topics or want to contribute to class discussion.

Need to turn your scribblings into something turn-in-able? Learn how to write an annotated bibliography here!

7. Don’t Forget Your Topic Sentences

They ain’t a joke. If you don’t want to do an entire outline but need a good handle on your paper’s overall organization, try writing all your topic sentences (the first and last sentences of each major point/paragraph) first.

Knowing where you want to start and where you want to end will make the writing process so much easier. My Instagram and eating habits were always highly disorganized in school, but my papers KNEW what they wanted out of life.

8. Write Like Yourself

It’s easy to feel insecure when you’re typing that first essay. Even if you feel tempted to beef up your vocabulary a little bit, don’t stray too far from your natural voice. Sometimes we attempt to write quite professionally and satisfactorily, and the consequential consequence is one of undue remorse and alternative versions of such previously mentioned emotion. Yeesh. By all means, develop and elevate your writer’s voice, but keep it your own and not Professor X’s of Scholarly School Y.

9. I’m Baaaa-ck!

After you get the grade, don’t be afraid to go back to office hours and discuss—even if you got an A+ (can I have your secrets please?). Your instructor will likely be able to provide you with additional insight  that didn’t exactly fit in the comment section of your paper, but which can help you a lot next time.

Get scribbling, everyone. And good luck!

Thirsting for more writing and grammar guides? You’re in luck! Citation Machine has guides that cover a regular and irregular verbswhat is a possessive adjective, examples of plural possessive nouns, and more!

5 Tips for Making Perfect Citations

When you’re in a rush to meet a deadline and hand in your paper ASAP, it can be all too easy to make a mistake that can cost you big time. Citations are an often-overlooked component of a research paper that, when done correctly, can help you get your best grade yet. So how can you be sure that your citations are helping you achieve success? Here are some tips to take your research paper to the next level.

1. Include In-text or Parenthetical Citations When Paraphrasing

It can be tempting to just re-write a sentence from a source to include in your paper. But neglecting inclusion of a parenthetical, or in-text citation can lead to accusations of plagiarism. Being accused of committing plagiarism can not only impact your grade, but can put your enrollment in jeopardy as well. To avoid making this error, be sure to paraphrase carefully, and include a parenthetical or in-text citation in your paper each time you reference an outside source.

2. Periods (Almost) Always Go After the Parenthesis

Something as minor as an incorrectly placed period after a reference can lead to losing major points on your paper. In nearly every citation style with parenthetical citations, the period comes after the parenthesis, not before. Here is an example of a correctly placed period after a reference in APA format:

(Smith, 2005).

3. Be Consistent with Your Citation Style

Some classes require you use MLA format, while others require APA, while still others require Chicago Manual of Style. These specifications can be difficult to keep track of, but being consistent with your style is perhaps the easiest thing you can do to make sure you have well written citations. Double-checking your citations at the end of your paper before handing it in can lead to good last minute improvements.

4. All In-text and Parenthetical Citations Should Correspond with a Reference List Entry

In-text and parenthetical citations can be done while you are writing your paper, and are included each time you include information from an outside source. It is important to remember, however, that each time you do this, you should bear in mind that at the end of your paper in the works cited, bibliography, reference list, etc., there should be a corresponding longer reference to that same source that matches the in-text or parenthetical reference. When you are finished making your in-text and parenthetical references, use them to make a list of full citations you will need to include at the end of your paper.

5. Cite Properly, Not in Excess

While it is important to include citations in your paper, you shouldn’t be including them after each and every sentence you write. The important thing to remember is to cite only if you are including information from an outside source. This information should only be included if you feel that it backs up your claim effectively enough to the point where another researcher could potentially find that source and identify it as being related to your argument. If all the information in one paragraph you write refers to the same source, you only need to include one in-text or parenthetical citation in that paragraph, not after each individual sentence.


Finished with your citations and paper? Check out Citation Machine’s handy grammar checker! It can help you spot errors and polish your paper. There’s also a free grammar guides library where you can learn what is a verb, an adjective definition, relative pronoun examples, and other grammar-related topics.

How to Cite a Podcast

podcast citation

Ah, the podcast. A pretty modern way to be entertained or learn new things! Podcasts can be great sources of information for a research paper. They cover a wide range of topics, and can lead you to discussion questions you may want to address in your paper.

So how would you go about citing a podcast in your bibliography? Never fear! We have put together a quick guide below on how to cite a podcast in MLA format, APA format, and Chicago style.

To cite a podcast, you may want to include the following pieces of information:

  1. Full name of contributor (such as the narrator), or the username or name of the company who posted the content
  2. Title of the podcast
  3. Title of the episode
  4. Publisher of the podcast or where you watched it
  5. Date the podcast was posted
  6. URL of the podcast

Use the following structure to cite a podcast in MLA 8:

Last name, First name of the individual who posted the content OR the name of the company who posted it OR the username. “Title of the podcast episode.” Title of the Podcast, Name of the Publisher/Where you listened to it (only include if it is different than the author or title), Date it was posted, URL.

Here’s how the above example would be cited in MLA 8:

Chang, Ailsa, host. “Why Scientists Can’t Explain All the Appeal of an Eclipse.” Morning Edition, NPR, 11 Aug. 2017.

Use the following structure to create an APA citation for a podcast:

Last, F. M. (Contributor title). (Year, Month Date). Podcast episode title [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from URL.

Here’s how the above example would be cited as an APA citation:

Chang, A. (Host).  (2017, August 11). Why scientists can’t explain all the appeal of an eclipse [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from

Use the following structure to cite a podcast in Chicago style format:

Last Name, First Name. “Episode Title”. Podcast Title. Podcast audio, Month Date, Year of publication. URL.

Here’s how the above example would be cited in Chicago style format:

Chang, Alisa. “Why Scientists Can’t Explain All the Appeal of an Eclipse”. Morning Edition. Podcast audio, August 11, 2017.

Looking to go beyond just creating citations? Try Citation Machine Plus! It comes with a grammar and plagiarism checker, tools that can create citations in different styles, a parenthetical citation form, and more! If you want help brushing up on writing, we also have helpful guides on “what are determiners,” subordinating conjunctions, and other grammar topics.