Lacerte Family Writing & Academic Resource Center

Tips for Academic Success

In addition to the services we provide at the Center, we have compiled a list of helpful tips and points for international students to consider as they begin their study at Emerson College:

Courses, Assignments & Grades

  • You will receive a syllabus for each course. Be sure to read it carefully as it points out the requirements for the course for the semester. You are responsible for the assignments on the syllabus, even if the instructor does not mention them in class. Also note the instructor's office hours; this is a time when you may visit his or her office with questions. Most professors will also see students by appointment and/or will accept email inquiries.
  • Your class work may involve projects and research, sometimes alone or sometimes in a small group. It will be your job to understand what is expected for the assignment and to take the initiative to do the work. If you have questions, be sure to ask the instructor.
  • In group work, you must be assertive and make sure that you are included in the working of the group.
  • Grading policies in a class are usually determined by the instructor. The syllabus will inform you of the grading policies for each course. As for overall academic standards, you must maintain a grade point average at or above the standards determined by the College.
  • If you are here on a student visa, it is also necessary to maintain a course load consistent with your visa requirements.

back to top

Class Culture

  • The American classroom is often quite informal, especially at the graduate level. However, graduate schools and classrooms operate by rules, and it is your responsibility to understand these rules.
  • To improve your vocabulary, try to do as much reading as possible. It takes several exposures to a new word before it becomes part of a person's vocabulary. Keep a notebook of words that you encounter, and practice using new words in speaking and writing. Join the Conversation Groups at the WARC or attend one of the many events sponsored by International Student Affairs.

back to top

Writing Research Papers

  1. Be sure you understand the task. If you have questions, ask the instructor.
  2. Design a schedule for completing the project and stick to it.
  3. Library research always takes more time than you think, so plan accordingly. There is always a reference librarian on duty at the library to help you if you need assistance finding material.
  4. American academic writing is generally logical and progressive. Because discourse styles differ from culture to culture, you may need to make some changes in your writing style. If you have questions, ask your instructor or make an appointment with a Writing Center tutor. This can be done by calling 617-824-7874.
  5. Be sure that you know how to cite outside source material. Your professor may ask you to use a particular style to cite the material you have taken from library or Internet sources. There are writer's handbooks to help with this, or you can consult a Writing Center tutor. The library website also has a useful section on proper citation.
  6. Generally, a research report must contain a thesis or research question that you explore in the text of your paper. Your job is to argue and "prove" the thesis. Your own analysis of the research question becomes an important part of this process.

back to top


In the United States, words and ideas are considered intellectual property. As with any property, using other people's work without giving proper credit is considered stealing. Intellectual honesty is the foundation of academic life, and all students must understand its importance.

There are two types of plagiarism:

  • Intentional plagiarism may involve buying or using a paper written by someone else, downloading a paper from an online source, or copying material directly from a printed or online source without giving credit to the author.
  • Unintentional plagiarism may involve paraphrasing or summarizing source material incorrectly. Using too many words or distinctive phrases from the original source without using quotation marks and citing the source is plagiarism. 

Plagiarism & Its Consequences

Students often plagiarize because they become overwhelmed with writing assignments and need to get papers done quickly. In some countries, modeling or copying others' ideas and words is acceptable. Some students have language difficulties and feel that professionally written texts "sound better" than their own words. Plagiarism is fairly obvious, however, and professors do care.

Students need to be aware of the problem of plagiarism and its serious consequences. A student who plagiarizes, even unintentionally, can suffer serious consequences, including dismissal from school. Plagiarism can ruin a student's reputation and career.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

Visit our Citation Tips page for more information on how to correctly cite a source. It is also plagiarism to take original ideas from others without giving credit.

If you have questions about how to use source material or if you are having problems with a written assignment, please make an appointment at the Lacerte Family Writing and Academic Resource Center. Tutors at the Center are trained to work with you individually and to help you with your assignments. If you feel that writing is difficult for you—and many people feel this way!—get help early and often.

back to top

Adjusting to Emerson College

Though it may take you a bit of time to adjust to the academic and social life at Emerson, be assured that most students adjust quite successfully and look back on their undergraduate and graduate study as a very positive experience.

If you are having adjustment difficulties resulting from language or cultural issues, please take advantage of the resources we provide at the Lacerte Family Writing and Academic Resource Center, the resources provided by International Student Affairs, and Emerson's many other student services. Being both proactive and patient will help in your adjustment.

For more information about making an appointment, visit our Appointments page. If you have any questions, contact Linda Miller, Assistant Director of International Support Services, at 617-824-7874.

back to top