Lacerte Family Writing & Academic Resource Center

Tips for Academic Success

In addition to the services we provide at the WARC, 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, and Grades

  • You will receive a syllabus for each course. Be sure to read it carefully as it describes 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.
  • The American classroom may seem quite informal to new international students. However, American classrooms operate by rules that may not be immediately apparent to the new student. The tone of the class is usually set by the professor, and by observing behaviors and interactions, you will learn and adjust quickly to the style of the class.

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Writing Academic Papers

  1. Make 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 Emerson College 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 adjustments in your writing style. If you have questions, ask your instructor or make an appointment with a Writing Consultant at the WARC.
  5. 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. Two common citation styles are MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association).
  6. Generally, a research essay 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.

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In the United States, words, ideas, images, music, and other authored materials generally belong to the people who created them. 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 sections of text directly from a printed or online source and using the material without giving credit to the author.
  • Unintentional plagiarism may involve paraphrasing or summarizing source material incorrectly. Using too many distinctive words or phrases directly from the original source without using quotation marks and/or citing the source is plagiarism. Taking ideas from sources without using citations is also plagiarism.

Plagiarism and 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 failing the assignment, failing the course, or being formally disciplined by the college. 

How to Avoid Plagiarism

If you have questions about your use of source material, please make an appointment with a Writing Consultant at the WARC. The Writing Consultant will show you how to work with source material, integrate it correctly into your paper, and cite it correctly in the citation style your professor requests. 

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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 WARC and Emerson College's many other student services. Being both proactive and patient will help in your adjustment.

If you have any questions, please contact Linda Miller, Associate Director of International Student Support Services, at the WARC by calling 617-824-7874. For more information about making an appointment, visit our Appointments page.

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