Handbooks and Guides for Students
Alongside the primary texts for a course, writing handbooks are extremely helpful in an R&C course. There are several kinds of resource books available to assist students in learning to write academically. Some departments leave this choice to the GSI while others order a standard text for R&C courses, so be sure to start by checking with your department. In addition to the information below, GSIs are encouraged to ask experienced colleagues how they evaluate the handbooks they have used.
If you are ordering textbooks for a course, please bear in mind the cost to students. Some textbooks are very expensive, but expenses can be shaved by using an earlier edition or making sure an electronic edition is available. Electronic editions are also helpful for some students with disabilities. The Center for Teaching and Learning Textbook Affordability & Accessibility page introduces campuswide deadlines for placing orders and provides tips for instructors and students.
Many of the items below are also available in web versions.
While some GSIs prefer to introduce explanations of grammatical points in informal or ad hoc ways, students often find a GSI’s explanations easier to accept and understand if the material is substantiated in a reference book students can use. In the long run, you want them to learn to find answers to their questions themselves, so assigning a handbook makes sense. Require students to procure a particular writing handbook and show them how to use it. Using the handbook in class activities is essential; increasingly, students opt out of procuring course materials that they do not see being used. Several serviceable textbooks are available; look at samples or ask experienced GSIs about which ones they use. (The GSI Teaching & Resource Center has a few on hand to examine.) Think about the kind of manual you want to use: a writing or composition manual with exercises, a guide to style, or an introduction to analysis and argumentation.
Whatever manual you choose, get to know it intimately so you are ready to talk about specific common mistakes, examples of good writing, and important stylistic features. Show students how the book is organized. Create some learning activities that get students using the handbook in class so that they know how it can benefit them. Ask them to locate where in the book to find answers about (for example) how to combine sentences without creating comma splices, or when to use “which” or “that” in a relative clause. You can come up with several questions like these based on their formal papers (address pervasive errors) or make a team competition out of the lookup exercise. (You might even bring some simple, inexpensive kind of prize for the winning team.) When it comes time to address types of errors on their essays, you can refer to the relevant sections of the handbook to see detailed explanations and examples in their own study time.
A few examples of grammar and writing handbooks:
Crews, Frederick. The Random House Handbook. New York: McGraw-Hill. Out of print; many editions available. Solid volume with clear explanations of stylistic as well as grammatical and punctuation issues. Still available and worth exploration for personal, and perhaps also pedagogical, use.
Hacker, Diana. A Writer’s Reference. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. Well-organized; gives samples of papers in MLA, APA, and Chicago styles. Exercise modules and resources for multilingual writers are available in some editions or online for a student-paid fee. Available in many editions.
Lunsford, Andrea. The Everyday Writer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. Available in many editions. Similar to Hacker’s material; Lunsford’s explanations are perhaps a little more accessible. Has samples of papers in MLA, APA, Chicago, and CSE styles.
Manuals of style move beyond eliminating error to address the mode of expression in students’ writing: how effective (or distracting) is their prose in conveying a particular idea? What alternatives should they consider? Some examples:
Glaser, Joe (2016, 2010, 1999). Understanding Style: Practical Ways to Improve Your Writing. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kolln, Martha (2012). Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects. 7th ed. New York: Pearson Education. This interesting volume addresses non-native English speakers’ writing and gives sample worksheets you can use with students.
Williams, Joseph M. and Joseph Bizup. Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace. New York: Longman. Several editions available.
WriteLab. WriteLab is a Berkeley-born online tool that analyzes students’ drafts and gives feedback at the stylistic level concerning clarity, cohesion, concision, elegance, logic, emphasis, and coherence. It also links marked portions of their essay to explanations in the website’s style manual.
A different kind of manual yet is a simple reference guide. These books do not help much to teach writing, but they do provide rules for correct formatting and concise explanations of style and source citations. A couple of examples:
MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 8th ed. (2016). New York: Modern Language Association of North America. An introduction to doing library research as well as the logic and mechanics of source documentation.
Turabian, Kate L. (2007). A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers. Revised by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, and the University of Chicago Press Editorial Staff. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Turabian/Chicago style is appropriate for several disciplines. This volume incorporates Booth et al.’s substantial Craft of Research, a highly valuable resource on the development and write-up of research projects for undergraduate and graduate students alike.
Many GSIs work with students using an introductory guide to analysis and argument. (Some departments decide on a textbook and make sure GSIs get a copy.) Some examples:
Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein (2014). They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, 3rd ed. Helps students identify common rhetorical moves in academic readings and frame arguments in their own writing.
Rosenwasser, David and Jill Stephens (2014). Writing Analytically, 7th ed. Boston: Wadsworth. Gives many good models for introducing students to critical reading and analysis.
Weston, Anthony. A Rulebook for Arguments. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing. Several editions available. This slim book provides a quick, traditional introduction to valid and invalid forms of argumentation.