Online resources for students

You can find a great deal of help with writing directly from the Internet. Below are links to a selection of websites that cover the following:

  • How to avoid plagiarism
  • MLA and APA guidelines
  • Dictionaries
  • Using the right word or phrase
  • Grammar and grammar exercises
  • Writing for an American academic audience
  • Tips for writing with a learning disability


How to avoid plagiarism

Plagiarism is the unethical use of someone else’s words or ideas. As part of its commitment to academic integrity, USC has published its own guidelines for students to respect and acknowledge the authorship of others.

MLA and APA guidelines

The Writing Center has downloadable MS Word files describing standard citation methods for academic papers and providing many different types of examples. Access each by clicking below:

Diana Hacker’s Bedford-St. Martin's Guide gives a good overview of the standard citation formats for most academic disciplines. Duke University's libraries also provide an excellent, easy-to-use guide for citing online sources.


Merriam-Webster has an online dictionary and thesaurus that give basic information on the pronunciation, derivation, part of speech, and definition of words in American English, with synonyms and antonyms. You can also hear the pronunciation of the words you look up.

The Oxford English Dictionary Online Edition gives you access to the most extensive dictionary of the English language. Since the 19th century, it has attempted to include every meaning of every word, many of which are obsolete and are of interest to scholars working with historical documents and literary texts from earlier centuries. This is a subscription service available to the USC community.

Using the right word or phrase

Common Errors in English Usage is a site with many brief explanations of words and phrases often confused or used incorrectly in English.

About grammar

Purdue University's OWL: Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling offers handouts and exercises on grammar, spelling, and punctuation. They also have PowerPoint presentations related to grammar and an entire section of handouts and resources for English as a Second Language learners.

The Online English Grammar by Anthony Hughes is a very complete grammar reference. It covers adjectives, adverbs, determiners, direct and indirect speech, -ing form, nouns, passive, possessive, relative clauses, infinitives, verbs and verb tenses. You will see charts, explanations and sample sentences.

Grammar exercises

Purdue University’s OWL: Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling. Scroll down on the page to see the section of “Exercises.” These are particularly useful for help with count and non-count nouns, commas, and prepositions.

Although the English Language Centre Study Zone (University of Victoria, British Columbia) offers exercises for students at a variety of levels, the Basic/Intermediate and the Intermediate/Advanced offer the most useful quizzes for students looking for practice in particular issues of grammar. Many of the quizzes provide feedback, and the explanations that accompany the exercises are quite straightforward.

English Zone Grammar Practice at is a privately-owned personal website that began as a site for students and teachers of English, but which has rapidly expanded to include native speakers of English brushing up on their English grammar skills. It offers practice on a variety of topics: articles, comparatives, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, conditionals, questions, quantifiers, agreement, clauses, etc.

Grammar exercises for non-native speakers

There are quizzes for all levels at Self-Study Grammar Quizzes, provided by The Internet Teachers of English as a Second Language Journal. They are marked easy, medium and difficult. This site allows you to really focus on grammar. There are over 100 grammar quizzes organized by grammar topics.

The Super Quiz Machine is for people studying English as a Second Language (ESL) or English as a Foreign Language (EFL). It offers a random question generator that provides explanations when you choose the wrong answer. A non-commercial site with no advertising, it allows you to review what you’ve learned about a variety of topics.

The Online English Grammar site provides multiple resources for ESL students, including extensive information about various aspects of English, practice pages, a grammar clinic, and a learning center.

Dave's ESL Cafe provides a rich array of resources for ESL writers from a quiz center to handouts, message exchanges, and chat.

The Grammar and Vocabulary pages at English as a Second Language have links to several helpful online guides and self-instruction.

Writing for an American academic audience

If you are an international student, Purdue University's Online Writing Lab offers this list of tips for writing academic essays in the U.S.

Tips for writing with a learning disability

This page from the Dartmouth Writing Program offers strategies for learning-disabled writers.

  • Director: Geoffrey Middlebrook
  • Assistant Director: Roger Anderson
  • Location: Taper Hall of Humanities Room 216