Essay Online Writing Labs

The Online Writing Lab (OWL) assists students who would like help with their writing but are unable to come by the Connors Writing Center on campus. The web-based OWL provides commuter, non-traditional, and other busy students and staff the flexibility they need to collaborate with qualified writing assistants from their home or during times that are most convenient for them.

Students in all fields of study can submit up to 20 double-spaced pages of any form of writing to the OWL, including course papers, resumes, creative essays, or personal statements. Within 72 hours, writing assistants provide typed feedback in an e-mail message and handwritten digital ink comments on documents that can be printed or viewed on screen. The OWL is a free service to all UNH students and staff, and is accessible through any computer that has an Internet connection and Microsoft Word.

Submissions will be accepted ONLY via this form using a UNH email address.

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As we all know, the Internet provides a wealth of teaching materials, and many of them are free of charge. There are lots of web-based resources that we, writing teachers, can use to help our students become better writers: websites for ESL teachers, online corpora, discussions and forums, just to name a few. I’d like to share another resource—online writing labs, or OWLs, as they are commonly known. Many universities and colleges offer freely accessible OWLs. I often use the OWL hosted by my university (Purdue OWL), and it helps me both in my teaching and in my research. And, of course, I recommend it to my students as well.

Let me share my five favorite OWLs.

Guide to Grammar and Writing (Capital Community College)

This website is sponsored by the Capital Community College Foundation. It provides lots of helpful materials for teaching grammar and writing, as well as quizzes and practice activities. All materials are divided into three large sections: word and sentence level, paragraph level, and essay level. On the word and sentence level, for example, you can find materials on sentence parts (e.g., subject, verb, noun, object, adjective), punctuation, and types of sentences. On the paragraph level, you’ll find instructional materials about paragraph development, transitions, and coherence, to name a few. On the essay level, the website provides resources on writing process, essay structure, and patterns of organization. To find the topic you need, go to the Index.

Writing @ CSU (Colorado State University)

This writing lab is sponsored by Colorado State University and has various resources for students and teachers. The teacher can find teaching guides “ranging from planning and conducting classes to teaching with technology.” I particularly like a very rich section called “Teaching Activity Bank,” which provides materials for classroom activities, such as class discussions, small group activities, and peer review. All of these materials are available in Web format, Word format, and Adobe Acrobat format. Students, on the other hand, can find guides that cover a wide range of writing topics, including writing process, research and documentation, and writing in disciplines.

The Excelsior College OWL

This one is my favorite OWL! Sponsored by the Excelsior College, this online writing lab has an attractive interface and lots of interactive features. The information on the website is well organized, and the entire website is very easy to navigate. The materials are divided into several sections: writing process, locating information & writing with sources, digital writing, grammar essentials, essay zone, avoiding plagiarism, and L2 writing. The materials include not only verbal explanations, but also videos and practice activities. For the list of topics, go to the Site Index.

Purdue OWL

The online writing lab sponsored by Purdue University is a resource both for teachers and students. It provides a variety of materials on the general writing process, academic writing and research, subject-specific writing, and creative writing, to name a few. The website also has a separate section for ESL learners, which offers useful resources geared towards the needs of second language writers. Those applying for grad school or a job can find useful recommendations and materials on how to write graduate school applications and compose resumes, CVs, and cover letters. For topics, go to the site map.

Writing at the University of Toronto

This OWL is particularly helpful for teaching about academic writing skills. The website provides materials on planning and organizing, reading and researching, using sources, style, and editing. It also has an ESL section, which offers materials on common ESL writing issues. If you teach about different writing genres (e.g., book review, lab report, application letter), you may find the section “Specific Types of Writing” exceptionally useful. Most materials in the website are supported by PDF versions that teachers can use as handouts. Find PDFs for students as well as PDF materials for teachers.

If you have your favorite online writing labs, please share with us!

About Elena Shvidko

Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor at Utah State University. She received her doctorate in second language studies from Purdue University and her master’s degree in TESOL from Brigham Young University. Her work appears in TESOL Journal, System, Journal on Response to Writing, TESOL interest section newsletters, and TESOL's New Ways series. Her research interests include second language writing, multimodal interaction, interpersonal aspects of language teaching, and teacher professional development.

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