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Maddie H.
Academic Performance Manager at Elevate K-12
Tutor Satisfaction Guarantee
Writing
TutorMe
Question:

How do I know when I should cite something in my writing?

Maddie H.
Answer:

Since academic integrity is crucial in writing, all writers need to know when to cite their sources. Knowing when to cite is usually straightforward. If you are quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing another person's words or work, a citation should always follow. However, sometimes it is not straightforward. Let’s evaluate some tricky cases where the answer is not clear-cut. Case one: You include some awesome facts on the making of the rover Curiosity on Mars. Mars is a passion of yours, so you have accumulated a lot of knowledge on it over the years, but you can’t remember where exactly all your facts came from. It’s your knowledge now, so you don’t have to cite. Right? Verdict: You might have heard of the rule “cite anything that is not common knowledge.” But what exactly is common knowledge? And when does something become your own knowledge? A good question to ask yourself is, “Who is the authority on these facts?” If a specific group is the authority on the research and ideas that went behind discovering, compiling, or curating the facts you use, then you should always cite them. In this case, NASA would be that authoritative group. Even though you have accumulated knowledge on these facts about Curiosity, you are not the authority on them and you should cite the best authority. Case two: You are writing a paper on linguistic differences and discuss the Spanish subjunctive tense. You don’t have to cite because it is common knowledge. Verdict: This is actually a case where it would be considered common knowledge. No source has claim to the way the subjunctive tense functions in the Spanish language. However, if you relied on a particular source’s explanation to better understand how this tense works, it would be a good idea to cite that source. It can be tricky to draw the line between common knowledge and facts that you must cite. It is always better to err on the side of caution and to cite the best authority of a fact.

English as a Second Language
TutorMe
Question:

How can I tell when something is a countable or uncountable noun?

Maddie H.
Answer:

Why can we say, “I had soup for lunch,” but not “I had sandwich for lunch”? And why can we say “I have a fear of cats,” but not “I have a joy”? This is because English nouns go into two categories: countable or uncountable. For a quick review, countable nouns can be counted with a number, and use determiners before the noun like, "a box" or "his suitcase." Uncountable nouns cannot be counted with numbers and do not need determiners. It seems simple, but it can be difficult. Fortunately, we can remember that 1) most nouns are countable, and 2) there are helpful categories of uncountable nouns. Many of these categories either deal with something that is a measurable (as opposed to countable) amount, and an abstract idea. Let’s look at some of these categories and a few examples: Amounts: Liquids: soup, water Powders and grains: rice, flour Materials: wood, metal Gases: air, helium Abstract ideas: States of being: life, childhood Feelings: joy, anger Gerunds: swimming, singing Natural Phenomena: snow, thunder These categories can be a big help in deciding whether a noun is countable or uncountable. However, there are other rules that makes this tricky. Sometimes you will have to add countable nouns to help you communicate the amount of an uncountable noun. For example, “a cup of water” or “a grain of rice.” There are also some words that can be countable or uncountable depending on how they are used. For example, you could say “She has long hair” with no determiner because here, hair is uncountable. You could also say “A found a hair in my food!” and you would need a determiner because you are counting the pieces of hair. Using these categories are helpful tools to know when to use a determiner, and you can continue to learn some special uses of nouns with practice.

English
TutorMe
Question:

How can I identify tone in literature, and how can the tone help me understand the meaning of the text?

Maddie H.
Answer:

Analyzing tone is essential in delving into the meaning of a text. First, it is important to clarify the difference between tone and mood, because they are easy to confuse. Both tone and mood deal with human perspective, but the key is of whom. Mood is the impact that the text has on the reader. It is the emotions that they experience as they read. The mood is more capricious than tone; it can change throughout a text, and even though the author works to impact a reader in a specific way, emotions experienced can differ from reader to reader. Tone is more stable, set in ink. The tone is the author’s own attitude towards their audience, subject, or character. Tone tells us a lot about the text, because it can give us insight into the author’s bias, context, and purpose for writing. It can help us understand everything from the role of characters to the impact of a word choice. It is created by the author’s diction and choice of details. There are as many different tones as there are human perspectives. It can be a lot of fun to look closely at the clues that give away tone and the effect that the tone has on the meaning and the mood. If an author were to write a simple sentence like, “I climbed the mountain,” you might think it was dull and devoid of tone. But even dullness can be a tone and tell us a lot! The word choice in that sentence seems rather detached; the author didn’t seem to care too much about climbing a mountain. The omitted details can be tell us just as much as the included details. Where was the mountain? Was climbing hard? Did they do it alone? The fact that the author didn’t bother to (or didn’t want to) tell us these details can help us in our investigation of meaning. What if an author wrote, “Despite my little training, I managed to press on through the driving rain to propel my exhausted body up the formidable mountain”? This is over-the-top, and would tell us that the author thought highly of their ability to climb this mountain. We can look at the word choices the author uses to describe their ability like “press on,” and “propel.” The details that the author uses to describe their obstacles are important: “little training,” “driving rain,” “exhausted body,” and “formidable mountain.” These details can help us learn that the author is writing this from a rather self-centered perspective. Let’s look at one more example: “My friends and I drowned in the beauty of the stunning green mountain.” Try this one out for yourself. What do you think it means that the author made the friends part of the subject? What excluded details can tell us about the tone? Is it important that the mountain is described as “green”?

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