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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

ExploreCU Contributor's Guide: Writing

Information on how to submit content for use in ExploreCU


After you have done enough research to get a clear grasp on the topic, it is time to write the narrative!  While these narratives should be engaging to read and fun to write, there are some important things to keep in mind to ensure the quality of your work.

  • Academic integrity is very important. This means that you should never copy someone else’s work, and you should always credit your sources. For more information, please see the plagiarism page in this guide. 
  • Writings submitted to ExploreCU should adhere to common guidelines of ‘good grammar.’ This means spelling and grammar should be correct and sentences should be complete. Use the Writers' Workshop's Grammar Handbook for more details.

Citing your Sources

It is critical to cite the sources you used while researching your topic, as well as any images or multimedia that you may have used. Consult the citing sources libguide as well as this page for citing images for more detailed information on the various citation styles, but in general you should: 

  • Be consistent. If you're really attached to a certain style, feel free to use it. Just don't use MLA for your in-text citations, Chicago for your related sources, and APA for your multimedia. 
  • Use in-text citations when quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing from another text. It is important for readers to know where a certain idea or quote comes from, and it makes your research more credible. 


Style is about how an author chooses to write to his or her audience. This can include elements such as tone, diction, organization, and syntax. Below are some tips on how to make your story stand out: 

  • Keep it clear and concise. The reccomended word count for ExploreCU stories is about 500 words, so you'll need to eliminate 'filler' content. Consult this guide for details on how to do so. 
  • Think about your audience. ExploreCU is aimed at the Champaign-Urbana community. Avoid using jargon, and be sure to provide background information (but not too much!) about a paticular topic if necessary. 
  • Use an academic tone. ExploreCU stories are similar to short essays or articles, and so authors are encouraged to stay objective about his or her topic and to avoid sounding conversational. This guide provides more details about academic tone. 
  • Focus on what your story is about. Many historical topics include myriad details, but try to only focus on those that are relevant to what you are trying to get across.
  • Never submit a first draft. There is always room for improvement. Many mistakes can be fixed through a little bit of proofreading. 
  • Engage readers by providing them text that reads more like a story and less like an encyclopedia entry. ExploreCU is meant to impart more than facts and figures about local history. Rather, try to relate a sense of context and historical importance to a place or event. What was it like to experience a paticular event? What was the political context for creating a public park system? Why are the arts important to this community? 
  • Avoid lengthy analysis about a paticular issue. While WWII deeply affected the Champaign-Urbana community, readers don't need the entire history of the war. Keep content relevant to your audience. 

Make an appointment with the Writers' Workshop for more help with writing an engaging ExploreCU story.