Thursday, November 3, 2022

Frequently Asked Questions, Part 1

 


Hi there, Roxy Readers! The Stone Writing Center helps lots of students each semester, and I’ve noticed that many of the same questions pop up time and time again. I’ve gathered the top 10 most frequently asked questions that come up when writing an essay to share with you, starting with the first five.

  1. What is a thesis statement? A thesis statement is an important part of any essay because it tells the reader what you are talking about. The thesis statement is often the last sentence in your introduction and sets you up to talk about your main idea throughout the rest of your paragraphs. You might think of your thesis statement as your main argument in the essay. Even if you are not writing an argumentative essay, if your thesis statement is your argument, then the rest of your essay is you trying to prove that argument to your reader. This handout has some tips for writing a thesis statement and an example.
  2. What is good academic word choice? This is another one that can be easy to catch but just as easy to do by accident. It is always important to use good academic word choice in your writing, but we often write in the same way that we talk, using second-person pronouns or contractions. These words that we use in our everyday speech would not be good academic word choice. Keep an eye out for words like, “you,” “we,” or “our,” and others like, “they’ve,” “it’s,” or “can’t.” While we might use these types of words all the time when we talk, it is important to find other words in our writing. With contractions, it can be as simple as spelling out the two words, but with second-person pronouns, it can be a little trickier. I’ve found that words like, “one,” “people,” or even, “they,” can be good replacements for words like, “you,” in an essay. 
  3. What is a sentence fragment? Sentence fragments are sentences that can’t stand on their own, and they can be easy to miss sometimes. Remember that two main things are important for a sentence: a subject (noun) and an action (verb). A helpful tip to identify fragments is to read your writing aloud. If you ever catch a sentence that doesn’t quite make sense on its own, then chances are that it might just be a fragment. Check out this Fragments handout for more information.
  4. What is a run-on sentence? On the other end of the spectrum from sentence fragments, we have run-on sentences. Usually, we may think of a run-on as a sentence that is just too long, going on and on. Run-on sentences are a bit more common than that and can even found in shorter sentences. A run-on sentence is a sentence that is missing important punctuation. For example, if you are using two complete thoughts or independent clauses in a sentence, they will usually need a comma and a conjunction to separate them. For example, “Jim is running and he is jumping,” is actually a run-on sentence. We can fix this one up by simply putting a comma before the conjunction, “and.” That will give us a compound sentence instead! You can find more information about run-on sentences here.
  5. What is a comma splice? Now this one is very similar to the run-on sentence. With a run-on sentence, a sentence can be missing a comma before the conjunction. Comma splices, on the other hand, are missing the conjunction after the comma. Going back to our example, the sentence, “Jim is running, he is jumping,” is a comma splice. We can fix this sentence in almost the same way that we did before. Here, we would just put a conjunction, like the word, “and,” after our comma to make this into a compound sentence. See this helpful handout on comma splices for more examples.

I hope I’ve been able to answer some of your writing-related questions today, Roxy Readers, and stay tuned for the rest of our frequently-asked questions!


See you next time the sun is up, the breeze is cool, and the waves roll into view. ‘Til then, hang ten!

Roxy

Friday, October 7, 2022

Worthy of a Repeat: Do I Really Need a Tutor?

Wow, Roxy Readers! A lot has happened in the last couple of years, and SWC is settling into a new space. Since we're so busy helping students right now, I'm sharing some really important info with you again. 

See you next time the sun is up, the breeze is cool, and the waves roll into view. ‘Til then, hang ten!

Roxy


Hello again, Roxy Readers! We’re well into our fall semester, and we are very busy helping students with their first major writing assignments. Are you working on your paper, too? You may think that you’ve got this, but even the best writers need help sometimes. If you’re asking yourself whether you need a tutor, the answer is yes, you do.

I’ll walk you through the different stages of writing and demonstrate how a tutor can help you with each one.

  1. Unpacking the Assignment Sheet: Sometimes there’s a lot of information, and it can be a little confusing. No worries. We got this! We’ll help you understand the prompt and other assignment requirements like documentation style. Having a set of trained eyes look over your assignment sheet can really help you be ready to tackle that paper!
  2. Brainstorming: So now you understand the assignment, but you don’t know exactly what to write about. We can chat with you and help you bounce ideas around. We’ll sit with you as you capture your ideas and get a lead for THE idea for your paper. We can even talk you through organizing your ideas so that you can be one step closer to beginning a draft. 
  3. Outlining: An outline can be a great help in organizing your thoughts especially if you’re really stuck. The outline functions as a little roadmap for your paper. We can review sample outlines and make sure that your ideas are organized according to your professor’s instructions.
  4. The Actual Writing Part: We find that it it’s most productive when you can do this on your own, but if you’re stuck on a sentence or a paragraph, we will gladly help you work through your writer’s block! We are also whizzes at APA and MLA and everything in between! We can help you integrate sources and polish your works cited pages. Our citation game is so strong that it will blow your socks off!
  5. Revising and Editing: We will read through your paper and point out areas that could use some improvement. We can also give you mini lessons on things that may need some extra attention. For example, we can walk you through a lesson on fragments, word choice, citations, and much more! We want to empower you so that you’re able to revise and edit your own paper. We will gladly help you along the way, but it is YOUR paper, not ours.

Believe me! You will benefit from any and all of these things when visiting with one of our tutors. I know that I didn’t cover everything because there are so many things that the SWC does, but we want you to feel comfortable coming to us for any sort of writing question. There is no question too large or too small for us to tackle. Come see us, say Hi, and meet our tutors. We look forward to meeting you!

Thursday, April 28, 2022

It's Time for Final Exams!

Well, Roxy Readers, it’s about that time again; exams are just around the corner. This might be a stressful time of year, but keep in mind that you can grab a surfboard and hit the waves as soon as your tests are behind you! I suppose you don’t have to hit the waves if surfing isn’t your passion, but be sure to make time for what you enjoy once finals are done. For now, I’d like to share some of my strategies for finals season.

Create flashcards

I recommend making flashcards for important terms, dates, etc. Try to think about what questions your professor might ask on the exam, and format your flashcards similarly. Although there might be premade flashcards out there, I highly suggest making your own because the process requires you to read through your notes and any materials from your class, and the act of writing or typing the information out can help you remember it.

Review study guides

If your professor provides any study guides or lists of what to study, be sure to review them and go over everything the guides cover. Remember that your professors want you to do well in their class, so if they’ve given you a study guide, those materials will likely be on the exam.

Manage your time

Be sure to manage your time well. If you have multiple finals in a brief period of time, whether they’re on the same day or within a day of each other, consider dividing your time between studying for both finals. When studying for one class makes your vision start to blur, it likely means you aren’t retaining information anymore. Try switching to the other class for a while. This might wake you back up, and it will still be an effective use of time.

You might also consider creating a schedule if you’re good at sticking to them. Block off time for each of your subjects so that you can be sure you’re giving each subject enough attention.

Take breaks

Although it might be the last thing you want to do if you feel like you’ve got a lot of studying to get done, breaks are important. Remember that studying does you no good if you’re exhausted and unable to concentrate. Try taking a break. Go for a walk, get a snack, or even just get up and stretch for a few minutes. Your brain will thank you for it, and you’ll likely have much more success when you return to studying. If you’re worried your break will last too long, set a timer, and be strict with yourself about returning to your work after your timer goes off.

Go to study sessions

If your professor holds study sessions or any of your classmates are meeting up to study, consider going, especially if you learn well from others. Study groups are also good because we tend to remember information better when we teach someone else. However, I have been a part of a few “study groups” that chatted more than we studied, and if you find that is the case in a group you meet up with, don’t let yourself get distracted from studying for too long. Either try to get the group back on track or head out early to study some more on your own.

Have a few different study areas

A change of scenery can do wonders for the mind, and if you have a few areas to study (such as your room, a library, or café), you can switch areas when you feel yourself start to lose focus.

Implement rewards

If you’re anything like me, studying might be one of your least favorite activities. To make sure that you study, try to reward yourself for a job well done. You can have several small rewards to keep yourself motivated. For example, you can set a timer for thirty minutes of studying, give yourself a small reward when the timer goes off, and then repeat the process. On the flip side, you can also have one big reward after a day of studying.

Those are all the tips I have for today, Roxy Readers. Keep your chin up; following these tips will help your finals season be smooth sailing!

See you next time the sun is up, the breeze is cool, and the waves roll into view. ‘Til then, hang ten!

Avoiding Bias in Writing

 


Hey there, Roxy Readers! I saw the forecast today and couldn’t pass up a day on the waves, but while I was out there, I started thinking about biased writing. The thought stayed with me as I surfed the day away, and as soon as I got home, I sat down at my computer with the hope of talking to all of you about how to avoid biased writing.

We all have strong beliefs, and it’s nearly impossible to hear or see a topic without letting our feelings color it. Yet, it’s important to avoid bias when writing, especially if it’s academic writing. Think of it like this: when we write, we usually have a goal in mind, whether it’s getting an acceptable grade on an assignment, convincing our audience to believe what we do, or educating someone on a topic. In all of these cases, it’s important not to exclude or offend the reader because they might stop reading or, worse, angrily read the rest of our writing and disagree with everything we say because they feel it’s biased.

Now, what does bias look like? Let’s say that I’m about to adopt a new pet, and one of my friends told me, “Whatever you do, don’t get a cat. Those things are mean and only care about themselves. If you get one, you must like suffering.” My friend has made several claims here, most of which can’t be proven, and it’s clear that they will dislike cats regardless of what an individual cat’s personality is like. In other words, my friend seems biased. Because I’ve had several nice cats in my life, I know for a fact that they aren’t all mean and we can’t know for sure what a cat is thinking, so my friend’s claim that cats only care about themselves can’t be proven. Finally, my friend made an assumption about the personalities of cat owners. As someone who has had cats all my life, I know that their claim about cat-owners isn’t true. That means whatever credibility my friend might have had is now gone because I can say for sure that one claim they made has no facts to back it up.

I would be far more likely to listen if my friend said, “What you adopt depends on what you’re looking for, but since you spend a lot of time out on the beach with friends, I think a dog would be the best choice for you. Some cats might match your personality, but you’re more likely to find a dog that enjoys your lifestyle.” In this case, the only assumption my friend made about me—that I spend a lot of time at the beach with friends—is true and provable. Despite their knowledge of my habits, my friend didn’t assume that I would automatically want a dog; they left the choice up to me. Additionally, they gave reasoning to support their claims and admitted that the other side might have a point. I would be even more likely to adopt a dog if they gave me links to the American Kennel Club (AKC) website for a breed of dog that matched my personality and lifestyle since I know the AKC has factual, trustworthy information.

Another way I like to think about bias is pretending I’m having an argument with someone. Any time someone in an argument gets heated, the other party gets angry as well. If both parties wind up yelling at each other, more than likely, neither of them is really hearing or absorbing what the other person is saying. Bias can operate the same way. As I write, I like to imagine that I’m talking to a friend or family member who would disagree with what I’m discussing. If I think they would be likely to get upset or tune me out, I know that I need to rethink how I’m saying something.

Remember, Roxy Readers: you will have far more success with your writing if you’re careful to support everything you say with facts and examples, especially if you’re careful to make those that disagree with you feel heard. Just because they disagree does not make them any less deserving of your respect and kindness.

See you next time the sun is up, the breeze is cool, and the waves roll into view. ‘Til then, hang ten!

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Overcoming Writer’s Block

Hi there, Roxy Readers! Welcome back to the blog! I have to admit something. This blog entry was hard to write. I knew what I wanted to write about, but I couldn’t get the words down on paper. It’s kind of funny, actually, considering that today’s topic is “writer’s block.” Although some would say that writer’s block is not real, those of us who have struggled to put words down on a blank sheet of paper would certainly disagree. Today, I want to share some strategies to help you overcome writer’s block; try some of these tips the next you are struggling to put some words down on paper. 

  • Stream of consciousness writing

Start by writing anything that pops into your mind. Don’t worry about organization or grammar; just get your thoughts down on paper. This will get you started, and you might find that you can use more of it than you think.

  • Bullet points

Write down any ideas you think you will want to include in your writing. Whether the bullet points are a few words or a few sentences long is up to you. Don’t give yourself any rules—just write what comes to mind.

  • Resist the urge to edit as you go

It can be hard to leave a sentence alone when you spot an error or a word that does not sound quite right, but if you stop to correct it while writing, you might lose your train of thought. Based on my past experiences, I’ve learned to insert comments in my Word Doc that highlight what I’m not satisfied with and say something brief such as “not the right word” or “needs work.” This only takes a minute or two to do, and then I continue writing. Try not to focus on any errors or correct them until you’re done writing.

  • Use a recording app on your phone or computer

Try recording yourself as you talk about what you want to write or what you have to say about the topic. Again, don’t stress over how long you should talk. Talk until you are out of ideas, and then stop the recording. As soon as you can, sit down at your computer, hit play on the recording, and type out what you said. You might find that you had already written most of the essay in your head. 

  • Sit down with a friend or family member and talk to them about the assignment, recording yourself if possible

Tell a friend or family member what you want to write about and what you think so far about your topic. This might feel less intimidating, enabling you to get it done. I suggest recording yourself so that you don’t forget what you said when you sit down in front of your computer. However, sometimes even just talking to someone about your topic and ideas can get the words flowing.

That’s all I have for today, Roxy Readers! Thank you for being a lovely audience, as always! I managed to break through my Writer’s Block, and there are few feelings quite as satisfying. 

See you next time the sun is up, the breeze is cool, and the waves roll into view. ‘Til then, hang ten!

Roxy

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