Thursday, April 28, 2022

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!


Thursday, April 7, 2022

Overcoming Writing Struggles

Hi there, Roxy Readers! While I was out on the water today, I was talking to one of my friends about how much I enjoy writing, and she asked me whether English had always been one of my best subjects. When I said no, she was surprised, and that got me thinking. I want to wash away the belief that if someone is a good writer, they’ve always been good, and if someone struggles with writing, they can never hope to improve. Let me tell you about one of my biggest writing challenges and how I overcame it.

Although I’ve enjoyed writing in my spare time for many years, I usually fell in the middle of the pack grade-wise in my English classes. In fact, it wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I decided to make a genuine effort at improving my writing. My English teacher that year returned my first essay, and I was shocked to see that I’d earned a C. It was passing, sure, but I’d worked hard on that essay; I enjoyed writing in my spare time, so a C was unacceptable to me. However, instead of feeling discouraged, I swore to myself that I would work hard, and, by the end of the year, I would make an A on an essay for that class.

Each essay that year found me working harder than the one before, and I poured over my teacher’s notes and suggestions, trying to pinpoint exactly what she wanted from me and how I could impress her. I also went to her class a few times after school to ask questions about her feedback. Each essay received a higher grade than the one before, but none of them had the A written on the top that I’d been striving toward. However, with each failure, I became more determined. By the time the last essay rolled around, I decided to use her notes and throw my past writing habits out, at least temporarily. I would incorporate all of her suggestions, and I would earn that A. I spent hours working on the essay, and after turning it in, I waited with bated breath to see if my efforts would pay off.

To my immense satisfaction, the efforts did pay off, and I had achieved my goal! I told myself that I would change my writing only for that essay, but I can see a clear divide between my writing before that year and my writing afterward. I might have only been striving toward making a better grade in that one class, but I improved my writing in general.

This experience is far from my only struggle with writing, but it is my favorite story to tell because I think it shows that writing is just like any other hobby or skill. We don’t expect ourselves to excel the first time we try to cook. We know that it will take time, practice, and effort to become a good chef. The same is true of writing. I encourage you to practice, to be patient with yourself, and to seek out help when you need it or have questions. Speak with your professors about your writing and their feedback. They will likely respect your desire to improve your writing, and if you’re a Del Mar student, consider coming to the Stone Writing Center to work with a tutor on your writing. We can certainly get you on the right track! The writing center is a resource I wish I’d had access to as a sophomore in high school, and I bet I would’ve earned that A even earlier in the semester with their guidance.

Thank you, Roxy Readers. I appreciate all of you, and I believe that each of you has a wonderful writer within you. Be sure to give your inner writer what they need to shine!

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


Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Understanding Assignment Instructions

Hi there, Roxy Readers! I’ve been thinking recently about how intimidating it is to look at assignment instructions, especially when they’re lengthy. We want to be sure to include all the necessities in our essay, and we sometimes spend more time stressing over meeting the instructions than we do writing. So, today, let’s talk about how to break down assignment instructions so that they’re easier to understand.
  • Highlight the big picture items
    • I often start by highlighting important parts of the assignment instructions. For example, if there is a paragraph in the instructions discussing MLA format, which is a requirement for the assignment, I would highlight only “use MLA format.” Then I can glance at the highlighted words of the paragraph to know what that part of the instructions requires. Later, when I’m ready to format my essay, I can quickly find the paragraph that outlines what I should do.
  • Make a checklist
    • After highlighting, I pull out a piece of scratch paper and write down a bulleted list of everything the instructor has specified the essay should do. The list includes things such as the topic of the essay, but it also includes any words that I should avoid.
    • Making a checklist is helpful for writing and revising. I like to read through my essay a few times while revising, each time focusing on one or two bullet points. If I’ve met those requirements, I check them off the list.
  • Re-read the assignment instructions
    • After you have written the essay, look back over the assignment instructions to see whether you completed every part. Keep in mind that sometimes it can be easy to miss small specifications or rules, and it is always good to double-check in case you missed something when highlighting or creating your checklist.
  • If the instructions ask questions, be sure you’ve answered them all.
  • Keep an eye out for words like: “Most importantly”
    • If there is a part of the assignment instructions that says, “most importantly,” be sure you have met that requirement. Likely, the entirety of your essay should address whatever is most important according to the assignment instructions.

Thank you, Roxy Readers, for being such a wonderful audience! I hope this takes some of the fear out of looking over assignment instructions. Remember the old saying of how to eat an elephant—one bite at a time? I don’t care for that saying, so I think I’ll say instead: “How do you eat a family-sized box of cookies by yourself? One cookie at a time!” In the same way, it will be easier for you to digest your assignment instructions one highlighted section or bullet point at a time.

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

Monday, February 14, 2022

Where in the world is the Stone Writing Center?

Roxy Readers, SWC IS BACK! We are thrilled to let you know that lots of new blog entries are coming your way. To all our Vikings, this is where we are. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by! We'd love to chat with you about your writing.

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