Sunday, January 13, 2008
Friday, July 13, 2007
Keeping a journal is one of the best ways to come up with new things to write about. It lets you observe the things around you and gives you the opportunity to write things down if they pop into your head at random moments.
Now when I say journal, I don’t mean the kind of journal where you write mundane observations about your day and how cute Timmy looked in his football uniform at the game last weekend. Save that for your livejournal. You will be adding things about your personal life, but the main focus of keeping this journal is to get your creative juices flowing. This writing journal is also a place to keep your private thoughts, but you want to keep in mind that everything that you write down will somehow help your writing.
Write in it whenever you can! The old idea that “the more that you do something, the better you get at it” actually works. Do you think that someone can just start typing out the Great American Novel without any practice or any ideas? That just isn’t the case and it never will be.
I prefer to use a small writer’s journal. It has about 50 lined pages that you can fill with whatever thoughts might pour out of your head. They have them at Barnes & Noble near the calendar and planner section. They should cost you about $5. Trust me, it’s money well spent.
There are a few ways that you can use your journal. Each different technique has its own advantages. Listed below are the two that I have used, you can use your own. Try out a few different things and figure out what is going to work for you best.
- Describe EVERYTHING - This is similar as to what I discussed in yesterday’s entry. Don’t leave any detail out. Not only can you use these ideas in your future writing, but it is good practice in showing your reader what you are talking about rather than simply telling them.
- Write brief snippets of things you see or hear that catch your eye – This is the technique that I use as my journal is smaller and I don’t have that much time to write detailed entries about my day. I carry my journal in my pocket with me everywhere I go (be careful not to run it through the wash. I’ve done that before).
If I overhear someone saying something interesting, I’ll write it down.
If I see someone with a unique character trait, I’ll write down their description.
If I see something on the news that sounds interesting, I’ll write down the story.
If I come across awesome scenery, I’ll describe it.
It might even be more advantageous to you to write in your journal like this because you’ll have simple ideas that you will be able to elaborate more creatively with later on. Sometimes all you need is a swift kick in the butt to get things rolling and something like a simple character or scenery idea can lead to an onslaught of other thoughts.
Thus, journal writing is a fun way to keep track of your thoughts and come up with unique ideas to write about. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll come up with!
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I’ve read a ton of papers that have little or no detail. I’d say about 75% of the papers that I read would be much better if the student showed me what they were talking about rather than simply telling me. Leaving me with vague details is like going to the Grand Canyon with a blindfold over my eyes. You can tell me that it’s a “big hole in the ground”, but unless you show me, I won’t be able to fully grasp what it is. I need more details than that and so does your reader.
For example, I was going over an essay with a student the other day where she mentioned three times that she was once a “rebellious teenager”, but not once did she show me why she was rebellious. It didn’t leave me satiated and I was confused as to what she meant. Did she not want to do her homework? Did she run away from home? Was she in a gang? Did she smoke cigarettes in the girl’s room? Her essay was very compelling, but she just “told” me without “showing” me.
You can’t expect your reader to get the full picture without drawing the picture in their head first. Try to clue your reader into what you’re saying by showing them as much detail as possible rather than just telling them something vague and unclear.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Just about everyone who writes an academic paper in college Googles their topic before they begin and just about everyone is bombarded with websites that claim to be able to sell them an A paper. There are even websites that will you give free research papers. So what’s the catch?
If you didn’t know, this is probably the dumbest thing that you could ever do. Only fall for this scam if you want to fail your courses and fail out of school. Your professors aren’t morons. They know what your writing is like and can tell when something doesn’t seem right. There are ways for them to search the internet to see where you got the paper from.
The easiest way for a professor to find a paper that you stole is to find it the same way that you did. A simple Google search will bring up the same results. Even typing in the first few words of a plagiarized paper can lead them directly to the source. Your old wrinkly professors know how to Google something as well, so don’t think that you can play the “they’re too old to catch me” card.
There are even more technologically advanced ways for a professor to catch you stealing a paper online, borrowing one from a friend, or blatantly trying to pass off someone else’s idea as your own. Most professors that know how will submit your papers to turnitin.com. Turnitin.com searches both the internet and previously submitted papers to find out if a student has plagiarized. There have been some issues in recent years over how accurate the search is, but it is still a good way for a professor to tell if you are cheating.
The bottom line is don’t cheat! Chances are you will get caught. It isn’t worth tarnishing your academic integrity for one stupid paper. Writing these papers is meant to help you become a better writer, not to put an unnecessary burden on you. If you find that you are pressed for time and don’t have enough hours in the day to write an essay, don’t be tempted to cheat. Work on managing your time a little better and you shouldn’t have any problems finding time to get all of your work done.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
It really is impossible to get this far in academia without writing a paper on a specific topic.
I asked her to give me an example of any paper that she had written in high school and she told me about a short research paper that she had written on The Grapes of Wrath. I asked her what the main point of her essay was and she told me. That was her thesis.
In the simplest terms, a thesis is the topical argument that you are presenting in your paper. It's as simple as that. However, wording your thesis is the tricky part. When writing a thesis for an academic paper, try to be as specific as possible without going into too much detail. Your body paragraphs will provide your reader with the evidence to back-up your claim.
Your thesis should include the following:
- It should be something that can be argued, not just a restatement of facts. You are trying to present an idea, not regurgitate information.
- Remember that your thesis is always tentative while in the process of writing your paper. You can always go back and change it. I've had countless students come to me for tutoring and tell me that they were thinking about rewriting everything because they strayed from their thesis statement! What a waste of time! Go back and change your thesis so that it caters to the evidence that you have provided in your body paragraphs! I won't tell anyone, I swear.
- It should not be vague. As I said before, make sure that it is straight forward. Your reader should know right from the start what your paper is going to be about.
- Your thesis should be relative to the page length. Don't tackle a large subject that you won't be able to cover in two pages. Your reader won't be satiated and is going to wonder what you were thinking
Coming up with an interesting topic to write about is the first step in writing an excellent paper. Follow these steps and you should be on your way to filling up those blank Word pages.
Sunday, July 8, 2007
I think that it's a well-known fact that your college bookstore is ripping you off. You can sometimes pay over $100 for a textbook at the beginning of the semester and receive $10 when you go to sell it back to them after finals. Something isn't right there.
There are a few different ways that you can get your hands on cheaper textbooks. You'll be able to save yourself a few hundred bucks by the time you graduate:
- Buy your textbooks on half.com - If you haven't done this yet, give it a shot. I've saved up to 50% and more on used textbooks through half.com. You can even sell your textbooks here once you're finished with them and make much more than your college bookstore is willing to give you. If you have an Ebay account, you can easily sign up as it's all the same company. Rating systems are the same as Ebay too so you can sift through the sellers who might potentially rip you off. Facebook also has a marketplace that you might want to try, but I have never used it and I don't know anyone else who has.
- Trade textbooks with people who have taken the class - Yes, it sounds silly, but I have traded textbooks with people so I didn't have to buy them. This is particularly useful if you have a good amount of friends in your major.
- Don't buy the textbook - No, I'm not telling you to skip the work that is to be done in the class. What you might want to do is ask someone who has taken the class before if the textbook is an essential part of the class. I've wasted money in the past by buying a book that was wrapped in plastic and unwrapped it for the class, only to realize that I didn't need it (my bookstore wouldn't take any returns on books that were opened after being shrink wrapped).
- If you have to buy from the bookstore, always try to buy used- This is kind of self-explanatory. It can still be expensive, but at least you can save a little.
- Ask mom and dad for money - Why not? Some people like new, shiny books.