Category Archives: WriteHereWriteNowWriteOn

Making light of long readings

by Daniel Christianson

As the semester creeps closer to its end, many students, myself included, have waded into larger books and writings for final assignments. “Daniel,” you may say, “my reading is due tomorrow and I still have sports practice and work! How am I supposed to get it done on time?” The following reading strategies can help you read and comprehend longer assignments.

Learn to recognize key points

When working through a reading assignment, one way I keep my mind active is to ask the simple question: “How does the apply to the class?” Try this. And if what you’re currently reading doesn’t apply, then you can speed through it to get to the parts that do. When you read material that clearly connects, take your time to absorb the information. This also helps vary your reading speed which in turn keeps you engaged and active. Often, books will indicate their primary ideas in bolded, highlighted, or underlined sentences. Pay attention to these indicators and, if possible, highlight or bookmark them for future reference. Another way a writer will get their point across is by repeating their point several times in multiple ways. If it feels like what you’re reading is repetitive, you can probably read faster to get to the next key point. But you can also know that point was important!

Build a framework of the chapter

By reflecting on a larger section of writing, you make it easier for your future self to sum up what it said. This active analysis of past readings builds on the key points you identified in the last step. Building a framework simply involves listing the key points of a chapter. In practice, this can help when reviewing because you are able to easily see what a chapter was trying to get across in a glance. This technique has been helpful for me when I have large, historical readings that I need to be able to summarize. It helps me know the overall points without getting dragged down into every detail.

Avoid constant skimming

Skimming can often result in your not knowing the text as well as you should, and it can encourage you to put your assignments off for the last minute. Professors can give large reading assignments expecting you to skim, but this is an exception rather than a rule. One idea I work with when struggling with a particularly difficult reading assignment is that the professor wouldn’t have assigned the reading if they didn’t think it was important and thought it would help me grow.

Overall, reading is one of my favorite things to do, even when it piles up. But the more I engage with it, the more I get out of it. So maybe the next time you aren’t enjoying your reading, try to take it as an opportunity to grow. Just being able to articulate how you feel about the reading and what you are getting from it are great skills to develop for the future.

Daniel is a sophomore from California majoring in business with a concentration in accounting. He likes crocheting, running, and capybaras.

When you “hate,” “dislike,” “are having a hard time starting” writing

When you “hate,” “dislike,” “are having a hard time starting” writing

by Della Christy

Sometimes working on a written assignment is the last thing I want to be doing, and maybe you will be able to relate. You might feel overwhelmed, discouraged, or disempowered regarding your abilities to write a paper. You might feel like you have no idea where to start, the work in front of you is immense, and you will not be able to get it all done, let alone get it done well.

If any of these are beginning attitudes for you starting an assignment, do not stop there. Don’t feel stuck. For me, it helps to start my paper outlining my feelings towards the process first. Yes, this might sound very off topic, but starting from a place of positive, encouraging thought will produce a paper that is more engaging and more worth reading and learning from.

So, I ask myself how I am feeling.

Am I overwhelmed?

Am I just totally not engaged in the subject matter?

Recognizing the roadblock and changing your attitude is one of the best ways to be the most productive and engaged for your assignments!

The best first step in making writing a more positive and beneficial experience, instead of a miserable obligation, is coming from a place of intellectual curiosity. If you are interested in the subject or see the value in learning about it, you will be more willing to engage in your research and actually come away from the assignment with new knowledge and a greater understanding.

We often limit ourselves to what we think are our possibilities and potential as writers because we shy away from deep, critical thinking. This is the act that we should be most excited about— the search to understand—and writing is an avenue to do that. Even when the subject matter is not particularly interesting to you, the writing process teaches you something new every time.

Della Christy is a sophomore studying global studies and creative writing.

Come see us!

by Jessica Barker

When you hear the words “writing tutor,” what is your first thought? If your answer is “editing,” you are not alone.

Recently, in an effort to raise awareness about writing tutors and the services we provide, I asked a few friends whether or not they had ever gone to the writing tutors, and if they had, I asked what their experience was like. Those who had gone to the writing tutors had overwhelmingly positive responses. One of my friends shared that she has only gone to the tutors twice during her college career, but that the tutors were very helpful both times. She then went on to say that during her two visits they worked on brainstorming, citations, and organization.

Many students have the misconception that tutors work as editors for poor writers. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Writing tutors serve all students regardless of their writing ability. In fact, some of the best writers on campus go to the writing tutors. But they don’t go to the tutors for editing, because we, as tutors, can’t actually edit papers for other students. What we can do is help students proofread their own papers! So editing does happen, but it’s a collaborative process involving both the student and the tutor.

In addition to proofreading, we can help with citations, brainstorming, organization/structure, annotated bibliographies, integrating evidence, grammar/punctuation, etc. Unfortunately, not everyone knows the scope of our work, so some students may never go to the writing tutors, even if they are struggling with something or would like feedback from a peer. That being said, I encourage students to come to the tutors with any and all writing questions!

Another friend told me that she has gone to the writing tutors a few times, but most recently she went to a tutor for help with a creative writing assignment. She explained that she went because she wanted to make sure that her message was clear and understandable to a reader. A few of my other friends admitted that they had not gone to a tutor in recent years, but when they did go, the tutors were helpful, friendly, and kind.

These testimonies, although simple, are representative of what we, as writing tutors, strive for. We work to create a welcoming environment, and we are always willing to help any students no matter where they are in their writing process. Keeping that in mind, I hope that you will consider visiting a writing tutor during these final weeks of the semester!

 

Jessica is a senior from Massachusetts who is studying theatre and sociology/anthropology. After she graduates this spring, she intends to earn her M.A. in theatre education.

The art of arguing

As college students, we write tons of papers throughout the semester in multiple disciplines about a vast range of subjects. However, no matter the class or the topic of your paper, there are some ways to make your written assignments much stronger by mastering one particular skill: writing an argument.

Whether or not your paper is officially supposed to be an argument paper, the main components of constructing a good argument can be an extremely helpful approach to improving your writing. The objective of argument writing is to be clear on what you’re writing about and taking a stance.

So, let’s dive in further to what makes up an effective argument and how you can apply these strategies to whatever kind of writing you’re doing.

The first step is to give context to whatever you’re writing about. How much context you give can depend on how long your paper is expected to be. It can be a sentence or two, a couple paragraphs, or anything in between. Regardless, it helps to give some history or background about what you’re going to be writing about so the reader gets a sense of the topic as a whole before you dive into your perspective.

The second step is to state your position. This usually takes the form of a thesis (a sentence or two where you clearly state the direction you are going to take on the topic), creating an overall road map for your reader. If you have provided effective context, this statement will logically fit in as the next part of your paper.

The third and final step is providing claims to back up your argument. Essentially, these are the specific points that led you to your thesis and give the reasoning as to why you are taking the specific stance.

An important part of these claims is to provide actual evidence that backs them up. This evidence can be anything from facts, statistics, expert opinions, or examples. Regardless of the type, make sure you cite the source where you got this evidence so it’s not confused with your thoughts. Be sure to explain how the evidence ties back in with your claims so it’s clear to the reader why you’ve included it.

An optional aspect you can bring to your argument is stating the opposing arguments (Lydia’s blog post specifically addressed counterarguments and can be a useful tool). It’s your discretion whether stating these differing sides will be a strong asset to your own opinion or not.

That’s all it takes! If you keep each of these steps in mind: context, thesis, claims, evidence, and counterarguments, you’ll whip up some amazing argument papers in no time!

Marie Sherman is a junior at Principia College studying education and global studies. She loves running, dancing, painting and orangutans.

Adding a counterargument

by Lydia Pierce

Do you ever feel like you’re talking to a wall? Like no one is listening to your writing, or as if what you’re writing doesn’t matter? Adding a counterargument may be a quick solution to find a place for your ideas in the greater academic conversation.

A counterargument is a short deviation from writing about your main thesis. Similar to the bridge in a song, it is a break to the normal pattern. A counterargument is a way to explore the arguments of those who might try to discount you, and it adds context to your writing. After presenting the counterargument, it is important to explain why your argument still holds.

Why should I add a counterargument?

Adding a counterargument into your writing can strengthen your piece greatly. A counterargument proves that you are well-educated about the subject. It shows that you aren’t blindly stating your opinion, but rather are thoughtful and aware about every aspect of the topic.

A counterargument may often start out with “however” or “some may argue.” When you begin this way, you may follow with a reference to another scholar who does not agree with you. Finally, circle back to your original ideas by stating how your argument holds strong in the face of this opposition.

What if I can’t think of a counterargument?

The best way to find a counterargument may not be to look for it, but rather to come across it during your research. When doing research, I will often find some sources that support and some that negate my argument. I end up using the ones that contradict what I’m trying to argue as my counterargument in my paper.

By adding a counterargument, you add context to your writing. This allows you to contribute to the ongoing academic conversation between scholars about different topics. Being a part of the academic conversation is what makes your writing matter because it is contributing to the progress of thought in society.Don’t be afraid of the opposition, embrace the counterargument!

 

Lydia Pierce is a sophomore majoring in mathematics. She loves to swim, mark books, and ride her bike.

Strategies for reading short texts

by Daniel Christianson

With school in full swing, I know there are students like me who have three different reading assignments all due tomorrow. You don’t want to skim the reading, but you also feel overwhelmed with the amount that has piled up. Well you’re in luck! In this blog, I will share two reading strategies that help me engage with the reading and ultimately get more out of my assignments.

Read early, read often—reflect and retain

Often it can feel like you have to do all the reading in one sitting. This can actually be detrimental to your goal of learning the information. When you start the reading a little early and take your time with it, you have more time to reflect on what you got out of it. To do this, start reading early, and whenever you have a few spare minutes, you can read a few pages.

Whether on the bus, waiting for class to start, or winding down before bed, reading often—in small chunks—can help you apply the information to everyday life. We, as humans, remember what is relevant to us. If you spread your reading across a week, you are more likely find instances where it connects to you.

Awareness and activity

Do you ever have that feeling where you have been reading, but if someone asked you what you just read you wouldn’t be able to answer? Well that may be because you haven’t been actively reading.

Active reading is when you are engaging with the text through questions and you evaluate what you are reading. An example of this would be something as simple as writing in the margins. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just simple remarks like, “Why does the writer think this?” or “on next test.” Simple things like that can make a big difference in terms of your engagement with the writing and can help you later when you are doing homework involving the reading. I have found that writing a paper on a section of reading is a lot easier when you mark up your book with notes, questions, and highlights.

This can help you connect the text to your life and raise good questions to ask in class. This concentration on reading can’t be done without the occasional refocusing, however, so don’t feel bad about occasionally getting up, taking a break, and then refocusing on the work.

Hopefully these reading strategies help you get more out of your shorter assignments. For those of you with longer assignments, don’t you worry, I will be back in a couple of weeks to share some ideas on how to handle those readings.

 

Daniel is a sophomore from California majoring in business and pursuing an independent major in accounting. He likes crocheting, running, and capybaras.

 

Using parallel structure like a pro

Using parallel structure like a pro

by Marie Sherman

One of the most fundamental attributes of good writing is having clear, effective sentences. Strong sentences are made up of a few important elements, but I’m going to focus on just one: parallel structure.

Your initial question may be, what exactly is parallel structure? Basically, it means keeping the structure of your sentence consistent and balanced. Your objective is to put similar grammatical ideas in similar grammatical form—noun forms, verb tenses, etc. What this looks like in practice can be broken up into different categories.

First of all, parallel structure is used when writing about items in a series. Whether it is a noun, adjective, or a verb, it is important to use the same structure for each item.

For example, someone may write:

My best friend loves skiing, playing outside, and to write.

This sounds awkward and clunky. To make the sentence parallel, you must write all the verbs in the same form:

My best friend loves skiing, playing outside, and writing.

This sounds much better because all the verbs now end in -ing. You could also fix this scenario like this:

My best friend loves to ski, to play outside, and to write. 

Now all the verbs are in the infinitive form.

Another occasion to be aware of using parallel structure is when you use a coordinating conjunction (**quick refresher: the coordinating conjunctions are for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so**). This means the subjects between on either side of the coordinating conjunction should use the same structure.

For example:

Principia’s Tutor Cafe is a wonderful place to develop writing techniques and practicing research skills.

Once again, this sentence sounds awkward because the verbs are not parallel. (You might be tricked by the -ing on “writing,” but that’s just a noun form.) Let’s try this:

Principia’s Tutor Café is a wonderful place to develop writing techniques and practice research skills.

Now “develop” and “practice” are parallel, and the sentence works!

The final case to use parallel structure is in the case of correlative conjunctions (**quick refresher #2: these are conjunctions that connect equal grammatical elements, such as both…and…; either…or…; not only…but also; etc.). These come into play with parallel structure because you must make sure that the grammatical structure of the sentence remains consistent from start to finish.

Here’s an example:

The WISE workshops are not only a place to get help with assignments, but also work productively.

This sentence sound incomplete because it’s not parallel! Let’s fix that:

The WISE workshops are not only a place to get help with assignments, but also to work productively.

“To get” and “to work” balance each other out.

Hopefully those examples clear up any confusion you had about parallel structure. Now you can write grammatically balanced sentences with ease! Remember, if you have any more questions don’t hesitate to stop by the Tutor Café and ask!

Marie Sherman is a junior at Principia College studying education and global studies. She loves running, dancing, painting and orangutans.

Cite while you write

Cite while you write

by Sarah Geis

I’m sure many of you cite your papers the way I used to: do it all at the end!

While that may sound like no big deal and even a good idea, I eventually discovered that it’s a huge time waster and completely inefficient.

Unfortunately, when I had this wonderful realization, it was at the most inconvenient time.

You might not believe me (like the many friends that have rolled their eyes when I suggest they cite while they write), but there may come a day when you meet some unanticipated circumstances. During the second semester of my freshman year, I was finishing up my final draft of a 15-page paper that was due at midnight; I finished the paper right at 11:50 pm! It would only take me five minutes to put in my citations, right? WRONG! There ended up being complications that I didn’t anticipate. I had saved the source links for a lot of my information, but I was suddenly unable to find them. I hadn’t done a good job of organizing my sources. The time it took to type in the information I did have took me longer than five minutes. I ended up turning the paper in a half hour later and got downgraded — talk about a big bummer.

Since then, I’ve started citing as I write my papers. The best way to do this? Create your citations while doing research. Once you find sources that you want to use, create the citations, keep them in a Word doc, then copy and paste the reference when you need to cite something in your paper (NoodleTools is very useful for this).

You don’t need to wait! Don’t put it off! I promise you it’s much faster and more efficient. Everything is organized and ready to go. This way, whenever you’re working on a paper right up to the deadline (which I would try to avoid), you can just turn it in! You won’t have to worry about doing the citations at the end ever again. Start your citation process at the beginning of your writing and research process, and you’ll be much happier when writing your papers.

Sarah Geis is a sophomore majoring in Political Science and minoring in Mass Communications. She enjoys photography, writing, reading, drawing, and video games. When she graduates from college, she would like to attend graduate school and either pursue law or earn a PhD. in Political Science.

How to mine for resources

How to mine for resources

by Zoë Mahler

 

It’s Week 3, which means all our first papers are starting to pop up. The first step of every great paper is knowing you have the resources to back up your claims. But the first step may also be the most difficult one as well.

Finding good information from reputable sources can be tricky. We’ve all been in a situation where we find that one really good source. It’s easy to think, “This is really all I need.”

Well … not quite.

There’s been a pattern for me: Each paper I write is usually going to need at least five or so sources. But what do you do when you find that One Great Source and don’t want to look anywhere else? Bibliography mining might be your best bet.

Something I often forget when reading through the articles and books I’ve found is that the information I’m finding has already been compiled from multiple sources. At the end of every scholarly source – article, book, book review – you’ll find the bibliography of sources from which the author of your source already did his/her research.

So why not just take a peek there?

When I’m in a pinch to find more resources, I’ve become accustomed to finding the footnotes or in-text citations from the areas of an article that I’ve used the most, and then flipping to the bibliography to see where that information is originally from. Within that bibliography, it’s much easier for me to narrow down what articles and books I can use to continue to acquire the number of sources needed for each paper.

It’s only Week 3, so hopefully, with these tips and tricks on how to find reputable resources with the information you’re looking for, you can use this method of bibliography mining to ace the rest of your papers through the rest of the spring semester. Happy mining!

 

Zoë Mahler is a senior with a double major in art history and mass communication and minors in religion and sociology. This past summer she traveled abroad in the Wales and Malta program studying archaeology.

Perfecting your paraphrasing

by Dean Colarossi

In academic writing, students rely on other people’s words to make arguments, refute claims, and prove their points. Evidence comes in many different forms—in books, online, and even through audio—and writers need a way to capture this information and give proper credit to the author. In my experience, I sometimes realize that a quote just won’t cut it, so I choose to paraphrase instead. It is worth noting that paraphrasing means taking an author’s idea and translating it into your own words. This means that you must restructure your sentences, vocabulary, and even paragraphs to be different from the original writing.

A common misconception is that paraphrases do not require a citation. They do!  In fact, you must cite a paraphrase the same way you cite a quote or summary. Let’s see an example of how to paraphrase a quote. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Arnold Schwarzenegger—

“While you’re out there partying, horsing around, someone out there at the same time is working hard. Someone is getting smarter and someone is winning. Just remember that.” (Quotefancy.com)

This quote, paraphrased, looks like this:

          Think about this: Someone is always working to better themselves, even when you are going out, enjoying yourself, and causing mischief. (Quotefancy.com)

Note that the entire structure of the quote has changed because it is not a quote anymore! It is a paraphrase, and we still give credit to Mr. Schwarzenegger for his insightful idea.

Here are a few steps to make the paraphrasing process easier to understand:

  • Read the passage you wish to paraphrase
  • Try to ponder until you fully understand the quote you wish to paraphrase.
  • Look away from the original words and write the ideas down (on paper).
  • Compare your words to the author’s words. Ask yourself: Do my words convey the meaning of the author’s point?
  • Cite your author to credit them for their idea.

Happy paraphrasing!

 

Dean Colarossi is a business administration and economics major and competes for the Principia track and field team.