At face value, memorizing facts about a topic can be a daunting, even frustrating, task. Even worse, much of this information remains in our minds for only just about as long as the duration of the exam we’re cramming for.
Tired of the monotony of flashcards or simply rewriting notes? Why not try writing about the topics instead.
Although this can be a challenge when undertaking topics that don’t ignite much enthusiasm, the work that one must do with content in order to write a short article, or even a full essay, helps one transform into a practical expert on the topic.
Writing begins with a research stage, which requires us to review everything we’ve previously learned about a topic, or variety of topics, then build on it. In essence, this is much like review before a test, but we can even learn some new factoids or gain additional perspectives that we haven’t previously considered during this stage.
Next, we must begin to organize the information from our research. This again compels us to review the content. Gradually, we will start to take note that we are memorizing quite a bit of the content. At this step, we gain understanding of how different aspects of the topic relate to each other by grouping them into subtopics. This creates a roadmap that makes sense to our minds regarding the various pieces of information we are memorizing.
The connections we’re forming are again reinforced through the creation of outlines. By creating a guide of ideas, we see bite-sized pieces of information rather than a stack of notecards or several pages of notes – much less overwhelming than before. By this stage, we’ve had to go through the information several times, but since we create something each time our boredom is minimized.
Now that we have an outline, we’re ready to write. As this is only being used as a studying technique, we have absolute freedom in terms of how we want to write. This creates less pressure than many other academic situations. This is the fourth time we have made our way through our info in this process alone. By now, we have learned quite a bit. In proofreading this essay, we are able to repeat this process yet again.
Now, we have studied AND we’ve gotten valuable practice writing with less academic pressure. A win-win.
Kyle, Peer Tutor
A lot of people think of the Writing Center as a place to take papers from your English class. But, as we’ve discussed in previous blogs, we can help with al kinds of assignments! Not only can we help you with your English essay, we have expertise in History papers, presentations, visual texts such as fliers, making videos, and much more.
We can even help you with writing a report for your biology, chemistry, or other science course. Check out Bryn’s Tips for Writing a Science Report and make an appointment with us today!
Use separate section headers!
Introduction or background
- State the need for your project
- Explain the past research and findings
- State the objectives of the project
- State and explain hypothesis (if one exists)
- Explain, in detail, the experiment so that another may recreate it the same way
- Explain which materials and apparatus were used
- Explain what you measured and how, etc.
- Explicitly state the results of the experiment
- Explain why results are important and what they mean
- Explain whether or not the results support any hypothesis presented in the introduction
- Explain error with error analysis and how it affected results
- Where to go from here
- Next steps in experiment or next experiments to follow the previous one
Check your tone!
- Be sure to use a professional and factual voice
- Be as concise as possible
- Refrain from “First… second…” listings and “story-like” or directional language
- Use past tense about findings and methods
- Use present tense for generalizations and future research/conclusion
Share your equations!
- Separate line from text
- Numbered for reference
- Only post the relevant, final graphs
- Be sure to title the graph and label its axes
PowerPoints are the bane of many a student’s existence. They’re irritating, difficult to work with, and easy to tweak into an unreadable mess. The following ten tips should help, however, when approaching these sticky assignments.
- Go for a crisp, clean, professional look, not an artistic or messy one. This includes not having unnecessary pictures, ‘cute’ fonts, words in strange colors, and ‘fun’ elements such as incessant visual and audio effects. Go ahead and pick a nice-looking theme, but don’t overdo it.
Don’t be this person. Use an appropriate font and images with transparent backgrounds—avoid the white box around images!
- Make everything possible to read. This means using easy-to-read fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, or Georgia, making sure text has a strong contrast with the background, and using organizational tools like bullet points and numbered lists judiciously. Text needs to be large enough to read easily and pictures need to be relevant and easy to understand.
Never do…basically any of this. Don’t use ‘cute’ fonts, yellow text, or even more than one font in your PowerPoint. Use contrast: cool colors in the background, like blue or gradient gray, go better with a little bit of text in a warm color, like red or plum.
- Limit text displayed on-screen. Try using the 7-7 rule: only 7 words on each line of each slide, and only 7 lines per slide. Obviously, this isn’t always possible, but it does help to practice being concise and saving detailed information for the presenter to present vocally.
Holy walls of text, Batman!
- Use pictures—carefully. Pictures are a great addition to your PowerPoint, and some successful presentations only have text in the titles of their slides, but if you over-saturate your presentation with them they will soon lose their effectiveness. Only use relevant pictures, and be careful to ensure that they are either of good quality or are justified in not being so.
This would be a bad image to use in a PowerPoint about non-Euclidean geometries, for example.
- Don’t make it too long or short. Practice your PowerPoint at least twice and time it. Try to aim for the average of the minimum and maximum presentation times–if you asked to have a 10-15 minute presentation, shoot for 12.5 minutes; if you are assigned a 30-45 minute presentation, try for 37.5 minutes. A presentation that is too short makes you look lazy, and a presentation that is too long bores the listener.
You almost certainly don’t ever need to see this. Too many slides!
- Don’t rush. Leave appropriate pauses between bullet points and slides, giving time for students to take notes and the audience to absorb, process, and respond to new information. Rushing through a presentation gives the impression that you hate presenting, and professors are sharks that feast on your discomfort.
Not a good life OR writing motto.
- Delude yourself into displaying confidence. It is perfectly normal and fine to feel impeding doom at the very idea of having to make and give a presentation. However, acting confident by smiling, gesticulating, answering questions, and projecting your voice all give a good false impression that you are secure and confident in your PowerPoint, and thus help your audience enjoy and pay attention to your work.
Imagine yourself as Wonder Woman. Do her stance before every slide if you need to.
- Have a cheat sheet and practice off of it. Make a ‘cheat sheet’ of some sort, out of index cards or a typed outline, and practice giving the presentation by speaking from the sheet. This will help the presentation flow together better and alert you to changes you need to make to your PowerPoint.
A creative way to use a cheat sheet. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spicker_trinkflasche.jpg
- Present as if you are not a robot. This means that you cannot simply sit or awkwardly stand in front of the computer or class and read off of the slides. Instead, gesture, walk back and forth in front of the room, and elaborate on your points. Smile and nod at people, and address the audience as if they exist. Make your presentation pop with props and embedded videos and audio files. Please note that if you are, in fact, a robot, this is a great opportunity to infiltrate human society.
Don’t be this adorable robot. Be better than this adorable robot. Crush its adorable robot dreams into dust.
- Go to the Writing Center or otherwise get feedback on your PowerPoint. Go ahead and book an appointment with us today, here! We’re willing, able, and happy to help you with any kind of writing, including multimedia writing.
Log on and make an appointment today!
To some, creative writing is a fun hobby that has little benefit, and can in fact serve as a time sink wherein nothing is accomplished other than words being spewed onto a page. To others, creative writing is a vital way of expressing oneself. It can be difficult to say which group is correct, but there are some definitive benefits to engaging in creative writing.
One of the first benefits is that it helps to develop creative problem solving skills. Creative writing is an exercise in solving problems, either for the characters within the story or for the author themselves. Characters within stories need to be navigated through a series of difficulties, and if the problems take place in the real world, then the solutions must also be real-world solutions. If the problem is a literal dragon that needs slaying, there’s somewhat less need for it to mimic a real-world solution, since that’s not typically a problem that we have. By navigating fictional characters through difficult times in their lives, either emotionally or financially, writers can learn how to handle those problems in the real world as well, without the stress of trying to figure it out when they’re already in the middle of the situation.
Another benefit of creative writing, particularly if the writer is involved in a formal class or writing group, is that it gives the writer experience in both taking and giving constructive criticism. The first time someone hears that there’s something wrong with their writing can be difficult, but over time, it does get easier. Trust me. I’ve had my fair share of critical remarks, and I’d like to think I’ve gotten better about responding to them. I no longer cry and throw things, so that’s a definite bonus. Taking criticism well is a vital skill, especially in the workplace, because employers often have feedback for their employees that might not necessarily be what the employee wants to hear. Giving criticism that is also constructive is another incredibly valuable skill. If someone believes they are just being torn down, they will not listen to a piece of criticism that might genuinely be designed to help. For this reason, it is important to understand that there are ways to provide tips for improvement without ripping someone’s work apart. Working in a workshop or a creative writing class will help improve these skills.
Creative writing helps to build vocabulary. Do you know how many types of swords there are? I don’t either, actually, but I know many of them. Do you know how many ways there are to say mean? Well, there’s mean, of course, but there are also words like malevolent and malicious and cruel, which all help to paint a more accurate picture of whatever it is that the writer is trying to portray. Once the writer knows these words, they aren’t likely to ever be forgotten. At the very least, the next time the writer is trying to describe someone as mean, they might remember that there are two other, more impressive sounding words that start with ‘m’ that might be used to describe said person.
Creative writing helps to improve outlining skills, which are vital for any kind of large project. Without an outline, creative writers might find themselves bogged down in details they didn’t intend to get lost in, or might lose track of vital plot threads that they’ll need to remember for later in this story. This is also true for any kind of large project, whether it be academic or professional. Presentations made without an outline in place can meander and get lost in themselves, making them difficult to understand or follow. For this reason, outlining is a good skill to pursue, and can be learned or improved upon through the use of creative writing.
One of the most subjective benefits to pursuing creative writing is the way that it can benefit the writer’s emotional well-being. I was skeptical about this one for a long time, because I love writing, but found it to be more stressful than anything else when I did indulge in writing. However, I have found that as I’ve adopted a regular writing schedule and have stuck to it, my mood has begun to improve greatly. I have had friends tell me that I’m happier now, and I do genuinely feel it. But I’m definitely willing to acknowledge that the same might not be true for other people
Creative writing is incredibly beneficial to burgeoning writers, and to students of all kinds. It requires effort, yes, but the more effort someone puts into it, the more likely they are to reap the benefits of it.
Let’s be honest, most of us tell ourselves we will definitely start writing at a certain time of the day, and by the time it comes, we find ourselves sitting in front of our computer, staring at a blank Word document (almost blank! It probably has our name on it and an earlier date so it looks like we started earlier than the night before it’s due). After a while, you find yourself writing, but soon enough you are checking Instagram, or texting, or doing anything remotely entertaining to distract you from your work. Sound familiar? So how do you remain focused once you’ve started? Here are some tips!
- Find a good place to write. This may sound cheesy, but I can’t stress this enough. Find a place that’s conducive to writing for you. Some people get severely distracted in loud places, while some others can’t stand to sit in silence. Figure out what kind of person you are and find that place where you’ll be comfortable and feel like you can conquer anything.
- Accept the fact that, yes, you could be doing something more fun, but this assignment needs to get done. Many times, merely knowing that we could be relaxing instead of doing work creates writer’s block, making it impossible to concentrate. Let go of the tension that those feelings are causing and accept the assignment as it is. You’re in college now, you will get through this assignment and many more, so accept it and get to writing!
- Try not to think about how much you have left. I completely understand the feeling of dread you get when you look at how much you’ve written and it’s not even close to the page limit. Don’t get stuck! The more time you think about that, the less time you spend writing. Look at what you’ve written, give yourself a pat in the back for getting something done, and keep going!
- Give yourself breaks. Let yourself get distracted for 5-10 minutes, but stick to a schedule. Write for a while, then give yourself a break. I know turning off your phone sounds like torture, and I know the urge to check all your social media grows by the minute, but if you stick to a schedule you are more likely to get stuff done. You can even use these shorts breaks as a reward. You go, you!
- Get up! Ultimately, if your mind is wandering too much, go take a walk. Get some coffee or water, stretch your legs, and think about something else. By the time you come back to your computer, you are bound to feel recharged and have some fresh ideas.
- Visit the Writing Center! Just saying, if you come see us, you’ll have little choice but to focus on your assignment—at least for that hour.
Sometimes writing is a struggle for all of us, and that’s okay. But learning how to concentrate on your writing will help you in the long run. It may not be easy at first, but I’m sure you’ll get there. Good luck!
Mirii Rep, Writing Center Tutor
So it’s the second half of the semester and it has finally occurred to you that you have some serious research papers to do. Be they on the process of De-Stalinization of Khrushchev or the Mating Habits of African Tree Frogs, you are realizing very quickly that you have never researched or written a paper of this magnitude; thankfully, we at the Writing Center are here to give you some tips.
1. The librarians are your friends. Even if you can’t get to the library.
Now we know that libraries and actual books have gone out of fashion in the Internet age, but the library has a number of resources to offer beyond just rows of books (thought those are perfectly excellent resources as well). The most notable of these are the librarians themselves, who are more than happy to help you find sources and plan your paper. See this button?
This button will save your life. Just click it and from the comfort of your dorm you can have a conversation with a librarian on duty; they may later suggest you come into the library, but at least the conversation will be started. You can also email or speak in person with librarians in order to set up scheduled appointments.
2. Wikipedia has its (hidden) benefits:
Now everyone knows that Wikipedia is academia’s devil of choice, and for good reason; we have all seen the hilarious changes that people have made to the site, so the info may not quite be accurate. However, there is a section on every page that can help you out. Scroll to the bottom, and look at the References section.
These are all sources that it is worth your time to look at, though it’s still recommended to take them with a grain of salt (as is standard internet protocol).
3. Books: They’re still very useful.
Now I get it. Books are old and for grandpas who still wore pleated pants and sweater vests and talk about how bread was ten cents a loaf and they punched Hitler right in the jaw during the war. But they are also one of your best sources: use the Hoover Library catalog search to look for books on your topic; you’re guaranteed to find something, and as long as it is in the local library system, you can have it in your hands within a few days.
4. Google: Still Not Doing Any Evil
Now you’ve probably already used Google to look for sources; but are you doing so correctly? Normal Google is fine for basic searches, but if you want to ensure your sources are better verified, you should be using Google Scholar. What is Google Scholar you ask? Well imagine if Google only searched for things your professor would actually want you citing; that’s basically what it does. Granted all sources are not peer-reviewed, but it’s not too difficult to find those that are.
5. The Writing Center. Yeah we’re in the library too.
So you may think that the Writing Center is just a place to plan papers. But that’s not totally true: we are here to do most things (within reason, morality, and legality) that will help you start, develop or improve your paper. That is why from 7-9 on Wednesdays the Writing Center has tutors in the library; from the library we can give you closer access to the resources housed within, including the librarians, library catalog and shelves of lovely books.
-By: Stefan Specian