Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Where EIU Writes (A Thesis)

Mixing up our usual posts in the Where EIU Writes series, we have an interview with an anonymous EIU alumnus on the daunting task of writing a thesis.

As always in this series, we get another look at where some EIU writers find the best atmosphere to do their writing--even if the task takes two years.

If you’re an EIU graduate student about to start work on a thesis, then be sure to take note. Tips and insights follow.

Enjoy!

Q: I’ve always been interested in where people write, especially when working on big projects like a thesis. For me, the bigger the project, the more I write at home. Is that how it was for you?

A: The majority of my time spent writing my thesis was at the library. It was a quiet place to focus.

Q: Is writing a thesis similar to other assignments you've done?

A: My thesis felt like an entirely new kind of project. It was a continuous project for over two years that I really focused on during the research collection phase. I've never had an assignment that lasted two years until my thesis.

Q: Did anything surprise you during the writing process?

A: A few of the surprises that I encountered while working on my thesis were how quickly the last few chapters were brought together, how much time it would take in sending drafts back and forth between the adviser, the committee, and myself, and also how specific the proposal must be to submit to the IRB. [Editor’s Note: an Institutional Review Board reviews research activities in order to protect research participants.]

Q: What advice might you give another graduate student on picking a topic, researching, or working with a thesis committee?

A: General tips on picking a topic would definitely be to choose something you're passionate about and enjoy. At the end or even in the middle, you will likely be very sick of this topic, so you don't want it to just be something that you did not give much thought. Also, finding a thesis committee that is prompt with their responses is very important. Otherwise you will be left waiting and wasting time when you could be completing your thesis. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Chicago on the Go: Handy Dandy Information

For those new to the Humanities, and those who have an interest in citation styles, this blog is for you.

The Chicago Manual of Style (which may be converted to CMS for short) does not have to give you PTSD. I know it can be terrifying. I too have grown anxious when contemplating if I should be using the Notes-Bibliography System (NB) for documentation or the Author-Date System (which does not have an accepted acronym, although I may call it AD anyway). There also exists the Turabian citation style, which uses both NB and AD. With all of these choices, how can a student ever know what is truly acceptable? Never fear. This post is a quick piece with, hopefully, interesting information. The EIU Writing Center, Purdue's Online Writing Lab (OWL), and the EIU History department (see links below) can all help those who need more in-depth information.

The Author-Date system brings up the authors in the text with the date following immediately in parenthesis. This is the form of CMS that most resembles APA and the Author-Date system is used when the dates of publication are very important to the research being done. The page number is included as well in text after quotations and also in parentheses. Much like APA, the Bibliography or Works Cited page is called References for AD style of citation within CMS. If you cannot work at least the last name of the author into the sentence, follow a quote with (AuthorLastName year published, page number). The Author-Date system does not have notes concerning sources, but may still have endnotes or footnotes that are actual notes that relate to the research instead of a bibliographic note.

NB is used most frequently in the humanities. Notes-Bibliography system uses a superscript number that corresponds to a footnote or endnote with the bibliographic information for every source. Concerning the Bibliography part of the NB, one must remember that sources are listed alphabetically by authors’ last names, just as in the list of References of APA or the Works Cited of MLA. The order goes: Lastname, First. Title (if it is the title of a book or journal, otherwise it is placed in quotation marks). Publisher (or Journal Name). Year of publication. It is interesting to note that in CMS the year of publication is, on the spectrum, closer to APA needs and desires than to MLA. In MLA the year is rarely important, and in APA the year is always important.
Listed above is the most straight forward formatting of a bibliography entry. Other formats can be seen at https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/717/03/ or https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/717/05/ .

Chicago Style can be complicated, but you are able to overcome. 

LINKS
The Writing Center http://castle.eiu.edu/~writing/
Purdue's Online Writing Lab (OWL) https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/717/01/
EIU History Department: http://www.ux1.eiu.edu/~cfnek/citate.htm

Friday, October 3, 2014

Is the Reading Center Right for You?: What I Learned from my Interview at the Reading Center

I walked into the Reading Center with a feeling of anticipation and was met by a caring, helpful staff whose welcoming attitude matched the colorful decorations on their bulletin board. It was nice to talk to the Reading Center Director, Ms. Shilpa Maheshwari, and Dr. Joy Russell, Chair of Elementary Education, both of whom share our belief in the connection between strong reading and effective writing. 

The Reading Center’s mission is to support all students across the curriculum—including graduate students—with reading comprehension, vocabulary fluency, and study skills. Students who want to improve the fluency of their reading can take a diagnostic test to determine where they should focus attention during weekly one-to-one tutoring sessions.

Skills they teach through workshops include close reading, study strategies, and “vocabulary preparation,” which focuses on word contexts and Latin/Greek root words. They also offer a workshop where you can learn about the different learning styles—visual, audio, and kinesthetic—and get advice on employing methods for your specific learning style.

The Reading Center also has computer-aided practice tests available for students preparing for the TAP Test, ACT or SAT. Workshop schedules and brochures describing their services are available in the Reading Center (Room 1320 in Buzzard Hall).

If you find yourself wondering if you should visit the Reading Center, go ahead and give them a call. The last question I asked during this interview was: “Is there anything else that you want others to know about the Reading Center?” Both Ms. Shilpa and Dr. Russell emphatically, enthusiastically, boldly exclaimed that they wanted you to feel comfortable coming in: they work around your schedule; their Graduate Assistants are very knowledgeable; their study rooms are peaceful; and, most of all, they are there for you.

As a writing consultant working in the EIU Writing Center, I encourage you to visit the Reading Center because reading and writing go hand-in-hand. Who wouldn’t benefit from learning root words and increasing vocabulary? Who wouldn’t want to gain a wider repertoire of reading skills? Who wouldn’t want to learn a study skill like managing one’s time? Who wouldn’t want to use a free service that could enable them to be a better student? All of these services improve writing. After all, that is what we’re doing at EIU. We’re bettering ourselves as readers and writers, and more specifically, as students. That—to me—is EIU.

Visit their website or give them a call for more information:
http://www.eiu.edu/readctr/

217-581-7898

Monday, September 22, 2014

Where EIU Writes: On A Walk?


The more students I interview, the clearer it is.

Most writers spend a lot more time going over ideas in their heads than they do putting pen to paper or fingertips to home row.

So, for this blog post in a series about where EIU students are writing, we’re going on a walk.

Where? That actually doesn’t matter.

In fact, some studies (link below) suggest that simply taking a walk helps promote creativity. That’s right; you might actually be working harder than you think when trudging from classroom to dorm room.

Ever catch yourself pacing when trying to solve a problem? It’s probably not restless legs syndrome that’s making you do it. Now you might be wondering if bouncing your leg like a neurotic mess is boosting your creativity too.

And you might be right to think so.

Believe it or not, prewriting is a major part of writing, and when we’re on the verge of penning that first draft, as we so often are, our brains work like magnets, pulling everything toward the subject we want to write about. If we see an old experience through a new lens—through the eyes of our paper topic—it brings us that much closer to knowing what we have discovered, and what we have to say.

So, bounce your leg, pace, or take a walk. Maybe looking for the right place to write isn’t as important as just looking around, letting that magnet work, and taking advantage of the power of prewriting.

References:

http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/04/creativity-walk.aspx


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What I Wish I Knew about the Writing Center as an Undergrad, but Didn't.


Have you ever wondered what happens in the Writing Center? If so, this post is for you.

As an undergrad, I passed by the Writing Center each day going to and from my English classes on the third floor of Coleman Hall. I'm sure I must have peeked in a time or two and I remember my professor's recommendation to visit the Writing Center, but that's about it. I never went. Why would I? What could the Writing Center offer me? That sounds very egotistical, but those were my thoughts. Perhaps those are your thoughts, too. Or maybe you're thinking that you could really use the support, but you don't know what to expect or you're uncomfortable to ask. 

Well, here’s a list of ten things that I hope will encourage you to visit us at the Writing Center:

 1) The Writing Center is for students across the curriculum. We welcome all writers—from Education to Chemistry, Psychology to History, Geology to Undeclared. We assist with all stages and genres of writing, even lab reports, research papers, scholarship essays, and creative writing contest essays.

Do you want to brainstorm topics? We're here for you. Need to organize your paper? We're here for you. Learn how to cite sources in MLA, APA, or CMS? We're here for you. Know how to avoid plagiarism? We're here for you. Learn why a comma goes here, not there? We’re here for you. Basically, if you're writing something, we're here for you. 

2) And yes, we're here even for those who believe they don't need help. We are here for English majors and honors students

3) We are here for international students. We're aware that you are learning and growing as a writer in a completely different language and culture. How daunting! How inspiring! While we all can't say that we understand how you feel, Alamgir does, and we can all say that we hope to make you feel welcome and at ease every time you step into the Writing Center.

4) The writing consultants have been there and done that. We know how it feels to receive a low grade and how awkward it can feel to ask for help.


5) Writing improves the most when it's shared. Others can see things in your writing that you simply can't see. It may sound a bit frightening, but it’s extremely beneficial to go to the Writing Center just to bounce ideas off the consultant.

6) The writing consultants want to work with you. We look forward to your visits and you are in no way bothering us by stopping by. Actually, your visits make us excited!

7) Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. 

8) You can expect a friendly smile every time you step into the Writing Center. When you come in, we will check you in at the front desk, then work with you at one of the tables.

9) Our mission is to help you improve as a writer in addition to helping you with your writing assignment.

10) We accept walk-ins and appointments. You can stop by or call anytime during our hours to make an appointment (581-5929).

As you may know, the Writing Center is located at 3110 Coleman Hall.

We're open from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and 6 p.m. -9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. on Friday.

Visit our website to learn more about us! www.eiu.edu/writing


Thursday, September 4, 2014

To Write, Perchance, to Create

If you are like me, fair reader, you too have felt misgivings when placing pen to pad or setting your fingers alight over the keyboard for fear of mishaps when translating your inner voice to the written word. Although apprehension is common, it is unnecessary. Writing is a process. Do not abandon the quest for fear of starting the journey.

Consider the word “novel.” Most know the word as denoting a genre. It comes from the French word “nouvelle,” meaning “new.” When the novel first came into popularity, it was a new form. The novel is not nearly so new anymore, yet it still excites. Every novel, although maybe not a "novel" idea or form anymore, is new to you. Luxuriate in this fact. Always remember to look at your works in progress with new eyes.

Perhaps you write only shorter works, or “merely” academic papers. All forms can be art forms. You, the author, control the fate of the work. Stuck on an essay? The word “essay” derives from the verb “essayer” which translates to “try.” Every essay is truly an attempt. You don’t have to get it right the first, second, or even third time. Just keep trying. 

Every author has, at one time or another, hit writer’s block or has despaired about their writing. The difference between published authors and unpublished authors is that those who were published never stopped trying. The old adage “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” holds true, most especially concerning writing. You never know what you might create until you try. It may be a journey to discovery. 

The world awaits. Bring forth your words.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Where EIU Writes: Jackson Avenue Coffee

For this first post in a series on where EIU writes, we’re putting our spotlight on a setting where coffee brews and culture thrives, a center for both musicians and artists to share their work, a friendly atmosphere where you may just find your new favorite spot to unwind or write: Jackson Avenue Coffee.

More commonly called “the JAC” around Charleston, Jackson Avenue Coffee is a good place to work on your writing in that classic coffee-shop setting. It gives you a chance to escape the academic environment of campus and the monotony of national coffee-shop chains.

Having only been in Charleston for a few months, I stumbled upon what would become my favorite writing destination after a long fight with writer’s block at Starbucks. Following up on an invitation from a few local friends and dragging along the blank Word document lighting up my laptop screen, I quickly found the inspiration that had been eluding me.

There are so many reasons EIU writes well here. You can set up shop at a table without worrying about getting in anyone’s way. You can enjoy the free Wi-Fi and do research for your writing—perhaps rewarding yourself with a drink, a sweet treat from their bakery, or, my favorite, a toasted bagel.

Maybe you too will find inspiration for your writing here, be it from a visiting musician, or, if one isn’t performing that night in the dimly lit lounge area, from the music you’ll hear over the speakers, which sets a positive, relaxed mood with songs ranging from elaborate jazz numbers to acoustic versions of radio hit singles.

Best of all, you can take it from this English major that you will find plenty of other writers—creative and scholarly—frequenting the premises throughout the day.

So, consider venturing outside your home, campus, or typical coffee shop and exploring other places where inspiration can find you. Maybe a change of setting is all you need to dive into the next stage of your writing process.

Monday, June 16, 2014

H E R E, T H E R E & E V E R Y W H E R E

         This summer, the EIU Writing Center has expanded its walls.  Of course, we are still based in the Writing Center at 3110 Coleman Hall. Our summer hours are 10:00 - 11:30 am and 1:00 - 3:00 pm, Monday through Thursday. However, we've become a great deal more fluid. We can also be found at the Panther Fair and Transfer Fairs in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Union, and at Summer Institute for Higher Learning study tables in Booth Library. Writing consultants love meeting incoming freshmen and women – as well as their parents – and appreciate the opportunity to welcome transfer students to our campus.  And, of course, we are in our element when we work with novice college students as they prepare for the rigors of the academy.
         We believe in the services offered at the Writing Center. We know that we have been a benefit to the EIU campus community. Yet, like other campus services, we know that the times, as they say, are a'changing, and we aim to change with them. We're becoming more flexible in our responses to student needs. So where students congregate this summer, the Writing Center will be there.
         English department graduate students Solomohn Ennis-Klyczek and Tana Young are the summer writing consultants. Along with our Director, Dr. Fern Kory, we are hot-footing it all over campus to share the secret of decoding writing prompts, the rewards of active reading, and strategies for successful academic writing. We want every incoming student to know about our services when they set foot on campus. We've got handouts and advice. We're prepared to help students with their resumes, scholarship applications, grad school applications and statements of purpose, and academic papers from English 1001 essays to graduate theses. Our motto: “We are here to talk to writers” (Stephen North).
         Again, our summer hours are MTWR 10:00 am - 11:30 am and 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm. Look for our posters and then come by to check out our services. Mention us to your classes! We love EIU students and we love writing. We also love to help. It's what we do. Students can walk in or call ahead to schedule an appointment. Our phone number: 581- 5929.