Friday, December 9, 2011
What would the world be like if nobody took driving tests?
What would people do if they never took vision tests?
Do I need to continue?
Without tests, we would live in a world of blurry-brained road-ragers who keep mistaking the gas for the brake. Sometimes tests are necessary, and even if they're not, sometimes we've just got to take them. Now that the semester is winding down, we've got to face it. Sometimes we've got to take tests. Here are some tips to keep you thinking on your toes before taking so many finals.
Don't just go into the test thinking that you'll ace it if you haven't even opened up a book. If you walk into the final and you haven't studied, please wear your running shoes. As soon as the professor administers the test, put down your pencil, and run to the nearest McDonald's for a job application.
Sometimes we study and we're just horrible test takers. That's okay. As long as the information is up there someplace, you should rest assured that it has the ability to come to you at the right time if you stop fidgeting and worrying. This brings me to my next tip....
Relax. The world won't end over a test. People don't say "give it the old college try" for no reason at all. Go in there with confidence and do your best.
Also, perhaps I should pass this tid-bit of information along to you. Studies have been done on students who were taking tests. The ones that tested with the best grades were the ones who were in the right mindset. Don't watch cartoons before your exam. Try thinking like a scientist, (or whatever it is you're hoping to be). Put yourself in the position of your professors. Try to think along the lines of those who you admire in your field. Go into the test with the mindset of success. Visualize yourself in the seat you are moving towards. Wear a tie. Bring your Einstein doll (I would bring my pine-plant that I named "Pine-stein"). Bring a light bulb and let it hover over your head. If you are taking a philosophy test, bring a giant question mark. Ask Galileo to come along. Write a letter to Abraham Lincoln. Do anything to help yourself get into the mindset and then -
Have a Happy Holiday!
Gina LoBianco & The Writing Center Staff
Monday, December 5, 2011
Here's a crazy idea: go back over them. Now I know it's painful to go back and look at old work (I have a whole folder of assignments on my computer that I refuse to open because I'm sure it'll send me into shock), but you haven't turned in your assignment yet. Basically, you're not quite done yet. That compare/contrast paper you did on the political associations of Fox News and MSNBC? You know, the one you knocked off in a couple hours so you could go see the new Twilight at midnight because your friends are fans of the series but you never saw one before because you read high-brow stuff like David Sedaris and frequent McSweeney's? Welp, you might just want to glance over it one more time.
MSNBC has Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, and Chris Matthews.
We open for the spring semester on Wednesday, January 11. We hope to see you again next semester.
Friday, December 2, 2011
On a semi-related topic:
After writing several millions of research papers, I've found a method that seems to generally work for me. First, I pick a topic. It is always something that I'm really interested in. If there isn't anything that you're interested in, make it into something that you are interested in. Be creative with it. Second comes the research. You don't need to have a thesis at this point, because chances are you don't know what you're going to say. You will most likely realize what you're going to say after you've read about what everyone else has said. I find all of my sources from the library and the interweb. Next, I read through my sources and take thorough notes on my computer. Be sure to include page numbers, works cited, and quotes within your notes so that the writing process is less difficult. Then, abra-cadabra! You formulate your thesis after reviewing your notes, outline, and write your paper! And you think to yourself 'What a wonderful world?'
DISCLAIMER: Also, please make sure to eat lots of brain food. If I'm working at school, I always make sure to have some change for my most-loved vending machine slot, D2 (not to be confused with the movie, which I also like). Finally, when you start seeing strange people coming out of your computer, talking to your computer, or find that your eyes haven't blinked in three hours, and possibly are physically not able to blink, take a break.
Monday, November 28, 2011
...or not. But I can be optimistic, right?
In a way, I'd like to think my goals list was a step in the direction of being productive. The goals were not necessarily the order of steps I had to take in order to have a productive break, but they were obstacles I'd have to overcome if I wanted to minimize my stress levels in the next three weeks.
"Wow, Doug, this is great advice and all, but what the bleep does it have to do with writing?"
It has everything to do with writing, just let me explain.
In one of my moments of productivity (I had them! Pinky swear!), I went back to revise a paper. We had a peer review in the class so I had lots of valuable input from my classmates, operative word here being lots. I felt daunted by the amount of suggestions thrown my way by everybody, all of them excellent suggestions on how to make my better just that much more awesome. Before I started to sob over all of my scratchings, I had brainwave: compile suggestions into a list and check them off as I went.
This made all of the comments I was working with less of a jumble and more of a list of objectives to check off as I completed them. I could then see progress I was making with my paper without having to go back through it over and over. Then, when all of my objectives were checked off, I could go back and read it to make sure it flowed like a river in spring or in my apartment's parking lot.
So, for future reference:
- Finish paper
- Get peer reviewed
- Make checklist
- Eliminate things of checklist as they're completed
- Turn in paper
Friday, November 18, 2011
I've seen people dislike writing so much that they carry it with them wherever they go! They call it procrastination, but it's really more like dread. Give your brain a break and think about other things and before you know it, you'll be making connections that you never thought of before. It's wonderful! It's like magic! It's like dropping off your dry-cleaning! That pickle stain is all of the sudden gone and you don't want to know how it happened! You just accept the fact that it's gone and then you act like it was never there in the first place!
Do all of these pickle analogies have you down? Try it. Go for a walk instead of sitting in front of a blank screen. Ride a bicycle. Take your friend's neglected shih tzu for a walk. Fly a kite. Make a cup of joe and drink it, too.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
"No," you say, shaking your head emphatically. "The paper was done. Why outline the finished product?"
"Ah-HA!" I holler. "Is it really done?"
Keep staring at me with that ridiculous look on your face. I'll explain myself. In truth, your paper isn't done until you get the grade, and even then I don't think it's 100% done. But indeed, why do an outline after the paper's been drafted? Believe it or not, an outline might help to better organize your thoughts. Take, for instance, a box outline. Even if you haven't done a box outline, you've probably done something similar. The box outline is merely an aesthetic method that makes your outline look a little neater than simply letters or numbers or even using bubbles. Applying a box outline to a "finished" product is simple: you simply create a series of boxes for each paragraph. In each box, you then describe what you basically are trying to do in said paragraph. If you find it easy to do, congratulations! Your paragraph is likely cohesive. If you find difficulty in it, so sorry--try again! If you find your paragraph description is getting overly complicated, it could be a matter of just breaking it apart into smaller, bite-size chunks of paragraph that'll be easier for your readers to get down. By applying this box outline method post-draft, you can double-check yourself to make sure you're not creating some unwieldy paragraph that looks both unattractive and uninviting to readers. As writers, we want to make our writing as accessible to readers as possible, unless, of course, we want to be unlikable pretentious jerks. As they write, some people have the tendency to go into a huge paragraph without breaking it up, bogging down their readers with no breaks of white space...
November 17th at 3:30pm
EIU Writing Center
3110 Coleman Hall
The focus of this workshop will be using the APA documentation style. We will examine different sources within that context in a fun and informative way.
Friday, November 11, 2011
The ability of literature to transform us is profound. I can remember the overall feeling of reading The Idiot, or Oliver Twist and I get nostalgic. Dickens' ability to capture certain dialects amazed me. "Cub id, sir, Cub id" (a nasally "Come in, sir, Come in.") when I say it aloud it amazes me. And now I have all of these characters running loose in my head. Each one of them has shaped me into the person that I am today. Reading a good book is like making a good friend and whenever you hear that name you will smile inwardly and remember that feeling. When I finished Hunter S. Thompson's Kingdom of Fear, the last sentence made me smile for a week straight. When I read A Farewell to Arms nearly a decade ago, I didn't want to talk to anyone for the rest of the day. Woody Guthrie's autobiography made me feel like a child. Diane di Prima's Recollections of My Life as a Woman enveloped me for days. There are so many things that you can do with books. You can keep them on your shelf to remind you of a time. You can stack them and use them as a table. You can read them! You can ask a question and flip open to a random page (a fun game I like to play). You can eat oatmeal with them.
What will you do? Where will you go?
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
November 10th at 3:30pm
EIU Writing Center
3110 Coleman Hall
The focus of this workshop will be using the MLA documentation style. We will examine different sources within that context in a fun and informative way.
Friday, November 4, 2011
A: Mostly I straddle reality and the imagination. My reality needs imagination like a bulb needs a socket. My imagination needs reality like a blind man needs a cane. Math is hard. Reading a map. Following orders. Carpentry. Electronics. Plumbing. Remembering things correctly. Straight lines. Sheet rock. Finding a safety pin. Patience with others. Ordering in Chinese. Stereo instructions in German.”-Tom Waits
I remember when I was a kid walking down the school hallways, I used to count the tiles and only step on the brown ones today, or the only the white ones today. It was easy because I was the one that was moving around. I was in charge of the giving and taking. Then they wanted me to do long division, and I've been waiting for that click ever since. Somehow when it comes down to it, you can do anything with numbers. You can manipulate them your own way, somebody else's way, everybody's way, or you can just stop being so manipulative and let them be. I love 2x as long as it's the size of my hot fudge sundae.
I am straddling the line of reality and imagination, too, Tom. Let's say, for instance, that you're driving down the street and you see a man riding a bike. There's something about the way that he moves that makes you think "prehistoric." He is obviously a close relative to the T-Rex, the way that he's moving there, mechanical, like his arms and legs are on greased-up hinges. His head spins upwards towards you, in the car, and he gives you a bizarre look. He knows that you know. You'd better drive faster. His little hands with chicken claws are extending in your direction. Just step on the gas and don't look back at him. Maybe he'll get into a fight with a stegosaurus instead.
Or, let's say that you go to your favorite local restaurant and the waitress has squirrel-blonde hair. Is it natural? She's got it cut so that you wouldn't be able to tell. Did she harvest your meal after digging up her secret stash of acorns? So much depends upon a mellow metaphor. Does your father have stout Jack London-eyes? Do you see Al Pacino every time you look at your uncle? My neighbor has a Tom Hanks voice and every time I hear him I want to put on a cowboy hat or get stuck on some island and talk to a volleyball. Everything is connected. Write what you love.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Monday, October 31, 2011
The writing process is different for everyone, but writing for a particular class can evoke a different voice or tone that’s present. Regardless of the writing itself, whether it’s creative, research, synthesis or any other style, your voice is present within the paper.
When writing a creative piece (fiction, play, poem, or essay based on personal experience), the voice of the writer can be examined insofar as the point of view of the characters or the type of creative piece overall. For example, the sentence, “I went home this past weekend for my brother’s birthday,” is a sentence in first person. Most of the time this is acceptable when writing creative pieces unless the assignment calls for something different. Also, when creating stories, having a steady narrator will allow for an avenue for readers to identify with the characters. While composing, the author has to make sure to maintain the voice in style and point of view in order to create cohesion of the piece itself.
In contrast to personal and creative writing, when writing research papers a lot of people don’t think their voices can be heard amongst the research. Sometimes this process causes difficulties for writers because they are struggling to make their voice heard since the use of “I,” “you,” and “we” are less common when composing a research paper. When writing a research-based paper, students should be composing mostly in third person, such as the use of “a lot of people” in the first sentence of this paragraph. Some commonly used phrases in research papers are “one,” “the results show…,” and “the conclusions are…” in contrast to pronouns such as “I” and “we.” For example, though this post doesn’t contain any pronoun indicators of being in first person, my voice shows by how my point is presented as well as by the tone of my post.
Being conscious of the assignment and what type of writing is required for a paper can help you use strategies to make sure your voice is present within a paper.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Parentheticals! Life is filled with them. Snooty remarks would be nowhere without them (that's what you think). Who else gives a voice to the things that we say under our breath? Only parentheses can do that!
Parentheses have several uses. Here are a few:
-Use parentheses to enclose numbers or letters in a series.
ex: In order to make pumpkin pie, you need (1) pumpkin and (2) pie
-Use parentheses to enclose supplemental information
ex: For the last eighteen years (almost nineteen) he's slept with a teddy bear.
-Use parentheses to indicate the possibility of singular or plural nouns
ex: If anyone has information about the person(s) in charge, please call 1-800-WHOWORKSHERE
-Use parentheses to indicate an acronym
ex: We were so happy to become members of MEMBERS (Members Every Moment Because Everyone's Really Saving)
-Use parentheses to enclose dates
ex:My undergraduate career (1970- ) will last forever as long as Domino's still has large pizzas for $5.
-Use parentheses to enclose citation
ex: I heard someone say "If you die on the elevator, be sure to push the UP button" (Levenson).
Thank you for joining us during Punctuation Month. Be sure to stay tuned next month for more categorized fun!!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
In the last few years, text messaging has risen from small trend to full-blown epidemic. The language has become such a central part to what we write that it's usurped our formal written language. In some papers, people type "2" instead of "to." The worst part is, even if they proofread carefully, they may not find the error for the simple fact that they don't see it an error. They use it in their everyday language, so what's the problem?
Unfortunately, instructors haven't gotten the memo that textspeak is okay, nor have some of us who were late to the texting game. Though I shudder to think of a world in which textspeak is like a macabre form of newspeak, we can fight the possibility of this. Now here's what I propose:
Stop using textspeak.
I'm not saying don't text any more. Text to your heart's desire! But try it just once--a text message in which you eliminate the numbers for letters and grossly-used shorthand. While it is just a bit more time consuming, newer phones are designed with auto-correct and similar technologies that do not allow you to use shorthand unless it's programmed in. And honestly, it may be difficult to do at first. So try it little by little. Drop your shorthand. Try a full sentence just once! Maybe, just maybe, you'll find you like using full words.
Friday, October 21, 2011
The has apostrophe three uses:
1. to form possessive nouns
2. to show the omission of letters
3. to indicate certain plurals of lowercase letters
1. Here are some ways to form possessive nouns:
-Add 's to the singular form of the word, even if it ends in s.
ex: Hidalgo's hips weren't as strong as they used to be.
ex: James's sarsaparilla went stale on Saturday.
-Add s to plural forms that do not end in s
ex: The geese's knees were put on backwards.
-Add ' to the end plural form of nouns that end in s
ex: Three friends' scooters were all broken.
-Add 's to the end of compound words
ex: My step-mother's shoes mysteriously disappeared.
-Add 's to the last noun to show possession of an object
ex: Hank and Didley's Hamburger Helper tasted funky.
2. Showing omission of letters
-Contractions are common in giving birth and in informal writing.
Here are some ex's (examples):
don't = do not
I'm = I am
he'll = he will
who's = who is
shouldn't = should not
didn't = did not
could've= could have (NOT "could of"!)
'60 = 1960
3. To indicate plurals of lowercase letters
If your name is Philip, and somebody accidentally wrote it Phillip, you must say: "You wrote my name with two l's instead of one l."
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Books, journal articles and online databases are the tools that we normally use when doing research. However, there are many other sources of information that can be useful to anyone writing a paper. Here are just a few other options that can be considered.
One lost art of research is using actual hard copies of newspapers as a source for a paper. When I was speaking with a history major, she reminisced on the days that she was stuck in the library sifting through old newspaper articles because they alone provided the information that was useful in her paper. Somehow this form of research has become somewhat of a history artifact in and of itself.
If you’re an education major observing can provide insight when reflecting on strategies that have been learned in the classroom setting. Sitting in on professional meeting can also benefit business majors, administration majors or anyone involved in professional major. When observing, make sure to always take notes, not only on the setting and reactions of those involved in your observation but also on your reactions to the experience.
Along these same lines, interviewing someone with experience within your discipline can provide inside information and expertise. Like observing in a professional setting, conducting an interview should be well planned and executed in a professional manner. When compiling questions to ask, make sure they are leading to the points that you are trying to gain from the encounter. Also be sure to include questions that are also open ended, which can lead to more explanation or deeper conversations. As always, make sure to take detailed notes while conducting the interview. Then when compiling all of your information, make sure to reflect on what you’ve learned and how using the interview is beneficial to your project.
Using questionnaires or surveys can also provide detailed information that will be useful to a paper or project. The focus and design of a survey will depend on what information you’re trying to gather, as well as the characteristics of the group you are surveying. This form of research can provide a wide range of information and could be very useful when drafting a paper based on a gap of information that you’re trying to address.
Though these aren’t the only other forms of research besides books and journal articles, they can provide information research avenues for many projects and your professional development.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
You're looking at me scornfully, and I can understand why, but let me defend myself. As you can see, I did not simply neglect this piece. I'm typing away at it this very moment. I didn't forget about it. I just wanted some time away from it, away from a keyboard and a blinking cursor, away from the pressure of writing a spectacular post that will make you forget everything you knew about procrastination.
But I digress. We think about our assignments even when we're away from them, and that's a beautiful thing. We think of all the different ways of wording a sentence or other avenues of research we can take in our particular piece. We think of these things while walking from class to class, taking a shower, or playing a gentlemanly game of croquet. We're away from the piece so some of the pressures are relieved. By mentally reworking the paper, we're not obligated to set any of this in stone, or ink for that matter. Then when we return to the piece we can come back with fresh ideas and a fresh pair of eyes like we're coming back to an old friend who could or could not use an overhaul makeover. Then we can give it highlights or snip the hair here and there--make it more readable and coherent.
Monday, October 17, 2011
October 20th from 3:30 to 4:00pm in the Writing Center (3110 Coleman Hall)
The focus of this workshop will be using the APA documentation style. We will examine different sources within that context in a fun and informative way.
Friday, October 14, 2011
1. Use the colon after a complete sentence to introduce a list of items when introductory words such as for example, such as, or namely do not appear. Think of the colon as a gate.
example: I want the following items: peas, a puppy, and knowledge of colons.
2. Use the colon after an independent clause when introducing a quotation.
example: My grocer's remark about me was complimentary: "She's here all the time. She always buys lots of q-tips and doughnuts....every time... q-tips and doughnuts."
3. Use a colon between two independent clauses when you want to emphasize the second clause.
example: I don't understand why anyone shops at that store: the grocers always stare awkwardly at people.
NOTE: There are some similar situations where a colon wouldn't fit. You would not put a colon after the verb in the sentence, since the phrase that precedes the colon must be an independent clause. You would not include a colon in sentences such as the following:
Her favorite food was chocolate ice cream.
His recipe included fish, peanut butter, and ham-flakes.
Since these sentences include words like included and was, and "Her favorite food was" is not an independent clause, there is no colon necessary.
Now that you know a couple of uses of the colon, you can use it with style and confidence!
You can also use it to make that gate.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Brainstorming ideas and outlining are strategies that can help in organizing a paper. But how do you even get there in the first place? When reviewing multiple sources for a paper of any kind, taking careful, detailed notes will not only help you find the support that you’ll need in your paper, but also help with the organization of a draft. Here are a few helpful ideas on note taking when dealing with source material.
How Do You Take Notes From a Text You Can’t Write On?
- Sticky notes: Sticky notes can help mark useful passages that you want to later reference in your paper. Along with marking a particular point within the book, writing a word or phrase on sticky notes can help you connect and summarize the points that are important. I don’t want to spend actual money on sticky notes so I use small pieces of paper to mark the spot in a book. See, you don’t have to buy them if you don’t want to!
- Taking notes on paper: It’s helpful to take detailed notes of main points that you might later use when drafting your paper. If you’re not a detailed note taker, then just writing a page number on paper or a particular quote will help jog your memory.
- Note cards: Jotting down quotes and main ideas along with the reference information on notecards can make ideas easier to locate when drafting a paper. This way, the information is all in one place, and can even be useful when deciding how to organize the ideas for a draft. Note cards allow you to visually shuffle information.
Taking Notes On Printed Sources
Taking Notes On Printed Sources
- Highlighting and underlining: Highlighting and underlining can help you reference particular words or phrases that you plan to expand upon in a draft. Making notes in the margins will make it easier for you to pick out points that you want to use in your paper. These notes can later become points that you want to make in your paper.
Starting the search for sources early can only benefit your paper in the end because you’ll have time to effectively take notes. Though the process can take more time, making sure that you pick out points within research to support your ideas will only help when beginning to draft your paper.
Monday, October 10, 2011
There are other styles, of course. You have Chicago and Turabian, two styles that if you showed me examples of the two I would have no clue which was which. And then there's the Council of Biology Editors (CBE) citation style, which up until the last couple months I had no idea existed.
Ten points to the person who guesses what disciplines it's used for.
Being the inquisitive type, I looked into this mysterious citation style. I began my search on the Purdue OWL website, but I found my search fruitless; the OWL focuses primarily on MLA and APA, the two most commonly used citation styles in the United States.
A Google search, however, yielded far more results. Google compiled 1.6 million results (in an astonishing .17 seconds!) for "cbe citation style," the first ten of which all were websites containing the ".edu" domain suffix. What does that mean? Well, for starters, it means it's legit--".edu" screams credibility.
Further research into CBE showed similarities between CBE and APA, not terribly surprising considering the pervasiveness of APA among science writers. An example provided by the Frederick Douglass Library at University of Maryland Eastern Shore gives the example for citing a book by a single author:
Li TSC. 2000. Medicinal plants: culture, utilization and
Those familiar with APA will notice that certain APA conventions are followed. For example, the title of the book is listed in a similar manner as APA as only the first word of the title has its first letter capitalized. Additionally, first names are initialed as opposed to MLA, which requires the full name of the author. Structurally, the two styles follow the same order of author-to-year-to-title, sharing an emphasis on dates in which the works are published.
Curiously, however, CBE diverges from APA in that it abandons the punctuation following the author's last name, as well as after each initial of her first name. Also, CBE places an importance on where the book was published.
Citation styles continue to evolve and separate like single-cell organisms. Though you may have memorized a particular style a couple of years ago, the moment a new edition comes out all you knew may be torn asunder. Keeping updated with stylebooks can get to be expensive, however, so the most ideal way to keep in touch with the latest changes in your favorite citation style is to pay attention to Purdue's OWL or do a simple Google search.
Further reading and citations:
"How to Cite Using CBE" from the University of Maryland - Eastern Shore
"CBE Citation Style" from the University of Maine at Farmington
"Council of Biology Editors Citation Style" from the University of Wisconsin - Madison
Friday, October 7, 2011
Sometimes it’s hard to tell where to place a period because it seems as though all of the thoughts sort of run together due to the fact that I am writing one thought after the other and these thoughts just seem to be trickling out of my head without pause so where should I put this period at, I don’t know? Oops, it didn’t even turn out to be a period, it was a question mark, but I thought that the beginning of the sentence should have had a period and then it took a turn in another direction and all of the sudden: BAM: there’s a question mark and what am I supposed to do about it? Oh, no! Another one! And exclamation points! I can find where to put this period maybe I could put it in my sock drawer so that when it’ll never get out and I’ll know just where it is at all times but then what if it sneaks away? It did it again! I want all of my sentences to mold together into one giant sentence that lasts three pages long so that the reader can never take a breath and their face will turn blue and they might even fall over because I couldn’t find my period it wasn’t where I left it oh, there it is.
NOTE: This run-on sentence was not picked up by Microsoft Word.
NOTE: Run-on sentences are also called fused-sentences
What is a run-on sentence?
A fused sentence, or a run-on sentence occurs when two main clauses are connected without punctuation. Comma splices fall under the same category because they are sentences that aren't punctuated correctly. If you see that your sentence runs on for three or more lines, or if you have a hard time reading it without turning blue in the face, then consider revising it. If your sentence seems like a question and a statement, consider separating it into both with the proper punctuation. Remember, the most important thing in all of this is that what you are trying to say comes across as clearly as possible. Other times you will find that you have an incomplete sentence. The best place to find the rest of it is on either side of the period or punctuation. This is where it usually hides, like an ostrich with its head in the sand."Hey, Larry, is it safe yet?"