Switching from Scientific Writing to Writing in the Humanities

By: Madison Bosque

One of the most difficult things I’ve encountered as a student and writer is transitioning from scientific papers, which make up the majority of my academic writing, to humanities papers, which are sprinkled into my coursework every semester. There are major differences between each kind of writing, and I often write my humanities papers like a science paper should be written—cold, hard facts with no hook or transitions.

A big difference between science papers and humanities papers is the stage of prewriting and organization. In biology, chemistry, and other science classes, prewriting is often unnecessary and does not help with the final paper. You are often given an experiment to complete before dumping all the collected information into a paper and organizing it into clear, defined sections. These defined sections often don’t have transitions between them, and this structure can become habitual in your humanities papers as well.

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Additional Tools for Overcoming Writer’s Block

By: Greta Ochsner

Since most college students will struggle with writer’s block at some point during their university studies, we cooked up more tips for combating it. Common signs of writer’s block include but are not limited to staring at a blank Word document for more than five minutes or reading a prompt and feeling bewildered. Let’s face it, sometimes writing can seem like quite a daunting task, even to well-practiced writers. It’s important to have a game plan for those days when you just can’t seem to express your ideas in writing, so here are ten additional tips to remedy the condition.

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Tools for Overcoming Writer’s Block

By: Chelsea Weller

The first step to overcoming writers block is admitting that you have writer’s block. Once this has been acknowledged, some students can hunker down and write. Others can’t—this article is for them. That said, reading articles about writers block won’t help the situation; this resource is simply a collection of tools to keep in your pocket in case you get stuck.

I won’t lie, I had writer’s block about writing about writer’s block, and I tried time and again to write this article without success. I discovered that my writer’s block was rooted in a lack of organization. I had an idea of what I wanted to say, but I had no idea how to say it. I made an appointment here at the Writing Center and talked about my topic. By the end of the session, I had a list of points I and a good idea of how I wanted to organize them. I was able to overcome writer’s block and the words began to flow.

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Reading Strategies: Previewing, Annotating, and Note-Taking

By: Greta Ochsner

If you find yourself struggling to focus on textbooks, then this blog is for you. Although reading a blog about reading strategies might be the last thing you feel like doing, these strategies can help reduce the time it takes to complete reading assignments, and increase reading comprehension. Three strategies that I find helpful are previewing, annotating, and post reading note-taking. I used passages from the Odyssey to help explain these strategies, since the Odyssey is a commonly assigned text.

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Defining Signal Phrases with MLA Style

By: Jann Harris

Signal phrases introduce materials from sources such as paraphrases, summaries and direct quotations. We use signal phrases to show ideas aren’t our own and instead belong to another scholar. This blog breaks down how to use signal phrases with MLA.

A signal phrase consists of two parts: Author Tag + Signal Verb = Signal Phrase

Part I: Author Tags

Author tags introduce an author by name. The way you introduce authors is different depending on where and when you are citing them.

  1. The first time you introduce a source into your paper, state the authors’ full names and their credibility.
    • Elizabeth Stone, professor of English at Fordham University,
    • Mary Katherine Ham, an American journalist,

Think of this as similar to how you’d introduce people who do not know each in a formal setting. You’d start by stating their full names and by saying a little bit about them. You might say, “John, this is Sarah Mosher, my composition teacher.”

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NaNoWriMo: Ten Questions for Character Development in Fiction

By: Derrian Goebel

There are many ways to develop a well-rounded character, but when you think of your character, you should be “seeing” this character as a real person. Think of this new person as a friend, or someone near and dear to you. Get to know this person by doing a character sketch.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is this person’s name?
    • This might be a time where you consider your character’s age when finding names of people from certain eras; for example, Dorothy was popular in the 1900-1920s as opposed to Bella, which is currently popular.
  2. How old is this person?
    • A character’s age will affect their whole lives—how they interact with others, how they perceive others, their levels of education, how they react in stressful situations, etc. For example, if you were to give a 4 year old a balloon, they would react differently than an 11 year old or someone in their late teens.
  3. What does this person look like?
    • When describing a character it’s best to have a “picture” of this person in your mind, so that you may recall details. If a story has a woman character tossing her hair, was her hair long or not? If you’d said earlier that she had super short hair, this wouldn’t work, causing a conflict of character.
  4. What are this person’s verbal traits?
    • How does he/she talk to others? Does he/she speak rapidly, or slowly?
    • Often, a train of thought tends to interrupt speech—does he/she stay focused in conversation or do they go off on tangents?
    • Sound of voice—do they speak with a smoky voice, raspy, screechy, soft, loud, etc.?
    • Do they talk with their hands? Are they monotone in their speech?
  5. What quirks or personality traits does this person have?
    • Think of someone you know. What is that one little thing that you notice they do every time? Maybe they chew on their pencil when deep in thought. Real people have quirks.
    • What personality traits does this person have? Are they quick to anger? Are they huggers? This will lend to a more plausible character.
  6. What about your character’s history/era?
    • Is the character in the 17th century of the 19th century? (there’s a big difference)
    • Did this person come from a particular social class? Were they responsible for younger siblings, or were they an only child? The history of a person shapes who they have become.
  7. What relationships does this person have? How does this person interact with these people? Is it different than how they interact with the general public?
    • Now that you know all of the above, you need to know how this person interacts with other characters in your story. Is the character a spouse? Is he/she a parent or child?
    • Does this person treat everyone the same? Robots would treat everyone the same. People have a sense of “other,” that the other person is unlike themselves. How do they react when encountering this “other”? How is this reaction different from encountering people they’re used to? For example, a teenager will react with eye rolling when getting advice from his/her parent, rather than when a professor gives them advice.
  8. Does your character have ambition/motivation?
    • What does he/she value most? What is he/she after? If your character doesn’t care about anything, then why would readers?
    • Does he/she have an unrealized ambition? Some will start out not caring, but end up with a passion that they discover. Character arc is important to development –this person needs to mature over time by learning, changing, and growing as a person.
  9. What about their inner thoughts?
    • What is his/her internal dialog like? Does he/she speak their minds exactly? (most of us don’t)
    • Does this person have internal conflict? Do they do one thing, but really want to do something else?
  10. Are there restrictions or limits for your character?
    • For every Superman, there is a Kryptonite. What holds this person back? What is his/her weakness? This will give your character challenge in the story, which is plausible, making him/her more of a believable, “real” person.

Answering these questions will greatly improve your story’s characters by making them well rounded. Think of your character as Pinocchio—he just wanted to be a real boy. By fleshing out your character, you will create a realistic person that readers will become invested in and want to read more about.

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Give Me Creativity or Give Me Death: A Creative Writer’s Journey through His Writing Processes

By: Matthew Baker

If you’re anything like me, you need ways to bridge the gap between academic and creative writing. Maybe the way to do that is by simply adjusting your writing process based on your objective.

But how can I change my writing process, and why would I want to do that?

Well, the thing to remember is that there’s no wrong or right way to approach a writing project. I, for instance, have a distinctly different approach when I write a poem than when I write a literature review. I start my creative writing process by taking a walk to clear my head. I’ll walk pretty much anywhere. Sometimes I’ll listen to music. This is how I prewrite—I clear my mind of other distractions so I can focus my ideas for my piece. However, if I have to write that literature review, I’ll do it a different way. I sit down and annotate my sources—I write my questions in the margins and circle key points the author is making. This is how I prewrite academically. The takeaway from these examples is that one person can approach writing from different angles.

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The Differences Between an Exploratory and Argumentative Research Paper

By: Colin deSousa

Throughout your college career, especially if your major resides in either the humanities or other social sciences, you’ll be tasked with writing a research paper. At this point, unbeknownst to you, you’ve reached a fork in the road. There are two types of research papers, similar and yet different—the exploratory and the argumentative. This blog post aims to explain the differences between the two to help you better understand how to write and use them for research.

An argumentative paper must not only explore a topic, but also suggest the implications of the situation; whereas, an exploratory paper informs without passing judgement.

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Writing in a Digital Age: Social Media Citations

By: Lindsy Sullivan

#Hello, fellow writers! As you probably know, lots of interesting tidbits exist on the internet—cat videos, Buzzfeed recipes, makeup tutorials, etc., but perhaps the most popular internet feature is social media. New social media sites emerge constantly, and while most of these platforms cater to teenage angst, opportunities to find academically-relevant content abound as well; therefore, being knowledgeable in how to cite such content is crucial in an increasingly paperless world.

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Can You Claim You Can Write a Claim?

By: Jerson Valdez

Many students know what a thesis is and how to make one, but how many students are familiar with supporting claims? What is a claim? How do you develop a great claim? How do you incorporate one into your essay? How do claims tie into theses? These are things that students should know when writing an argument paper. Below, we will go over these and other aspects of writing a claim.

To start, claims are the arguments made within each paragraph of your paper that support your thesis and are supported by concrete evidence.

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