How to Tackle the WebCampus Discussion Post

By Pamela Hong

If the task of responding to your class discussion post on WebCampus is intimidating to you, you’re reading the right blog post. If the task isn’t intimidating to you, you can still take away a few tips and tricks to help you on your next discussion post assignment—so read on.

1.) Formatting

Make sure your post is easy to read. Serif fonts are the best choice for online writing. Formatting is not the place to stand out—avoid bright colors and loud fonts. Your post’s formatting should be consistent with the rest of your classmates’ responses.

WebCampus can be tricky—consider drafting your post in a text editor, e.g. Word, and then copying and pasting the response into the discussion thread. Using a text editor ensures that can save your work as you write and helps you avoid technical issues. Additionally, text editors have more features for formatting and editing than WebCampus.

2.) Content

The first step is to dissect the question your professor posts, because ultimately, you want to make sure you answer what you are expected to. Are you arguing for a stance? Are you expanding on a statement? Are you suggesting ideas to the group? It seems self-explanatory, but it’s very easy for a class to stray off topic as more people post responses. Much like the game of Telephone, a discussion can shift completely from what was originally intended; therefore, it is crucial to properly dissect the question for what it is actually asking before starting your own response or reading others.

In the next step of actually posting your response, you should strive for an answer that is an original, intelligent, and complete response to the discussion question.

Make sure to read what has already been posted (if there are any posts) before blindly responding with ideas that have already been said. It might even seem like you copied another student’s idea, regardless if that is true or not. The tone of your response should also be professional and constructive. When disagreeing with a previous post,  argue your own viewpoint in a respectful and eloquent fashion. Incorporating personal experience can be an effective way to connect with your audience; however, you should remain on topic.

Your response should also be touching on all the points or parts of the question. Rather than answering one part and calling it finished, try re-reading the question and seeing if the entire discussion response you’ve drafted has every component that your professor wants you to answer.

3.) Replies

Replying to your classmates’ posts is often a component of WebCampus discussion assignments—don’t forget to use your classmate’s name when replying. You can facilitate discussion in the replies with open-ended questions. Depending on your instructor’s requirements, try and respond to as many posts as possible.

4.) Finishing Touches

Add some extra flair to make your post stand out. Consider including multimedia such as photos, video, or audio. Additionally, you can provide links to related articles. WebCampus has a hyperlink feature that allows you to easily embed these links. If your post requires a title, make sure you create something clear and informative that will catch your instructor’s and classmates’ attention.

Finally, when you have your final draft ready to be posted, re-read it, then re-read again! Did you completely answer the question? Make sure your grammar is correct, that you answered the question or built upon another person’s response, and that you maintain a professional tone throughout your response.

 

Here’s an example of an original post and two replies:

Original Post: “The electoral college system is an accurate way of reflecting what the majority of the United States wants in a president because of its protection of the votes in smaller states.”

Weak Response: “The Electoral College is outdated, and anyone who thinks that it works is a no-good Trump supporter.”

Strong Response: “While the Electoral College may seem like a measure to restrict larger states’ voting power, there are many flaws in the design and construct. Some of these flaws include the following: the electoral vote doesn’t necessarily reflect the popular vote, the electoral system incentivizes campaigns to ignore states with smaller amounts of electorates, and the Electoral College places a disproportionate amount of power in individual votes from smaller states. Therefore, the popular vote should decide who is president.”

The weak response simply posits an opinion without any supporting evidence. The stronger response states an arguable claim and supports this claim with specific evidence. The stronger response also acknowledges the opposing view without attacking the writer.

Even though these assignments can be tedious, try to take advantage of WebCampus discussion posts as an opportunity to engage with the course material and to facilitate conversations with classmates.

 

Happy writing!

 

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The Three-Pronged Thesis: Trials and Tribulations

By Kylie Lohmeyer

The college experience is far different from high school and making such an extreme transition can be tough. Though living without the comforts of home is nothing shy of awful, the true challenge of college is adapting to the expectations and rigor of schoolwork. Incoming students are expected to have developed critical thinking, reading, and writing skills upon enrolling in their first college courses. Students at all levels are constantly learning and adapting these critical skills into their writing; however, we often default to a three-pronged thesis/five-paragraph essay when faced with complex college-level writing. Understanding the structure and function of three-pronged theses as well as its advantages and disadvantages will help you decide the appropriate time to utilize this structure.

A three-pronged thesis is just what it sounds like: a thesis with three points or sub-topics that will support your main claim. Each of these prongs equate to one paragraph within your essay, setting you up to have three body paragraphs, an introductory paragraph, and a concluding paragraph (five paragraphs total).

For example, I want to write a three-pronged thesis to answer why ice cream is the best dessert. An essay utilizing this thesis would appear as follows:

Introduction: Brief discussion about a general concept that leads up to your thesis. Background information that your audience needs in order to understand the rest of your essay. For example, you could discuss the history of ice cream, the popularity of ice cream across the world, or even a brief anecdote about your personal experience with ice cream.
Thesis: Ice cream is the best dessert because it’s creamy, comes in an array of flavors, and can be eaten in a variety of ways.
Body: According to the three-pronged thesis formula, the first body paragraph will describe how ice cream’s creamy texture contributes to its popularity as a dessert, the second paragraph will detail ice cream’s array of flavors, and the third paragraph will explain the versatility of this dessert.
Conclusion: In this structure, your conclusion should summarize your final thoughts on ice cream. High school teachers often advise students to re-state their thesis and end with a connection to the “real world.”

Although three-pronged theses are straightforward and familiar, they should be avoided in college-level academic writing. In fact, three-pronged theses and the resulting five paragraph essay will never be structurally complex enough to capture higher level thinking. The three-pronged thesis approach can hinder you in the following ways:

  • The organization of your paper can feel disjointed. The three prongs of the thesis may address your larger claim, but they don’t necessarily connect or interact with each other. Therefore, your paper will lack synthesis and cohesion unless you can relate the subtopics together throughout your paper. If you’ve ever struggled with paragraph transitions, you were likely using a three-pronged thesis and failed to synthesize the three prongs.
  • This format may inhibit your ability to be creative since it forces you to present your ideas in a rigid structure. Writing is your chance to be original and showcase your voice. There are an infinite number of ways to present an argument and provide supporting claims—be creative!
  • You may have more than three important subtopics to discuss. Whether you like it or not, you will be tasked with writing a research paper at some point in your college career. These can be anywhere from 5-15 pages long (sometimes even longer). Five paragraphs are simply not enough to showcase months of research and to synthesize complex interpretations; you may need more than one paragraph to explain and substantiate a single claim.

More often than not, three-pronged theses are the wrong choice; however, this structure does have its advantages.

  •  A three-pronged thesis is the ideal choice if you are writing a timed essay where efficiency is paramount. This type of thesis will help you quickly organize your thoughts while forcing you to remain focused on the main claim.
  • Three-pronged theses can improve readability for instructors. Sometimes you’ll have an instructor who is not as interested in eloquent language or beautiful transitions, rather these instructors are solely interested in your ability to provide necessary detail and follow a strict set of guidelines (e.g. science classes, engineering, etc.). In this case, having a three-pronged thesis creates a simplified structure, making your professor’s life a little easier.

Remember, writing is malleable. There are always multiple ways to reach a destination in writing. Although templates come in handy for timed tests or particular professors, this format can narrow your options. Remember to use extreme caution when utilizing the three-pronged thesis because you will struggle to capture complex thinking with such a simplistic template.

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Don’t Stress—Schedule

By Kari Lease

Balancing all of your responsibilities can be a challenge. As a student and an employee, I have developed a few strategies to reduce stress and achieve my goals.

To be successful, I cannot stress enough the importance of a planner. The idea may seem obvious, but it will be a lifesaver during the midterm and final seasons. Once you get all of your syllabi for the semester, take time to do a general semester outline. Mark the due dates for all of your tests, papers, group projects, presentations, and note your instructors’ office hours in your calendar. Mapping out the entire semester like this will give you a more detailed overview of your busy weeks and allow you to plan weekend trips or social activities. It also helps many people visualize everything they would like to accomplish.

Every Sunday night or Monday morning take time to plan out the upcoming week: write out required readings and minor assignments due that week and account for work hours if you are balancing school and a job. However, managing your school and work time is only half of the battle. You also need to prioritize your health, both physically and mentally. This may seem silly, but remember to schedule time to do laundry or clean your dorm/apartment.

Daily, I make a list of the things I have to do and the things I want to do. Try to keep the list of things you have to do short—the list should only include the assignments and activities that you need to have finished by the end of the day or the next morning. By keeping the “have to” list down to a manageable size, you may be able to keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed. Color coding is another way to organize and prioritize tasks. Below is an example of a planner page that organizes school, work, and personal tasks into “have to” and “want to” categories. A quick Google search returns thousands of planner templates like the one below; this particular template is from ScatteredSquirrel.com.

Template source credit

It’s also important to give yourself breaks. Scheduling every second of your life can easily become unmanageable; don’t forget to allow yourself some downtime. I plan small fifteen to thirty minute breaks throughout my day so I have time to do the things I actually enjoy. You can use the time to take a walk or catch up on Game of Thrones. Sometimes taking time for yourself can lead to guilt, but having a concrete plan for your downtime can alleviate these feelings. I have found that taking time to focus on my mental and physical health makes the time I spend working/studying more productive.

Take it from me, balancing work and school can be stressful. I hope that if you try out these tips and ask those around you how they balance work and school, you’ll be able to craft a schedule that works for you.

References

Weekly To Dos. Retrieved October 05, 2017, from https://scatteredsquirrel.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Weekly-To-Dos.pdf

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Tips for Requesting Letters of Recommendation

By Erica Dietlein

So you need a letter of recommendation. Especially if you’ve never asked for one, this can be a daunting task. How do I ask for something like that? Who do I ask? What if they say no?
Fear not. Letters of recommendation are a common practice in the academic world. Your professors are in the position they’re in because they received positive letters of recommendation at some point. They know the drill.

Picking Your Letter Writer
The person you ask needs to be someone who can answer basics question about you. Do they know your name, your face, and a bit about your background? Have they worked with you personally before? If the answer to all of the above is yes, then they may be the right person to ask.
Choose your potential letter writer with care. You want to get the strongest letters of recommendation possible. Before making the request, stop and think about whether they know enough about your positive traits to speak about them and speak about them with confidence. If you select someone you’ve had bad experiences with, they will be obligated to disclose their concerns in the letter.

Making the Request
The first and most important tip: Ask in Advance! Don’t spring the request on the potential letter writer last minute if you can help it. It’s a headache for both you and them. Most professors/employers are writing multiple letters of recommendation at the same time, so asking early could set you apart.
Make the initial request in person. If at all possible, ask your potential letter writer in person if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation. Don’t default to email. Some people may consider it rude if you don’t ask in person first. If they say yes, you may then turn to email as a means of further communication
Ask if they can write you a strong letter. Be sure to ask if they can write you a strong letter. One way to do this is to ask something along the lines of, “Do you think you know me well enough/have enough information about me to write a strong letter of recommendation?” This gives the person an opportunity to say “no” without explanation if they feel they don’t have the information they need to write you a positive letter.
If they say yes, schedule a follow up. If they accept your request, follow up with an appointment to discuss further what it is you need the letter for and what you need out of the letter.
If they say no, it’s OK. Don’t take this as a personal rejection. More often than not, someone will say no because they don’t feel they can write you a strong letter that will help you. Additionally, it’s important to recognize people have other responsibilities that may conflict with their ability to write a letter.
Don’t forget to say thank you. Even if they said no, let them know you appreciate their time.

The Email
Be professional. Make sure you’re tone is professional, and include any documentation that the letter writer might have asked to see. Even if they don’t explicitly ask to see what program it is you’re applying for, consider sending them a link or document that describes what it is you’re applying for. If the letter writer has a better idea of who their audience is, it will help guide them when they write the letter.
Don’t forget to say thank you. Use appropriate salutations and end the message with a statement of appreciation.

The Meeting & Follow Up
Be ready to talk about what it is you’re applying for. The letter writer probably has some questions about you and the program or job you’re interested in.
Be specific. The letter writer needs to know what it is you want the letter to accomplish. Let them know if there is anything specific you want reflected in it and why.
Follow up. You’ve likely asked for a letter from someone who, like you, has a lot of other things going on. After you have made the request and have met with them to discuss the letter, follow up with them. Let them know that you appreciate their help, but don’t do this last minute.
And, as always, don’t forget to say thank you.

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Don’t Hate, Imitate

By Nathan Lachner

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Imitatio, deriving from the Greek word “to imitate,” refers to the process of studying and emulating rhetorical features of other authors. Many students developing a foundation in writing feel daunted by the extensive possibilities of creative and academic writing. My advice to someone who doesn’t know where to start with writing would be to find a writer they enjoy and to analyze and emulate their style. Don’t mistake imitatio for plagiarism, which refers to intentionally passing off someone else’s work as your own and then lying about it. When you use imitatio, you are emulating successful stylistic features, not adopting the original author’s exact sentence structure and ideas as your own. Many renowned writers and artists look to other creators for inspiration.

Imitatio may sound counterintuitive to some because many people aim to be completely original. Yes, originality is an admirable goal, but sometimes it can be forged out of imitation, much like when an art teacher says, “You have to learn the rules in order to break them.” For example, Hemingway has a distinct style that can be adapted into your own writing. His sparse, minimalist prose emphasizes concision, so he may be a less overwhelming choice to imitate compared to other denser authors. Obviously, Hemingway is well-liked and respected within American literature; in other words, his style has been successful, therefore, it is worth imitating. After reading his prose, you may notice that he omits dialogue tags like “he/she said,” he utilizes the expletive “it” rather than lengthy noun phrases, and he avoids excessive adverbs and adjectives. These are all stylistic features that you can emulate if you want to create minimalist prose. Imitating Hemingway is especially useful for beginning writers—once you have mastered concision, you can begin adding more stylistic elements. .

Let’s tie writing into something that almost everyone enjoys—music. If we think about how musicians have imitated other artists to become popular, it may help us to understand the importance of imitatio. For example, there are many pop artists who have emulated the style of Michael Jackson. Take Bruno Mars as an example. Just because Bruno Mars emulates Michael Jackson doesn’t mean Mars is an incapable artist. It also doesn’t mean that Bruno Mars is ripping Jackson off. Bruno Mars took the example of a successful artist and utilized imitatio to contribute to his own success. In imitatio, a person can subconsciously appropriate forms and creative devices and incorporate them into their own work.


Image source

So, what do you think? Do you think that imitatio is a form of flattery, or is it a way for someone to get away with being unoriginal? I think there are many benefits that can come from imitatio in any art form. When we imitate authors/creators, we utilize techniques and forms that have led to success.

There are examples of successful academic and creative writing on the internet and at the library. The next time writer’s block strikes, consider turning to one of these examples and replicating the successful features.

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Five Ways to Prepare for Presentations

By Jordan Dynes

Gasp! Your professor just assigned you a presentation. For as long as you can remember, the mere thought of having to stand and talk to a group of people makes a shiver run down your spine. However, there’s no need to worry any longer. Here are five strategies to help you feel at ease and well-prepared for presentations.

1. Practice in front of your friends and pets.
Practice your presentation in front of your best friend or favorite furry pet. Your friend will give you honest feedback and encourage you to become more comfortable speaking in front of people. Rent a group room at the Writing Center and practice in front of multiple friends. This will create an environment resembling the classroom setting that you’ll be presenting in. Eye contact makes you appear confident and prepared—just be sure to not focus on a single person. Also, practicing in front of your pet will help ease the anxiety of presenting. When you eventually present in front of your class, just think of your pet or best friend, and your worries will melt away.

2. Speak in front of a mirror.
Although you may feel uncomfortable at first, speaking in front of a mirror can help you identify your body language and how others perceive you. You may notice that you talk excessively with your hands or keep your arms crossed. Using the mirror to recognize areas where you appear to be too closed off or too open gives you an opportunity to improve your body language in a low stakes situation. Remember, if you project confidence, even if it’s forced, you will begin to feel more confident eventually. Also, don’t forget to smile!

3. Try recording yourself and playing it back.
Speaking into a recording device and playing your voice back helps you identify patterns in your speech that could detract from the clarity of your presentation. For example, if you use fillers such as “umm” or “like,” you can begin to work on pausing when you are thinking instead of trying to fill the silence. Recording yourself can also help you gauge the length of your presentation, which is especially important when you have time constraints.

4. Dress to impress.
One strategy that can help you become more confident is to wear the appropriate attire for your presentation. The general rule of thumb is that you should appear slightly more dressed up than your audience. If you have students in the class wearing casual or simple attire, consider dressing more business casual. This will help increase your ethos, i.e. credibility, and might encourage audience engagement.

5. Know your stuff.
The best way to succeed when giving a presentation is to know the content that you will be talking about. We’ve all experienced what it’s like to draw a blank during a presentation—it’s better to have extra material prepared to discuss so you have something to fall back on. While notecards are useful tools for prompting your memory, you should avoid reading off of them word for word.

Writing consultants were asked, “What is the most important presentation tip?”

1. Kari: “I would say dressing well. If you dress well, you feel well.”
2. Scout: “Know your presentation material really well like the back of your hand. If you know something well, you can talk about it well.”
3. Reece: “Don’t make your presentation text heavy. Don’t memorize the script; memorize the main ideas of what you are trying to say.”
4. Iris: “Make it visually appealing. Don’t make the background highlighter yellow or neon green.”
5. Shay: “Be cognizant of your main points so you don’t ramble.”
6. Kylie: “Wear deodorant. Antiperspirant is a must as well. Don’t speak too quickly because that’s what a lot of students do. They get nervous. Don’t read off the PowerPoint.”
7. Izzy: “Moderately know what you are talking about. You’ll sound convincing.”
8. Nate: “Someone wise once told me, ‘Speak softly, and carry a big stick.’ That man was Theodore Roosevelt.”

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Overcoming a Dreadful Case of Senioritis

By Samantha Kutner

Senioritis is that drop in motivation and the tendency to procrastinate and/or entirely miss assignments during your final year or semester as an undergrad. It has ruined many an A student, but it doesn’t have to ruin you!

You might have great news about your plans after you graduate… or you might have no plans whatsoever. Both, surprisingly, cause a fair amount of anxiety. You could be inundated with options or offers (or realize that you have none). You may be thinking, “I finish this, and it’s over. I graduate, and then what?” In addition to all the uncertainty about the future, you still need to finish your assignments to graduate.

By the time you recognize the signs of senioritis, you may be in too deep to pull yourself out unassisted. Try talk to your friends and family and let them know that you would appreciate their extra support. In addition to your support group of friends and family, here are a few tried and tested tools that have worked for me to manage my own senioritis. I hope they can work for you too!

1. Perspective Taking

In my downtime, I like to read about people and how they’ve adapted to adversity and challenges. I am currently reading a memoir of someone with clinical anxiety disorder (who happens to be a brilliant and funny writer). Even if you are just mildly anxious, sometimes it helps reading about the experience of being anxious in someone else’s words. That feeling of “Oh, I’m not the only one experiencing these things” can be calming.

2. Find your way “in” to the material
Many student will put off taking classes they are not interested in until their last semester. As a senior, you may be taking a class that doesn’t even remotely relate to your major or career path. The hardest thing here is finding that connection between something you already know or enjoy and something that seems foreign or inaccessible. The more connections you can make, the easier it will be to get through the class. For example, I find it helps to draw the neuroscience figures to help me remember as opposed to memorizing slides. It lets me engage with figures and anatomical things in a more creative and less threatening way.

I’m no Ramon y Cajal, but you get the idea.

3. Find Your Way “Out” of the Material
Part of senioritis is fatigue. You’ve been through 4+ years of this difficult journey called “college,” and you might be feeling like a runner who gets a cramp during the last mile of a marathon. We all have something we enjoy doing, and sometimes it’s necessary to take a break and just do that thing! It could be taking a bath, going for a hike, seeing a concert with a friend, or just meeting with your friends (even if it is to talk about how stressed you are).

4. “Grandma’s Rule” or the “Premack Principle”
Ensure that the things you enjoy (for me, it’s dancing, reading, and writing) will only happen if you finish one of your goals. I tell myself often, “If I finish half of my chapter by 6pm, then I can go out to that movie or salsa dancing or take that dance class.” It requires a little bit of self-discipline, but you’ll find that rewarding yourself when you do get things done can provide that motivation you need to finish your last semester. The important thing is to set realistic, clear, small goals. An unclear, vague, or terrifying goal would be saying “I can’t eat dinner until I’ve finished my entire essay or the entire study guide for my exam.” A more realistic goal could be, “I am going to answer and fully understand at least 3 questions in my study guide before going out tonight.”

5. Seek support and extra help, if needed
Make time to speak with your instructors or TAs. You may just be misunderstanding one element of a single mathematical concept and figuring that out can make the difference between procrastination and a sense of feeling like you can accomplish a decent grade in a class. Come into the Writing Center if you’re having a hard time organizing or structuring your senior thesis or final research paper! There is also no shame in seeking help from a counselor to talk through problems and adopt healthier strategies for succeeding in your final semester.

None of this is easy, but I’m right there with you, seniors.

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Using Effective Language in a Cover Letter and Resume

By Ashley Fluellen

Dear Job Seeker,

I think it’s safe to say that applying for a new job isn’t always the most fun experience in the world. Possibly the most stressful aspects of the application process come with the resume and cover letter. These documents carry a lot of weight, as they are often the first impression that your potential employer has of you. You want to make sure that this potential employer sees that you are a good fit for the job, knows you can communicate well through writing, and gets an idea of your personality. This can be difficult, but if you follow the tips laid out below, you’re sure to have that job in a snap.

Tip 1: Reflect the job description

Job descriptions help to create expectations for both the employer and the hopeful employee. You’re most likely applying for positions that match your specific skills and experience, and you want to convey that in your resume and cover letter. Highlight the skills and experiences you have that match what the employer is looking for. For example, if you know a lot about using Photoshop to create digital advertisements, and you’re applying for an advertising position, make that a key point in your skills section. You’re selling yourself as the best person for the job, and the easiest way to do that is to highlight what you know you can do that the job demands.

An important addition to this tip is don’t lie about your experiences and skills in hopes that your resume will get you an interview. If you lie on your resume and get the job, you will undoubtedly come to a point where you’re assigned a task you don’t know how to do—despite it being a required skill in the job description. Don’t put yourself, or your employer, in that position.

Tip 2: Find out “to whom it may concern”

This really isn’t the best way to start your cover letter. Not only does this create an impersonal first impression to your potential manager, but it also makes you seem lazy. If you can’t even do enough research to find out to whom you’re applying, how could they trust you with more significant projects? Look on the company’s website or re-read the job ad to figure out to whom you should address your letter.

Of course, there will be times when no amount of research will give you the name of “whom it may concern.” If you can’t find this information, make sure to include details about the work the company does and why you’re well-suited to it. This is a great way to show that you took the time to do research on the company, even though you were unable to find an addressee for your application materials.

Tip 3: Use purposeful and active language

Nothing is more boring than having to read the same descriptors for different people over and over again. Every employer already assumes you are “very organized” or “a hard worker.” What really packs a punch is rephrasing these words to have more relevant meaning. You can change “I’m very organized” to “I ensure that deadlines are met and the product is free of any errors.” Also, vary the descriptions for your job duties so that you can avoid annoying and unproductive repetition (i.e., don’t say “managed” or “developed” over an over again). Try to be as precise and descriptive without overwriting. Remember, your potential employer will see many applications, so stay concise while you create detailed job descriptions. 

Using active voice makes for a more dynamic cover letter and resume. Using non-helping verbs invokes a sense of action. Employers will appreciate this type of language because it shows that you are someone who is, in a realistic sense, active instead of passive, which can go a long way in any job (check out our previous blog on active and passive voice).

Tip 5: End it with a bang

Cover letters, when done correctly, are meant to get you an interview. So, why not end your letter by simply asking for one? This could seem a bit too bold, but simply ending with an “I look forward to discussing potential interview dates with you soon,” is short, sweet and to the point. Be sure to include contact information here as well, as you want to make it as easy as possible for the person trying to hire you. 

Now that you have written an effective cover letter, all that’s left is to sign!

Sincerely,

Ashley
UWC Consultant

 

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Out of the Sheet Music and Into the Essay: Specific Suggestions for Writing about Music

By Cameo Flores

Music is highly subjective to the ear, but it is even more subjective when you write about its nitty-gritty details. This blog contains a few things to keep in mind when you write a paper about music.

There are three types of musical analysis: textual, aural, and experiential.  Textual analysis is when someone is analyzing a readable record of music like a score, composer biography, or a performance criticism. Aural analysis requires a broad knowledge of music theory and aural training to comment on audio without a hard copy of the music. Experiential analysis occurs when you witness music occurring through any of the five senses.

When writing a textual analysis of music, consider the following:

  1. Assume your audience knows your language. This means that you do not need to explain what a secondary function chord is, only why it’s important in the grand scheme of your analysis.
  2. Score analysis is extremely specific, and there are no specific alt codes for music notation. Make a copy of your marked score and attach it in your appendix.
  3. Be sure to cite measures as “m. #” for a single measure, “mm. # – #” for more than one measure.
  4. Do the score analyses before you begin to write your paper. Most of the time, the score analysis will help you form an argument for your thesis.
  5. Typically, you will be writing something that is either musicological or ethnomusicological. These papers use Chicago Style for citations—make sure your citing style is consistent!
  6. Most of these papers will involve a personal opinion, so don’t be afraid to show it as long as you back it up with evidence.
  7. Because music is such a broad, subjective topic, it’s important to establish a concentrated and specific analysis. A narrow focus should help prevent you from going on unneeded tangents.

While writing an aural or experiential analysis of music, remember that these topics are more subjective than a textual analysis. This requires a fearless perspective that is both well-informed and steadfast. Here are some points to consider while writing about these modes of music.

  1. Make sure you use diverse evidence in a narrow argument. If you can back an argument stating that you heard a plagal cadence, assert it—but also talk about other places you have heard a plagal cadence. Diverse evidence strengthens your argument in the limited parameters of aural analysis.
  2. Cultural analyses are oftentimes tied into these types of writing, so keep in mind that you are an observer of a specific musical time period of musical culture. Avoid making general assumptions and recognize your limitations as a writer. Acknowledge your cultural perspective limitations in your written examinations. Limitations are usually addressed in a preface or a concluding paragraph.
  3. Hum or whistle intervals, chords, cadences, and harmonies to yourself. If you do not aurally know the music well enough where you cannot recite the music from memory, you need to spend more time on the aural analysis. This is a good way to correct any mistakes you made in the analysis as well.
  4. Treat all of these writings as if you are an “extraterrestrial” in the subject you are writing about. Write as if you know about music, but have no other cultural influences swaying your opinions.
  5. Be open minded and prepared to be critiqued because you have a mindset limited to yourself. Open mindedness is key to successful aural and experiential writing.

Since subjectivity is so prevalent in music papers, remember that you will need a lot of diverse information to back any argument.  There typically is no right or wrong answer in music (except for, perhaps, music history and theory) so remember to assert your opinion confidently in your writing. Avoid using uncertain language, but acknowledge any informational shortcomings. Keep in mind that writing about music is purely analytical because of its subjectivity. There are no absolute right or wrong answers, only argumentative strengths!

 

 

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Coffee Makes the Student’s World Go ‘Round

By Elizabeth Kelly

As college students, we acquire this impressive ability to accomplish large tasks in very little time and on very little sleep.  Let’s face it—college is all about taking five hours to complete a task that should only take one hour and taking only 30 minutes to complete a project that should have taken a few days.  There are a few key elements that make this poor time-management strategy manageable: the most important being coffee.

Whether it’s four shots of espresso or the largest size of the strongest brew, coffee is what facilitates those all-nighters and 12-hour-long study sessions.  The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant to the central nervous system and can improve mental performance and concentration (Pietrangelo). If a student buys coffee every day, the math comes out to roughly $120 per month, $480 per semester, and $960 per academic year. You could be spending even more if you’re buying  those venti, extra-hot, no whip, and triple stirred cups of brain stimulant from Starbucks.  For some people coffee may be a luxury, but, for students who have more work to do than there are hours in a day, coffee is really more of a necessity.

Coffee is great for tolerating those 8 am classes, but another staple of a college student’s study habits is the copious amount of snacks that are consumed alongside those fancy caffeinated beverages.  Healthy snacks such as spinach, figs, and sunflower seeds can be a great option for a boost in brain power.  However, few students can afford these expensive healthy snacks, especially when all of that money goes towards coffee drinks—not to mention that no one wants to eat green leaves for a snack.  As a result, most students settle for the $0.99 bag of potato chips, Finding Dory fruit snacks, or even a package of ramen that can be bought for a quarter.  These snacks often have high levels of sodium and even higher levels of sugar.  Between the sugary snacks and the sugary caffeinated drinks, a mental crash is almost inevitable.  One can only hope that the crash comes after that 12-page essay on the philosophy of some important historical figure is finished.

Many students swear by their snacking and caffeine habits as contributors to their success, but there are definitely ways to make these habits more healthy, cost effective, and helpful for studying. In terms of buying coffee, brewing coffee at home and adding a touch of milk is much more cost effective than those $5 sugared ones bought on campus.  However, it is virtually impossible to make those complicated 5-pump mocha lattes at home, so if buying coffee is necessary, go with a smaller size and sugar free sweetener (if you’re into that sort of thing). That can help you avoid the crash that comes after the surge in brain power.

When reaching for a study snack, consider grabbing something that may be slightly more nutrient-dense and lower in artificial sugars, such as a granola bar or a whole piece of fruit. These snacks are still more cost effective than those kale salads or fancy dried fruits and nuts, all while providing more nutrients than a bag of cheese balls or some leftover pizza. Eating slightly healthier snacks will also be more beneficial in boosting your energy and concentration levels while studying!

In reality, coffee and snacks are what help a college student make it through a long day of brutal exams and endless essay writing.  With a little modification, and in moderation, both snacks and coffee can be extremely beneficial to college students and their study habits.

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