Writing Wars: Chapter Two

By Raelynn de la Cruz, Chasen Fayeghi, Jordan Knowles, Nathan Lachner, Charis Nixon, and Haley Reineman


Planet Ebsco

Luke Skywriter’s idea wouldn’t stop squirming and making incomprehensible noises. His idea was strong and seemed to be sustainable, but he knew he needed to learn more about his idea if he was to finish his quest and become a Writing Master.

Skywriter felt a familiar pull on his gut, “The Force,” he thought.

It had been so long since he had felt it, but he could sense it now stronger than ever. It was pulling him back to his ship. A hologram from his Writing Master, Obi Wan Composition, was waiting for him when he arrived.

“Luke, I am sending this to you in hopes that your quest is moving forward. There is some resistance here in the Council. It seems that there is a new organization rising up against the Writers. They call themselves ‘The Doubt.’ Please be wary of their presence as we are unsure of the reach they have. As for your quest, I am hoping you have caught your idea—they are hard to find sometimes and capturing one is a great accomplishment. Now you must learn more about your idea on Planet Ebsco. It’s a utopian planet. You won’t find anything there unless you are concise and specific with what you are looking for. You’ll find Planet Ebsco already in your navigation in the Metonymy Falcon. Be strong young Skywriter. You can do this. May the Writing Force be with you.”

The hologram cut out. The idea of The Doubt sent shivers down Skywriter’s spine. Nevertheless, he continued his quest. He selected Planet Ebsco from his navigation and immediately felt the numbing and pulling sensation of going into light speed.

As the Metonymy Falcon slowed to orbit Planet Ebsco, Skywriter looked out the window at a fantastical sight. The entire city was chrome and clean, nothing out of place anywhere. He landed, exited his ship, and began making his way to the immense, silver tower in the middle of the city. Upon his entry, he saw a service desk at the back of the room titled “The Search Bar”and decided to make his way there. A robotic-looking woman appeared out of nowhere.

“Can I help you?” asked a voice that didn’t quite seem human.

“Yes! How do I find more information on my idea?”

“Well, it depends on what you want to know. But the Search Bar is the right place to discover where you need to go. Our systems are very picky, which can make searching tricky. You must be very specific with what you want to know. If you aren’t, you will have no information with you when you go or you’ll be overwhelmed with information. Follow me, and I will show you the way. I can feel the Force within you—don’t dismay.”

Overwhelmed, Skywriter followed the woman to a massive elevator, stepped in, and began his search. The elevator slowly made its way up.

“Please insert your idea,” a voice boomed from the elevator, startling Skywriter.

An opening appeared in the wall of the elevator. Flustered, Luke pulled the idea from his bag and put it into the opening. A screen lit up on the elevator, “Is everything reliable?” it read, with three locks below the question.

Unsure of how to proceed Luke muttered, “Not everything is reliable. What if it hasn’t been reviewed by others? ”

The first lock opened. He must have done something right! He continued to think aloud,
“If the information is too old, it won’t be relevant anymore or may contain misinformation.”

Another lock unlatched. Luke struggled to think of more concerns. He sat down cross-legged and contemplated what else might make an idea unreliable.

“Incomplete information is always dangerous, so just reading an abstract is never good enough. The people who write abstracts are also not always the people who wrote the article, so the information isn’t always accurate. The introduction, results, and conclusions are sections with the most reliable information. However, the abstract is good place to start.”

The final lock unlatched and the door opened. Skywriter looked at the room overwhelmed with the volume of information. Inside the room were thousands of computer screens, each with a different article on it.

The booming voice returned, “Pick the the correct articles, and you will have completed the tasks.”

Skywriter scanned the different screens. He stepped back for a moment and closed his eyes. There it was again. That pull he had felt earlier—the Force had returned. It pulled him toward a computer screen that had another article on it. That’s when he noticed the date; it was published within the last five years, and it was peer-reviewed. He read and annotated the abstract to get an overview of the article and proceeded to the introduction, results, and conclusion. It was a good match, so he selected his first article. He repeated this two more times, looking for the criteria he had established. Once he found the last article, a tray flew out of the wall on a mechanical arm. It was the three articles he had selected, all relevant to his idea.

The voice boomed a final time, “Congratulations, you have completed your Ebsco tasks. You may think the worst is over, but there are more challenges to come. Now you must travel to Planet Drafting and create your thesis statement and develop supporting ideas. Planet Drafting is a difficult place, and it is easy to get lost and never find your way back again. I wish you luck young Skywriter—you will need it.”

And with that a large door opened leading outside. Luke stepped out, more confident but still anxious to continue his journey to Planet Drafting.

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Writing Wars: Chapter One

By Raelynn de la Cruz, Chasen Fayeghi, Jordan Knowles, Nathan Lachner, Charis Nixon, and Haley Reineman

Prologue

After years of diligently training his Writing Force skills, one final test remainedthe student had perfected his sentences and later order concerns like spelling and punctuation; however, yesterday he received a new quest. He walked into the council of the Word and opened the large artisan doors engraved with the ancient font of Times New Roman. The student walked down the pristine, granite walkway until he stood before the council of the Word.

Chancellor Long Essay looked down at him and huffed, “What is it that you request of us today, Luke Skywriter?”

“I am ready to become a writing master. Give me my final quest so I can finally call myself a Writing Jedi,” he pleaded.

Chancellor Long Essay squinted his eyes and sat in silence for five long seconds, “Hmm…You will earn the prestigious title of Writing Jedi, but not until you have completed for me…the great research paper! You must research a topic and articulate it in precise and engaging language. This essay will need to be cohesive with a strong, guiding thesis!”

“But Chancellor!” he responded, “I’m not sure if I can succeed in this task. This paper has filled me with crippling self-doubt and anxiety.”

The Chancellor was displeased by Skywriter’s hesitation, “You have no choice. The deadline is set—you have one month to come back with your revised research paper or you will receive the most horrible punishment of the Writing Councilthe F.”

Skywriter shrieked, “No, it can’t be! Please spare me my life!”

“Now get out, and don’t come back empty-handed, Skywriter!”

Skywriter left the Writing Council, filled with doubt, and began searching his mind for an idea, delving into the chasms of his unconscious for hope and inspiration for the project to come.

 

Chapter One—Planet Brainstorm

Skywriter landed his Metonymy Falcon on the surface of Planet Brainstorm, a harsh planet with three suns that created an environment of constant, scorching daytime. The ecosystem consisted of sandy desert land with scattered shrubs along the dunes and a vast network of caves below.

Luke Skywriter sat on top of a dune with his 1000 UV protection sun goggles, peering out into the sandy mist of the world. Skywriter was looking for a reptilian hexapod called the “idea.” The ideas constantly hid from the gaze of idea poachers by burrowing into the sand and retreating into the caves below.

From the top of the dune, the young student could see a dark figure in the distance. Skywriter rode his hoverboard into the multi-solar sunrise. As he traveled into the distant horizon, he kept his eyes set on the dark, motionless figure ahead of him. It took him a few hours to get to the figure in the distance, and to his dismay, it was just tall, spindly shrub of Planet Brainstorm. 

The discouraged student sunk down onto his knees, as tears streamed across his dust covered cheeks. “I thought I found an idea,” he moaned.

But, that was just his first lesson. The first time a potential Writing Jedi thinks they have an idea, it may just be a desert shrub of Planet Brainstorm, but they must persevere. Rather than give up, Skywriter marched into the dust storms of the planet. He needed to spend several moments silently contemplating the task at handit was important for him to spend some time in silence to focus on the ideas that he wanted to capture. All of a sudden, Skywriter picked up a stick and started drawing in the sand, scribbling what he imagined an idea looked like.

After sketching in the sand and organizing his ideas, Skywriter set out to find another idea. He pulled out his high-powered electronic binoculars and spotted a scaled beast at the mouth of a desert cave. When he got closer, the idea retreated into the mouth of the nearby cave, and Skywriter followed closely behind. His heart was bursting as he chased the idea through the subterranean cave network of the Planet Brainstorm. Skywriter pulled a huge net out of his bag and threw it over the idea. He stood in the shadows of the cave, looking at the idea that he had just captured, but that was only the beginning of his quest.

 

To be continued…

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Important Verbs in Assignment Prompts

By Iris Saltus 

Have you ever received an assignment that was difficult to understand? If there comes a time when you’re unsure of how to respond to an assignment, take a look at the verbs used in the prompt. The verbs in an assignment prompt often clarify your instructor’s expectations, and they determine the particular goal of your writing product. Below are descriptions of verbs that are commonly used to guide your response to an assignment prompt.

  1. Summarize. When you summarize, you demonstrate your general understanding of a topic by restating its information. In your own words, describe the topic’s main argument and supporting points. Make sure your summary answers the question, “What is this about?”
  2. Analyze. A simple summary won’t cut it. When you analyze, you need to interpret the meaning of a source’s information by examining particular elements of its subject matter or structure. Your analysis should “unpack” pieces of evidence. Ask yourself, “How does this source support its argument?”
  3. Evaluate. While this verb may seem similar to analyze, it means to form an assessment of how effective or ineffective a topic is. When you evaluate, you determine the quality of a topic. Your may try to answer, “How well does this topic support its argument?”
  4.  Apply. In this situation, you take a concept that you’ve learned in class and use it to produce your own original work. When you apply, you create a unique argument using a particular theoretical framework or school of thought. Ask yourself, “What does this concept suggest about a specific topic?”
  5. Compare. When you draw a comparison, you need to identify the similarities and differences between multiple topics. Once you’ve made those identifications, you should also discuss their significance. Try to answer the question, “Why is it important to recognize the parallels (or conflicts) between these topics?”
  6. Defend/Argue.  Pick a clear position on a topic and support that position with concrete evidence. As you craft your argument, you should recognize a counterargument and debunk it. Keep in mind that argumentative writing typically requires analysis. You can monitor your argument by considering, “How does this evidence justify my position on this topic?”
  7.  Reflect. Whereas the other verbs prompt you to make an objective interpretation of a topic, this verb prompts you to record your opinions and/or reactions to a topic. You may ask yourself, “How do I feel about this topic, and why do I feel that way?” or “What did I learn from this?”

Your instructors are not limited to using these verbs in their assignment prompts, but this sampling should give you an idea of what you need to do for your assignments. Keep in mind that you will (almost) always need to integrate examples and/or evidence into your writing—even if you’re not explicitly instructed to do so. When in doubt about an assignment prompt, you should seek the advice of your teacher. You can also schedule a face-to-face or online consultation at the Writing Center to review your assignment’s fulfillment!

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Graduate Writing

By Emily K. Tudorache

If you’re thinking about going to graduate school, I’m sure you have a list of misgivings as long as the thesis you’d be expected to write. Pursuing a graduate degree can be a challenging endeavor, partly due to the volume and type of writing involved in graduate school. Lucky for you, the University Writing Center has plenty of graduate students on staff who have been there before and can help any current or prospective grad student tackle the obstacles ahead. To get you started, I interviewed one of my graduate student colleagues about her writing process; maybe her answers can help you quell those anxious thoughts.

Kari is pursuing her M.A. in English with a focus on postcolonial literature. She hopes to work for a non-profit before (maybe) going back to school to earn her PhD. I asked her some questions about her experiences writing and researching in graduate school.

  1. What kind of writing do you have to do in your field?
    I usually have to write typical analysis essays, but conference papers, which are 10 page conversational pieces usually presented at academic conferences, are also common. I do find myself writing 20-25 page papers as final projects for classes that may be geared toward becoming an article for an academic journal in a topic I am interested in.
  2. What kind of environment do you prefer to be in while conducting research and writing your paper? Do they differ? Why or why not?
    I like to research and write in two main places: home or in a quiet place, like a library or my office. I prefer to do my research at a library, so I can check out books as I go. I think it’s important to try to break away from online sources because print sources have so much to offer. For the rest of the process, I like to switch up my location, especially during longer research papers, otherwise the work can become monotonous.
  3. If you could describe your typical writing process in a few steps, how would you sum it all up?
    My first step is to start with jotting down any and all of my ideas, usually in a list format. I then pull out a few resources to get started but hold off on using them until I have fleshed out my analysis. My third step is to focus on drafting 3 pages a day until I have a full draft for the desired length of the paper. After that, I focus on revision, so I don’t need to stress about reaching the page count during the fine-tuning of the paper.
  4. For you, what is the most daunting part about writing in graduate school?
    For me, just starting and getting those first few pages done is the most daunting task because, even though I write papers all the time, it’s still nerve-wracking to think about all that goes into such a project. I tend to second-guess my ideas before I really get started.
  5. What do you wish you had been taught in undergrad before going into grad school? If you had any advice for the aspiring graduate student what would it be?
    My advice for a first-semester grad student is that grad school may be daunting but don’t forget that you didn’t just get in on a fluke—you earned your place. For the aspiring grad student, it’s good to find a faculty mentor who can guide you in the process and help you with your application by making suggestions and writing letters of recommendation. Look for that personal connection.

 

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Dealing with Appointment Anxiety

By Ellen Israel

Writing consultants are confident and all-knowing when it comes to writing, right? Actually, this statement couldn’t be more wrong. Consultants are students too — we have our own insecurities and doubts, especially when it comes to writing.

For me, anxiety about my writing abilities prevented me from stepping foot inside the University Writing Center (UWC) before I started working there. I would have rather received a bad grade than have someone, especially someone I perceived to be more experienced and talented in writing, judge my papers. However, after working as a consultant and experiencing firsthand how much we can help struggling students, I regret not taking advantage of the UWC’s services before. My old papers lack organization, have incoherent sentences, and are constructed on weak thesis statements. A trip to the UWC would have rectified these issues and more. I know that instead of getting the help I needed, I let my anxiety get the best of me. I also know I’m not the only one who feels this way. If you’re struggling with anxiety, but still want to get writing help, it’s okay—it’s still possible.

So, how can you deal with anxiety about coming into the writing center? Here are some ways you can make your appointment less stressful and maybe even enjoyable.

  1. Search for a consultant with similar interests or a similar major. You can do this through our website—each consultant has written a bio describing their interests, major(s), and writing strengths. This will help you avoid the shock of meeting a total stranger when you come in, and you might be able to better connect with someone who shares your interests or major.
  2. Visit the University Writing Center before your appointment. Our lab area, complete with computers and helpful writing resources, is open to everyone. Even if you’re not working on a writing assignment, you’re welcome to come in and find a place to study. This way, you’ll be able to get a sense of what the writing center is like before you make an appointment.
  3. Schedule an online appointment. If you’re incredibly anxious about coming to see us, and meeting with one of our consultants is completely out of the question, there’s another way you can receive help from the writing center. We have an online system where you can upload your paper and get feedback. Hopefully, using our online appointment system will make the idea of coming in for a face-to-face appointment less daunting.

If you’re still scared to come in for an appointment, that’s all right! We’ll be here until you feel  ready. Remember—writing consultants are students just like you, and we’re here to help.

 

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Clarity’s Last Stand

By Nate George

 Prologue

Below we have the dark and twisted tale of the rise and fall of my dear friend Clarity. Please, be aware that this is not a story for the faint of heart. It follows Clarity, an essential yet often overlooked element of the English language. After decades of an adequate yet hardly remarkable existance, he has recently been made aware of a threat on his life. These threats come from the dark underworld known only as The Realm of the Misplaced Modifier. The inhabitants of this realm, once condemned to eternal suffering, have recently found their way into the real world. They threaten Clarity every day with the promise of total annihilation. On this day, the Misplaced Modifiers won the war.


Clarity wakes in the morning to birds chirping softly outside his window. “Today will be the day,” he whispers to himself. He quickly gets dressed, grabs a cup of coffee, and scoots out the door. The brisk autumn air brushes his cheeks, and he returns his car keys to his pocket. He softly chuckles to himself, “A nice morning like this, why drive to work?” He heads down the street, whistling a rendition of Justin Bieber’s “Despacito” and daydreaming about the comma he was at the bar with last night. “She really was something…” he mutters. As the song concludes and the daydream fog subsides, Clarity realizes that he doesn’t know where he is. Bieber’s mesmerizing vocals has led him unknowingly into a rough part of the neighborhood. As he looks around in search of a recognizable street sign, he spots a gang of Misplaced Modifiers stepping out from their hiding place behind a vacant building. “Oh sh—” he sputters as he turns to run. Before he can even complete his expletive, they are on him.

“I drank a hot cup of coffee this morning!” shouts one of the attackers.

“No, please!” begs Clarity “The cup isn’t hot—the coffee is! Therefore, you drank a ‘cup of hot coffee this morn—’” A looping fist connects with the soft flesh of Clarity’s cheek, abruptly cutting him off. Clarity spits, turning the pavement beneath him a dark shade of red. He continues, seemingly unfazed by the lack of his lateral incisor, “In order to avoid confusion, the goal is to keep the modifier as close as possible to the thing that it’s modifying in the sentence.”

“AAAGHH!” shrieks another Misplaced Modifier. “I saw a yard sale on the way here!”

A burst of pain rips through Clarity’s abdomen as he is hit with a Louisville Slugger. “No…” he musters. He draws a short breath and croaks, “Was the yard sale headed over here? Have yard sales suddenly become sentient and moving? No? You were the one who was coming here, so the correct sentence would be ‘On the way here I saw a yard sale.’” He draws another pained breath, the coppery taste of blood now present on the back of his tongue. “Remember, adjectives, adverbs, and phrases must be as close as possible to the noun they are modifying. If this isn’t done correctly, clarity is adversely affected and a misplaced modifier is formed. This is where a noun other than the intended recipient of an adjective/adverb/phrase is affected.”

The Misplaced Modifiers, far past the point of coherency, show no signs of slowing. “She served dinner to her parents on fine china!” squawks a Misplaced Modifier with the words “Big Nasty” tattooed on his face.

Paralyzed now from the waist down, Clarity speaks, his voice barely above a whisper, “Her parents are not located on top of fine china. You should have said ‘She served dinner on fine china to her parents.‘ Generally, you should try not to put other words between the modifier and the thing it’s modifying.”

A Misplaced Modifier named Flea lands the final blow.  “Tired from running all morning, Bill’s exhaustion forced him to take a nap before lunch!” he wretches.

Now welcoming death with a loving embrace, Clarity uses his final dying breath. “How is Bill’s exhaustion tired from running? Since when did physical states have emotion? I believe that you meant to say ‘Tired from running all morning, Bill was forced to take a nap before lunch because of his exhaustion.'”

Clarity lies on the asphalt for a few moments before his eyelids slowly slide shut. “I tried,” he whispers. “I tried…

And just like that, Clarity has been killed by the Misplaced Modifiers.

 

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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.

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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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