Monday, April 6, 2015

It's not me, it's you (in a good way)

Happy Monday, folks!

This post doesn't have much to say in terms of writing advice. There's a reason for that, I promise.

What this post is really designed to do is to take a moment to talk to you. (Yes, you.) Are you having a nice day? Did you have a swell weekend? What's going on in your world?

Additionally, we want to know something else: What would you like to see from this blog? What would you like to see from our Facebook page?

That may seem like a lot of questions, but we genuinely want to know.

The WKU Writing Center is here to meet your needs as a student and a writer. If you want more materials about a citation style or can't figure out where to put that comma or semi-colon, we want to help.

So, let us know!

Leave a comment below and tell us what we can do to help enhance the writing experience for you.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Communicating in a group project

by Abby Ponder

There are two words on a syllabus that have the potential to strike fear into the hearts of students everywhere: "group project."

People are wary of group projects for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's a matter of finding time in an overwhelmingly busy schedule that accommodates several people; sometimes it's a matter of having communication difficulties with your fellow group members; and sometimes it's simply that you're a strong, independent student who doesn't need a group support system.

Whatever your reason, sometimes group projects can be stressful experiences--even with wonderful group members.

However, they're an important aspect of both college life and life in the real world. People have to collaborate on projects all the time to turn out a successful product. Learning those skills can only help you in the long run.

Still, though, sometimes even when you know something is good for you, it might not be something you're looking forward to. So, how do you make the best of your situation?

First and foremost, communication is essential. Depending on the scale of your project, there are various ways to communicate effectively with your group members. Technology of the 21st Century really is your best friend in this instance. Some viable options (and their pros and cons) include:

  1. Email: This is the standard form of communication amongst students, but is it the most effective? It depends. Emails allow you to be very verbose in your content and share files. If you have a lot to say in one burst of content, emails will definitely work in your favor. However, if your group is on the larger side, emails can sometimes make it difficult to  communicate with everyone. If one person forgets to click "reply all" or to "CC" everyone, then a communication gap can appear and information has the potential to be lost in translation. 
  2. Group Texts: When you're trying to decide when and where to meet, group texts can be a swell way to handle the communication side of things. They're also nice for sharing quick bits of information or asking questions on a smaller scale: "When is the paper due? Are we meeting at six?" When it gets more complex than that, though? Maybe not. Another thing to keep in mind regarding group texts is that some people may have phones that are incompatible with the rest of the group. Make sure to clarify such things before establishing it as your go-to method. 
  3. Facebook Groups: This is my personal favorite way to communicate because it combines all the aforementioned methods into one. You can post files, share status updates, and keep everything organized in one place. 
  4. Google Drive: Want to work together but can't meet in the same place? Google Drive is the tool for you! You can write and edit one collective document at the same time and save it automatically. This can be super helpful in the collaborative process, but do keep in mind that meeting up at least once is a very good idea in order to make sure everyone is on the same page. 
The most important thing during a group project is to collaborate. If you work together and communicate, your chances for success will be much greater. 

If there are several individuals working together, it might also be a good idea to assign specific roles to members--an editor, a designer, an organizer, etc. Make sure everyone is involved throughout the entire process. 

So, what are your strategies for communicating in group projects? Let us know! 

Stay tuned for next week's post about the actual writing process for group projects. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Receiving feedback from professors on an assignment

By Abby Ponder

Writing is a very personal process for everyone. Whether you enjoy writing or not, it is an inevitability that you'll form attachments to the words you've written on paper. You placed them there for a reason, after all, and the more you read over them, the harder it can be to part from them.

So, you turn in an assignment to a professor and are awaiting your grade. You might be proud of the assignment, you might not be, but the words are in your professor's hands and you're ready for that grade.

Then you get it back...

...and it's not what you expected.

Your grade may be good or it may be bad, but sometimes you're simply not happy with the grade--or the comments on it.

So, what do you do now?

Sometimes it hurts to read the comments, but always do it: see what your professors have to say. It might not be what you want to hear, but the advice your professors have for you is often invaluable. Take their lessons into account and apply them to your paper next time--even if it's hard.

The same can hold true for your appointments with the Writing Center. We'll work with you on your paper, guiding you through the process, and in most cases there will be some comments in the margins.

No one is going to force you to make the changes your professor or your tutor suggests. Ultimately, use your own discretion when you're writing (or revising) your papers. It is your paper, after all! However, keep in mind the advice of others as you go--they might just be on to something.

Happy Writing!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Getting back into the writing grove

by Abby Ponder

The other night, I sat down at my computer to start writing. I write everyday--it's one of the hazards of studying English and journalism--but I rarely take into consideration the routine behind the word count.

People write in different ways; it is a fact of life. Sometimes the routines are consistent--"every night at 5:30 I must write three pages of whatever research paper is due first"--and sometimes they're more adaptable to meet deadlines and other commitments.

Additionally, sometimes people procrastinate one assignment while working ahead on another.

Life is full of variables and writing is no different.

For me, I tend to write at odd hours. Sometimes it depends on when I get the chance or have the motivation. If I've learned anything, though, it's that writing something every day makes all the difference in the world--even if you only are able to write for ten minutes.

Eventually I'll sit down and force myself to write. I'll typically draw up an outline on paper first, and then start writing with my first body paragraph. (I almost always skip the introduction and save it for last. If, for some reason, I go on ahead with it, nine times out of 10 I'll end up deleting it at the end.)

From there, I just write. I split the screen between my outline and the actual assignment, and just go until I have to stop. (With occasional five minute breaks every now and then.)

I also like writing in a familiar place. I can write at home when I need to. In fact, I do so on several occasions. It's easy and convenient; it is also extremely comfortable. But while I can work at home, it doesn't necessarily mean I always do. Over my time at WKU, I've found that I do some of my most productive writing in a library or a coffee shop. Home means comfort, more often than not, and so I can rationalize procrastination; however, when I'm in an official setting my productivity goggles immediately fall into place and those fifteen minute Facebook breaks (because, let's be honest, five minutes doesn't always cut) are immediately downsized.

The moral of the story is, write where you think you can write. If you're more productive at home, then go for it. But if you're struggling with churning out a couple pages from the sofa or dining room table, I would suggest trying out a new environment. There are tons of great coffee shops on and around campus that allow for a comfortable, but professional setting. Or, if the noise bothers you, the library is an excellent place to get work done. (We also, as it so happens, have a Writing Center location in the Commons at Cravens that you can stop by at any stage in your writing.)

Find what works best for you and go from there. You might not find that magical writing zone on the first try, but keep looking--it's there somewhere.

In the meantime, enjoy your snow day(s), Hilltoppers! And be sure to let us know about your writing process. Inquiring minds want to know!

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Spring 2015 Writing Center Schedule

Hi, folks! Welcome back to another semester on the hill!

We're happy to say that the WKU Writing Center is officially open for business this semester. Our Spring 2015 hours are as follows:

Cherry Hall 123

Monday - Thursday: 9am - 4pm
Friday: 9am - 1pm

Cravens

Monday - Thursday: 4pm - 9pm
Friday: CLOSED

So, schedule an appointment and come see us!

Happy Writing!



Monday, December 1, 2014

The Finals Schedule has been posted!

Well, it's that time, folks! The WKU Writing Center finals schedule has been, well, finalized.


Please keep in mind that our hours will be strictly limited to Cherry Hall 123. Our Cravens location will be closed for the entirety of finals week. 

So, sharpen those pencils or charge up that laptop and get to writing! If you know that you intend to utilize the Writing Center during finals week, we strongly encourage you to go ahead and schedule your appointment now. Right this second. (I'm waiting.) 

The reason for this emphatic urging to schedule appointments rests in the fact that we will have extremely limited drop-in availability. If you do not schedule an appointment, we cannot 100% guarantee that you will be able to meet with a tutor--and that's disappointing for everyone. 

There are still a number of spots remaining, but they're filling quickly. To schedule your appointment, log in to TutorTrac and select the time that works best for you. If you're unfamiliar with TutorTrac, check out this tutorial on how to work the software. Alternatively, you can also shoot us an email at writingcenter@wku.edu or give us a call at (270) 745-5719.

We look forward to meeting with you! 

Happy Writing! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Final(s) Countdown: Getting Your Paper Started

by Abby Ponder 

We've reached that time of year, folks: finals week. Or, better yet, crunch time.

It's been a grande ole' semester filled with football games and friends, festivities and fun times. But, like all good things, this semester has to come to a close, and with that conclusion, final projects and papers must come to an end, too.

So how are you coping with the stress of finals week?

Well, step one: don't panic. I know that is much easier said than done (trust me, I definitely know that), but it's doable. Compartmentalizing is key. I have four or five papers due in the upcoming weeks, and compartmentalizing them is the only way I'm going to be able to remain a fully functioning human being by the end of this.

So, let's walk through the process. Bear in mind that, as we go, what works for me may or may not work for you. Everyone has a different approach to paper writing, but it is my hope that even if this isn't the exact path you wind up taking, that this post might help you figure out for yourself what works and doesn't work, and then provide you the support to build your own foundation from there.

First, look at the assignment and deconstruct what it is asking you. Are there multiple questions being asked in the prompt? In that case, I've found that it can be helpful to separate them into different questions. Suppose that the prompt it asking you the following question: "How does The Scarlet Letter reflect the mentalities of Puritan New England? How is this mindset still reflected in a contemporary setting? How do the symbols from the novel reflect the way symbols are used today in regards to shame?" When planning to write this paper, you might break it down like this:


Admittedly, the questions your professors assign will be more eloquent than my attempts, and your answers will certainly be more elaborate, but you get the general idea. Breaking down these long questions can help you figure out what direction you want to take your paper in. I'm a very visual learner, and so having this clearly laid out in front of me helps tremendously.

However, while some assignments may be long and elaborate, there are others that are completely open-ended. In some cases, these assignments can be even more overwhelming. You know you're supposed to write about something, but with no specific guidelines or instructions, where on Earth are you supposed to begin? In that case, find a topic that is both interesting to you and is relevant to the class. Making a list can be helpful, and taking a look back at the syllabus can also give you an idea of everything you might've forgotten from earlier in the semester. (But you wouldn't forget any of the material, right?) 
Photo Credit 

Once you have a general idea as to what you're going to be writing about, I've found that writing up an outline can be particularly helpful. Outlines, in my experience, can go in a couple of different directions. 

One option is the bare-bones skeleton. This is the idea of just putting words on paper to have some sense of direction as to where the project should go. I typically write this outline on paper, because drawing arrows and crossing things out can sometimes be especially satisfying, and it definitely lends itself towards making you feel as if you're making progress--because you are! 


The above picture is from the beginning of an outline I was working on for a class earlier this semester. It's nothing terribly elaborate, but more of an idea as to where the paper will eventually go. Even if the paper deviates from this path, it's a nice way of gathering your thoughts and saving them for later. You never know what epiphanies will happen! 

Once I have finished my bare-bones outline, then I start a quote-based outline. In most of your academic research papers, secondary sources are crucial. Instead of flipping back and forth while writing the paper, I like to have a good idea of what quotes I'll be using and where I will be using them before I even get started. 

Following the bare-bones outline, I created this one to plug in resources that, if the paper presented an opportunity for them, I could cite. 

While you may still need to pull out some other quotes as you go along (because, hey, papers develop in different ways sometimes), this way you already have the central ones at your disposal. If you follow this outline (ha!), though, make sure you continue to mark where you're pulling the quotes from. Citations are critical, and you're not saving time in the long run if you have to go back and find the author and page number after the fact. Do it all upfront and you'll be golden! 

From there, the next thing to do is just start writing. And remember, the first draft doesn't have to be perfect--that's why it's called a first draft. If you have the time, check out one of our recent post about the editing process for some extra assurance and advice. 

Also, don't forget that the Writing Center is here to assist you with any stage of the writing process. We are not an editing service, but we will gladly help walk you through any bumps in the road you may stumble across, whether you're on the preliminary outline or looking at a final draft. Sometimes it's just nice to have a second opinion on things, too. 

Like always, you can schedule an appointment by clicking here and selecting a time that works well for you. If you're struggling with the system, we also offer a step-by-step tutorial for how to make an appointment. We are also available for drop-in appointments, but please remember that those function under a first come, first serve basis. Because of that, we strongly encourage students to go ahead and schedule an appointment in advance to secure their spot. 

Good luck in the upcoming couple of weeks, my friends, and have a wonderful break! 

Happy Writing!