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

I see there's a new TutorTrac, but how do I work it?

by Abby Ponder 

If you've tried to schedule an appointment already, you might have noticed a few changes to TutorTrac's design. Over the break, the site's layout underwent some pretty significant alterations. The general process remains mostly the same--so don't freak out!--but we've compiled a nice and easy "How To" guide for all your TutorTrac needs. (And with fewer steps than our last rodeo!)

Step One: Visit our website at http://wku.edu/writingcenter. Take a look at the lefthand side of the screen and find "Make an Appointment." Once you see that, click the link. (Or, if you'd prefer to skip this step altogether, go straight to TutorTrac's webpage.)



Step Two: Once you've reached the login page, enter your WKU NetID and password.


Step Three: Once you have logged into your account, you have the option to schedule an appointment with a tutor. To do this, click "Search Availability." 



Step Four: On the left hand side of your screen, you will be asked to select a Center. Scroll to the bottom of the list and select "The Writing Center." Don't worry about filling in any of the other search criteria--just hit search.




Step Five: You'll then be taken to a screen with a calendar full of available options. Select the time that works well for you by clicking the appropriate date and time. 

Step Six: Finally, you'll be prompted to enter the relevant information. Hit "Save" and you should be all set! You now have an appointment scheduled with the WKU Writing Center. Easy-peasy. You should also get an email confirming your appointment time. Don't worry about responding to it; it's just there to remind you of your appointment. 


We strongly encourage students to schedule appointments in advance, though we do offer drop-in appointments available on a first come, first serve basis. 

If you have any additional questions, you can email us at writingcenter@wku.edu or give us a call at (270) 745-5719. 

We look forward to seeing you at your appointment! 

Happy Writing! 

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! 







Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Scheduling Appointments: The How-To Edition

by Abby Ponder 

We’re beginning to get into crunch time, and so now, more than ever, we strongly encourage students to schedule their appointments with the Writing Center in advance.

If you’re struggling with scheduling your appointment online, follow this step-by-step guide to scheduling success!

Step One: Visit our website at www.wku.edu/writingcenter.


Step Two: Once on our website, scroll down until you see the option to “Schedule an Appointment.”


Step Three: Once you have clicked on the “Appointment Scheduler” link, you will be taken to the login page for TutorTrac. On this screen, you’ll enter your WKU NetID (not your 800#) and password.


Step Four: Once you’re logged in, move your mouse to hover over the “Go To…” tab. From there, you’ll click “Make Appointment.”


Step Five: Once you’ve clicked on “Make Appointment,” you’ll be taken to a screen where it will ask you to request a Center on the right side of the page. You might have to scroll down a little bit to see the Writing Center option. Once you see it, click on it and then hit “search.” (Don’t worry about looking at the options to select tutors and dates that are located on the lefthand side of the screen.)


Step Six: Once you have hit “Search,” scroll down to the bottom of the page. You will see all the names of the tutors, as well as the times they have appointments available. If you are able to click on a time slot—success! You’re well on your way! If the time you would like is not a clickable link, then that time is not available for appointment. 


Step Seven: After you have clicked on a time, you'll be taken to a screen where you schedule your appointment, and then you’re all set! You should immediately get an email confirmation from us that your appointment was scheduled.



Step Eight: Show up for your appointment! The day before your scheduled time, you should get a reminder email that your appointment is approaching. Students should bring with them a draft (or any work they have completed thus far) and, if they have it, a copy of the prompt. 

If you have any additional concerns about scheduling an appointment, we also have a handy dandy tutorial video to help guide you through the process. 

If you have any additional questions, you can email us at writingcenter@wku.edu or give us a call at (270) 745-5719. 

We look forward to seeing you at your (newly scheduled) Writing Center appointment! 

Happy Writing! 

Monday, November 10, 2014

STEPS: Making a Difference in Literary Analysis Papers

The WKU Writing Center would like to announce an up-and-coming resource for students to utilize when writing literary analysis papers. 


STEPS (Students Teaching English Paper Strategies) is a web site designed to help students write good papers about literature. This site is constructed for students, by students, and provides a doable process for analyzing literature and writing about it. STEPS helps students identify literary devices, determine the themes of literary texts, develop thesis statements, and produce successful essays. The site is filled with sample essays, peer reviews, and processing notes for each step. Students will also find a helpful glossary of literary terms, with examples from various works, and links to additional writing resources. Please visit www.writingaboutliterature.com for more information.

For students taking English classes (both in or out of the major), STEPS provides relevant information for the various stages of the writing process. Sometimes, as a writer, you just get stuck and there's no real conceivable way to get out of the writing funk. However, just searching through some of the tabs on the site, I've found them to be very helpful at finding ways to propel the process along. Sometimes just reading about writing can get you ready to start writing. It's funny how that works sometimes...

There are two tabs that I found particularly helpful, as well. The "Process and Methods" and the "Resources" (the "Archives" section especially) tabs are both excellent tools to utilize. The latter section, the Archives, even has example papers and the writing process therein. Every person has their own writing (and editing) style(s), and it can be beneficial to see what works for someone else, and then try to apply similar techniques. 

The STEPS homepage.
So, whether you're stuck finding a starting point, or if you're just looking to improve your writing, we definitely encourage you to check out STEPS. The site is still in its beta-form, too, so be sure to leave any feedback you think might be helpful. 

Happy Writing!