Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Let's talk about grammar (or not)

By Abby Ponder

It's a gloomy Wednesday, you're drenched from hiking up the hill in the pouring rain, and you can feel your stress levels beginning to rise with each step you take. You have a test tomorrow, a paper due the day after that, and you don't know when you're going to have time for a lunch break--next Tuesday, maybe? You're on your way into the writing center, paper clutched tightly in hand, and you just want this day to be over with.

You round the corner and walk into the room, located on the main floor of Cherry Hall, for the first time in your academic career. Perhaps you are a freshman still finding your way in this great big world of academia or perhaps you are a graduating senior who doesn't really want to be here in the first place. (You won't tell your tutors that, though, will you?) You cross over the threshold, taking in the round tables with multiple students filling them. You don't think you can even differentiate who is helping whom. They're all student, each and every one of them--like you.

"Can I help you?"

You turn your head and smile at the person sitting behind the reception desk. You think you might recognize her from one of your classes.

"Yes, I was wondering if I could meet with someone about my paper? I've heard this is where you go," you say.

The girl smiles at you.

"You've got it," she says. "The sign-in sheet is right behind you. Someone will be with you in a moment, if you want to have a seat."

You nod, reaching for the pen and paper. You fill out the necessities--name, student identification number, time of day, and course title--and then take a seat on the couch beneath the white board. As you wait, you spend your time checking your phone and trying not to guess at which student you'll be sharing your work with.

Writing is an extremely personal thing for you. You both love and loathe the process, and you can't help but feel your cheeks flush and your heart beat erratically any time someone dares to look too closely at the words you've carefully placed on paper. Sometimes you're extremely grateful that you don't have to be present as your professors read your assignments--the red pen is bad enough. Sometimes there's a little and sometimes there's a lot, but either way it breaks your heart.

Sometimes, more often than not, you think, you can't even bring yourself to read the tightly scrawled notes.

"Are you ready to get started?" you hear. Your head snaps up, eyes falling on the speaker.

You nod at this person who must be your tutor and follow her to one of the round tables in the corner of the room. You can't help but note that you have a rather nice view out the window from where you're now seated. The cherry blossoms are dancing in the wind, the skies beginning to cloud with another April shower. It's almost calming in a way--the calm before the storm. You wish you hadn't forgotten your umbrella, though.

"So, what can I help you with?" the tutor asks.

"Grammar," you say immediately. Grammar has always been your weakness, the biggest drain on your confidence. If you could only make it go away, eschew all the rules, then you would be more than happy to. Unfortunately, your professors, it seems, disagree with that philosophy.

The girl sitting beside you nods, picking up a purple pen and uncapping it.

"Mhm," she says. "What is your assignment about? What class is it for?"

You launch into your explanation of the assignment: what it is, whom it's for, and all the problems you've been having with it. You don't like your thesis at all, and you're not feeling confident about the third paragraph, but you really like the way you bring out this one point in paragraph five.

You tell her all of this, watching a smile spread across her face.

"Okay," she says. "Let's start with that thesis statement then."

The next half an hour passes by rather quickly. Together you read through your paper, catching errors and inaccuracies on occasion, but also finding strong textual analysis and well-written content. It's not a perfect draft, but it doesn't have to be: it is a first draft, after all.

When the minute hand eventually signals the conclusion of the session, you're feeling good about your paper. There were some hiccups along the way--that's life--but you leave feeling more confident about your paper than you did before you walked through the door a half hour ago.

Two weeks later finds you in the writing center again. This time, you work with a different tutor--one who is just as nice and helpful as your tutor before. For this paper, you don't even have a draft written yet, just an idea that's beginning to blossom in your head. You tell your tutor as much, and he nods encouragingly.

"We can work with that," he says with a laugh.

Together your chart the trajectory of your paper, filling in a blank outline with your words and ideas. It's more than just going through the motions, you think: it's progress.

When you leave this appointment, you have another scheduled a few days down the line.

"Come back whenever you're ready," your tutor tells you. "We're happy to look at another draft with you."

And you do.

The Writing Center at WKU offers support for all students who are enrolled at the university. We offer services in two respective locations, Cherry Hall 123 and the Commons at Cravens Library, as well as online appointments for students attending WKU's regional campuses or exclusively taking online courses.

Contrary to some misconceptions, the Writing Center isn't simply an editing service. Instead, we work with students to help them improve their overall writing abilities, not just a singular paper. We're there for you at any stage in the writing process, whether you're brainstorming or looking at a final draft.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Fun and Helpful Links: Finals Edition

By Abby Ponder

It's both terrifying and exciting, but the semester is slowly but surely beginning to come to a close.

We're almost there...

...but so are those paper deadlines.

Stay calm, though. We'll get through this.

We've compiled a handy dandy list of links to help get you through this trying time. (Really, though, we have faith in you.)
  1. You need to outline your paper and don't know where to start? Here's an earlier post that covers just that! 
  2. You've got the topic, the outline is finished, but you can't seem to get in the writing zone. So, time to find a new writing place
  3. But if you're still struggling with procrastination, we've got just the post for you
  4. Research is a critical component in an academic paper, so make sure to utilize the WKU Libraries
  5. You've finally written that paper and now you need to edit it, so check out our post that offers some suggestions on that very topic. 
  6. You need to cite your paper? The Purdue Owl is a fantastic resource for checking on the various citation styles, specifically MLA, APA, and Chicago
  7. You've turned the paper in and are dealing with professor or peer feedback. Now what? 
And don't forget, the WKU Writing Center is here with you every step of the way. To schedule an appointment, give us a call at (270) 745-5719 or shoot us an email at writingcenter@wku.edu. You can also stop by and see us in our Cherry Hall location (Cherry 123) from 9-4 or at the reference desk in the Commons from 4-9.

So, remember:

Photo credit to this tumblr account that also highlights some additional stress release tips for finals week. 

Happy Writing! 

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.

Photo Source

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!