Posted on

5 Ways to Support Your Student Through Academic Stress

A stressed-out student.

A stressed-out student.

As a recent university graduate, I keenly remember the dark cloud of exams looming over me. As autumn became winter outside my window, I sat at my book-covered desk with a mammoth and ever-growing to-do list and the prospect of a good night’s sleep shrinking in proportion.

It is during such times of overwhelming academic stress that teens and young adults are most in need of parental support. Following is a list of ways in which parents of students can bring them comfort and provide practical help during exams.

1. Let them vent, and provide sympathy.

Sometimes, the best antidote to academic stress is simply to talk it out. While all their friends are just as entrenched in unfinished work and upcoming exams as they are, students are naturally looking for someone with the time and willingness to listen to their complaints, to commiserate, and to encourage them—someone like you.

Never press them to confide in you, which can cause them more stress if they’d rather not talk just yet, but be a sympathetic ear and a comforting voice should they need it.

2. Direct them to resources.

Knowing where to look for help is half the battle, and sometimes the prospect of seeking that help is too much for already-overworked students. If you notice your student is struggling with a particular subject or is simply unable to deal with the workload, consider researching the school’s academic services, such as a writing center or tutoring service, and gently directing your child toward whichever is suitable.

Alternatively, there are many online resources and books available to help students organize and learn material. This is a practical way in which you can help your student successfully navigate exam stress.

3. Help them prioritize.

As exams approach, students’ heads begin to swirl with due dates, exam schedules, and all the information they have to learn for their classes. Sometimes, just getting it all out of their heads onto paper will do wonders for their stress levels.

Encourage your student to make a list of when things are due and when they should be worked on. Then, help your student determine which tasks are of the highest priority so that he or she will know what to work on first and where to devote the most effort.

4. Remind them to rest.

No one can work 24/7, yet that is what many students feel they need to do to succeed. When I was a student, staying up too late was sure to burn me out and harm the quality of the work I was doing. Students often need help putting things into perspective. Remind them that, although it doesn’t feel like it, this stressful season will pass. In the meantime, they must take care of themselves.

Finding enough time to sleep, eat well, and be active can become yet another stressor to students, and these activities are often the first to be abandoned. Instead of berating students for not taking care of themselves as well as they should, do all you can to make these things easier for them. Send a care package with some healthy snacks for them to munch on while they study, or suggest that they take a half hour each day to simply rest by reading for pleasure, going for a walk, playing a game of catch with a friend, or taking a power nap.

5. Recognize their accomplishments, however small.

A lot of the academic stress students experience is internal, stemming from their own desire to succeed. To avoid adding to that pressure, remove any that might be coming from you by reminding them how proud you are of them and that your love is not dependent upon their grades.

Don’t reserve your praise only for when they ace a big exam; remember to take time to recognize non-academic accomplishments, too, such as helping a fellow student who’s having trouble or eating a healthy meal instead of fast food.

Whatever form your support takes, the main thing is that your child knows that you care and are willing to help however you can. When it comes down to it, exams are something students have to face on their own—you can’t take tests or write papers for them. But you can help them navigate the accompanying stress, worry, and pressure of exams by showing them compassion and kindness and by giving them practical advice.

Image Source: Tim Gouw/Pexels.com

How to Write an Essay in Five Easy Steps

Posted on

12 Essay-Writing Hacks from a Professional Editor

Essay-Writing Hacks

Essay-Writing HacksAs a professional editor, I’ve edited all kinds of documents, not the least of which are essays. I’ve seen it all—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Look, it’s easy to write a bad essay when it’s due in less than 24 hours (we’ve all been there), but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to write a good essay. To write a good essay, you just have to know what to look for to make weak writing stronger.

Simply looking is the number one job of a professional editor (outside of drinking coffee) because looking leads to discovering—and once you find your errors, improvement is just around the corner.

After editing over a million words, I’ve come to understand what makes a good essay and what makes a bad essay, and I have a few practical tips—essay hacks, if you will—for improving your own essay-writing skills.

1. Befriend your argument.

Make sure you know everything there is to know about your argument. That means you should understand exactly what it is you’re arguing and why. If your argument was an elevator pitch and you had to explain it to someone in just a minute or two, could you? If the answer is “No,” revisit the main point of your essay. Do more research to make sure you know the topic inside and out.

The reason you need to be prepared is that, if there’s any proof that can shoot your argument down, you not only need to shield those bullets but also to ricochet them back. Don’t just know your argument—befriend it. Find out its strengths and its weaknesses.

2. Challenge every idea.

If you have any questions about your topic, subject, or field, ask them as soon as you can. Hitting a snag later can stall progress on your essay, so if you can hit all the major weak points early on, you can avoid finding major flaws in your argument later.

Challenge anything that causes questions to sprout and play the devil’s advocate for your own argument. If you’ve identified these weaknesses before, now is the time to investigate further and begin to clarify anything that might still be fuzzy.

3. Select your sources carefully.

When selecting your sources, be picky. Don’t resort to using online sources just because they’re easily accessible. Try to use all kinds of different sources, but only if they’re current. Don’t pick a dusty old book from the library just to have a print source in your references list.

Choose current and relevant sources from trustworthy or notable scholars in the field. If your proof is questionable, your whole argument will fall apart, so choose your sources like you would an all-star team if you want to knock your essay out of the park.

4. Start writing early.

This is important: make sure you start writing early. Don’t put your essay off until the last minute. Do you know what’s waiting for you at the last minute? Regret and sadness.

Kickstart yourself now so you don’t kick yourself later. If you need to set an early deadline for yourself or split the essay writing into manageable chunks, do it. Just make sure you start early so you have time to solve any problems you run into later.

5. Organize for clarity.

The structure of your essay is every bit as important as the argument itself. If you have a flimsy structure, there’s no firm foundation to build the essay on; if there’s no firm foundation, your essay could collapse at any moment.

Focus on structuring your essay before you start writing. How will you arrange your argument and provide evidence in a cohesive and logical way? It’s better to answer that question earlier rather than later. Use transitions to ensure your argument flows logically from one point to the next.

6. Watch your tense and voice.

First, use the active voice when you write your essay (unless otherwise instructed). Second, avoid personal pronouns to maintain objectivity if need be (e.g., in scientific and other formal writing).

Third, you should write in the literary present, meaning that all actions performed in the text should be explained in the present tense rather than the past.

Finally, avoid using clichés. Since you want to present original thoughts, overused phrases need to be cut.

7. Explain everything clearly.

Any time you make a point, explain it clearly—even if you think it’s obvious. Your argument will be obvious to you (since you’ve befriended it), but it’s brand new to the reader. Your argument is meeting your reader for the first time, and like any new friends, they need introducing. If you fail to introduce them properly, things will get very confusing and awkward.

8. Be succinct.

Sentences should be straightforward, communicating one point at a time; cut all unnecessary words. You’ll also want to eliminate any repetition. It’s easy to say the same things over and over again in an essay, but doing so won’t strengthen your argument.

Cut unnecessary phrases and anything wordy or redundant, including phrases that don’t add information, such as “it should be pointed out that” or “due to the fact that.” Similarly, don’t ramble on about the same topic or go off on a tangent in the middle of your essay.

9. Avoid academese at all costs.

Try to keep things simple. While you shouldn’t talk down to your audience or explain every technical term, you should always be concise. Most importantly, don’t ever use words or phrases that you think will make you sound smarter.

It’s always best to be straightforward, so use the right vocabulary to say exactly what you want to say. It’s embarrassing if you try to use a fancy word only to find it doesn’t mean what you thought it meant.

10. Be aware of your word count.

Don’t go over your word count. Most markers will stop marking at the last word within the word count, so it’s crucial that you stay within it if you want to do well.

However, you also don’t want to stay severely lower than the word count provided. While you shouldn’t pad the essay by adding information that isn’t necessary to your argument or relevant to the topic at hand, you should get as close to the word count as possible by thoroughly exploring your topic and elaborating on your argument.

11. Carefully cite everything.

Unless you want to face a failing grade, academic probation, or even expulsion, you need to cite all of your sources. There are many types of plagiarism, but as long as you take good notes during your research and credit your sources, it’s easy to avoid plagiarism.

Your academic integrity is at stake here, so ensure that you are overly cautious in recording the necessary material. Be vigilant in confirming that you’ve documented everything fully and correctly.

12. Revise extensively.

Every good essay has been revised at least once, which means you, too, should tighten your writing. Comb through and ensure that everything is clear, consistent, and flows well. Once you’re happy with the content of your essay, you can sweat the small stuff, like grammar and spelling errors.

Even brilliant essays receive lower grades if simple mistakes are left in the document, so consider getting a second opinion and having an expert look over your writing for both form and content. At the very least, run a spell and grammar check. You’ll be so happy you did.

Conclusion

Essay writing doesn’t have to be hard. Anyone can write a good essay with the proper tools. These essay hacks are part of your toolkit, which you can use to improve your essay writing. Go from good to great by considering these tips and implementing them when writing your next essay.

If you would prefer a step-by-step guide for essay writing and want to improve your skills once and for all, you might want to think about taking a course to organize and write good essays every time.

How to Write an Essay in Five Easy Steps

Posted on

How to Master the Cornell Note-Taking System

Cornell Note-Taking Method

Cornell Note-Taking SystemThink ahead a few months: exam season has started, and you’re thankful that you’ve attended class faithfully and taken clear, well-organized notes—or so you thought.

The incoherent jumble of words and phrases stares up at you from the page like so much tangled spaghetti, defying you to remember exactly what the professor meant or how these ideas connect. How can you study effectively when faced with such a note-taking disaster?

The solution is easy: learn the Cornell Note-Taking System and start using it before exams start.

Created by Dr. Walter Pauk from Cornell University, this note-taking system is both an efficient way to record information and an effective way to absorb it. Aside from saving you the time and angst spent cramming, Cornell notes can actually improve the quality of your learning experience, helping you make connections and get more out of each lesson.

With this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn the five Rs of the Cornell note-taking system, and you’ll never end up with the nightmarish problem of not understanding your own notes.

Before You Begin

The Cornell Note-Taking System organizes ideas spatially, so it’s great for visual learners. The idea is to give yourself space for copying down information (class notes), for identifying key points (study cues), and for summing up the main ideas of the lesson (summary). Remember to also record the course name, the class topic, and the date of the lesson to keep your notes orderly.

Before class, use a marker or a different color of ink to divide the page into two main columns, with a bit of space at the top and a larger section at the bottom. Notice that the thick lines make a lopsided “I” shape.

Cornell Note Template

You might want to prepare several pages in advance, or you can use a template (you can find them online or use Microsoft Word to create a digital version). Lefties can switch the cue column to the right-hand side to make things easier. The idea is to make the process as easy as possible.

Step 1: Record

This is where the fun begins. Fill the largest section with your class notes, recording relevant terminology, names, dates, formulas, statistics, and other information. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Write neatly (or at least legibly).
  • Leave a space between each line in case you need to add more information later.
  • Use shorthand, such as the ampersand (&) instead of “and,” or acronyms instead of full terms, but make sure you know what they mean.
  • Don’t use complete sentences.

If you learn better by doodling/drawing or if you make connections through tactile learning (such as something you saw, smelled, or felt during an experiment), feel free to write these down. This will help you study later.

Step 2: Reduce

Class is over, but hold it! Effective note-taking continues outside of class. It might seem like a drag, but taking a few minutes to go over your notes (and clear up any illegible handwriting) while the information is still fresh in your mind will spare you hours of pulling out your hair while cramming for an exam.

After class, take a few moments to summarize the key points inside the left-hand column (study cues), and make sure they line up with the corresponding information. One way to reduce the lecture is to put it in your own words, looking for meaning and the relationships between ideas.

When study time comes, you can find information quickly by scanning the cue column, and you’ll already have a firm grasp on what you’ll need to know for the test.

Step 3: Recite

For the oral learners out there who remember best by hearing, take a few moments to verbalize the key points in the study cues. Without looking at the detailed notes from the class, see if you can remember what you learned by looking at the cues. You can always “cheat” a little to check if you got the right answer (it’s not the real test yet!).

Spoken information—especially if it’s in your own words—can help you understand the material in a way that simply memorizing something can’t.

Step 4: Reflect/Summarize

Ask yourself: How would I explain the lesson to someone who’s never learned it before? Not only do teaching and learning go hand in hand, but reflecting on what you’ve learned is the best way to retain information.

When you write your summary section, don’t think of it as a mere repetition. Treat it as a chance to engage with the material, including your thoughts, your questions, your interpretation, and your own personal reflections. You can even relate the material to the textbook or other study materials, to your previous experiences, or to knowledge from other courses; the more connections you can make, the better.

Step 5: Review

This step can actually be done throughout the semester as a way to aid comprehension and alleviate the pressure of studying for exams. Believe it or not, taking the time to review your notes for 10 minutes each week can spare you the 10 hours of fruitless studying where you’re straining to remember what was once fresh in your mind.

Conclusion

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If that’s true, then a systematic approach to college or university note-taking is worth the effort. Don’t make your studies any more stressful than they need to be: become a master of Cornell notes instead.

Posted on

Putting Pen to Paper: How to Write a Rough Draft

A hand holding a lightbulb next to crumpled paper.

You have done the research and written the outline of your paper. You are ahead of the deadline, and you want to stay that way. You turn on your computer, poise your fingers over the keyboard, and begin your rough draft. But what exactly is a rough draft? And just why do you need to write one in the first place?

Have you ever assembled a puzzle? Most of us begin by dumping all the puzzle pieces out of the box and then grouping the pieces by color and shape. It is likely that the jumble of puzzle pieces in no way resembles the picture on the puzzle box. But looking at the pieces, you can get an idea of how they will all fit together.

A PuzzleWriting a rough draft is similar to building a puzzle. Your outline and your research are a collection of ideas similar to that jumble of puzzle pieces. When you write your rough draft, you begin organizing how these ideas go together. Just as grouping similar puzzle pieces can give you an idea of what the final puzzle will look like, grouping your ideas in a rough draft gives you an idea of what your final draft will look like.

Getting a Rough Idea

You may think that rough drafts are not important. You have done the research, and you know what you want to say, so what is wrong with just writing? Nothing! In fact, that’s exactly how to write a rough draft. A rough draft is a means of getting started on your essay. When you start a rough draft, you are no longer just thinking about writing or planning on writing—you are doing it! Writing your rough draft helps you get your information and thoughts on paper. Once you have your rough draft, you can edit and polish ad nauseum until you have your wonderful final draft. But before that, you need to start somewhere.

Writing a rough draft also helps build discipline. While you may have managed to write an essay off the cuff in the past, it was bound to be a stressful experience. Who would want to do that again? Writing a rough draft helps you get your ideas on paper. You can always fix the spelling and grammar, refine your word choices, and add your own style and panache later. For now, sitting down and writing helps discipline your mind.

How to Write a Rough Draft

  1. The first step in writing a rough draft is just to get started. Collect your research notes and your outline (you did do the research and prepare the outline, didn’t you?).
  2. Follow your outline to help you prepare your introductory paragraph. This is where you should catch your reader’s attention with an interesting first sentence, but don’t worry if you can’t think of one yet. Inspiration may hit you at a later stage—that’s the wonder of writing a rough draft! Make sure that you introduce your topic and write your thesis statement. This will help you with the structure of your paper.
  3. Write the body of your essay. Remember that you will need, at very least, three paragraphs containing evidence that supports your thesis statement. At this point, don’t worry too much about making sure you have transitions between the paragraphs. Improving flow is something you can do in a later draft.
  4. Write your conclusion. This paragraph provides you with the opportunity to summarize your research and show how it supports your thesis statement. You should also restate your thesis statement.

Surviving the Rough Times

There are some things you can do to make sure that you don’t have a rough time writing your rough draft. These tips will help make the writing process a bit easier:

  • Write in the active voice.
  • Don’t stress out over every word. Just let your ideas spill onto the paper. If you can’t think of an appropriate word, just type the first word that pops into your head, and return to it later.
  • Make sure your introduction not only introduces your topic but also provides some background information on the topic.
  • Write a topic sentence for each of your body paragraphs. This sentence indicates the direction for each paragraph and will help you remain on subject.
  • If you can, write some transition ideas in each of your body paragraphs so that they link together, but don’t agonize over them. It’s okay if you can’t think of these transitions at this stage.
  • Look for any paragraphs where you feel that your proof is weak or you need more information to bolster your argument. You may need to go back and do more research to fill in any holes.
  • Once you have completed your rough draft, take a break. You deserve it!

Image source: garloon/BigStockPhoto.com

How to Write an Essay in Five Easy Steps

Posted on

4 Writing Styles to Help You Ace Every Essay

Writing Styles

Writing Styles

Writing styles are like fashion styles. How you dress helps others understand who you are, describes a particular sentiment to those who see you, and signals a subconscious message to be interpreted by others. How you write will give similar signals to others that help them understand what you’re trying to communicate. Also, like fashion styles, writing styles have particular times and places in which they should be employed or restrained. It’s inappropriate to wear white to a wedding if you’re not the bride; similarly, it’s inappropriate to use certain writing styles for specific types of writing.

Luckily, writing styles are a little more cut and dried than fashion styles. There are four main types of writing: expository, descriptive, persuasive, and narrative. Each serves a specific purpose and differs from the others in particular ways. Knowing the difference between the writing styles is useful in essay writing because your essay must serve a precise purpose. By understanding the subtleties of the writing styles, it will be a lot easier to determine which style to employ based on the purpose of your essay.

Expository Writing

Expository Writing ExplainsExpository writing is used when you want to explain or inform, making it a very popular writing style for essays. Generally, the writer must first formulate a topic, outline the evidence, and further explain the idea to demonstrate a particular point about the topic at hand. A thesis statement is utilized to outline the topic, followed by body paragraphs held together by transitions. Often, evidence is stated in the paragraphs, and an introduction and conclusion are provided.

Very simply, this style is employed in academic writing to outline the main points of a topic. The writer explains a specific subject from beginning to end. The writing should be clear, supported by facts and logical reasoning. A common form of expository writing is the compare-and-contrast essay, which outlines the similarities and differences between two subjects. The writer can either alternate explaining similarities and differences in separate paragraphs or explain all the similarities in several consecutive paragraphs, followed by all the differences.

Descriptive Writing

Descriptive Writing DescribesThe main purpose of descriptive writing is to describe a subject to form a clear idea in the reader’s mind. This writing style draws attention to details to outline the topic. Writing a descriptive essay requires clear and vivid language to accurately describe the subject. The senses become very important in descriptive writing because they help to bring ordinary moments to life. The reader should be left with a vibrant understanding of the topic at hand.

Students are often required to write descriptive essays to explain a particular experience they may have had or an event that has taken place. This type of essay is a little bit more creative than the expository essay, allowing the writer to draw on lived experience and lively language rather than relying on dry facts. Here, the more specific and detailed the writing is, the better, and wordiness is not frowned upon as it is in expository writing.

Persuasive Writing

Persuasive Writing PersuadesThis type of writing allows the writer to take a stance. Rather than objectively explaining a topic or painting a picture for the reader, persuasive writing is used to demonstrate a very specific opinion on a topic. That means attention to word choice is imperative, as weak or incorrect word usage can make or break a persuasive essay. In this style, authors attempt to get the readers to side with them, share their particular opinion, and even sometimes take action on it.

Often, this type of writing is used for controversial topics that split people into groups based on their opinions. This allows writers to take a specific stance and outline their particular opinions. Even though the writing can and should be biased, the outlined arguments must all be logical and must be feasibly proven. Therefore, persuasive writing requires extensive research so that the writer can back up an opinion with reputable sources.

Narrative Writing

Narrative Writing NarratesGenerally, narrative writing is less common in the academic world because the narrative style exists to tell stories. Whether it’s a true story or not is irrelevant; fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry are all types of narrative writing. In reality, all types of writing exist to argue a specific point. So even though narrative writing is a more creative type of writing, it is still an argument and should be treated as such.

What do you want the reader to believe? That’s what you should ask when writing a narrative essay.

Narrative essays are generally used when writing anecdotal or personal essays. In the academic world, this usually takes the form of creative nonfiction. The writer should introduce the topic and lead the reader through the story by explaining what happened next until the story comes to a logical conclusion. That means it should have a clear structure. This type of writing is also used for book reports, outlining the story from beginning to end.

Conclusion

Really, the four types of writing are named aptly: expository writing explains, descriptive writing describes, persuasive writing persuades, and narrative writing narrates. All the different writing styles serve their own purposes and are thus useful for different types of essay writing. That means they never go out style (pun intended).

How to Write an Essay

Image source: stux/Pixabay.com

Posted on

9 Proofreading Tips for Revising Your Essay at the Last Minute

A Quick Checklist for the Procrastination-Prone Student

Proofreading Tips

It’s two o’clock in the morning.

For hours, you’ve been frantically writing a paper that is due tomorrow. By some sweet miracle, you’ve managed to stay away from Netflix long enough to finish writing the first draft of your paper.

You breathe a sigh of relief and prepare to crawl away from the perils of your desk toward the safety of your bed. But alas, you do not make it.

Instead, terror strikes your heart. You gasp and clutch your shaking hand to your sweaty chest, for you’ve just realized that the battle is not yet won. Though you’ve finished writing, you still face one more daunting task: you must proofread your paper.

How will you do it?

You open your web browser, and though it takes almost all the willpower you have left, you resist the urge to post a Facebook update about your progress (“Currently trading in my sanity for a degree in philosophy. On second thought, likely never had any sanity in the first place”). Instead, you go straight to Google and frantically start searching for proofreading tips that will allow you to get more than three hours of sleep tonight.

Search no more, my friend. Though they won’t replace a substantial edit by a pair of fresh eyes (nothing can), these proofreading tips should help you remove the most glaring errors from your paper. Finishing that home stretch while retaining your precious mental marbles just got a bit less stressful.

But first, a disclaimer: If you struggle with the rules of grammar and punctuation, even the handiest of proofreading tips may not help you polish your paper. Unfortunately, these tips will only be helpful if you’re familiar with the errors you seek. A short-turnaround proofreading service may be something to consider if you don’t have confidence in your own editing or proofreading abilities. With that in mind, here are some proofreading tips to try.

Consistency Proofreading Tips

Ask any editor, proofreader, or college professor what irks them most about student papers, and you’ll likely find that inconsistency takes the cake. No matter how you slice that chocolate torte, writing something five different ways in the same paper is just plain wrong. The best way to eliminate inconsistency, especially after a long night of writing, is to tackle each potential inconsistency error one by one.

1. Check Capitalization and Acronyms

Names, terms, titles, and headings should all be written the same way. To find inconsistencies, scan your document for every usage of a term, and make sure each instance is written the same way. Acronyms should also be used consistently. Each acronym should be defined the first time it is used, and it should replace the term it represents for every use thereafter.

2. Check Hyphens, En Dashes, and Em Dashes

It can be easy to mix up hyphens (-), en dashes (–), and em dashes (—). They look so similar! Check out this guide to using these pesky punctuation marks, then use Ctrl + F to search your document for each instance of hyphenation and dash usage. Pay special attention to hyphenated terms!

Proofreading Tips Poster
Click to enlarge.

3. Check Spelling

Check the language setting of your word processor. Is it set to U.S., U.K., Canadian, or Australian English? To make sure the language is consistent throughout, select the entire body of text in your document (which you can easily do by pressing Ctrl + A), and choose the correct variety of English. Though this should help you find inconsistencies in spelling, be aware that Word will not catch all spelling inconsistencies. For example, realize and realise are both accepted spellings for the same word in Microsoft Word’s U.K., Canadian, and Australian English dictionaries. The same goes for words like labor/labour and labeling/labelling. To avoid inconsistencies, search your document for both versions of words that may be spelled inconsistently.

For specialized terms that Word doesn’t recognize, after checking the spelling using an online dictionary, add the terms to your Word dictionary so that every instance of the correctly spelled word is recognized. That way, only words that are actually being spelled wrong will be labeled as such.

4. Check Formatting and Headings

Read each of your headings individually, and make sure they are all formatted consistently. Then check that the indentation and spacing are the same across all paragraphs. Remember that most style guides recommend using only one space after a period, not two.

Other Proofreading Tips

Consistency obviously isn’t the only worry when it comes to proofreading. Grammar and punctuation errors are usually lurking in student papers—especially those written in a rush. If your grasp of grammar is decent, you should be able to solve most of your own problems. The trick, of course, is finding those problems. Here are three proofreading tips for detecting the errors that your eyes habitually overlook.

5. Print Your Paper

Though this will not be a feasible option for long papers, like dissertations, it can be a useful tip for shorter documents. (You’re definitely not trying to proofread your dissertation at the last minute anyway, right?) Giving your eyes a break from screen time can help make them more aware of errors that they missed before.

6. Change the Appearance of Your Paper

If printing isn’t an option, consider doing something else to change the appearance of your paper. Copying the content into a different document without formatting is one option, as is temporarily changing the font size or style.

7. Read Your Paper out Loud

There are two potential downfalls to this technique. The first is that reading a paper aloud actually takes much more time than most students allot for such a task, and the second is that it can be difficult to focus long enough to read the entire paper. These are the very reasons why reading your paper out loud is a handy proofreading technique: doing this forces you to slow down. It also helps stop your brain from automatically skipping words.

8. Find a Study Buddy

While not technically a last-minute tip, exchanging papers with a study buddy can be very useful when it comes to ironing the kinks out of your final draft. Make friends with a classmate at the beginning of the semester, and then send your papers to each other for a quick read before submission. One more disclaimer: make sure your study buddy is an adept proofreader!

9. Give Up . . .

. . . On doing it yourself, that is. If you’re running out of time and still not feeling confident about your final draft, check out Scribendi.com’s short turnaround times for essay editing and proofreading. For important assignments, enlisting the help of an expert editor may be the best proofreading tip of all.

Image source: B-D-S/BigStockPhoto.com

ProofreadingCamp

Posted on

Writing a Thesis Statement that Takes Your Essay to the Next Level

Writing a Thesis Statement

Writing a Thesis StatementA thesis statement or hypothesis is essentially what makes an essay what it is. This one statement, found in an essay’s introduction, tells a reader what the essay is about and what the writer’s main argument or research findings are. Because this sentence states the purpose of the essay itself, it should be clear and concise and provide the writer’s concrete view of the particular subject. Writing a thesis statement that clearly outlines your stance on the topic and that is easy to understand differentiates a strong essay from a weak one. In this article, what makes a good thesis will be explained. We also provide some thesis statement examples to show you what works.

A Thesis Statement Should be Arguable

A good thesis statement can be debated and, therefore, can be backed up by research to persuade others that the hypothesis is correct or the best solution to a problem. You want the reader of your essay to agree with whatever you have argued, so stating facts does not make a good thesis or a good essay. The point of research is to further knowledge of a particular subject. Take a look at this thesis statement example that is simple but arguable:

Saving endangered species, like the polar bear, should be the responsibility of all countries.

There are people who would argue that it is not up to the entire world to save the polar bear but that it is the responsibility of the countries in which polar bears are found. This statement is easily debatable.

A Thesis Statement Should be Focused

Writing a focused thesis statement will not only keep your writing on track and help you avoid an overwhelming amount of research but will also allow you to create a solid argument. Every hypothesis must be supported by evidence and research. You do not want to make so broad a statement that you need a wide range of evidence to support it. Focus your statement on a specific area of your topic, and narrow your research to just this area.

The disappearance of suitable climates in which woolly mammoths could live likely resulted in the extinction of the species.

The thesis statement example given here is focused on a specific aspect that likely contributed to the extinction of the woolly mammoth—climate change. Researching evidence on one aspect of your topic can strengthen the final argument.

A Thesis Statement Should Reflect the Type of Essay being Written

The way you’ll go about writing a thesis statement will depend on the type of essay you need to write. A thesis for a book review will be worded differently than a thesis for a research proposal. Each version outlines the main purpose of the essay itself. Below are thesis statement examples for a variety of essay types.

A book or journal review thesis is a statement of your critical evaluation of the book

In The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien explores the theme of friendship through the loyalty and respect displayed between many of the main characters, such as Frodo and Sam, Gimli and Legolas, and Merry and Pippin.

A position or argumentative essay thesis is a statement of your position and why you adhere to it

University graduates in the 21st century cannot find valuable work because of the state of the economy and because many workers of the baby boomer generation refuse to retire.

A comparative essay thesis is a statement of your main argument and the main points of your comparison

Dogs often make better pets than cats because they can be easily trained and are more emotionally responsive.

A research paper thesis is a statement of your main claim relating to a topic or problem

Because of a greater sense of community and cultural involvement, people who live in the city experience a higher quality of life than people who live in rural areas.

A research proposal thesis is a statement of what you believe to be the main claim about a topic or problem

Evidence indicates that children who learn an instrument frequently go on to work in creative fields as adults.

Conclusion

Once you have a solid understanding of your research topic, writing a thesis statement should be relatively simple. Having your thesis statement planned out before you start your essay will allow you to focus your writing and help you create a strong argument. Once you have compiled all your research and know what you want to say in your essay, try writing out a few versions of your thesis statement, keeping in mind that it must be arguable, focused, and appropriate for the type of essay you’re writing.

Image source: janeb13/Pixabay.com

How to Write an Essay

Posted on

5 Tips for Improving Your Essay-Writing Speed (With Help from Bilbo Baggins)

Essay-Writing Speed

Essay-Writing SpeedWhat do most students have in common with Bilbo Baggins? Besides enjoying at least six meals a day, the trait most students share with our favorite hobbit is the desperate need they sometimes have for more time. Time is what Bilbo begs for when he can’t solve Gollum’s riddle (right), the answer to the riddle being—of course—none other than time itself.

Sure, in the scene above, Bilbo is at serious risk of being eaten by Gollum, while most students just have a lot of reading and essay writing to do. Still, time is the important thing here, and it seems that neither students nor “hobbitses” (as Gollum would say) can ever get enough of it. If only there were some way to make writing an essay a faster process . . .

The bad news? I can’t get you more time. Not even Gandalf can manage that, and I’m certainly no Gandalf. But what I can actually do is teach you how to use less time to accomplish more when you’re writing an essay, which is pretty much exactly the same thing! So, if you’re feeling well fed and ready to learn, prepare yourself for an unexpected journey into the art of writing an essay as efficiently as possible.

Step 1: Make a plan.

Imagine that you’re going on a trip. Perhaps you’re even traveling to the Lonely Mountain to face a very vain dragon in hopes of reclaiming some treasure. Now, how would you rather make that journey: with a map or without one? I think we can both agree that using the map would save you quite a lot of time that would otherwise be spent wandering—right?

Just like any adventurous Took, you shouldn’t try to start writing an essay without first creating a map for yourself. Yes, it takes time to write an outline. However, this is time that you will more than make up later in the writing process and that will ultimately improve your essay-writing speed.

The key elements to have figured out before you begin writing are your thesis statement and the evidence and arguments you will be using to support that thesis statement. Once you have these things, you basically have a road map to your final destination: completion of your essay.

Step 2: Do your research.

This step should really be done in conjunction with the former step. After all, what’s the point of writing a thesis if you can’t support it with research? Your research, including direct quotations from primary sources, should be part of your outline. Finding quotations from scholarly articles and books to support your arguments before you actually start writing will make the actual process of writing much faster, as you will have fewer necessary interruptions. (No, Facebook is not a necessary interruption—nor is a second breakfast. Sorry.)

Step 3: Just write.

Bag EndOkay. Your map is written, you’re out of your hobbit-hole door and into the world, and you’re ready to actually start writing an essay. You still want to know how to write faster? Well, friend, the key is to start by actually writing. Not agonizing over every clause, not questioning all life decisions made thus far, and certainly not watching Netflix. Just write. Try your best to communicate the ideas you’ve painstakingly outlined in your map, but most of all, just get those fingers typing and start writing. Write. There will be some clunky sentences, there will be some punctuation errors, and there may even be some paragraphs that don’t make the final cut. However, if you don’t start writing soon, there won’t be anything to cut, and then you’ll really want to know how to write faster.

Step 4: Tackle your essay in sections.

Of course, as good as the “just write” mentality is, it can only keep you going for so long. Writing an essay in one big chunk is like trying to travel from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain in a single day; that is to say, it is downright impossible without the aid of some kind of anachronistic aircraft, and very dangerous to even try doing. Instead of doing everything at once, think of your essay in terms of meaningful sections. Focus on completing just one section at a time, and give yourself time for short breaks between writing sessions. Dinner with dwarves, break. Meeting with Elrond, break. Goblin kidnapping, break. You get the idea!

Step 5: Take a break before editing your work.

Make sure that you give yourself some time away from your essay before returning to revise your first draft. Editing your essay with a fresh mind will make the process much quicker, as mistakes you made while writing will be much more obvious to your eye and to your well-rested brain. While it’s true that the time period needed to complete your essay will be longer, the amount of time you will actually have spent on your essay will be much, much shorter, leaving you lots of time to work on other things!

Epilogue

There you have it, folks: five ways to improve your essay-writing speed. You now know how to write faster—or, you know, how to complete an essay using less time overall. This more efficient method of writing an essay should give you more time to accomplish other important things, like rereading your favorite stories (cough—Tolkien!), working on your riddle-solving abilities, and perfecting your Gollum impersonation—all pursuits worthy of your extra time and devotion.

Image sources: yanjing/Pixabay.com, kewl/Pixabay.com