Writing Center Blog


On Writing in the Center by Layla Barati

posted Dec 6, 2017, 9:36 AM by Writing Center


Mick Jagger Drafting Writing Project #4 by Angelo Ligori

posted Dec 4, 2017, 1:47 PM by Writing Center   [ updated Dec 4, 2017, 1:58 PM ]

Mick Jagger stumbles into the Writing Center

 

The Run Ons

“I Can’t Get out of O: Procrastination”

by Angelo Ligori

 

I can’t get out, O

Procrastination

I can’t get out, O

Procrastination

‘cause I text & I watch & I eat, sleep, & I talk

I can’t get O, I can’t get O

When I’m starin’ at my screen

& it’s blank & sources O screamin’ at me

Tellin’ me to “quote!” & “quote!”

About their need for integration

Supposed to be in-text-citation

I don’t have no, O   O-O-O-NO

No-signal-phrase or M–L–A

I can’t get out O

Procrastination

I can’t get out O

Procrastination

‘cause I click & I buy & I lose all my time

I can’t get O, I can’t get O

When I’m walkin’ around the school

& I’m textin’ friends & I’m sendin’ that

& I’m changin’ every song

A La-La to maybe maybe get me on a writin’ beat

‘cause you see my paper’s  due next week

I can’t get out, so go go go

I may may-may make, a consultation date

Can’t write what I say, need a writing day

I can’t get out, O

Procrastination

I can’t get out, O

Procrastination

‘cause I click & I burn all the time in my mind

I can’t get out, I can’t get O

When I’m watchin’ Jersey Shore

& the inner Pauly D begins to tell me

‘bout how to make an F  be an A or B

But I can get an A till I read & know

Chapters One, two, &  three:

 “Rhetor-I-Call…..Sit-u-ation”

I can get out of, I can get out of

I can get out of, I can get out of

Procrastination, Procrastination,

Procrastination, Procrastination

 

Both Sides of the Consultation by Funke Ogundimo

posted Dec 4, 2017, 1:42 PM by Writing Center

This post is about a personal experience. I think all Writing Consultants should try to have my experience at least once a semester. We should experience what it feels like to be on the other side of writing consultations, to be a consultee. At least once a semester, I bring my writing to The Writing Center. Sometimes it’s a scholarship or grant application, sometimes a class essay or resume. I think this experience allows Writing Consultants to better appreciate the dynamics of a writing consultation and maybe begin to understand what other writers go through when they come to The Writing Center for help with their writing.

This semester I needed help with what I call my post-M.F.A. applications. I brought two copies of a critical essay, statement of purpose, personal statement, and resume to The Writing Center. I had several sessions with two writing consultants, and they were most helpful. It never ceases to amaze me that I make the same mistakes in my drafts as writers who come to The Writing Center. The Writing Consultants working with me echoed the same words I had used a couple of minutes ago with a writer: Make your topic sentences clearer. What’s your argument in this paragraph? Connect your ideas to your quotes. Don’t use sources as crutches to fill up space to meet page limit requirements. Connect paragraphs back to your thesis. Fragments. Write a strong and effective conclusion. Write your statement of purpose with a specific school in mind.

I can tell you I did a lot of mental face palms during these sessions; I know this, but what I claim to know was not on paper. When I edited my drafts, making use of the suggested revisions, I reminded myself that sometimes it takes an extra pair of eyes to point out these things to a writer, and an empathetic Writing Consultant makes a huge difference.

Another important thing that I take away from these consultations is that I get to feel what consultees feel when they come to The Writing Center with their work: their anxieties, worries, concerns, and trust issues. They have the stress of meeting a deadline, improving the structure and clarity of their writing, meeting style requirements, and even facing the infamous grammatical error worry. I worked with two consultants, and I’ve known them for over two years. The atmosphere of the sessions wasn’t stressful, and the consultants gave me great advice, but first-time writers or regulars to The Writing Center will have to trust strangers to help them with their writing. It can be a stressful. I believe that a Writing Consultant who has been in a Writing Center consultation as a consultee will be able to make use of that experience and make those forty-five minutes count.

(Fun) Grammar Resources by RC Wonderly

posted Dec 4, 2017, 1:37 PM by Writing Center   [ updated Dec 4, 2017, 8:19 PM ]

The Writing Center’s Mission Statements declare, “We do not edit or proofread for writers,” which is understandable because “our emphasis is on writing processes rather than on written products of writing.” During a consultation, we will point out reoccurring, common usage errors, and provide handouts on topics ranging from articles to run-on sentences, with additional resources forthcoming. In the meantime, where does one go to improve their grammar? For starters, writers and English professors will tell you if you want to improve your skills as a writer you need to read more. As you read, you pick up on the different ways in which an author uses punctuation and sentence structure to add variety, clarity and style to their texts. UNLV offers another option, Principles of Modern Grammar, a 400-level course focused on “the patterns of English grammar and their influence on sentence structure, punctuation, and style.” 

As an instructor, I like to give English 101 students multimodal models to explain simple or complex grammatical concepts. It’s not enough to simply mark up their papers without giving them a thorough explanation, along with resources for making improvements. As an example, this semester I had several students who were having trouble with punctuation—specifically knowing when to use semi-colons versus colons correctly. I encouraged them to view Howcast’s video, “How to Use Semi-colons” and “How to Use Colons,” along with Mary Norris’s video, “The Semicolon; or, Mastering the Giant Comma.” I also gave them The Writing Center handout on the subject. I found that the students reacted positively to the short videos and made improvements after watching them and applying the concepts in their own writing. 

Another grammar learning tool I suggest to student-writers is cellphone apps—there are several options depending on your cellphone manufacturer. Raymond Murphy developed English Grammar in Use through the Cambridge University Press, which offers 6 free units on Past and Present verb tenses with additional content available for purchase. The developers us a split screen with explanations on the left and practice exercises on right. Another fun and informative cellphone app is Sentence Master by Masterkey Games. Players race against the clock to arrange groups of words into a sentence and earn points to open new levels. Finally, Johnny Grammar’s Word Challenge, produced by the British Council, allows users to take timed quizzes on topics ranging from prepositions to gerund and adverbial clauses to conjunctions. The British Council offers a wide range of grammar related apps and learning tools for adults—keep in mind the spelling might be a little different from American English.        

The next time you schedule a consultation at The Writing Center, please take the time to understand the grammar concepts you struggle with in your own writing. Use the resources listed above or others you find online, at the library, or in your textbook before asking the consultant to help you “fix your paper.”  If you are still having trouble, you can always ask for additional explanation and resources—until then, read more and keep practicing. 

Doubt & Truth by Mackenzie Leavitt

posted Dec 4, 2017, 1:36 PM by Writing Center

Hello everyone. I hope the semester has been treating you all well. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts in relation to the work we do at The Writing Center. I hope that some of you will find it useful to reflect on some things I have learned as a Writing Consultant.

There is an amusing and somewhat trite story that captures the essence of what I hope to say. An Elementary school classroom was given an assignment to draw anything they wished to. At one point, the teacher approached a young girl and asked her what she was drawing. The girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” The teacher, slightly amused and surprised, responded with, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” Without skipping a beat, the girl replied, “They will in a minute.”

Although this story can appear a little trivial, the point that it expresses is fundamentally deep. Unless we are absolutely willing to make mistakes, we can never hope to learn anything more than how to avoid failure. Like all profound truths, this has implications for everything that we do. Children are naturally creative, in part because they have not adopted the ingrained fear of failure that we educate them into.

As students, many of us experience doubt about our abilities. This is not only relevant to writing; unfortunately, the same doubts appear in thousands of forms throughout our lives. In so many ways, we internalize doubts because we are told that our experiences, our thoughts, and our feelings are wrong or invalid in some way. Indeed, the basic model of education is corrective rather than instructive. This is not to say that correction lacks utility; rather, it is to point out an underappreciated dilemma: any process of education will cause some degree of internal doubt or anxiety that can inhibit natural creativity.

In the above example, the student had absolutely no doubts about her enterprise to create an image of God. In other words, she had a basic trust in her abilities, even though she lacked experience. Naturally, education must serve the purpose of providing that experience and honing the necessary skills to apply it. However, many students lack the basic trust in their abilities that the girl in this story demonstrated. Without this trust, few students are willing to put themselves fully into the work they do. This is particularly relevant for writing; I cannot count the number of times I have seen bright and creative students either refuse to start projects out of some fear of commitment to the challenges associated with them or refuse to turn in projects because they feel that there is no way their work is good enough. Both procrastination and perfection are rooted in the same fatal flaw: an inability to trust oneself and one’s capabilities.

As a Writing Consultant, I have to exercise this basic trust every time I meet with a student. I never know beforehand if this student will have an essay that I have no idea how to improve, nor if I will be able to answer the questions a particular student might have. Nonetheless, I must still meet with students and assist them as much as I am capable. When I first started consulting, I frequently observed students who were otherwise capable of writing good papers, but lacked a certain confidence in their abilities. For this reason, many of them either procrastinated, worried far too much about their work, or refused to come up with their own ideas. This is completely understandable because it takes some courage to put trust in oneself and one’s abilities.

One could easily bemoan this state of affairs and conclude that the endeavor is hopeless. Indeed, it would be easy to simply accept the reality that some students will express the full range of their creativity, and others will fail to do so. However, given the proper attention and instruction, it seems that many students are fully capable of expressing their creativity. In my own work, I have found that students respond most fully to consultants who express a deep interest and commitment to that student’s development as a writer. When I have committed myself most fully to the student’s growth, I have seen students do the same in turn. Time and time again this experience has given me hope. Student creativity and success is not a matter of brute effort on the part of the consultant or the student; rather, it is a relationship between consultant and student dedicated towards the development of a student’s capacities and basic trust.

In summary, unless we are willing to unlearn the doubts we have been educated into, we will never be able to actualize the deepest expression of our own creativity. This creativity does not exist in a vacuum, though. It is predicated on the network of relationships that comprise the student’s whole being.  In other words, we do not succeed alone, nor do we express ourselves alone either. This truth can be understood and applied in every domain of life--we do not need to be professional writers to understand that our existence is rooted in a complex interwoven pattern of relationships. Indeed, we would all do well to appreciate just how much of ourselves we owe to other people. In more ways than one, this is one of the most valuable insights I have had the privilege to learn while working for The Writing Center. I wish you all a wonderful end to the semester and a safe holiday break.            

               

Revising as a Search for Ideas. Editing as a Pursuite of Style by Roy Johnson

posted Dec 4, 2017, 1:33 PM by Writing Center

I don’t know, maybe you have heard this before? The rough draft is that thing that happens after your research where you sit down and spill your guts in a caffeine-driven frenzy of blood, sweat, and tears. Possibly there will be some real spilling of guts. My brother used to throw up before every undergrad exam. But anyway, like the spilling of real guts, the rough draft, in light of the morning after, clearly needs some cleanup.

I don’t know if it’s even possible in this day and age to make it through the first year of college without hearing some variation of the following regarding writing papers. “When you finish your rough draft, set it aside for a couple of days before you start your revision process.” We all know that some college papers get written on the due date with a looming deadline. Possibly this is the only way to learn how not to crack under pressure. Since this method of scholarship tops out (in my humble experience) at around the ten pages and three sources mark, it is desirable to have a back-up plan for when you must write a substantial, deep, and documented paper.

So I’m just going to say it. The above advice of leaving your rough draft for a minimum of forty-eight hours is good advice. Leave that paper alone. Get some rest. Exercise. Don’t, under any circumstances, touch or look at your rough draft. If possible, don’t think about it. I recommend binge watching something on Netflix instead. The (I am not sure what to call it) “percolation” process, where you allow your unconscious mind (or whatever) to sift and sort through the welter of ideas you just spewed forth, is crucial. Give time time.

After the recommended forty-eight hours, you can start your revision process. Two sound pieces of practical advice that were given to me regarding revision are these. First, your introductions, conclusions, and thesis statements are almost always going to be revised in light of the research you actually did and the writing you actually wrote in the body of your paper. The introduction and thesis of your rough draft should be sufficient only to get you writing. Once the substance of your essay has been written, you are going to have to go back and revise it. Writing a rough conclusion is fine, as the material you generate will usually end up being the substance of any extra opinions you personally might have about the subject matter of your essay (nine out of ten times a rough draft’s conclusion is a fake conclusion, but a real, usually solid, new argument).

Second, the actual content of your essay is probably a mystery, even to you the writer. It does not always match up to the thesis statement, hardly ever proceeds according to the clearly set forth order in the introduction, and generally meanders around establishing crucial and useful relationships between ideas at the expense of the essay’s clarity and brevity. This is because when drafting, we are usually writing down everything that comes into our heads about our subject and connecting ideas in paragraphs where they do not necessarily belong, or do belong, but detract from cohesion and readability because Hello Your Ideas Are Snarled.

 An easy way to separate out these ideas is to write a summary outline of your rough draft as it is. Try summarizing each paragraph of your rough draft in a single sentence that answers the questions “What am I saying in this paragraph” and “How does it support my paper (thesis)?” Making this outline should be a fundamental reason to leave at least A WEEK between the writing of the rough draft and the due date of the paper. If you add the day you write the rough draft to a forty-eight hour “percolation,” a week leaves you about four days to get your paper finished.

Making a summary outline of your paper will do two other things for you. Well, three other things, actually. In the absolute first place, a summary outline will prevent you from leaping into the editing process. This is a good thing because there is no point in editing a sentence for grammar, punctuation, spelling, and style, when you end up throwing that sentence out later because it entirely doesn’t work with the paragraph (or worse, you leave it in there because you spent time and effort on it, and it detracts from the overall substance and clarity of your final paper).

In the second place, a summary outline will identify for you whether or not each one of your paragraphs contains a single idea, or multiple ideas. It is generally a good idea to separate ideas by paragraph. If it is a very large idea which needs proof and explanation through subordinate ideas, it is still usually better to acknowledge the greatness of the idea by putting it’s subordinate ideas into consecutive and individual supporting paragraphs.

In the third place, a summary outline will give you all the material you could possibly need to flesh out your introductions and conclusions. The summary outline is essentially a roadmap of how you are organizing your paper. Once you’ve separated out the ideas you want to use into a cohesive and logical order, that summary outline can now serve to tell your reader where you are going by welding it into your introduction. It can also be revisited in your conclusion, where you can expand on your summary in light of the evidence that you presented. No more worrying about word count. (Or, you know, most of the time.)

Since editing and style are something that are best left up to the writer, I’m not going to touch on those aspects of writing a paper here. I will say, however, that if you actually do the above drafting and revision a week before your paper is due, you should have a leisurely two to three days over that usually crabbed and cramped, paper freak-out weekend to embellish, plume, preen, and otherwise virtue signal to your heart’s content, confident that your paper is at least going to do the dirty work of making a sensible argument or exposition. Style and grammar are, in my final opinion, a matter of reading and taste.

The Writing Center as a Social Hub by Jesse Cook

posted Nov 30, 2017, 9:54 AM by Writing Center   [ updated Nov 30, 2017, 9:55 AM ]

Over the three years that I have worked at UNLV’s Writing Center, I have noticed a growing trend amongst consultants to view the Writing Center as both a work and social space. I remember in the early semesters working as a graduate assistant, the Writing Center was treated as a waystation on the road to a two-course workload as a seasoned graduate student. Although I hesitate to say that the Writing Center was treated like a chore, it was certainly viewed as a prerequisite for bigger things—a remedial course. Graduate students, bleary eyed, sleep deprived, world weary, shuffled from computer to consultation with the excitement of a cemetery groundskeeper. When knock-off time came, they were out the door like a flash. It was a rarity to find a consultant lingering after their contractually-obligated hours were up. This perception of the Writing Center as an intermediary place bled into the communal fabric of the department.

Of course, us graduate students could commiserate over the plight of our lives; the groans over rough drafts and the tension headaches from late night reading were universally felt, universally understood. Yet, nobody lingered at their computer, chatting with a peer about lesson plans. The breakroom rarely erupted with such laughter that working consultants had to step away from their writers to ask politely, and with great envy, that the others please keep their pleasures to themselves. Birthday parties were clandestine meetings in the university bar, a huddled flock of pithy writers and scholars moaning and snickering over the stack of papers waiting at home. We were a rosy bunch.

Now, I see a writing center reborn. Every day is a house party with homemade treats. The whiteboards duded up in dry-erase artwork for every holiday, decorations cascading across the walls, the dreary portable building is transformed into a warm collective of human feeling. People make plans for lunch parties, go to movies together on the weekends. It is a nice change of pace to see the Writing Center as a hub of social activity instead of a steppingstone. I am happy to see the joy that this experience can be for people who may have—like my peers in my first semesters—entered the program apprehensive about the obligatory responsibilities of the Writing Center.

I would like to think that for all the anxiety and stress of graduate school, the Writing Center is becoming a place of peace, a place where people come to escape some of the drama. It is nice to see friendships made on cramped couches over coffee in the breakroom. It is refreshing to hear quiet conversations in the computer office between graduate students anxiously excited over a newly-planned approach to teaching paraphrase and summary. I hope that this trend continues after this batch of graduate students move on to two courses a semester, bless their souls, as it has made my few remaining semesters at the Writing Center a real pleasure.

The Rolling Stones and Working in the Writing Center by Tyler Smith

posted Nov 30, 2017, 9:54 AM by Writing Center

For the past couple weeks—be it laziness, admiration, or gross indifference—when I get into my Jeep to drive the commute down the 215, only one song has played over the radio. That song? “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones.

There’s a moment in this song after Jagger sings the refrain a few times where he follows it with, “But if you try sometimes well you just might find / you get what you need.” That transition when The Stones go from singing about what you want to what you need is always a powerful moment for me because, sadly, it brings back memories of my childhood.

I say sadly not because my childhood was particularly sad or sorrow filled; on the contrary, it was pretty damn good. I say sadly because I was one of those kids. You know the type, the ones that run through the grocery store with their parents and, well, point out everything that they want under the sun, and if they don’t get it, there’s suddenly an operetta of screams that is staged that borders, one might suspect, on a pivotal life moment.

Sadly, with me, that was not the case; I usually got what I wanted. Although I got what I wanted most of the time, what I needed was a swift kick in the butt. And that brings me to the Writing Center.

How, exactly? you might ask.

When I started out in a writing center back in Wisconsin, I wanted to approach consulting sessions the same—look at the introduction, the body, and the conclusion to make sure they were clear and concise and on point with the topic.

Initially, this approach served me well because, as many of us know, undergraduate writing can be immensely formulaic in its design and construction. My duty, then, as a consultant was to, as I saw it, get a writer’s paper up to code or guide it to where it needed to be.

My Achilles heel, or loose spoke in the wheel (I’m a wheelchair user), then, was working with multilingual writers. For the life of me, I could not approach these particular writers in the same manner as I approached native speaking writers. Oftentimes with these writers, their writing was jumbled, articles and prepositions were either too plentiful or missing altogether, and sometimes the thesis couldn’t be found even if the writer pointed to it.

After a semester or two of consulting on papers in this way, I realized that the problem wasn’t in the language barrier with multilingual writers (I mean, it was but wasn’t), rather it was me. My approach to consulting on papers was off key.

If you think about musicality for a second with The Rolling Stones, it makes sense that “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” sounds nothing like “Paint It Black.” Fundamentally, they are two different songs. In terms of tone, content, and sound, they are so far apart that they do not even register on the same note together.

Similarly, no two sessions will ever be the same. Sure, similar movements and influences will sometimes creep in to separate writings, but, invariably, each session is like a new song; it has its own set of elements and stylistics that make it unique. As such, each consulting session should be approached from an individual standpoint, and the focus should not be on how to get this paper where it needs to go, but rather how to improve upon what it’s already doing.

Quite simply, when working in the Writing Center, think not about what you want to happen in a particular session (because that invariably will not happen or will happen in an entirely different way), rather think about what might need to happen in regards to a piece of writing you come across and how you can, in that moment, improve that writing in its own right.

You FINALly made it by Gabi Broeker

posted Nov 29, 2017, 3:34 PM by Writing Center

Hello again! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving break, but it’s time to crack open the books and prepare for the most painful week of the semester… FINALS WEEK! It is stressful and exhausting and draining. Fortunately, I have some wonderful Writing Center styled tips for a finals week near you.

WATER: Drink LOTS of water. It is important to stay hydrated. You’ll be working hard, and it can take a toll on your body.

RELAX: Don’t stress yourself out – YOU GOT THIS. It is important to take a breather every once in a while. Slow and steady wins the race, so take your time and don’t rush.

ICE CREAM: Enough said.

TIME: Set a schedule for yourself so that you can monitor your studying alongside your daily routines. By creating a schedule, you can assure that you are designating the proper amount of time to your school work on top of any other responsibilities.

INITIATIVE: Take the initiative to get your work done. Avoid procrastination so you can assure higher quality work.

NAP: We all need a quick snooze here and there to give our busy brains a break. Set your books, laptops, and phones a side for a 30 minute nap to give yourself a break.

GUM: Studies have shown that chewing gum is a great stimulant for the brain, especially mint gum.   

 

COMMUNICATE: If you are confused by a topic or don’t understand a requirement, don’t hesitate to communicate your concerns. UNLV offers several resources (the Writing Center *wink* *wink*) that can help you with your assignments.

EAT: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so DON’T FORGET TO HAVE IT. Food is brain fuel, and you will need a ton of that to tackle all your finals.

NERD: It’s your time to release your inner nerd. Don’t hold back smarty pants!

TEAM: Team work makes the dream work, dude! Whether you get together with some classmates or a professor, working with others is great for studying.

EXERCISE: Studies have also shown that exercise is good way to relieve stress and kick-start your brain. Add a few pushups or a quick run to your schedule for the next few weeks.

REJOICE: Congrats on surviving this semester. Have a wonderful Winter break, and I’ll see ya in the New Year 😉

 

Ready, Set, Go! When Starting is the Hardest Part by Ashly Riches

posted Nov 27, 2017, 1:02 PM by Writing Center

 This semester, my classmates and I have been assigned a 12-page paper on anything to do with Jane Austen. With an open-ended prompt and a relatively long paper, it can be difficult to even decide what to write about. My conversations with classmates that even have a topic go a little like this:

                                “How’s your paper coming along?”

                                “Well, I pretty much know what I want to write about, but I just don’t know  where to start. What about you?”

                                “I have my sources and everything, but I haven’t started writing either.”

Regardless of topic or length, sometimes beginning can be the hardest part. When the time is ticking by, and you’re staring at a blank white page, review these tips:

Know your sources!

For almost every type of academic essay, you are going to need outside sources, whether they come from your anthology textbook, the library, or the internet. Become as familiar with these sources as possible.

If you have many sources, and run the risk of confusing them, develop a system of categorizing. For example, if you are writing about Jane Austen’s use of gaze and portraiture, use a pink sticky note for every good quote about gaze, and a green sticky note for every good quote about portraiture. When you begin writing, you’ll have your information color-coded and will not need to skim your sources all over again!

Begin with the facts!

If you aren’t quite sure exactly what your claims are going to be, or if you haven’t decided your position yet, begin with the information you do have. Sometimes typing out and citing your quotes can be a laborious process, especially if you have many sources. Try to frame your paper with the solid information you have from your sources, and then continue writing from there.

Rough drafts are your friends!

Remember that nothing can be accomplished in one sitting. Don’t be afraid to just start writing – in the middle, at the end, wherever! This content may not be included in the final draft, but pouring your thoughts out onto the page can be a good impetus for writing. Remember to restructure and revise once you’ve gotten everything out!

Create an Outline!

Outlines can help us to develop our ideas and our main points. This strategy takes a lot of the pressure off, since it does not need to sound good or be well-written; the only purpose of the outline is to establish the structure of your paper. Once this is done, you can begin to flesh out the ideas and will be well on your way to a completed paper!

Brainstorm!

This tip requires zero distractions – brainstorming is not effective if you’re doing it while scrolling through Tumblr. Really focus on your topic, generate ideas, and don’t be afraid to throw out most of them until you get to your idea. If you work well with Socratic dialogue, come to the Writing Center, we love brainstorming!

               

Most importantly, learn your own writing habits! Each of us have our own trick for starting a paper effectively, but hopefully one or all of these five will help you begin!

1-10 of 74