Friday, September 27, 2013

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Monday, April 8, 2013

MAWCA Conference

          This past weekend, several members of the WVU Writing Center attended the annual Mid-Atlantic Writing Center Association (MAWCA) conference at California University of Pennsylvania.  The theme of the conference was “Writing Centers in 3D.” This metaphor was used to describe the importance of viewing the writing center space through three dimensions: theory, practice, and research.  The MAWCA conference enabled us to interact with other writing center staff and share strategies, as well as discuss ways to improve our centers.

While there, we participated in a few workshops, along with leading a presentation in the form of a board game entitled, “Snakes and Ladders,” through which we discussed how to overcome potentially uncomfortable tutoring situations.  I attended workshops on many wide-ranging topics, such as students self-identifying as “bad writers,” using mnemonics as tutoring devices, online tutoring, studying Daoist principles in tutoring style, and better serving ESL students.  These topics allowed me to identify fresh tactics that seemed to work really well for other tutors that I will hopefully be able to utilize as well.

The keynote speaker, Associate Professor of English and Writing Program Director of Mississippi College Kerri Jordan, focused heavily on the overall theme of the conference.  She stressed the importance of not relying too much on theory and practice while letting research fall to the wayside.  MAWCA highlighted undergraduate research, and Dr. Jordan made sure to encourage the students in the room to recognize areas in need of improvement at their centers and take steps to solve them.

Overall, the MAWCA conference was a great way to exchange ideas that are ingrained into us but may provide a brand new perspective to somebody else.  This active flow of ideas helps ensure that the practice in our writing centers doesn’t become stagnant, but rather they evolve to fit expanding knowledge.  At the same time, the call for new undergraduate research from writing center tutors provided much motivation for us tutors to enthusiastically participate in improving the day-to-day practices of our respective writing centers and the writing center community at large.  Plus the luncheon was delicious!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Home Stretch Struggle

One thought pervading many people's minds, as spring break has sorrowfully departed us and summer break looms in the far, unrecognizable distance, is that these weeks remaining in the semester will be nearly impossible to overcome without breaking one's spirit or overburdening one's mind. I also feel like a seasick passenger on that boat destined for summer break, but a reminder that goes for myself as well as others sharing those sentiments is to keep sight of the tasks at hand and stay positive. I suppose on a boat that would translate to not throwing up, but for academic pursuits that would translate to balancing studying for exams with taking time to relax.  Even though this advice sounds like a broken record, it often doesn't break through the mental noise and fatigue that plague many at this time and during finals.

Those symptoms are often experienced during the brainstorming, composing, and revising processes of writing, as final portfolios take the same amount of time, dedication, and patience needed for exams. The bottom line for all academic undertakings is to not let those symptoms of mental noise and fatigue get the best of you, as the stress and anxiety you feel in these remaining weeks will be a vague memory months from now, while the balance of hard work and down time will culminate in (hopefully great) final grades.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Make the Ending a “Happily Ever After”

Believe it or not, the rest of the semester is about to fly by. With Spring Break in just over a week, the rest of the semester will be filled with projects, papers, and studying for finals, of course. So, of course, the most important thing is to end the year strong. No one wants to reach summer vacation only to be haunted by the preceding school year.
You can think of your writing in the same way. Many people have trouble with strong conclusions. Something about ending a paper simply terrifies some people. You may get to the final few body paragraphs and get research-paper-itis. You may feel as though you could not possibly write another word! However, the conclusion is where you make your lasting impression. Whether it is for a narrative, personal statement, or research paper, you want a shining ending.
While there is, unfortunately, no set formula for the perfect conclusion, there are several things to consider when constructing one.
      Your conclusion should give your work a sense of completeness. Think of J.K. Rowling’s famous final sentence to the Harry Potter series: “All was well.” This gives the reader a sense of peace. (Imagine if the last thing you read was that Harry still had one horcrux left to find!) Read through your paper as though you have never seen the subject before. Have you left the reader feeling complete, or does it seem like it could go into a new section? Make sure all loose ends are tied by the conclusion.
       Emphasize the “selling factor” of your paper. Don’t repeat what you said, just finalize the sale. Especially for a paper with several pieces of evidence supporting it, you will want to create the big picture and use the sum of all parts to make the ideas even more meaningful as a whole.

·         Answer the question “so what?” Why does your paper matter? Show the importance to your reader.

·         Return to your introduction. If you return to the theme of the introduction, the conclusion will feel more integrated into the story. Any story, question, quote, etc. that you mention in your introduction could be referenced in your conclusion.

·         Don’t feel the need to use “in conclusion,” or anything similar to that phrase. The reader will understand that this is your conclusion without having to tell them.

·         Do not add any new information that would be suited for the body of your paper. Any support or evidence needs to happen before this point. The more you stray from what was already said in the paper, the less likely the reader will feel that your argument is complete.

Just like in the case of finishing out a wonderful school year, hard work on the ending of a paper will pay off. Commit some time to your conclusions. Remember, this is the last thing that will be read, and will determine much of someone’s attitude for your work!

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Time to address that nasty word we've all heard before but don't care to befriend--plagiarism!  We all know it's bad for us and our writing, but often while working with a student I'll receive a variety of the same basic statement: I don't understand why. Going a bit further, the issue seems to lie in the idea that because we're already citing an author or two (and our professor knows that we are), why do we need to work so hard to rephrase what they're saying?  Let's avoid the simplified answer of "it'll get you in trouble" and go with the more eloquent, longer story behind the big deal.
Basically, plagiarism is taking someone else's information and substituting it for your own, but it can by some definitions also include language and ideas.This not only has tremendous copyright implications, but it completely undermines the whole reason you chose to come to college in the first place.  We all know this part too--what are you learning if you're plagiarizing?  But let's try to expand on that idea a little. When forced to put something into your own words, in a way that truly makes sense to you because you are the one who put the idea together, you become aware that you've truly learned something  If you can convey your information back to your reader, audience, or even just the blank screen on your computer, you're the one creating those thoughts and you're the one relaying the information, making the argument, or whatever the purpose of your writing may be. This has a sort of power about it--not only can you quote someone about economic development models, you can explain it to them in a way that is probably easier to understand than what your textbook has to say about the very same topic.  You'll find this basic understanding of what's going on in the reading is what needs to be conveyed in your writing, and it's the same understanding that'll stick with you long after the class is over.  

How does one do this, though?  Well, it's actually pretty easy, and follows the same way you may already be studying for exams or quizzes.  Even after nine semesters of writing essays I still find these two basic study tips tremendously helpful in writing an essay I'm just not sure about.  It can be done in two basic steps: 
  1. Familiarize yourself with the subject matter--this is probably the hardest one. Maybe you only need to read the chapter once to get it, or maybe you need to re-read some parts of it two or three times for it to really make sense, and that's okay.  Take as much time as you need to get through everything, and take some notes if you need to.  (I find they help spectacularly.)  The most important thing here is that you feel comfortable with the material.
  2. Now, put your books away, close out your ECampus tabs, and shut your notebook.  Tear out a clear piece of paper and jot down the main ideas behind what you need to convey in your own words.  The key here is to make your point without looking directly at your sources as you do so. It may be easier for you to say it out loud, so if you can find a roommate who will listen, try to teach it to them.  If not, try the dog or even just your (closed) notebook.  
You'll find after doing this last step that you really do know the material well and you're ready to write your paper; you may find the opposite to be true, however.  You stalled a bit when it came to a particular theory, or you couldn't think of a particular word you wanted to be using. These things aren't meant to be discouraging, but will just highlight what you need to focus on when you go back to write that part of the essay. Just as you would studying for an exam, you can use this method to work out what you need to focus on when writing your essay.  

When dealing with plagiarism, we're not just worrying over getting in trouble with the professor, but mostly with what is actually being learned in the process of writing, and that's the most important part of these writing assignments.  Your professor doesn't just want to torture you with another writing assignment, but wants you to demonstrate that you've learned something and can convey it back in an original, meaningful way. Keep this in mind while writing your next paper, and good luck! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Most conventions in English have exceptions. One such convention is a phrase you’ve probably heard in some English class, whether it was in middle school or college. “Write the way you speak.” When we’re talking, we never consciously decide, “Oh, I’ll put a period here. This is where the paragraph of this speech ends. I need a comma here.” But in writing, we do need to consciously decide where to put punctuation marks.

Because the reader is reading your words on a page, and not listening to them, they don’t know where you’re pausing or taking a breath. The periods and commas stand in place of these breaks and help them navigate your words. You might have a long sentence that you believe is necessary to keep together because the ideas all depend on each other. However, when writing, it helps to break up those ideas a little more and use transition words to show the relationship between the now separate sentences. 

“I believe this candidate is the best for this position because she likes chocolate. (Furthermore, Also, or Moreover), she helps those in need by listening to them and cares for animals in her free time.” 

You could combine all of those three traits into one sentence, but it might be a lot for your reader to keep up with. If your reader is your professor, you definitely want to make their job as easy as possible, because then you’ll get a better grade for helping them through their reading experience.

Although long sentences have a place in your writing, when sentences get too long, your reader can get lost. We have the ability to make infinitely long sentences with more and more clauses. But in both speaking and writing, we usually don’t. The purpose of writing is to communicate ideas, and short sentences seem to help us communicate better. So when you’re writing, try to distance yourself from your writing. Is this sentence long? Is there a way someone could get lost or confused? If you don’t want your reader to need to put in a lot of effort to understand your point, it’s best to just break it up just in case.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

5 Simple Steps for Achieving Your Goal

It’s February now and if you’re anything like me, all those New Year resolutions you made with the best of intentions have been long forgotten. At this point in the semester, you probably have a decent idea of where you stand in your various classes. Every semester there’s one class that takes much more effort than your other classes. If you’re worried about your grade in any class, it’s important to remember that it’s not too late for you to turn things around! Just follow these 5 simple steps and you’ll likely end up with a better outcome than you expect!

Step 1: Recommit yourself
Think of how hopeful you felt at the beginning of the new year. There’s still plenty of time to accomplish your goals. Recapture your motivation by visualizing yourself achieving your goal. I know it sounds cheesy, but picturing an “A” on your next paper or exam can do wonders for your confidence and enthusiasm!

Step 2: Start making things happen
Make an appointment with your professor during his or her office hours. Professors are busy people. That’s why it’s important to make an appointment so that they can fully dedicate that time to speaking with you. Furthermore, by making to effort to schedule an appointment, you’re demonstrating to your professor that you are invested in the class. Make sure you show up early or on time. Come prepared with questions you have or concerns you need to voice. You can even ask for extra credit opportunities, but remember, extra credit is not something given often. Even if you don’t get the chance for extra credit, your professor will likely remember that you showed initiative and were invested in the class when it comes time to record grades.

Step 3: Get organized
Organization often helps you complete a task with greater ease, so I recommend using a planner if you don’t already have one; you can purchase one for a minimal cost at several stores or download a free application on your smart phone. Once you know what you have to do and when you have to do it, accomplishing tasks becomes manageable.

Step 4: Get to work!
This is the most important part of the process! Remember how you showed your teacher that you care about the class in Step 2? It’s easy to have good intentions but now you have to prove to your teacher that you can follow through. If you used to spend an hour reading for class, set aside two hours. Really engage with the text by reading, rereading, and taking notes. If it used to take you two days to write a paper for the class, give yourself four days. Go through your normal writing process then go back to your paper and reread it with the mindset that you don’t know anything about the topic. By using this perspective, you can see where you might need to add information, explain something more clearly, or even delete superfluous information. It may seem like you have to do a lot more work but it will pay off if you truly apply yourself.

Step 5: Seek help if you need it
If you took more time with your work but got an undesirable outcome nonetheless, it might be time to get some outside help. WVU provides FREE tutoring through the Academic Resource Centers, as well as through department-sponsored programs, such as the Chemistry Learning Center, Engineering Learning Center, Math Learning Center, WVU Libraries Term Paper Clinic, and of course, the Writing Center. Sometimes, all you need is a different perspective, which is why getting tutored can be extremely helpful. Also, when the help is free, it is seems sort of silly not to take advantage of such a great opportunity!

Now that you know my secrets for achieving a goal, use them! It’s never too late to start, so really apply yourself and you’ll accomplish great things!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Alliteration Antics

Although an abbreviated alliteration affects an admirer amiably, an abundance of alliterations almost always abuses and annoys an audience. Almost all are averse to abolishing alliterations altogether. Assortments of alliterations aren't abnormal and are additionally advantageous to an author. Admittedly, an amplitude of alliterations is awe-inspiring and almost always astonishing. After all an assignment of all alliterations is awfully arduous. Accordingly, any avocation in an akin arrangement is almost always for amusement and not academia.

Avast! As aforementioned, abdicate ample adoptions of alliterations and in addition, allot at most an arbitrary application. Avoid abhorrent and anticlimactic associations. Audacious and aberrant assertions ought to be attested and abated. Above all, assess all alliterations as an antecedent action.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Warm Up Drills

Feeling pretty cold this week? I know I am. It's only the second week of school, and I'm already dreading classes--not because of the coursework, but because of the time spent outdoors to get to said classes! The temperature has been pretty close to zero this week, and, consequently, so has my tolerance for these drastic weather changes. Living in Morgantown, though, this weather is just something we have to accept. There's nothing we can do about it. The cold is going to come--we just have to be prepared to face it!

Similar to this cold weather, writing assignments are also inevitable with the start of a new semester, and, again like this cold weather, we just have to deal with it.

Like all skills, writing requires practice. After a month off from school, during which there was no required writing, we might experience a little bit of stiffness when starting to write again. The reason is simple: our writing muscles are cold! In order to get back to the proficiency we had prior to Christmas break, some warm up exercises are drastically needed.

One warm up we can do to loosen up our writing muscles is to choose an event from Christmas break and write about it. For example, I might want to write a brief, reflective piece about my New Years. I could start by writing about the delicious steaks I cooked for dinner, and then I could write about how my boyfriend and I watched The Tigger Movie until 11:30 and then drank some champagne as we watched the ball drop in Times Square from the comfort and warmth of his apartment. Then, I could write about the next day and how ridiculously delicious my parents' wedding soup is. I could also write about how I almost had enough tickets to purchase a toaster at Dave & Buster's later that evening. Anyway, just writing about an event is a good exercise that will definitely warm up our writing muscles and bring us a step closer to composing some good academic writing during the next couple weeks.

Another warm up we can do is brainstorm. If you have a writing assignment already and you aren't quite sure where to start, brainstorming is always a great starting point. All you need to do is take a blank sheet of paper and write down your subject in the middle. To make it stand out a bit, try to write your subject a little bigger than you normally write or simply draw a circle around it. Let's pretend your subject is gun control. JUST KIDDING! Let's pretend your subject is puppies! Next, write down everything you know about puppies: cute; cuddly; fluffy; adorable; small; playful; biters; lickers; snugglers; squeaky; loving; lovable; man's best friend; etc. Okay, I know you probably won't be writing any papers on puppies, but anything to get the juices moving in both your hand and in your brain is helpful and effective!

This last warm up suggestion doesn't involve physical writing at all, but mental writing. If you have a writing assignment and you haven't had the time to sit down and physically write or type anything out, just taking the time to think critically about your subject before writing anything is very helpful. If you don't put any thought into it before you sit down to write, you aren't going to get very far. So, when you're walking to and from class in this crazy weather, try to keep your mind off the cold by deeply focusing on your writing topic. If any good ideas come to mind, make sure to jot them down on a piece of paper or in your phone!

That's all I got. Stay warm, everybody, and don't forget to do some writing warm ups before your first writing assignment is due!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Confidence: Mad Lib Edition

1. noun
2. adjective
3. plural noun
4. plural noun
5. adverb
6. verb
7. verb
8. noun that begins with a vowel
9. plural noun
10. number

Confidence: Mad Lib Edition

When writing, it is easy to lose your (1. noun). Writing is (2. adjective)! From finding (3. plural noun) to attempting to convey your ideas, you can often become discouraged. As a tutor who often works with discouraged (4. plural noun) (and as a student who also finds herself (5. adverb) in that state), I have attempted to create a guide to work through one of the most difficult aspects of writing: loss of confidence.

1. Take care of yourself; shower, (6. verb), drink water and eat healthy. When you take care of your body, you will feel more relaxed.

2. Return with a positive attitude and (7. verb) a smile! Faking a smile can "can raise endorphin levels in your body and trick your brain into thinking your mood has improved" ("Truth or Myth: Making Yourself Smile Improves Your Mood," 2012).

3. Make an (8. noun that begins with a vowel) at the Carruth Center. Though therapy appointments have a stigma associated with them, mental health is as important as physical health. Visit or call (304) 293-4411 to schedule an appointment with trained (9. plural noun) who will work to help you.

4. Make an appointment at the WVU Writing Center. Though our primary role is to help you become better writers, our secondary roles include working to help you navigate the stresses of difficult classes and their respective papers. You can schedule an appointment at G02 Colson Hall, call 304-293-5788 or schedule online through

Whether you complete one of these steps or (10. number) of them, you will be on your way to more confidence, less stress and a much healthier mind!

 Blog original answers:
1. confidence

2. tough
3. research
4. students
5. commonly
6. exercise
7. force
8. appointment
9. professionals
10. all


"Truth or myth: Making yourself smile improves your mood." (2012). P&G Everyday.
     Retrieved 7 Dec., 2012, from

This blog post has been cited using APA.