Monday, October 25, 2010

Constructing a CV (or résumé)

With the end of the semester and December graduation right around the corner, many students are looking toward the future and are applying to graduate programs of jobs in their respective fields of study. One way to help improve your chances of getting into graduate school or landing a job right after college is to have a polished Curriculum Vitae (CV) or résumé. If you are not graduating, DO NOT STOP READING! It is never too soon to write a CV and keep it on file because you never know when an opportunity for a job or internship may arise.

So what is a CV? A CV is a type of résumé that is specifically geared toward academic achievements but also contains relevant work history and awards.

Here is how to start:

First, start with a heading at the top of the page that includes your full name, making sure it stands out to the reader. After all, the CV is about YOU!! Follow your name with a permanent address, local school address (if you want to give it), telephone number, and e-mail address (make sure the e-mail address is professional and avoid using the one you made in high school, like "pinkgurl34" or "BBallstar45").

Below your contact information comes your educational background. You may start with your high school, if you wish, and then include each higher education institution you attended in chronological order. Be sure to list any degrees or professional certificates awarded by each school. If you have not graduated yet, list the date of your anticipated graduation. Finally, list your major(s), minor(s), or any areas of concentration.

Now the following content areas can be tailored to fit your specific needs. If you are applying for a job in teaching or for grad school in education, think about starting with teaching history. Or, if you are applying for grad school in an area of science, you may want to start with your research background. Be sure to include Relevant Work Experience (paid or unpaid), Research Positions, Clinical Experience, Publications, and Poster Presentations (Your senior capstone could go here!). Be sure to give the date of each position, as well as a description of each and the name of your supervisor.

Next, list any awards or honors you have achieved, including Dean's list, honoraries, or academic enrichment awards. Avoid anything from high school unless you were valedictorian or received a major recognition like being named a National Merit Scholar.

Finally, list any memberships in professional organizations, but use caution listing social fraternities since they typically do not have a direct link to your educational background, and prospective grad schools or employers may have a bad connotation with them.

WHEW!! That was a lot, but there is still more work to ensure a CV stands out. You MUST proofread it and have your friends, coworkers, mentors, or professors also proofread it for careless mistakes you may have missed. Also, use a professional font. Do not use Cosmic Sans, Impact, or Curled, and stick to a font size of 12. You may, of course, use boldfaced for your name, italics for dates, or underlines for section headings. Last, but not least, use white or off-white paper; this is not the time for fancy stationary.

So, not too bad...right? Don't fret if your CV is not very long. Most undergraduate students only have one page of relevant information. Remember, just keep adding to it as you go, and it will be a vital document that will follow you around for the rest of your career.

For more information on writing a CV or résumé, visit everyone's favorite writing resource, the Purdue OWL at

Keith-Spiegel, P., and M.W. Widermen. The Complete Guide to Graduate School Admission. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC, 2000, Print.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Take a Break...Creatively!

We all know it. We met it in middle school or high school. It was drilled into our psyche and we dreamed of it in our sleep. Here at the Writing Center, we live and breathe it. We know it by heart and we can rattle it off at any moment’s notice. It’s The Five-Paragraph Essay. Introduction. First, second, and third body paragraphs. Conclusion. We’ve scratched our heads as they explain it: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them.” We find ourselves speaking in mini-five paragraph essays. “Well, I have three things to say about that, but before I start, let me tell you my main point…” STOP!

Sure, the five-paragraph essay format can be a helpful way to organize information, and many professors require that assignments follow such a format. And that’s okay. Do you ever feel stifled, though? Ever need a break from the same old structure? Or maybe you just want to breathe some life into your dusty old essay – the one you’ve been working on since three weeks ago, that you used to be jazzed about but that now is about as exciting as a wool sweater in July.

Don’t worry; there is hope in the world of creative writing. You don’t have to think of yourself as a creative writer to follow this advice. Here are some quick, easy exercises to stimulate your creative side, from Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer.

Spend five minutes listing:
• Fifty phrases that would make good titles for a short story.
• Fifty interesting settings for stories.
• A strange experience in a car.
• An unmerited award.
• A good deed that backfires.
• Verbs that have to do with the ocean.
• Nouns and verbs that have to do with your home landscape.

If you have a little more time on your hands, try some of Johnston’s longer exercises:

Spend ten minutes describing:
• Your boss’s shoes.
• Your boss’s hairstyle.
• The interior of your boss’s car.
• Why you should move someplace else.
• Why you’re living exactly where you should be living.

Spend twenty minutes writing a scene that involves:
• An airport baggage claim.
• A character who steals a pair of fingernail clippers.
• An e-mail sent to the wrong person.
• An adult child trying to convince his or her fifty-something mother not to adopt a baby.

In conclusion (relax, folks – that’s a joke), creative writing is good for you. The next time you are burned out on writing and need a break, do exactly what you don’t want to do: write some more. But write creatively! You’ll be much more prepared to tackle the last paragraph of your five-paragraph essay, and hopefully some of those creative juices will carry over into your everyday writing.

Happy writing!

Johnston, Bret Anthony. Naming the World: and Other Exercises for the Creative Writer. New York: Random House, 2007. Print.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Using Deadlines to Your Full Advantage

So….it’s Friday morning and you’ve just been given the prompt for your first major writing assignment. It’s due one week from today. You may as well just toss it aside until next Thursday night. I mean…the weekend is approaching, who wants to begin writing a paper anyway?

Everyone has been guilty of the age-old practice of procrastination. This is especially true when stacking 4 or 5 other classes worth of workload onto your already hectic schedule. When placed under the very burdensome and stressful lifestyle that college brings to the plate, students generally focus on their short term writing assignments and otherwise neglect deadlines that are due weeks in advance. In actuality, if a professor gives weeks to complete an assignment, it isn’t because he or she is being courteous, it’s because the assignment should be given sufficient time for research, revisions, etc.!

So, you’ve finally decided to plan ahead and use the next week to your full advantage. What steps should you take when completing a writing assignment due one week from today? Many students use very different methods when planning out their assignments, personal preference is essential. However, taking myself into consideration, I grab my assignment prompt, find a computer, and type away. Think of it as capturing a stream of consciousness and placing it onto paper. Type whatever comes to mind, ignoring grammatical errors (for now). Obviously this technique will produce a rather rough sketch, but the point of this exercise is to get the majority of your content onto paper.

Writing an argumentative research paper on foreign policy? Without hesitating, picture how you want to form your argument. What is your claim? Do you have supporting evidence for that claim? Go ahead and type whatever comes to mind. Once you get a rough idea of the logical structure of your argument, a natural organization will begin to form. Self dialogue may even ensue: “Ok, this is my stated claim. I’ll place this at the end of my introduction…and the rest of these statements will each act as a premise supporting my thesis….I better go ahead and make each premise a topic sentence for the remaining paragraphs within the body of my paper.” Once you get the content down and recorded, you will have more than enough time for sentence refinement and organizational restructuring. This strategy is mainly advantageous when students have a rough time starting their paper.

I have one last suggestion that is not often taken into consideration. Being that you have a week to prepare, I cannot more than stress the importance of meeting with your professor during his or her scheduled office hours. Make an appointment if you have to. Professors enjoy working with students who take a very active role in their assignments. This is an important step for more than one reason alone. It would be wise to verify that you are following the writing prompt accurately, your professor may offer to check over your rough draft, or even make suggestions you hadn’t even considered!

How to Manage Multiple Sources

When writing an essay that includes a lot of research, it’s hard to keep all of the information straight! Here’s an easy way to save time and stay organized when writing that I learned from my English 102 professor, James Holsinger; I like to call it “The Note Card Method.”

While doing your research, write down each summary, paraphrase, direct quotation, and citation (as it will appear on the Works Cited Page, i.e. in MLA, APA, or other format) on separate note cards. It helps to color-code (i.e. black ink for summary, blue for paraphrase, green for direct quote, and red for citation) and/or to label at the top of the card what sort of material it is (i.e. “Summary,” “Direct Quote,” etc). Be sure to put the page number—if there is one—on which you found the information at the bottom of the note card; this will save you time with your in-text citations.

Label each card with a source number. For example, if you have a summary and direct quotation from a certain textbook, label the summary card, direct quotation card, and citation card with number 1 in one of the top corners. For all material from the next source, label with number 2, for all material from the next source, label with number 3, etc.

Put your citation cards in the order that it will appear on your Works Cited page, and simply type it out. Your Works Cited page is done!

Next, it’s time to organize the information you found. Look at all of your materials: summaries, paraphrases, and direct quotations. Group cards of similar topics together; these will go together in paragraphs of your essay. Decide in what order to present these topics, and put the groups of cards in that order.

Now, all you have to do is fill in with your own writing! You already have the information from your sources in the correct order, and since they’re numbered by source, in-text citation will be fast and easy.

I hope this technique helps you as much as it’s helped me! Good luck with your research papers!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Personal Statement Workshop

Yes, it is that time of the year again: pumpkin spice lattes, a canvas of stained glass leaves as you walk to school, and applying to graduate or professional schools. To welcome in the season here at the WVU Writing Center, we have brought out our usual fall decorations, and we will be holding our annual Personal Statement Workshop on October 19th at 5pm in G02 Colson.

The workshop will begin with a short presentation from Dr. Catherine Gouge, a professor of Professional Writing and Editing in the English department and 2009 winner of the West Virginia University Foundation Outstanding Teacher Award. Her presentation will be followed by a workshop where students can generate ideas and get feedback on current personal statement drafts. Students are encouraged to come regardless of where they are in the drafting process, which includes brainstorming. The workshop is open for all WVU students applying to any program that requires a personal statement.

Because space is limited, interested students are encouraged to contact Ben Myers at as soon as possible.

Monday, October 4, 2010

"Where Do I Even Start?"

As I sat down at my laptop ready to create a blog post about writing interesting introductions, I found myself unable to figure out how I was going to begin. How should I introduce a blog about introductions? This very problem has not only been an issue for me when writing papers, but seems to be a common trend among students. At the Writing Center, students bring in great ideas and bodies to their essays, but a lot of the time cannot come up with a way to start their compositions. In this blog post, I will discuss how you can keep a teacher or a reader enticed and interested in your paper, pulling them in and grabbing their attentions.

Have you ever began your introductory paragraph with a question? Asking a question at the beginning of a paper that relates to your topic of discussion will make the reader feel involved in your piece. These questions could be in the form of a "yes" or "no" answer, or they could be more in depth yielding a longer response. Try to stay away from questions that deal with opinion if you are writing an analytical or professional paper, but rather a question that makes the reader active and interested in your ideas.

"Writing is thinking on paper," William Zinsser, an American writer, once said. When you are trying to think about how to begin your essay, try using a meaningful quotation. If your quotation relates to your argument or discussion that will follow, you are successfully introducing readers to this topic and giving them a glimpse of what is ahead. These quotes can be shocking, funny or of any tone, but just be sure to cite your source as well.

As I did in the beginning of the blog post, using a scenario can be an amusing manner in which to begin an assignment. Scenarios could be personal or general depending on the genre of paper being written but should have significance dealing with the rest of your paper. If you decide to use a scenario, keep it brief and down to a sentence or two so that your reader does not get tired of reading.

No matter what type of introduction you plan on using, there are three points to remember. First, always describe to your reader what you will be discussing. Second, be concise but compelling to gain interest. And lastly, AVOID DEFINITIONS AT ALL COSTS. Dictionary introductions can be very boring, think of a more creative way to start. So the next time you ask yourself, "Where do I even start?" remember these helpful hints and you will be well on your way.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

All Done?! Not Quite. Works Cited Made Easy

So now you’re done! Your paper is finished and that’s all right? Not quite. At the end of every research paper, you need to have a Reference Page, or most commonly known as a Works Cited Page. This can sometimes be one of the most confusing areas of the paper because you have to pull all your sources together and site each reference correctly. But if you follow this simple template, you’ll have no problem! Your Easy Writer book , which shows both MLA and APA format, is a great resource, as well as MLA handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th edition), and The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University ( are also great sources for your citing needs.

Let’s start out with MLA format for the most commonly used resources.


Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Place of Publication, Year of Publication.
Medium of Publication.

Weinstien, Bruce. The Ultimate Ice Cream Book: Over 500 Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, Drinks, And More. New York:
Harper Collins, 1999. Print.


Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Journal. Volume. Issue (Year): pages. Medium of publication.

C.N., Heaney, S.T.C. Weatherup, and I.G. Wilson. “The Effect of Ice-Cream-Scoop Water on the Hygiene of Ice Cream.”
Epidemiology and Infection 119.1 (1997): 35-40. Print.


Editor, Author, or Compiler Name (if available.) Name of Site. Version number. Name of institution/organization affiliated with
the site (sponsor of publisher), date of resource creation (if available). Medium of publication. Date of access.

Dreyer’s Ice Cream. Nestlé Corporation, 2009. Web. 14 Apr. 2010.


Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Newspaper. Day Month Year: pages. Medium of publication.

Lowman, Stephan. “Ever Wondered Why Ice Cream Melts?” Washington Post. 29 June 2009: C10. Print.

Last Name, First Name. Personal Interview. Date Month Abbreviated Year.

Erekaife, Godwin. Personal Interview, 14 Apr. 2010.

*** Few things to remember:
1. Always alphabetize authors last names when citing multiple authors
2. Always alphabetize your cites by the first authors last names
3. Follow the format period for period, comma to comma and you’re good to go!

Now let’s move on to some APA Formats which most commonly uses journal articles. These are most commonly used in the medical field, or specific science research, because they hold some of the most up-to-date information, which is vital in any research paper of proposition.

Last Name, First and Middle initials (if given). Publication Year. Full Article Title (only the first word is capitalized). Journal
Name. Journal Volume, Article Page Numbers.

Gladders, P.J. (1965). Dangerous ice-cream vans. The British Medical Journal, 1, 129.

**** It is the same format for when you are using multiple authors, just remember to alphabetize their LAST names when listing.

Hope this helps you all get those Works Cited pages done! Remember that if you need any help just come down to the Writing Center where a tutor can assist you! Good Luck!

Five Helpful Reminders for Our First Timers

Have you never been to the Writing Center and decided that it’s time to stop in to be tutored? If so, don’t be nervous or anxious about it because we’ve compiled five helpful reminders for students to think about before coming into their first session.

Bring all relevant material.
While it’s pretty obvious that you should bring the most recent draft of your paper, it’s a really good idea to bring any earlier drafts too, especially ones with your teacher’s comments. Since we are here to help you, it’s good to give your tutor an idea of the things that your teacher looks for in a good paper. In addition, bringing the prompt can be of further assistance. Even if you know what the prompt is about, the tutor probably will not, and it can show exactly how a teacher expects to grade the paper.

Think of any questions or concerns about the paper.
When you first sit down for a session, one of the first things that your tutor will ask is if you want to work on anything specific within your paper. Though it’s fine to come in for some general help, speaking up about a special concern can give your tutor directions on where to take the session. Higher order concerns like organization, forming your thesis statement, and working on the introduction, body or conclusion should be spoken about first. Then, lower order concerns like citation and grammar can take the focus. Also, speaking up helps spawn more conversation about the paper, allowing you to make the most of your session.

3) Don’t be nervous about coming in and sharing your work.
Even though everyone can feel a little uneasy about putting their words out there for another person to see, you shouldn’t be scared about coming in for a tutoring session. All of our tutors have been in your shoes before and all of us are students just like you. We have even been to the Writing Center to be tutored ourselves. No one is here to judge your work; we’re here to help you improve your own work.

4) Walk in for a session or call ahead for an appointment.
Anytime during our hours is the perfect time for a walk-in session. Simply, come in and as long as a tutor is available we can start working right then. However, if you have a busy schedule and limited free time, making a session in advance is probably a good plan. Calling in a day or two in advance to make your appointment allows an ample amount of time.

Keep in mind our busiest time of the semester: dead week.
Because we all like to use the anxiety of a deadline for motivation, our tutors get booked up full of sessions very quickly during the last week of classes, and sadly, some students hoping for a walk-in session may get turned away. To ensure you get an appointment, it’s always a great idea to call in a day or two in advance to secure a time. Also, although it goes without saying, procrastinating is never the best way to polish a paper, so if you want to finish your portfolio, the best plan would be to come in a few weeks before the end of the semester.

Hopefully these hints have cleared some of the concerns and anxiety you may have had about the Writing Center. Now, you can come prepared to make the most of your first hour of tutoring.

Friday, October 1, 2010

WVU Writing Center Tutor Applications Now Being Accepted

Students of every major are encouraged to apply for tutor intern positions beginning Spring Semester 2011. As part of their training, interns take a three-credit, one semester practicum course (English 490) and tutor 2-3 hours a week at the center. English 490 meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:00pm - 5:15pm. Once interns complete the one semester training course, they are eligible to work up to ten hours a week as paid tutors.

  • Currently enrolled as a WVU undergraduate
  • Ability to work with students from diverse backgrounds
  • Strong oral and written communication skills
  • Completion of English 101 and 102 (or their equivalent) with an A. If you are presently enrolled in English 102 or 103 you are welcome to apply.

Applications are available in the Writing Center (located in G02 Colson Hall), or you may request that an application be e-mailed to you (

Please e-mail completed applications to Dr. Singh-Corcoran (Word, RTF, or PDF) or submit application materials by October 25th to:

Nathalie Singh-Corcoran
Coordinator, WVU Writing Center
English Department
Colson Hall