Thursday, December 22, 2005

Thesis Development Alex Trebeck Style

“Thesis Writing” for $200, please Alex.
Writers use various methods to develop their thesis statements. Maybe you’re one of the many writers who don’t arrive at a final thesis until after you’ve completed most of the paper. Often, you will have done background research, written some or most of the paper, and still be searching for the thesis to tie it all together. You have the answer(s), but may require a question to determine what the main point of the paper is. To determine the thesis for the paper, ask “What is this paper about?” The thesis statement is probably within your answer. In a way, thesis development is like the game show Jeopardy, where contestants are given the answers to the questions and must then provide the question.

For instance, imagine you are writing a paper on the benefits of libraries. During your research you may have come across information highlighting the kinds of information available in libraries.
Your main topics might be:
(1) information available through databases supplied by the library
(2) information available in the book collections in a library
(3) information available in the periodical collections of libraries
Ask a question like this: “What is common between all of the points I make about information and libraries?”
Next, turn your question into a statement that answers the question.
Your answer could be that libraries provide information in various forms for people to access. It is the multi-dimensional aspects libraries that may develop into your thesis statement.
An example thesis statement could be:
“Libraries provide access to information in the forms of databases, books and periodicals.”
This thesis makes a statement and encompasses all of the main topics in the paper.

“Assessing the Primary Points of the Paper and Drawing Connections” for $400, Alex.
A thesis statement can be thought of as drawing a connection between two or more things or concepts that would otherwise not be naturally connected. Or, you may be highlighting the connection that is naturally there, but not usually observed. If you were writing a paper on the negative effects of smoking cigarettes you could first make points about the negative effects:
(1) can lead to lung cancer
(2) can lead to emphysema
(3) is unhealthy to those around smokers.
Ask a question like: What do these three points have in common?
Your answer might focus on the negative effects smoking has on health
A thesis statement could then be formed:
“Smoking is hazardous to the health of the smoker as well as to the health of anyone who is around a smoker.”
Final Jeopardy: “What is using questions to form a thesis.”


Monday, December 19, 2005

Post-Exam Blues: Improve your future test results by learning from your mistakes and your successes

Sometimes I’ve been disappointed when I got poor or lower-than-expected marks on exams, even though I thought I understood the course material. In these situations, I’ve also felt frustrated because I thought that I’d wasted my time and energy preparing for this test. After the exam is over and the marks are posted, is there anything students can do to redeem a bad exam experience? And what can we do after a successful exam to make sure we match this success on future tests? By the time we get marks back after an exam, we may be sick and tired of looking at the material from that course. If we got a mark that was less than satisfactory we may avoid looking at a past exam because we feel bad about the grade. But, writing exams is not just about marks. Assessing exam performance is an important step in our learning process. Just as important, exams are a fact of student life. Students will find themselves going through the exam process on a regular basis. Having a “post-exam” system to follow is one of the secrets to student success.

Looking at marked exams offers both immediate and long-term benefits. You can use returned tests or exams to learn about how the instructor constructs exams.
• What patterns do you see in types of questions asked?
• Do the test questions put more emphasis on lecture or text notes?
• What does the marked test reveal about grading patterns?
Answering these questions can help you prepare more effectively for the next test or final exam in the course. Final exams also offer useful information about your skills.
• Which study and test-taking strategies were most successful?
• Which ones need improvement?
You may even use an analysis of your test-taking skills to influence course choices in the future.
• Which courses, or specific course sections, use testing methods that match my skills?
With multiple choice exams, students are often allowed to take the question sheets with them when they leave an exam. After an exam, you can compare your answer sheets to the correct answers posted by the instructor. If essay exams are not returned, you can request to see your marked exam and evaluate your strengths as well as where you need to improve.1

So, next time you get a test or exam returned to you, remember you’re not done with it yet! It’s also important to look at what you did that worked. Don’t miss this important opportunity to evaluate your study and test-taking habits, and to help you prepare for the next exam. And, don't forget the LAC! LAC tutors would be more than happy to sit down with you post-test and help you evaluate what went wrong and what went right!

University of Texas has a useful page on preparing for and then evaluating your test results

See this Middle Tennessee State University website for a dozen practical
reasons to look over your returned tests:

1 See the “Worksheet for Examining Returned Tests” in Longman, Debbie Guice, and Rhonda Holt Atkinson. College Learning and Study Skills. 2nd ed. St. Paul: West Publishing, 1991. p. 200.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Check “this” out!

Though I am grateful to live in a world in which my computer checks and helps me correct my spelling and grammar, these technological tools have their limits. In particular, computer grammar checkers usually miss pronoun-antecedent agreement problems. Unfortunately, my computer’s Word program is not reliable when it comes to recognizing the pronoun errors I make when I mistakenly type “he” instead of “it”, “that” instead of “who” or “those” instead of “these”. More unfortunately, these pronoun errors can cause serious confusion for the reader.

For many writers, clearing up their use of the pronoun “this” can really improve their writing. “This” is a pronoun—a word used in place of a noun a person, place, or thing. The pronoun “this” derives its meaning from its antecedent—the noun it substitutes for. A pronoun must refer clearly and unmistakably to its antecedent in order for the meaning to be clear. The reference is unclear if it is ambiguous, implied, vague, or indefinite.

Writers may run into difficulty with “this” because the pronoun’s reference is needlessly broad.

Unclear reference
More and more often, we are finding ourselves victims of serious crimes. We learn to accept this with minor complaints.1
Readers are left wondering, what is it specifically that we learn to accept? To improve clarity, replace the pronoun with a noun
More and more often, we are finding ourselves victims of serious crimes. We learn to accept our fate with minor complaints.
Writers are most likely to run into difficulties with “this” when they use “this” as the first word of a sentence.

Unclear reference
The voyageurs interacted freely with the Aboriginal peoples and traveled wherever furs and the waterways took them. This gave the voyageurs a great advantage.2
In this example, it’s unclear if the voyageurs gained their advantage because of their free interaction, or because of their traveling.

To improve clarity, ask “this what?” when editing your writing, make sure each “this” refers clearly to some specific noun. Don’t leave your reader uncertain.
The voyageurs interacted freely with the Aboriginal peoples and traveled wherever furs and the waterways took them. This freedom and mobility gave the voyageurs a great advantage.

1. Example taken from Fowler, H. Ramsay, Jane E. Aaron, and Murray McArthur. The Little Brown Handbook. 4th ed. Toronto: Pearson, 2005: 289.

2. Example taken from Hacker, Diana. A Writer’s Reference. 4th ed. New York: Bedford/St.Martin’s, 1999: 192.


Saturday, November 26, 2005


Commas undoubtedly bring a new source of confusion to essay writing, while, ironically, they are used in order to clarify that which is written. When I began writing university papers, I was completely unsure of my comma use. Do I need one here? And, if so, why do I need one there? Are there places where I do not have commas, but require them?

Most of us are familiar with the use of commas to distinguish objects in a list or in a series: for example, “I went to the store and picked up some tomatoes, cantaloupes, rice and chicken.” Interestingly, the space before the ‘and’ in the above example requires a comma in some styles, but does not require a comma in other styles.

Commas are also used to separate an introductory word or phrase at the beginning of a sentence from the main part of the sentence, the part in which the ‘point’ of the sentence is written. Common introductory words and phrases include however, therefore, also, as a result, etc. An example of how this works is as follows: “As a result, Jonathon will not be able to make it to the basketball game this afternoon.” The introductory element in this case also works as a transition from the previous sentence, as there is some action that has led to Jonathon’s inability to make it to the basketball game this afternoon. Introductory elements in a sentence are, therefore, commonly used as transitions and are usually set off from the rest of the sentence with a comma.

In sentences there is often a main point, or a main clause, as well as a clarifying element, or a non-restrictive element, which reflects on the main point. This non-restrictive element is set off with a comma. For example: “Medical doctors treat many different diseases in humans, helping to keep us healthy.” The main point of the above sentence is that doctors treat many diseases in humans. The non-restrictive element helps to clarify this main statement, that doctors help to keep humans healthy, but it is not essential to the sentence. Non-restrictive/non-essential elements can be placed anywhere in a sentence, not only at the beginning. For example, the same sentence can be reorganized: “Medical doctors, helping to keep us healthy, treat many diseases in humans.”

In many sentences there are two main clauses that are connected by a coordinating conjunction, such as and, but, for, or, so, nor and yet, which are preceded by a comma. In other words, these are sentences with two main points. For example: “The weather is incredibly cold today, and it is raining. The fact that it is cold outside is a main point or clause, and the fact that it is raining outside is also a main point. In other words, both of the points could stand alone as sentences themselves. That is why a coordinating conjunction is used: to connect two clauses that would otherwise constitute separate sentences.

Another common use of the comma is to separate two adjectives that are modifying the same noun. For example: “This cold, foamy glass of beer is good.” In this case the comma is doing the job of the word ‘and’; it is combining two separate adjectives which modify the same object, the glass of beer.

The above explanations and examples are intended to illustrate a few of the most common uses of the comma.


Sunday, October 16, 2005

Seeing the Trees: Preparing for Multiple Choice Tests

Test season has begun and students, particularly first year students, are struggling through their first series of multiple choice tests. Some students prefer multiple choice tests to other kinds of tests. They find them easier to write and more straightforward than essay tests. The students who do not prefer multiple choice tests not only find them difficult, but also frustrating and confusing. Often, they feel that their grades do not reflect their effort. This happens for a number of reasons. One, when studying, it is relatively easy to focus on the larger ideas (theories/concepts) and miss the details, details are the bread and butter of multiple choice tests. Without knowing (and understanding) the details, the possibility of success diminishes greatly. Multiple choice tests generally do not test students' critical thinking skills. These tests measure whether students know how a process works, or their ability to recall facts given by the textbook or professor. Two, students misjudge their ability to remember information, confident that simply reading and re-reading their notes will be sufficient. And three, they tend to study inefficiently, often studying in big chunks over a short period of time (usually just before the test).

There is no magic pill, but here are some tips that should produce better results.

  1. Pay attention to the trees. It's relatively easy to see a large clump of trees, know it's a forest, even know the forest's name, but it's much harder to tell someone what trees that forest is made up of. In other words, it is important to not only look at the larger overarching ideas (historical periods, theories, ideas, systems, networks) but also the details that support them. Students can develop a fairly general sense of how, for example, the vascular system works, but may not be able to list the veins involved, how they connect or what they do.
    1. Create study cards, with the concept on one side and the details on the other (see this handout for an example of how to make study cards)

    2. Use the Cornell Note Taking system , cover up the main body of the notes and then use the column prompts to ask questions.

    3. Answer the review questions at the back of the chapter/textbook or in the study guide. Students are often worried that this is a waste of time while in fact, the study questions help them learn the information and practice applying that new information.

  1. Review on a regular, preferably daily, basis over shorter periods of time rather than once a week or just before the test. Tests show that people remember the first bit of information they study, the last bit of information they study, and very little in between. Thus, studying in shorter bits, 20 to 40 minute intervals, means that students will remember more and forget less because the interval between the first bit of information and the last bit of information is smaller.

There is more, but these tips are a start. Writing multiple choice tests is a new skill set for many students. Once they have learned it, multiple choice tests and exams become much less daunting.

The Learning Assistance Centre (LAC) has a handout available called "Tips for taking multiple choice tests."

The LAC is also giving a series of workshops that focus on test/exam preparation and writing multiple choice tests. They are:

How to Prepare for Exams on October 19th and Tips for Multiple Choice Tests and Exams on October 20th. Both workshops will be in 340 Helen Glass at 2:30.

Other useful websites are:

Study Guides and Strategies' handout on writing multiple choice tests.

The University York has a page on multiple choice tests. The best part of this page is that it includes examples of multiple choice questions and what students should look for when answering questions.

Cornell, the home of Cornell notes (mentioned above), has an excellent handout on writing multiple choice tests. (Note: This handout is in pdf format. Readers will need Adobe Reader to view it.)

Ryerson University has a page on how to study for multiple choice tests.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The writing process

Writing essays can seem difficult and challenging at the best of times but at the beginning of university this is particularly so. When compared to high-school writing assignments the complexity and length of university level papers can be daunting. How does a student adapt to this change?

Understanding the guidelines for the assignment is a first step. Knowing how many pages are to be in the paper, how many references are required and the date on which the essay is due all help to orient your mind towards beginning and completing the assignment. Once these questions are answered the next thing to do is to read the material from which you need to draw from for your paper.

While reading, it is good practice to take notes and/or remember ideas with certain marks and techniques. By doing this, the information that will be of assistance in the writing process will be easy to access. This stage of the writing process can often be difficult for new university students, as it is the process of idea formulation—beginning to put ideas into words. Writing down all relevant ideas that come up during this stage helps, as an excess of information is preferable to not having enough.

After the material is read then the true idea formulation begins. Sorting through the ideas that have been written down during research and organizing them into categories which may turn into paragraphs is another important step in the writing process. Once the ideas are written down and organized, refer back to the parameters of the assignment for guidelines such as length. It is often an easy guideline to have one to two paragraphs per page of double-spaced text, and one individual idea or group of related ideas in each paragraph. For example, for a six-page paper you may need nine paragraphs, one of these paragraphs as the introduction, seven paragraphs with ideas relating to your topic and one paragraph as a conclusion. This is a rough guideline, but can help when beginning to write university papers.

The process of organization is a great way to become familiar with the ideas that will end up in the paper. Organization is a first step and is perhaps one of the most important steps when learning how to adapt to the expectations for university papers. After becoming familiar with the types of organizational strategies that work most effectively for you it is then possible to become creative with these techniques and truly begin to formulate your own style in the writing process.

Useful Links for ‘the writing process’:

UNC Writing Center—handouts and links page

Linn Benton community College Learning Center—Organization Strategies

Union Institute and University—Organizational Strategies for Writing


Ch, Ch, Changes . . .

As of September 29th, 2005 the LAC tutorial staff will be temporarily located in the reference section of the Elizabeth Dafoe library (next to the writing tutors). No appointments will be made while the tutors are located in the library. However, students are welcome to drop-in during the periods listed below. You can see the LAC tutors for writing and/or study skill concerns. When we move into our new space (201 Tier) appointments will be accepted again.

LAC Library Hours

Monday 9 - 12 & 1 - 4
Tuesday 9 - 4:30
Wednesday 8:30 - 12:00 & 1:00 - 4:30
Thursday 8:30 - 11:00 & 12:00 - 1:00
Friday 8:30 - 11:30 & 12:30 - 4:30

We can be reached at 480-1481.

We are hoping to be in our new space, 201 Tier, late October. The space is looking great and we are looking forward to establishing ourselves in the new digs.

Workshops for next week are:

Articles: The/A/An on Oct 4 in 340 Helen Glass at 2:30-3:30
Learning and Memory on October 6 in 340 Helen Glass at 2:30 - 3:30

If you can't come to the workshop (or even if you can) here are some useful Learning and Memory websites:
This site is aimed at secondary teachers but the information is still relevant and useful.
The sites aim is to sell Advanced Cognitive Enhancers but the information found on the page linked to above is solid, and the techniques are ones we teach ourselves.

Massey University (New Zealand) emphasizes the important of "
Context and Environment, State, Regular Breaks, Understanding, and Active Learning" for learning and memory
And finally, Bucks County Community College (US) provides a list of links to learning style inventories and other learning related sites. Check some of them out, and find out how you learn.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Keeping the chaos at bay

In the last week or so, I have met numerous students who are new to the university environment in which large classes, lots of reading, and long lectures are the norm. Several of these students have told me that they are feeling “overwhelmed”, “in over their head”, or simply “a little lost”. I’d like to make a few suggestions if you are feeling the same way.
First, go to your lectures and keep going to your lectures. With the new freedom university allows, it’s easy to skip when very few profs check to see if you’re there or not. However, even if the textbook and the lecture are similar, consider the time in lecture as study time or time spent learning the material.
Second, go beyond simply marking the due dates or deadlines in your day planner. Make appointments with yourself to study or establish regular study/reading times. While high school or work environments sometimes allow for slow times that are interrupted by cramming or hectic days, in university most new students find it less stressful and more effective steadily working on something for each course.
Finally, if you are struggling, get help immediately. If you ignore the problem it will only get worse. Write out a specific list of questions and take those questions to your prof’s office hours. Alternatively, you could exchange or photocopy notes and ideas with a classmate.
The adjustment to university life does get easier…just make sure that you are constantly moving in the direction of your goals.


Response to Close Reading

I’d like to respond to Anita’s blog (see Close Reading) about close reading with some practical suggestions related to the reading of literature or other narrative texts. My first suggestion is to mark your texts. When I read a novel, I write a few words or a short phrase about the plot on the top outside corner of each page. For example, on page one I might write “Harry gets letter” (though, I might abbreviate “Harry” as “H”), and on page two I might write “H boards train.” I might also use the top left corner to note details about characters, such as, “H meets Sarah—lawyer, sister to Robert”. This technique not only helps me stay focused on my reading, but also makes it easier to find textual references later (in class, when writing an essay). In the margins I write definitions of words I had to look up. I also circle, underline and box words or phrases that are important to the theme, or reveal a pattern of word choices and/or literary devices. I try to make some note in the margin explaining what/why I’ve underlined, circled, or boxed; for instance, if I notice that many of the metaphors used in a text are animal-based, I might write “animal” in the margin next the underlined comparison of a man to a bird. I might further highlight a pattern by recording other page numbers where I see similar animal comparisons: “SEE 35, 78, 147”. I might also use the margins to ask questions, such as “who is ‘the man’?” or “why does H run away?”. In novels that jump back and forth in time/place, or where there are shifting narrative points of view, I mark these changes in the text, as well. For example, I might write “SHIFT to Vince, 1938” or “Flashback--Paris 1910.” These marginal notes really help me to keep track of what’s going on in a text.


Monday, September 19, 2005

First Things First

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
-Derek Bok

First things first, congratulations for registering for university. Coming to university is a huge investment in your future and can bring you much success and happiness. Right now, you might only be thinking of how expensive it is, and you’re right. But if you play your cards right, it is infinitely worth it. OK, enough preaching.

“First things first” is a saying I’ve used over the years to remind my daughter and myself of the responsibilities we have. With her I’ve said that she can’t have a candy until she finishes her healthy food. I use it to remind myself that I need to do a more urgent task before I can do a less urgent but more pleasing task, or even have my little fun. It’s a catchy little phrase that’s helpful for keeping us acting responsibly.

“First things first” can also be a useful little chant when you’re feeling really swamped and you don’t know what to do first. Sometimes just singing “first things first” allows me to figure out what is my priority, what needs to be done before anything else. Knowing that you’re doing the most important task is in itself calming

September is a Super Fun month here at The University of Manitoba and that’s a good thing. It is important to meet friends and new people, enjoy the entertainment and have some fun. But, remember why you’re here and those priorities will help you know what your first things first are.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

WOWW it's Your First Week!

The first week of classes is rapidly approaching and campus is starting to buzz. Welcome to new students of UM and welcome back to returning students. You may feel overwhelmed this first week, as you go through orientation, buy books or claim ids, and get to know how you will get to the U, where you are taking classes, and what your routine might look like.

In the midst of the bustle of the first week, we at the LAC want to remind you that we are around to support your learning process! And WOWW have we got ways that you can tap into learning:

Workshops are a popular medium for many students to learn more about a particular area of study or writing. See our workshops schedule: and plan to attend those (free) workshops that you think will help you! Whether it’s about writing or studying, you are bound to find some tips.

One-to-one meetings with a Learning Skills Specialist at the LAC is another option for those of you who feel less comfortable in a group. You can talk together about pretty much anything to do with learning or writing; if we can’t directly assist you, we can probably refer you to someone who can!

Website resources provide a third way the LAC can help. On our website you can find:

  • Description of our services and location
  • Printable handouts on a variety of learning and writing issues
  • Helpful links to UM sites as well as other study skills and writing sites
  • Online tutoring
  • Workshop information
  • Writing Tutor Program information

Writing tutors
Your peers, UM students who are experienced and capable writers, offer their time to help you one-to-one with writing. You can find them in Elizabeth Dafoe library from mid Sept to end of Nov and mid Jan to mid Apr. Visit the website for their schedule and info on how best to use your time with the tutors.

Where is the LAC?

Currently we are at 520 University Centre (same building as the bookstore, Tim’s and IQ’s—you’ll find us at the end of the hall on the 5th floor). In October we will move: find updated location information on our website as moving day comes closer.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Making the most of your course outline: University 1

In the first year of my undergraduate degree, I didn’t place a great deal of importance on my course outlines or syllabi. I mean, after I had marked the most important tests or assignment dates in my agenda, what did I really need the course outline for? Unless I had a due date that I couldn’t meet and I had to contact the prof. for an extension, I didn’t really see the point of referring back to the course outline during the semester.

As a result, I did some of the readings in my first year but certainly not many of the readings. I spent a lot of time working backwards by reading and studying only the topics or chapters that my professor told me were important and would likely “be on the exam”. Admittedly, I was pretty stressed out any time a test or assignment date got close.

After taking numerous university courses (I’ve lost count) and eventually taking on an instructor position at the university, I’ve come to realize the value of a course outline. Just as some students find “To Do” lists or grocery check lists useful to get short-term things done, a course outline is a kind of “To Do” list or check-list which your professor has made for you to reach your goals in a particular course.

Still not sure? Think of it this way; if you went to the supermarket with an incomplete list of foods for your breakfast the next morning, you could wake up to find you have five kinds of cereal and no milk. The same is true if you pick and choose the readings (or assignments) to complete from your course outline; you most likely won’t be prepared to face the (test) day and in the end you’ll probably be hungry for a better result in the course.

For me, completing all (or at least the majority) of my course readings led to less stress and better grades at any stage of my university education. Now as an instructor, I tell my students to (aim to) read and review material regularly so that they will be less likely to have holes or gaps in their knowledge of a subject, something critical for many future careers after university.


Friday, August 05, 2005

Close Reading

I read a lot of fiction. Reading fiction allows me to explore reality in a different way; some would call what I do reading for pleasure. However, it is possible that my casual reflection of the books I read follows the process of close reading. Essentially, close reading is critical reading of literary texts. See helpful links at the end of the blog.

Deborah Knott, writing for University of Toronto, identifies critical reading as moving from reading for information to reading for ways of thinking about a subject ( When responding to literature, close reading allows you to actively explore what you as a reader and writer think about a literary piece. English professor Dr. Wheeler offers a process to follow when reading works of literature which I’ve roughly paraphrased and interpreted and then applied to Sunshine.

So in this blog, I experimented on how well the steps suggested by Dr. Wheeler would work on my reading of Sunshine by Robin McKinley and was pleased with the process! You’ll notice I did not include all my responses, but you can see the process works. I wrote down my thoughts as I asked myself questions about:

My first impressions of the passage
What two things stuck out for you, and how are they related?
1. The use of first person narrative pulled me into the character quickly: she’s a baker and has an interest in “Others” (vampires, werewolves etc).
2. The vocabulary is rich, so it makes it sound like this young woman (probably in her early 20s?) is smart.
These two impressions relate in that very quickly in the novel, the author draws the reader into the story with sensual detail through the voice and imagination of a sharp young woman.
What was the mood of the writing?
There’s tension right away. She’s talking about normal things like watching movies with her family, but her first sentence “It was a dumb thing to do but it wasn’t that dumb,” and then other words on the first page like, “crawl home to die,” “warrior cohort,” “high tech blasting gear” allude to bigger problems than fatigue or cockroaches.

Vocabulary and Diction
Which words are noticeable? Why? How do these words relate to each other?
I’ve already mentioned some. Other sensual words would be “clicking” to refer to the cockroaches, “slouching” to refer to getting out of bed, and “Cinnamon Rolls as Big as Your Head” to give me an instant visual and make me salivate.

Look closer: are there other words that have more than one meaning? How do they add to your understanding as a reader?

Broaden your view: think about images in the text. What do they remind you of? (other parts of the text, other pieces by same author, other literary works)
How does the text sound? Are phrases and sentences long, dense, and flowing, or are they brief, abrupt and percussive? What does the sound have to do with the ideas the writer is communicating? Look here to Dr. Wheeler’s original guideline because he offers detailed points you can add to your close reading that will enrich your understanding.

Point of View/Characterization
Who’s speaking? How do you feel about the characters? Why? How does the author get you to feel that way? Through description? Dialogue? Action?

Look for anything that seems to represent something else. What symbols are in the text? Metaphors? If you need help with literary terms, consult your course notes, text, or click on Dr. Wheeler’s link .

Good luck with your own close reading!


Helpful Links on Close Reading
Put together by an English prof, this site offers questions you can follow to read a literary text closely and provides and example of a close reading of a poem.
This website offers a sample of close reading of Bleak House by Charles Dickens.
Patricia Kain, for the Writing Center at Harvard University details the steps of close reading using an essay by an anthropologist as the reading material.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Colours: A tip for setting your priorities

Balancing the demands of school work, life, and health is rarely easy. While many students make daily or weekly lists of “things to do”, often these lists contain far too many tasks to possibly accomplish in one day or one week. Thus, when many of the tasks on the list are not accomplished, students are usually left feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.

One idea that has worked for me is to use colour in my “to do” list. The tasks that must be done today, I write in red. The tasks that I would like to do today, but wouldn’t be a problem if I did tomorrow, I write in blue. Finally, tasks that I have to get done in the next week or next few weeks, I write in pencil. Then I focus my efforts today on the red ink tasks first. Once I have accomplished my high priority red ink tasks, I move on to the blue ink tasks. However, if I don’t get to the blue ink tasks today, it’s not a problem; these same tasks will become red ink high priority by tomorrow or the next day. Same goes for the tasks that are penciled in today; eventually they will be a red ink priority. For this reason, it’s a good idea to make a new colour list every couple of days.

As a result of my colourful “to do” lists, my list of tasks not only feels shorter, but I keep my priorities straight.


Thursday, June 30, 2005

Writing Article Reviews

Undergraduate students are often asked to write article reviews because they introduce students to the field and help to develop their critical thinking skills. Some professors have their own specific requirements for the article review, so always refer to those, but I will offer you some general guidelines that will help you get started. .
The purpose of reviewing an article review is to provide your reader with your evaluation of the article along with a brief summary of its argument and reasoning. Organize your paper using a thesis statement, just like in a research paper, but your thesis here will be an evaluation of the article and the reasons for such a positive or negative appraisal. Often, articles have strengths and weaknesses and it’s important to list to your reasons for both. Here are a few questions to help you assess the quality of an article:
  • Is the author a reputable researcher in this field?
  • Are the references used for the study current and reputable?
  • Is the article organized and clearly expressed or is it unnecessarily confusing?
  • Is the author free of bias or charged with emotion?
  • Do the results of the study confirm or disprove what the author expected?
  • Does the conclusion follow the given evidence, or is it somehow unrelated?
  • Why is this article important?
Keep in mind these are merely a few questions you might ask yourself to help you assess the worth of an article. Articles that are based on a research study will offer you many opportunities to question the research methods and sample used. A full citation in the format used in your field (either APA, MLA, etc.) of the article in review should be at the top of your first page.
These tips for writing an article review were gathered from the following links. Check them out for more information.

University of Toronto
Cornell University


Thursday, June 23, 2005

How to write a paper in a week or less

As many of you may have recently discovered, the demands of intersession courses are intense. For instance, it’s not uncommon that you are required to write a paper (or more!) per week. Given that this is the hard reality of taking a short course, how does one survive? Here are a few tips for the time-crunched writer:

  • Start immediately! There is no time to waste during intersession. As soon as the tasks are assigned, get going on them.

  • Whenever possible, write on a topic that you know something about. This way, you don’t waste a lot of time at the research stage figuring out the basics of the topic.

  • Keep the topic narrow and simple (straightforward?). Whenever possible, compare two ideas or authors, not four or five, for instance.

  • Choose less, better resources to write the paper. Chances are that you will not have time to read that stack of 12 books, 9 journal articles, and 3 websites. Go for fewer, more recent (in the last 5 years) academic sources, or sources that your professor tells you are the most influential.

  • In the case where you do need to use several resources to write the paper, read the introductions, chapter summaries, titles, and the first sentence of each paragraph to carefully determine which chapters, sections, or pages to read carefully in order to gain useful information which you can quote, paraphrase, or summarize.

  • Create the bibliography or reference list as you read the texts.

  • As you read, start making an outline (point form) by organizing: your thoughts, the main ideas that reoccur in the texts, and useful quotes or paraphrases. When you are done reading, you will have the skeleton of your paper (it may require some rearranging). Then you can add in the explanations (full sentences) to create paragraphs.

  • Likely you will be writing for several hours at a time. Take an occasional short break. Clear your head and get back to it!

  • Make a plan of attack. While a regular session paper can be planned over weeks, now you need to make a short-term action plan. To reduce that feeling of being rushed, plan for more time than you likely need each day. If you finish early, great! Go on to tomorrow’s task.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Critical Thinking

If you’re like me, you will have at one point or another had questions about what exactly professors mean when they use the word ‘critical’ in different ways. For example, what does it mean to critically evaluate three research articles? What does it mean to be told “Do not simply summarize the sources; think critically about the topic.” How would I write a critical review and how am I supposed to read critically?

Like so many of our other blog topics, critical thinking or critical reading are subjects that involve too much content to properly cover in a short piece. However, hopefully this entry can start you thinking about how you can approach your learning tasks more critically!

Working Definition
To start, I’m going to define “critical” as an approach to an activity, whether it is reading, writing, or something else. Note: the following process is not as specific as the one you would follow if you were taking analyzing an argument for a critical thinking course! Essentially, the approach involves:
--taking the subject of your attention apart
--looking at the pieces from various angles
--then putting them back together with some kind of thoughtful evaluation
It involves stepping outside of how you are used to thinking about something, and putting a different spin to it, shaking it up, revisiting your customary way of viewing it. In short, you are changing the way you consider a subject by allowing yourself to question it and imagining different possibilities. Once you have taken it apart, putting it back together with “thoughtful evaluation” means considering information you have read, gained from class discussions, heard in your lectures, experienced in your life, and most especially learned from your course of study or discipline area, and applying that to the topic.

I recently watched the movie “The Incredibles.” My first response to the movie was, “That was great: it was entertaining and I liked the animation.” But then when I thought about it a bit, I realized that parts of me were annoyed with the movie. I thought, “Why can’t they put make the hero a woman for a change?” Now arguably, there were a few strong female characters in the film (daughter, mom, costume designer), but the plot featured Mr. Incredible.

My first response to the movie was uncritical. I was approaching it from the perspective of one who wants to be entertained. But with my second response, my feminist perspective kicked in. I understood my annoyance from my feminist stance as being left out of the main role once again. If I were to continue to think critically about the movie, I would use that feminist perspective to shape view the pieces I chose to analyze. I might examine how much air time the feminine characters had, what relative importance their actions had to that of the lead, the balance of power in the film (both good guy and bad guy were guys!) etc. And if I were putting the pieces back together, I would make it clear that I was analyzing the movie from a feminist perspective with the aim of illustrating how the movie could have gone one step further in offering fresh perspective to a time honored idea of super heroes.

Next time I will talk about critical reading and provide some links.

I’d love to read comments!

Facione, P. A. (1998). Critical thinking: What it is and why it counts. California Academic Press. Retrieved December 2004, 2004 from

Thursday, June 02, 2005

English Vocabularly, Academia & the ESL Student

One of the most common concerns among international students is vocabulary. Many students argue that there are actually several Englishes: the formal academic English necessary to write an essay, the informal English a professor uses to tell a joke or a story in class, and the slang or colloquial expressions used in the campus coffee shops or dorms, for example. There is some truth to this idea. Traditionally the authors of writing guides have divided English into:

VocabularyCasual, slang, expressions, usually concreteNon-technical, both concrete and abstractOften abstract, technical, specialized
Sentence length and structureShort, simple sentences, grammar is not always correctLonger sentences, variety of length, grammar should be correctComplex sentences, commonly with 3-5 parts/clauses
UseBetween people who have an established relationshipBetween people of equal status or power with an emphasis on communicating meaningBetween individuals who have equal or unequal knowledge or status
For letters, fiction, advertisingNewspapers, magazines, business correspondenceImpersonal, serious, instructional
Academic writing, textbooks, scientific reports, journals, legal documents

(Adapted from Norton & Green, 2006)

However, many international students struggle to understand, learn, and use the appropriate kind of English words/expressions because it is not as simple as academic English=research paper and slang=Canadian friends. Furthermore, using “right kind of English” is a challenge for everyone, not just international students; status, gender, class, familiarity, culture, or mood are just a few other factors that contribute to the how or why we communicate.

It may be somewhat comforting to know that there are scholars who commit their time and skills to investigating the question “What is standard English anyway???” especially now that worldwide the people who speak English as a Second Language outnumber the people who speak English as a first language.

So what can we do? I have three suggestions:
(1) Pay attention! Notice the different kinds of contexts that you study, learn, or socialize in, and (as long as you are comfortable) try to respond verbally in the same way students in a similar situation do. The same goes for writing; look at successful pieces of writing in your field (or your textbook) and then mimic the kinds of language choices.

(2) If you don’t understand, ask questions about the meaning of a word or expression. Alternatively, you can check out Oxford English Dictionary (OED) on line. As a U of M student, you have free access to the OED!

(3) Check out corpus data. A corpus is a kind of bank of words that are most commonly used in a particular context. For example, the Academic Word List (AWL) is a bank of the 570 most commonly used word families in academic English. There are also great AWL exercises and examples on the "Using English for Academic Purposes" webpage. Finally, a glossary of Canadian slang and expressions can be found on the "Canadian Glossary, eh!" webpage.

If you have any vocabulary learning ideas, or you want to share your thoughts about the above information, send me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Reference Librarians & RefWorks

We are cautiously optimistic that summer is here or at least doing a fair imitation of one. The native Winnipegger's tendency to goof off, relax in the sun and soak in the rays as soon as warm weather arrives is not evident in the LAC. We are delighted that we have been busier than ever with students either coming up to 520 University Centre or stopping by to see the writing tutors in Elizabeth Dafoe with a variety of questions on paper writing. The intensity of spring courses are making their mark with papers and tests coming and going at an incredibly pace. This was obvious when this week's workshop "Research to Thesis" had 15 students show up!

Tip of the week: Reference Librarians!

Stuck finding material? Frustrated because you were sure there was more information available on your topic? Don't know what a boolean search term is? Confused by EbscoHost? Ask a reference librarian. Reference librarians can not only help you find useful search terms, but also help you navigate the large number of electronic databases found on the Netdoc page. If you're shy, tell them that I (Miriam Unruh) sent you.

Another research resource is Refworks. This program is available on-line, free (!) and will help you track all the research you've done on-line and produce correct references and citations. There is an excellent, and quite easy to follow tutorial that goes along with the program.

Next week's workshop, Tuesday 1-2 in 340 Helen Glass, is "Thesis to First Draft."


Friday, May 20, 2005

Top 5 features of a great place to study

5. The kind of studying matches the kind of location

  • If you are studying alone, then studying in an isolated place is often the most productive choice, like the library, a home office, or study carrels. If you are doing group work or you are part of a study group, many libraries on campus have a particular zone where you can discuss the course material. Otherwise, consider meeting in an empty classroom, lecture hall, or cafeteria.

4. Good lighting

  • It sounds obvious, but dim lighting will quickly make your eyes tired and may even give you a headache.

3. Sit upright at a desk or table

  • Our bodies and minds are accustomed to sleeping in a bed. Most students who study in bed end up falling asleep or get through the study material more slowly because they are too relaxed!
2. Few interruptions or distractions
  • Interruptions may include the phone ringing, a chatty friend, or unexpected visitors. You might try unplugging the phone, putting a sign on your door, or finding an isolated location. For instance, if you live with others, you may want to avoid studying at the kitchen table.
  • Distractions may include piles of laundry, bills, magazines, tv, or the internet. Recognize your weaknesses, and keep them out of sight.

1. You go there to study and only study

  • If you can find a place where you only study, eventually you will be able to go to this space (even when studying feels like the last thing you want to do) and find some focus once you get started.

If you are interested doing an analysis of your study environment or finding out more information on this topic, check out:

Study Environment Analysis

Study Environment Analysis Handout

Finally, the workshop for next week is:

Reading Textbooks on May 24th @ 1-2 pm in 340 Helen Glass. Everyone is welcome, although registration (drop in at 520 University Centre, or call 474-9251) is appreciated.


Friday, May 13, 2005

Cubing: A pre-writing exercise

Writing anything can be an intensely difficult process. It’s not surprising then that writing formal papers is one of the tasks that new university students fear the most. Often, just getting the words down on a page in the proper order, using commas correctly, citing properly and doing the required research can be quite a challenge.

Some students new to academic writing may run into trouble when they are trying to (1) figure out or generate your ideas (often called critical thinking), (2) organize the ideas, and (3) edit (check their grammar, word choice, or spelling, for example) all at the same time.

If you try to do all three steps at once, what may happen is that the ideas are organized but not critical enough, or the ideas are critical enough, yet there are still many grammatical errors, for example. If your attention is divided between three tasks, it makes sense that one or more of those tasks may not be done as well as they should be. That’s not a problem if you are doing laundry, talking on the phone, and watching The Amazing Race all at the same time. However, for many students learning how to write papers for the first time, multi-tasking may not produce their best paper. In other words, if you start the paper worried about getting each sentence down correctly or reaching your page minimum, the result may be a paper returned with comments that ask for a paper to be more specific, complex, critical, or have a better developed theme. So, how do you begin? How do you produce writing and ideas that are “more complex,” “thoughtful” or “less general?”.

In this case, you should begin by only figuring out or generating ideas for your paper. Temporarily put aside the tasks of organizing and editing. You can come back to them later, after you have formed clear and critical “deeper” thoughts on the topic. This is important because writing is closely tied to thinking. In fact, writing is thinking! If you haven’t sufficiently understood, developed your thinking on a topic, or explored the complexity of a subject, the paper will reflect that. Thinking critically and deeply about a research topic can seem overwhelming. How do we dig deeper in our thinking? Good research helps because this builds a knowledge base, but exploring that research is another tool.

There are a number of writing exercises that can help students explore and expand their thoughts on a subject. One of our favorites is “cubing.” Cubing, developed by Cowan & Cowan (1980) is a process where you look at a subject from a number of different angles (thus the “cube”). Each side of the cube, or each perspective asks a different question:

1. Describe it (colors, shapes, sizes, etc.)

2. Compare it (What is it similar to?)

3. Associate it (What does it make you think of?)

4. Analyze it (Tell how it's made)

5. Apply it (What can you do with it? How can it be used?)

6. Argue for or against it

This technique is particularly useful for those of you who tend to see things as straightforward and miss the complexity of a situation. An example of using cubing to develop the topic “learning to speak a foreign language” is illustrated below:

Describe it:

  • Learning a foreign language is about communicating in an environment we are unfamiliar with using new words, sounds, gestures, or expressions.
  • We have to learn to respect (eventually understand?) the social norms of the culture or the community
  • We aim to use the language to get our basic needs met, such as finding meals, a place to sleep, transportation, we might just want to meet the locals while on holiday, or we might wish to do business in another country.
  • Can be scary, exciting, funny, or frustrating.

Compare it:

  • It can feel like you are a baby or infant who doesn’t have the words to explain what he/she wants, so it’s easily frustrating!
  • The first time you try to communicate, you may feel like Tarzan, “me want food!” or “me bathroom now!”

Associate it:

  • Initially, I associate it with survival!
  • Over the long term, learning to speak a foreign language makes me think of recreating myself or my identity in a new way for a new context because some words, actions, or expectations that may not be appropriate in my language and culture may be appropriate in another place (and vice versa).
  • I associate it with learning a new perspective or a new way of looking at the world, or learning how to look at the world through the eyes of people who live in a reality different than my own.

Analyze it:

  • Learning a foreign language has many stages or steps.
  • The first stage that many people experience is the “silent period” in which they are listening and trying to understand, but they are not ready to speak because they may be overwhelmed or too scared.
  • How quickly one learns or advances in learning to speak a foreign language depends on several factors including: their ability to hear different sounds, interpret contextual clues, or take risks in trying to speak even if what they say will be mostly incorrect.
  • Progress is also influenced by how much the person needs/doesn’t need the foreign language on a day to day basis, or if the person has social/personal/emotional connections to the foreign language culture.
  • Improvement also depends on the quality of formal instruction and how much effort the language student puts in/studies.
  • Language development is often linked to the culture shock and adaptation processes. Adaptability depends on the individual and/or how similar or different their native language and culture are from the foreign language and culture.

Apply it:

  • Learning foreign languages are important in improving relations between countries, governments, international organizations, multinational businesses/trade, and international relief organizations.
  • Can be linked to Canada’s multicultural policies and immigration policies
  • If more people are able to speak a foreign language, communication will likely improve between communities and individuals.
  • May be important in improving communication in the areas of education, heath care, tourism, or work where there are people from different countries.
  • Promotes understanding and reducing racism or discrimination.

Argue for or against it:

  • Based on the numerous reasons stated above, I now have sufficient points to argue for learning a foreign language!

Planning/invention sites with a focus on cubing (Purdue’s OWL)

There are any number of sites that talk about cubing and invention, but Cowan & Cowan [Cowan, G. & Cowan, E. (1980). Writing. New York, NY: Wiley.] are the creators of cubing, and Purdue’s OWL [Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (2003).Planning (Invention). Handouts and Materials for Students and Teachers. Retrieved on May 13, 2005 from] elaborate on the cubing exercise.

Cosette & Miriam

Friday, April 22, 2005

Planning for Spring/Summer Session

Spring and summer courses work well for some students and not for others. For some the concentration and intensity of six months of coursework jammed into fewer than three months keeps them on track and focused. For others, far too much information and processing required in a short period of time is simply overwhelming. There is also a myth out there that spring courses, because of their short time period, cover less material than the same course taught during the full term. This is not necessarily the case. Students are often expected to read and learn as much in six to twelve weeks as they would in the longer twelve to twenty-four week courses. Procrastination that can be dealt with when assignments are spread out over longer time periods can be disastrous when compacted into a shorter time period.

Planning you schedule

  • Know yourself and how well you function under pressure. If pressure is counter-productive for you, then it is a good idea to consider taking a course that goes for twelve rather than six weeks.
  • Be wary of unrealistic expectations. It is not necessarily do-able to work fulltime and take two to three spring or summer courses. It all looks possible at the beginning of the spring term and much less so when work demands conflict with school demands. This is particularly hard when the turn around time is so short.
Managing your time
  • Start your assignments immediately. This is our advice under any circumstances, but it is particularly important to do this for shorter courses. In most cases you will need to use every week available. A paper assigned at the beginning of class will often be due only two or three weeks later!
  • Do your work everyday. Do not save up assignments, readings, and reviews for the weekend or you will fall behind.
  • Divide your assignments into smaller tasks. That way you can keep working, feel like you are making progress, and avoid that feeling of being overwhelmed by too much work in too little time.
  • Watch for burnout. You have already completed a full year. Burnout happens when you work constantly without a break. Symptoms of burnout are “fatigue, boredom, and stress.” It’s a good idea to schedule time off from school at some time during the year. Doing different things is also good for your brain and your long term success. The fresher we are in the fall term, the better chance we have of doing well.
  • Remember it’s summer and do activities to capitalize on that. You can bike to school, take regular walks around campus (there are some lovely river walks and Kings Park is only 20 minutes away), participate in outdoor sports, study outside, and get to know classmates.

Two useful sites with information on procrastination and time management

Sunday, April 17, 2005

More final exam tips

Although we encourage all students to set up a schedule that allows for regular review, we realize that students will fall behind. Unfortunately you can’t make up for lost time, but you can make the most of what’s left. Here are some tips to help you along the way.

  • Prioritize in terms of the grade you want/need in each course, the worth of each exam, and your level of understanding in each course.
  • Stay positive, think positive, talk positive.
  • Make a plan and manage your time.
  • Follow the plan.
  • Study and rehearse ACTIVELY!
    • Practice output, old exams and test yourself
    • Don’t cover too many topics in one day. Instead, review and practice output.
    • Don’t passively read over notes; ask yourself questions and answer them out loud and in your own words.

In the end, you may want to remember the sinking feeling in your gut next term and make some changes to your study habits. The LAC is open all year for students to prepare for next term’s demands.


Friday, April 08, 2005

Spinning your wheels

I was reading an article “The Considerable Satisfaction of 2 Pages a Day” in The Chronicle of Higher Education* (April 8th edition) in which the author, Jay Parini (2005), wrote that he got far more done working in little bits in between other responsibilities (like teaching and marking) than he did when he sat down with large amounts of time available. In fact, he was afraid that if he took time off from teaching, marking, and sitting on committees that he wouldn’t get nearly as much done as he did now with all those responsibilities.

The same thing can be said for doing your academic work. The structure of everyday demands (and I include exercise, friends and family here), like Parini (2005) pointed out, is a good thing when it is combined with doing little bits at a time mixed with a sense of forward motion. A paper, or a comprehensive exam, or in Parini’s case, a novel or an article, is pretty overwhelming when you look at the whole picture, but not so bad when you look at it as Parini does, as “two pages a day.” You might not get the whole paper written, or all the chapters read, but at least you’ve done some of it.

When I teach the time management workshop, I talk about the dangers of “spinning your wheels,” those nasty moments when you are so overwhelmed by all the work and by endless big projects that you stop working altogether and get deeper and deeper into the mud (so to speak). Anyone who has been stuck in the mud knows that spinning your wheels is the worst thing you can do. Gentle movements forward and backward (and maybe some pushing to go along with that) are what will move you forward. To make this forward movement possible, do anything: review your notes, read a chapter section, reorganize computer files, check your citations, write an outline, read an article, format your paper and do it. You’ll be amazed at how soon you will be out of the mud and on your way.

So, take advantage of your 20 minute chunks; break your big jobs into smaller jobs; and allow yourself to work in smaller bits rather than insisting on the big chunks of studying that most students think is required. Just make sure that you are moving forward at a reasonable pace.

New Handouts on our web page

Terms Used in Essay Exams and Levels of Thinking (pdf, html)
SQ3R Reading Strategy (pdf, html)
Text Marking and Highlighting (pdf, html)
Study Notecards (pdf, html)
General Note-taking Tips (pdf, html)
The Cornell Note-taking System (pdf, html)

* The Chronicle is aimed primarily at faculty and is password protected but is interesting to general readers nonetheless and available through Bison. Just go to Bison, type in The Chronicle of Higher Education (a list of books and journals will appear, Chronicle is #5). When you click on that link a web page will appear that will provide a password.


Thursday, March 31, 2005

Ongoing Learning Support & Editing Papers

Study workshops have come to an end for this term, but one-to-one help for students is available year-round at the LAC. You can drop in Thursdays and Fridays between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm or make an appointment on other weekdays. We have a wealth of ways to boost your novice study habits and add to your savvy secrets to make the most of your study time.

People have been lining up for the tutors in Dafoe Library, which suggests that students find the Writing Tutor Program helpful. Although it is a drop-in service, the program has posted sign-up sheets so that if there is a wait for tutors, you can sign up for a time slot and ensure that you see a tutor.

If you are in the final stages of writing your paper, you may find the LAC handout Reviewing your Academic Paper useful. In addition, the following links may be helpful:

Thanks for checking in.

Natalie & Anita

Monday, March 21, 2005

April Exams: Some Study Tips

This week’s workshops

Test Taking Strategies: Essay Exams
Thursday Mar 24th (3:30) in 340 Helen Glass

Editing: Tense
Tuesday Mar 22nd (2:15) in 534 University Centre


We are approaching the ever popular time for the nerve-racking exam cram - ten hours, twenty hours of force feeding facts so that we can go in, write the exam and forget it all twenty minutes later.

Study in small bits
When studying for exams it is much better (and much less stressful) to study in small bits (20 minutes – an hour) over a longer period of time than in a large chunk all at once. For example, you will remember far more if you study for 20 minutes every day than if you study 2 hours once a week.

Avoid useless repetition
Another popular study technique is to read your notes over hundreds of times. This strategy can backfire however. Facts and information that looks familiar on your note page won’t look so familiar when taken out of context and put on an exam sheet. Students who hate writing multiple choice tests will have an even harder time when faced with information taken out of context. Also, when memorizing small details, it is important that you pay attention to how the details related to each other and fit into the chapter or course.

Rehearse: test yourself
A really simple way to deal with this problem is to test yourself when you are studying. Reading and rereading your notes and your text book is not enough. Make up flashcards or study cards, cover up definitions in the text and quiz yourself, draw pictures, draw diagrams that connect the ideas from the chapter sections together answer the questions at the back of the chapter. All of those techniques are a relatively painless way to remember material. If you want help developing these skills you can come see us at the Learning Assistance Centre (520 University Centre).

Find out more
Good websites for information on exam preparation (besides our own of course) are:

York University’s Exam Preparation site

University of Guelph’s Fastfax

California Polytechnic State University study skills site has a number of good exam preparation and exam writing handouts.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The writing tutors, next week's workshops & a website.

The writing tutor program is up and running and students are evaluating the service positively. If you haven’t had a chance to come visit us, we're in Dafoe library in the reference room (there are signs near the entrance that will help you find us). Students are seeking help with understanding the assignment, finding resources, and creating a thesis statement. The tutors are all friendly and really like helping students improve their writing skills. I know the tutors think it's awesome to see students from different areas and share their knowledge them.

We had to cancel last week's workshop "Editing Your Final Draft." Anita (LAC Learning Specialist) will be re-offering it on Monday, March 14 at 2:30 (Information Commons, main floor, Elizabeth Dafoe Library). See you there!

We are also offering:

    • Editing: Verbs and Pronouns Tuesday March 15th 3:15 217 Univ. Centre
    • How to Prepare for Exams Thursday March 17th 2:30 340 Helen Glass

There are some great sites dedicated to improving student’s skills. I have found this site helpful. Not only great for study skills, but also on every academic front you can imagine. Plus, it is available in 26 languages! Incredible, eh? Please, let me know what other treasures are out there.

(LAC Writing Tutor)

Monday, February 28, 2005

Research 101 and Our First Blog Entry!

This blog will allow me (Miriam Unruh) and the other LAC staff to share web sites, study tips and other useful information with UM students, faculty and staff on a semi-regular basis. We love feedback, so please feel free to comment.

Next week’s LAC workshops are:

  • Editing Your Final Draft (Monday - Information Commons, Elizabeth Dafoe Library)
  • Punctuation (Tuesday @ 3:15 in Room 529-31 University Centre)

March is all about students writing and figuring out how to write research papers. There are a large number of good online resources available (see "Related Web Sites"), but Research 101 is one of the best. Developed by the librarians at the University Washington, this online web “workshop” is comprehensive, presents information in small manageable bits, and is easy to navigate. It’s perfect for students who are just learning how to research and write research papers. Particularly useful are the sections on the “information cycle” and how to narrow your topic.

Another site, Purdue's OWL (Online Writing Lab), well known among LAC type people, is an invaluable resource for students and faculty alike. It is chock full of useful handouts on the writing process, editing issues, and grammar.