Friday, December 15, 2006
The brilliant part is that I may not even look at the list again (though not usually the case), but I am so much more likely to get those items done if I have written them on a to-do list. The process of writing itself helps me break down tasks into doable parts. I also invariably put those little things that need doing but are super easy to cross off the list, like phone my grandma and mail two letters. These “easy button” tasks help me feel like I am getting things done and on top of the world. I like that.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Topic sentences belong at the beginning of each body paragraph and highlight the main idea of the paragraph and how that idea relates to the thesis of the essay. I think it’s important to be really explicit in this sentence so the reader is not left to question the logical flow of ideas. However, it’s also vital to be creative and interesting so the reader is eager to keep reading.
Transition sentences are the last sentence of every paragraph and serve to sum up the paragraph and hook or connect into the ideas coming in the next paragraph. If in an article review, the first paragraph is illustrating a strength in the article, the transition sentence could show the reader that this is not the only strength of the article, more are coming.
Writers may feel like they’re being repetitive in doing this, but readers don’t know the topic as well as the writer, so the restatement or clarification really is helpful for the reader. And a happy and unconfused reader is usually a happy marker! (wink wink ;))
Here's a short sample essay that has colour coded the thesis and topic sentences so readers can easily see how these sentences look and function in an essay.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
This isn’t to say that the Internet is useless when it comes to research. Not at all. However, when you’re on the lookout for reputable scholarly literature, try Google Scholar. This search engine will provide you with legitimate, peer-reviewed publications from the best and brightest.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Friday, October 06, 2006
I’ve struggled with conclusions for many years and have found the best way to tackle a paper’s conclusion is to think like some horror movie producers do:
leave room for a sequel! A great writer effectively answers question she’s asked herself but in the end, poses another with the hope that she or another researcher may be able to answer. Just as the monster comes back to life in the frightening final moments of a horror flick, prompting audience anticipation for a sequel, academic writers also might leave their endings open.
Blog note: Here's some more online information on conclusions.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
When it gets busy we all struggle with time, the lack of it and the seemingly vast number of tasks that seem to pile up. Figuring out a game plan to deal with those tasks is always a good idea. The University of Guelph has a fabulous, interactive web workshop on time management. There are several points of entry: by topic (i.e. "time management and creativity") by persistent or recurring problems (i.e., procrastination) or by topics that are geared towards specific student populations (i.e., adult students or first-year students). Check it out.
Friday, September 15, 2006
The LAC is offering two workshops next week. Note! If you have one of the LAC Brochures some of the rooms have changed! They are correct here.
Organizing Your Time Effectively
Tues. Sept 19, 1:30-2:30, Helen Glass 348
Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2:30-3:30, Helen Glass 344
This workshop will help with that constant pressure of getting everything done and getting it done on time.
Research and the Internet
Thursday September 21, 1:00-2:00, Helen Glass 370
This workshop offers information about using research logs and how to search the internet effectively. This involves sorting through all the junk and finding something valuable as well as making use of the databases available through the UM Libraries.
You can register by calling 480-1481 or online through the Virtual Learning Commons.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
The University of Manitoba has a new and existing online initiative called The Virtual Learning Commons. This site provides academic information, and is extremely interactive with an assignment manager, a very cool scheduling feature, the ability to add your own "to-do" list (which can be added to your scheduler) access to an online writing tutor and the opportunity to chat online with other UM students.
Check it out!
Monday, August 28, 2006
If you want to register please call 474-1481.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
What may seem like a minor infraction of the academic dishonesty policy can get you a big, fat goose egg on an assignment or even get you cashiered out of a course. For a quick way to get your head around this issue, try the Student Advocacy web site’s online quiz.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Studying with a group is fun, and can be very productive. Actually, it can often be the best way to approach a particular subject area. However, managing group study time can be challenging.
If you are anything like me, staying on task in a group is difficult. For example, I have a hard time staying focused when my study group insists on making jokes about chickens and roads. The temptation to be distracted by very corny jokes, discussions about great parties, and why most of the profs on campus are completely unreasonable is high. If you find that you can’t bring people back to task with a topic-related question, or that your group is too easily distracted, try moving to a quieter study area with fewer distractions. Ultimately you need to understand the material. If the group continues to be dysfunctional, find another group, or study on your own. Remember, chicken jokes will not impress a professor on a final exam.
To focus your group, try some of the following tips:
- set a goal of how much material you will cover
- identify key definitions and quiz each other
- each person come up with a possible test question; then try to answer the questions
- work on the sample problems and share the process/solution
- each person come up with a memory aid to learn a different part of the course content
- if course content is controversial, set up a debate and back up your positions with material from readings and lectures
for how to study effectively in groups
for why study groups work...
Kris & Anita
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Monday, July 31, 2006
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Monday, July 24, 2006
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Monday, July 17, 2006
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
One way to fix this lack of flow is to diversify sentence structure. Most students will be familiar with the simple sentence. (Eg: Margot loves doing dissections!) This sentence has a noun (Margot) and a verb (loves) and expresses a complete thought. This is also called an independent clause.
Another kind of sentence is the compound sentence. (Eg: Margot loves doing dissections, and she gets to do one this week.) This sentence has two parts which are of equal weight and are joined by a coordinator (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). This type of sentence joins two ideas by using a conjunction, but both ideas could have been expressed independently and still have the message conveyed properly.
The complex sentence is a real gem of the English language. This type of sentence’s true value is its ability to express intricate concepts by establishing dependent relationships between ideas. Sounds hard, eh? It’s truly not. Complex sentences are just the next logical step after compound sentences.
A compound sentence puts two independent clauses together with a joining word. A complex sentence, on the other hand, uses something called a dependent clause. A dependent clause is similar to an independent clause but it cannot stand alone as a sentence. In practical terms, this means that one part of the sentence (the dependent clause) relies on another part of the sentence (the independent clause) for complete meaning.
Although Hamlet appeared insane, his soliloquies provide evidence to the contrary.
When Columbus voyaged across the Atlantic, many people thought him to be mad.
The king of France declared war even though his advisors were against it.
In each of these examples, it is possible to determine relationships between ideas. Complex sentences can show time, cause/effect and contrasting associations. In the first example, we are contrasting Hamlet’s apparently insane behaviour with the heartfelt introspection when he his alone. Using a complex sentence in this way directly links the two ideas and helps increase the “flow” of the writing.
Dependent clauses in complex sentences are often used as adverbial modifiers – meaning they modify or restrict the meaning of a sentence. In this case, they require commas. For more information about comma use, check out the blog “Commas”.
The chart above provides some key words and phrases that are helpful if you wish to add complex sentences to your work. An essay with a variable sentence structure is easier to read, and using complex sentences provides a writer with the tools to express intricate thoughts.
References: (MLA style)
Aaron, Jane E. & Murray McArthur. The Little, Brown Compact Handbook, 2nd ed. Toronto: Pearson Education Canada, 2003.
Hacker, Diana. A Canadian Writer’s Reference, 2nd ed. Scarborough: Nelson Thomson Learning, 2001.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
For some, writing essays is a welcomed experience that enables a deeper understanding of given topics. For others, it can be a source of crippling frustration and woe. For me, writing essays is a little bit of both. However, writing essays during Spring Intersession definitely doubles the pain of writing essays, but I’m not sure if it doubles the pleasure.
There are some things that may diminish the pain, however, and it is these that I’d like to share with you. If by chance you have devised more strategies to increase the joy of essay writing during Spring Intersession, please share them with us. Don’t leave us wallowing in this suffering!
The following are good strategies at the best of times, but crucial to maintaining happiness during this time-crunched term.
First, if possible, choose a topic or subject in which you have some background knowledge. Even if you are new to the subject area, there will be some topics in which you have more general knowledge. Capitalize on this. Being able to draw on previous research and understanding will seriously reduce the amount of new research you have to do, and will allow you to go into more depth.
Also, choose a topic that interests you. The more academic, general, or personal interest you have in an area, the more joy you will get from researching and writing about it.
Finally, start right away! Good writing takes time-- time researching, thinking, and polishing. However, you only have limited time during Spring Intersession, so start NOW!
As always, you are welcome to drop by to meet with a tutor at the Writing Tutor Program in Dafoe Library, or call 480-1481 or drop by 201 Tier to make an appointment there.
Wishing you more pleasure than pain,
Monday, March 20, 2006
Yet I want to avoid all this! I want to escape the tunnel and travel through second term on a warm, sunlit, quiet, and soothing country road. Is this a laughable naïve fantasy? In part yes, but I am optimistic enough to believe that there is some relief to be had. One of the best kinds of therapy begins with the move from the “AHH I have so much to do” approach to the more reasonable analysis of exactly what needs to be done. If you do this in your head it can often be accompanied by a dangerous level of panic. Somehow in your mind tasks grow to more monumental proportions, probably because they are being viewed all together and each with their own subtasks. I find it more comforting and focusing to put these tasks in list form. It never fails to amaze me how this act magically seems to whittle down what I have to do into an amount I can actually wrap my head around.
From there I usually breakdown the assignments and tests into building blocks that I can manage in one sitting. If I have to read a novel over the course of a week for example, and the book has 287 pages well that’s about 41 pages per day, or 32 pages per day during the week and double that on Saturday and Sunday. However you may choose to break it down, smaller components are a lot easier on a person’s stress level especially if one can learn to focus more strongly on these individual parts. If I can think in my head that all I have to read today is 32 pages of a novel, although a minor part of the whole book, I can feel confident and self-satisfied that I can get it done. Even when combined with other minor tasks, parts are much easier to tackle than the whole; planning to do 3 questions on my chemistry assignment and read 32 pages is a lot easier than doing a 15 question assignment and reading a 287 page novel.
Personally I am a big schedule person and aside from separating jobs into smaller pieces, I will assign timeslots to each item. It’s not so much about exactly following what I have set out. Most of the time, I extend or cutback or change the time of day I work on something depending on how the work is going and what I feel like doing at the time. The schedule’s usefulness comes instead from allowing me to calculate the amount of time I have to allot to task in order to get things done, therefore building up my comfort in knowing that the amount of work I have to accomplish is doable.
It’s important to keep in mind that the extent of list-making and scheduling required to alleviate stress depends on the person. Some students will probably stop at evaluating what they have to do and will then be worry-free enough to work from there. Others will adhere to schedules down to the minute. What’s more important is being aware that in times of panic about ALL the things you have to do, figuring out and focusing on the smaller building blocks can be a valuable tool in making it through.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Lately, I’ve seen a lot of students who are having trouble managing their time. Assignments, tests and exams that seem far away tend to sneak up on us. One way to avoid the last minute panicky rush to study or complete an assignment is to be organized. If you are anything like me, day planners get lost in the back seat of the car or at the bottom of your backpack. Here is a quick way for the hopelessly disorganized person to stay on top of his or her school work.
- Make yourself a big calendar for the remaining months of school (these are also available on-line or at the LAC).
- Mark down all your tests, presentations, essays, assignments, and exams on their due dates. Color-code it and make it flashy.
- Hang the calendar where you will see it everyday. Some suggestions are
- Your bulletin board
- Your bathroom mirror
- Your bedroom door
- The ceiling above your bed
This simple calendar will force you to face your deadlines realistically on a daily basis and encourage you to plan ahead. For other time management and organization tips check out these websites.
Chemistry Coach Website http://www.chemistrycoach.com/lbe4.htm
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
My favorite way to memorize information for tests and exams is using study cards. I go through my notes and readings several days before a test or exam and write out a flash card for each concept or idea that I feel I need to memorize. On one side of the card I write out a question (e.g. Define Categorical Data or Who Was Anton Chekhov?). I write the answer on the other side of the card. When I’m all done, my material is organized in a way that makes memorization easy. Simply review the cards regularly (repetition is key!) and once you feel that you know the answer, remove that card from the pile so that you can focus on the cards you haven’t yet memorized. As days pass, the pile will get smaller and smaller. The night before the test, go through every card one more time to make absolutely sure that you’ve memorized everything before getting a good night’s sleep. Don’t throw out your cards after your mid-term is over. You will likely need them for your final.
For concepts that may have too many details to fit onto one card, you may want to create a mind map (or as I like to call them: ‘Trickle Down Charts’): Write the concept on the top of a page (may be a theory, person, event, etc.) and then lines trickling down into immediate functions (like components or roles of the concept) and continue to break down each function as needed. As you review your mind map, cover the bottom of the page and work your way down, testing yourself on each function of the concept over and over until you have it memorized. Here is an example:
Here is what it may look like if I was to apply this chart to an area of my own studies:
These charts will help guide your mind through the concept should you be asked to discuss something complex and detailed.
Don’t be afraid to use the people around you. Asking your instructor what topics and readings will be covered on the exam will help you focus your study time on the important areas of the course material. Forming a study group with classmates will allow you to pick up any material that you may have missed studying on your own.
For more suggestions, check out our How To Prepare For Exams workshop on Tuesday, February 28th in 236 Isbister from 2:30 to 3:20pm. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed your Reading Week. You’ve earned it!
Monday, January 30, 2006
It’s not always easy and it certainly isn’t always fun, but like it or not, reading is a part of every student’s life. It would be great if everything we had to read for class was as exciting as the latest Harry Potter, but more often than not, you may be bored stiff by that pile of reading on your desk. I know that I certainly am sometimes. So how do students like you and I effectively tackle the pile before we regret it?
This term I’m taking a seminar course which means that every Wednesday, a small group of us sit around and talk about assigned readings. Our grade is partially based on participation and when there are only ten of us, it’s hard to hide in the back and pray that the professor doesn’t call on you to comment on what you didn’t read. Thankfully, this environment provides the much needed motivation for me to make sure that my readings are all done on time! Unfortunately, not all courses can provide that sort of motivation and so productive reading requires some self-discipline.
Have an agenda? Get one. I make sure that every week I go through all my courses and figure out exactly what I need to get done. Then I spread out all my reading to make sure that I don’t have too much to do at one time. I can read at my own pace, take breaks when I want and re-read the things that I don’t understand.
Some students are very careful with their textbooks. Personally, I’m never afraid to get out my highlighter and my pen and make lots of notes either in the book itself or on a separate piece of paper. This saves time when you need to review the work later on. By highlighting important passages and summarize important points on the side or bottom of the page makes returning to the work easier later on. Having forgotten much of what you read, your detailed graffiti will refresh your memory quickly and take up less of your time.
Still you have one hundred pages of dull reading to do by tomorrow. How do you get it done? Depending on the class, the material and your own learning style, a lot of what you read in those pages may provide details that may not be relevant to what you need to know. Many professors want you to understand general theories and ideas that can be found in the readings, not every particular detail. There have been times I’ve skimmed through chapters searching only for key points and been very successful with what I’ve found. If you’re a slow reader like myself, this technique may be useful.
Productive reading requires that you put yourself in an environment where you can be productive. This means different things to different people. Personally, when it comes to a task that requires my full attention, I need absolute quiet. Others may need music. So to get the ball rolling I make sure that I’m in a quiet space (like a library or a private room). This prevents me from being distracted and makes the reading a lot faster and easier to follow.
If everything we have to read was exciting and easy, then reading wouldn’t be a problem. But since it’s not, I hope that these reading strategies are helpful in the pursuit of successful reading!
For more information on successful reading, check out these links:
Text Marking and Highlighting