Saturday, January 24, 2015

Spring Semester Has Started

By: Emma Lister

Wait a second, where did my winter break go!?  I was so happy and cozy on my couch binging on Netflix and napping at my leisure. 

It ended, along with the four Netflix series you crushed.

Now I have these classes… with homework? 

Yep, every day.

Whatever, no need to worry, it’s syllabus week, there’s plenty of time to dip my toes in these academic waters… 

Syllabus week is over.

Wait, we’re going into our third week of classes?  I have a paper due next week?  What is going on here?!?

If you’ve had a similar internal monologue/panic attack… you’re not alone.  The start of Spring Semester is always a rough transition and brutal drop back into reality in a post-holiday-freezing-rain-it-gets-dark-too-early kind of way.  I’ve found what is helpful in dragging yourself out of this lazy and self-pitying hole is to get ORGANIZED - simple baby steps to make your schedule much more manageable and to keep your anxiety at bay.

First, get a calendar… Then, yes, USE this calendar (some sort of assignment book works too).  Mark down when assignments are due and cross those bad boys off when you have finished them.  Nothing is more rewarding that crossing things off your To Do list.  More importantly though, you must mark when you are going to START bigger assignments projects, papers, etc.  If you have a paper due in two weeks… choose a book by Monday.  Make an outline by Friday… If you get stuck, come and brainstorm with someone in the Writing Center… If you’ve written and rewritten your draft and can’t look at it anymore?  Not sure if your thesis makes sense?  We’re happy to help you at that point, too!  We love to organize at the Writing Center (seriously ask anyone there… we get a strange high from helping you get your thoughts down in a sequential and logical way)! 

BUT, we can’t help you if you’ve waited to start eight hours before the assignment is due and you’re sitting in the library at 2:00am ripping your hair out and hating the start of your semester… So, take a baby step, figure out what’s coming up, and come see us in the WRITING CENTER!  Where our obsessions are strangely helpful!

Monday, December 1, 2014

5 Internet Miracles for which Every AU Writer Should Be Thankful

5 Internet Miracles for which Every AU Writer Should Be Thankful
By Roni Garrison-Joyner

This Thanksgiving season, before and after we stuff ourselves full of whatever delicious morsels we can get our hands on, I would like to focus on some things to be thankful for. Many of us have papers due as soon as we get back from the break. It's easy to stress out over the impending flood of work to come in the final weeks of the semester.

I say to you, my fellow AU writer, do not lose heart! There are tools to help you get through the next two weeks. So, when you're up at 4 o'clock in the morning, and you've had one too many 5-hour energies, remember that there is at least 1 thing to be thankful for that you can use to finish those final papers.

The Internet.
Think of all the tools that are available at the touch of a tablet. Online dictionaries, thesauruses, tutorials, and more are sitting online waiting for the AU writer to take advantage of all there is to offer. Here are 5 of the online tools for which I am especially thankful.

1.     The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University:  I use this site mostly for citation assistance. I can quickly look up how to cite a journal, book, government publication, or even a tweet in MLA, APA, or Chicago style.
2.     Google: That's right, I said it, GOOGLE! Google not only has a specialized "Google Scholar" App, it is also one of the most widely used search engines on the internet. Of course you need to be careful when using Google. Obviously you can't cite Wikipedia as a source, but have you ever noticed the reference section at the end of the page? This section often contains links to reputable sources that you can cite. Check it out.
3.     Zotero: This program is a fantastic tool for wrangling all of your research. Just click on the browser plug-in, and Zorero will add all of the available bibliographic information. Then, later when you are composing your works cited/reference page, Zotero will allow you to drag and drop all of your entries into the word processor, automatically formatting those entries according to your chosen citation style. How fantastic is that?! It won't replace the OWL because not all of your research will be on the Internet. But it's still a pretty big deal.
4.     Evernote: Let me just say, if you don't know, you better ask somebody. Nevermind, you don't have to because I'm about to tell you. Evernote will allow you to store and organize almost everything you need to know or remember and make it easily searchable for you at any time, on any pc, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Evernote can sync with your calendar and set reminders. It's like having a personal assistant.
5.     Cute Cat Videos this one is a no-brainer, semi-literally. Every hour or so, a person needs at least five minutes to give the brain a break. For some, that break means a little meditation, some yoga, or a brisk walk. For me, is a quick an easy destination for mindless oooing and awwwing. Five minutes watching these snuggly puff balls of cuteness and I am recharged enough for the next hour or so of deep thinking brain work.

If you did not already know about these wonderful internet applications, why not go check them out? I hope these five things bring as much joy to others as they bring to me. This last stretch of semester will have its share of rough patches, but it's still nice to think about how grateful we are for the little things.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Working with Peer Feedback

By: Sarah Sansolo

So your paper has been peer reviewed. Now what? It can often be difficult to sort through what your classmates have to say and figure out what and who to listen to. A lot of students put peer comments aside and don’t use them at all. What do your classmates know, after all? They’re not the professor. Obviously the professor has the final say, and most of us try to tailor our writing to what he or she wants.

Great writers, though, look to their peers for help. Some creative writers spend years in writing workshops to hone their craft. They recognize the importance of multiple viewpoints and you should, too.

·      Using your test audience. Anyone who reads your paper—a classmate, your roommate, a writing consultant, your mom—is a test audience for your work. This is the one thing that a writer can’t do for him or herself. It’s impossible to know how others will react to your writing unless you ask them to read it. You know what you meant when you wrote that sentence, but can somebody else understand it?
·      Your classmates are experts. “No,” you say, “I’m pretty sure my classmates don’t know much about marine biology or Jane Austen or politics in Taiwan.” Maybe not, but there is one thing they’re experts in: your class. They’ve done the same homework and sat through the same discussions. They’ve spent as much time as you have reading the assignment sheet and thinking about how to respond to it. They remember what your professor said when she clarified what kinds of sources to use. A peer might not know all about your topic, but he or she knows the class and the assignment.
·      Find trustworthy voices. While your classmates are a great resource, not all of them will be helpful. Some readers will simply not be interested in what you have to say or will misunderstand your point in a way that reflects more on them than on your clarity. But there will be someone in your class who understands what you’re trying to do and gives you great suggestions to improve your writing. This peer is a great resource to have. Ask him if you can swap your next drafts or if you can meet up to chat about ideas.
·      Trust yourself. In the end, it’s your paper. You should take in peer comments and think about them carefully, but you don’t have to use them. You know what you want to say and what you don’t better than anyone.

If you’re not sure how to incorporate your peer comments or which reviewers you should listen to, bring your paper and your peer review materials to the Writing Center. Our consultants can help you sort through feedback in a way that will make your paper stronger.

Friday, November 14, 2014

How to Write a Great Personal Statement

By: Joellyn Powers

Personal statements can be overwhelming: in one or two pages, you have to, essentially, summarize yourself. Be it for a potential job, for graduate school, or for a scholarship, a personal statement requires you to explain to a complete stranger why you are the right choice for a particular position. Here are some Dos and Donts to follow as you begin writing a personal statement:

DO highlight your unique life experiences. Studied abroad? Had a cool internship? Been in a leadership position? Make sure to let the reader of your personal statement know! Keep in mind that the people reading your statement will likely be reading dozens of other statements, so what can you say that sets you apart from the pack? But

DONT tell your full life story. Most personal statements should not be more than two pages in length. Again: the committees reading these statements are reading LOTS of them; keep it brief and to the point be specific! Make sure to highlight all of your relevant life experiences, education, and work experience, but dont go into intricate detail for each and every thing.

DO answer the specific questions that are being asked. Make sure to read the guidelines carefully: most places that require a personal statement will pose certain questions, such as: What are your future goals? Why do you see yourself as a good fit for this position? How will you use this graduate degree to accomplish your future goals? Make sure youre addressing these questions; not following specific rules will only make the process of reading your personal statement more challenging for a particular committee. Which brings me to

DONT write the same personal statement for multiple jobs/graduate school applications/scholarships. While you can definitely utilize the same information (and even some of the same paragraphs), make sure there is something unique about each personal statement that applies to each job or school you are applying to. You want to highlight the fact that you have done your research, and that you are excited about these places youre applying to. Is there a particular class at one school that sounds interesting to you? Is there something about a particular companys past successes that you want to comment on? By making each personal statement an individual one, you show that you care enough to take the time to do so, which will only count in your favor as the committee reads through your statement.

And, finally

DO be yourself. Dont worry about coming across as the ideal applicant; be specific about what you see as your strengths and disregard any concerns that they may not be good enough. Again: committees want to see what sets YOU apart from the rest of the applicants, not how you fit into a cliched pack.

For more info on writing personal statements, visit the Purdue OWL website!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Undergraduate Research Proposal Writing

By Madison Chapman

American University is working towards becoming a stronger research university by tapping into its undergraduate population. Even before figuring out a major, students often express an interest in contributing to a professor’s research project or starting their own research initiative for experience. Such opportunities allow students to explore the world of academia while gaining valuable experience which can look impressive on resumes, graduate school applications, and applications for competitive graduate school scholarships (e.g. Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright Awards). Currently, few students know of an annual competitive opportunity through the Vice Provost Office which enables undergraduate students to head up their own research endeavors. The AU Summer Scholars & Artists Fellowship Award is offered to eight students across the university who submit exemplary proposals for research projects to be conducted over an eight week period during the summer. The $4000 award can be put towards any related expenses, and the project does not have to be conducted on/near AU’s campus as long as the student is in regular contact with their sponsoring faculty mentor.
So how exactly do you write a research proposal if you have never done research before? As one of this past year’s Summer Scholar Award winners, I want to share a few tips for crafting an effective proposal.

·       Think ahead! The strongest research projects (regardless of discipline) stem from projects started in advanced classes within your major. Talk to your professors about how you could expand or extend work on a topic that interests you.

·       Start early! Once you know what you want to do, work with your designated mentor, academic advisor or even another professor to perfect your draft proposal. The experts in your field will know the proper phrasing and keywords necessary for research proposals.

·       Ask yourself why this topic is important! Make sure your research project is tackling a subject which interests you while also addressing something significant and timely to your discipline.

·       Know the scholarly conversation! You are entering an academic dialogue when you begin a research endeavor. Work with professors to discover the literature in your field most relevant to your subject. Before you start original research, you should gain a thorough understanding of how your work fits into the field as a whole. 

·       Have a methodology! Whether you have a scientific project requiring specific technology or you are conducting a humanities project, you need to know exactly how you are going to try to answer your research question(s). Your proposal is not just to articulate what you want to research and why, but also serves to validate that you are capable of carrying out the project successfully.

·       Be mindful of scope! The selection panel will reward ambition only within limits. As scholars-in-the-making, you should be aware of how specific your topic needs to be in order to be manageable. While many people (such as myself) expand their summer projects into independent studies and/or capstones, you need to know what you can accomplish just within those eight weeks.

·       Stay positive! Although I have mentioned a lot of qualifications for your proposal, try to sound confident and passionate. Remember, you are only competing with other undergraduate students. No one can claim to have vast research experience so don’t try to sound like an expert yet. At this point in your academic career, you are only responsible for having genuine interest and motivation. Good luck!