USF Writing Studio

Archive for October, 2014


Help! I feel overwhelmed! (In other words: How do I start? How do I stay focused?)

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 | Posted in USF Writing Studio Blog: Tips, News, and Updates by dmfarrar | No Comments »

Adams PicThese are two of the most common questions I hear at the Writing Studio.

First of all, I’d like to say that I think many people get hung up on the structure of an essay or paper. Introduction, Body, Conclusion. My short answer to the first question is: you should start however and wherever you want. Of course, in your final draft, the “Introduction”should come first. But while you’re writing, if you feel more comfortable starting with the “meat”of your paper (body paragraphs), or, heck, even with the conclusion, that’s fine. In fact, depending on how you prefer to write, starting with the body may help you stay focused on your topic; likewise, starting with your conclusion might help give you a clear goal to work towards. In my opinion, it’s all up to your preference at that point.

For those searching for an idea about what to actually start typing on their first page, I have these remarks: try to be both interesting and logical. This means you will NOT begin your paper with a statement like, “This paper will…”and you will also not use something like a dictionary definition to try to grab your reader’s attention (it won’t). Now, I would also caution writers not to agonize over the perfect “hook”—if it doesn’t come to you initially, you can always add it later. Additionally, it does well to keep in mind that, while the introduction does provide background information, you still want to keep it all relevant to your topic (beware sidetracks here).

If you feel you are struggling with digressions, don’t panic; they happen to us all. Just be aware of this as you revise/rewrite your paper, and don’t be afraid to be critical. As you read through each paragraph, ask yourself: why am I writing this paragraph? Evaluate the worth of each sentence; do they all tie-in to help support your thesis/claim? Can you easily identify a strong topic sentence in each paragraph? By asking yourself these questions as you read (and write), you can prevent yourself from accidentally transforming your paper into something it was never meant to be.

Happy writing!


Writing Literature Reviews

Friday, October 17th, 2014 | Posted in USF Writing Studio Blog: Tips, News, and Updates by dmfarrar | No Comments »

Writing Literature Reviews
by Meghan O’NeillWriting Tools

We’re nearly halfway through the semester, and for some of us, that means we’re transitioning from reading about our research topics to writing about them. Now that you have acquired in-depth knowledge of your topic—its controversies, dominant and marginal perspectives, and ongoing debates—it’s time to join the conversation and offer an original argument.

But before joining the conversation, you should first write about the conversation itself. In other words, an important step towards writing a compelling and original thesis statement is writing a literature review. A literature review assesses and synthesizes a selected body of published material on a particular topic. It can stand alone, independent of your researched paper, but more often appears as a section of your paper.

As an essay-within-an-essay, the literature review has its own thesis statement and its own organization. A literature review thesis statement makes an informed claim about your selected body of published material. Depending on your discipline, your literature review thesis statement may:

  • combine older material with newer material in order to reveal how perspectives have changed over time
  • reveal unanswered questions or unsolved problems in previous research
  • offer fresh insight into long-standing debates or controversies

Through its thesis statement and organization, your literature review not only contextualizes your larger paper with what has already been published about your research topic, but also establishes why your larger thesis statement is relevant.

For example, a literature review thesis statement might argue current climatology research persuasively reveals the long-term effects of climate change, but has left the question of short-term solutions inadequately answered. This literature review thesis statement lends credibility and relevance to a paper’s larger thesis statement about the need to increase financial incentives for homeowners to retrofit their houses with solar panels.

For more general information about writing literature reviews, please visit the OWL Purdue’s Literature Review page.

If you need help synthesizing your sources, this synthesis matrix created by NC State University Writing and Speaking Tutorial Service Tutors is useful.


Tips for Effectively Using the Writing Studio

Monday, October 13th, 2014 | Posted in USF Writing Studio Blog: Tips, News, and Updates by dmfarrar | No Comments »

TWS Palm Tree Solo

The semester has picked up some steam since our last post! Now that deadlines are approaching, we thought you might be interested in a couple of ways to stay on top of your writing assignments during the semester.

While using the Writing Studio as a writer, I’ve found myself developing better writing habits. This is because our consultants are trained to support writers in developing a plan of action for revision and future writing.  For this reason, I recommend you schedule a time to come work with one of our consultants.

Here are some tips to use the Writing Studio @ USF most effectively as you work on creating healthy writing habits:

  • Be sure to book as early as possible! As soon as the semester gets underway (like it is right now), the Writing Studio can book out up to a week in advance.
  • Watch our twitter feed (@USFWriting), or check out the twitter feed on the lower left hand section of our homepage, for walk-in availability.
  • If you have questions about citation styles, check out some of our resources!
  • If you know when your assignments are due (if they are on your syllabus), try and book appointments to come in to the Studio a week or so before the deadline with a (nearly complete) draft. That’ll give you time to revise your materials and perhaps visit us again before your deadline.

Like most skills, writing abilities change and grow with practice. The more we write and revise, the less stressed and frustrated we feel as deadlines approach. You’ve probably got a deadline coming up in the near future; we encourage you to make an appointment!

See you soon,

Assistant Coordinator
The Writing Studio @ USF


Giving Yourself Permission to Write (a sh*tty first draft)

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 | Posted in Dissertations & Theses, USF Writing Studio Blog: Tips, News, and Updates by dmfarrar | No Comments »


Are you struggling to get started with your latest writing assignment? Feeling anxious? Procrastinating? Well, I have some good news for you, courtesy of my favorite writerly advisor Anne Lamott:

“Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of sh*tty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.”

Yes, you too can write a sh*tty first draft. Moreover, you should. You have my permission, and I instruct you, implore you, to grant yourself this same courtesy. Here is why:

Writing Is Thinking
Writing is writing, but writing is also thinking. Have you ever gotten to the end of a paper only to realize that what you ended up writing wasn’t what you thought you were going to write at all? That’s because, as Annie tells us, “very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it.”  Even the famous ones. Even the best ones. Really. Look here.

Writing Is a Process
Writing is a process, often a messy, messy process (see link above). Part of that process is getting started. Why is this task of putting words on the page so daunting? It is because we have unrealistic expectations about what writing is and how it works. We think we should be able to sit down and write a masterpiece in one draft, but no one does that. We write the mess first, then we clean it up. That is the process.

So, get messy and have faith! When you finish making your mess, you will know what you are trying to say, and you will be able to tidy things up.

For more on sh*tty first drafts, check out Anne Lamott’s original ideas here.

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