USF Writing Studio

Archive for October, 2015


Transitioning: Developing Beyond Formulaic Usage in Academic Writing

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

lindseypicby Lindsey O’Brien, a master’s student in Foreign Language Education and Writing Consultant

When arriving at a topic for this blog, I asked several of my friends to quickly self-assess where they believed their writing fell short. While I informally surveyed both native and non-native speakers of English, the answer I got was almost unanimous: transitioning or writing smoothly. Transition words and phrases, though seemingly inconsequential, act as the hinges that solidify the overall structure of a written work, allowing a writer to concisely and effectively communicate his or her ideas.

In learning how to write an essay, children are presented with the concept of logical organization in a fairly straightforward way. The five-paragraph essay that we learn as elementary school students makes use of simple transitions that organize our essay. For instance, in a five-paragraph essay addressing why war is bad, a student may begin with “Firstly…,” transition with “Secondly…,” “Finally…,” and conclude with “In conclusion.”

This pattern of organization is completely acceptable and actually encouraged at an elementary school level. Sometimes, these organizational routines carry over at the high school and college level. However, once writers mature, such a formulaic construction is seen as juvenile, uninventive, and imprecise. Transitions such as “firstly, secondly, finally etc.” carry little information. Furthermore, they may be rather anemic in terms of their ability to facilitate smooth writing when compared to the plethora of transition words and phrases that are out there.

But what exactly constitutes a good transition word? The good news for you is that they are words you already know, but may have been neglecting in your writing: but, however, still, therefore, meanwhile, additionally, subsequently. The bad news is that the answer to qualifying a good transition is not universal. Transitions ought to be used purposefully, based on context and intended meaning. The web below illustrates the numerous categories of transitions and offers a few examples. Visit this link for a more comprehensive listing.


Thesis Statements

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 | Posted in USF Writing Studio Blog: Tips, News, and Updates by dmfarrar | No Comments »


by Joanna Bartell, a Doctoral Candidate in Communication and Writing Consultant

Everything you write is intended to express something. Whether you’re writing a poem, short story, essay, article, or diary entry, you are writing with the intent to express. With the exception of free-writing (stream-of-consciousness writing), your writing is about something, and somewhere in each piece of writing you produce, there exists an argument, or thesis. As the organizing principle for your writing, developing a strong, concise thesis is key to the coherence and clarity of your work.

As a student at USF, it is likely that most of your writing will be academically driven pieces that integrate course concepts, course readings, personal observations, research, etc. Therefore, this short post will focus on academically motivated writing. While the type of writing assignments may vary from course to course, and while different types of academic writing require different levels of formality, the academically driven writing you do as a student requires a guiding principal.

This guiding principal is your thesis, and, when constructed with some thought and care, it will accomplish a significant amount of work for you. Perhaps you’ve heard one of your professors liken thesis statements to movie trailers. Take a look at this trailer for The Bourne Identity:

Based on this trailer, we understand the basic premise of the movie. We know that Jason Bourne, somehow associated with the U.S. Government, ended up shot and floating in the ocean after a failed assassination attempt on a prominent world figure. Now, the U.S. Government wants Bourne dead; but Bourne is suffering from amnesia, and has no memory of his past before waking up on the boat that saved him, and he is left running for his life as he tries to figure out who he is, who wants him dead, and why. Importantly, we also know that Jason Bourne is kind of a badass.

As you know, the point of movie trailers is to give audiences a clear idea of what the movie is about, how it will develop, and why they should be interested. Your thesis statement should accomplish the same general tasks so that your readers understand the main point of your writing, have a general idea of what you’ll discuss, and have a sense of what is interesting about your topic or argument. Essentially, your thesis statement should answer the questions, “What is this?” and “Who cares?” Just like the movie you want to see, the point of your academically driven writing should not be a mystery.

Your thesis statement should:

  • Offer readers a road map of your paper
  • Informs your readers how you frame/interpret the subject matter
  • Informs your readers of the significance of the subject matter
  • Makes a disputable claim/argument
  • Act as the organizing principal of your paper

Finally, as the organizing principal of your writing, the rest of your points, paragraphs, and arguments throughout the rest of your paper will continuously work to support and refer back to the thesis statement in your introduction.

Below are some resources that offer tips, examples, and illustrations to help you conceptualize and construct strong, clear thesis statements for your writing assignments.

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