USF Writing Studio

Archive for March, 2016


Résumé Writing for Undergraduates

Monday, March 21st, 2016 | Posted in USF Writing Studio Blog: Tips, News, and Updates by dmfarrar | No Comments »

Sandy Blog Post

by Sandy Branham, a PhD candidate in Texts & Technology and Writing Studio Assistant Coordinator

So, you have to write a résumé, but you’re not quite sure how to begin because you feel like you don’t have any experience. Well, first off, it’s important to know that you are not alone. Many undergraduate students, particularly those who have not worked or have worked very little, believe that they do not have enough experience to compose a résumé. However, I think that once you begin reflecting on your educational, extracurricular, and volunteer activities, you’ll find that you do have valuable experiences that you can highlight on your résumé to demonstrate some of your amazing skills and qualities.

This blog post focuses on how you can present your educational experiences on your résumé to make up for your lack of job experience.

Typically, the education section of a résumé will look something like this:

Sandy blog Education 1

The typical entry for education includes the name of the university or college you attended; the degree that you earned or are pursuing; any concentrations, minors, or certificates that you earned or are pursuing; your GPA (only if it is high); and your date of graduation. In this example, the writer had not yet graduated and is indicating that her expected date of graduation is May of 2017.

At first glance, it seems that there might not be much to add here. But, there is! Take a moment to make a list of all of the classes that you’ve taken so far in your college career that might be applicable to the position you are seeking. Think here not only of classes in your major, but also of electives that might have focused on skills like communication, writing, or public speaking, skills which are relevant for most professional positions. Then, include the courses that are most relevant in a “Relevant Coursework” section, which might look something like this:

Sandy blog Education 2

Now, with the addition of a list of relevant courses, your reader has a better understanding of your previous educational experiences. For example, we can easily see that this writer not only has significant experience with courses in the hard sciences (biology, chemistry, physics), she also has experience in social science (sociology) and in the communication of technical information.

Maybe adding a Relevant Coursework section is all you need to do to fill up the page. If so, great! You’ve got a full page of content and you’re telling the reader more about your educational background. But maybe your page is still feeling a bit empty. What now?

If you’re in a situation where you have no work experience, the first thing you want to attempt to highlight are your experiences with volunteering or in campus or community organizations. You’ll format these entries just as you would format the entries in an employment section, listing your title, the organization you volunteered for, when and where you volunteered, and including bullet points that described what you did/learned. So, an entry for volunteer experience might look like this:

Sandy blog Volunteer

But, wait! What if you don’t have any volunteer experience? Have no fear; you can highlight your skills and qualifications by presenting the work you’ve done in your classes in more detail. So, just as in your Volunteer Experience section, you can highlight either the projects you’ve completed in your classes, or you can organize this section around your skills. For example:

Sandy blog Projects


Sandy blog Skills

In the first example, our writer is organizing her information based on projects, which is a good organizational pattern to follow if you have several large projects that you can highlight in this way. In the second example, our writer is organizing her experiences based on skills; she might also have subsections in this category dedicated to leadership, time management, or organization, for example. The key here is to be using bullet points to describe the skills and qualities you developed as a result of these experiences rather than, for example, just listing the assignments you completed in a particular class.

Hopefully, this post has helped you to see how, by looking at your experiences from a different perspective, and by making the categories you include on your résumé work for you, you can fill the page and show a potential employer all of the amazing skills and qualities you have to offer!


Professionalism: Five Format and Style Tips to Make Your Paper POP!

Monday, March 14th, 2016 | Posted in USF Writing Studio Blog: Tips, News, and Updates by dmfarrar | No Comments »

Rob Blog Pic 3

Written by Rob Alexander, an MFA student in Creative Writing and Assistant Coordinator for the Writing Studio

Although misguided, young Calvin below makes some interesting points, specifically about what a graduate thesis looks like. Whether you are writing a graduate thesis or a first-year composition paper, you must follow certain formats and style (which may vary, depending on your professor) to make your paper look clean and professional.

Rob Blog Pic 1

Watterson, Bill. “Calvin and Hobbes.” CalvinandHobbes.com. Web. 25 Jan. 2016. <http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1989/10/31>.

Tip 1: Read your assignment guidelines to find out which style to use! I cannot stress this enough. MLA, APA, Chicago, and others all have a unique style and format to follow. If you choose the wrong one, your paper will still look good but will not be the correct fit. It would be the equivalent of wearing a tuxedo to a swimming meet, or a ball gown to a job interview.

Tip 2: Now that you know what style to write in, make sure you write in that style! If unsure on all the rules and regulations, visit your local writing studio or do some research online. A fantastic site for such questions is the Purdue Owl, which covers MLA, APA, and you guessed it, Chicago.  Important note: style does not only mean citations. Headings, title/cover page, page numbers, spacing, font, etc., all of these can be affected by whatever style your professor has assigned.

Tip 3: Speaking of fonts, please use a non-irritating font and a reasonable font size. The standard is Times New Roman, size 12. Personally, I suggest that you always use Times New Roman, size 12. Don’t be cute. And don’t try to hit the page count by making your font larger or margins smaller. Professors read hundreds of papers a semester and will know when something doesn’t look write, no matter how sneaky you are. If you absolutely despise Times New Roman, serif fonts are deemed acceptable. As always, read your syllabus to see if your professor has a preference or has banned any outlaw fonts like Jokerman.

Tip 4: Nothing screams amateur as much as a glaring typo. Proofread your work. Proofread your emails. Proofread your texts, twitters, snapchats, everything. Sure, we are human. We make misteaks. But when a professor sees that you wrote dime store instead of dinosaur, they may view you as lazy, or might think that you rushed through the assignment. Read your paper out loud. Read your paper backwards sentence by sentence. Have a friend read the paper. Say it with me now. No more dime stores! Make dime stores extinct! As for grammatical and punctuation errors, check out The Writing Commons, and the wide variety of information they offer.

Tip 5: You may have noticed that I’ve been using exclamation points and bold lettering. What’s that old saying? “Do as I say, not as I do.” Yeah, that. Don’t use exclamation points. Don’t bold words. Don’t write in ALL CAPS. DOESN’T THIS FEEL LIKE I’M YELLING? DOESN’T IT LOOK UNPROFESH? Also, do not abbreviate words or use slang. Spell it out. Do not be unprofessional. Many professors will also tell you not to use contractions, which means, don’t use can’t and won’t, couldn’t and shouldn’t, etc.

To conclude, I would like to say that your professor or instructor trumps all. Always follow the professor’s guidelines. Keep in mind, errors of sloppiness can greatly alter how your professor reads and responds to your paper. Don’t anger the beast. And beware the frumious Bandersnatch. The simpler and cleaner your paper looks, the better.

My last metaphor of wisdom: beauty is only skin deep. Skin covers up the meat and bones and blood, which can be unsettling if seen. However, without all that chunky stuff inside, skin is just a loose and raggedy bag. You still must write content, cite your scholarly sources, and make intellectual/stimulating arguments. Content is not style. You can write a great paper that looks sloppy, but you can also write an awful paper that looks fantastic. Both are poor choices.

Let’s see how it worked out for our boy, Calvin.

Rob Blog Pic 2

Watterson, Bill. “Calvin and Hobbes.” CalvinandHobbes.com. Web. 25 Jan. 2016. <http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1989/11/04>.


Finding Your Topic via Google Scholar

Friday, March 11th, 2016 | Posted in USF Writing Studio Blog: Tips, News, and Updates by dmfarrar | No Comments »

sashi blog pic 3

by Sashi Gurram, a PhD student in Civil and Environmental Engineering and Writing Consultant

Okay! You have an academic paper due on a topic about which you know nothing. If you are a seasoned writer, you already know how to get started on this. But if you have never written a paper, you might be panicking, “How do I get started?” or “Where can I find the resources?”

Well, don’t freak out yet. In fact, as a Writing Studio consultant, I usually get a few students every semester who specifically come for advice on finding research articles. There are several online academic database search engines that you can rely on to search for these resources.

But, the question is, “How do I know, which database or search engine is apt for me?” Perhaps the best place to start is Google Scholar!

According to the University of Illinois Library, “Google Scholar is an online, freely accessible search engine that lets users look for both physical and digital copies of articles. It searches a wide variety of sources, including academic publishers, universities, and preprint depositories.” While Google Scholar is not entirely perfect, few disagree about its user-friendly features and usefulness for the uninitiated. All you need is a set of key words that are related to your topic. For example, if your topic is titled “Impact of traffic-related air pollution on human health,” you can simply type in the words traffic, pollution, and, health into the Google Scholar search bar, as shown below.

Sashi blog pic 1

The results are generally sorted by their relevance to the keywords although you can also sort them by year using the sort by date link on the left side of the page. Often, the title of an article gives a good indication of its relevance to your topic. For example, in the figure above, the first 4 articles seem to be close to our topic. However, in some cases, it may not be possible to decide the relevance of an article simply based on its title.  If this is the case, you can open the specific paper and quickly read through its abstract to see if it matches with your topic of interest.

Using these techniques, you will find at least one article of interest within the first two pages of the search results. Otherwise, you may try modifying (by either adding or removing) your keywords. Additionally, you can also filter these results by year using the date filters on the left side of the search page. Once you find an article of interest, you can use it to search for additional related articles in two ways; 1) using the reference list at the end of the article, you can find similar articles that are cited by this study and 2) using the Cited by link below the article on the Google Scholar page, you can find similar articles which cite this study. In this way, budding academic researchers can use Google Scholar’s features to their advantage and successfully navigate the maze of academic research.

To start researching, visit Google Scholar here!

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