USF Writing Studio

Archive for October, 2016


Locating Credible Sources

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

Will Blog Pic1By Will Forde-Mazrui, Writing Studio Consultant

Many students have difficulty writing research papers, but this struggle does not necessarily come from a lack of ideas. For the majority of undergraduate students, the most daunting aspect of a research paper is locating credible sources. Once students have selected a topic, getting started on research can be debilitating. Luckily, the USF Library is well equipped with everything undergraduate students need to find credible sources.

Locating Credible Sources

While Google searches and Wikipedia can be a great starting point for research (what we call “informal research”), they often lead students astray when looking for credible sources. The Internet can provide valuable background material, but most research papers call for credible sources.

What makes a source credible?

First and foremost, peer-reviewed/scholarly publications are the easiest to determine credibility. A peer-reviewed source has been checked for reliability and accuracy by selected professionals from the source’s field. Finding help can be as easy as making an appointment at the Writing Studio where research experts are waiting to provide advice, support, and encouragement. If students need more help, or cannot make it to the Writing Studio, here are a few tips for locating credible sources.

Tip #1: Visit the USF Library website (students should sign in for full access) and look through the “Research Tools” selection on the upper-right part of the page. You can select “Databases by Title” if you know the name of the database you wish to search (e.g., JSTOR or Access World News) or choose “Databases by Subject” if you know your subject but don’t know the names of any specific databases. You can also click here to get started. Many of these databases are subject specific and allow students to search for peer reviewed articles by author, keyword, title, and more.

Tip #2: These databases and searches can be frustrating, especially if a student is struggling to choose a topic or locate the most useful database for their subject. When these types of frustrations threaten to become overwhelming, it may be time to ask for help. On the Library homepage, students are given the option to “Ask A Librarian.” This feature allows for students to send an email, call, or even initiate a real-time chat with specialized research librarians. This is an incredibly helpful tool for students struggling with database searches and brainstorming “search terms.”

Tip #3: Students can take advantage of many other resources on the Library homepage. From the library homepage, students can search for books, articles, and media resources that are accessible through USF (again, make sure to log in for full access). The USF Library has access to a huge selection of potential source material and is capable of requesting any materials not housed in our library through Inter-Library Loan and Uborrow.  The Library research page includes citation help, subject guides, and information on how to find books, articles, and even provides access to digital collections. All students should spend time familiarizing themselves with the resources provided on this page!

While finding credible sources can be a daunting task for undergraduate students, with these tips, and a little perseverance, a wide array of credible research is close at hand. Thanks to the library here at USF, research success is easily attainable!

Will Blog Pic2


Addressing Grammar

Monday, October 17th, 2016 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

By Georgia Jackson, Writing Studio Consultant Georgia Blog Pic2

Despite popular belief, the USF Writing Studio is not the place to go for grammar lessons. Yet, without fail, writers visit the studio morning, afternoon, and night with the hope of soliciting grammatical edits from Studio consultants. When faced with a grammar-focused writer, Studio consultants will attempt to redirect the student’s focus to higher order functions like organization and analysis.  Is the piece of writing meeting the goal it sets out to accomplish?  Does the argument flow logically from point to point?  Are paragraphs introduced with appropriate topic sentences?

The purpose behind this shift in focus from grammar to overall clarity is well-reasoned. It isn’t that Studio consultants are shying away from correcting grammatical mistakes.  On the contrary, what most writers initially peg as weak grammar is more often than not a result of weak structuring. In prioritizing organization, analysis, and other higher order functions, Studio consultants are able to guide writers toward increased clarity without diving into the nuts and bolts of English grammar.

But what of the writers who do require supplementary language training? The writers who, regardless of organizational and analytical skill, cannot convey ideas in writing due to a lack of preliminary English training?

The cycle in place goes something like this:

  1. Instructor takes note of unclear writing in a student’s paper.
  2. Instructor recommends that the student visit the Writing Studio.
  3. Student makes the suggested appointment, meets with a Studio consultant, and spends 50 minutes focusing on higher order functions like organization and analysis.
  4. Student returns to class with a clearer, better organized essay.
  5. Instructor detects persisting grammatical mistakes and subsequently lowers the student’s assignment grade.
    1. Instructor might even ask why the student still hasn’t visited the Writing Studio.

So, where can students in real need of grammatical assistance go?

  1. For INTO USF students, the INTO USF Center offers tutoring in every course within G.E., A.E., and Pathway, in addition to helping with Test Prep, Conversational English and other writing needs. Pathway students can receive help in courses such as English, Chemistry, Engineering, Exercise Science, Business, Math, American Culture, Mass Communication, and Education.
  2. GrammarBook.com is a website that offers lessons on “English Rules” from punctuation to homonyms. It is a free, online resource.
  3. Grammarly.com is a web-based app that works to eliminate errors and enhance clarity and meaning. It is also a free, online resource.

Georgia Blog Pic1


IMRaD: Graduate Writing in the Sciences

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

Sashi Blog F16

By Sashi Gurram, Writing Studio Consultant

Science graduates often freak out when writing a manuscript for an academic, peer-reviewed journal, especially if it is their first manuscript. While writing a manuscript may look like a daunting task, it can also be a very rewarding experience if you know what you are doing. Most science research articles follow the organizational structure of IMRaD: Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion. The section names appear to be self-explanatory. But, many a time, graduate students face issues with writing specifically for each section. In this blog, we will go over a few basics that might help you in drafting an awesome manuscript draft.

Introduction: This is the section where you talk about the significance or importance of your research. You need to motivate your audience about the problem and explain why they should care about it. Then, you can provide a brief review of what other studies did in this area, and what is the existing gap in literature. Following this, you can talk about how your study fills this gap in knowledge and, finally, conclude the section with the study aims/objectives.

Methods: Methods is probably the easiest of all the sections in your manuscript. In fact, it is a great practice to start drafting your manuscript from the methods section. The reason being, in this section , you will just talk about the research design of your study and this does not involve significant amount of analysis or reasoning (of course, you still have to defend the choice of your research design). Your methods section should be detailed and should provide the reader a good understanding of your study design. A good rule of thumb is, the readers should be able to arrive at the same results as yours by following the methodical descriptions in your manuscript. Thus, this gives some perspective about the level-of-detail that is needed while drafting the methods section.

Results: In results, you talk about the general findings of your study. A good way to present the results is by using figures and tables and using them as constructs to present the results. For example, if you have your results in a table, you should not be repeating the contents of the table in the text. You should aim at using the table as a construct and present the results. For example, if your table presents the cadmium exposure results for 5 people, it would look silly if you write something like, “The exposure for person 1 is x, exposure for person 2 is y…” and so on. Rather, it makes more sense to write something like, “The Cadmium exposures for these 5 individuals range between x and y.” So, always think about how to write concisely without losing clarity.

Discussion: Discussion is by far the most important and, at the same time, difficult section in the entire manuscript. This is the place where you analyze your results. Do your results make sense? Are they believable? You can answer the question of believability by comparing your results with results from other studies. If they are different, why do you think they are different? If they are similar, what factors could have influenced this? Next, you can also analyze your results by trying to talk about the factors that could have precipitated these results. Following this, you can talk about the significance or implications of these results. How do you think these results will improve the current understanding in this field of study? What is the most important (and if needed, the second and third most important) takeaway point(s) of your results?

While the above points do not constitute an exhaustive list of guidelines for academic journal writing, it provides some good insights for at least getting you started on this process. You might benefit from additional resources on this topic from here and here.

Image source: “Scientific American Magazine. Second Thoughts about Fluoride” by alisonmckellar is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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