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Archive for the ‘USF Writing Center Blog: Tips, News, and Updates’ Category


The Struggle to Write a Personal Statement

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 | Posted in USF Writing Center Blog: Tips, News, and Updates by Karen Langbehn | No Comments »

Sometimes writing that personal statement is anything but personal. Between word counts, trying to “sound smart”, attempting to come off as interesting/funny/serious/intellectual/etc, the whole process is exhausting! From graduate and medical school to scholarships and grants, many of us will find it necessary to write these statements and try to explain our entire reason for being in 500 words or less.

The New York Times recently published an article about these difficulties and discussed how writing a college application is a lot like writing poetry. It’s an art form.

The article’s message? Don’t feel bad, you’re far from being the only one struggling with this genre of writing.

Highlighting & Error Finding

Monday, November 7th, 2011 | Posted in USF Writing Center Blog: Tips, News, and Updates by Karen Langbehn | No Comments »

Here is another great tip from Writing Center consultant Sandy Branham.

A tool that has been helpful for students performing critical analysis is the highlighting method. This is particularly helpful in papers for composition classes. Highlighting can really be used for anything, but I use it in 3 different ways.

1. I ask students to highlight each quote or paraphrase in their paper. Then, I ask them to use a different color highlighter to indicate areas in which the student analyzes source material. If the student uses yellow to highlight quotes and paraphrases and blue to highlight analysis, every instance of yellow highlighting should be followed by blue highlighting.

2. I use highlighting to deal with issues of tense – I ask students to use 3 different colored highlighters, and to highlight each verb in the paper. Past, present, and future tenses are each highlighted in a different color, enabling the student to easily identify areas in which unnecessary tense shifts occur.

3. I also ask students to use highlighting to identify passive voice by focusing on “to be” verbs. By highlighting each instance of a “to be” verb in the text, students are able to identify areas of passive voice and can then revise these sentences in active voice.

Grab a set of highlighters at home and try this yourself. See if you start to notice your errors and learn how to fix them on your own.

Reverse Outlines

Friday, October 28th, 2011 | Posted in USF Writing Center Blog: Tips, News, and Updates by Karen Langbehn | No Comments »

Do you have a hard time revising your papers for organization? Writing Center consultants Sandy Branham and Meagan Araujo find reverse outlines to be very helpful.

Often, we focus on outlining as a prewriting tool, but it can be just as useful after you have something written. Specifically, it helps writers check to see if they have written what they have set out to write. Reverse outlining also helps writers identify their main points, decide which order to present them, and verify if they presented sufficient supporting material.

Here’s how it works:

The process is simple: we simply read through the paper paragraph by paragraph, stopping after each paragraph to discuss the function/purpose of the paragraph. If the student identifies the paragraph as serving more that one main purpose, we discuss whether or not the student should separate the differing ideas to create two cohesive paragraphs, each with a clear and definite purpose.

If a student identifies a paragraph as having no purpose, we talk about what it would be useful for the paper to do at this particular point, allowing the student to redraft the paragraph with a clear purpose in mind.

After identifying a purpose for each paragraph, we are able to discuss the ways in which each of the paragraphs relate to one another, considering whether the student can move paragraphs around in order to increase the overall effectiveness of the organizational system in use in the paper.

So, the next time you are ready to revise, take the time to create an outline based on what you have written. Ask yourself, “What is the point of each paragraph?” Then, check to see if have made your points in a logical succession. Finally, verify your supporting material.

Grammar Workshops

Thursday, October 20th, 2011 | Posted in USF Writing Center Blog: Tips, News, and Updates by Karen Langbehn | 3 Comments »

Do you have a few grammar questions or find grammar completely confusing? Come to a grammar workshop! Workshops are offered every Monday from 2:00-3:00pm in LIB 125E (right next door to the writing center). You’ll work with a writing center consultant to learn how to find and fix your own grammar errors.You’ll get great tips on how to improve your grammar and write clearly.

No appointment needed! All workshops are free to students, faculty, and staff at USF. Need more info? Call us at 813-974-8293.


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