USF Writing Studio

Archive for February, 2016


10 Ways of Consulting with an iPad

Thursday, February 25th, 2016 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

Today I challenged my coworker by asking her, “Do you think there are 10 ways of consulting using an iPad?”

As expected, she paused, gave me an adorable inquisitive look, and thought for a moment. I asked her again, “You don’t think it’s possible, do you?”

To this, she responded with caution, “It depends on how many apps you have.”

I challenged her by responding, “It is not about the number of apps you have, it’s all about the number of creative ways that you can utilize the iPad.”

As an iConsultant, I have worked with students who are inhibited about the use of technology when examining their papers. Sometimes they seem to “forget” to email me their drafts, but they always have a hard copy. Here is my solution to this issue:

  1. Email– You can access your email through an iPad and download files or access pertinent information about a class.
  2. Apps – iPads can be used to download documents and view them using a variety of apps such as Notability, ShowMe, Evernote, Penultimate, Fluent MM, TurboNote, etc. Since I live by Notability, the following ideas are derived from my personal experience using this app.
  3. Download documents – You can use Notability to open up Word documents or .pdf files (sometimes .pdf files work better because the formatting does not get altered in the conversion process).
  4. Recording – Notability allows you to record your conversation/reflection and save it for posterity.
  5. Highlighting – Visual interaction makes the writing, revising, and rewriting process easier and more stimulating for the eyes. There is a variety of colors and you can also change the width of the highlighter’s mark to suit your needs!
  6.  Underlining/circling – Another awesome tool for reviewing/revising is the stylus because it allows you to write directly on the document and save it for future references.
  7. Typing – Sometimes the stylus does not permit for the writing of long, comprehensive sentences. Therefore, I like to use the typing tool because it allows me to help a client rewrite an entire sentence or add a new idea without having to open a new document. This adds a professional touch when I am consulting a writer.
  8. Research – Believe it or not, students love consulting with me about formatting. It may also seem hard to believe this, but, after having worked with both APA and MLA for so many years, I no longer recall the difference between the two of them, and I have to consult Purdue OWL every time I write a paper. Therefore, during my iSessions, when a student asks me about formatting in Chicago style, I casually state, “Let’s double check the rules on Purdue OWL so that you know of the tools that are available to you when you are reviewing the rest of your paper at home,” and we go straight to the website from the iPad.
  9. Brainstorming/outlining – There are students who have no ideas or they have a million ideas, and they simply do not know where to begin. I usually ask them to start listing ideas out loud as I create some sort of an outline or mind map using those ideas. It may seem like we are simplifying the task; however, this is a great tool for empowering students because it allows them to realize their mental potential through concrete ideas on a visual map. 
  10. Presentation– Lastly, I have students who want to receive feedback on a presentation that they might have created for a class. By using a toggle to connect the iPad to a flat screen, we have now created a perfect space for the student to do everything from writing a paper, reading it out loud and reflecting upon it to revising it and presenting it for the consultation session.
In conclusion, an iPad will enhance your sessions by engaging your learner and challenging them to think outside the paper and onto the big screen. Furthermore, it allows you to exercise multiple skills beyond reading, writing and highlighting, such as researching, brainstorming, reflecting, and presenting. Using technology allows consultants to develop a holistic experience for their clients by engaging them and activating multiple modes of interaction. So, what about you? How can you use an iPad to improve your consultation session? 

By Nilofer Bharwani, M.A. in Spanish Literature (in progress)

The Person vs. the Personal Statement

Monday, February 22nd, 2016 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

Students can be apprehensive when bringing in personal statements.  Sessions might be prefaced by a comment along the lines of, “I’m not good at writing about myself.”  And I think part of that apprehension stems from the fear that the words are a direct reflection of who they are as a person.  If someone tells them that the personal statement isn’t good, wouldn’t that imply that they as a person aren’t “good” as well?
It’s a tenuous line to walk as a reader (and as someone called to give feedback).  For me, the best way to negotiate that line is by couching advice in positive terms.  I’ve noticed that one common issue is writers summarizing accomplishments (telling rather than showing).  So, instead of saying “There isn’t enough here,” I might mention, “I’d like to hear more about this experience.”
Another common problem is what I call the “I haven’t done anything.”  Perhaps the student had a job, but it’s not relevant to their field.  And while the student has decent grades, admissions boards can see that on the transcript.  To me, this is an opportunity to get to know the student better.  Where are they from?  What from their childhood sparked their interest in the field?  At the end of the personal statement, I want to feel like I have a grasp on who this person is, and many times that can be accomplished by discussing formative experiences outside of academia.
At times, though, the “I haven’t done anything” may simply be an issue of modesty.   Students downplay their involvement in organizations or clubs because they might not think these achievements are impressive, or they don’t believe they have much to say about them.  However, by delving into these experiences, and then describing what one takes away from them, we get insight into the writer’s inner self.
I always aim to be encouraging as a consultant, but I’m even more aware of it when dealing with personal statements.  For students, the task of writing one may seem daunting because it could be viewed as a reflection of their shortcomings.  And for those students who are struggling, it’s even more important to listen to their stories, to help them find a narrative that doesn’t merely inform, but also illuminates.
By Anonymous

Consulting Graduate Students Working on Theses/Dissertations

Sunday, February 21st, 2016 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

This semester, I’ve had a few regular PhD students working on their dissertations or dissertation proposals. At first, I wondered if I had enough experience to consult this level of work, and I was especially concerned about my lack of technical knowledge in fields like engineering. As I began to work with these writers, I realized that being a graduate student myself, I have a lot to offer in terms of the writing process and organizing principles of a dissertation/proposal. Even when I don’t understand the specifics of a study, I’m able to ask questions and point out inconsistencies or places for further development. My biggest suggestions when working with graduate students are to pull from your own strengths and knowledge about thesis/dissertation writing, approach them as academic peers, and foster an environment of open engagement.
Here are three more tips for consulting regular graduate students working on theses or dissertations:

Have a goal for the hour.  The intake part of the session is especially important with regular graduate students who are working on long documents. You can’t cover everything in one hour, so at the beginning of your session, ask the writer what she would like to accomplish and if there are any questions since the last session. It is helpful for me to recap where we left off last time, and I usually ask the writer what she has done since our last meeting. Decide on a goal together, and make sure you leave enough time at the end to discuss what the writer will work on between sessions. I usually make specific recommendations to structure their work at home.

     Print a section at a time. Graduate students working on long documents are less likely to print their work. While they might prefer working on the whole document on their laptops, gently encourage them to print copies of small sections. This is related to having a manageable goal for the session – if the writer wants to focus on one section of her literature review, ask her to print just that section. It will help keep on task, and you will both catch more than if you were looking at a screen. 

     Keep the big picture in mind. Even if you are only working on one section at a time, think of how that section fits into the whole. Towards the end of each session, I ask large-order questions about how a particular piece works in terms of the whole document. I spend a lot of time looking at organization and making recommendations about order and progression. I’ve noticed that much of the time, graduate students want to talk about large issues of process and organization, and as consultants, we can provide a sounding board as they iron out the roadblocks they may be experiencing.
For more information on theses and dissertations, check out these resources:

USF Thesis and Dissertation Guidebook (If you’re working with a writer who is formatting her document for submission): http://www.grad.usf.edu/inc/linked-files/etd_guidebook.pdf
By Lorraine E. Monteagut, Ph.D. in Communication (in progress)

Grappling with Anxiety in the Writing Studio

Friday, February 19th, 2016 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

Although the Writing Studio attracts a wide range of writers with differing needs, many of them deal with anxiety in one form or another. For certain writers, this means anxiety about the drafting or revising process whereas others, particularly non-native English speakers, may display anxiety regarding their grammatical abilities. As writing consultants, we need to work to create a safe environment that counterbalances the anxiety our writers may exhibit, and this presents challenges.
When I first entered the Writing Studio this past Fall, dealing with anxious writers actually heightened my own sense of anxiety; I felt unable to effectively help writers who felt frantic about the often ambiguous comments or directions their teachers had provided. When a writer is anxious, it is almost hard not to pick up on some of that anxiety, especially as a novice consultant. Throughout my time here, I have begun to amass my own strategies for helping anxiety-ridden writers, and I will share these in this post.
Last semester, as an Embedded Tutor, I had the opportunity to work one-on-one and two-on-one with students who were taking their very first English composition course at a university; for some of the international students, it was their first time writing extended works in English. The nature of the composition program at USF requires that students go through planning phases and approach writing as a process that starts with brainstorming. However, during my consultations, I found that many of these students did not know how to plan effectively; these were the students who experienced what is colloquially known as “writer’s block.”
I found that by using a session to teach these students how to plan for a genre they may not be used to writing, many of their concerns were alleviated. By asking the students to write down their thoughts, I was then able to help them organize them in a logical manner. This process helped so many of the students, who, after planning, left the sessions feeling less stressed and were able to write their papers. It is important for us to remember that as consultants, we should address the bigger picture issues whenever possible; as I found, often the largest issue with writers is planning. The beauty of Embedded Tutoring is that it allows the consultant to work in conjunction with both the writer and the professor throughout the entire process.
Unfortunately, most writers do not come to the Writing Studio as part of the Embedded Tutoring program; most students come with a product rather than an outline or plan. Often, students bring works in after getting negative feedback or on the day of the deadline. These students tend to be anxious, lacking in self-efficacy, and stressed out. Particularly when they receive confusing feedback, students may ask a consultant, whom they value as a “writing expert,” to interpret what the instructor meant.

When working with students like this, I find that, although it is impossible to be clairvoyant, providing candid reassurance and focusing on one major concern of the writer’s as well as an area I believe can use major improvement seems to work. I do overtly recognize my limitations as a consultant and recommend that anxious writers address any areas of concern (feedback, rubric, directions, etc.) with their professors in order to get absolute clarification.

When a student presents anxiety, I try to be as reassuring as possible. I also tell writers that I have experienced severe writer’s anxiety in the past, which often surprises them. At the same time, acknowledging the difficult parts of writing can be encouraging for writers; it humanizes us as consultants. To help anxious writers, the least we can do as consultants is to help them realize their strengths through providing genuine praise while also displaying empathy.

By Lindsey O’Brien, M.A.T. in Foreign Language Education (in progress)

Working through Imposter Syndrome

Friday, February 19th, 2016 | Posted in Uncategorized by dmfarrar | No Comments »

I wanted to blog about imposter syndrome because I feel like it’s a topic that often gets overlooked.  I wouldn’t be surprised if many consultants had similar feelings of anxiety about job performance and getting called out for being a “fraud.”  I heard about imposter syndrome my first or second semester of graduate school, but I know of other students who are in their fourth or fifth year and had never been told by friends or professors that imposter syndrome is real, and it affects many of us.
I was nervous about becoming a writing consultant.  I had been a teaching assistant in previous years, so I’m used to working with students on class assignments, but, when I got the job as a writing consultant, a little bit of imposter syndrome popped up and I thought, “What if I can’t really do this?  What if I can’t write well and I’m terrible at this?”  My first week, I observed several sessions with some superb consultants, and my first couple of solo sessions went fine.  But then I had a session that didn’t go so great; in fact the writer told me it had not been helpful for them at all.  Another writer was surprised when I couldn’t just look at a list of citations and tell if they were in correct APA format.   I thought, “That’s it.  People are going to know for sure that I’m a fake because I need to use the style book.”  Not to mention that I’m getting a master’s degree, and many of my colleagues are on the Ph.D. track.

One of the best ways I work through my own imposter syndrome is by being a client of the Writing Studio myself.  Not only does it help me with my own writing, but it makes me a more humble learner and a better consultant.  I learn new strategies about how to help writers, I’m reminded of how it feels to be on the receiving end of feedback, and I acknowledge that I never think my consultant is a fake if they don’t know the answer to a random question off the top of their head. I don’t have to be amazing at every aspect of the English language. I’m not a content expert on every topic.  I’m much better at Chicago or MLA formatting than APA.  But I am a good consultant.  And so are you.

By Jennifer Iceton, M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies (2015) and Geography (in progress)
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