Preparing Your Turkey

Throughout the month of November, The Learning Hub will be discussing how undertaking preparing and cooking the turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner is like going through the various stages of the writing process. This video? Preparing your turkey – it’s like going through the prewriting strategies that help you gather your thoughts and made decisions so that you have a clear plan in place before you begin writing!

 

 To learn more about how you can come up to The Hub for appointments, visit our website where you can find our contact information, helpful resources, and lots of other information!

Picking Out Your Turkey

Throughout the month of November, The Learning Hub will be discussing how undertaking preparing and cooking the turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner is like going through the various stages of the writing process. This video? Picking out your turkey – it’s like reading your prompt, understanding the expectations, and picking the right topic to then get going!
To learn more about how you can come up to The Hub for appointments, visit our website where you can find our contact information, helpful resources, and lots of other information!

 

Writing Madness First Place – Staying Motivated!

by Sarah

After polling UIS students throughout the month of March on which writing issue they found the most frustrating, we were very surprised to discover that “Staying Motivated” was the top choice. Considering that some of the competitors it faced were “Thesis Statements,” “Structuring a Paper,” and “Finding Sources,” all of which are more specific, writing-related issues, we never thought motivation was going to be the cherry on top of this frustrating writing sundae.

Maybe it’s because Dana was our photographic representative. Not many people can resist the charm of a dog, much less one as cute as this black lab baby.

dana

But we like to think that students voted based on the actual issue itself, rather than how cute the mugshot to show it off was.

Anyway, given that Staying Motivated won, The Learning Hub’s writing staff wanted to develop a resource for UIS students so that they can find that motivation to write, to read, to study, or do whatever they need to do to succeed in their college classes.

So what did we come up with? Well, motivation is a hard one. It’s not something you can just snap a finger and suddenly develop. Nor is it something you can follow a step-by-step process to attain. Rather, it’s intrinsic. Something that’s inside you, and that pushes you to keep going. Often, motivation comes from the desire to do the task. If you are enjoying yourself, you’re likely going to keep going. However, much of the writing, reading, and studying we do at the college level is on things we may not find particularly interesting, and so it’s hard to feel invested in that work. So motivation can be hard to come by. And even harder to force it on yourself.

So way to go, UIS. Way to pick the most intangible of all the writing issues on our bracket, and one of the hardest to try and find resources or advice to inspire it in all of you.

But we’re going to do our best. Because motivation is internalized, and difficult to manifest in another person, we’re going to try something different. What we have done with this post is to gather seven different websites or apps that will help you to stay on task, and stay motivated. Rather than digging into yourselves to find motivation, we’re going to try and find external technologies you can use that might help to train you to be more organized, to think of learning in ways that are more fun, or to keep working in spite of a lack of motivation. All of the sites and apps listed here are free (although some have paid options), and so they are accessible for you to use RIGHT NOW to help you with motivation and that may help you become a better college student. We hope you find this list helpful!

  1. Any.do

Any.do is a checklist, task-based software that allows you to create lists of things you need to do, and then check them off as you do them. You never need to worry about forgetting something, because everything you need is right there in this cross-platform interface. It is free to use the checklist feature, but if you want to upgrade to a premium account, it’s only $2-3 a month!

anydo

  1. OneNote

OneNote is part of the Microsoft Office suite, and as a UIS student you have access to Office 365 for free, so you can already use this software for free! It’s a note-taking system that helps you organize by class, by lecture, and even by topic. You can insert pictures, videos, icons, and all other sorts of things to make your note-taking and your studying more interesting. If you have a tablet or convertible, you can even write out notes by hand and then convert them to typed text later on. It’s a very versatile program, and should help to get you motivated in your coursework!

onenote

  1. Hemingway App

One of the most tedious and difficult parts of the writing process is editing. Catching all the grammar, style, and typo mistakes in your work takes a lot of time, and sometimes you may miss some issues. If this is something that resonates with you, then consider using Hemingway App. It is a software you can use in a browser for free, or download as a desktop app for only $20, and you use it by typing into it. In “write” mode, you type as you would with any other word processing software (Word, etc.). Then, once you’re ready, you can switch over to “edit” mode, and Hemingway App will show you everywhere that you have any issues. It’s much more accurate than Microsoft Word’s grammar and spellcheck feature, so it’s a handy helper for you and your writing! Hopefully, this app will motivate you, because it will save you time and energy!

hemingwayapp

  1. MindMUp

Another part of the writing process that really trips up a lot of students is planning out ideas. I don’t know about you, but outlines are not really any fun. But if you don’t have a solid plan for your writing, it’s unlikely you’ll end up with a successful paper. So finding a way to organize is important. If you’ve never tried mind mapping before, then you’re in for a treat. MindMUp is a wonderful web-based system of mind-mapping, where you can create webs, storyboards, and other graphic representations of your ideas and how they relate, link up, or flow from and into one another. The basic mapping app is free, and you can create an unlimited number of maps through it. Check it out as a creative way to amplify your writing process!

MindMUP2

  1. Forest

Another significant reason why students lack motivation is that they are easily distracted. Who can blame them? With all the apps, websites, and streaming out there, it’s amazing any of us get anything done anymore. Luckily, there are apps and programs out there than can help to cut through the noise, and force you into productivity free from those pesky distractions. One of those is Forest, a free Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox extension, but also a $1.99 app for Apple and Android users. Once you set the 30 minute timer, a tree starts growing. At the end of the 30 minutes, you’ve grown a tree that is added to your forest. If you grow enough trees in the app, you can grow an actual tree in a developing country in the real world! The catch is that you cannot exit the app during the 30 minute time frame. If you do, your tree will wither and die. This app makes productivity a game that has great payoff, so check it out if you find yourself picking up your phone or checking your social media often while you are trying to work.

Forest

  1. Cold Turkey Blocker

Another great way to avoid distractions is with a dedicated website blocker that, when enabled, will not let you visit any of the common sites you check out when you’re ultra-procrastinating. There are many out there, but one that works well is Cold Turkey Blocker. It’s free (many blockers are not), and, as a bonus, it can block programs and applications on your computer, too. Also, it doesn’t just put up an error message when you try to go to one of the no-no sites. It gives you an inspirational quote you can take with you as motivation to keep going and to finish your task. The basic program is free, but for $25-29 you can get all sorts of other features, like a scheduling system for your studying, break intervals, and other things. It’s pretty neat – give it a try!

ColdTurkeyBlocker

  1. Marinara Timer

Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique? It’s a style of studying or working in which you set a timer for 25 minutes, and when that’s done you can take a 3-5 minute break. Then you work for another 25 minutes, then break again for 3-5 minutes. Then work for a final 25 minute span, and finally you get to take a longer break, usually 15-20 minutes. Then you start the process again. This technique can be very helpful if productivity or motivation is lacking, because it gives you breaks where you can get a little procrastination out of your system before diving back in. It also pushes you to break your work into smaller, more manageable tasks. All in all, it’s an excellent way to stay motivated. Marinara Timer is an easy-to-use website that makes this method super easy and painless to try out.

MarinaraTimer

We hope you have found this list of websites and apps helpful. Please check them out and see if they will help you to stay motivated in your reading, your studying, and your writing.

If you still struggle, though, please consider making an appointment with our Academic Skills TA in The Learning Hub. She works with issues like Time Management, Study Skills, Note-Taking, and, yes, Motivation.

For more tips, see the Learning Hub’s handout on writing introductions below, visit the Learning Hub’s website for more handouts on writing skills, make an appointment with a tutor, and keep your eye on this blog!

Writing Madness 2nd Place – Focusing Ideas in the Paper!

by Courtney

focus1

 

-A thesis statement reflects the main idea of your paper, summarizing the main idea and central message.  Avoid vague words and overly explicit statements.

-Remember to introduce your thesis statement early in the paper so that you can frame your ideas with this focus.

arrow2

focus2

 

 

 

 

 

-Break the goals of the assignment down individually and spend some time reflecting
how you’ll meet expectations now that your
topic has been selected.

-Consider re-writing the prompt in your
own words to ensure that you’re properly understanding what you’re being asked to
write about.

arrow1

focus3

 

-Once everything is on paper, you’ll be able to
make connections on the page and substantiate
the claims of the thesis.

-When you’ve taken time to brainstorm ahead
of time, you’ll be best equipped to center in on
the most vital ideas.

 

 

 

arrow2

focus4

-Once you’ve been able to maintain distance from your paper, you’ll be able to see where you’ve rambled or lost your train of thought through your paper.

-After you’re feeling refreshed, you’ll be able
to produce well-paced and supported ideas.

 

arrow1

focus5

-Much like an outline to start your paper, but a
reverse outline is a way to check in that your
ideas are clearly articulated.

-Use this method to see how your ideas connect together and how firmly they relate  to your
thesis statement.

arrow2

focus6

-Here at The Hub, we have strategies to help
you focus your draft and suggestions on how
to approach revisions.

-Plus, it’s good to get another perspective on your writing, because another person may be able to pinpoint where you may lose focus.

Writing Madness Consolation Post #7 – Thesis Statements!

The third round of our Writing Madness bracket has concluded, which left us with two writing issues that won’t be participating in the next round of voting. The Learning Hub’s writing staff we will be presenting them along with specific resources to help you overcome your frustrations with them. This time? Conclusions!

by Raven

Thesis statements are a frustrating aspect of writing that many college students struggle with. It requires the writer to sum up their thoughts into a concise statement to provide a focus for the essay. Any weakness in the thesis will no doubt be apparent throughout the entire essay. However, have no fear. There are a few tips to make writing a thesis statement a little less stressful.

One helpful tip is to have an outline for your thesis. Write down some notes on what your argument is about and what points you’re going to use to support it. Once you have those notes, organize them into a concise sentence or two stating your main argument and your supporting points.

Another piece of advice is to write down your thesis on a separate piece of paper or type it on a different document, and refer back to it periodically. It is easy to drift away from the main point of the essay when writing, so having that thesis statement easily accessible will help create a clear and consistent paper.

The final tip is to seek assistance. As UIS students, you have many options. You can utilize your professor’s office hours by asking them to review your thesis. You can also take advantage of the Learning Hub’s many services. This can take the form of making an appointment with one of our writing tutors, or taking advantage of our numerous writing handouts.

These are just a few tips to making the process of writing a thesis statement easier. For more information see our handout on thesis statements.

For more tips, see the Learning Hub’s handout on writing introductions below, visit the Learning Hub’s website for more handouts on writing skills, make an appointment with a tutor, and keep your eye on this blog!

I hope you found this resource helpful, and remember to vote in the final round to determine the most frustrating writing issue faced by UIS students. Voting will conclude on Tuesday, March 28th at 12:00pm CST!

Writing Madness Consolation Bracket #5 – Structuring a Paper!

The second round of our Writing Madness bracket has concluded, which left us with four writing issues that won’t be participating in the next round of voting. The Learning Hub’s writing staff have picked two of these four, and this week we will be presenting them along with specific resources to help you overcome your frustrations with them. This time? Structuring a Paper!

by Alex

I’m not much of a betting woman, but if I was, I would not have bet Structuring a Paper would lose to Staying Motivated. That’s what’s so exciting about Writing Madness: who knows who’s going to come on top!

However, Structuring a Paper did at least scrap its way into the Educational Eight, and I’m pleased to be writing about this particular topic. Despite how much it makes me want to throw my computer…

monkey
via Giphy
*NOTE* One laptop may have been harmed in the making of this post

Over several years as a tutor, I’ve come up with a couple of strategies that I’ve found helpful and have led to a safer, more secure environment for all electronic devices. I hope some of these ideas and resources may be helpful to you on your writing journey.

  1. Organize using a pattern that fits with your assignment
    For certain assignments, certain patterns of organization make sense to use—no need to reinvent the wheel.
square wheels
via Giphy

Check out our handouts below about the three most common organizational structures: hierarchical, logical, and chronological.

  1. Let your thesis and purpose determine its structure

While writing during my undergrad, my ideas would often run away and leave me with a disorganized paper that was in no way connected to what I was supposed to be arguing.

come back to earth
via Giphy

For me, returning back to the purpose of the assignment and the thesis statement was crucial to help me refocus. Sometimes, I would write the thesis statement on a post-it note and stick it to the side of my computer to remind me what I was supposed to be connecting each paragraph back to. This helped me maintain the structure and prevented me from going astray.

  1. Don’t be afraid to restructure

Sometimes, even the most well-planned outlines go awry. Maybe you discover you have more or less to say about a particular section than you anticipated, or you may even find some ideas aren’t as strong as you envisioned.

up
via Giphy

That’s ok—revising the structure of a paper at the end of the paper is an important process that ensures your paper as strong as it can be—don’t feel like you need to stick to a particular structure just because it looked nice on your outline.

For more tips, see the Learning Hub’s handout on writing introductions below, visit the Learning Hub’s website for more handouts on writing skills, make an appointment with a tutor, and keep your eye on this blog!

I hope you found this resource helpful, and remember to vote in this week’s Writing Madness competition! Voting is open until 12:00pm CST tomorrow, March 21st. Voting in the final round will commence on Wednesday, March 22nd!

Save

Writing Madness Consolation Bracket #4 – Choosing a Topic!

The first round of our Writing Madness bracket has concluded, which left us with eight writing issues that won’t be participating in the next round of voting. The Learning Hub’s writing staff have picked four of these eight, and over the next week we will be presenting them along with specific resources to help you overcome your frustrations with them. This time? Choosing a Topic!

by Brock

Choosing the topic of your paper is one of the first steps in the process of writing.  It can also be one of the most frustrating.  As you open a Word document or begin to sketch prewriting ideas, your head may become cluttered with questions like “What is my topic? How do I take all this dense information from class and assigned readings and turn it into a paper?  How do I know when a topic is strong or weak?  How many energy drinks do I need to purchase in order to complete this paper?”  All of these questions are common among writers.  Luckily, the Learning Hub has a handout called “Subject to Thesis” which is a great way to begin thinking about your topic.  It covers how to go from a subject to a focused topic, and then even explains how to craft a thesis statement for your topic. Check it out below!

For more tips, see the Learning Hub’s handout on writing introductions below, visit the Learning Hub’s website for more handouts on writing skills, make an appointment with a tutor, and keep your eye on this blog!

Also, don’t forget to vote in our writing madness bracket! Round three of voting begins tomorrow, Wednesday March 15th! Stay tuned!