Posts on writing seem to get quite a bit of interest here, so I’ll use classicist Mary Beard’s question to say a little more about this again.
In her TLS column, Beard asks ‘How many words can you write in a day?’ She quotes a friend who claims 500 words is as good as you can get – 500 words of “proper original academic writing” that is. Beard is trying for 1,000, which is partly a result of a deadline for the next project. I’ve discussed this question before (then in relation to Foucault), and also picked the 500 words as a notional figure. Part of the reason for that was that with a relatively small number of writing days a week it quickly added up to a substantial amount.
As I tried to clarify in a comment to that earlier post, the 500 words target is good, finished, polished, and properly…
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Check this out, KU students. A piece about revision.
Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?
Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, 39 times before I was satisfied.
Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?
Hemingway: Getting the words right.
(Ernest Hemingway, “The Art of Fiction,” The Paris Review Interview, 1956) 1
The act of revision is an absolutely necessary part of writing, no matter what kind. Essays, stories, novels, books all require that the author not be satisfied with initial drafts. “Re-vision” means to re-see, or to look at the work from another perspective. This idea is something I try to teach my students in College First Year Writing classes, and it is crucial that I apply the ideas myself to my own work.
When I look back over my writing of the last few years, I can see that…
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Pre-Writing is all of the work you do for a paper, before you actually sit down and begin writing it. Some of the most important work of the writing process takes place in this step, as this is where you’ll be developing all of your big ideas for your paper. Basically, “pre-writing” is the blueprint you’re going to give yourself in order to construct your written piece; if you have a well laid out blueprint, you’ll have a much easier time actually building a paper.
Sometimes just figuring out what you want to write about can be challenging in its own right: This awesome resource from the OWL Purdue (A favorite of the Writing Center) and this useful video from an online English teacher can set you up right for your topic selection.
Writing an Outline
Now that you have your topic picked, the next step will be to organize your thoughts. The easiest way to do this will be in an outline. I know, I know! You’re having horrible flashbacks to required outlines in high school, and asking whether or not you really need to do an outline. Well, you certainly don’t need to, but it will make the writing process much easier for you.
So, you’ve got an outline, you’re putting some arguments together and you realize- Oh no! I have nothing to back up my claims. Well, luckily, Kutztown has a ton of databases that can help you get good, scholarly research on whatever topic you may have picked to write about. This website has a list of all of our databases, with the most helpful being, arguably, Academic Search Complete and JSTOR. (You will be required to log in with your KU ID and password).
A tip: The more specific you can be in your searches, the better. Many of these sites let you pick what “field of study” you’d like to search for, so make sure to narrow everything down as much as you can, in order to find the writing that will be most useful and relevant to your specific interests.
Getting Over Writer’s Block
While it’s not a specific step in the writing process, we all feel writer’s block every once in a while. Whether it is a transition that just isn’t working, a point that you don’t feel like you’re hitting home well, or simply lacking motivation in grinding out the next part of your paper, here, here, and here are some helpful ways to get past your writer’s block.
Okay, so, you’ve picked a topic, your research is done, you have a clear outline, now it’s time to get into the meat and potatoes of things- actually writing the paper. The links in this section should help you with some of the trickiest steps of the writing process itself.
Writing a Thesis
Writing a thesis can be a very hard thing to do. You may know exactly what you want to write about, or what you want to argue, but actually putting that into one or two simple, strong sentences can be a daunting task. Here’s a few of the most useful exercises and worksheets we’ve found on writing strong theses.
The Owl Purdue again has a great, mechanical explanation of the thesis writing process; Ashford Writing has an actual thesis statement generator (which is a good starting point, but which you will most likely want to refine; and this short, instructional video offers some useful tips.
Topic sentences can serve as mini-thesis statements for each one of your body paragraphs. They help set you up for an organized, effective writing style: Make sure each of your topic sentences is building towards proving your thesis, and that each of your paragraphs proves its respective topic sentence. This step-by-step guide is a good starting point, with this YouTube video offering some great examples you can follow along with.
Sometimes moving from one point to another can be very difficult. You know your writing about related ideas, but it just comes out on the page as choppy and awkward. Transition phrases and words are the way to correct this issue. This list of words broken down into useful categories should give you ideas as to how to start your transitions, and this page from the Purdue OWL has great examples and revisions of transition sentences.
As you grapple with your topics, you may find that some of your explanatory sentences just aren’t really working for you. Writing in clear, concise language is a challenge when your working with heady, difficult topics. This link has a ton of great tips on how to write in a clearer fashion, and this video, though a little over the top at times, gives great examples of how to fix an unclear sentence.
This is where most students begin to come to the Writing Center; after they’ve already written their papers, and are looking for help in editing, citing, and proofreading. The biggest thing to remember here is that editing for grammar is the least important part of the writing process: it is much more important to make sure you have a well organized, thought out paper that is meeting all of the requirements of the assignment and making strong, reasonable points. Once that part is done, though, it’s always useful to go through your writing to find any errors you can spot. Here are some links that will help you out:
MLA and APA citations
We’ve used them before, and we’ll use them again, but the Writing Center really cannot recommend any website beyond the OWL Purdue’s fantastic resource on APA (located here) and MLA (located here). These sites are up-to-date, easy to understand, and full of all of the information you could ever want on these citation styles.
It’s hard to make a category dedicated to the huge topic of grammar, so while we won’t be able to address everything here, it should be a good start. This list has some of the most common mistakes, which is a good companion for this monstrous list of grammatical rules. After you’ve perused those for some basic information, this step-by-step guide and handout should get you on the path to proofreading your own writing.
And, just for fun, here’s a link of the most common typos made in the English language.
Still Need Help?
If there’s anything unclear on this website, or a topic you’d like to know more about, please feel free to Contact Us to set up a Writing Center appointment at the time most convenient for you!
Past Presentations and Conferences:
Wanted to make it to a Writing Center event but didn’t quite have the time? You can view information from past events here, as graduate students upload them. This space will be a constant work in progress, but we will do our best to update and add any presentations we have as we hold and develop events in the future.
Writing an Effective Thesis (PPT Presentation)
Understanding Plagiarism (PPT Presentation)
Plagiarism Handout (Document)
APA Header Sample (Document)
Instructions for APA Workshop (Document)
Instructions for Writing Process Workshop (Document)
Introduction to APA Format (PPT Presentation)
The Writing Process (PPT Presentation)
Useful Signal Phrase Verbs (Document)
In the Kutztown University handbook, The Key, there is a legislative definition of plagiarism:
“Plagiarizing the work of others and presenting it as one’s own without properly acknowledging the source or sources. At its worst extreme, plagiarism is exact copying, but it is also the inclusion of a paraphrased version of the opinions and work of others without giving credit. It is not limited to written materials. It includes the wrongful appropriation in whole or in part of someone else’s literary, artistic, musical, mechanical, or computer-based work” (The Key 52).
The consequences for plagiarizing are dire, yet many students tend to be confused about what plagiarism actually is.
Typically there are two types of plagiarism: intentional and unintentional.
Intentional plagiarism is a direct attempt to appropriate the ideas of an author in place of your own original ideas whether it is through exact phrasing or paraphrasing. Students end up plagiarizing for many reasons, so it’s important to proactively address these reasons in an attempt to prevent the plagiarism from occurring. Faculty can use a proactive, instructive approach can help the student to see them as an ally in constructing a paper ethically.
Plagiarism is often a product of poor self confidence in writing ability and poor time management. There should be strategies in place in the classroom that prevent students from relying on dishonest methods to finish an assignment.
English Language Learners (ELL) should also be informed that the appropriation of the ideas of other writers is not allowed. Due to cultural differences, ELL students may believe that it is acceptable or even admirable to use the ideas of another individual as his/her own.
Unintentional plagiarism is often a misadventure of developing writers who struggle to understand the conventions of writing and documentation of sources.
Common Ways Students Plagiarize:
Copying a thesis or idea. Be clear with students that they cannot just rephrase an argument and make it their own. They may incorporate an argument for support, but they must cite it properly.
Copying word for word. This is commonly a result of poor note taking skills. In order to practice academic integrity, students should get used to documenting sources in their notes. They should also summarize what they’ve read instead of simply copying and pasting.
Including information, phrases or jargon without documentation. When including a concept or theory, it is important not to skip on the citation, even if you think it is generally widely known.
Misappropriation of quotes. It is generally frowned upon to take the idea of an author and make it into something to suit your purposes. For example, you would take “I hated this movie because it lacked a certain zeal” and turn it into: “this movie….zeal.” It’s not directly copying and pasting something to make it your own, but it is distorting information for your own purposes.
Forgetting quotation marks. For this reason, it is vitally important that students thoroughly revise their writing to scan for missing quotation marks.
Unsure of citation style. Faculty members must be clear when expressing formatting expectations. Students should be able to locate clear instructions on the particular documentation style required for the course.
“Definitions of Academic Dishonesty.” The Key. Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, 2014. Web.
Contributed by Marlana Eck
Good news, everyone! It’s time for our next KUWC contest!
How short of a story can you write? Enter the Kutztown University Writing Center Creative Writing Contest and win a KUWC t-shirt and a Paw Pass!
Tweet out your masterpiece in 127 characters or fewer–leaving room for the snazzy hashtag and a space–and add #KUWCContest. You can even tag us @KUWrCenter. The deadline for submissions is April 15, 2015.
We hope to see many creative entries!
Last week I announced Catherine Mahony as the Poetry Contest winner here, and now her poem has been published in the Lehigh Valley Vanguard online magazine!
Check it out in all its fancy glory by following this link: Ebony Bloodletting
I know you have all been waiting with bated breath for the announcement of the National Day on Writing Poetry Contest winner! Well, the moment has arrived.
Congratulations to Catherine Mahony, Professional Writing major, Class of 2016, on her winning poem entitled “Ebony Bloodletting”! Our staff carefully reviewed each of the submissions, and hers garnered the most votes for best poem surrounding the theme “What Writing Means to Me.” She has won a KUWC T-shirt, a $25 Paw Pass, and publication in the Lehigh Valley Vanguard and KU’s own Shoofly literary magazine!
Please take a moment to read Catherine’s composition, printed below.
I grip pens to grab hold of seismic waves that rattle my soul,
jabbing like dull needles chisel at bone.
I cross page borders and margins set without limits.
Paper cuts inflicted by barbed words with sharp edges,
indented and intended to perforate fingertips
that keep with the beat of the thoughts,
I delete and repeat and delete and repeat.
Words seep—from my right hemisphere
where no tangible equator divides,
no cerebral crevice to separate logic from lies.
Syllables scattered in pink rubbery shavings.
Inky platelets pour from hollowed veins,
saturating arteries that deliver rich stains.
I cling to naked sheets,
to dress, in blank verses, what quivering cords could not speak.
Coagulation occurs in the stabbing of keys.
In the “this,” in the “that,”
In the “oh no, not that,”
of the ra…ta…ta…TAP!
Until vitals are revitalized with the ratatatatatatatatatat—
a steady pulse
in the pace
of a maker of poems.