Monthly Archives: September 2015

How To Organize Your College Essay Properly

how to organize college essay
College freshman may get a rude awakening when they hand in their first college paper. What would have earned them high marks in high school is simply not acceptable anymore. High school papers, namely the five-paragraph essay, were your training wheels for more in-depth writing. Instead of looking at facts and pointing out general themes and concepts, college writing asks you to take a deeper look into logic, reasoning, context and analysis and structure your college essay well.

Ok, fine. But how do you accomplish that exactly? What does it look like? Here are some basic guidelines for how to organize your college essays:

Introduction

Your introduction should accomplish several things:

  • Introduce the topic you will be writing about.
  • Make the reader care about the topic.
  • Give them important information about the topic.
  • Convey your position on the topic in your thesis statement.

You can accomplish these with a few different introduction styles:

  • Offer a compelling example.
  • Quote statistics.
  • Use a knock-out quotation.
  • Tell a relevant anecdote.
  • Pose an intriguing question.

Tips on getting your introduction right:

  • Try writing it last. Sometimes, the introduction is the hardest part to write. After you’ve written your supporting paragraphs, you may have an easier time finding the right way to introduce them
  • Don’t be too broad. The “Since the dawn of time humanity has…” introduction should be eliminated. Give some of the above examples a try. Overly broad introductions are a waste of words. Get to the point.

Thesis statement

Your thesis statement defines your take on the subject you’re writing about. It guides the rest of the paper’s arguments. Ask yourself the following questions about your thesis statement:

  • Is it polemical? Can someone argue for or against this statement? If not, it’s weak and needs to be reworked.
  • Does it answer the question or prompt proposed by the professor?
  • Is it contained in a sentence or does it sprawl? A thesis statement is one sentence long and usually comes at the end of the introduction paragraph. Don’t use the introduction paragraph to write a long sprawling thesis statement. Instead, make it concise, specific and packs a punch.

Body paragraphs

This is where your essay will differ from high school writing the most. Body paragraphs will be developed in order to support your thesis statement, just like in a five-paragraph essay. However, the type of research and analysis you will use will be different. In the five paragraph essay, it was okay to write a paper on MacBeth by providing plot point summaries. But in a college paper, you can skip the summary.

You’re not proving to the professor that you read MacBeth. You’re proving that you did research and have developed an interesting and original analysis of it. Same goes with high school history papers where you basically listed events in your supporting paragraphs to prove your thesis statement. That’s no longer acceptable. Instead, you’ll be analyzing why and how certain events occurred, not affirming that they occurred.

Good body paragraphs should contain the following:

  • Well-researched evidence. Use credible sources from experts in the subject. Don’t quote dubious sources or statistics. Forget Wikipedia or someone’s personal blog (unless it’s a professor’s blog). Look for academic publications from known authorities on the subject.
  • In-depth analysis. This is where you start to develop critical thinking skills. Go beyond “who,what,where,when” and start to answer “why and how.” Consider historical context. If you’re writing about an artist, what was the political era in which his work was produced? What were his influences? How did he come to develop his particular style? Why was it important then and why should we care about it now?
  • Contain counter-arguments. It’s not enough to support your thesis statement. That alone doesn’t make for a strong essay. If you wrote a great thesis statement, that means there should be a strong counter-argument to be considered. Your research should reflect not only why you chose the side you chose, but the scope of your choices. What does the opposition think? Why do they feel that way? What is the basis of their argument? Your essay will be all the more convincing if you show the reader that you’ve considered all sides of the subject, and chose the position presented in your thesis statement.

Conclusion

In high school, your conclusions were a summary of the main points in your essay. College essays require a more elaborate conclusion that goes beyond summary and shows reflection, analysis and synthesis of the ideas presented. Here are some ideas for how to conclude a college paper:

  • If you introduced your essay with an anecdote or example, revisit it at the end to close the circle. How have your arguments shed new light on this story?
  • If you didn’t use a quote in your introduction, consider using one at the end. Especially if it seems to capture the essence of your arguments.
  • Suggest ideas for next steps in this area or further research needed in order to make advances and solve problems.
  • Indicate why this issue is relevant and why people today should care about it.

Edit

After you’ve written your first draft using the guidelines from above, it’s a great practice to do a reverse outline. A reverse outline provides a thorough review of your essay draft by checking for flow and helping you spot gaps in your logic as well as spelling and grammar mistakes.
After you’ve written your draft:

  • Read and take notes on your draft. Does it make sense? Is there a better example you could have used? Have you stayed close to your thesis statement or did you start to stray?
  • Number your paragraphs. Sometimes you may find that reordering your paragraphs will help the essay flow better. Numbering them will make it easier for you to reorganize it later.
  • Make your outline. Dissect your draft by using it to make a basic outline. What are the main points of each section? Then take a look at your outline and analyze which areas need to be reworked for coherence and flow.

10 Must-Read Books for Fall 2015

must-read books fall 2015Nothing like fall book releases to make you want to run out and buy the latest novels, curl up in an armchair with a cup of tea and settle down as the chill begins to set in.

This fall has a wonderful mix of established and new authors offering forth their literary efforts to readers across the continent. Their books will take you around the world, spanning continents and, in some cases, centuries. Some wild adventures, somber mourning, political spoofs and love lost and found again will bring you into fall.

Here are 10 picks for you to look forward to:

1. Purity.

Jonathan Franzen’s much anticipated latest novel is a departure from his past works which focused on the American family. This one traces the journey of a political activist from East Germany and his American intern who follows him to Bolivia where they operate a media and government-watch organization.

2. The Japanese Lover.

Isabel Allende’s story that spans the globe from Poland to San Francisco, during WWII, this story tells the tale of political refugee Alma Belasco and her unlikely romance with the son of a Japanese gardener in her aunt and uncle’s house in San Francisco. Ichimei, the gardener’s son, is sent away to a Japanese internment camp and they are never reunited but remain in each other’s thoughts over the course of their lives. Then Alma begins to receive gifts in her nursing home that are suspected to be from Ichimei. A story that interweaves politics, fate and passion.

3. Death by Water.

Nobel Literature laureate Kenzaburo Oe’s new novel is a captivating mixture of Japanese folklore, memoir and meta-fiction. The plot features a celebrated writer whose father had drowned and who’s grieving process included writing a book about it. The book’s first sentence sets up the story beautifully: “The year I went off to university in Tokyo, something fateful happened when I returned home to Shikoku for one in the last in a series of traditional Buddhist services for my father.”

4. The Heart Goes Last.

It is as surreal as any of Margaret Atwood’s previous novels with the plot centering on a social experiment which allows couple Charmaine and Stan to live in a luxurious suburban home in exchange for agreeing to live in a prison cell every two months. While they’re serving their time in prison, another couple lives in their home. Eventually, the connection between the couples leads to feelings of sexual attraction, guilt and paranoia.

5. Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights.

It is author Salman Rushdie’s modern take on Arabian Nights. With figures such as Henry James, Mel Brooks, Mickey Mouse and Aristotle, it’s an eclectic, comical and thoroughly entertaining tale. Weaving the forces of good and evil throughout the ages from 12th century Arabia to modern day New York, Rushdie travels through time and space to bring us this magical twist on a classic story. The first line he delivers sets you up for the ride: “Very little is known, though much has been written, about the true nature of the jinn, the creatures made of smokeless fire.”

6. M Train.

Patti Smith’s follow-up memoir to her celebrated Just Kids, M Train traces the singer’s artistic path through narratives that span 18 subway stations across New York City. In this new memoir, Smith takes us to the cafes where she used to drink black coffee and muses about her thoughts on other artists such as Frida Kahlo, Jean Genet and Sylvia Plath. She recounts the tragic 1994 death of her husband Fred Smith and its long-standing effect on her.

7. Fates and Furies.

Lauren Groff’s third novel is about the twenty year marriage of Lotto and Matthilde. Already garnering raves by Publisher’s Weekly and one of the most popular books on display at BookExpo America, Groff’s novel about marriage, co-habitation, betrayal and heartache follows the arc of a long-term marriage. A comment on the beauty and hope of loving someone, as well as the tragic disappointments that sometimes come along with it.

8. The Story of My Teeth.

National Book Foundation winner “Five Under 35”, Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli spins a mighty elaborate story of unparalleled traveling auctioneer Gustavo “Highway” Sanchez Sanchez. Set in Mexico City and following Sanchez Sanchez through more adventures than you could count, as well as racking up unusual talents such as imitating Janis Joplin and standing an egg upright on a table, the book gets its name from the fact that he’s planning to replace his teeth. That and the fact that he happens to be in possession of a pair of dentures he swears belonged to Marilyn Monroe. Fun, wacky and defined by Granta as “delightfully unclassifiable”, reading this novel is an adventure in itself.

9. Numero Zero.

Celebrated Italian writer Umberto Eco offers a fascinating conspiracy theory about Italy’s famous dictator Benito Mussolini. Moving back and forth from 1945 to 1992, the plot revolves around the idea that Mussolini’s death may have been faked. The book features a love story between a ghost writer and a celebrity gossip writer who find a dead body in an alley in Milan. Theories begin to spin including the murder of Pope John Paul I, the Italian secret service and the CIA. The timing is right as 1992 marks the beginning of the truly tragi-comic era in Italian politics.

10. Man Tiger & Beauty is a Wound.

They are written by Eka Kurniawan and translated by Labodalih Sembiring and Annie Tucker respectively. Eka Kurniawan has broken onto the literary stage with stories that evoke the oral traditions of his home village in Indonesia. Man Tiger is the story of Margio, a young man who is also half white tiger. Beauty is a Wound is about a prostitute who rises from the dead as set forth in the first line; “One afternoon on a weekend in March, Dewi Ayu rose from her grave after being dead for twenty-one years.” Both books have earned enormous critical acclaim for their originality and scope of human suffering and spirit.

Get Back to Studying Routine (Checklist for College Students)

studying routine for college studentsout of your hair and get yourself into back-to-college mode again.
It’s that time again. The long days of summer are coming to an end and the fall semester is upon us. Some students have a difficult time leaving the liberty of their summer days behind and getting serious about studying again. It’s perfectly natural, but it’s also time for you to shake the sand

If you need some help regaining your focus after the long break, here are some tips for you on how to develop a studying routine:

Make a schedule

The best way to start getting into a routine is to make a schedule of all of your activities. Whether you write out your schedule by hand and tape it to your wall or use a time management app like rememberthemilk, writing down your commitments helps you remember to keep them. Include things like class schedules, extracurricular activities, sports, clubs, job schedules and important events. By making a schedule, you’re also mapping out where there might be conflicts, so you can anticipate them and come up with a solution.

Choose your study environment

Part of establishing a routine is finding the place where you’ll study. Some people do great work in public places like cafes or on a park bench. Other people need utter silence and prefer to study in an isolated corner of the library or in their room. Figure out where you work best and carve that space out as yours. If you’re tempted to lie down and take a nap if you study in your room, pack up your books and head to the library. Wherever you choose, try to stick to that place. It’s a way to trigger your brain into work mode when you sit down at your favorite study spot.

in study groups

If there’s a study group for a course you’re struggling in, sign up for it. Exchanging ideas with your peers can help answer questions and clear doubts you have about the material. It can also help you prioritize studying for this course, which is exactly what you should be doing if you find yourself falling behind.

Set goals

Set your goals for the semester. Not only academic goals, though they should definitely be included on the list, but goals for other activities you participate in. Don’t make your list too long. Prioritize and focus. What’s really important to you? Maybe you want to earn a 3.5 this semester. What kind of grades would you need in order to achieve that? Maybe you want to make the Varsity Women’s Rowing Team or be elected class president. What steps do you need to take in order to make that happen? Pick 2-3 goals and write them down somewhere you’ll see them often. Goal-setting gives you direction and purpose in your activities and helps you maintain your focus.

Prioritize

Don’t let yourself become overloaded with activities. A full course load, a part-time job, captain of the basketball team, lead in the play, volunteering for a local tutoring program, etc. It’s not always possible to do everything you want to do and when you try doing too many things, you end up short-changing yourself. Choose the most important activities to you and eliminate the rest. If you find yourself with enough free time, then you can start adding more activities to your schedule.

Limit social media

Social media is the most popular way to procrastinate and the easiest way to waste precious studying time. If you find yourself grabbing your cell phone and checking your messages every time you try to read your Advanced Economics textbook, it’s time to get your social media habits under control. Consider leaving your cell phone in your room while you go to the library to study so you’re not tempted to look at it. Or, if you need to have your phone with you, at least turn off the sound notifications so you won’t check it every time it beeps. Limit the amount of time you allow yourself to check it every day and stick to it. Turn your cell phone off at night and get a good, uninterrupted night’s sleep.

Get enough sleep

Though many college students adopt the adage “You can sleep when you’re dead” throughout their college years, sleep deprivation and brain functioning don’t go together. In fact, the average adult needs 8-10 hours of sleep in order to achieve optimum brain activity. Lack of focus, tiredness, crankiness are all symptoms of not getting enough sleep. For more information on sleep and how it effects you, read this article. Remember that the point of college is to study and earn a degree. Take it seriously so you can show up to your classes and give your academic life the attention it deserves.

Eat well

College students are notorious for their poor eating habits. For many students who live on campus, this is their first time away from home and their first experience having to control their diets. Excess caffeine, junk food and alcohol are epidemics on college campuses. The brain is an organ, like any other organ in the body, it functions best when it’s being fed a healthy diet. Tuna, salmon, walnuts, and blueberries are all considered foods that contribute to healthy brain activity. For a list of healthy food choices, click here. Constant hangovers, sugar highs and upset stomachs can have negative effects on your academic life. Eating a balanced diet can give you the energy you need to complete your workload.

Have fun

Don’t forget to have fun. Working too hard can become counter-productive. If you have a tendency to be a workaholic, it’s best you start learning this lesson early before you begin your professional career. Take breaks when you need to. And make sure you spend time with your friends and the rest of the campus community. Giving your brain some time to relax will allow you to return to your studying with new energy.