“To Be” or Not “To Be”:  Or, the Editorial Consideration of Whether to Remove "To Be" Verbs

When writing for class, have you ever felt that your words simply sit on the page without any power or movement? Have you already adapted to the needs of presenting a clear thesis but still nevertheless feel that your body descriptions lack vitality? Have you shifted into using the five writing stages but still feel uncertain how to focus your editing of sentence-level wording? Rest assured: many students feel similarly. 

This blog entry is intended to help you graduate students to address one of the most common wording issues noted in writing advice: reducing “to be” verbs.

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Communicating with Your Committee

No one writes a dissertation in a vacuum. The final document is a group effort: you write it, but your dissertation committee shapes the content and approves the final document. These committee members will make suggestions, point out problems, and (yes) require changes. You can make this process smoother and more efficient by regularly communicating with your committee. Doing so helps avoid unpleasant surprises, such as disagreement on a chapter’s point after you’ve made revisions.

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Writing a Dissertation Abstract

What is an abstract? 
An abstract is a concise summary of a longer work. Ideally, your dissertation abstract should not only summarize the work, but also clearly explain its contribution to your academic field.

An abstract is also a stand-alone genre: it is neither an introduction, nor a preface. Your abstract should give readers a clear picture of your work, but they should not miss anything if they decide to just start reading your main text.

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Improving Productivity with Writing Rituals

Once upon a time, I believed all time spent writing was created equal. It didn’t matter if I wrote my essay in a coffee shop, on my bed, or sitting in the grass. It didn’t matter if I started writing after coming home from church, eating dinner, or watching TV. It didn’t matter if I sometimes started with a prayer or a snack or if I simply jumped right in. Once upon a time, I was wrong.

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Descriptive vs. Analytical Writing

My professor said I need to “do more analysis” in my papers. I don’t know what she means. I thought I was analyzing, i.e., giving a detailed examination, but she says my writing has been mostly summaries, or descriptions, of what others have said. What do I need to do?

In the Writing Center, we hear about scenarios like this all the time.

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Transitioning from MLA to APA: Style, Purpose, and Headings

Shifting from MLA format to APA format can be a bit jarring. Because lower level classes use MLA format, you may be shocked to discover that other writing style and format requirements exist. APA formatting is required for specific audience needs within certain disciplines. Before you embark on your first journey with APA, keep a few key concepts in mind. Guidance in APA formatting, references, and in-text citations is readily accessible online and via APA manual, therefore the three following tips will address APA writing style and structure.

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Research Tip: Use Google Scholar's "Cited By" Tool

At the beginning of this new fall semester, many of us might be planning our upcoming research projects. With those plans in mind, this blog begins with my personal analogy for literature review genres: a guided tour. That analogy is presented in order to speak to a common frustration that students encounter when extending their own research projects by examining the reference listings of their main sources. Such referencing (by nature) always moves to older sources. All of these topics are explored in order to describe a tool on Google Scholar that can connect to newer research projects instead of older ones.

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