Posts in Writing Tips
“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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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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Writing Without a Backspace: Trying Automatic Writing for Writer's Block

Automatic writing is when you allow your work to come from the subconscious, rather than the conscious mind. While the original technique was meant to be conducted in concert with a hypnotist, now it is most often used by writing whatever comes to the writer’s mind without editing or stopping to think about it. For this week, my challenge was to write without pausing or deleting words for at least five minutes.

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Making the most of your best!

At some point in your academic career, you might have learned about the three primary learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Perhaps you’ve even discovered what your own best learning style is, either via some evaluation in your earlier schooling or more recently through a self-assessment of some kind. If you are not familiar with what your best learning style is, it is worth finding out! (There are many online self-evaluation tools for this.)

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Location, Location, Location: Does it impact writer’s block?

Writer’s block is a situational issue, one of temporary paralysis due to the fear of not being good enough in a task that the writer is actually capable of, and so one technique to reduce that fear is to change their environment. A common image of a writer’s most productive environment is sitting at a desk in a quiet room alone, yet when experiencing writer’s block at that desk, a writer may find that there is a better space for their own productivity through a bit of experimentation.

This week I decided to change up my writing environment to see if it would impact my productivity.

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Drafting Without the Inner Editor

One particular problem plagues many adult academic writers: editing word choices while drafting a rough text. This kind of editing while drafting produces wordy constructs, confusing descriptions, and awkward grammatical structures. Remember some of those papers that you got back after those nights of cramming only to find that you missed something obvious in your first sentence?

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Overcoming Writer's Block

It was 3:34 p.m. . . . 3:35 p.m. . . . 3:36 p.m., and I was unsure how to move forward in my text. I wrote the words “I was unsure how to move forward,” deleted “forward,” then rewrote “forward” because I didn’t have a better word. I had about 30 minutes before my next appointment, and since I was at work, I needed to spend that time working.

I had done some research on writer’s block and procrastination the semester before. It was more a pet project than a research project with a measurable objective, but then my boss asked me to create a workshop on the topic. The beginning of a purpose!

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Tips on Writing the Personal Statement

As a graduate student, you may find that many jobs, internships, scholarships, and graduate/ professional programs ask for a written personal statement. If you're feeling overwhelmed, then rest assured this blog post will explain the purpose of this type of writing and offer helpful tips to get you started on your writing journey.

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Don’t Cite Wikipedia? Why Not? (Or, Academic Writers' Duties to Their Audience)

Most writers can improve their academic texts by re-examining the audience that the academic writing style usually presumes. This benefit can be especially useful for those new to this complex process (or newly-returned to it).

While many other useful tools and reflections can help you make use of the concept of the audience at many various stages, this blog article specifically focuses on how the debate about citing Wikipedia articles reveals more than a few key goals for academic writing.

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Planning and Action: The Steps to Finishing a Master’s Thesis

he day I was told I would not be allowed to complete my undergraduate honors thesis, I most remember feeling my throat clenching and my advisor (then PLNU professor), Dr. Mike Clark, walking into the room shaking his head. It wasn’t far enough along. He vouched for me, but the rest of my committee didn’t believe I could manage the rest of the work in the limited time frame left. And so I would not be finishing my paper. I would not be published. I would not be graduating with honors. . . . Realizing so late in my education that I hadn’t learned to be a better student scared me, but knowing that I was attending grad school in the fall made me determined to do better, if only to prove my worth. This meant I needed to change.

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Developing Confidence as a Writer

As writing coaches, we often hear students try to warn us that their writing is horrible, but as we read through the papers, we see that is not the case at all. Many students who meet with us in the Writing Center lack confidence in their abilities because of various factors. However, as graduate students, it is vital to learn ways to increase your confidence in order to make the writing process much more enjoyable and effective (especially because you will be doing a ton of writing throughout your program!). Here are some tips to help you develop your confidence as a writer:

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