Monday, January 30, 2012 Grammar and Mechanics
A sadistic challenge on Bravo’s Top Chef requires competing chefs to create a dish using ingredients chosen from a mystery box. Ingredients typically include such cryptic items as rock fish, ramp, and black garlic. Predictably, the episode is a panoramic crash and burn for the palate. Leek and mushroom fondue, anyone?
Successfully adding semicolons to your writing can be a similar process of confusion and experimentation. As the befuddled chefs discovered, it’s hard to cook with something you don’t understand.
In the Writing Center, we often see papers filled with great insight and solid analysis but missing proper citations. Usually, students have written these papers for early coursework, and these assignments don’t always require strict adherence to APA rules, which makes sense: in academic writing, the way that you structure ideas and connect your research to your conclusions matters far more, overall, than whether you remembered, for example, to include the publication year when you mentioned an author’s name in your text. However, citing frequently enough is a fundamental aspect of APA style, and citing infrequently enough can lead to extra revision, lower grades, and plagiarism charges—outcomes you definitely want to avoid. Consequently, learning this skill sooner rather than later will pay off as you tackle bigger projects later on, such as theses, KAMs, dissertations, or doctoral studies.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012 Tech Tips
By Tim McIndoo, Dissertation Editor
Graduate education requires a great deal of writing. Writing means typing. And a great deal of writing means a great deal of typing! Some of us are not fond of typing or else our speed and accuracy are not up to the task; perhaps we have an RSI (repetitive strain injury) or maybe even a touch of arthritis (heaven forbid). If so, then speech recognition software can help.
I know how scary it can be to let another person review your writing; whether I ask a friend, family member, classmate, or a tutor for help, I’m always nervous about their reaction. Over time, I also develop a relationship with the person I ask to give me feedback. I like to think of these people as my go-to reviewers: They know me and my writing, so they’ll be able to give me the best feedback, right?
Well, sort of. While I love knowing that the people who review my work understand where I’m coming from and the particular writing struggles I have, it’s also good to change it up a bit.
I live in Minnesota. Minnesota winters are typically a time when residents are tightly bundled in layers of wool and goose down, a time when they must endure icy roads and strange street parking restrictions unless they want their 2005 Jeep Wrangler to be towed to the city impound lot (narrowly avoided this last year), and a time when recreational activities are limited to watching mediocre sports teams perform at a mediocre level.
It can, however, be a good time to write.
Recently, my writers’ group met and shared some of the best ways to keep the writing process moving forward. Although we were discussing fiction, the strategies for making progress also apply to those researching and writing a dissertation.
The problem of passive voice is a real issue in academic writing. While many well-meaning but misguided educators may have told you that indirectness equals formality, the truth is that the two are not synonymous! In fact, rather than increasing the formality of a work, passive voice is a stylistic choice that often incites confusion in readers.
Passive voice likes to hide in your work, so in order to bring it to light, you need to face your fear of direct language. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you tackle passive voice in your writing: