Tag Archives: Essay Writing

Writing Woes and Maintaining Perspective

Write about what you know. . .

Good advice. Right now, I feel the familiar tug of despair, but I have hope! Working with first-year university students in our transition program has its joys and challenges.  At the moment, I’m reviewing their writing (challenge) and I’m planning the editing sessions for January (oh, the joy).

First steps? We’ll be tearing through the writing methodically: identifying claims, evidence, analysis and transitions. Rip it up and then glue it back together. We use the acronym PERT to identify points, evidence, relevance (how the evidence supports the point) and transitions (words and phrases that make connections). The Where’s Waldo of academic research writing. The answers to “what is the point?” and “how do you know?” and “how do these ideas relate?” that are often missing in student writing.

The approach may be mechanical, but I find that it increases students’ awareness of their role in the academic writing process. It’s not about sounding smart and throwing some fancy terms and long sentences together. It’s about communicating their thinking clearly, synthesizing existing research, presenting well-researched arguments, creating meaning from existing research and questioning current understanding.

In our Essay-Zone module, we’ve placed an emphasis on analysis so that students can analyze their own writing–to see what they’re doing well and what they can do better. It’s about empowerment.

(Writing this post inspired me.  I needed a little inspiration!)


Image meLead Designer, Academic-Zone and Coordinator Skills Instruction, A-Z Learning Services, Brock University

5 Tips to Improve Your Writing

Academic writing is a challenge for most students entering post-secondary education. In response, most institutions developed their own resources to assist students struggling with academic writing. Still, some students prefer the convenience of online resources. For example, a short 12-minute YouTube video with over 500,000 views, posted by the YouTube account “Learn English with Emma [engVid]”, recommends 5 simple tips to improve academic writing skills.

Emma, an English teacher who primarily works with ESL students, outlines 5 ways to improve academic writing with the use of simple sentences, stronger words, and active voice. Emma’s energetic voice, a white board, and several great examples make this video enjoyable and educational.

After investigating “engVid,” I realized Emma is only one of 8 teachers who have posted a collective 550+ lessons online. I would recommend exploring some of their videos if you are an international student, learning the English language, or would like some comedic relief (I would recommend Ronnie’s videos). Similar to “Khan Academy,” in my post a couple weeks ago, Emma and her colleagues have adapted to the fast-growing technology age.

Be sure to like/comment this post if you enjoyed reading!
Let me know if you have topics you would like to discuss in future blog posts in the comments below.
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Have a great day!

Third-Year Brock University Aboriginal Student, Biological Sciences

Colton Clause Biological Sciences Student at Brock University

Colton Clause
Biological Sciences Student

Hi, my name is Colton Clause. I am a third-year student in the Biological Sciences program at Brock University. I am also a student peer/mentor working in Aboriginal Student Services. I commonly see students coming into our office having questions on essay writing. Working hand-in-hand with Learning Services, the Aboriginal Student Services staff was able to create the Aboriginal Module of Essay Zone.

I am asking any Aboriginal students to comment on the effectiveness of the Aboriginal Module of Essay Zone. We are currently in the process of re-working the content to better fit the needs of students. This feedback will help us develop a better working version suited to an Aboriginal perspective. In your feedback, please reflect on our current information: whether it was relevant, beneficial, or if significant aspects are missing or not explained.

Our hope is that we can maintain our status as student-driven literacy support and continue to deliver accurate information about essay writing through an Aboriginal perspective.

National Punctuation Day: Celebrating the Proper Uses of Punctuation

Today is National Punctuation Day! This unofficial holiday takes place every year on September 24th and has been occurring since it was founded back in 2004 by Jeff Rubin. It’s basically a celebration of the correct and proper uses of the various forms of punctuation including commas, quotation marks, semicolons, and so on. National Punctuation Day’s website provides us with a brief explanation and some examples of how to properly use each form of punctuation. It also encourages everyone to pay close attention to store signs and point out the ones with incorrectly punctuated words.

It seems that nowadays, many people do not pay close attention to the proper uses of punctuation and tend to rely on auto-correct to fix their mistakes for them. Proper punctuation has almost always been skipped over when it comes to social media, and it appears that this causes improper uses to carry over into one’s academic writing. It’s almost as though punctuation doesn’t matter as much now as it has in the past. In your opinion, does punctuation still matter? What punctuation errors bother you the most?

For your enjoyment, here is Mashable’s photo gallery of 16 Unfortunate Misuses of Punctuation.

Check out the National Punctuation Day website here.

Module Update: Essay-Zone

Essay-ZoneEssay-Zone has been updated! Yes, that’s right, yet another update! This update includes three new updated activities, which are more intuitive and user friendly (the picture above is one of the new activities from Essay-Zone). The updated exercises also provide more valuable feedback for students.

We have also made Essay-Zone consistent with the other modules by incorporating the use of purple triangles to access the pop-ups instead of the blue question marks.

This update also brings a new feature to Academic-Zone. We are now able to embed PDF resources directly into the Academic-Zone modules. Students working through the module will have access to even more information. The resources vary from things like editing checklists to sample essays in different citation formats. These additional resources are now more accessible than ever before, and can be downloaded and printed off by students for use inside and outside the module!

Be sure to check back to see what other news Academic-Zone has to share for the upcoming 2013-14 school year.

Clumsy Language

I just finished reading an excellent article on improving clumsy language in academic papers. This is blog points out a variety of different strategies to help improve writing- from grammar tips to how to find common errors when revising. If you would like an engaging read on the topic of essay writing, I suggest reading this article.

Academic-Zone Online Module Demo

Want a better understanding of the products we offer?

Click the picture below to check out the online module demo!

Academic-Zone Online Module Demo