Vocal Lessons

When you’re reading this, I hope you can read it without the little voice in your head mimicking me in a monotone robot voice. Reading and writing a paper can be boring, and fresh out of high school you probably agree with that. Now that you’re entering a new world of college writing, free of the structure… you’re going to need to be able to hold your own.  Creativity is now not only acceptable, but encouraged and almost a necessity! Simply adding your own voice into a paper can take a topic about something your completely uninterested in, into a paper that makes you seem more enthusiastic. This then, makes your paper so others can connect to it easier as well. So that’s what I’m here to talk about. The voice you portray in your writing, which should be your own!

Having a paper without a personal voice included can be informative, but is anyone going to want to read the material? It’s boring, and honestly its going to make it harder to write. When you add your own voice you have more options with what you talk about, such as the examples you use and the arguments you can construct. I know that when I’m writing a 5-6-page paper, with out adding a little bit of my ideas, I’m going to get a solid 2-3 pages. Especially in an argument paper, my  evidence is usually backed up by my defensive personality, which comes through in papers with strong wording and examples. When you can use your own passion on explaining a point, your paper automatically becomes more interesting and powerful. You can get more information down on paper, when you can back up your statements with your opinion and strong examples of evidence.

Now, voice is not to be confused with the common term “fluff”. Fluff is information that is used to essentially “fluff” up or create more space in your paper to make it longer. That information is unnecessary and can be easily detected. Voice in a paper is encouraged and distinguishes a good paper from a great paper. One simple way of adding your voice into a paper is by using examples that you can relate to. The worst thing you could do is try and explain something you are not familiar with (that’s where most people start to fluff). If your interested/invested in the example it will be easier for you to tell the reader in a more personable fashion, so they can have more of a connection with the material. Having voice in your writing makes the piece more approachable, easier to get into the reading and makes it easier to understand, for the readers. If the reader feels like they are having a conversation with the author their more likely to stick around till the end of your piece. Reading from a “this is how… that is like… then they…“ kind of paper can loose the interest of the reader and they will just move on to something else.

One more piece of advice I can give on this material is to just have fun with it. In writing, it’s going to be a challenge finding your own personal writing style because it’s different for everyone. But once you do, your papers will stand out and will show merit. Just remember to put forth the effort and be yourself in your writing. You want to captivate your reader with your personality; your voice.

The Importance of Drafting

If you’re anything like the incoming Freshman I was, then you are probably used to getting started on a paper the night before it’s due. Well, it’s a little different around here. But don’t be scared! We’re here to help!

Not drafting a paper is like jumping off a plane without a parachute…seems a little intimidating, but if you manage your time efficiently, there is no reason that you can’t get the grade you want. No first draft is ever a polished paper. If you don’t give yourself enough time to let your thoughts develop fully, then your paper will never reach its fullest potential.

My first semester of college taught me the importance of time management. Each paper grade went up because I took more time to make sure my ideas made sense not only to me, but to the reader. Sometimes I even had my roommate read my papers and tell me if there was anything I could improve on. Getting different perspectives is an excellent way to make sure you are getting your thoughts across smoothly.

I’m sure most of you are used to getting a prompt in class and having a time restriction to write it. Your teachers most likely scratched out half of your paper by the time they were done grading, and you probably felt restrained to stick to a certain structure. The good thing about college writing is the amount of time we have to write each paper and the freedom we are given. There is no rush when writing a paper if you don’t wait until the last minute.

It takes time and patience to become a sophisticated writer. I feel like I have learned a lot about my own writing style just from rereading my own work over and over. It makes it much easier to stop yourself in your tracks if you are repeating similar mistakes you made in the past. This means that the only option is to improve.

I came into college without a single clue of what was to come. All I knew was it wasn’t going to be easy. It surely isn’t. But when I give myself enough time to sit down and formulate a plan and let my ideas flow onto the paper, I always get it done. I usually start my papers a week before the due date, not including research.

Coming to college is a stressful and nerve wracking experience, especially if you have no idea what to expect. We had to figure it out on our own, but luckily, we have provide you with all the necessary and relevant tips to have a successful first year. Hopefully you will find this advice helpful when applied to your first essay. Have a great first year, Freshmen!

Newly Found Freedom

In high school I’m sure most of you, me included, had the same basic system: introduction with a two-sentence thesis at the end, three basic body paragraphs and a conclusion. This was simple but as most of us know, insanely boring. We dreaded the day our teachers would assign even a two-page paper. Part of the reason behind our disinterest was because every paper we ever wrote was instantly thrown into this mundane and tedious system. There was never any room for creativity or pushing the boundaries; all efforts of such would surely lead to lost points and a lower grade. Luckily, this isn’t the case once you have graduated.

Welcome to college! You have escaped the prison that was the high school writing system and finally reached the freedom that is college writing. Unfortunately this transition may not be as easy as it sounds, but don’t worry aspiring freshmen! All your questions and fears will soon be just distant memories. This is exactly what this section is for: to help guide you through this transition and allow you to thoroughly enjoy your newly found freedom.

How is College Writing Different?

All throughout high school there was mostly a single format of writing that applied to every category of your academic studies. It probably didn’t matter too much whether or not you were writing an english paper or a science paper, either way you were most likely going to follow the same writing formula, right? I know thats what I went through. It came as a big surprise to me when I started my freshman writing course that we were reading and studying essays on video games and texting slang. Neither of these essays following the “high school format” by the way. These essays were exciting, they were intriguing, they made me  want to read them. This is how college writing is different. You will be able to express more creativity, work on areas of your choice (sometimes), and truly show how well you can write when given the chance to work outside of the strict guidelines of the high school format.

What Should I do to Prepare for this Change?

Read! Read everything, from the daily news to celebrity tabloids! While you’re reading make sure to look at what pieces and bits interest you, how the writer keeps your attention throughout the piece and how the writer formats this “paper”. These are all techniques that you can use to help ease the transition of writing in the different formats you will use in college.

I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself “how will an article on Taylor Swift help me in my English class?” but it will! When the writer of that article sat down, he or she had to think about all the things you will have to think about when writing your papers: how to hook the reader, how to keep the audience interested, and how to get their point across in an efficient and effective way. Look at all of these things while you read and you will be able to learn many different effective writing styles that you may have not considered before.

How to Manage your Time Wisely to Do Research

Learning how to manage your time can help you be more productive in what you are doing while keeping your anxiety and stress levels low. However, effective time management can be the hardest thing for us college students to achieve. Leaving work for last minute is called procrastination, and it is definitely one of the main struggles seen in college. Even though I now know the importance of learning how to manage your time in school wisely, I did not know when I first came to college, just like the majority of the other freshmen. The best way to overcome procrastination is by recognizing it and beating it. Do not give in into procrastination, start your work as quick as possible. The sooner you start it, the sooner you will be done with it. This kind of mentality is the mentality that will lead you to success in your class. Every class requires this skill. Especially when writing a paper or an essay. Why is this? Revision is essential for a top-notch written paper.

Normally, you will have to change your paper and make it better preferably about two or three times. Students, YOU WILL NOT ACHIEVE THIS THE NIGHT BEFORE. Be sure to give yourself the appropriate amount of time to revise it carefully. Revision is just one of the reasons why you should start your paper early. When you leave a short amount of time to write a paper, the stress and anxiety will affect you because of the deadlines you are supposed to meet. This can end in a bad result for your paper. Lack of information and important details as well as spelling and grammar mistakes are easy to appear in your paper when you rush through it.

Here are some tips for effective time management in your papers this upcoming year:

  • A schedule is indispensable to have some order in your paper.

When you know what you are going to do next, your ideas will be much more organized.

  • Divide the writing and research work into different parts.

It will be very useful if you have at least some of your information from the research done so that you know exactly what you are writing about.

  • Have a small break in between the time you work.

Mental fatigue will affect your writing. A good break while you are working will help you re-organize your ideas.

  • Proofread your paper at least 2 days before the deadline to turn it in.

Reading your paper various times a day will make you realize the mistakes you have made or the things that you want to change. Asking other students to read it and tell you their opinion on it is also a great way to know what you want to change.

  • Get enough sleep.

In college, procrastination can lead you to reducing your hours of sleep and that will make your brain tired. Good resting of your brain will help you with the ideas you develop for your paper.




Are we done yet?

No, wait a minute, you’re not done with your paper yet! Do you really think that your paper is good enough for others to read? Have you read over your paper? I know, I know you have many other things you would like to do but, maybe you should consider looking over your paper. Sometimes taking a break from your paper and then coming back to it and reading it will help you find some errors you may have made. Try to give yourself enough time to be able to take a break before you look over your paper. One of the big things that will separate your paper from your classmates is the way you word your sentences, and transition between topics. You’ll look that much smarter when your reader thinks you actually know what you’re talking about. You don’t actually have to know what you’re talking about, just make them think you do. How you write tells your audience more about you then you think. So making sure you revise your writing before you have others read it is more important than you may think.

When looking through your paper, look for words you may have repeated many times. For example look for over used adjectives. Over used adjectives can cause your reader to lose interest in your paper. Also, your reader may think that you don’t know any other words besides the adjectives you’ve used over and over again. Try thinking or looking up other words to replace the ones you’ve already used. This gives the person reading your paper some excitement and keeps them interested. Also, your reader may be impressed that you know such astonishing words. See doesn’t that sound cool? I bet you think I’m very intelligent just because I used the word astonishing. If you have a variety of words the reader will think that you have a wide vocabulary and it will make them think you’re really smart. Thats just one little thing you should think about while rereading your paper.

Also as you reread your paper, look at your transitions. Do you use good transitions words to guide your reader from one topic to the other? One thing many writers do is they’ll just hop from one thing to the next and don’t use transitions. Thus making the reader super confused because they don’t know what they’re reading. Pretend your reader is like a child, you have to guide them from one thing to the next. And yes I know it’s annoying, but it will help your reader have a better understanding of what you’re actually talking about in your paper. It will also improve your grade if your paper is for a certain class. Everything in your paper needs to be clear and to the point. The paper has to have a good flow. Think of what you would want to read if you were reading a book or an essay of someone elses. Would you rather have it jump from subject to subject and have no idea what is going on, or would you rather have it smoothly transition from subject to subject?

So please, if theres one thing you do in life…..reread your paper. It will help you in the long run.

Introducing thesis statement

First off, know what you are writing about. If you don’t understand what you are writing about, then your audience will interpret your writings very differently than what you expect. You’ll need to know if you’re writing a paper on why cat hairballs can cause cancer in certain areas of the world or if you’re addressing an issue recently brought up in the news. If you don’t have something as basic as an idea of what to write about, then focus on finding what you want to write about.

Secondly, you’ll need to know where to put your thesis statement. For the sake of this paper, we’re assuming it’ll be somewhere in the first paragraph. Do you want to say right at the beginning- “cat hairballs cause cancer, here’s wh.” or at the end, “this is the issue- cancer-causing cat hairballs” with explanations before it, which is leading up to your thesis statement.

Thirdly, in conjunction with the second requirement, you’ll need to back up your thesis statement in the other parts of the paragraph your statement is in. For instance, in the case where we state instantly the thesis statement, you’ll need to state what makes the statement valid. For example, “Cat hairballs cause cancer in (insert region here). This issue is important because (explain remainder of topic). In the case of the second situation, where your statement is at the end of your paragraph, you’ll need to say something that leads up to your statement. For example, “Cancer. A dangerous malignancy that can kill depending on its severity. Cat hairballs- disgusting, wet and slimy. The cat itself is not very quiet whilst hacking up said hairball, making it even more disgusting. What do these have in common? The hairballs are causing cancer in (insert region here)!”

Now, I’m not going to lie, this sounds like the stupidest paper that ever existed- Cat hairballs causing cancer? Well, if nothing else, it’s gotten your attention. Which is an important thing here, deciding what you want to do with it as a hook- right at the beginning of your article, or at the end of the first paragraph? It all depends on how you want your audience to see it. Do you want to reel in a massive audience in a newspaper or magazine article? Put it at the beginning, it’ll catch the eye of someone. Are you writing this for just a few people (colleagues at work, for a small informational bulletin?) put it somewhere near the end, they’ll already have to read it, so giving them a hook isn’t too important.

The basic thing to remember is to know your audience, and understand what exactly it is that you’re doing with your statements. Why are you writing this paper, because it’s for an assignment, or because you want to get it attention? It all depends on how you want your audience to interpret it.

Thesis Statements: The Roadmap to Your Paper



A thesis statement is one or two sentences in your introduction that explains the core idea of your paper. The thesis is the foundation of the paper and should act as a roadmap for your paper. It should not only be a guide for the reader, but for the writer as well.


When writing your thesis, think about how you want to get your point across to the reader. State your claim and make sure it is arguable. Knowing what you’re going to argue helps you take you in the right direction and stay on track. A thesis is usually located near the end of the introduction, often the last sentence of the introduction. This provides a smooth transition into the body of the paper.




Before developing an argument you must collect and organize evidence. Look for possible relationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts or similarities), and think about the significance of these relationships.


Remember… writing your thesis is a process. Writing your thesis is like learning a new soccer move. You have to keep working with it to perfect it.


Let’s say your professor assigns you a 3 to 4-page paper and you have to write about consumerism in America. Before even thinking about writing your thesis, do some research. What usually works for me is typing the topic into the search bar and then I briefly educate myself on the topic. By doing this, I am familiarizing myself with the topic and it makes it easier to narrow down what I want to write about. After doing some research, ask yourself an arguable question? Your thesis should be the answer to your question.




Ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Is my thesis statement specific enough?

Vague thesis statements do not usually have strong arguments.

  1. Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose?

If your thesis statement isn’t arguable, you’re simply making a statement, not a thesis statement.

  1. Did I answer the question?

Be sure to follow directions and respond to the proper task.

  1. Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test?

Your reader should be able to form a relationship with the thesis and the thesis should connect to a larger issue.




Miley Cyrus is a bad role model for teens.


The North and South fought the Civil War for many reasons, some of which were the same and some different.




Miley Cyrus is an inadequate role model for teens, as she advertises drug and alcohol abuse in her hit song, “We Can’t Stop.”


While both sides fought the Civil War over the issue of slavery, the North fought for moral reasons while the South fought to preserve its own institutions.

Timing: The Ticking Bomb of Writing

There is nothing worse than trying to write a paper at last the minute. You’re typing your paper and all of a sudden you’ve realized, “Yes, I’ve finally hit the last page!” It’s 11:55pm and you have just enough time to read your paper one more time and correct grammar mistakes. Unfortunately, very few people pay much attention to grammar mistakes; what they really care about, are the ideas explored on the page. You turn to your roommate for help on revising your paper, but you find that he or she is sleeping because they have an 8:00am class. Nonetheless, you don’t have enough time to do anything other than save and submit your paper, knowing you haven’t done your best work.

Time management is definitely a key factor in writing papers for any class. A lot of times students do papers at the last minute which doesn’t give them time to edit or revise their papers to expand on the ideas of their topic. The first draft of a paper will never be on par. Planning out time to edit a paper is important because it gives the student time to ask other people to revise the paper or use resources such as the Writing Center located in the Greenwood Library. The Writing Center assists with grammar and spelling, however the main intention for going there, should be to get insight on every aspect that you fall short in and get feedback on the overall paper. Never try to use these resources to write the paper.

Furthermore, time management for editing papers should be very important because it gives time to also ask the professor any questions. Although the professor gives guidelines on what the paper should be like, if there are any editing questions about the format or just questions on how ideas are expressed, a student should allow enough time to go back and edit properly. Most times, ideas change from the time the students are given the assignment to the time when the students are sure they are ready to submit. Often, students who write papers at the last minute go back and read over the paper a few days later and are not pleased with what they wrote.

The first paper I wrote in college was for my English 150 class and I wasn’t familiar with doing a paper with my own ideas, because I was so used to the Virginia Standards of Learning ways of writing. I wasn’t familiar with my surroundings well enough to ask a friend to read over my paper and I also didn’t know the Writing Center even existed. On the first paper we were assigned in this class, I waited until two days before it was due to start and I received an 82. Before we were assigned our next paper we got a visit from a student who works in the Writing Center. Ever since we got that visit, I have made time to go to the Writing Center for insight on my ideas and structure my paper. On my last paper I received a 95!

Time Management: Checking Your Syllabus

In college, checking your syllabus is the most basic way to stay informed on upcoming assignments and planning out your workload. At the start of the semester, each professor will either post their class syllabus online or give you a hard copy. The most important thing to remember about the syllabus is that they are binding contracts that tell the professor that you know and understand what’s expected of you to succeed in your class and that it is no longer his or her responsibility to remind you of assignments. In addition, the syllabus gives you an outline and idea of the workload that you should anticipate for the class, and lets you know what to expect. Each syllabus will have any information about the method the professor uses to grade papers and any classroom policies they consider worth knowing to succeed. Most professors also include a week by week outline of the material they expect to be covered and the dates of any quizzes, papers, or exams they have planned.

In my experience, it’s easiest to have at least one hard copy of the syllabus for my own personal use. I have a small folder or binder for each of my classes, and inside I keep the syllabus copy along with any loose paper that the professor hands out. In each syllabus, I highlight any known homework quiz, or exam dates to keep track of when they’re due. In addition, having a hard copy on hand allows me to cross off each assignment that I complete when it’s been turned it.

To keep myself organized, I also purchase a planner to write down and keep track of any big dates. By purchasing a planner, it allows me to write down and check homework and assignment dates daily. Having an easily accessible way to check dates helps me plan for papers, and gives me a time frame of when I need to start my research, and how much time I have to create a rough draft and revise my paper. Responsibly using your syllabus and making sure I know all important due dates helps keep my homework organized and my work load manageable. It also helps to keep a calendar on my phone, so I don’t have to go flipping through my bag looking for a date. By having multiple places of reference, I am constantly reminded of my schedule and there is less room for error.

One of the most important aspects to remember about your syllabus is that it IS subject to change, and your professor WILL make alterations. College professors aren’t restrained by school assigned curriculum, and therefore can include whatever or however much information they desire. There will be occasions when your professor will cancel class. It is then up to the professor as to whether they wish to set the class back to include the missed information or simply breeze over the subject. There will also be times when the professor simply decides not to include an assignment, which is why it’s important to have a copy that you’ve created.