Writing Tips

Trading Traditional for a Tablet

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With the popularity of all-in-one electronics on the rise, college students all over the country have been taking advantage of new computers for their school work. One observation I’ve made while in college is that a lot of students use tablets for their classes rather than laptops. As a man without a tablet, this is very surprising. I always thought of tablets as just tiny, slow computers, or big smart phones, but I’ve actually seen some really creative and useful ways that my classmates are using them this past year. Here’s just a small list of some of the things I’ve seen done.

Note taking: While many students prefer to write down their notes, using a tablet to take notes in class IS a handy way to save paper, and keep your notes looking clean and understandable.

Easy Organization: Many tablets come with, or can download, many organizational apps. These range anywhere from calendars, to help coordinate college students’ very hectic lifestyles, to just keeping track of all your notes and files. Tablets can act as a great way to organize all your notes and class work. Just remember to have backup memory!

Reading: This isn’t necessarily college-related, but tablets are a very quickly growing way to allow anyone to read an entire library worth of books without taking up all the space!

Online textbooks: Many schools and companies are now making their textbooks available for purchase in digital copies. I personally prefer renting a hard copy textbook, but if you don’t want to deal with damage, or if it’d just be easier to have all your information on your tablet, the digital copy seems like it’d be a major convenience.

Whatever you can think of! I had a class this semester where a student used his tablet during a presentation. He had specific sentences recorded on it, and when he’d reach certain points in the presentation, the tablet would interject with arguments that he would quickly dismiss. A tablet IS a type of computer, so if you’re able to find an app for it, or if you have the imagination for it, there are almost limitless capabilities for how to use it!

I’m not saying that you absolutely NEED a tablet in college, after all, I’ve been doing just fine without one! However, there are times that I wish I had one because it’d make my life a whole lot easier. Having to carry around a million textbooks, and not fully knowing the bus schedule because I don’t have a bus app can be quite a pain, so you be the judge as to whether you’d want one or not! What kind of tablets are you all using for your classes?

The Benefits of Joining Student Organizations

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PRSSAI truly believe that joining a registered student organization (RSO) was one of the smartest, most beneficial decisions I made in college. Upon transferring to ISU last fall, I joined their Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter. As a member of PRSSA, I am exposed to so many opportunities I wouldn’t get in a classroom environment (even if it is a College Course for the Real World). I highly recommend joining a student organization that relates to your field of study. The knowledge and experience you gain is beyond valuable.

Being a member of a registered student organization is a great opportunity to work your way into a leadership position. As a member last year, I was able to observe how the organization was run and create my own ideas. This is my second year as a member of PRSSA, and I decided to take my membership one step further; I applied for a chair position. I am proud to say that this year I will be the Relations committee blog chair. Employers love to see progression from member to leader on a resume, so keep that in mind when becoming involved!

Running for a leadership position in your registered student organization should not be taken lightly. I took it just as serious as applying for a job. I had to polish my resume and write a cover letter, which I had no idea how to do. This gave me a chance to not only learn how to write a cover letter, but to also practice my interview skills. Our PRSSA chapter maintains a high level of professionalism, largely due to the seriousness of its’ members.

Your years as an undergraduate student give you the opportunity to prepare for your future career. You can choose to pursue experiences that will help you out, or you can sit idly and wish later on that you had gotten involved. The choice is yours!

Take Notes on Taking Notes

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Photo Credit: www.tutoringvermont.org

 

We’ve all heard Dorothy’s famous quote from The Wizard of Oz “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” used in various contexts. Well, Dorothy, unfortunately, you’re not in high school anymore. That means no more notes being passed out in thick packets or being neatly organized to deal with certain topics on certain days. College takes taking notes to a whole new level, and a difficult one at that. Therefore, here is a list of useful tips for the next time you are getting flustered with note-taking:

 

1.) Don’t try and write down every word your professor says! Focus on key points of information. It will save you time when studying and will save your hand from cramping.

2.) Avoid copying PowerPoint/Prezi slides word for word. Figure out the main point and write that, and only that. And if you are not sure what Prezi is, you need to find out!

3.) Use the marginal method. You know that space at the end of college-ruled notebook paper where it has a faint line? Fold that into your page. Now, only take notes in the non-folded section. Any of your questions, potential test questions or special highlighted notes you take away from the lecture should go in the folded tab, keeping your notes clean and organized.

4.) If a word or phrase is repeated, write it down! There is a reason your professor is repeating it, trust me. It will most likely show up on your test later or help you understand test materials.

5.) Ask if you’re allowed to use your laptop to take notes. People tend to type faster than they can write things down. Just make sure you turn off the Internet to avoid being tempted by social media. Unless of course you’re using one of our recommended apps to stay organized!

These tips are sure-fire ways to taking great notes in college. Got any others? Tell them to us in the comments section below!

How To Go From A “Good” To A “Great” Paper

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Ask any one of my buddies.  When I have to write a paper, I want to literally shoot myself in the face & end it all.  I’m dramatic and whiny but I always get it done, correctly and on time.  I can’t make the process any more enjoyable but hopefully these tips can take your paper to the next level.

#1 Don’t worry about filling up pages.  This is the number one way to get a C or lower on a paper.  It leads to rambling repeated ideas rephrased and a lack of coherent structure. Instead, try to find more facts to back up your thesis statement or main points. Include graphs, charts, figures or anything else that will reinforce the message you are trying to get across.  Nobody can argue with the facts; words are wind.

#2 A great way to avoid #1, determine the scope of your paper.   Scope means the size of the question you want to answer.

I’ll give you an example of a prompt I received in an ethics and public policy paper.

“Which is more important: maximizing happiness or minimizing rights violations?”  The reading for the paper was 200 pages and the scope of the original question is HUGE.  A doctoral thesis could be written on that question alone and I only have 3-5 pages to work with.  So I change the question.  Instead of addressing everything, I answer ‘maximizing happiness is more important that minimizing rights violation when conditions A, B and C exist.  Boom, thesis and scope knocked out in one fell swoop.

Which naturally leads to step…

#3 unpack your ideas.  Focus on two or three points for a paper of 3-5 pages and then thoroughly argue them.  How do you achieve this?  Think of every objection you can think of to the point you are trying to make and address those weaknesses and objections.  Addressing counter arguments makes your thesis stronger, not weaker and it builds up to that page limit constructively while leaving the writer with only a few points to address well. That is, in a nutshell, what unpacking is.

One last word of advice, it is such a rookie mistake we have all been guilty of at one point or another, and it will bite you in the butt every time.  The thesaurus is not a data mine for you to intellectualize your paper with more eloquence. The thesaurus is to tease out nuances for an idea you are trying to express (ex. I don’t just want to beat my opponent, I want to hammer him).  Use with caution!

Good luck, I hope this helps!  Questions are welcome in the comments section.

 

Wonderbread

I’m reading Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections