Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Our Favorite Revision Strategies

With deadlines fast approaching and drafts piling up, we thought it may be nice to share a few of our favorite revision strategies to help you out in the home stretch to the end of the semester.


Lead tutor Jenni suggests a strategy of to determine the clarity of your topic to your audience.


“Here is a revision strategy which has helped me clean up and refocus many papers. After completing a first draft, print out two copies of your paper. Take one copy, and in the margins identify the topic of each paragraph. Limit yourself to no more than three words. Ask yourself what each paragraph is really about, and jot it down. When you get to the end of your paper, go ahead and put those pages away and forget about them for the time being. Retrieve that second copy of your paper; the copy you have not jotted notes on. Hand it to a peer. Without mentioning how you’ve already done this yourself on another copy, ask your peer to read and then write in the margin next to each paragraph what they think is the topic of that paragraph. After your peer has finished, bring your copy with your notes back out. Compare papers and notes. Have a conversation about what you each came up with and why. Do you and your peer agree on what each paragraph is really about? If not, think and talk about how this miscommunication could have happened. What specifically on the page is sending mixed signals?”


Staff tutor Hillary describes a simple fix for voice and sentence clarity.


“One of the easiest and most effective ways to revise your paper is to read it aloud. Read the paper out loud, and pay attention to spots you stumble on. I find that these trouble areas usually just need a quick flip or maybe a different word choice to make them flow better. If possible, have a friend read along silently--You’d be surprised how often you will actually auto-correct your own typed words when you are speaking them.  Often you will say something clearer than you typed it, and BAM!, your brain did the revision for you. This is a tool we often use in the Writing Center, and it can really help smooth out the voice in your writing without much effort.”


Lead Tutor, Dan, has a bit of a different spin on reading your paper aloud, which he calls the “Richard Nixon.”


“Once I've written my paper, I like to read my paper aloud using a character voice, my favorite being Richard Nixon. Because I am focusing so much on the character voice, I  remove myself from my own speech patterns and can find any trouble spots in the paper”


We hope these few suggestions help in your revision process!

Please note the the Writing Center is OPEN Monday and Tuesday 9-5 and Wednesday 9-Noon during Finals week! Visit our webpage to make an appointment!

Friday, November 14, 2014

2014 Halloween Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up Entry

We also want to congratulate our (very close) runner-up, Jason Witherow! Enjoy!

Maniac Inferno
My husband’s fire crew responded to an explosion at the gas station. The smoke was so dense it blots out the sun. The fire has been burning for hours; I hope Frank is ok. I pace the kitchen hoping nothing has gone wrong. I hear the front door slam shut. I walk over to see Frank in his fire gear holding an axe and covered with blood.
“Sweetie, what hap-“
“No time, grab my gun.” Frank says
Confused, I tilt my head, and stare at him.
“Now” Frank says.
I rush to the bedroom and grab Frank’s pistol from the safe, and give it to him. He nods, and hands me his axe, covered in chunks of red flesh.
“Frank, tell me what is going on?” I ask.
“A group of people went crazy and blew the gas station up. They waited for us to come and started attacking anyone who was there,” Frank says.
“Terrorists attacked us?” I ask.
“Not terrorists. They were something different. They were crazy, cackling, their eyes black. One of them smeared their blood on a cops face, and then he was cackling too. The cop pulled out his gun and started shooting into the crowd.” Frank says as he barricades the front door.  
“What,” I ask, sure this is a joke.
“They went crazy. They are savages; I don’t know how to tell you. Don’t open the door for anyone, if they come in, kill them.”
“You’re saying that people are becoming black eyed homicidal maniacs when some crazy person smears blood in their face, Frank?” I ask.
“Yes Honey, they got Steve too. He came at me.” Frank says, his hands shaking.
“Frank, I need you to sit down” I say, while I reach for the phone to call 911.
I dial EMS and I get a busy signal. I hang up and start to worry. I hear a knocking sound at the front door. Frank runs to the barricade and we hear talking.
“Frankie Boy, we saw what you did to Steve. We came to see how you were holding up” the voice from behind the door says chuckling.
Frank quietly walks towards me and puts one finger in front of his mouth. I tighten my grip on the axe. The man on the other side starts whacking the front door, and it breaks in two; I see the man and scream. His face has a bloody hand print, and a wide smile that makes his pitch black eyes seem demonic. He hops over the barricading table and points to Frank.
“You’ve been a bad bo-“
Frank shoots him in the chest. The man falls to the floor giggling, trying to catch his breath. Two other men come in through the window. Frank shoots them both.  One in the head, and the other in the arm. The wounded man tackles Frank and grabs his throat. I run over and plunge the axe into the top of the maniac’s skull. He goes limp on top of Frank. He pushes the body over, and wipes blood off his face.
“Are you ok sweetie?” I ask him

His hand moves away from his face and I see a wide smile, and black eyes look back at me. “Yes sweetheart, I’m fine.” He answers, staring at his gun, cackling.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

2014 Halloween Flash Fiction Contest Winner: How to Survive an Apocalypse


HOW TO SURVIVE AN APOCALYPSE1
by Peter Saunders

A parade of Four Horsemen? a slicing scythe?
Is this how we are to meet our dooms?
The Devil himself come to claim his tithe?
Clouds of chemicals shaped like mushrooms?

Is this how we are to meet our dooms?
The test of the Antichrist, or a common blight?
Clouds of chemicals shaped like mushrooms?
A conclave of witches on Walpurgis Night?

The test of the Antichrist, or a common blight?
Everyone suffering would die to find out
A conclave of witches on Walpurgis Night?
Superstition blooms from seeds sown by doubt

Everyone suffering would die to find out
Exactly why we endure this trial
Superstition blooms from seeds sown by doubt
Hope springs eternal from those in denial

Exactly why we endure this trial
None can tell with a definite answer
Hope springs eternal from those in denial
We must make the best of this ravaging cancer

None can tell with a definite answer
What we are learning by suffering so
We must make the best of this ravaging cancer
That drives us to madness, confusion, and woe

What we are learning by suffering so
Infected with plague that kills in the gloom
That drives us to madness, confusion, and woe
We know not, nor even dare to presume

Infected with plague that kills in the gloom
As we sit in our waiting rooms unto the gloam
We know not, nor even dare to presume
Where our late family and friends go to roam

As we sit in our waiting rooms unto the gloam
Now I ask you: do you still persevere?
Where our late family and friends go to roam
You, too, may yet follow, for our ends are near

Now I ask you: do you still persevere?
Do spectres of dead ones haunt your waking dreams?
You too, may yet follow, for our ends are near
Already, I see you unravel at the seams

Do spectres of dead ones haunt your waking dreams?
Greed turns neighbors into mortal foes
Already, I see you unravel at the seams
The Reaper rejoices, here and there he goes

Greed turns neighbors into mortal foes
As buildings collapse, as hate is rebuilt
The Reaper rejoices, here and there he goes
Wilting our will and compounding our guilt

As buildings collapse, as hate is rebuilt
We run from the world but cannot escape
Wilting our will and compounding our guilt
Is the ruin of our future that begins to take shape

We run from our world but cannot escape
But worse than pandemic or mortal decay
Is the ruin of our future that begins to take shape
Rotting by night, reeking by day

But worse than pandemic or mortal decay
Is the shameless greed that drives our deeds
Rotting by night, reeking by day
We reap what was sown by those seductive seeds

Is the shameless greed that drives our deeds
Peculiar to shortcomings of the human race?
We reap what was sown by those seductive seeds
Do we truly deserve such a low, vulgar place?

Peculiar to shortcomings of the human race?
Is this what it’s come to at last?
Do we truly deserve such a low, vulgar place?
Must we die in a penitent blast?

Is this what it’s come to at last?
Alas, we find that we don’t mind
Must we die in a penitent blast?
Our fates have long since been thus resigned

Alas, we find that we don’t mind
As prejudice fuels war like books on a fire
Our fates have long since been thus resigned
Dripping with oil, we recline on the pyre

As prejudice fuels war like books in a fire
And the splinter of winter deeper delves
Dripping with oil, we recline on the pyre
DID WE BRING THIS UPON OURSELVES?

And the splinter of winter deeper delves
As you read these words with your dying breath
DID WE BRING THIS UPON OURSELVES?
This question compels you in the shadow of Death

As you read these words with your dying breath
I hope you find these useful tips
This question compels you in the shadow of Death:
HOW DO YOU SURVIVE AN APOCALYPSE?

I hope you find these useful tips
When provisions of food and water are scant
HOW DO YOU SURVIVE AN APOCALYPSE?
The answer is tragically simply: you can't.

1 N.b. Results may will vary drastically.


Congratulations, Peter! Check back next week for the runner up!

Monday, October 27, 2014

All New Online Tutoring Experience!

video

Look out, Roosevelt Students!  The Writing Center is taking its unique peer tutoring experience into the boundless space of the Interwebs!

Now, you can "come in" to the Writing Center from the Schaumburg Campus Library, or even the comfort of your own home.  (Please, though, no PJs in the video chat. We like to keep things professional.)

This video will give you instructions for logging on and sharing your work with our tutors through the magic of Google hangouts.  You can still make an appointment by calling our front desk at (312)341-2206, via email at writingcenter@roosevelt.edu, or online at www.roosevelt.edu/writingcenter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Outlining: A Necessary Evil

So you have your assignment sheet. You sit down in front of your laptop with a cup of coffee and a bag of cheetos (the lunch of champions) and begin to write. Suddenly you realize it’s three hours later, your caffeine buzz has passed, your cheetos are gone, and all you have on the page are a few scrawled, disjointed sentences. Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

The two most common problems I see walk into the writing center are lack of organization and simply not knowing where to start! Both of these problems can almost always be solved by outlining.

I know...ewww, right?

Most of us think of outlines as that stupid step we had to complete in third grade when we were all a bit too distracted to stay on topic. (Shiny?!) Outlining has been pushed aside as unnecessary and tedious, but I have come to realize in working with my students and peers that it is often THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP of the compositional process.

Think of it this way (which your elementary teacher may have once mentioned to you, as well):
Everything needs a base on which to build.
A house needs a foundation, otherwise it will be unstable.  
A bridge needs keystone or it will collapse.
A grilled cheese needs bread, otherwise you’ll burn your tongue licking melted cheese out of a hot pan.
AND an essay needs a frame on which to be built, which is an outline!

An outline provides organization and structure to your thoughts, and can often helped the “blocked” writer get their ideas out of their head and onto the paper. So how do you begin? Outlining is kind of a personal process, but there are a few options we can explore to help you get started.

In some cases, you may already have a thesis, or the idea you are trying to argue or prove. Start with that thought and begin compiling points to support it.  These ideas will most likely be general items which continue your investigation of the main topic. The most important thing at this point is to list different ideas you would like to explore about your main idea. For example:

Main Idea: Pasta is the best food.
Support point 1: Pasta is popular.
Support Point 2: Pasta is a staple in many cultures.
Support Point 3: Pasta is nutritional.

Do not worry if these points are “in order.” As you begin to find support, you can find a way to naturally progress through your ideas and organize them in the most logical order.

If you have no idea what your main idea/thesis will be, or if your paper is more exploratory than argumentative, just start writing down some ideas. If you have read some sources start there and write about parts that struck you, ideas you found interesting, or places you had questions about. Often just getting your ideas out on the page will help you see a common theme that will become the overarching topic of your paper. One of our tutors suggests writing important passages or points on note cards and separating them by theme into piles. If you have all your notes on one page, go through and highlight similar ideas in different colors. Don’t be afraid to try different methods of organization--there are many paths to an outline.

If you cannot wait to start writing, just start writing. Once you have these rough draft paragraphs out, take a moment and read through them.  Try to determine your main idea, and then arrange the paragraphs so that they logically flow from one idea to another, essentially creating an outline with your paragraphs. (Don’t worry about the flow too much at this point. You can always refine, add details and transitions later in the drafting process).

Once you have the framework of the paper you can begin finding support for each point you have made. Find sources or even specific quotes that back up the topic of that paragraph and the main idea of the paper as a whole. To expand upon our original outline:

Main Idea: Pasta is the best food.
Support point 1: Pasta is popular.
-Oxfam reported statistics listing pasta as the favorite food across several different countries.
(Sedghi, Amy. (22 July 2011). What’s your Favorite Food? The Guardian,

Support Point 2: Pasta is a staple in many cultures.
-Italian culture, Asian culture, even Western Culture (German Spaetzle)...

Support Point 3: Pasta is nutritional.
-Low Fat
-Carbs are part of a balanced diet according to FDA food pyramid
-Certain brands of pasta adding nutrients and fiber to recipe

**Notice that each bullet point listed supports the paragraph topic, and also helps to prove my main argument.


Now you can work to expand and refine your organized ideas into a fully formed essay!

Hopefully the task of writing your paper (or at least organizing your paper) seems a little less daunting now. Remember: Writing is a process, and organization is key to constructing a strong paper. No matter which method you choose to use, or if you find another way that works better for you, outlining, in all its forms, sets you up for success.

-Hillary E.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Four Word Misuses That Are Ruining Your Essays

Whether it’s due to an impending deadline or a simple misunderstanding, students, and writers at large, are guilty of misusing words in their papers. Revealing that you don’t understand a word can significantly cut down on your reliability and credibility. While we can’t cover every word you’ll ever write, here are the Writing Center’s five most commonly misused words that you won’t have to worry about anymore.

Affect/Effect
Distinguishing between these two words has been a plague to students since their first five-paragraph essay. This mistake can result from a simple misspelling or a misunderstanding. Here’s a simple breakdown of the difference between affect and effect.
Affect: This is a verb and represents an action.
Correct Use: Earthquake victims are affected by the lack of aid.
Effect: This is a noun and represent the result of an action .
Correct Use: The effect of the hurricane was mass destruction.

Perturb/Disturb
There is very little difference between these two words. They are basically synonyms except for the difference in where the feeling originates.
Perturb: An internal disquiet that comes from within a person (i.e. the person’s own thoughts and perceptions) without any external cause.
Correct Use: Jenni was pondering the idea of cold-blooded murder which perturbed her.
Disturb: An internal disquiet inside a person that is a reaction to an external source.
Correct Use: Jenni watched a horror movie last night and she was deeply disturbed.



Provocative/Evocative

This word relationship is exactly like that of perturbed and disturbed. The difference is in the origin.
Provocative: This is something that creates a physical, external reaction (facial expression, speech, or action).
Correct Use: The provocative theatre performance caused many in the audience to cry and applaud.
Evocative: This is something that causes emotions or images within a person.
Correct Use: The evocative writing in Grapes of Wrath illustrates the lost hope of the American dream.


Amount/ Number

This distinction is also very slim and, in all honesty, is probably an error that is not taken too seriously. However, you can use this trick if you don’t want to take the chance.
Amount: This word is used for quantities that are measured as a whole, as one group.
Correct Use: The amount of plagiary in Elliot’s paper was inexcusable.
Note: Elliot committed multiple acts of plagiarism. However, all those acts are grouped together in one large act of plagiary in this paper.
Number:  This word is used for items that can be counted individually even though they are in a group.
Correct Use: The number of people in the elevator increased during the lunch hour.
Note: Each person in the elevator is representative an individual. These people are not being morphed into one huge person in the elevator, therefore, they retain their individuality with the use of the word “number,” which implies that you can count the individual bodies.

-Talea Hughes