How to become more comfortable sharing your own work 

At times, writing can feel like an intensely personal act, and because of that, it is often difficult for writers to share their work. As a student, you’re required to share your work in a variety of ways, whether with your professor, a writing tutor, your classmates, a workshop, a conference audience, or the readership of a journal. If the idea of other people hearing or reading your writing makes you nervous, here are a few ways that you can become more comfortable sharing your work with an audience.

Practice

You knew that we were going to say this, but that doesn’t make it any less true. If reading your work in front of people makes you nervous, practice! You can do this by finding a good practice audience, like a group of friends: people who you aren’t afraid to speak in front of and who you’re not afraid will judge you. It can also help to read in front of an audience of your peers who you don’t necessarily know, so that you can get comfortable sharing your work with strangers. An open mic event (like the one hosted by students of the English department—one will be coming up soon!) can be a great opportunity to share your work in a low-pressure environment. No one is grading or judging, and often, the audience members are equally nervous about reading their own work.

Remember that people are self-centered

Rarely is this a comforting truth, but in this instance, it can be. When you’re nervous about sharing your work, remember that people are generally self-centered; that means that they’re thinking about themselves, not thinking about or judging you. When was the last time someone shared their work with you? Were you judging or mocking that person? Chances are that you weren’t; you were probably wrapped up in your own concerns. The same applies when you share your writing with others.

Don’t take it personally

If you’re sharing your work in a workshop or a tutoring session, you’ll probably receive some critiques and suggestions for improvement. In these instances, it is important to remember that the comments are on the piece of writing, not on you as a writer or as a person. Additionally, none of them are designed to hurt your feelings—they’re intended to help you make the piece better. Again, practice can be useful here; the more you hear commentary on your writing, the more accustomed to it you’ll become.

Getting comfortable with putting yourself out there and sharing your writing can be scary, but just like putting yourself out there in other ways, like making friends, professional networking, or getting involved in your community, is necessary to having a fulfilling academic experience, so is sharing your work. These three strategies can help you become more at ease when sharing your work, and that can only be a good thing!

Want to polish a paper before sharing it? Visit the Writing Center today or set up an appointment online. We’re open from 9 AM to 4 PM in 123 Cherry Hall and 4 PM to 9 PM in the Academic Commons in Cravens, Monday through Thursday (9 AM to 3 PM in 123 Cherry Hall on Fridays).

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How to Set up an Appointment Online

Setting up an appointment for the writing center online is convenient and fairly simple, but it can be somewhat confusing. These appointments, while set up online, are for you to come to the writing center in person. If you are an off-campus student, you may set up an online appointment in which you send your paper electronically to be reviewed by a tutor. On-campus students must come to the center in person.

If you have any issues with the following steps, you can call the writing center using this number: 745-5719.

We also welcome walk-ins, but keep in mind that you are not guaranteed an appointment at the time you come in if our tutors are busy.

Logging in to TutorTrac

To set up an appointment online, you’ll need to log in to TutorTrac. An easy way to do that is to go to the WKU Writing Center Webpage here: https://www.wku.edu/writingcenter/

Then, you can click on “Make an Appointment” in the left sidebar menu. This will take you directly to TutorTrac.

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Writing Center Webpage

Once you are in TutorTract, you will log in using your NetID and password. This will take you to the the Main Menu.

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TutorTrac Log in Page

In the Main Menu, you can see your upcoming appointments. On the left side, lick on “Search Availability” to browse appointment times.

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TutorTrac Main Menu

Setting up an Appointment 

On the availability page, under “Center,” click on the drop-down menu to select “Writing Center.” Then, select “Writing Center Assistance” under “Section.” Finally, make sure the dates align with when you wish to set up an appointment and click “Search.”

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Availability Menu

The available time slots will appear along with the tutors who can be scheduled. Select a day and time from the green slots that works for you. All times are thirty minute increments.

Once you have clicked on the time slot you prefer, a box will appear requesting more information.

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Available Time Slots

Make sure that the “subject” says “Writing Center Assistance.” This should happen automatically if you selected this subject in the last step.

In the “notes” box, provide any information you think the tutor should know. This helps us prepare for your appointment. Some things you might include are the class you are writing for, your professor, an assignment description, and/or what you are specifically wanting help with.

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Finally, select “Save.”

Your appointment has been set. You will receive a verification email with the details of your appointment, and you can also review this on the TutorTrac Main Main Menu page.

You are only allowed to set up one appointment at a time. The maximum appointments for one week is two.

Canceling an Appointment 

If you wish to cancel your appointment, please call or email the writing center. Several late or missed visits may result in you not being able to return to the writing center, so make sure you come on time or cancel if you can’t make it.

Setting up an Online Appointment 

Online appointments are for off-campus students. Tutors will look over your papers electronically and email you the papers back with comments.

Online appointments can be set up here: https://distancelearning.wku.edu/writingcenter/

Fill in the form on this page, making sure that your attached file is in Word Doc (.doc or .docx), Rich Text (.rtf), or Text (.txt) format.

Most importantly, in the Assignment description box, please provide as much information as you can so that tutors know exactly what to look for. You might include, for instance, the required paper format or page count, the writing prompt, and/or what your professor is looking for.

Need more help?

This video describes everything covered above with audio and visual examples:

https://mediasite.wku.edu/Mediasite/Play/0e8b50e602364859ae065a82e44cdbfc1d

Meet the Tutors: Lydia & Rachel

Lydia Anvar

Lydia Anvar, a senior professional writing major, hails from Louisville, Kentucky–a city full of coffee shops, street art, and all the cheap Mexican food you can get your hands on. Although she’s only been working at the writing center for half a semester, she loves being able to encourage students who lack self-confidence in their writing. She also enjoys getting to learn new things when students bring her papers on topics that she isn’t familiar with. Thanks to her professional writing concentration, she’s well-versed in professional genres like memos, reports, and resumes as well as MLA style. Lydia hopes to get her Master’s in Education from the University of Kentucky to teach high school English; she believe that literature has the power to change the way that we see the world and ourselves–and she want to pass that on to others! When she’s not writing papers or working, she’s watching The Great British Baking Show on Netflix or catching a cheap concert in Nashville with her friends.

Rachel Phelps

Rachel Phelps has tutored in the Writing Center since August 2015. Like many of the tutors you’ll visit here, Rachel is a senior at WKU studying literature; unlike many, however, Rachel has a unique feature–her eyes are two different colors. This often becomes an interesting topic when Rachel realizes students are gazing into her eyes with perplexed expressions.

Along with literature, Rachel is studying professional writing and hopes to attend the University of Kentucky next year to get her Master’s with Initial Certification in Secondary English Education and become a high school English teacher. Rachel is a natural teacher and especially loves helping students brainstorm ideas for papers. Her expertise includes–but is not limited to–MLA format, science writing, and writing for education and literature classes.

When not tutoring or doing homework, Rachel is involved in her sorority, Delta Zeta, writes for the Talisman, and volunteers with the high school ministry at Living Hope Baptist Church.

Interested in setting up an appointment with Lydia or Rachel? Visit the Writing Center today or set up an appointment online. We’re open from 9 AM to 4 PM in 123 Cherry Hall and 4 PM to 9 PM in the Academic Commons in Cravens, Monday through Thursday (9 AM to 3 PM in 123 Cherry Hall on Fridays).

He Said, She Said: Quoting and Paraphrasing

A few weeks ago, in the blog “Research: Wading Through Sources” (found here: https://wordpress.com/view/wkuwritingcenter.wordpress.com), I talked about how to choose sources for your paper and to think of your writing as “joining in a conversation” with scholars. Now, I’d like to share some tips for actually integrating those sources. There are a lot of things to cover on this topic, so I’m going to share what you will most likely be using and the areas where I see the most issues in student papers.

For examples, I will be using material from my paper, “The Despair Unto Death in The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy: A Kierkegaardian Reading.”

How Much to Quote/Paraphrase

Often students fill their papers with too many quotes, especially long ones. This can quickly come across as lazy and a way for the student to reach a certain page count.

According to the University of Iowa’s writing center, “ninety-nine percent of your paper should be in your own words. Quotes help your argument, but cannot substitute for your own original work.” You’ll probably find other percentages. For instance, WriteCheck.com suggests %20 can be quoted/paraphrased material. The main idea is that the majority of your work should be in your own words and ideas.

Introducing Quotes

Another problem I’ve seen is students tossing in a quote here and there with no introduction or commentary.

Example:

“In Confession, Tolstoy ‘speaks of spiritual discomfort having grown in him like a disease, at first revealed by transient symptoms but gradually mastering the whole organism,’ and ‘the process is realized in his finest tale of the decade, The Death of Ivan Ilych (1886)’ (Gifford 45). Here, Tolstoy describes his despair as like a disease. This simile is made into metaphor in Ivan Ilych, in which the protagonist suffers an actual illness that represents his internal despair. In this example, I introduce the source (an unpublished fictional work by Tolstoy), and then, after I quote the source, I apply the quote to my argument. It is not usually safe to assume that the reader will know immediately how your quote applies. Even if they do, it is your job to not only provide evidence but to also interpret that evidence.”

Paraphrasing 

You won’t always need a direct quote. In fact, most of the time you will be paraphrasing.

Example:

“While Kierkegaard was not well-received in Russia during his own time because of his anti-Hegelian philosophy (Makolkin 2), Hilary Fink writes in an essay comparing Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata and Kierkegaard’s Either/Or that the Russian author did, in fact, read and admire Kierkegaard (1).”

When paraphrasing, make sure you cite the page numbers where the information came from.

Ellipses…

Sometimes you’ll find a lengthy quote that you want to use but find is too long or includes too many irrelevant details. This is where you can use an ellipsis (…) to join pieces of a quote. The ellipsis serves as a bridge between the two (or three or four) sections.

Example: 

“In a letter to his wife in 1869, Tolstoy writes: ‘…suddenly I was overcome by despair, fear and terror, the like of which I have never experienced before…I’ve never experienced such an agonizing feeling before and may God preserve anyone else from experiencing it’ (Wilson 250).”

Block Quotes

When you quotation is longer than a few lines, it should be blocked. Some specific guidelines exist for blocked quotes that are important to remember.

  1. Quotes must be indented one-half inch
  2. Quotation marks are not used around the quote
  3. The parenthetical citation comes AFTER the period
  4. Quotes are usually introduced with a colon, but sometimes with a comma
  5. Double spacing is maintained

Example: (Because of the format of this blog, this example is in single space with extra spaces before and after the block quote. In an actual paper, the whole thing will be double spaced.)

“In Kierkegaard, despair is the ‘sickness unto death.’ He writes:

The torment of despair is precisely the inability to die…Thus to be sick unto death is to be unable to die, yet not as though there were hope of life. No, the hopelessness is that even the last hope, death, is gone…It is in this latter sense, then, that despair is the sickness unto death, this tormenting contradiction, this sickness in the self; eternally to die, to die and yet not to die, to die death itself. (48)

“To despair unto to death, then, is to be ill in spirit and to desire to cease existing.”

Integrated Quotes

An integrated quote is simply a quote that flows from a sentence in your own words, and I have already used this example many times in this blog. To integrate a quote, it is important to make sure that they are consistent with the grammatical progression of your sentence. This some times takes altering the quote, which I explain next.

Example: 

“Ivan was ‘an intelligent, polished, lively and agreeable man’ (256), who married because it ‘gave him personal satisfaction, and at the same time it was considered the right thing by the most highly placed of his associates’ (259).”

Altering Quotes

To alter a quote, you can use ellipses as mentioned before, but you can also change words by putting them in brackets. This is especially useful if the quote you are using is not in the same tense as your sentence or if you want to specify something that is not clear in the sentence.

Examples: 

“At this time, ‘Tolstoy [became] something more than a writer: he [became] a religious leader, sage, a modern prophet’ (165).

“Because of these differences, Kierkegaard ‘searches for the absolute in the eternal world which is really the absolute world, a world without the limitations of place and time, a world without beginning and end, while [Tolstoy] searches for the absolute in this temporal world which is a relative and finite world’ (502).”

Quotes Within Quotes 

Finally, note that, in the last example, I used singular quotations (‘…’) when quoting within my own quotation. This is the standard for quotes within quotes. If the author you are quoting mentions a title of a short work, for instance, you would put it in singular quotations.

 

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Works Cited

Fink, Hilary. “Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer’s Sonata and the Kierkegaardian “Either/Or.”

Canadian-American Slavic Studies 36:1-2 (2002): 7-18. Brill Online Books and Journals.

Web. 18 March 2016.

Gifford, Henry. Tolstoy. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1982. Print.

Kierkegaard, Soren. The Sickness Unto Death. Trans. Alastair Hannay. Great Britain:

Penguin Classics, 1989. Print.

Makolkin, Anna. “Russian, Stalinist and Soviet Re-Readings of Kierkegaard: Lev Shestov

and Piama Gaidenko.” Canadian Slavonic Papers 44.1 (2002): 79-96. ProQuest. Web. 19

Mar. 2016.

“Paraphrases and Quotes.” University of Iowa, https://clas.uiowa.edu/history/teaching-

and- writing-center/ guides/paraphrases-and-quotes. Accessed 11 October 2017.

Tolstoy, Leo. “The Death of Ivan Ilych.” Tolstoy, Leo. Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy.

New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1967. 245-303. Print.

Wilson, A. N. Tolstoy: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1988. Print.

“Writing Tip #20: How much of my paper can be quotes?” WriteCheck, 16 January 2013,

http://en.writecheck.com/blog/2013/01/16/writing-tip-20-how-much-of-my-paper-can-

be- quotes.

Best free online group project tools

Group projects can be a pain. It’s hard to get two, three, four, or more people in the same place, at the same time, and keep everyone on task. Luckily, there are some excellent online tools you can use to collaborate with other students on group projects. These are some of our favorites:

Asana: https://asana.com/

Asana is the best free project management software out there. With Asana you can create your team (that is, add your group project members), create tasks, set deadlines, assign tasks to specific users, share progress updates, talk about the project with team members, share documents, and more. For all the tasks assigned to you or that you follow, you’ll get regular email reminders about the due date, helping keep you on task. Plus, when you complete tasks, cute little animations pop up on your screen (sometimes they’re unicorns)!

Google Drive: https://www.google.com/drive/

If you have a Google account (and like, everyone does), you have access to Google Drive, a cloud-based online platform for creating documents, spreadsheets, slideshows, and more. You can create a project in Google Drive, share it with multiple people, provide them with editing permissions, and all work on the project at the same time, from different locations, and all your changes will be made in real time. Within a document, you can also leave comments, @ mention other editors, and open a chat with the other group members. It’s almost better than working in the same room!

Microsoft OneDrive: https://my.wku.edu/

With your student email account, you have access to useful Microsoft apps, including OneDrive, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc. Like Google Docs, with these apps you can compose and save documents online, accessible from anywhere you can use your email account. You can also collaborate with other students in real time, making this super useful for group project work (plus, you don’t have to know everyone’s personal email address). As another advantage over Google apps (sorry not sorry), the formatting options are better and slightly more intuitive.

Dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/

Dropbox is what it sounds like: a virtual box into which you can drop things, specifically files. Dropbox is very secure and has tons of controls on how you can share the files, who can access them, and file viewing/editing/accessing permissions users have. If you have a file-heavy project and need to make sure everyone has access to all the important materials, creating a Dropbox for your project and sharing it with your group members is a good way to do that.

Want to take advantage of another free resource? Visit the Writing Center today or set up an appointment online. We’re open from 9 AM to 4 PM in 123 Cherry Hall and 4 PM to 9 PM in the Academic Commons in Cravens, Monday through Thursday (9 AM to 3 PM in 123 Cherry Hall on Fridays).

Meet Dr. Jane Fife

I was born in Paducah and grew up in Louisville, so I was thrilled to be able to find a job teaching at WKU. I had gone to college in Michigan and Indiana and got my PhD in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Louisville. My first professor gigs were in Ada, Oklahoma and Chattanooga, Tennessee. I started teaching at WKU in 2003, and directing the Writing Center has been part of my job from the start. I also teach various writing classes, including English 100, writing in the disciplines, argument & analysis, and advanced composition.

For fun, I like to study how people write (now and in the past), collect typewriters, read (especially mysteries about books or old manuscripts), travel to beautiful natural places and historic sites, and bake.

My advice to students is that writing is challenging—at least writing in a way that gets your point across well and is engaging for your reader—so mustering the motivation to write can be tough, even for English teachers! To write well, you have to understand your own psychology as a writer: what makes you not want to write, what can you do to change that attitude, what makes your writing environment less distracting, what makes it more enjoyable and more conducive to focus? If you can answer these big questions about yourself, you’re on the way to becoming a better writer and enjoying the journey. Writing is usually not easy, but it can be fun and rewarding. WKU Writing Center tutors can talk with you about what works for them as writers and help you start to understand yourself better. Yes, we want to help you write better papers, but we also want to help you understand yourself better as a writer and the many things you can do to improve how you write, where you write, when you write, how often you write, and how well you like to write. All that will help you improve what you write.

-Dr. Fife

Grammar blogs you should be following

If you write anything (even if you think you don’t write, you do) or say anything, no matter the medium or situation, expressing your point and clearly communicating with your audience is important. Good grammar is an essential tool in doing so; grammar provides the rules that make what we say and write make sense. If you want to be a better reader, writer, speaker, listener, and communicator, here are the grammar blogs you should be following:

Grammar Girlhttp://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl

Grammar Girl is famous for her Quick and Dirty Tips ™ that define exactly what you need to know about a given grammatical situation. Not sure whether to say “bad” or “badly”? Need to know how to use a semicolon? Grammar Girl can tell you. In addition to the tips, Grammar Girl also has a fun and informative podcast.

Grammarist: http://grammarist.com/

Quick, easily consumable articles on grammar, usage, words and phrases, spelling, and style. It also has English and ESL resources and games. The games may be for kids; however, the games may also be kind of fun. We cannot confirm this (wink, wink).

Grammarly: https://www.grammarly.com/blog/category/writing/grammar/

In addition to their writing products, which include the free Grammarly spellcheck browser extension we’ve mentioned in a previous post, Grammarly has an informative blog on grammar and writing situations (because they’re super good at content marketing). Past topics include how to tell the difference between adjectives and adverbs, how to use good grammar in online dating, and fun quizzes like “Are You a Grammar Troll?” (Turns out, I’m a pedantic grammar troll…)

Merriam-Webster’s Twitterhttps://twitter.com/MerriamWebster?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

This isn’t actually a blog, but Merriam-Webster shares a lot of great and timely articles on grammar and word use on their Twitter account. Also, m-w hilariously trolls the frequent misuse and abuse of words by our country’s most visible politicians.

The WKU Writing Center blog: wkuwritingcenter.wordpress.com

We post things about grammar, and we’re big proponents of self-promotion.

If you have questions about grammar and would like to learn how to identify the patterns of grammatical error in your writing, the Writing Center can help! Visit the Writing Center today or set up an appointment online. We’re open from 9 AM to 4 PM in 123 Cherry Hall and 4 PM to 9 PM in the Academic Commons in Cravens, Monday through Thursday (9 AM to 3 PM in 123 Cherry Hall on Fridays).