January 2016

Holiday Wrap: Reflecting on the Past and Planning for the Winter Term

New Yorker cartoon captioned "I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to pointless, incessant barking"

Seeing as this will be my final posting, this is a perfect time to reflect on the fall term and project to the upcoming winter term. Fittingly, one of the big takeaways from my experience with a vastly diverse group of students is plan ahead. And I don’t mean that in a remedial or punitive way at all. It’s more of a general sentiment on developing a process, a process which you’re concurrently tweaking as it develops. Perhaps this is too meta (considering this post is prefaced on looking forward), but I’ve heard that being self-referential on the internet is the thing to do.

10 Totally Correct Exam Season Tips: Your Guide to Being Super Successful

Men in black meme captioned "Finished studying? Good"

Okay, so how are you all feeling about final exams this December? Pretty solid? Great? Possibly even excited, because exams are a blast? Of course. These are all natural responses to one of the most exciting events on the academic calendar. Therefore, I feel this is a fitting time to impart some of the tips I’ve gathered over the years. Make sure to take these 100% literally, and you’ll crush your exams this season.

Revisiting Google Ngram: What we can learn from Corpora

Ancient inscription captioned "It doesn't mean a thing, but boy, will it drive them crazy a thousand years from now?"

So I’ve been thinking about Google’s Ngram Viewer and how it applies as a teaching tool. Although it doesn’t directly translate, Ngram reminded me of a really handy tool that we use regularly at the Writing Centre. I’ve also realized that many people may not have encountered it before. So, I present to you: the Now Corpus.

Choosing Effective Transition Words: A DIY Guide

Matrix meme captioned "What if I told you not all transition words don't mean the same thing"

Seeing as I tend to write a lot of blogs focused on process/approaches to sustainable writing practices, it may be a good time to write something more applied (and plug some of the resources from the website). This post is inspired by a common experience throughout the semester; quite often, I find myself directing students to the Transition Phrase bank in our Resources section.

Why Goodreads Might Revitalize Your Interest in Recreational Reading

In my last post, I discussed how adopting a reading habit can help you strengthen your academic skills and become a better student in any discipline. However, making a commitment to recreational reading is often a challenging task. A common misconception seems to be that not reading regularly is a personal failing, as expressed in this simply-worded Tumblr post which resonated with hundreds of thousands of people:

Five Reasons Reading for Fun Will Make You a Better Student (in Any Discipline)

woman reading under tree

It’s widely acknowledged that the number of people who regularly read for pleasure has been in decline over the past decades (Flood). Accordingly, although today’s post-secondary students spend a great deal of time poring over academic articles and studying classic novels for courses on literature, they’re less likely to pick out a book that interests them and read it purely for entertainment and relaxation.

An experiment with Google Ngram Viewer or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

Dr. Strangelove meme captioned "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here. This is the war room"

At the Writing Centre, we’re always looking out for new teaching strategies and tools. So when one of my colleagues mentioned Google Ngram Viewer (I was shamelessly trolling for blog posts ideas, to be honest), I was intrigued. What is it? What does it do? And more importantly, how does Google keep creating these things?

9 Tips to Ace That Timed Essay

Image of a happy dog with the caption "Good luck on the exam, hope it isn't too ruff"

Exams are almost upon us, and a familiar sense of foreboding has settled over the campus. One exam element that can be particularly intimidating for some students is the timed essay: an exam question which demands a full essay on a topic that is typically revealed for the first time during the test. While these kinds of questions may seem scary, there are plenty of ways to make them easy for yourself. Read on for tips about how to prepare in advance of the exam and how to approach timed essays before, during, and after the writing process.

The First Word is the Hardest: How to Get Working on a Writing Assignment

Often, the hardest part of completing a writing project is getting started. Whether you’re working on an essay, a lab report, or an online discussion post, there are all sorts of problems that can prevent you from penning those first few words. Let’s break down a few of those problems and explore some solutions that can help get the sentences flowing.

The grammar of things: A (hopefully) logical digression

Grammar is a tricky, uh, thing?

Black tie blunders, part 2: how to correct formality errors

woman in puffy prom dress standing beside woman in business suit

In last week’s post, we covered the many misconceptions that exist around the concept of formal writing, with a particular emphasis on the belief that formal writing should be full of polysyllabic words and complicated sentences. As we discussed, formality in writing is all about following a specific set of conventions and has almost nothing to do with shoehorning big words into your work.

Black tie blunders: what formal writing really means

Man in formal suit beside man in ridiculous blue suit

Particularly for students who are new to university, formal writing can be an intimidating concept. Many students begin their first-year courses with the belief that the understanding of formality they developed in high school will be useless to them in this new environment.

Figuring out your ideal writing space: an excuse to go for a ramble

Following up from last week’s blog that dealt with procrastination and getting started, it seems intuitive to consider one of the (potentially) underrated parts of the writing process: finding your ideal writing space. Sometimes, I find that people identify their favourite writing space with a binary. They either like total silence and undisturbed time, or they need some kind of background noise and a bit of chaos to get motivated. However, this self-identified requirement for a writing space can get us into tricky situations. How so?

Writer's block explored through sweet, sweet music

“Writer’s block.” Two dreaded words for any student, first year undergrads and PhD candidates alike. Most other problematic writing habits stem from writer’s block; procrastination is when you’ve convinced yourself that you will write something, just not yet. The timing isn’t right, or you don’t have enough time to get enough of your thoughts down, or you need to perform your pre-writing rituals like binge-watching The Wire or cleaning the kitchen. Everyone is different, but the problem remains the same. Where to begin?

An introduction to university writing

An introduction to university writing

You have graduated from high school and been accepted to The University of Waterloo. Congratulations! As you begin your university studies you will encounter many kinds of writing assignments. To help get you started, here’s a brief guide to expectations for university-level writing.

Writing at university follows specific conventions

On Stephen King's "On Writing"

Stephen King’s On Writing is a great resource for anyone who wants to become a better writer. Although King’s memoir mainly targets fiction writers, I believe that many of his opinions on writing can be used by all writers. Whether you are writing a blog, co-op report, literature review, cover letter, etc., King’s tips about writing will be useful to you.

Here are four of King’s tips about writing that will help you and your writing process.

On Stephen King's "On Writing"

Stephen King’s On Writing is a great resource for anyone who wants to become a better writer. Although King’s memoir mainly targets fiction writers, I believe that many of his opinions on writing can be used by all writers. Whether you are writing a blog, co-op report, literature review, cover letter, etc., King’s tips about writing will be useful to you.

Here are four of King’s tips about writing that will help you and your writing process.

On Stephen King's "On Writing"

Stephen King’s On Writing is a great resource for anyone who wants to become a better writer. Although King’s memoir mainly targets fiction writers, I believe that many of his opinions on writing can be used by all writers. Whether you are writing a blog, co-op report, literature review, cover letter, etc., King’s tips about writing will be useful to you.

Here are four of King’s tips about writing that will help you and your writing process.

From the CanLit Guides Workshop to the Writing Centre: Using the Think-Aloud Protocol as a Tool for Peer Review

It’s almost lunchtime on a Tuesday morning, and although undergraduate students are studying silently just outside the door, the Davis Centre library’s conference room is abuzz with chatter. Scattered throughout the room are doctoral students reading and chatting as part of Dissertation Boot Camp – an intensive four-day program designed to help graduate students make progress on their writing projects.

Writing Inspiration

Image from: Book Writer Career

In Summary...

It’s hard to conclude your work when you get to the end, especially when so much has happened. This is usually where you question yourself: What have I learned? Why was this important? How could I improve? Did I enjoy what I did?

You, You, You

In high school, I took visual arts every year, and I loved it. Weirdly enough, I’ve always had one art teacher (hi, Mr. Simpson!). I loved the amount of freedom I had with my projects, and the exercises we did every week; the class was liberating (especially compared to the AP STEM courses I took).

Choosing a Topic

I’m hungry (I’m always hungry), so I think about the options I have. It’s a bit overwhelming: Should I cook or should I buy? Should I eat a lot or should I just snack? Is there even food in the fridge (and by this, I mean is there anything I want in the fridge)?

(My hair is too long, I need a haircut)

Setting the Mood

Sometimes I’m not in the mood to write, y’know? And when I’m not in the mood (when I’m lazy (all the time)), writing becomes a thousand times harder.

Valuing Fanfiction...?

(Image from: Source)

So fanfiction is a thing that exists.

The Importance of Asking Your Professor

I bet you communicate with someone somehow every day without thinking too much about it.  You text your friends, call your parents, speak with people in class, and use many other forms of communication within your daily life.  However, when you go to email your prof to set up a meeting, or go to ask them a question after class I bet you are just a little nervous almost every time.  You make excuses for not asking your questions; you make your questions sound less important, less needed, or even down right dumb.  Most students make their questions seem unvalued or unreasonable: “I don’t want

Biology graduate student’s approach to writing is infectious

I knock on a door and am greeted by Meghan Fuzzen, a PhD candidate in biology whose research focuses on determining the impact of treated wastewater on the reproductive health of fish in the Grand River.

Procrastination Binge

I binge-watched How to Get Away with Murder for the past two days instead of doing anything productive. It’s 11PM.

Let’s talk about procrastination.

Stress, Over- and Under- Eating, Ways to Cope

Stress can be caused by many different situations, but it can also affect many different parts of your life.  For me personally, it affects my food habits the most; specifically what I am eating and how much I am eating.  This then cycles back to being more stressed out because I am hungry, not eating the right foods, and worried about possibly gaining or losing too much weight, while still having to do all the things that made me stressed out in the first place.

What's the Word

Often when I listen to podcasts, I find myself unfamiliar with some of the terminology being used. Even more often, I find myself forgetting them after I’ve looked them up in the dictionary.

(Check out our Instagram for new comics weekly!!!)

I’m probably not the only one with this problem, so how do I retain this information?

Treat Yo Self (Well)

Me listening to Beyonce's single, "Formation"

I’ve been wanting to write a post about confidence for a while now, but I never really knew how to.

The 3 Rs of University Survival

When someone hears mention of the 3 Rs they usually think of reduce, reuse, and recycle (I do at least).  Well, I am here to tell you that there is another list of Rs you should look into if you want to survive university!  The list consists of being reasonable, being responsible, and being rational.  If you do not like using schedules for organizing your time, these 3 words will help you manage your time and think through choices you have to make.

It's Complicated

Valentine’s Day is coming up and I’ve been thinking about my relationship

Midterms and “Doing Too Much Stress”

I’m sure you know the stressful feeling when midterms are either just around the corner or already happening.  As midterms come around the corner, it feels like students simultaneously take out their blinders, put them on and think “no distractions, only study”.  Everyone becomes machinelike; you feel as if you can read the notes someone else studied the night before because they are etched so deep into their brain that you can see it in their eyes.

Show and Tell


You’re sitting in your little wooden cubicle at the corner of an office. Your laptop is open in front of you; a picture of a black cat stares at you. Its lime-green eyes look into yours.

You maximize your Microsoft Word document. It’s blindingly white.

You lean back on your soft green office chair and sigh. You spin around, facing away from your cubicle. You look at the clock on the white wall to your left: 3:55PM.

You notice that you are bouncing your right leg.

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