How to Stop Writing like You're in High School
Classes | 

How to Stop Writing like You're in High School

No one cares if you have a cover page.

It's time to unlearn many of those high school writing habits. They just don't exist anymore in college.

In high school, you might have learned to start every paragraph with the main point and end every paragraph re-stating the main point. That's not the case in college. You have much more freedom to write in the way that serves your ideas and argument.

College professors want you to think critically and write persuasively. Here's a cheat sheet to help you shift into college writing gear.

Source: K.C Uthus, FlockU

Word to your flocker.

Image Alt
Classes | 

Three Major Things Professors Look for in a College Paper

If your professor read your paper back to you aloud, would you be embarrassed?

Every professor evaluates papers differently. Some are looking for creativity and don't care if your paper has a couple typos. Others are sticklers for grammar and spelling, and take off points for a misplaced comma.

In almost all cases, however, there are a few common factors that you can pretty much assume any professor will want to see in a paper.

1. Did you understand the assignment? Read the assignment carefully as soon as you get it. Make sure you completely understand it. If you're unclear, ask your professor questions right away. Also, pay attention to verbs, because they tell you what to do. There's a big difference between "summarizing" and "comparing," for instance. Understanding the assignment is super basic, but can be easy to screw up.

2. Did you make an original argument and support it? Nearly all college papers need an original argument (or thesis) and evidence that supports it. Welcome to college writing life. Professors want to see that you can formulate an opinion and use research to back it up. Your mission is to convince your professor of your way of thinking.

3. Did you show that you learned something through the assignment? A writing assignment is a learning experience. Professors create writing assignments because they want you think about something in a certain way--so, use your head. Your paper should be thoughtful and informative. It should look like you spent time on it; and didn't throw it together three beers deep.

You'll be in good shape if your paper hits all these points. That being said, this list is not a foolproof strategy. Your professor might want to see other things, as well. The better you understand your professor's requirements, the less confusing (and painful) writing can be.

Word to your flocker.

Image Alt
Classes |  Source: poobear000

How to Overcome Writer's Block

Have sex. Seriously.

Writer's block can be the biggest bitch on the planet. No matter if you're writing a research paper for your biology lab, or writing a blog post for your website, you're bound to run into a case of writer's block. Anyone who says otherwise doesn't write enough. So how do you get over it? Well, here are a few simple ways:

1. Go Outside
That mysterious place that occupies the space beyond your window is actually full of wonder. Seriously, go for a walk, go sit up in a tree, or even go listen to the sounds of the birds chirping. It will get your creative juices flowing. Don't believe me? Read any excellent book. I bet they talk about nature in it.

2. Read
I wasn't kidding when I said read any excellent book. It actually doesn't have to be an excellent book. Just read something. You will start to get ideas, and formulate plots, and soon enough your writer's block will be history.

3. Have Sex
If you find yourself unable to figure out any sort of direction that you want to go with whatever you are writing, then just stop writing. Instead, go find your partner and have a little fun with them. The rush of hormones and adrenaline will reset your mind, and you should find that you are able to think more clearly. Oh, and they could probably give you some ideas as to what to write about.

4. Drink
Personally, I find that the best way to get the creative juices flowing is to get a good buzz going. A few shots of whiskey always does the trick for me. I wouldn't recommend getting completely blackout drunk, however. You still need to write whatever it is you are writing, after all.

5. Consult a Friend
Often times, talking to people is a good way to get ideas for what to write. It's crazy, I know, but other people do have good ideas.

Image Alt
Classes |  Source: @isaactaracks

Conquering Your Thesis

Just do the damn thing.

At the start of senior year you thought writing a thesis would be fun. That all your older friends who wrote theses (and tried to warn you) were just wimps who would take to melodramatic Facebook statuses to lament. And you figured you could write and be that second semester senior you always aspired to be. Because first semester thesis work wasn't so bad, was it?

That's cute of you.

If you haven't figured it out by now, writing a thesis is akin to walking uphill in the snow. It's like the fights of Russell Crowe in...well, any movie he's in. It's like getting that MOFO ring into Mordor. One does not simply write a thesis.

My thesis was a 110 page jaunt that seemed to accomplish nothing I had set out for, and that has, thus far, only entertained myself (if you're looking for a read on the theoretical conceptions of altruism, holla at ya girl). I had panic attacks in the library, literal nightmares, and moments where I thought I would fail. Yet, I did the damn thing.

Completing my thesis is one of the accomplishments I am most proud of and believe it or not, I wouldn't trade the countless all-nighters for anything.

If you are in the process of a second semester thesis exodus, fear not. It's worth it. You can do it and here's how:

1. Just write.
After all my research, I couldn't decide the exact perfect way to organize my writing. So, instead of writing I'd spend hours superfluously outlining and researching even more.

Finally, I took the advice of my mentor: just write. If you're having trouble starting or are unsure of where to go, just write what you think is best. It may not be a final draft, but it'll help get the ball rolling.

2. Set a deadline before it's actually due.
I'd recommend picking a day that is a week before the actual due date. This way you have flexibility and can take your time with finishing touches.

3. Schedule wisely.
I had a date for when my first draft was due (the day before spring break, so that I could chill the fuck out) and an amount of pages I was aiming to hit. I used this countdown to figure out how many pages I had to write everyday to reach my goal.

Figure out how many pages you want to write per day or per week, or set specific goals for specific time periods.

4. Make a routine.
Having a daily process, like a usual library spot, a coffee order (that the baristas memorized) or a habitual break spot helped me focus and feel grounded.

5. Find a thesis partner.
Seek out a friend or someone in your major who is also writing a thesis. This provides someone who is going through the same process to ask for advice, questions, or to have someone to sit next to you in solidarity when it's 4 a.m. in an empty library.

6. Seek help.
I had a committee with three professors to ask questions and receive help from, but I also sought out assistance for my thesis from other individuals: deans, professors, other students.

Initially, I worried that seeking help would be asking too much. However, I found that every one of them was happy to lend a hand and their help was truly useful.

7. Lean on friends.
If you're lucky enough to have great friends like me, they'll notice you are stressed, tired and on the brink of insanity. My friends offered to run errands for me, bring me food to the library, provide rides, calm me down when I was panicking, or practice presentations with them.

I felt bad accepting these favors, but they wanted to be a good friend. Plus, these small gestures really meant a lot to me. Don't feel bad accepting generosity from your friends and remember to pay it forward when they need you. *Cue Lean on Me*

8. Take breaks.
If you never stop working, this will surely result in you blowing up (literally and figuratively). Have designated break times during the day, set bedtimes, take days off to rest, meditate, and exercise. These breaks will help you work more productively.

9. Be proud.
I spent a lot of my thesis time second guessing, criticizing, and feeling disappointed in myself. When I finished, however, I realized how hard I had worked and how proud of myself I was. It was an accomplishment I could take the credit for.

Make sure to think about how much you have accomplished, take ownership of that, and celebrate your success!

Image Alt
Classes |  Source: Adapted from

How to Make Writing a Research Paper Not Suck

These eight tips will keep you sane.

Writing a long research paper is one of the biggest drudgeries of college life. So many pages. So much to research. Blek.

Yes, research papers can bring a lot of pain. But they don't have to--not if you know the smart way to write a research paper. Here are eight tricks you should use every time you get a research paper assignment:

Why it sucks: Long research papers are boring.
How to make it better: Pick a topic that truly interests you. You usually have a good amount of flexibility to choose your topic, so take advantage of it.

Why it sucks: There's too much information to research.
How to make it better: Find about two sources that are really comprehensive, and get the bulk of your information from them. Use additional sources to fill in missing facts and add supporting evidence.

Why it sucks: Drafting a long paper is overwhelming.
How to make it better: Outline your paper before drafting. Outlines help break up the paper into more manageable chunks. Draft one section, take a break if you'd like, and then draft another section.

Why it sucks: You don't know how to create an outline.
How to make it better: The most basic outline has three parts--an introduction, body, and conclusion. Think critically about your beliefor argument. That's the thesis. Brainstorm several ideas to support it and pull out the three strongest ideas. There's your body. Then summarize what all those supporting points mean. That's the conclusion.

Why it sucks: It's hard to keep track of what information came from which source.
How to make it better: Create a note-taking system, and stick to it. One approach is to create a code for each line in your outline (i.e., 1A, 1B, etc.). Take notes on index cards, and write the corresponding code in the top corner of each card.

Why it sucks: You don't have enough time to write it.
How to make it better:
There's really only one cure for this--start early. What if you find out that there isn't enough information about your topic? You're going to need as much time as you can get to switch gears.

Why it sucks: You don't have all the bibliographicalinformation you need.
How to make it better:
Before you start taking notes froma source, find all the bibliographical information required. Can't find it?Ditch the source--before you get in too deep.

Why it sucks: You think you're a bad writer.
How to make it better: Keep your sentences short and punchy--one idea per sentence. Don't force yourself to use big words that you don't understand. And stop telling yourself you're a bad writer.

Work on your paper a little bit each day. If you get frustrated, put it away and do something else. Return to it with a fresh mind. If you stay positive and put in the effort, research papers can actually be painless.

Word to your flocker.

Image Alt
Classes | 

Don't Boil the Ocean

How to get to your point faster.

Ever heard of the term "boil the ocean?" It's fancy talk for trying to do something that's impossible. You just can't do it. It's a waste of time.

When it comes to writing, if you "boil the ocean," you're writing a bunch of crap that isn't needed and might not even belong in your paper. It can be easy to go overboard (pun intended) when you're trying to make a word count, but you usually end up making your paper worse.

The solution?

Remove those extra words (or paragraphs). And edit lengthy sentences down to about 10 to 20 words or less. Your paper will be much better served by getting to your points quickly.

For instance, here's an example of boiling the ocean:

In this day and age of everyone always being connected to their phone day in and day out, people have become very adept at communicating using technology. People always have their phone out. They walk and text. They Snapchat while eating lunch. But does that mean we have lost the ability to communicate as humans, face to face, in real-life settings?

If you made it to the end, bravo. It's a doozy, right? Now try this:

Millennials are masters of communicating using smartphones. But has all that phone time hampered their ability to learn how to interact with people face-to-face?

We just went from 61 words to 26. You probably read the second example much faster than the first--and you probably comprehended it better.

What changed? Well, I tightened the first sentence--a lot. It just says the idea.

Then I removed this entire part: "People always have their phone out. They walk and text. They Snapchat while eating lunch." It doesn't help the reader understand anything better. It just repeats the idea in the first sentence.

Then I made the last sentence punchier. See the difference?

Now, try that in your paper. (Or your posts for FlockU.)

Remember: Fluffy, bloated writing just clutters your piece. Don't boil the ocean. Get to your point.