Three Major Things Professors Look for in a College Paper
College Life | 

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.

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7 Apps That Will Improve Your Writing

Basically, how not to make your writing suck

Let's face it - writing is hard as hell for a lot of people. Even if you are a decent writer and don't tremble with fear at the thought of a research paper, you're still going to mess up sometimes. As a writer myself, I definitely have had my fair share of writer's block and cliches. But I have found some amazing apps to help improve my writing and they can help improve yours, too.

Manage your writing drafts more efficiently with this app. It has many user-friendly features. Collaborate with others without letting them overwrite your master copies. Approve or reject changes they make to documents. Compare drafts of previous work at the same time and see your progress. Use the built-in analytics software to generate reports about reader activity. Getting feedback on your writing from a staff of reviewers is also possible with Draft.

Writer's block is no match for this app. ILYS helps users avoid the urge to over-edit. The goal is to write first and edit later. In addition to using a timer, you are only allowed to type and see one character at a time before the clock stops. Then you view what you have written and make changes. This helps ease the stress that often hits writers before beginning a writing assignment. Just go with the flow, and write whatever comes to your mind. This app can help you churn out more words than usual, too.

Plotbot is a good app specifically for those who want to write movie scripts or things of that nature. You can create and work on private screenplays by yourself, or invite others to get involved. If you are open to a wider collaborative team, share your screenplays publicly, and build a lot more connections. Leave all your formatting worries behind with this app - it takes care of everything. Now you can focus more on telling awesome stories with friends to help you along the way.

Cliche Finder
As tempting as it is to use cliches in your writing, they only sound fluffy, not innovative. No one likes stale writing. Get rid of overused phrases with Cliche Finder. The platform is simple to use. Just add your writing to the text box and click "Find Cliches." All cliches will be bolded for easy identification and removal.

Hemingway App
This beloved app is arguably one of the best online editors out there. Its main purpose is to make your writing more readable. It checks for the complexity of your words and sentences. Adverbs and passive voice are also identified. Questionable areas of writing are highlighted and color-coded to fit their assigned categories. You can write and edit within the Hemingway App. A reading grade level will be given to you once you switch over to the editing process.

Word Counter
The previous app does count words, but the Word Counter app goes further. It counts words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, syllables, and more. Make your writing SEO-friendly by using the built-in keyword density checker. Its talk-to-type feature allows you to type words as you say them into a microphone. Edit your work by using the proofreader feature to hear your writing read out loud.

When it comes to writing college papers, you know how much hassle citations can be. Save yourself time and effort with BibMe, an automatic bibliography maker. It auto-fills essential elements for complete citations. You can cite sources in APA, MLA, Chicago format, and more. This app even allows users to check for plagiarism, scanning millions of sites and papers online.

You don't have to settle for mediocre writing with these apps. Do yourself a favor and start downloading.

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College Life | 

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.

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College Life | 

How to Write an Essay When You Really Don't Want to

Pro tip: FlockU's study playlist.

Writing essays is the worst. This is coming from an English major. College essays come in all shapes and sizes, from 500 word "responses" (I still don't understand what/who I'm responding to?!) to full blown 8 billion page research papers that make you question what you're doing with your life. They can be killer, but you gotta do 'em! Here's some tips for when you're just not about it.

Go to the library.
Did you know your campus library is there (sometimes 24/7) just for the purpose of getting crap done? Contrary to popular belief that it's just a quiet(ish) place to hold conversations, it can actually be a great resource.

Pack yourself some study essentials (coffee, headphones, more coffee...) and camp out in the quiet section for the afternoon/evening/week. Getting there is half the battle.

You are not going to get crap done if you can't get off Instagram. Put your phone down. If turning it off is too intimidating, just put it on do not disturb. The same goes for your laptop (unless you need it for typing, of course).

You're supposed to be writing that essay, not stalking your ex on Facebook, get your life together! There are tons of apps and extensions available for keeping you away from time consuming websites. Programs such as Freedom and Cold Turkey prohibit you from viewing distracting pages during your precious work time!

Play super intense essay-writing music.
Did you know there are actual playlists designed just to put you in the writing mood? Do you need to buckle down and write a huge paper? Try FlockU's instrumentals playlist designed for concentrated studying.

Write or die.
If all else fails, this Internet tool will scare you into finishing your paper. Write or die uses a timer to force you to write as quickly as possible. If you stop writing, there will be consequences! This is great for first drafts because it encourages you to get all the words on paper without worrying about editing. Write now, edit later! Your word count will thank you!

Happy writing!

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College Life | 

I Understand What a Thesis Is, but What's a GOOD Thesis?

There's a HUGE difference.

You know a thesis statement is an argument. It's the case, the claim, the point-however you might call it-that your paper seeks to prove.

Great. Makes sense.

But how do you know if your thesis is any good? It is the foundation of your paper, so if it isn't up to snuff, your whole paper will suck.

Rest assured, we have some tips to help you craft a thesis worthy of an A+.

1. Strike up a debate. If most people would agree with your statement or if it's generally accepted as a fact, it's not a thesis, because you aren't persuading readers to change their mind.

  • Example of a non-debatable thesis: Seatbelts save lives.
  • Example of a debatable thesis: The U.S. Department of Transportation should allot 10% more of its budget to seatbelt education.

2. Be original. Professors want to see that you can formulate an opinion and use research to back it up. If you like a thesis you read somewhere, don't parrot it. Consider how you would put your own spin on it.

  • Example of a non-original thesis: Too much screen time is unhealthy for the brain.
  • Example of an original thesis: The best way to reduce Americans' screen time is to form a new organization of employers who limit their employees' screen time to six hours per work day.

3. Narrow it down. Avoid big, sweeping statements. The narrower your focus, the easier it will be to support your argument because you're examining a smaller set of issues.

  • Thesis that's too broad: Everyone should read a book by Charles Dickens. (But who's "everyone?" And Dickens wrote dozens of books--which one is important?)
  • Thesis that's narrow: Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" underscores three lessons for nearly every young adult.

4. Research, research, research. The more you research your thesis, the greater understanding you'll have about the issues impacting your idea. You'll also be able to pick and choose the best evidence to support your argument.

  • Examples of non-reputable sources: Wikipedia, information on discussion forums.
  • Examples of reputable sources: Research from colleges and universities, government data.

In short: Let your inner lawyer come out.

Word to your flocker.

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College Life | 

I'm a Student Tutor: Here Are The Five Most Common Writing Mistakes I See

Do some damage control before you send it off to your prof.

I'm a T.A. for a freshman writing seminar this term; and I work in the writing tutoring center on my campus, so I've seen all kinds of papers--from amazing to really, really bad. Here are the most common mistakes that I've seen in college papers. So, read this and don't make the same ones.

Mistake: Your argument is unclear. You should be able to clearly identify your thesis in the introductory paragraph. If someone's having trouble identifying it, then you probably 1) spent your introduction summarizing material without stating an argument, or 2) stated so many arguments/ideas that your reader doesn't know which one is your main point.

Fix: The best way to deal with your thesis is to not overthink it. If a friend asked you what you were writing your paper about, how would you answer? Your argument should be the same: concise, interesting, and arguable.

Mistake: Getting distracted from the task at hand. If your paper is about how the symbolism in a novel gives the story a specific tone, then the author's historical background is totally irrelevant. So just don't include it. Seriously.

Fix: Make a reverse outline to check if you're staying on topic. Try to summarize each of your body paragraphs in one sentence. Really think about it. Don't summarize what you intended to say; summarize what's actually on the paper. Then, make sure that ALL of your summaries directly support your thesis.

Mistake: Not analyzing your quotes. If you put a long quote in your paper, don't assume that it will speak for itself. The quote is supposed to support YOU, not the other way around.

Fix: The 1:3 rule. For every one line of quote, you should have three lines of analysis. If you can't write enough about the quote, then you're probably better off nixing it or paraphrasing it in your own words.

Mistake: Bringing up new ideas in the conclusion. The paper has ended, but you're still going. Maybe you've made an argument about Moby Dick, but you think it's important that your ideas hold some relevance in real life. You suddenly start trying to prove that Moby Dick has changed modern day fishing culture. You haven't mentioned anything about this until now, so it's irrelevant.

Fix: This mistake happens so often because the conclusion is supposed to be the big takeaway or "so what?" of the paper. Still, make sure that when you restate your argument in a broader way, you're not adding any drastically new information.

Mistake: Flowery language. Literally no one wants to read this ish. The only person who can pull off page-long sentences is Faulkner, and even then, some people hate him because of it. Being concise will ALWAYS reign supreme over wordiness.

Fix: Cut the bullshit. Close the thesaurus. Never say "hence" or "thus" again.