Blog Posts

“The Death of Helvetica and the Rise of

“The Death of Helvetica and the Rise of the Bespoke Font” is an eye catching title to an article http://ow.ly/YLpZ30hRqxC about a trend in the font world. How about some Thursday morning visual rhetoric?

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GSWC Night before Christmas

GSWC Night before Christmas
By Clement Clark Moore
Adapted by Alicia Goodman, GSWC tutor
 
 
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the GSWC,
Not a person was stirring, not even a tutee.
 
The pencils were sharpened to a point with care,
In hopes that the new semester soon would be there.
 
The clients were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of edits danced in their heads;
 
When out in the Grad Center there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the office to see what was the matter.
 
Away to the exit I ran like a mare,
Tore open the door and ran up the stair;
 
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen dust,
Gave an accurate representation of Lubbock: burnt toast crust.
 
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
 
With a little old driver, lively with a cause,
I knew in a moment it must be Santa Clause;
 
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
 
“Now, SYNTAX! now, GRAMMAR! now, PUNCTUATION and VOCABULARY!
On, CITATION! on SPELLING! on, FORMAT and DICTIONARY!
 
To the top of the Admin building! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
 
As dry leaves that before the wild tornado fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
 
So up to the campus-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of English rules and Santa Clause too.
 
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on top of the school,
The prancing and pawing of each English rule.
 
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the stairs Santa Clause came with a bound.
 
He was dressed in a Chicago Style manual,
And spewed the importance of being factual.
 
A bundle of theses had flung on his back,
And he looked like a librarian just opening his pack.
 
His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, (and that is a simile).
 
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
 
The stump of a pencil he held tight in his teeth,
And a stack of erasers encircled his head like a wreath;
 
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly;
 
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
 
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
He booted up a computer; then turned to this tutor;
 
And laying his finger to schedule an appointment,
And giving a nod, his session was sent;
 
He then sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
 
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove ‘round to the rear,
HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL, AND KEEP WRITING ALL NEXT YEAR!

Conditional Sentences

User’s Guide for Dave’s ESL Café Grammar Lessons

Dave Sperling’s website is an established and wonderfully detailed source of information for international writers, and it can also be very useful for academic writers of all kinds. Sometimes we’re unsure of the more obscure grammatical constructions, and other times we may feel pretty confident about our grammar but unsure of the rules that underlie it.

Dave provides a wealth of lessons, but it can be bewildering to locate the ones that answer our specific questions, so this post series is designed to guide you towards answers to some of the issues we’ve noticed with our clients here at the GSWC.

You can find “Grammar Lessons” under the heading “Stuff for Students” on the left-hand column of the Café’s main page.  Selecting that link takes you to http://www.eslcafe.com/grammar.html


POST #2 – CONDITIONAL SENTENCES

Today, we’ll look at Dave’s second group of grammar lessons, about sentences that start with “If.” This particular kind of English sentence leads to a surprising amount of confusion, especially regarding what verb forms to use.

Check out the corresponding lessons if you are confused about any of the following sticky questions:

  • What’s the difference in meaning between “If she studies, she gets good grades” and “If she studies, she’ll get good grades”?  (See Lessons #1 and #2 for the distinction between known and possible real conditionals.)
  • Why is it correct to write “If she’ll study, she’ll get good grades” but incorrect to write “If they’ll have extra money, they’ll put it in their savings account”?  (See Lesson #2 for the important concept of “willingness.”)
  • How can we make sense of using “were” with “I”?— for example, in “If I were rich, I’d travel around the world.” (See Lesson #3 for unreal conditionals.)
  • Why use a past tense verb when you’re not referring to the past?  “If you asked him, he’d help you out.”  (See Lesson #3.)
  • How can we make sense of these verb forms?! “If I had had enough money, I would have helped you.”  (See Lesson #4 for unreal conditionals for past time.)
  • What does “should” mean when it’s used with “if”?— for example, in “If I should see him, I’ll tell him” or “If the baby should wake up, we’ll feed her.” (See Lesson #8.)
  • How can it be correct to start a sentence with “had” or “should”?  And what do these kinds of sentences mean?— “Had we known about the meeting, we would have attended” or “Should you need anything, please call me.”  (See Lesson #9 for “shortened” conditional sentences.)

As you work on revising your writing for grammatical correctness, you may begin to notice the questions that arise most often for you.  By noticing what these are and learning where to find answers, you can begin to understand and correct your own personal pattern of errors, thus taking a big step towards writing more fluently.

You should keep in mind that although it is very useful to gain clarity about the complicated rules of English grammar, it’s best to keep grammatical revision for the end of your writing process, after you have fully addressed issues of content, organization, and development.  What you say and how you say it creates the core value of a piece of writing, and the main point of grammatical correctness is to allow readers to easily access this value.

For assistance with all kinds of revision, do consider coming in to visit with our friendly tutors.  Visit us in in person in the Basement of the Admin building, online at http://www.depts.ttu.edu/gradschool/gswc.php, or give us a call at 806.742.2476, ext. 1.

Writing (and Surviving) Your Dissertation: Advice from a Ph.D.

If you are reading this informal blog post, then chances are surviving the dissertation-writing process interests you. Perhaps you are a pre-quals Ph.D. student preparing for the next step in your doctoral career. Maybe you are a post-quals Ph.D. candidate starting the dissertation process. Whatever your graduate academic level is, keep this in mind: the proverbial light is indeed at the end of the tunnel. You will finish your dissertation and graduate with your doctorate in hand.

For readers who have not yet started their dissertation, I have written the following section primarily for you. Even if coursework or qualifying exams still demand your attention, start thinking about your dissertation proposal now. Your committee will likely want your dissertation proposal either before or soon after quals, so have an idea of your research focus. Clearly your research interests have already influenced the direction of past and current seminar and conference papers. Therefore, you should have an all-purpose idea of your dissertation topic. Consider past literature (published within the last five years) you have read about your research interest. What have authors written about the topic? What unique arguments have researchers made? How have research findings influence current discourses about the topic? Next, think about how you will expand on past research. How will you maneuver into the academic conversation about your research topic? What do you want to say about the topic and why does your argument matter? Thinking about and answering the aforementioned questions will serve as a strong foundation for your dissertation proposal.

For post-quals readers who either started or will start the dissertation process, this section will not cover the “how to” of dissertation writing because, while the conventions of analytical writing for the dissertation are quite definitive, there is no formulaic way to organize a dissertation. Much of the work depends on the contexts of your field, research topic, and committee expectations. Therefore, I will discuss (1) issues I encountered while writing my dissertation and (2) concerns clients discuss with me during writing consultations.

The first all-too-common problem that I and other PhD candidates faced was the inability to write. You have the overwhelming, oftentimes fear-provoking, yet remarkable responsibility to produce a 200-page-plus document almost out of nowhere. What happens if you write the first few pages of the introduction or a chapter and become stricken with a bad case of writer’s block? Not finding the inspiration or motivation to write is something all dissertation writers have experienced and will continue to experience. Writing a dissertation is hard; if it were easy, everyone would do it. Therefore, here are a few techniques I implemented when writing my dissertation:

  1. Set up a schedule and reserve times for daily writing (even if for short periods). Having a daily writing schedule can keep you motivated and help you persevere through unexpected moments of writer’s block.
  2. If you do experience writer’s block, take a break. Then, when you are ready to start writing again, identify where you left off and/or gaps in your writing. Next, briefly write about anything related to the project that comes to mind (about 15 minutes).
  3. If you need to devote more time for writing (i.e. you have a forthcoming deadline), select a time of day to write for 45 minutes followed by a 15-minute break and write down ideas when not at your computer.

I recommend you apply the same methods during your own dissertation writing. Remember, writing occurs incrementally. Therefore, establishing reachable goals can help your dissertation writing succeed over the long term. Finally, if one or more of the above techniques do not work for you, decide what does works for you. Experiment with new or variations of existing writing methods.

Similar to issues of writing, two concerns several dissertation-writing clients have shared with me during past tutorials are effective time management and revision techniques. In a post-quals, pre-defense life, establishing a definitive writing schedule seems like an impossible task. While personal and professional responsibilities often interrupt writing time, I recommend the following strategies:

  1. Try writing at the start of each day for at least 15 minutes. If your schedule allows it, write for 15 minutes every hour. Writing in small amounts can help move your dissertation forward while dividing it into more manageable pieces of work.

2) Draft sections of your dissertation chapters freehand on paper. Oftentimes, sitting in front of a computer screen for hours on end is not conducive to the writing process. Find a quiet and comfortable place to work and write down ideas, chapter outlines, and entire paragraphs on paper before typing them onto a Word document. Writing freehand provides a new way for thinking about and visualizing ideas and content.

3) When finished with a chapter, devote additional time for revision and revise at least two complete pages per day. Revision allows us to re-see, re-think, and refine our writing from a fresh critical perspective. In addition, try reading your work aloud, which can help you identify issues with higher- and lower-order concerns.

Hopefully the above strategies will help you during the dissertation-writing process. If you have any questions about writing and revising strategies, please contact the GSWC and make an appointment for either an onsite or online writing consultation.

-Dr. Luke

Mini Workshop: Literature Review

Literature reviews are complex research papers (or sections of research papers) which require academics to walk a fine line between summary and synthesis. The author of a literature review essentially provides an objectively written synopsis of current research on a specific topic and shows the relationships among relevant studies. Literature reviews often also identify gaps in existing research. Keep in mind that literature reviews are not unconnected summaries of individual works. Rather, think of literature reviews as scholarly narratives; they offer readers descriptions of a research topic’s relevant literature. Therefore, consider how your source material relates. Do any common themes, trends, or debates connect the literature reviewed?  

When you are ready to start your literature review, draft an outline first. Remember: literature reviews demand organization. In your outline, consider how you will organize the relevant literature.  You can incorporate subheaders as an organizational strategy; subheaders, coupled with an effective topic and transition sentences, help direct the focus of both author and reader. Next, consider how you will introduce the research topic of your literature review and how you will construct the objective thesis statement. For your thesis, you may identify the central controlling theme of the research (i.e. what relationship have you inferred between the relevant literature?). As well, your thesis should answer the “so what?” question. In other words: why should your reader care about the research topic and your review? 

What are some effective strategies for writing your literature review? Relevant literature contains a lot of important information, so the overall length and breadth of a review usually depends on a narrow focus of the research topic. Most academic writers wonder: what do I include and what do I exclude in my literature review? I recommended focusing primarily on how the relevant literature addresses your own research question. Focusing on how researchers address specific aspects of your research question can make it easier to summarize and synthesize specific parts of the source material. Thinking about how scholarly literature addresses your research question can also help you exclude unimportant details that may not pertain to your own research project. As the author of a literature review, you must show a direct relationship between source materials and help readers see connections within the literature. 

A final issue writers have with literature reviews is the conclusion. I personally find conclusions the most difficult part of any research paper because it is often difficult to wrap up my discussion in a coherent, concise, and nuanced way. For the conclusion of your literature review, I first recommend restating your thesis and providing at least three main takeaways from the review. You should remind your reader of the research topic and how the relevant literature addresses that topic. Next, you may include what academics call a “forward-thinking moment.” The “forward-thinking moment” effectively makes the case for future research based on any gaps or shortcomings you found in the literature. As a scholar, you can accept your own call for future research and help bridge the gap in a thesis, dissertation, conference paper, or article.  

-Luke I.

ADJECTIVE CLAUSES

User’s Guide for Dave’s ESL Café Grammar Lessons

Dave Sperling’s website is an established and wonderfully detailed source of information for international writers, and it can also be very useful for academic writers of all kinds. Sometimes we’re unsure of the more obscure grammatical constructions, and other times we may feel pretty confident about our grammar but unsure of the rules that underlie it.

Dave provides a wealth of lessons, but it can be bewildering to locate the ones that answer our specific questions, so this post series is designed to guide you towards answers to some of the issues we’ve noticed with our clients here at the GSWC.

You can find “Grammar Lessons” under the heading “Stuff for Students” on the left-hand column of the Café’s main page.  Selecting that link takes you to http://www.eslcafe.com/grammar.html


POST #1 — ADJECTIVE CLAUSES

Today’s post addresses the first grouping of 13 lessons relating to adjective clauses, which are groups of words that function to modify—in other words, to “describe, identify, make specific”—nouns or noun phrases in a sentence.  An adjective clause starts with a relative pronoun that connects it to the noun phrase and then continues with a verb, often followed by other kinds of words.  So, for instance, in the sentence, “The woman who bakes the cakes for our organization is very friendly,”  the adjective clause is “who bakes the cakes for our organization,” and it starts with the relative pronoun “who,” which describes the noun phrase “The woman.”

All of Dave’s 13 lessons about adjective clauses share valuable advice, and these are a few common kinds of questions they can answer:

  • Why is a sentence like “A man who he was wearing a green suit spoke to us” incorrect? See Lessons #2 and #4 for the problem of having two pronouns instead of one.
  • Why can I shorten “The woman who is talking to Janet is her sister” to “The woman talking to Janet is her sister” but I can’t revise “People who are lonely come to this club” to “People lonely come to this club”?   See Lesson #3 for rules about omitting a relative pronoun and verb.
  • How do I choose between “whom” and “who” and between “that” and “which”?  See Lesson #5.
  • Can I really use “whose” to refer to a thing, not a person?  See Lesson #6.
  • How do I choose between “where” and “when” for the relative pronoun?  See Lesson #7.
  • When should I use commas with adjective clauses?  See Lessons #8 and #9 for a comparison of restrictive with nonrestrictive clauses.
  • Why is “Jack is a person who is in my class who I like a lot” unclear and what are my options for revision? See Lesson #10 for how to clarify a long clause.

As you work on revising your writing for grammatical correctness, you may begin to notice the questions that arise most often for you.  By noticing what these are and learning where to find answers, you can begin to understand and correct your own personal pattern of errors, thus taking a big step towards writing more fluently. 

You should keep in mind that although it is very useful to gain clarity about the complicated rules of English grammar, it’s best to keep grammatical revision for the end of your writing process, after you have fully addressed issues of content, organization, and development.  What you say and how you say it create the core value of a piece of writing, and the main point of grammatical correctness is to allow readers to easily access this value.

For assistance with all kinds of revision, do consider coming in to visit with our friendly tutors.  Visit us in in person in the Basement of the Admin building, online at http://www.depts.ttu.edu/gradschool/gswc.php, or give us a call at 806.742.2476, ext. 1. 

Synchronous Online Consultations at the GSWC

Woman working at her computer.
You can now have writing tutorials online.

Did you know that the GSWC offers synchronous online consultations?

Whether you are a distance student, sick at home, or can’t find your keys, the GSWC is here for you! Online consultations are still 50 minutes long and are conducted with a live video feed. You can see, talk to, hear, and write chat messages with your GSWC tutor.

Check out this wonderful article from Texas Tech University eLearning by Joshua Blount to learn more about online consultations: Synchronous Online Consultations Article.

Writing Group Facilitator Spotlight: David and Scott

05_01_17 GSWG Facilitators David Scott

This week, we’re spotlighting David Young and Scott Morris, two Ph.D. candidates in English who facilitate our Graduate Student Writing Groups. These writing groups meet for three hours each week in the Graduate Center. During their meetings, participants check in on their writing goals and write independently.

What made you decide to join/facilitate a Graduate Student Writing Group?

David:  Even though I lead a writing group, I consider myself more of a member. I have the same writing struggles that most have.  I figured that a writing group setting could mutually benefit everyone who participates.

Scott: Before I wanted to lead a group, I was just excited about the idea of there being a group. And, since I already wanted to be in a group that would hold me accountable for my writing, it made sense to agree to lead it because I thought that my experience with the writing process might help other people, too.

What has been the most valuable part of the writing group for you?

David:  I’ve become protective of my own writing time, which I think is the most beneficial lesson.  When life and other professional responsibilities come up, we can easily move our own work to the bottom of our to-do list.  Setting aside dedicated writing time (even if it’s only a few hours per week) helps to keep yourself accountable for your own writing goals.  Protecting this time from other things that come up has helped me ensure that I consistently meet deadlines as well as the writing goals that I’ve set for myself.

Scott: One of the things that has been most helpful is remembering that other people are going through similar issues that I am. We all struggle with the long-haul nature of dissertations and theses: research, drafting, coordinating with chairs, revising, editing. Though this can look different for different disciplines, it was helpful for me to be in a room with other people who were doing what I was doing and having support to celebrate the successes and encourage me through the difficulties.

If someone is unsure whether they’d like to join a writing group, what advice would you give them?

David :  Join.  The writing groups are flexible enough to accommodate a variety of writing needs.  You’ll also have an opportunity to connect with other professionals across campus whom you might not have met otherwise.  We connect once a week and help each other meet the writing goals that we’ve set together.

Scott: If you feel like you would be motivated by the camaraderie and the weekly accountability, then do it. If you feel that your best motivation would be one-on-one support with another writer, then I recommend setting up regular writing consultations with the Graduate Student Writing Center.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell graduate students at Texas Tech about writing groups in general or these writing groups specifically?

David:  Writing groups allow people to bond over mutual need to write.  For some, having set time every week to write is beneficial.  For others, the environment created by people working on projects is motivating.  Regardless, come join us in a writing group to see how we can help.

Scott: We’re really friendly and we’re here to help you get your stuff done, and done well! I hope you’ll join in.

If a student is interested in learning more or joining a writing group, who should they contact?

David:  For all things in life, ask Dr. Messuri (kristin.messuri@ttu.edu).

Scott: David or I are the point of contact for specific groups and are both happy to answer questions as we can.

Participation in Graduate Student Writing Groups is done by application at the beginning of each semester. To join a group during Summer 2017, please apply at https://goo.gl/forms/kV6EHSYo5FrihTsm1 . Applications are due Friday, May 26 at 5:00 PM.

Director Spotlight: Dr. Messuri

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Dr. Messuri has been the Associate Director of the Graduate Student Writing Center (GSWC) at Texas Tech since February 2015. Her job is to develop and oversee services and initiatives that help graduate students grow their writing skills. Her favorite part of working with graduate students is learning about their research; she is continually impressed by their creativity and intelligence.

Before Dr. Messuri started the GSWC, she was a graduate student herself. She holds a Ph.D. in English from The Pennsylvania State University. As a graduate student, Dr. Messuri’s research focused on Victorian literature, but she also spent four years as a tutor and graduate student coordinator in the writing center. She loved this work and decided to pursue it as a career after graduation. Her current research focuses on how writing groups operate and how writing tutors use their tutoring skills in their home disciplines.

People sometimes assume that writing is easy for Dr. Messuri, but it isn’t always. She often procrastinates—it’s easy to postpone writing when there are so many other things going on! Joining a writing group has helped; she appreciates the dedicated writing time, quiet environment, and camaraderie. She finds that the group encourages her to write throughout the week, not just during their weekly meeting. Dr. Messuri’s favorite part of the writing process is writing a first draft. She finds it rewarding to get all of her thoughts on paper, even if they’re messy and disorganized at times.

Outside of the GSWC, you can usually find Dr. Messuri cheering on the Ohio State Buckeyes, hiking with her husband and their black lab, or exploring Texas and New Mexico.

Client Spotlight: Nan

04_24_17 Client Spotlight Nan

Q: Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What is your program here at Tech?

A: I am from Thailand, and this is my fourth year living in Lubbock. I graduate with my PhD in Industrial Engineering in May 2017. 

Q: What project are you currently working on?

A: I defended my dissertation on March 24th. It focuses on the maximum acceptable frequencies with which to lift light load weights, specifically the maximum acceptable frequencies with which to lift light load weights in the two-knee posture, which is unusual. It also determines the energy expenditure equation for lifting light load weights with high frequencies.

Q: We can’t be graduate students all the time. What do you do in your spare time?

A: When I get a long holiday, I explore a city or a natural place in the U.S. For example, I have visited Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles, Florida, Philadelphia, the Grand Canyon, and Niagara Falls.  When I get a short holiday, I cook my favorite Thai foods and party with my friends.

Q:What brings you to the Graduate Student Writing Center?

A: I needed help editing my writing, so when I read about the Graduate Student Writing Center in Tech Announce and my professor recommended it, I made an appointment at GSWC.  I worked with Dr. Messuri the first time I came, and she recommended that I work with Brian Spreng after that. Brian helped me with my proposal and my dissertation. He is great tutor, and he made many suggestions that helped me to improve my writing.

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