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Creative Writing Prompts

Creative Writing Prompts

Let’s Clarify: What’s the Writing Prompt Definition? When you write an application essay for college or you get an essay question on tests, it’s based on writing prompts. You get one or few sentences that should trigger the creative thinking process and get you started. […]

Math Resources – They Help You Realize That Math Is Easier than You Think

Math Resources – They Help You Realize That Math Is Easier than You Think

Why do so many students hate math? It’s not that they don’t like numbers. Somehow, math got the bad reputation of being a subject that only few can comprehend. Let’s check out some of the reasons why many people dislike math: Usually, it’s the teachers. […]

Citation Guide: The Ultimate Tips for Proper Formatting

Citation Guide: The Ultimate Tips for Proper Formatting

So you’re right there, trying to write a challenging paper.

When your professor says that you have to follow a very specific citation style on top of everything, the project might get overwhelming. It’s the final straw. You start thinking: “That’s enough. It’s too complicated. I can’t do this. Can’t I just list the sources or link to them? Why do I have to follow all these rules?”

Well, proper referencing is an inseparable fact of academic writing. It’s a project and your grade depends on it, so you simply have to follow the rules. If you fail to do that, your paper will be incomplete. If you fail to reference, you might even be accused of plagiarism.

So you’ll have to learn how to reference sources, whether you like it or not. Here’s the good news: it’s not that hard as it seems.

Why Citation Guides Are Necessary

You cannot write an academic paper without using sources of information, unless it’s a personal essay. Using sources is a skill you’ll have to master throughout your education. It’s not just because your teacher ask you to, but because it makes your arguments trustworthy.

Academic writing, in its essence, it’s about exploring ideas and facts. You’ll use them only to support your own ideas and arguments, but you still have to research. Since all work written by other people is protected with authorship rights, you’ll simply have to reference it.

No; you may not paraphrase it with the hopes to avoid plagiarism. That might get your content undetected through plagiarism search engines, but it won’t mean it’s not plagiarized and it will still get you in trouble.

Citations will add credibility to your writing. That’s why you have to use them.

Why Different Citation Styles Exist

There are at least three citation styles you’ll encounter throughout your studies: APA, MLA, and Chicago. Why do different professors ask for different styles?

The answer is quite simple: the expectations for citing information vary between academic disciplines.

  • The American Psychological Association (APA) style is used by psychology, education, and sciences.

  • The Modern Language Association (MLA) style is used for works in the humanities.

  • The Chicago (and its simplified form called Turabian) is used for works in the fine arts, history, and business.

This complicates things for students. It means you have to learn how to handle at least three different citation styles. The good news is that when you figure out how one of them works, you won’t have any trouble adjusting the format to another style.

When You Should Cite Your Sources

The easier question to answer is “when not to cite your sources.” If the information you include in your paper is common knowledge, then you don’t have to cite it. If you read somewhere that the Napoleonic Wars took place between 1803 and 1815, you don’t have to reference that source. It’s common knowledge.

But if you mention specific details and you paraphrase or summarize someone’s research, opinions, ideas, or concepts, then you absolutely need to provide a reference. You should also cite your source when you use a direct quote. Any charts, graphs, images, videos, or any other visuals in your paper should be referenced, unless you created them yourself.

The Three Major Citation Guides

Now that we covered the most important points regarding citations, let’s discuss the three main citation styles. We’ll list the most important rules, so you’ll easily notice the difference.

  1. APA (American Psychology Association) Style

This style was created in 1929, when a group of psychologists, business managers, and anthropologists recognized the needs of establishing regulated style rules for referencing sources. Their reason for doing this was improved reading comprehension of academic content.

There are few simple rules to remember:

  • For in-text citations in APA style, you should put the author’s last name and the date of publication in parentheses. We’ll take a research article as an example to use for all citation styles, so you’ll understand the differences. An APA in-text citation would look like this:

(Berns, Blaine, Prietula, & Pye, 2013)

If there was a single author, the citation would look like this:

(Berns, 2013)

But since there are multiple authors, you have to credit the entire team. When you cite work by three to five authors, you’ll name all of them only in the first in-text citation. For all further references, you’ll use this format:

(Berns et al., 2013)

  • The in-text citations are brief and don’t provide enough information for the reader. To help the reader find the actual sources you reference, you need to include a Reference List at the end of the paper. There, you’ll include all used sources. You’ll provide the list in alphabetical order by the author’s last name.

This is the format for a complete reference:

Author, A., Author, B., Author C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), pages. http://doi.org/xx.xxx/yyyyy

It seems complicated, right? Don’t worry; once you cite the first source according to that format, the rest of them will be easy. To follow our example, this is how it would look like in the reference list:

Berns, G. S., Blaine, K., Prietula, M. J., & Pye, B. E. (2013). Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain. Brain connectivity, 3(6), 590-600. doi:10.1089/brain.2013.0166

The doi part seems complicated, but you’ll find it in most journal articles you access.

  1. MLA (Modern Language Association) Style

The MLA Style Manual was first published in 1951. It’s a commonly used citation style in English studies, modern languages, literary criticism, cultural studies, media studies, and related niches.

  • In-text citations are needed for this format, too. But they are different when compared to the APA format. This time, you’ll include the author’s last name and the page number where your reference comes from. You’ll put the in-text citation in parentheses. This is how it would look like if we used the same example:

(Berns et al., 597)

If you use the author’s name in the sentence, you’ll only put the page number in parentheses.

According to Berns et al., “the timescale of the effect of a novel may be both short and long term.” (597).

  • In the MLA style, you don’t have a Reference List, but you have something similar. The page with full references is still found at the end of the article, but it’s called Works Cited Page. You will still list the entries in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. This is the format to follow:

Author. Title. Title of container (self contained if book), Other contributors (translators or editors), Version (edition), Number (vol. and/or no.), Publisher, Publication Date, Location (pages, paragraphs URL or DOI). 2nd container’s title, Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Publication date, Location, Date of Access (if applicable).

That’s a slightly more complex citation than the one from the APA style, but that’s because the MLA style is usually used for books. This is how our citation would look like:

Berns, Gregory S. et al. “Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain.” Brain Connectivity, vol. 3, no. 7, 2013, pp. 590-600., doi:10.1089/brain.2013.0166.

As you notice, some of the elements from the guideline format were not applicable, so we just skipped them.

  1. Chicago Manual of Style

The Chicago Manual of Style is most commonly used by students. It’s usually required in the discipline of history, but it’s applicable in most other disciplines, too.

  • The main thing that makes it different from the APA and MLA styles is that you’re required to include a note (footnote or endnote) whenever you use a source. So there are no in-text citation; just an indication that the reader should pay attention to a note at a specific spot in the text.

The first time you include a note, it will be lengthier. You’re required to include the full names of the authors, article title, journal title, and issue information (volume, issue number, month, year, and page numbers). Here’s an example:

Gregory S. Berns, Kristina Blaine, Michael J. Prietula, and Brandon E. Pye. “Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain.” Brain Connectivity 3, no.6 (2013): 597.

When you cite the source more than once, you won’t repeat the full footnote. You’ll write it in a shortened version:

Berns, “Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain.” 597.

  • The good news is that when you have your footnotes ready, you won’t have much trouble creating the Bibliography. You’ll simply list all sources in an alphabetical list by the author’s last name. Here, you’ll start with the last name of the leading author:

Berns, Gregory S., Kristina Blaine, Michael J. Prietula, and Brandon E. Pye. “Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain.” Brain Connectivity 3, no.6 (2013): 590-600. Doi: 10.1089/brain.2013.0166.

Let’s be honest: formatting is a diligent task. It’s not hard, but it demands tons of attention to details. Hey; you can do it! You just need the right guidelines to follow, and we just gave you those!

Writing Guide: How to Make an Outline for an Essay

Writing Guide: How to Make an Outline for an Essay

You’re faced with an immense challenge. Your professor asked you to write an essay, which will be very important for the final grade you’re going to get. Maybe you’ve tried to write few essays before and your attempts were not very successful. Maybe this is […]

The Ultimate Guide: Writing Essay Tips You Can Actually Use

The Ultimate Guide: Writing Essay Tips You Can Actually Use

Is this your first attempt at academic writing? Maybe you’ve already tried writing few essays, but that didn’t work. Whatever the case is, it shouldn’t worry you too much. Nobody was born with incredible essay writing skills. All great academic writers gained their skills through […]

How to Write a Cover Letter

How to Write a Cover Letter

What Is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a letter you send along another document or a parcel of goods, in order to explain its context. That’s the general meaning of the concept, but to job applicants, the cover letter has a very specific meaning. It’s the letter that you post along your resume or CV.

What to Write in a Cover Letter

When you’re about to apply for a new job, the application is a huge part of the importance. You’ll have to write the perfect resume or curriculum vitae, you’ll improve your LinkedIn profile, and you’ll be mindful about your online reputation. When you go through all these aspects, you come down to a real challenge: the cover letter.

The problem is that most applicants don’t know how to write a cover letter for a resume. They assume they can simply follow a specific cover letter format. They will change the personal details and voila – the cover letter is ready. Except; it’s not ready!

This should be a very unique document that conveys your special personality. It must prove to the employer that you deserve this job more than all other applicants. If all applicants followed a template and changed only the personal information, how would the hiring manager know who the best one is?

If you’re on your way to start applying for a new job, it’s about time for you to learn how to write a good cover letter. More specifically: what do you write in it? We’ll give you the best cover letter tips to guide you through the process.

How to Start a Cover Letter

There is no specific format that your cover letter must follow. One of the biggest mistakes that job applicants make is sending a 5-paragraph personal essay as a resume cover letter. They got so used to that academic writing format that they think it’s okay to use it for a cover letter. First of all, the essay format is too long and bulky. The cover letter should be very clean and easy to read. It will still need some structure, but it doesn’t have to be that rigid.

Yes; the cover letter will still have an opening, body, and closure. However, you can be flexible with the way you format these paragraphs.

Let’s get to the specifics: many job applicants don’t know how to start. These are the things you should include at the top of the page:

  • Address – You may address the letter to a department, but it’s better to send it to a specific person. If you know who the recruiter or hiring manager is, addressing them personally will show you’ve done your research.

  • Greeting – This is where you address your cover letter to the person who’s supposed to read it. Dear Hiring Manager is the usual recommendation, but it’s too general. Dear Mr. Roberts would be a much better option. Do your best to find the name of the contact person. If you can’t find a specific name, you can go with Dear Hiring Manager. Please don’t write Dear Sir or Madame though! You wouldn’t want to be called dear sir or Madame, right?

What to Include in a Cover Letter

So you got the address and greeting parts sorted out? That’s great! Now, you’re ready for the real deal.

The best cover letter is unique, but it still follows a pattern in terms of what to include. These are the parts you should pay attention to:

  • Opening Paragraph

Here, you should introduce yourself. Don’t start with the most common sentence that comes to mind when you’re introducing yourself to someone. “Hi, my name is” is not a good opening! You must clarify what position you’re applying for, and you may explain how you found out about the opportunity.

Here’s an example of an opening paragraph:

I am applying for the position of Assistant Curator of Exhibitions, based on a recommendation of a mutual contact, Hillary Masters. I graduated in May 2017 from New York University with an art history degree. I see this open position as an ideal chance for me to implement the knowledge and skills I gained from my academic studies into practical experience. I am strongly motivated to contribute towards the growth of the Whitney Museum of American Art.”

This kind of opening works because it’s straightforward and very specific. The hiring manager immediately understands what position you’re applying for and how qualified you are for it.

  • Body (Middle Paragraphs)

The body of the cover letter format gives you some space to expand on the opening. Here, you may describe your skills, job history, university courses that are relevant to the job, and competencies that make you the perfect hire for the organization’s needs.

Let’s expand on the opening example above, just to show how you could write the middle paragraphs of a good cover letter:

Throughout my work and volunteering experiences in non-profit events and organizations like Global Peace Festival and International Folk Alliance, I developed advanced organizational and communication skills. Currently, I am focused on starting a website that will help people find the perfect museum, based on location, needs, and the time they have for exploring.

The education at New York University helped me gain deep understanding of art and art history. My coursework included…”

Okay; you get the point. We continued with the specifics and we maintained the straightforward approach throughout the body of the cover letter. Now, do you see why it’s almost impossible to use a template when you want to write the best cover letter?

How to End a Cover Letter

Think of the blogs you like the most. Have you noticed how the bloggers call you to action at the end of each post? They either invite you to comment, check out other articles at their site, or share the post on social media. They’ve been preparing you for this moment throughout the post, and now you’re ready to take the action they suggest.

You should follow that example when writing the cover letter. In the closing section, you should include a call to action. There are few actions you desire: you want them to check your resume, consider your application, and call you for an interview.

Here’s an example on how to include a call to action in the closure:

Please review my attached resume for all details regarding my education and job history. In addition, I included the recommendation letter by Ms. Hillary Masters. I look forward to discussing my candidacy for this position in person or by email/phone, so I will be available for you to contact me. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Respectfully,

Patricia Garmin”

How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?

Various online guides will give you different tips in regards of the cover letter length. The standard recommendation is one page. A single page gives you enough space to talk about yourself. Anything beyond that would be too much, and anything less would be too scarce. But is that always the case?

A full page may be too long. If the content is bulky and you don’t divide it in small paragraphs, the cover letter will seem like an overwhelming read. Most employers prefer a shorter cover letter. Half a page might be better!

If, however, you have tons of experience, you’re applying for a position in management, and you know how to keep a reader engaged with your writing, you may even expand on that one page. That’s a huge risk to take, so you have to be absolutely sure you’ll keep the reader’s attention.

Tips for Writing a Cover Letter

Now that we told you what to put in a cover letter, let’s proceed with some actionable tips that will help you improve its content:

  • Use Keywords Relevant to the Position

Hiring managers use a system that helps them go through the database of resume whenever they need to fill in a position. If your cover letter gets in this system, they should be able to find it through keywords. That’s why it’s important to use relevant keywords, which you’ll easily find if you review the job description.

  • Make the Cover Letter Unique

We cannot stress this enough. It will take some time for you to craft a cover letter that’s unique for the position you’re applying for, but the effort is well worth the results. When a hiring manager reads this cover letter, they should get the impression that you’re the perfect choice for their unique needs and goals for organizational growth.

You may check out a sample just to get inspired by its structure and to make sure you’ll include all needed information. If you get a bit too inspired, however, you’ll end up in plagiarism, and that’s not something that gets you hired.

  • Proofread

It’s never easy to edit and proofread your own writing, but you have to do it! Make sure the flow, grammar and syntax structure are flawless before you send the cover letter!

Conclusion

Hopefully, the cover letter tips you just went through will help you craft the document without much effort. It’s a challenging thing to write, but you already have what it takes. You have the experience and skills for the specific position, right? All you need to do is express them in written.

What Is The Writing Process?

What Is The Writing Process?

Writing process is defined as a series of steps a writer takes to produce a quality piece. Although every writer has their writing process, each version is essentially the original one “on steroids.” Why following an established writing process is important? Well, being aware of […]

Essay: Genre That Teaches Critical Thinking

Essay: Genre That Teaches Critical Thinking

One of the greatest English novelists of the 20th century Edward Morgan Forster once said: “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” Indeed, through writing we explore the abilities of our mind, we dig out our thoughts and find […]

How to Stop Procrastinating (When You Have to Write)

How to Stop Procrastinating (When You Have to Write)

What Does “Procrastination” Mean?

To procrastinate means to postpone completing something that needs to be completed without a solid reason. Procrastination is a common self-obstructing behavior among writers, both beginners and experienced. In fact, it can easily become an occupational hazard and even the worst enemy of your productivity.

You know how it happens: you may have a story to tell, even some characters. However, for some crazy reason, you just can’t begin or stay motivated to complete the work. Even though you perfectly understand the dangers of putting this work on hold, you often can’t do anything about it. So the only thing you’re thinking about is how to not procrastinate.

Indeed, too much procrastination can be incredibly frustrating.

If you need to finish your writing – an essay, a book, a blog post, or something else – but just can’t get started, you need a reliable but not overly complicated method to get on with the writing.

So, if you think you have a procrastination problem, read on.

How to Stop Procrastinating

If you want to know how to avoid procrastination, here are some great techniques:

Step 1: Divide your project into manageable chunks

Regardless of how small or big your project is, you can break it down just for the purpose of eliminating the influence of procrastination. For example, if you’re working on a small project, you can resolve to write something – even if it’s 200 words – every day and concentrate on what you want to achieve in this small timeframe. Day by day, as you continue to work on the project, chances are you’ll find yourself writing more than 200 words and enjoying it.

The same rule applies to large writing projects as well. For example, if you’re writing a fiction novel, you can begin by crafting an outline, developing the main character, or building one of the main scenes. Focus on what you really want to write about, and procrastination will go away.

If this method still makes you fairly overwhelmed, feel free to break down your project even further until you find your pace.

Step 2: Limit your options for procrastinating by removing distractions

A smartphone is a common source of procrastination for most writers. Whenever they feel like postponing the work until later, they find themselves browsing an Instagram or a Facebook feed. As the result, they often avoid writing for hours and then regret it because they have accomplished pretty much nothing.

So, to finally write the first sentence and get some creative process going, anything that can distract you should be avoided. This may include a smartphone, a laptop, a tablet, a TV – any procrastination option. For example, take your smartphone to another room or turn it off; it is very likely that it will distract you with a new notification, an email, or a call.

Of course, you don’t necessarily have to sit a concrete cell with nothing but a pen a sheet of paper. Eliminating procrastination options can be as simple as turning off your smartphone and installing a browser extension that blocks the access to social media and other sites that you often use to procrastinate.

Step 3: Schedule a time to begin writing

How many times have you been distracted from writing because of something you forgot to do? If you have, you know what is meant here. For example, when you finally sit down to begin writing your next blog post, you remember that you’re supposed to pick up bread at the supermarket. So, you have to stop and go do it.

It is much easier to work and avoid procrastination until everything else is done and you have nothing to worry about. In other words, if you plan ahead, you can get more done because you’ll have more time to actually write.

Do it right now, it’s very easy! Look at your diary. Think about your next week’s schedule. Allocate just one hour for writing, and make it an unbreakable appointment!

Step 4: Get your research done

Many people don’t realize that the source of their writing procrastination habit is a lack of ideas generated by poor research. Research is an important fundamental of writing; for example, if you’re not sure what to write about, you can easily start to procrastinate and waste precious time. Instead, as designers say, “you need to go back to the drawing board.”

Do your research and improve your research skills. For example, if you’re writing a blog post about social media marketing, chances are you’re not an expert in this field. Make yourself one! Read articles about it written by professionals and increase your knowledge until you feel like you’ve grasped every concept. As the result, you get unstuck because you figure out what needs to go into your own article. It’s that simple, folks.

How Procrastination Affects Writing a Paper

1. Poorer quality of writing

If you do not know how to overcome procrastination but begin to write without being truly inspired, your work may suffer in a profound way. Readers expect a well-written, well-researched, inspiring, useful, interesting, engaging, motivating, and quality piece. These characteristics show how much work should be put into writing. Can you produce such piece if you don’t beat procrastination? Of course not.

For example, if a writer procrastinates until the point where he or she absolutely has to begin writing just to make the deadline, chances are high the quality of work will suffer. Why? Because there will be no time to thoroughly research, proofread, and do other things that make a great text. That’s why universities teach their students about the dangers of procrastination; for example, Harvard has an entire section of their website devoted to this topic.

2. Late submission of work

The person waiting for your work to be done (this could be a publisher, a professor, or a supervisor) does not expect that you spend a lot of time procrastinating. Just a few of them can tolerate late submission, and if they do allow it, they typically require a solid reason.

Naturally, procrastination is not a good reason to explain why your work is delayed.

3. Poor health

Another way in which procrastination affects writing is by undermining your health. The current body of research provides significant evidence of procrastination being an impactful factor linked to various health issues. For example, one study recently published in Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that participants with higher procrastination scores were associated with higher prevalence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Next, Psychology Today described that procrastination was associated with a greater number of acute health problems, higher stress, less frequent dental and medical checkups, poorer sleep, and the practice of fewer wellness behaviors.

By increasing your vulnerability to various health conditions and stress, procrastination has a profound impact on the quality of your life. Needless to say, your writing also suffers greatly.

Apps to Stop Procrastinating on Writing

1. Procraster – this app gets to the bottom of your procrastination problem by offering you answers for the most common reasons why you postpone working. For example, the user is given a number of options, including “I don’t know where to start,” “My task is too big,” “I’ve made a mistake,” and “I have to be perfect.” After the user selects one of these mindsets, the app gives a useful advice; for example, if you select “I don’t know where to start,” Procraster will prompt you to break down the project and guide you to the finish in an inspiring fashion.

2. Focuswriter – is a simple, distraction-free writing environment for your PC or Mac. Remember how we talked about removing distractions above? Focuswriter helps to achieve that. It works just like regular word document app but has a lot of useful features like live stats, timers, alarms, and daily goals.

3. StayFocusd – this app that also works as a Google Chrome extension can help you increase your performance by limiting the amount of time that you can spend on time-wasting websites such as social networks. Or it can block a website or an app completely (for a limited time) via the Nuclear Option. Just create the blocked and allowed sites list and activate the app when you have to work.

4. RescueTime – a popular productivity time software that also works as Google Chrome extension, and an Android app. It has some useful features such as productivity reports, alerts, daily goals, and automatic time tracking to help you beat procrastination. For example, you can track time spent on apps and websites, and RescueTime will give you an accurate picture of your day in a detailed report based on your activity.

Conclusion

Remember, procrastination is a completely different thing from being lazy. You just focus your energy on something unrelated because you don’t feel like working. But there will never be a better time to write! So, you have to make time to work by beating procrastination before it gets you. Make sure you follow as many tips from this article as possible to ensure you have a productive day and keep adverse effects of procrastination away.

After all, you are doing exactly what you want to do with your life.

Common Mistakes in Writing Web Content

Common Mistakes in Writing Web Content

What are the most common mistakes you’re making in content writing? Don’t say you’re not making mistakes. That cannot be. Even the best writers in the industry face writer’s blocks. They become unmotivated to complete articles on boring topics. When they push themselves through the […]