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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 […]

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 the reason for our opinions and feelings.

Writing is the collaboration of our thoughts and logic spilled on the piece of paper. Writing is an absolute freedom, as it allows you to express yourself in any manner and on any subject you’re interested in.

Writing is also a great teacher, helping us master the craft of critical and analytical thinking, and essays being the most popular way to do that. The most popular writers of the XX century, including Albert Camus, Herbert Wells, and John Priestley were praising the genre of an essay for its freedom and ability to teach critical thinking. Since that time essays started spreading at the universities as a form of a task to teach students how to elaborate their ideas concerning specific subjects.

But how did it happen to become so popular? How and when did it originate?

The origin of the essay as the genre

Essay writing has a long and interesting history. This genre originated approximately in the XV-XVI century, and was supposedly created by Michel de Montaigne, the author of the “Experiments”. However, there are some opinions that this genre arose much earlier. It is fair to assume that Plato’s dialogues look somewhat like essays, however, they are singled out into a specific genre of their own. Nevertheless, it’s fair to think that they had the same function as essays, as they elaborate a certain idea on a particular subject, involve critical thinking and introduce personal opinion.

The time has passed but interestingly enough the nature of an essay hasn’t changed much, as we still see the same purpose of it: writing essays makes our thoughts on any subjects clear and more structured. That is why this genre has been used not only by literary critics but also by many philosophers like Denis Diderot and even mathematicians like Rene Descartes and Isaac Newton. These famous scientists discovered for themselves that essay writing is the key to elaborate their ideas and turn them into theories that later will change the vision of science.

It’s interesting, however, that essay, being a very popular genre of literature, has never had a precise definition. Moreover, this genre hasn’t had a distinct categorization. All types of essays that have been introduced are considered rather relative. This fact can be explained by the extreme versatility of this genre, as it is used by many sciences and fields. It is a scientific tool and, at the same time, it is a teaching tool as well. It teaches us to reflect, to compare and contrast, give arguments, develop narrations and think critically.

Essay writing as the way to cultivate critical thinking

University students often deal with writing essays, and the teachers often use it as a great way to help students better understand the subject. Essay writing is a great rhetorical tool for students to express their arguments on any scientific subject. It is also highly flexible and any teacher can adjust it to the requirements of a subject. While writing essays, students learn how to display structured arguments using an essay as a medium. Together, essays, theses, and dissertations are genres that are widely used at the universities to help students structure their arguments on a particular topic, develop their own content creation technology, and learn the skills of critical thinking.

Essay writing at the university has acquired a kind of a normative nature that sometimes makes students annoyed and deprived of the freedom of expression. However, what it actually does is channeling the ideas and arguments to help build a well-structured narrative. And while the requirements for the university essays may vary from subject to subject, they are all united by the one requirement of in-depth study and introducing the subject from different perspectives.

So, let’s say a student is given a task to research the phenomenon of capital punishment and write an essay on its effectiveness. This one would be a critical thinking essay with the requirement of an in-depth study of the capital punishment and its pros and cons. So while writing this essay a student shouldn’t only dwell upon the positive sides of capital punishment only because the task says to describe its effectiveness, but also to introduce some negative experience and then draw a conclusion agreeing or disagreeing with the statement given in the title.

Thus, that’s how writing essays helps develop critical thinking among students. This is the way to wean off the students from stereotyped thinking and help them understand that every phenomenon has two sides, which have to be argued and reasoned. And that’s what critical thinking is all about – an objective understanding of a certain phenomenon.

Why writing essays became so popular among US Universities

Essay writing at the US universities is one of the most popular forms of assignment. But let’s face it: students hate writing them. The reasons for it may vary from just not liking the topic to not having time to write it.

Yes, this is a very time-consuming task, however, professors find it very effective (although I should admit, as a professor, that grading essays is as boring as writing them). Throughout my practice, I’ve learned that writing essays helps not only develop critical thinking, but also learn the skill of researching and selecting appropriate resources, understand and evaluate them, support an argument with these materials and, ultimately, give an appropriate and reasoned feedback.

So, to sum it up, this type of assignment involves the whole range of academic skills, and that’s why it’s so popular. What professors like the most about this assignment, however, is that it teaches students how to introduce a structured argument. Common mistakes that are often made by students is including too much description and biased representation of the subject. But these mistakes often vanish after students learn how critical thinking actually works and start following the rules of analytical argumentation.

There’s another type of assignment used in the US universities that teaches students critical thinking, and that is the debate. Often without any preparation, students, being divided into two teams supporting and rejecting a particular idea, discuss the issue, and this discussion is often supported by a professor.

While both the debate and essays help develop analytical thinking, essays differ only because they require deliberate preparation and well-grounded arguments, supported by scientific facts, statistics, and various studies. Also, essays, as any other literary genre, have a climax, which is the most crucial argument any student defends or denies. It’s possible to say that the whole “story” told in an essay revolves and evolves around this particular argument and then is fixated in the conclusion.

The process of preparation to writing any essay involves many techniques which are adored and respected by the professors in any US university, like brainstorming and breaking the topic down into sub-topics and building up a narration out of it, efficient reading and selecting proper material. Writing and thinking is another great technique which involves writing all the thoughts down, developing them while thinking about a particular topic. It also involves drawing a mind-map with a central topic and any related topics which will further be explained in an essay.

These are those reasons why essays have become popular if only not the most popular type of assignment in the US universities. The variety of skills and techniques which are involved in the essay writing process is practical and promising. However, I would say that any student needs a proper instruction and support from a professor to understand that essay writing is a perfect way to learn how to think critically and structure thoughts and ideas well.

Conclusion

Amazingly, the genre of essay constantly continues to evolve. And it’s wonderful to see how the Internet actually changes the whole understanding of essays, too. I could say that blogs posted on the Internet every minute are a kind of essays, as they have their particular structure, mostly have well-grounded arguments and counter-arguments supported by reliable data and a conclusion that sums up the whole discussion. As it was said, essay is a very flexible genre that could be adjusted to any subject and any field.

One cannot argue the role of essay writing at the universities. Even at schools students are given this assignment as a kind of preparing them for their future studies at the universities, but at schools, essays are of a more general nature. At the universities students start studying the field they will be working in after graduating, thus they through essays they learn how to think critically and analyze the subjects closely connected to their future profession.

One also cannot argue the role of the skills learned and developed through essay writing. Critical thinking is necessary for any job, and essay writing is one of the most effective tools to learn how to think critically. The variety of skills it teaches students is amazing, making students more flexible and helping them think objectively.

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 […]

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 […]

How to Avoid Plagiarism. Plagiarism Guide

How to Avoid Plagiarism. Plagiarism Guide

Plagiarism has become a burning issue in the modern society. We are all aware of it, but most of us don’t realize how serious it is. In the world where information is abundant, it seems that everything has already been invented and all ideas have already been expressed. That’s why to many of us plagiarism seems like something that we can innocently resort to.

Plagiarism is the most common among students. They surf the Internet in search for the information for the discussion points for a seminar and often copy and paste the information they find.

According to the survey conducted by Rutgers University, which has united over 63 000 students, has shown that 36 % of the students admit copying the information without crediting it, thus making plagiarism rather common in the academic field.

The problem is that many of us don’t understand what exactly is behind the word “plagiarism”. This term is multi-faceted and requires a deeper study.

So for the convenience of our readers, we’ve prepared an informative guide that covers all aspects of plagiarism and how to avoid it.

What is Plagiarism?

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the action verb “plagiarize” in the following way”:

  • to steal ideas and pass them further as your own
  • to use someone’s ideas without crediting the original source

Plagiarism also refers to a literary theft as it’s often spread in literary circles. Already existing ideas are presented as new, and the original source is not credited. The verb “plagiarize” came from Latin, somewhat preserving its original meaning “to kidnap”.

So is it really possible for ideas to be “kidnapped”? While many people consider plagiarism as an academic issue, it’s actually the act of fraud. When people plagiarize, they basically steal something from others and lie about it.

Any ideas we expressed are viewed as intellectual property, which is protected by copyright laws. So as long as you’ve recorded your thoughts and ideas somewhere, they immediately get protected by copyright laws.

Forms of Plagiarism

While plagiarism exists in many forms, there are actually two basic types of plagiarism that unite all various forms of this type of theft.

  1. Intentional plagiarism

Intentional plagiarism speaks for itself: it’s basically theft that you’re aware of and do it on purpose. The following are the most widespread forms of intentional plagiarism.

  • Ctrl+C & Ctrl+V. Known as copy&paste, this keyboard command is the most widespread form of the intentional plagiarism. While this command wasn’t originally created for this, it’s often used by the students who are searching for some credible information for the seminar and don’t reference the source.
  • Intentional paraphrasing. This is so-called plagiarism of structure. When you paraphrase, you simply substitute the words with their synonyms, avoiding any repetitions and similarities, but making sure that the original idea is preserved. Students often do it when their essay or research paper lacks original ideas and they steal by paraphrasing to introduce something fresh. But paraphrasing doesn’t imply that you now can drop the citations down.
  • Self-Plagiarism. This form of plagiarism occurs when people re-introduce one and the same work when the original content is required. The work itself may be plagiarism-free, but the very act of re-using the same paper over and over again is the act of plagiarism. But it doesn’t mean that you cannot refer to your work. It is allowed as long as you cite your previous works correctly.
  • Plagiarizing the authorship. Downloading someone else’s work from the Internet is a very widespread form of plagiarism. There are cases when students often delete the name of the author and insert their own. Or they borrow an electronic version of work from their friends and re-introduce it as their own.
  • Patch writing. Also known as ‘mosaic plagiarism’ is selling the ideas of others as your own and intentionally avoiding the citations. If you resort to this form of plagiarism, you should be aware that it can easily be checked and you will get severely punished, even if you use footnotes.
  1. Unintentional plagiarism

This type unites the cases when plagiarism occurs when people aren’t well-informed about proper crediting without breaching the copyright laws. Here are the most common forms of unintentional plagiarism.

  • Failing to put correct citations. This often happens to students, who sometimes get confused when creating the list of references for essays and research papers or to quote a certain work in the text. One of the most widespread cases of failed citation is putting a definition without referring to the original source.

It creates the vision of a freshly coined term, which has actually existed for a while. This may occur due to a simple inattentiveness, which you’ll have to be responsible.

  • Failing to put a reference to paraphrased information. To some students, it may be obvious that it’s not necessary to cite the source if you’re not using the quotation marks. But paraphrasing the information doesn’t turn it into something original.

Compared to intentional paraphrasing, unintentional paraphrasing often occurs when we get under the influence of other authors. This usually happens to the bloggers who try to create original content, but inevitably get influenced by other bloggers’ ideas and unintentionally mention them while creating their own content.

  • Citing the ideas which have already been stolen from someone else. The Internet is overflown with so much information that sometimes it’s quite hard to track the original authors. And often it happens that we try to be fair and cite the work that has already been stolen. This often happens to the students that don’t know the difference between credible and non-credible online sources.

Guidelines to Avoid Plagiarism

There are lots of tools to help you check your work for plagiarism, the best of which we’ve listed below. But using these tools isn’t always enough to avoid plagiarism. It actually requires a lot of self-work to introduce your ideas without accidentally plagiarizing someone. Here are 7 steps you can follow that will help you learn how to avoid plagiarism.

  1. Learn about the field you’re writing about. After realizing what hides behind the plagiarism, you’ll understand that in order to write a plagiarism-free work you need to be well aware of the field you’re writing about. Get to know the most famous academicians and scientists of this field, the ideas they’ve introduced. Being well-informed is the first step to avoiding plagiarism.
  2. Cite and quote, and then double-check. There’s a short list of things that you don’t need to cite, but in other cases, you need to use references. After you’ve cited all works, double check all quotes and citations. If you miss at least, it will immediately put your work in jeopardy.
  3. Give credit when paraphrasing. As you already know, paraphrasing doesn’t mean avoiding paying respects to the author of the idea. When paraphrasing, say “John B. Watson claimed that methodological behaviorism is based on measured and observable behaviors” The ideas you’re talking about have probably been introduced earlier. So don’t forget to mention the author.
  4. Cite your own ideas. If you’ve introduced some ideas to the academic world in your earlier works, you need to cite them properly, as you cite other authors. Otherwise, it falls under the case of self-plagiarism.
  5. Don’t forget about the Internet sources. Sources from the Internet also need to be cited properly. Many academic papers are published in online scientific magazines and periodicals. But they still fall under the protection of copyright laws, thus it must be cited.

Tools to Avoid Plagiarism

  • Grammarly: this tools doesn’t only help the grammar in your work be flawless, but also has anti-plagiarism tools.
  • Unicheck: formerly known as Unplag, this online tool is a must-use for everybody who works with texts and creates original content. You simply insert the written content in the special field on their web-page, and Unicheck compares your content with over 16 billion pages on Bing and Google.
  • PlagScan: this online plagiarism checker is very easy to use. It is designed for education as well as for business. It allows you to upload pdf. and docx. files. All you need is to sign up and download the file. This tool also provides you with a detailed plagiarism report.
  • PlagTracker: this is one of the most accurate plagiarism checking services. It proved you with a detailed report and comments on the section of the text where plagiarism is detected. It’s free, easy and great to use.
  • Plagium: insert written content and get your plagiarism report in several seconds. The great feature of this online plagiarism checking tools is that it compares your content to posts on social media as well.

Additional Plagiarism Guides

In case you need more information about plagiarism, you can also visit these online plagiarism guides. They provide examples of plagiarism as well as the ways how to put citations and references correctly and will help you better learn how not to plagiarize.

How Important Is Technology in Education?

How Important Is Technology in Education?

What Is Educational Technology? Educational technology is a systematic application of relevant technological processes and resources in teaching, with a goal to improve students’ performance. It involves a disciplined approach to identifying the needs of students, applying technology in instructions, and tracking their performance. Many […]

How to Choose a Career Path for Students

How to Choose a Career Path for Students

Being as challenging as it is, education is just the beginning of your many journeys of independence. Once the time comes to decide your future career and education, this can put a lot of pressure on you, especially at a time when you are expected […]

Guide to Grammar and Writing

Guide to Grammar and Writing

While grammar is something we learn in the early years of our education, there are so many rules and regulations when it comes to grammar, we can’t know them all by heart. If you’re a writer or simply have to write something on certain occasions, you might want to reach for a grammar guide, to make sure that your writing is on point. And since there are so many aspects to grammar, there is more than one kind of a grammar guide, to make the process of learning and checking grammar faster and easier.

Thankfully there’s a large variety of grammar guides that are available to lead us through our writing process. Below you’ll find a helpful list of resources that will help you through your journey with grammar.

Thesauruses and Dictionaries

Dictionaries are crucial for knowing the meanings of each word, and for better understanding of each word. Thesauruses, however, can be considered as additional information about words, with synonyms, antonyms, idioms and phrases included.

Collins English Thesaurus

This thesaurus consists of more than 500,000 words and their synonyms, phrases, meanings and antonyms and it’s easily accessible from anywhere. Whether you’re on your phone or on your laptop, you’ll quickly be able to find any synonym, word or phrase you need.

Merriam Webster Thesaurus

The Merriam Webster Thesaurus is equally popular among native speakers and non-native speakers of the English language and includes more than 275,000 of synonyms, antonyms and idioms. You can also track down definitions of each word, and learn how to use language more effectively; therefore, it can also be referred to as a writing guide.

Cambridge Dictionaries Online

Because British and American English differ in spelling and grammar, you need to turn to a comprehensive dictionary like this one that has all the differences listed in one place. It’s one of the best dictionaries out there for both American and British words.

WordSmyth

If you need a dictionary and thesaurus in one, this is the ideal website for you. While you can get easy access to all the word definitions, you also get suggestions about the synonyms and antonyms of each word listed in the dictionary.

Dictionary.com

Visit dictionary.com if you want word definitions that are made by analyzing a variety of online definitions. It also has a blog that explains grammar and spelling issues more thoroughly, so if you’re looking for an explanation along with the meaning, this is the number on stop.

Grammar Myths

Grammar myths are what we call grammar rules that once used to mean something, and now they are completely irrelevant. Grammar changes through time, and yet so many people don’t know which grammar rules they should stick to, and which ones they should discard immediately. Here are a couple of useful guides that give you insight into the rules of modern grammar.

Washington State University Non-Errors

This page contains all the most common grammar misconceptions that everyone tells you are still valid grammar rules that you should listen to. Well, now you don’t have to, because you have a guide that will help you identify stale grammar rules and how to deal with them in the present.

Grammar Girl

Grammar Girl is one of the most popular and fun takes on grammar. This blog covers grammar in a fun way and focuses on explaining which grammar rules are in and which grammar rules are out. It’s especially popular with student, and all those who want to learn about grammar and still have fun at the same time.

Georgetown University Law Center

This handy PDF lists all the grammar rules that are no longer important. It comes with explanations of what each rule used to refer to, and why it isn’t considered a grammar rule anymore. It also comes with a few examples of how it is used now.

Grammarphobia

Want to know quickly what grammar myths are and which ones are the common ones? Grammarphobia will give you that information so that you no longer fret about old grammar rules that are no longer important.

Language Log

If you want to learn which grammar rules aren’t valid any more, but also go in-depth as to why these grammar rules aren’t important anymore, visit this small guide. It’s especially attractive to those who like to know all the detailed information.

Usage Guides

Turn to grammar usage guides if you are frequently puzzled by the use of certain words, their meaning, spelling or place in a sentence.

Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style

Although it requires a purchase or a subscription, the Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style is concise and precise in providing hundreds of answers to the most common usage problems. It’s supported with examples from top-tier publications.

Common Errors In English

If you’re confused with words that have the same spelling or are pronounced the same, but have a different meaning, this short guide will explain when each of these words is used, why and how you should use it.

Common Errors Guide by Washington State University

Washington State University has an excellent section dedicated to the most common errors when it comes to usage. It explains, to the very last detail and comes with amusing explanations and examples.

The American Heritage Guide To English Usage

This is yet another guide that focuses on confusing words, their meaning and how they should be properly used. You want to know when to write ‘their’ or ‘there’ or ‘it’s’ and ‘its’. It’s hosted by bartleby.com.

The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage

This guide consists of a thorough analysis of both American and British English, and offers clear guidance and points for using English the right way. Everything can be easily accessed, and each rule is exemplified with examples from newspapers, journals and books.

 

Classic Style Guides

There are numerous style guides out there, and it all depends on what you’re looking for and who you are writing for. There are basic style guides, as well as style guides for business writers, scientific writing style guides and so much more. Here are some of the most famous ones that are usually used or referenced.

Chicago Manual of Style

This is one style guide that you cannot miss online, and it’s a time-tested guide to style, but also grammar and usage. It basically has everything you need, and then some more, like reference for proofreaders, writers, designers etc.

Economist Style Guide

While it can easily constitute as a neat grammar handbook, it’s mostly focused on giving you knowledge and tips on how to write more clearly and style your writing properly so that it’s easily readable.

The BBC News Styleguide 

This guide comes in a PDF form, and it’s written by a BBC reporter and editor with 40 years of experience in writing. Instead of focusing on all the do’s and don’ts like most guides do, it encourages you to dive deeper into the complexities of English usage and explore its possibilities.

National Geographic Style Manual

This manual is consistently updated by editors, and it has been existent since 1995. Everything is alphabetically arranged and easy to locate, and it is a guide to “preferred National Geographic Society style and usage.”​

University of Oxford Style Guide

This PDF document is a guide written by the staff, on behalf of the Oxford University and it aims to guide you through your writing and formatting process. You can easily search for specific items that you’re interested in, or scroll through each section and soak it all in.

English for Non-Native Speakers

Although native speakers and non-native speakers can use the same dictionary, if you’re a beginner, and English isn’t your native language, you’re going to find the English grammar book too complex. Here are some resources that are easy to understand, with plenty of information packed in, so that you improve your English grammar easily.

The Mayfield Handbook

Non-native speakers often get confused in writing, and this handy guide covers all common writing problems and gives in-depth explanations about each issue and how to solve it.

Grammarly Handbook 

This concise guide is broken down into categories, and enables you to easily find what you’re looking for. Every grammar rule is explained and exemplified.

Grammarly Answers 

This free service enables you to ask any grammar questions and get the right answers. If you’re a non-native speaker, you can also interact with other users and answer their questions as well.

Purdue Online Writing Lab

This resource is well-known among students, and it focuses on explaining each part of speech to the last detail, which is ideal for non-native speakers. It also offers grammar exercises, and introduces the reader to writing concepts.

Guide to Grammar and Writing 

The Capital Community College Foundation created this extensive grammar and writing guide that is perfect for all non-native speakers. There are plenty of materials that you can use for learning, and not just grammar. Although the primary focus is on grammar, you can also teach yourself the basic concepts of writing.

How to Start Writing a Book about Your Life

How to Start Writing a Book about Your Life

Have you ever read an autobiography? Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, for example, is an exceptionally powerful one. “DEAR SON: I have ever had pleasure in obtaining any little anecdotes of my ancestors.” That’s how it starts. But, Benjamin Franklin was an exceptional person, after all. That’s […]