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Antonio Tooley

Career Other

Academic Writing: 5 Fundamental Principles

May 5, 2016

Among all things you’re going to learn throughout graduate school, there is a really important skill you didn’t hope to gain: proper writing. You’re not expected to become a novelist, but it’s certainly important for you to develop the skill of clear, convincing argumentation. According to EduGeeksClub’s guide to dissertation writing, most grad students have an impression that academic papers are completely irrelevant to their future careers. They are wrong. Writing skills are valuable not only for the completion of a thesis and dissertation project, but also for the overall career development upon graduation.

Do you know who gets a call for a job interview? The candidate with the best CV/resume and cover letter. You’ll need to showcase some writing skills as soon as you get out of grad school. Do you know who gets the best chances for career progress? The worker who writes great reports, research articles, evaluations, and other types of projects related to a particular position. Whatever career you choose, writing skills will make you better at it.

At this point, it’s important for you to focus on academic writing. A high-quality paper needs to be based on trustworthy resources, but it should also expose your own opinions. There are 5 fundamental principles you need to maintain when writing an academic paper. When you keep them in mind, the entire writing and research process will be much simpler.

1.    Clarity

Many students mistake complexity for being the most fundamental principle in academic writing. Yes, academic content is really complex because a single paper contains many layers and arguments. However, the aim for complexity should not take you in the wrong direction. Many students are using long, unusual words just because they make the content seem more eloquent. That’s a wrong strategy. The structure of the paper and the concept it elaborates may be complicated, but the language itself needs to be as clear as possible.

Try to use fewer passive verbs, participles, adjectives, and words you just looked up in the dictionary. If there are simple words that convey your arguments, then use them. Use Hemingway Editor – a nifty tool that shows where you got carried away. Try to get rid of long sequences of prepositional phrases, passives, and other structures that make the paper unreadable.

This is the main rule to remember: you don’t have to limit yourself to fewer words when you want to be clear; but you need to use the strongest ones.

2.    Specific examples

For example, let’s say that you’re trying to prove that a specific leadership skill (like the ability to motivate other people) influences the success of the overall organization. How are you going to prove that? You need specific statistics and examples from real-life situations, which make your arguments trustworthy.

An academic paper may contain abstract theoretical concepts, especially when the topic is related to philosophy or social sciences. However, you have to clarify those concepts through concrete examples that help a reader understand what you’re talking about. Examples work in every part of the paper, so make sure to use them when you want to attract the attention of the reader and clarify a particular concept.

3.    Objectiveness

Of course you have your own opinions and you want to stand strong behind them. You will emphasize your point of view and you’ll try to prove the thesis statement with strong arguments, but that doesn’t mean you can simply neglect the opposing side. When you’re working on a grad-level paper, you have to prove you’ve studied all sides of the issue and you understand the opposing arguments.

If, for example, you’re writing a paper on the health benefits of marijuana and you really want to prove its value for patients with various diseases, you also have to pay attention to the warnings and side effects. Don’t neglect the studies that showcase warning results; just make sure to explain why your arguments beat the ones on the opposing side.

4.    References

When you’re writing an academic paper, you have to be very precise with the information you use. After the research stage, you will have a pile of resources that can prove your arguments. It’s really important to use them in the right manner. For example, you can’t just say “many cancer patients have found relief in treatment with medical marijuana.” You need to give precise information: how many patients? What studies offer such proof? You will use such information in the paper, and you need to reference it. Google may trick you into using unreliable resources, so you have to be sure you’re getting the data from reliable websites before referencing any online source.

There are three major citation styles, which are usually requested in academic writing: APA, MLA, and Chicago. Make sure to understand the requirements of the style you implement, since each comma and capital letter makes a difference.

5.    Uniformity and logical flow

Consistency refers to two different aspects of the academic paper: the uniformity of your writing style and the logical flow of your arguments. For example, you cannot use both email and e-mail in your paper; you need to commit to one form. Your style should be consistent: if you’re expressing yourself through complex sentences in the introduction, it would be wise to maintain such writing throughout the entire paper.

An academic paper with a flawless logical flow leads the reader from the introduction to the very last sentence without causing any confusion. When you’re done with the first draft, you need to read and revise the paper to make sure there are no information gaps. Read it from the position of someone who doesn’t understand anything about the particular topic. Then, make sure that all arguments are consistent and related to the thesis statement. Don’t think twice before you get rid of repetitive or unnecessary sentences and paragraphs. Each piece of the puzzle has to be relevant to the main impression you want to achieve.

Do You Understand what a Great Academic Paper Is Made of? Now, Practice!

You can’t become a talented academic writer overnight. The principles of skilled writing are basic, so you understood them well when you read the descriptions above. However, you need to put them into practice! You’ll become a better writer if you keep working on your papers and you invest a lot of energy into every single stage of the process.

You don’t have a specific assignment to work on? Then, pick a topic you like and practice writing! The above-listed principles stand for academic writing of all types, so they will work if you’re dealing with an essay, thesis, dissertation, research paper, or any other type of content. Once you get them right, you’ll be ready to deal with any writing challenge that gets in your way.

Other Student Life

6 Things College Students Should Do To Prepare for the Fall Semester

August 27, 2015
6 things to prepare for the fall semester

The fall semester has arrived. Maybe you don’t want to believe it, but coursework, papers and lectures are becoming a part of your daily life again. What have you done to prepare yourself for the upcoming academic year at college?

If you haven’t put much thought into it, check out this to-do list for returning college students:

Set personal and academic goals

What do you want to accomplish this year? Maybe you’d like to make more friends or be more social. Maybe you’d like to study more and party less. Or try out for a sport or take more advantage of the campus gym. Or perhaps there’s a club you’d like to join. Whatever your goals are, write them down someplace where you’ll be able to reference them often and gauge your progress.

Same with academic goals. Are you aiming for a 4.0? Or do you want to pull your Cs up to Bs? Maybe you’d like to write better papers. Or you’re applying for a prestigious grant and need to work on meeting the requirements. Whatever your goals, keep them written down someplace. Define the steps you’ll need to take to achieve them, be it seeking help at the tutoring lab or asking one of your professors to mentor you through the grant application process.

Get into a routine

Few things are as shocking to the system as going from totally irresponsible to totally responsible within one day or two. If you’ve been partying all night (or, more likely, watching Netflix all night… ) and sleeping all day, stop. Set a date for the party to end and make it soon. Give yourself some time to start getting serious again. Though college life should also include fun and leisure, the point of it is earning an academic degree and you should be taking your time there seriously, not wasting it.

Start waking up earlier, defining tasks to be done each day and going to bed sooner. Lay off the booze and the socializing. You’ll be glad you came back to school with a calm mind and clear head rather than stumbling onto campus with the summer’s parties still wreaking havoc on your body.


College requires an awful lot of reading. If you haven’t been spending any time reading over the summer, you might want to crack open a few books to get back into the swing of things. If you know what courses you’ll be taking next year, read books that are related to those topics to get ahead on classroom discussions. If you’re not sure what to read, here’s a curated summer reading list for college students from the Washington Post.

Set a budget

College fees and tuition, books, food, entertainment can all put a strain on your budget. If you’re a returning student, you should have a good idea how much money you spent the previous year. Take a look at areas where you could save or, if money is an issue, consider getting a part-time job while in school to supplement your spending. Most colleges have a job board posted in the student lounge, library or counseling centers. Make sure you have your financial situation sorted out before returning to college, so you can be the first in line for highly coveted on-campus jobs.

Bring things that remind you of home

Framed photographs of friends and family, a tupperware of your mother’s cookies, your high school yearbook or some other memorabilia. Even though you have your friends at school, sometimes it can be hard to be away from home. Bring something with you that will help when you miss your friends and family.

Get your social media addiction under control

If you’re spending a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Whatsapp, then chances are you’re going to have a hard time breaking that habit when classes start. Start to set time limits for yourself in the weeks before school starts. If it’s hard for you to stick to it, then you know it’s a problem. Check out this article on how to kick your social media addiction.


Cari Bennette is a blogger and ghost writer. She works at custom writing service and shares her advice on academic writing, grammar and editing. Cari loves to blog about education and college life, follow her on Twitter.

Other Student Life

Exercising in College

July 14, 2015
exercising in college

It’s almost time for school to start back up! It’s crazy how fast this summer has flown by. For incoming freshmen, I’m sure you’ve heard of the “freshman 15”. Well, sorry to break it to you, but it is not a myth. But it isn’t just a thing for freshmen, it can happen to anyone in college no matter what year! Working out probably isn’t the first thing on your mind in college, but it is extremely important for your overall health… and your grades. Studies show that students who exercise regularly at college get better grades. For many students, it’s difficult to balance working out with college life. Here are some helpful tips on how to make working out in college easier!

Taking the Long Route
Most people walk to class, which is already great exercise. However, a lot of people take the shortcuts to get from here to there. Making small changes in your schedule like skipping the shortcuts or not taking the bus are great ways to increase your daily exercise. Another great way is to take the stairs instead of an elevator.

Wearing Gym Clothes To Class
One of the biggest problems while being at college is lack of time. Not enough time to study. Not enough time to sleep. Not enough time to get to class. Well I have a fix for the common saying, “I don’t have enough time to workout!” Wear your gym clothes to class! It is a huge time saver! Instead of needing to go back home to get your clothes, you have it with you. If it is colder or you don’t feel comfortable wearing your clothes to class, you can pack your clothes into your backpack before leaving for class. This provides you more time to schedule in a workout! Plus, if you’re already dressed for a workout, it’ll be harder to make excuses not to do it.

Register for Exercise Classes that Count as Credits
There are a ton of extra curricular activities that can be added into your class schedule. Some of these include swimming, yoga, basketball, weight lifting, self-defense, and others! They basically have everything you can think of and many classes can be great stress busters, thanks to the great breathwork in a yoga class or even the heart-pumping cardio of a step aerobics class, to help you blow off some steam. My school at Indiana University even has a rock climbing class! This is great because they are usually 1 or 2 credits and basically automatically requires you to get exercise in your schedule. Getting class credits for this is also a major plus.

Make a Reward System
Getting yourself to workout is always tough for some people including me. A lot of people have different systems that help them work out. A system that I like to use is a reward system. If I workout at least 3 times a week, I reward myself with something I never get. Usually it is a meal at one of my favorite restaurants! Having something to look forward to, like your favorite latte from the campus coffee shop, helps a ton when you’re starting to do something you don’t exactly like to do like working out or waking up for those 8am classes.

I can’t stress enough how important exercising in college is! Not only does it help your physical body but it also helps your mental health! College is stressful enough and working out helps reduce some of that stress and can help you get better grades.


Health Other

5 Steps to Healthy Dining Hall Eating

October 7, 2014
5 Steps to Healthy Dining Hall Eating

Your first year at college is always stressful. Stressful from leaving home, stressful from having harder classes and stressful from time management. Because there is all of this stress, we tend to not think about what we’re eating and thus the notorious “Freshman 15” becomes a problem. A lot of people think that eating healthy in the dorms is basically impossible. This is not the case! I’m here to help give you some helpful tips about how to avoid the freshman 15 and be healthy while living in the dorms!

1. Choose the right snacks for your room.

Most people do a little shopping before they get to college of some foods that they can eat in the residence halls that have a longer shelf life. I know a lot of people (and me as well) bought a lot of easy to cook noodles, chips, crackers, canned foods, etc. Buying foods with long shelf life is a good thing to have but you should know which ones are healthy for you, like: nuts, seeds, dried fruit (with no added sugar), rice cakes, multi-grain crackers, and canned fruit in no syrup and with no added sugar.

2. Give yourself time to eat.

A large part of being healthy while living in the dorms is figuring out what to eat at the cafeteria. Most cafeterias love to advertise their not so healthy foods and forget about the healthy foods. This is probably because most unhealthy foods are easier to grab and go. While you’re going to the cafeteria make sure you give yourself enough time to get your food and be able to eat it. Eating quickly is bad for your body because it can cause heartburn or stomach aches and can also cause you to overeat. Not good for anyone!

3. Look for unprocessed foods and snacks.

Everyone probably knows that vegetables and fruits are considered healthy foods. However, they can also be considered unhealthy foods as well. Carrots or celery that is found in a prepackaged container with sauces to dip? Not healthy! Carrots or celery in their raw form? Healthy! Apples in a prepackaged container with caramel sauce to dip? Not healthy! Apples that aren’t precut and in (usually) a basket found with other fruits? Healthy! The key to determining what is healthy and what isn’t healthy is taking the time to question it. If you are thinking of getting packaged food with a lot of preservatives and sauce poured over it, it’s likely not going to be healthy.

4. Beware of less obvious, high-calorie choices.

A lot of people love their sauces and condiments. This includes ketchup, mustard, ranch dressing, mayonnaise, BBQ sauce, Alfredo sauce, hot sauce, etc. I know a ton of people who love their ranch dressing and put it on basically everything (salad, pizza, bread sticks). Eating this foods are okay to do but in moderation. There are also other alternatives to these foods that you can choose. If you want a salad with dressing? Use the vinaigrette dressing instead of ranch dressing. If you want to have pasta? Use a homestyle marinara instead of Alfredo or vodka sauce. These little changes can make a difference!

5. At meal times, choose lean protein, not carbs!

For lunches or dinners a lot of people that live in residence halls are tempted to choose pasta or pizza for their meals. While that is okay once in awhile, the best foods to eat at the cafeterias are lean proteins like salmon, grilled chicken or tofu, and vegetables, preferably raw or steamed. Salmon is extremely good for you and is generally a light food to eat if you remember to not douse it in high-calorie sauces or butter. Try adding balsamic vinegar or glaze for a healthier dose of flavor. Grilled chicken instead of fried chicken is the healthy way to go, even when those chicken fingers look so tasty. While looking at the nutrient facts for each, grilled chicken wins in basically all of the categories. The key to good eating in school is… less carbs=more focus and better sleep. It also keeps your body healthy and to say goodbye to the freshman 15!


Other Transition

The Real Issue: Failing to Graduate Is Costly

August 26, 2014


David Leonhardt is the editor of Upshot at the New York Times and posted a useful article titled The Reality of Student Debt Is Different From the Clichés. It reminds me of the challenges our society has in dealing with complex topics captured in the headlines but that often inadvertently distort the real source of risk.

Leonhardt’s article conveys student loan debt is not the primary problem facing U.S. Higher Education. Though the Brookings research, on which his article relies is not without controversy, it does assert that despite the headlines on the rapid growth of student debt “the share of income that young adults are devoting to loan repayment has remained fairly steady over the last two decades.”

The article and Brookings are under some attack, but in my view it correctly focuses the discussion beyond student loan debt and onto the….”The vastly bigger problem is the hundreds of thousands of people who emerge from college with a modest amount of debt yet no degree. For them, college is akin to a house that they had to make the down payment on but can’t live in.”

Failing to graduate is costly. Roughly 4 in 10 students fail to graduate with a bachelors within six years. In fact, you can download an Infographic that illustrates non-graduate borrowers are 4x more likely to default on their student loans and 29% of students with student loans dropped out of college in 2009. Though it is clear that academic readiness is a fundamental problem, financial issues are frequently behind the reasons students are unable to complete their degrees; when you read the details closely, even the recently announced ASU and Starbuck’s partnership appears to be focused correctly on improving college completion.

Bottom line is that college is a great investment, but it isn’t risk free.

It is a big part of why Bill Suneson and I founded GradGuard with the mission to promote greater student success by helping students and their families overcome the financial losses that can result from unexpected events that may disrupt their pursuit of a higher education. In fact, other risks also interfere with college completion – such as unexpected life events such as student accidents or illness, the death of a family member and even theft.

In reality we should all be worried about over-borrowing for a college education, (for full disclosure from 2002-2006 I worked in the student loan industry and some ofNGI’s largest clients are lenders) but we should also give greater focus to the greater the more enduring problem of college completion.

For my higher education colleagues, (particularly those attending summer industry conferences such as ACUHO-INASFAA, Noel Levitz or NACUBO events) I ask:

    • What tangible activities are you involved with to promote college completion of students?
    • What is your campus doing to help protect the investment in education?
  • How is your campus helping students overcome the financial losses that may disrupt their education?

Please let me know what you think. I welcome a conversation with anyone who has suggestions for how to address these issues and how GradGuard can help support greater student success and college completion.


Dorm Shopping Guide

July 22, 2013

For those of you entering into your first year of college, this is an exciting and scary time. It’s also a time for preparation. There’s so much to be done before move-in day; it can be overwhelming! Shopping for things for your dorm is an added stress and leads you to wonder what exactly you need. Here’s a list of useful items that will help you live a comfortable life in your dorm!

Lights: While your room will come with a big overhead light, it’s often harsh and can make your room feel like an office. It’s a good idea to have at least a small light near your bed so if your roommate is sleeping, you can stay up working without disturbing them. Other than that, a lamp or some string lights will make your room more homey and inviting.

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Private Student and Home Equity Loans: Student Financial Aid Options

January 31, 2013


By Brentt Taylor

With the price of tuition increasing for colleges across the world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to secure a continuing education for a child. Parents have had to resort to increasingly desperate measures just to keep up with the bills. However, there are ways in which families can leverage their resources in order to pay for a college education for the kids. This article will discuss two of the considered options for student financial aid: private student loans and home equity loans.

What are private student loans?

Private student loans are loans that are given through entities other than the government, such as a bank or credit union. These types of loans can either fully replace or supplement federal loans.

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College Must-Have: Insurance for Your Student

November 7, 2011

College kids may be young and fearless, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to illness, theft or even lawsuits. To be sure, student insurance coverage is as important a decision to make as course curriculum and perhaps a monthly allowance. But what types of insurance do your children need?

Health Insurance

Even if your kids don’t think they need it, they may not have a choice. Nearly one-third of colleges and universities require kids to have student health insurance upon enrollment, according to a 2008 study by the Government Accountability Office. But thanks to the new health care law, young adults not covered by an employer-provided plan can remain on their parents’ health care plan until age 26. That’s usually the best bet because employer-based health insurance is usually the most comprehensive.

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