Author Archives: Kathleen McGunagle

Writing Academically: What’s the Point? (Part I)

Whats_The_Point__by_Nose_MeatIn many of my blog posts I have made reference to the “academic essay” or to “academic writing.” I’ve discussed the differences between such writing and “creative writing,” listed tips to improve an academic essay, and introduced some of the basic components of such an essay, particularly the thesis statement and motive. Yet I have deliberately neglected answering perhaps the most important (controversial) question regarding the academic essay: What is the point of academic writing?

The five-paragraph essay is practically universal in middle, junior, and high schools. Your English teachers, and most likely your history, science, and philosophy teachers as well, will have encouraged you to form arguments about the subject matter they teach and put these into writing form. College applications demand essays, as do more formal applications for fellowships, jobs, and internships. Papers are the trope of every college course, particularly within the humanities student’s academic career. So what is the point?

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Writing Creatively

keep-calm-and-write-creativelyIs there a difference between creative writing and writing creatively? Believe it or not, there actually is! In my previous blog post I discussed some basic methods for improving and refining your creative writing skills. I’ll talk more about creative writing in future posts, but for now, my task is to convince you that academic writing (all of that formal writing you use in essays!) can also be creative, and better yet—it should be creative. Writing creatively does not mean writing fiction or poetry. It means incorporating what you know about creative writing into your schoolwork. It is the very definition of style, and the answer to being a successful writer in high school, college, and beyond.

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So you want to be a writer? Creative Writing 101

ja09_books_creative_writingPossess a passion for the written word? Better yet, possess a passion for creating your own combinations of words, ideas, meanings, stories? You’re not alone. Besides being the favorite pastime of this blog’s author, creative writing has enjoyed a renewal of popularity amongst middle and high school students, with good reason. Writing is perhaps one of the greatest channels for creativity, and creativity is quickly earning its place in the classroom as one of the best methods for instruction.

My goal is to help you creative writers out there learn ways to transform your current scribblings into something you might bring in to a college creative writing class. Anyone can write, but few know truly how to write. Here are a few ideas about how to train your creative writing muscle, and train it to do great things.

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The College Application Essay: Part III

essay_writing_100-Last week we discussed some tips for getting started on your college application essay, after debunking several myths about the application process itself. By now, hopefully you have brainstormed enough and are feeling ready to pick up a pencil and begin writing. Grab your ‘First Impressions’ sheet we began last week and let’s get started!

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The College Application Essay: Part II – Getting Started

whats_your_storyLast week I debunked several floating myths concerning the college application process. Now let’s consider some more specific prompts to get the juices flowing with regard to writing that (overhyped) application essay.

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The College Application Essay: Part I – Myth or Fact?

common-appWhether you are a high school senior in the agonizing throes of the college application process, or a sophomore simply curious about what has been called “the most stressful fall of your entire life” (disclaimer: it’s not!), it’s time to debunk some myths. Once you have the facts, you will certainly be one step ahead of many out there!

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What’s a Thesis Statement?

thesis_funnelYou’ve glimpsed its name between the pages of (maybe) your tenth-grade English grammar book. Your teacher might have written it on the board several times. Most probable of all, it has appeared numerous times in glaring red letters in the margin of your essays, right next to that first paragraph. That’s right: the thesis statement.

Most students shiver at the very name. But I want to prove to you that the thesis statement is not worth shivering over. It is certainly fundamental to every academic essay, and you will spend the rest of your time in school refining it as a skill. (Trust me; I’m about to graduate college and have only just figured it out!) Nonetheless, the thesis statement is quite simple conceptually. Starting to understand it now will make all of those future essays much, much easier.

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Novels to Change your Life

brave new worldIn search of a good book that is not about vampires or unrealistic teen romances? I’ve got you covered. Not only will these five good reads be precisely that (good reads), but they will also contribute significantly to whatever it is you are studying in English class, by virtue of their complex character development, plots, use of allegory, and general good writing.

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Essay TLC: Five ways to make your paper DAZZLE

essay writingYour copy of David Copperfield has more highlighter marks than your younger sister’s hair; you’ve been staring at your computer screen so long your eyes are changing color; and you may or may not be able to see pink streaks of dawn outside your bedroom window. Essay writing, you tell yourself, should not be like this.

Need help from something other than SparkNotes? I’m gladly here to give it. Follow these essay TLC tips and no matter where you are at in the writing and editing process, your paper will automatically improve. They cannot guarantee an “A” grade—that is ultimately up to you!—but they will make your paper stronger. And the good news: you don’t need to pull an all-nighter to follow them!

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