Study Tips – How to Study for High School Finals

Some of the most common questions involving studying concern finals, and rightfully so. For many high school students, their finals determine their success or failure in a class. That one test can be 50% of a student’s grade for an entire semester of work. Here are four steps that will help you make sure that you are getting the most out of your study sessions for high school finals.

1. Make sure you have all of your materials.

Few things are more annoying than having to continually re-gather your school materials. Make sure you have all the books and other materials you need for that class. Frankly, though, your books should simply be a reference by this time. You have been taking good notes and studying all along, so your most important materials aren’t in your books. It’s in your own words on your own paper.

You also want to make sure you have enough materials to stay put for at least 50 minutes. A writing utensil, paper on which to make new review materials, and a focused mind should be enough. If you would rather make a digital resource than a hand-written one, that will work. But before committing to a computer, consider these three benefits of hand-writing your review materials.

First, you have the added memory aid of kinesthetic learning. This is a primary way people take in information, and, believe it or not, simply writing something down can be tremendously helpful for memorization. Second, there are visual helps that come from hand-writing a new review sheet that are missed on a computer screen. For example, many people have had the experience of remembering where an answer was on a particular page. If you’ve ever thought, “I remember that It was under the picture of the alligator on the top right hand corner of the page… ,” you know what I’m talking about. That benefit is mostly lost on a scrolling computer screen. Third, successful students know the benefits of arrows, diagrams, scribbles, doodles, and every other weird hand-written elements for studying. You miss that on Microsoft Word. There is no way around it with the current state of technology.

If you have all of your materials, you are now ready for step 2, setting the environment for a successful final exam study session.

2. Set up a great environment for studying.

Many college students miss this element entirely. Consider this: how many students have you seen at Starbucks with a laptop open, Facebook in the background, gmail chat in the foreground, twitter feeds buzzing their phones, text messages coming in every three minutes, and a chemistry book in their lap? That type of studying – if it can even be called “studying” – is not particularly helpful for studying for finals. High school students need to understand this element of studying for finals before graduating. Your environment matters. It can make or break your study session.

The problem with a bad environment is that time moves at the same speed whether you are learning or not. Many a disappointed student has spent hours at the coffee shop cramming for exams but failed a test because of a poor environment. Great environments enhance studying exponentially.

Great environments, while being different for each individual, will have certain things in common. Social media will be held at bay. As difficult as that sounds, it must be done. Tell Facebook, “Goodbye,” for an hour. Twitter, texting, Voxer, and HeyTell have no place in a finals study session. More traditional media like television also needs to be shut down for a while. Set an environment where you can concentrate without the constant pull of media all around you. Music can help some students stay focused, but try to make sure it is instrumental and playing quietly in the background if at all. The quieter and more focused your environment is, the more productive your study session will be.

3. Focus your studies on the most important ideas and details.

When studying for finals, you should not be re-reading the chapters. Reading is an important part of the learning process, but it is too comprehensive to be helpful on a final exam. You want just the biggest, most important details. Birthdays, maiden names, pets names, favorite colors, and state flowers are usually not on the final exams. Essays about major thought-movements and the key thinkers involved are on final exams.

Acing your finals is dependent on whether or not you can focus your learning on the most important ideas. If you can, you are sure to score higher in less time studying. If you cannot, you are sure to know a lot of information, have spent a lot of hours in the library, and not understand why so much of what you studied wasn’t on the exam. Learning what to learn is as important as learning how to learn.

4. Study.

Get to work on what you know. Go over the notes you’ve made, make a study guide for yourself, and do the work. I recommend 50 minutes of studying at a time. Break those sections up with a ten-minute break to get the most out of your session.

5. Stop studying, sleep and dominate the final test.

There comes a point in every study session where every student has to sleep. Sometimes students forget about this. They stay up late, drinking a lot of coffee, feeling miserable, and working for a long time. Then when the test comes, they are groggy and end up writing weird things.

Don’t write weird essays. Just go to sleep. It is one of the most important things you can do during the studying process.

One high school friend of mine drew a sailboat on an essay exam because he couldn’t gather his thoughts enough to write a great essay. In case you are curious, sailboats don’t score well on essay tests. And yes, that is a true story. You can’t make that up.

If you’ve done your work, you should be set up for a great performance on your final exams. Relax, know that you’ve done your best, and dominate the test.


Writing Essays – The New View in Cather’s Short Story, Paul’s Case

As we analyze Willa Cather’s short story, “Paul’s Case,” we must recall that it is more than twice as long as Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and more than three times as long as Joyce’s “Clay.” Thus, as we would expect, the length of the story provides many opportunities for richness of detail and some looseness involving the use of the strong old view value statement and the new view reversal at the end of the story. When you write your essay on the story, take that into account.

The good news — despite all that rich detail, the clarity of the core new view in Paul’s Case still finds a way to make this long, rich-in-detail story understandable.

Step #1: At the beginning of a short story, a strong value statement, an old view, is given by or about the main character.

As the story begins, Paul is in a meeting with his school principal and several of his teachers, being interviewed to see whether he should be allowed off his suspension and back into school-When questioned by the Principal as to why he was there Paul stated, politely enough, that he wanted to come back to school. This was a lie, but Paul was quite accustomed to lying; found it, indeed, indispensable for overcoming friction.

Paul didn’t really want to come back to school because he didn’t like or respect anyone there. The principal and teachers, who weren’t fond of the idea, either, formed a ring of tormentors about Paul as they interviewed him, peppering him with hostile questions.

Their negative evaluation and attitude toward Paul is expressed by the narrator in a strong value statement:

His teachers…[stated] their respective charges…with such a rancor and aggrievedness…this was not a usual case….

A strong, memorable, and vivid symbol is also mentioned-His teachers felt this afternoon that his whole attitude was symbolized by his shrug and his flippantly red carnation flower.

After Paul left the meeting, having been accepted back into school by the principal, a teacher made a second strong value statement about Paul: I don’t really believe that smile of his comes altogether from insolence; there’s something sort of haunted about it. There is something wrong about the fellow.

To this point, we have several strong value statements about Paul, as seen through the eyes of his teachers and the principal. We have been told that,

  • Paul was quite accustomed to lying & needed it to overcome friction.

  • Paul’s was not a usual case.

  • Paul has a sort of hysterically defiant, contemptuous manner.

  • Paul’s whole attitude was symbolized by his shrug and his flippant, red carnation flower.

  • There is something wrong about Paul.

And so now we have acquired two solid parts of the old view strong value statement:

…not a usual case…something wrong about the fellow.

The final part of the old view strong value statement doesn’t occur until the middle section of the story. (Talk about looseness in utilizing the old view-new view relationship!)

When Paul was kicked out of school, his father put him to work as a clerk at a company called Denny and Carson’s. His father also closed Paul’s access to Carnegie Hall and the theater troupe. The members of the theater troupe were vastly amused when they found out about Paul’s many creative stories involving them, and their evaluation fulfills the final portion of the old view strong value statement: They agreed with the faculty and with his father that Paul’s was a bad case.

We can now see all the parts of the strong value statement:

  • This was not a usual case.
  • There is something wrong about Paul.
  • Paul’s was a bad case.

And since that ties in nicely with the title of the story, on the matter of the old view I rest my — errr, Paul’s — case.

Step #2: In the middle of a short story, the old view is supported or undercut with descriptions, conflicts, and resolutions that set up the new view at the end.

DESCRIPTION: One description plays a major role in supporting the old view. Paul lived on Cordelia street, and, after late-night concerts, Paul never went up Cordelia Street without a shudder of loathing. He approached it with the nerveless sense of defeat, the hopeless feeling of sinking back forever into ugliness and commonness that he had always had when he came home. He experienced all the physical depression which follows a debauch; the loathing of respectable beds, of common food, of a house penetrated by kitchen odors.

The description and the name of the street are not coincidental. Cordelia is the name of the rejected daughter in Shakespeare’s play, “King Lear.” It is plain that Paul feels rejected by his father, as Cordelia was by hers. And Paul, in turn, rejects the poverty of his home, the plainness of his life, and the dullness of his life at school, preferring the exotic, unreal life of art, music, and theater to the harsh realities of his real life.

CONFLICT: From various incidents, we find conflict supporting the old view as Paul grapples with his father’s wrath and rejection by constantly lying to him about why he is late coming home, where he has been, or where he is going. For instance, one Sunday he can’t stand his ugly home, so he tells his father he’s going to a friend’s house to study.

RESOLUTION: But he goes instead to hang out with his friend, Charley Edwards, the leading juvenile of the permanent stock company which played at one of the downtown theaters. So Paul resolved his conflicts by lying, going outside reality and associating with people who live the unreal, exotic life of art, music, and theater: Matters went steadily worse with Paul at school. In the itch to let his instructors know how heartily he despised them and their homilies, and how thoroughly he was appreciated elsewhere, he mentioned once or twice that he had no time to fool with theorems; adding-with a twitch of the eyebrows and a touch of that nervous bravado which so perplexed them-that he was helping the people down at the stock company; they were old friends of his.

CONFLICT: Paul was kicked out of school, and his father put him to work as a clerk at a company called Denny and Carson’s. His father also closed Paul’s access to Carnegie Hall and the theater troupe. Paul hated and internally resisted the situation.

RESOLUTION: With his real life of fantasy closed to him, Paul resolves his conflict by lying (as usual, outside of reality) about a deposit he was supposed to make for his employer, stealing about three thousand dollars. And he went to New York to live the life of the gloriously rich. In those days, three thousand dollars went a long ways.

Step #3. At the end of a short story, a new view reversal of the old view is usually revealed.

At the end of the story, Paul has gone to New York where he is surrounded by many people, sort of a ring of admirers who give him respect, the reverse of the ring of tormentors at the story’s beginning, even though the respect at the end is based on his false, stolen wealth. And Paul plays his new role by showing his own respect toward everyone in New York at the end, quite the reverse from how he had been flippantly treating others at the beginning of the story.

The title, “Paul’s Case,” and the use of not a usual case and a bad case in the beginning and the middle all refer to something never specifically verbalized within the story. But the meaning is shown very clearly — Paul has problems with growing up, with school, with home, with identity, with finding himself, and with belonging.

Actually, it is not unusual for a young man to have such problems growing up. In Paul’s case, however, it was not a usual case — it was more than that, it was a bad case. But the ending reveals that Paul’s case was a lot worse than merely bad — it was deadly, it was fatal, since it ended with Paul’s suicide. So we see that the ending of the story emphasizes a drastic expansion of the old view to a new view that is adding, not only reversing, showing that Paul’s case was far more serious and far more dangerous or bad than anyone had realized or imagined.

On the other hand, at the beginning of the story Paul was daydreaming his fantasies about the theater, whereas at the end of the story he was actually living the privileged life of the respected wealthy — even if only for a short time — not merely fantasizing it. That reversal is what counted most — at least, from Paul’s point of view.

Whether you choose in your essay to emphasize the new view reversal of Paul’s situation or the reversal for his teachers, his father, and others at the very end, our analysis of the new view core does provide the lens through which we can clearly see through all the details to the new view reversal and expansion at the end.


Writing Paragraphs: Building Blocks of Prose


While words can be considered the individual units that make up sentences, sentences themselves are the components that comprise paragraphs. As the building blocks of prose, whether it be of the nonfiction, memoir, autobiography, flash fiction, short fiction, or novel genre, they have form, structure, and purpose. This article will examine all three.


Visually, a paragraph appears as a block of sentences, usually with the first line indented. That indentation signals the beginning of each subsequent one within the text.

“As a reader, you identify the paragraph at a glance, just by its appearance,” according to Carol Pemberton in her book, “Writing Paragraphs” (Allyn and Bacon, 1997, p. 1). “Paragraphs vary considerably in length because they vary in content and purpose.”

Organizationally, they enable the writer to focus on a single main idea, which can be both clarified and supported by one or more relevant points. Linked by a second or related idea, the succeeding paragraph does the same, and collectively they illustrate a longer, more encompassing idea or theme, as would be expressed in an essay, a term paper, or a nonfiction book’s chapter.

Paragraphs can contain both general and specific statements, such as the following.

General: Movies can be suspenseful.

Specific: Movies, such as Die Hard and Die Hard 2, with their fast-paced action, can be suspenseful.

The second example is specific because it names two movies and explains why they are suspenseful.

General statements, which are prone to reader interpretation, can summarize the main idea in each paragraph, but specific ones enable him to focus on a specific feature of the main idea.

Properly structured paragraphs contain two integral elements.

1). A general topic sentence, which usually appears first, that states the paragraph’s main idea.

2). One or more specific sentences that support and illustrate the main idea.

Consider the following paragraph, whose topic sentence appears in boldface type and whose supporting sentences appear with standard imprints.

“There are ways to save on airfare. Not all seats on all flights carry the same price tag. If you book early enough, for example, you can usually find a lower fare, because the seats set aside for it are still available. Since most people travel on weekends, flying mid-week, such as on a Tuesday, or a Wednesday, will secondly offer the lowest fares. Finally, if you fly during less popular seasons, like the winter, you can take advantage of the lower fares airlines offer to fill traditionally emptier airplanes.”

Aside from a paragraph’s basic structure, it should also incorporate other elements. One of them is unity.

“When applied to paragraph writing, unity means the paragraph is about one primary idea,” emphasizes Pemberton (ibid, p. 7). “All the statements in the paragraph have to do with that one idea. The writer does not wander away from the idea, but rather stays with it and leads readers to a clear understanding.”

As illustrated by the previous example, the topic sentence, like an introduction to what was to follow, stated that there were ways to save on airfares and the supporting ones, maintaining unity about the subject, gave three methods of doing so.

Another important paragraph element is support or development-that is, does the writer support, develop, and almost prove his topic? If, in the previous example, discussion following the main theme entailed the best Florida hotels, there would have been no relevance to it.

Yet another element is length. Paragraph length itself depends upon the topic sentence and varies in accordance with the degree of development resulting from it or the amount of support required to illustrate it.

Finally, the concluding statement either offers a proving, lasting thought or a restatement of the topic one.


While school students may have little choice as to the topics they must write about because of curriculum complying assignments, others, particularly freelance authors, are virtually limitless in what they can explore in paragraphs and the longer pieces of which those paragraphs are made.

Nevertheless, they should consider several aspects before they attempt to transform ideas into words.

Interest, knowledge, experience, and abilities, first and foremost, should serve as the weathervanes that point to potential subjects. If a person has an interest in something, it is likely that it has led to his knowledge of it, possibly through study, and even his personal experience with it, qualifying him to explore and explain it in written form.

If, on the other hand, it is not possible to select a topic, the writer can always take the designated one and approach it from a new, fresh, or different angle.

Purpose is another aspect. Although a school assignment can certainly constitute a “purpose,” other, not necessarily mandatory ones can be to write, to inform, to offer advice or direction to others, to explain, to persuade, and to entertain.

Readership, the third, should always be considered when an author writes something, especially if his intention is to publish it. A school assignment, needless to say, will be read by a teacher or a professor, possibly for a grade. A travelogue in which the important sights in San Antonio, Texas, are discussed will facilitate tourist trip planning. And an article about rose garden care will appeal to those with such home flora.

Writing ideas themselves can result from internal inspiration, external stimulation, or brainstorming various possibilities, and then filtering, sorting, and grouping the points to be discussed.


“The topic sentence states the main idea of a paragraph,” according to Pemberton (ibid, p. 35). “For that reason, it is the most important sentence in the paragraph. Writers build paragraphs to support topic sentences, and readers rely on their sentences to see which main ideas are being developed.”

The topic sentence itself serves two purposes. Firstly, it establishes and foreshadows the paragraph’s purpose. Secondly, it serves to narrow its scope by offering a controlling idea, creating the parameters to which the author should adhere so that information is relevant and does not stray from its purpose.

A topic sentence should lead to discussion and elaboration and presents an idea that is narrow enough to be adequately covered in a single paragraph, but should not be complete in and of itself without that proceeding paragraph.

Consider the following sentences.

“The principle value of writing for a student is that it improves his grades.” The last four words, “it improves his grades,” limits it to the points that can be discussed in that paragraph and sets up reader expectation that he will learn how it does so.

“Think of the topic sentence as a writer’s promise to the reader,” Pemberton advises (ibid, p. 36). “The writer promises to discuss a specified main idea.”


While topic statements are general and sometimes short in nature, sentences that follow to support them should be specific and can be longer, since they usually present facts. They are intended to provide readers with clear, precise understanding.

General references often leave readers open to interpretation based upon their own experiences and understanding. “A well-paying position,” for instance, may mean $25,000 to an unemployed person, but a seven-digit figure to a wealthy one. Without specific figures, neither will ever know what it means to the author.

In order to support a topic sentence, the writer must use specific details, facts, examples, and even published quotes, such as “13.5 percent of Americans live below the poverty line,” according to the “Probing Poverty” article in the September 15, 2019 issue of News and Views magazine.

“Details provide support,” according to Pemberton (ibid, p. 62). “(They) are specific pieces of information that show what the writer means by the topic sentence. Examples illustrate a main idea. One or more examples might be used in a paragraph, depending on the general idea being supported. Facts are statements about which independent observers agree… Quotations are the exact words of a writer or speaker.”


Another important paragraph writing element is coherence. Coherence itself entails several aspects. Relationships between ideas, for instance, should be clear and connectable-that is, one should logically and smoothly flow from the previous one. Supporting ideas additionally explain previous statements. Main ideas can be expressed through repetition. Finally, text flow is ensured and enhanced by means of transition words, such as “but,” “however,” “nevertheless,” “therefore,” “for,” and “yet,” among others.

“Reading incoherent writing is like riding with a driver who is lost, who wanders up and down bumpy streets, hunting for a destination, but wasting time and jarring passengers around,” comments Pemberton (ibid, p. 68).

Consider the coherency of the following paragraph.

“I have just returned from a hectic day. My alarm, as usual, went off at 6:30 and I showered and dressed. It looked like it was going to drizzle so I brought my umbrella. There was hardly a drop in the sky, but everyone drove as if it was pouring cats and dogs and I was almost 15 minutes late to work. I found the report from my secretary on my desk. I think she’s having relationship problems, because she hasn’t been up to snuff lately. Maybe she didn’t sleep well last night. I had a night like that last week. Even the Tylenol didn’t help. Because of the traffic, I missed Harold’s opening comments in the meeting. He twice told me we’d go fishing some Saturday, but never seems to remember when I put him up to it. I wolfed down my lunch and almost had a fight with a client in the afternoon. I could hardly contain myself. The traffic was really crawling because of a downpour when I drove home. As I walked into the kitchen, I realized I hadn’t gone food shopping lately, so the cupboards were bare. I plopped down on the couch instead, still in my suit and tie, and fell asleep.”

Coherence can be enhanced with the proper use of transitional words, phrases, and clauses.

“Words, phrases, and clauses used as transitions are like bridges that carry readers safely from one point to another,” Pemberton advises (ibid, p. 72).


Expository writing entails explaining, describing, illustrating (through words), and revealing, and appears in almost all genres, including fiction. While narrative writing can demonstrate actions, emotions, feelings, and moods through the conversation and interaction between two or more characters, its expository counterpart simply informs, as in “Regina and Dawn had a disagreement last night” or “The garden was a tangle of weeds.” It is certainly instrumental in writing paragraphs.

There are several expository writing techniques that can be used in and can even enhance paragraph creation. The first of these involved comparison and contrast.

“Writing with the comparison/contrast pattern, you examine similarities (comparisons) and differences (contrasts) between two people, objects, or ideas,” according to Pemberton (bid, p. 135). “The topic can be as abstract as socialism versus capitalism, or it can be as concrete as brand X versus brand Y toothpaste. Obviously for a single paragraph, the topic must be narrow enough to allow discussion of specific similarities and differences.”

Consider the following two examples.

Comparisons: “The small restaurant that opened in town last month is very much like a diner; the service is friendly, the food is simple and wholesome, and the prices are modest.”

Contrast: “Frayer’s wheat bread is similar to Hoffmayer’s: all-natural and baked with stone-ground wheat. On the other hand, it tends to be coarser and drier.”

Another expository writing technique is designated “process writing.” Ideally suited to how-to guides and instructional manuals, it presents chronological, step-by-step procedures, as in the following.

“In order to reupholster a chair, you first need to relocate it to a work area, such as a basement or a garage. You next need to remove the staples or tacks that keep the fabric affixed to the frame. Inspect the foam or stuffing under it after you have. If the chair is five or more years old, it may have begun to decay and you will most likely want to replace it. Measure the area it covered and cut the new stuffing according to the required size, tightly packing it into the chair’s crevices. The new fabric covering must also be cut to measured size. After you have, pull it around the chair’s frame tautly before re-stapling or re-tacking it in place. You may need a helping hand to pull one side of it while you fasten the other. Finally, return the chair to its original location.”

Another expository writing technique is that of classification. It enables the author to categorize objects, things, concepts, and even people, and then provides sufficient details so that the reader can understand the differences between them. Nevertheless, a single common denominator unifies the paragraph. Consider the following example.

“All published books are written, but there are differences between them. Those from the United States and the United Kingdom, for example, appear in English. However, words such as ‘harbor’ are spelled differently, with the letter ‘u,’ as in ‘harbour.’ When they are placed vertically on a shelf, their titles are read from the top to the bottom. Books in Germany are obviously in that language, but the titles on their spines are read from the bottom to the top. Those from Israel are neither in English or German, but appear in Hebrew, and are read from the back cover, which is actually the front one. Pages are read from the right to the left.”

In this example, “published books” constitutes the common denominator, but their spelling, language, spine printing, and reading direction serve as their distinctions.

Yet another expository writing technique is that of definition.

“Normally, definitions are very brief-just enough to explain a term or concept that is either unfamiliar or being used in an unusual sense… ,” according to Pemberton (ibid, p. 157). “Sometimes, however, an entire paragraph… will be devoted to an extended definition of a term. Because of the greater length, readers naturally expect that one meaning (or perhaps several meanings) will be elaborated on.”

Consider this example of a paragraph that offers a definition.

“The most common definition of the world ‘alone’ is to be somewhere without the company or presence of at least one other. But there is more to this concept than just existing on your own. If you are uncomfortable with, distrustful of, and therefore unable to connect with others, you are equally alone, because you cannot complete that person-to-person or soul-to-soul link. The definition extends beyond the sheer presence of another. Instead, it involves your ability to enter into a close bond with that person. If you are at a gathering with ten friends, for instance, yet cannot relate to them in any meaningful way, you can also consider yourself to be alone. Finally, if you try to approach someone and he or she either shows no interest in you or even rejects you, you can also consider yourself to be ‘alone.'”

Article Sources:

Pemberton, Carol. “Writing Paragraphs.” Needham Heights, Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon, 1997.


The Biggest Misconceptions About Plagiarism

Students should always be careful to avoid plagiarism when writing term papers and essays. There are severe academic consequences for students caught plagiarizing even a portion of their term paper – most will automatically receive a failing grade, and in many cases the student will be expelled from school entirely.

The reason why plagiarism is treated so seriously by teachers, professors, and school administrators is that plagiarism is considered a form of cheating. By copying another person’s words or ideas without citing the source, not only are you failing to give proper credit to the author, but you are passing the work off as your own. You falsely represent to the reader of your essay (ex. your professor) that you came up with the words and ideas by yourself. This is no different than copying an exam answer off a classmate and pretending that you arrived at the answer yourself.

Actively remembering to cite your sources of information and recognizing the consequences for not doing so will help prevent deliberate cases of plagiarism. However, even well-intentioned students can get in trouble by failing to understand what constitutes as plagiarism and what does not.

The biggest misconception about plagiarism is that you only need to cite a source when you’ve directly copied the words of that source – for example if you copied a sentence word-for-word from a book into your term paper. These students mistakenly think that if you change the words of the sentence or put the author’s ideas in your own words, it is not necessary to cite the source. This is not true!

Students must provide a citation whenever information from another source is used in their essay, even if the original words were changed. Plagiarism counts not only when you borrow other people’s words, but also when you borrow their thoughts or ideas. Therefore, paraphrasing is not a substitute for citation. Neither is summarizing. The only time you can use information without attribution or credit is when the information is considered common knowledge – something that is generally accepted as a fact or can be easily found in reference materials.

Here are some other myths about plagiarism:

Plagiarism only counts if most of the research paper was plagiarized. FALSE: Even if only one phrase or sentence in the essay was copied without attribution, it is still considered plagiarism. It is easy to get away with plagiarism because it is so hard to detect and prove.

FALSE: Not only are teachers and professors experts in their subject matter and therefore likely to be familiar with the source you are plagiarizing, but educators are increasingly using Internet tools that can automatically detect even minor cases of plagiarism.

Remembering these misconceptions will help you avoid accidental plagiarism in your next essay or term paper.


What Is the Difference Between an Essay, a Dissertation and a Thesis?

These three assignment types; essays, dissertations and theses are all important to students because at some point in the life of a student, there will be the request to complete at least one of the assignment types listed above!

Essays, dissertations and theses are all types of academic documents, produced by scholars and students and based on a specific question, subject matter or dilemma. They are used by colleges, schools, sixth forms and Universities as a means of determining how well a student is performing in a certain subject area and how well they have grasped crucial knowledge about a particular subject. And yet essays, dissertations and theses’ are also often used to see how well a student is able to respond to specific questions on a particular subject matter and how well developed their skills are in terms of actually writing essays.

So what exactly is an essay? What is a dissertation? And what is a thesis?

The online dictionary defines an essay as; ‘(a) a short literary composition on a literary subject, usually presenting the personal view of the author, (b) something resembling such a composition.’

The online dictionary goes on to define a dissertation as; ‘a treatise advancing a new point of view resulting from research, usually a requirement for an advanced academic degree.’

And finally a thesis shares the same definition as a dissertation on the online dictionary website, with one crucial difference; a thesis is usually longer than a dissertation.

So ultimately an essay, a dissertation and a thesis all share many traits:

  • They are all literary compositions; that is to say that they are written documents or pieces of text.

  • They all reflect in some way the author’s point of view.

  • They are all based on some form of research.

  • They are all discussing some form of topic or subject matter.

  • They can all be used as a means of academic testing.

However, there are differences between these three academic assignment types, and when you are completing either an essay, a dissertation or a thesis it is important to know what it is that defines the document as either one of these forms or assignment types so that you can ensure that you approach the completion of the document correctly.

Some of the main differences separating out these three document types are:

  • Essays are generally shorter than dissertations and theses.

  • Essays are usually used to explore an argument or to provide more information on a particular subject. Thus you’ll find that most essay questions start with ‘who, what, where, how or why’. They are looking for a conclusion to be drawn by the author, following an assessment of research that is already available.

  • Dissertations are usually looking for the author to find new evidence to draw a conclusion about a specific subject matter, as the definition states, to ‘advance a new point of view’. This means that dissertations are looking to add to the research pool on a specific subject, not simply discuss research that is already available.

– Theses usually hold the same aims and goals as dissertations, but the level of exploration and investigation into a particular subject matter is greater, and so the length of a thesis is generally longer than that of a dissertation.


Basic Elements of Technical Writing

Technical writing is a specialised form of writing.

Its goal is to help readers use a technology or to understand a process, product or concept. Often these processes, products or concepts are complex, but need to be expressed in a much simpler, reader-friendly form.

So within the technical writing genre, you will find: technical reports, installation and maintenance manuals, proposals, white papers, on-line help, process standards, work instructions and procedures.

While each discipline has its specific requirements, some basic elements are common. But before looking at those, the most important thing a technical writer must consider is the audience.


  • How familiar are readers with the subject and with the specialised terms and abbreviations you need to use?
  • What is the best way to explain those terms or shortened forms – footnotes, endnotes, glossary, table of abbreviations, appendix, links?
  • Do you need to accommodate secondary readers (e.g. the manager or financier who will make the decision about the proposal), and how will you do that?

Now for those all-important elements:

  1. Clarity – The logical flow of the document will help readers understand the content. It can be useful to ask someone who is not familiar with the topic to review your writing before you finalise it. Using headings, illustrations, graphs or tables can be useful – your aim is to make it as easy as possible for your readers to understand what you’ve written. Consider how the way the text sits on the page or screen – another clue to maximising clarity for your readers.
  2. Accuracy – The information and the interpretation of data that you present must be accurate. If it’s not, your readers will question the credibility of the content. Be careful to clearly differentiate between fact and opinion, and to accurately cite references to other works.
  3. Brevity – Strive to find the balance between the amount of information presented and the time needed to read the document. Remember that you can use an appendix or link to provide supplementary or background information. Consider using an illustration, table or graph rather than words to explain a concept – but remember, if you use a ‘visual’, don’t give a long written explanation.
  4. Sentence length – Generally, complex or unfamiliar concepts are best presented in shorter sentences. This will give readers time to digest small pieces of information before moving on to the next. While this can be difficult to achieve, try to aim for approximately 25 words per sentence. If you find you’ve written a series of long sentences, look for ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘however’ and similar words where you can break the sentence.
  5. Paragraphs – The age-old rule about one topic per paragraph is a useful guide. That doesn’t mean that you can have only one paragraph for each topic, but it does mean that having only one topic in each paragraph makes for clear, logical writing.
  6. Reader-centricity – You are writing for your readers. Make it as easy as possible for them to understand your work.

Keep these basic elements and other principles in mind as you undertake your technical writing tasks.


Importance of Family in Our Life

Family is very important part of our everyday life. It helps us in improving our personality. It also helps us in shaping our life. It teaches us the value of love, affection, care, truthfulness and self-confidence and provides us tools and suggestions which are necessary to get success in life.

Family is a place where you can be yourself. It is a place where you are accepted for what you are. This is where you are completely tension free and everyone is there to help you. Family encourages you when you are surrounded by problems. It helps you survive through tough times and bring joy and happiness into life.

Decency is very important in the communication of daily life. It helps us make strong relationship with others and make us come across as a very gentle, intelligent and likable person. Everyone loves to be in a company of such person. Family helps bring decency into our life which is necessary to lead a happy life.

One of the most important aims of our life is to build a successful and highly rewarding career. Our families help us in creating a strong future. It gives us valuable suggestion about different career prospective. It not only guides us in choosing the best but also financially helps us to cover the expenses of education. Thus it helps us in making a good future.

The importance of family is probably realized when one went to holiday or celebrate an occasion without family members. It was very hard to celebrate an occasion or went to holiday without being surrounded by family members. At that time probably we realize that how important they are to us. At that time, we came to know about the importance of our families.

Today, most people don’t realize the importance of family. They prefer to spend most of their time with their friends. But when they are surrounded by problems, it was their family that helped them get rid of problems. At the time, when even our best friends refuse to help us, it was our family that came to help us. So it is very important for each and every individual to give importance to their families above anything else and enjoy spending time with family members.


On Studies: A Review

The essay ‘On studies’, by Samuel Johnson was first published in The Adventurer in 1753. It was an effort by the author to introduce to his audience the importance of reading, writing and conversation in the make up of an individual’s personality. The main argument focused on the reference from Bacon which states that: “reading makes a full man, conversation a ready man, and writing an exact man.”

The structure of the essay is simple and organized, with mostly small paragraphs often starting with a topic sentence. However, the sentence structure remains complex throughout the essay. The sentences are very long, with extensive use of strong vocabulary. This not only depicts that the author is very learned, but also that he is trying to create an impression upon the readers. The steady flow of ideas is evident in the writing, as the author talks about reading, writing and conversation, one after the other. This helps the reader into a better understanding of the point of view of the author. The tone of the essay is serious, and also critical at some points, as the writer criticizes the behavior of the intellects and learned people. The author adopts a very evocative way of writing the essay. The overall impact of rhetoric in the essay is persuasive and convincing to the readers.

From the very first paragraph of the essay it is quite evident that the author is being critical of his contemporaries. He does regard them as ‘ingenious’, but suggests them to be considerate about the significance of reading, and the value of considering others opinions and ideas. He is in a way advising his contemporaries to acknowledge the work of earlier people and learn from it, rather than having a stiff approach towards them. An interesting phenomenon to be noticed here is that the author provides a self-example, of following the work of predecessors, as he is referring to Francis Bacon. It can also be interpreted that Samuel Johnson considers Bacon as his role model, as in the essay he justifies the need of reading, writing and conversation among the people, as stated by Bacon. As indicated by the essay text the target audience of the author are his contemporaries, and the people who are in some way or the other related to the work of reading and writing, as well as teachers. It can also be established that the author has targeted learned audience as in a number of places he refers to famous people like; Persius and Boerhaave, about whom the general people must unaware.

There is no general conflict to be observed in the essay, it has a simple orientation that goes about the main theme; of considering general opinions. There is a touch a mild irony when the author talks about the assumed state of libraries; “…filled only with useless lumber…” He suggests that this idea is somehow propagated, and tells about the situation of people who are far from the need of libraries and books. In the very next paragraph the author intelligibly argues that learning from the former generations is essential. He talks about people who tend to say that they learned nothing from the writings of their predecessors. The author considers them prejudiced, and says that such people are unlikely to excel themselves as they can’t ever evaluate their own work, when they never consider any other.

Further in text the author signifies that there are very few people granted with knowledge, and that these people should consider it their responsibility to impart, share and transfer this knowledge, or at least a part of it, to the rest of the mankind. The author becomes critical when he says that people who keep knowledge just stuffed in their heads are useless, “…and he is by no means to be accounted useless or idle who has stored his mind with acquired knowledge…” The author argues that anyone who has accumulated learning should next consider ways to impart it. The author has also with very clear examples, explained the state of people who have reclined to solitude in order to study, learn and write. He thinks these people no matter how intellectual have deprived themselves of the art of conversation. Giving the example of the chemistry teacher who considers his students as clear in mind about chemistry as his own, he tells that actually the teacher himself has forgotten the difference of sate of minds and abilities to learn of different age groups. In another interesting illustration he narrates one of his experiences of attending a lecture of a renowned philosopher, who though well learned, only with much hesitation was able to distinguish two terms.

As the writer says, “Such was the dexterity with which this learned reader facilitated to his auditors the intricacies of science; and so true is it that a man may know what he cannot teach.” The author with much concern is trying to draw attention of his readers to the fact that not only learning, but the ability of expressing one’s knowledge is very important.

Towards the end of the essay the author reconciles the significance of writing and conversation attained through reading. He tells that writing helps determining thoughts, while conversation helps elaborate and diversify them, and this is only achievable through rigorous reading.

The essay by Samuel Johnson with much clarity indulges the readers into considering that success in literary fields largely depends, on reading, writing, conversing and most of all upon being considerate of the opinions and ideas of others. The writer concludes the essay by saying that it should be the aim of every person to attain command over the abilities of reading, writing and conversing, even though it might be bit difficult, but one should keep striving for perfection.


Research Paper Ideas – Where Can You Get Them?

If they assign topics then half the problem is done but if they do not assign topics then you should be well prepared to find a suitable topic to write on! Well here are a few ways to get the best term paper ideas you could ever wish for.

  1. Archived papers- take a look at the papers which have been archived in the libraries of your school or college. You can get an idea of the writing style your professors want and what topics have already been covered. If you do like the writing style and topic then do take a look at the index and bibliography of the written paper. You will get a list of related topics which you can use for inspiration and to search out for a topic of your own.

  2. Always ask your teacher to give you a list of the topics which have already been covered to prevent repeating yourself endlessly. Reading the same thing again and again is not interesting to professors and you could lose out on grades due to this.

  3. Once you’ve got a tentative list of short listed topics, please do show that to your professor to allow his to sift out those which are already covered or too broad and too narrow.

  4. Writing on controversial topics is really great for a beginner but unless your professor expressly asks for a controversial topic don’t attempt it. Brainstorm on several topics to find one which is the best for your needs. Then do show these topics to a few of your friends as they can tell you a few more interesting options which you can use to brainstorm even more.

  5. Stick to the instruction sheet that your professor gives you. Remain inside the criteria that your professor has assigned to you or he is more than likely to reject any topics you shortlist and you will lose almost all of your hard work.

  6. When you do select a topic make sure that you have sufficient research to back up your theory and thesis. Sometimes the newer ideas are very, very, secret and you might not get enough to back it up! As a result you might not be able to reach the word limit of the essay you have been requested for your paper. Don’t mess around with your word limits and your font size irrespective if you are feeling lazy as this can get you in trouble.

  7. Do your research for your term paper well. You should be able to defend you paper well. Be well versed in almost all the pros and cons of your topic as this is the only way you can defend your topic well.

Make a list of all your research paper ideas as you should be able to keep them together and then keep them ready for your professor to sort through.


Writing the Shorter Memoir


You are singularly unique and no one in the past or future was or will be the exact equivalent of you. This philosophy can be extended to your life and the experiences that comprise it, in terms of circumstances, time, the involvement of other people, your viewpoint, strengths, weaknesses, reactions, feelings, emotions, and conclusions. There is nothing more selfless than using that life, or at least parts of it, to improve, inspire, or benefit another’s. The amount of experiences, when considered in retrospect, must be staggering in number and this was expressed by the name of a writing course once offered at Hofstra University on Long Island, called “Everyone Has a Story to Tell.” Begin thinking, as you read this, what yours may be.

Who do you know more about than yourself? Even if you believe that there are parts and aspects about yourself that you have lost touch with, or never quite knew, writing short or long memoirs may remedy that. When Oprah Winfrey tried to determine what the most important thing to a human being was, the consensus she received was “That I matter!” Writing a memoir is one way of demonstrating that you do.

“To have a voice is to have a self, and to have a self is powerful,” wrote Bill Roorbach in “Writing Life Stories: How to Make Memories into Memoirs, Ideas into Essays, and Life into Literature” (Writer’s Digest Books, 2008, p. 18).

And Socrates wrote, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”


Depending upon whether you write for yourself or for a larger audience, what may most matter in a memoir is not necessarily what happened, but what it meant to you.

“What happened to the memoirist is not what matters,” according to Jane Taylor McDonnell in her book, “Living to Tell the Tale” (Penguin Books, 1998, p. viii); “it matters only what the memoirist makes of what happened.”

This may not entail the subtle difference you initially perceive.

Take a look at the following two lines to compare this concept:

1). What happened: When I walked along the beach on the sweltering, late-summer day, I looked out toward the ocean.

2). Makes happen: When I walked along the beach on the sweltering, late-summer day, I looked out toward the ocean, realizing the infinity of the world and with that infinity, for the first time, I saw God.

After taking your readers on a journey that you yourself have already traveled, you need to deliver them to the same destination as your own. This is not necessarily a physical one. Instead, it is a destination of learning, insight, new perspective, understanding, and wisdom, enabling memoirist and reader alike to interpret, sort out, and conclude what occurred to him or her. The journey itself can be intensely pleasurable or intensely painful.

In essence, a memoir illustrates “I learned this by experiencing that.”

“The memoirist, like the poet and the novelist, must engage with the world because engagement makes experience (and) experience makes wisdom… ,” continues McDonnell (p. viii).

Writing a memoir recovers lost memories, captures events, and releases emotions, enabling the author to reach deep into himself and attain some degree of therapeutic value. It may ultimately heal.

“We… all aspire to become meaning-makers,” according to Eric Maisel in his book, “Deep Writing: 7 Principles that Bring Ideas to Life” (Jeremy P. Tarcher/ Putnam, 1999, p. 5). “The more we want ‘to give shape to our fate,’ as Albert Camus put it, the more the meaning we make or fail to make concern us. A meaning-maker is a person who takes her humanity and experiences and attempts to put them together coherently, artfully, beautifully, but at the very least somehow, for her own sake and for the sake of others. That product may or may not change the world, or even reach the world. But a meaning-maker can do nothing less than struggle to make meaning, because meaning-making is moral imperative.”

You, expressed in the first person singular (“I”), are both the experiencing person and the narrator, and you therefore directly engage the reader.

“A memoir is a true story, a work of narrative built directly from the memory of the writer, with an added element of creative research… ” Roorbach also wrote, (p. 13). “The writer is also the protagonist-the person to whom the events of the story happen… (It) arises in and exists only because of the first-person singular: the I remembering.”

“… The reader shares two names with the writer: I and me,” he later wrote (p. 158). “And though the process of identification is largely subconscious, a powerful connection between reader and writer is forged in the continual invocation of self that is the first person,” creating that soul-to-soul link.


Memoirs should thus contain the following elements.

1), A memoir should be written in the first-person singular-that is, say “I,”

2). It should be a container for the author’s insight.

It should take the reader on a journey. The author’s work should have a specific beginning, middle, and end.

3). The topic should be universal.

4). The author’s life is interesting to him, because it is about him. However, his memoir should appeal to others.

5). A memoir should impart some knowledge, understanding, or insight by the end of the reader’s journey-that is, I learned this by experiencing that.

Article Sources:

Maisel, Eric. “Deep Writing: 7 Principles that Bring Ideas to Life.” New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999.

McDonnell, Jane Taylor. “Live to Tell the Tale.” New York: Penguin Books, 1998.

Roorbach, Bill, with Kristen Keckler, PhD. “Writing Life Stories: How to Make Memories into Memoirs, Ideas into Essays, and Life into Literature.” Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 2008.