Friday, January 27, 2012

MLA Made Easy?

Every time you use someone else's ideas or words you must follow it with an in-text citation and an entry on the Works Cited page.

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel" (Gibson 1).

Note that this is a direct quote, so it has quotation marks and is immediately followed by an in-text citation (Gibson 1) and that the punctuation (the period) follows the in-text citation. Gibson is the author's last name and the quote was found on page one. Also notice there is no comma between the author's last name and the page number.

When readers see the in-text citation it clues them that there will be an entry on the Works Cited page that begins with Gibson. The works cited entry for the above quote looks like this:

Works Cited

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Print.

Note that the book's title is italicized. Every period, colon, and comma are important so be sure you put them in the right place.

The biggest problem I see regarding plagiarism in college writing, is the uncited paraphrase. If it's not your idea, you must cite it. How do I know an uncited paraphrase when I see one? No one knows the exact population of Huntington Beach, or the crime rate for Atlanta - you had to look that stuff up - be sure you cite where you got that information.

Here's a paraphrased example of text followed by an in-text citation:

William Gibson's opening line of Neuromancer is a classic because it captures the tone of the industrial excess and technology of the novel while presenting a vivid image. We all know what a television tuned to static looks like (Gibson 1).

Since Gibson's opening line is paraphrased - We all know what a television tuned to static looks like - it must be followed by an in-text citation (Gibson 1).

Let's look at a slightly different example of the above:

Gibson's image of a television tuned to static betrays a society overrun by technology (1).

Notice that the in-text citation only contains a page number. Why? Because the writer used the author's name in the sentence. Whether the writer uses the author's name in the sentence or includes it in the in-text citation, the writer MUST make an entry on the Works Cited page that references Gibson.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to citations. As a college writer you will be citing essays, articles, movies, television shows, advertising, novels, and text books.

There is a great free resource online at: It is a citation generator and is free for MLA citations. Helpful hint: To cite an essay in your English textbook >click on the "All 58 Options" tab, then >click on "Chapter/Anthology". When you come to a fill-in box for which you cannot find information, just skip it.

Was this helpful? What other elements of citation have you confused? Remember, plagiarism can get you kicked out of college, so if you don't understand it, ask you professor, or go to one of the myriad websites that explain citations.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rhetoric of Political Advertising

When talking about rhetoric, we think ethos (appeals to authority), pathos (appeals to emotion), or logos (appeals to logic). Advertisers are the kings of exploiting rhetoric to get you to do something, from buying cars or fast food to electing a president.

Political advertisements often use pathos to scare the electorate into voting for a canditdate who will make things "better." Or, they may rely on hope, the way President Obama did in the last election. Today many political advertisments ask, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" the way President Reagan did in 1984.

Constitution Daily has collected the 10 Best Political Advertisements since 1952.

Here's a couple:

’60 – JFK JingleM
Candidate: John F. Kennedy, Democrat
Did he win?: Yes.

Here's an election that turned Kennedy's youth into an asset with the slogan he's "old enough to know and young enough to do."

’64 – “Daisy”
Candidate: Lyndon Johnson, Democrat
Did he win? Yes.

The spectre of atomic annihilation haunted the American public and this ad (which supposedly only ran once) kept Johnson in the oval office.

’84 – “Morning in America”
Candidate: Ronald Regan, Republican
Did he win? Yes.

This is the first political advertisement that asked, "Are you better off now then you were four years ago?" At the beginning of President Reagan's second term, the answer was "Yes!" The voters took a look at their own lives, agreed, and re-elected Reagan.

’08 – Yes We Can
Candidate: Barack Obama, Democrat
Did he win? Yes.

While online political advertisements had been around since 2004, in 2008 President Obama effectively harnessed the communicative power of the internet to get elected.

How do these different advertisements use ethos, pathos, and logos to get their candidate elected? Are they trying to frighten the masses or convince the masses that their logic is correct? What do you think?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Unemployment Rates Among College Graduates

Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce recently released a study showing that college graduates have a better chance at finding a job than those with less education. Not a surprise there, but you may be surprised at how much of a difference a college education makes when it comes to earnings and employment. "The overall unemployment rate for recent bachelor's-degree recipients is 8.9 percent, compared with 22.9 percent for recent high-school graduates and 31.5 percent for recent high-school dropouts" (Chronicle of Higher Ed).

But some college majors fare better than others. Students graduating as architects have a 13.9 percent rate of unemployment, while the arts and humanities find 11.1 percent unemployed, and liberal arts are at 9.4 percent. While architects may be an anomoly because of the horrific state of the housing market, industry oriented degrees on the whole are hired at a better rate than teachers and social workers.

Is college worth it?

Another study, "What's It Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors," shows that a college degree is a good investment. "Over their careers, full-time, full-year workers whose highest degree is a bachelor's make 74 percent more, on average, than those whose highest attainment is a high-school diploma." Of course, there is always an exception. "Counseling psychology was the only major for which bachelor's-degree recipients had lower median earnings than high-school graduates."

When looking at earnings over the course of one's lifetime "The typical worker with less than a high-school diploma earns $973,000 over a career, in 2009 dollars, while a worker with a professional degree (mainly in law or medicine) earns $3.6-million" (Chronicle of Higher Ed).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Plagiarism Checker: Good for Grammar Too!

If you are lucky enough to have access to TurnItIn at your college, I bet you didn't know it can do more than just give you a similarity rating?

TurnItIn now has e-rater, a grammar checker, that works alongside the plagiarism checker. If you don't have TurnItIn at your school, it is available for a fee online at

In addition to checking quoted, paraphrased, or summarized material, e-rater looks at grammar, style, mechanics, usage and spelling. Errors are flagged and offer students the option of dismissing e-raters' advice, or clicking on "handbook" for further explanation.

Using e-rater will improve your grammar. As a professor, I know most grammar mistakes are really proofreading errors, but when you run across something truly perplexing, e-rater's grammar handbook can teach you something new.

Before you charge off to TurnItIn with your next paper watch the following demo explaining how it works (the demo is for WriteCheck, but it works like TurnItIn).

WriteCheck Demo & Walkthrough from iP User Experience & Design on Vimeo.

Do your professors a favor and use e-rater to correct your grammar. Believe me, you'll be glad you did!

Plagiarism: Bad

There was a popular little poetic ditty when I was in college that began: Plagiarize, Let no one else's work evade your eyes, but plagiarize. Today plagiarism is still a huge problem on college campuses--and if you get caught copying someone else's work it could cost you your academic career. By the way, getting kicked out of college for cheating can also destroy your chances at good job--who wants to hire someone that steals? Nobody does.

Most of us know we shouldn't copy anyone else's work, but reminds us that there are many forms of plagiarism:
Sources Not Cited

1. "The Ghost Writer"
   The writer turns in another's work, word-for-word, as his or her own.
2. "The Photocopy"
   The writer copies significant portions of text straight from a single source, without alteration.
3. "The Potluck Paper"
   The writer tries to disguise plagiarism by copying from several different sources, tweaking the sentences to make them fit together while retaining most of the original phrasing.
4. "The Poor Disguise"
   Although the writer has retained the essential content of the source, he or she has altered the paper's appearance slightly by changing key words and phrases. 5. "The Labor of Laziness"
   The writer takes the time to paraphrase most of the paper from other sources and make it all fit together, instead of spending the same effort on original work.
6. "The Self-Stealer"
   The writer "borrows" generously from his or her previous work, violating policies concerning the expectation of originality adopted by most academic institutions.

Sources Cited (But Still Plagiarized)

7. "The Forgotten Footnote"
   The writer mentions an author's name for a source, but neglects to include specific information on the location of the material referenced. This often masks other forms of plagiarism by obscuring source locations.
8. "The Misinformer"
   The writer provides inaccurate information regarding the sources, making it impossible to find them.
9. "The Too-Perfect Paraphrase"
   The writer properly cites a source, but neglects to put in quotation marks text that has been copied word-for-word, or close to it. Although attributing the basic ideas to the source, the writer is falsely claiming original presentation and interpretation of the information.
10. "The Resourceful Citer"
   The writer properly cites all sources, paraphrasing and using quotations appropriately. The catch? The paper contains almost no original work! It is sometimes difficult to spot this form of plagiarism because it looks like any other well-researched document.
11. "The Perfect Crime"
   Well, we all know it doesn't exist. In this case, the writer properly quotes and cites sources in some places, but goes on to paraphrase other arguments from those sources without citation. This way, the writer tries to pass off the paraphrased material as his or her own analysis of the cited material.
I know some students are not aware of the various forms plagiarism can take, so be careful and shade your eyes, don't plagiarize!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Still not sure why you're in College?

College is expensive and time consuming, and if you still don't know why you're warming a seat in the lecture hall, you better get with it!

Does money matter to you? According to CNNMoney, in 2011 first-time salaries for business majors were $48,089, while engineers started at $59,435, and liberal arts majors could expect to start at $35,633. In the debt column, The Wall Street Journal says that the class of 2011 graduated with an average college loan bill of $22,900, up 47 percent in the last decade. Yikes!

Still not sure?

Have you ever taken an aptitude test? has a couple of quizzes that can help you decide. Remember, your career is something you are supposed to do for the rest of your life. You can do something you like, or you can do something to make money, or you can do both? How you ask? If you are good at accounting, but you've always wanted to be an actor, you could do accounting work for a Hollywood studio or agency.

How do you know what you like?

Think about the things that you mastered without anyone ever telling you to practice. Are you a video game aficionado? Are you a killer guitarist? A photographer with a flair for the beautiful? Think about what kind of careers are available in the field? You don't just have to play video games or the guitar to work in the software or music field.

Friday, January 6, 2012

School House Rock: Busy Prepositions

The little words called the busy "P"s . . . at, far, in, from, by, with, to, on, of, over, across and so many others.

The Preposition's job: "Connect noun or pronoun object to some other word in the sentence . . . and they never stand alone."

But what exactly is a Preposition?
The University of Ottawa Writing Center says:
A preposition links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. The word or phrase that the preposition introduces is called the object of the preposition.

A preposition usually indicates the temporal, spatial or logical relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence as in the following examples:

     The book is on the table.
     The book is beneath the table.
     The book is leaning against the table.
     The book is beside the table.
     She held the book over the table.
     She read the book during class.

In each of the preceding sentences, a preposition locates the noun "book" in space or in time.

A prepositional phrase is made up of the preposition, its object and any associated adjectives or adverbs. A prepositional phrase can function as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. The most common prepositions are "about," "above," "across," "after," "against," "along," "among," "around," "at," "before," "behind," "below," "beneath," "beside," "between," "beyond," "but," "by," "despite," "down," "during," "except," "for," "from," "in," "inside," "into," "like," "near," "of," "off," "on," "onto," "out," "outside," "over," "past," "since," "through," "throughout," "till," "to," "toward," "under," "underneath," "until," "up," "upon," "with," "within," and "without."

Each of the highlighted words in the following sentences is a preposition:

     The children climbed the mountain without fear.

In this sentence, the preposition "without" introduces the noun "fear." The prepositional phrase "without fear" functions as an adverb describing how the children climbed.

     There was rejoicing throughout the land when the government was defeated.

Here, the preposition "throughout" introduces the noun phrase "the land." The prepositional phrase acts as an adverb describing the location of the rejoicing.

     The spider crawled slowly along the banister.

The preposition "along" introduces the noun phrase "the banister" and the prepositional phrase "along the banister" acts as an adverb, describing where the spider crawled.

     The dog is hiding under the porch because it knows it will be punished for chewing up a new pair of shoes.

Here the preposition "under" introduces the prepositional phrase "under the porch," which acts as an adverb modifying the compound verb "is hiding."

     The screenwriter searched for the manuscript he was certain was somewhere in his office.

Similarly in this sentence, the preposition "in" introduces a prepositional phrase "in his office," which acts as an adverb describing the location of the missing papers.
Got it? Great! Try this quiz to test your skills.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Schoolhouse Rock: Pronouns

Next up in the School House Rock repertoire: Pronouns starring Rufus Xavier Sarasparilla . . . and a little bit about pronouns on your résumé.

How'd you like to have a name like Rufus Xavier Sarsasparilla? What if pronouns didn't exist and you had to keep repeating "Rufus Xavier Sarasparilla" instead of "I" or "he"? Wow, pronouns make things a lot easier. "Saying those pronouns over and over can really wear you down."

Here's what the OWL at Purdue has to say about pronouns:
Because a pronoun REFERS to a noun or TAKES THE PLACE OF that noun, you have to use the correct pronoun so that your reader clearly understands which noun your pronoun is referring to.

Therefore, pronouns should:

1. Agree in number. If the pronoun takes the place of a singular noun, you have to use a singular pronoun.

     If a student parks a car on campus, he or she has to buy a parking sticker.
     (NOT: If a student parks a car on campus, they have to buy a parking sticker.)

2. Agree in person. If you are writing in the "first person" (I), don't confuse your reader by switching to the "second person" (you) or "third person" (he, she, they, it, etc.). Similarly, if you are using the "second person," don't switch to "first" or "third."

     When a person comes to class, he or she should have his or her homework ready.
     (NOT: When a person comes to class, you should have your homework ready.)

3. Refer clearly to a specific noun. Don't be vague or ambiguous.

     NOT: Although the motorcycle hit the tree, it was not damaged.
     (Is "it" the motorcycle or the tree?)

Click here if you think you're ready for a pronoun quiz.

I on your résumé

Many career coaches recommend that you avoid using I, me, mine in your resume while using more team building words like ours and we. It says a lot about a person. Think about it, what does it say when an employer reads a résumé filled with phrases like "my team" or "my sales group," it makes the employer wonder if you are a team player. On the other hand, a résumé is selling "I" not "you" so if you need to use I to make your point clear, do so.

Here's a good exercise for eliminating "I" from your resume (It is also helpful when you notice one page of your essay contains sixteen "I"s).

First, write the sentence with I.
     I devised a marketing plan with advertising aimed at Generation Y and I increased company profits.

Second, just eliminate I.
Devised a marketing plan with advertising aimed at Generation Y and increased company profits.

Even though this sentence would make most English teachers cringe, if it makes sense, then use it in your résumé!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Résumés: Five Great Things To Do

Job hunters are always reminded of things they should avoid doing in their résumés. But here are five great things to do with, or include in, your résumé.

1. Show enthusiasm. It's okay to be excited about a job possibility. In fact, enthusiasm is often contagious, and says, "I'm ready to work!" What employer doesn't want an employee that conveys a can-do attitude?

2. Include Awards and Achievements. Employers want to see more than job history. If you've won awards for your work, schooling, special interests, or have done volunteer work, it tells perspective employers that you're willing to go the extra mile and that you are passionate about something.

3. Computer and media skills. Many companies maintain a high internet presence. Why? Because a lot of it it is free, and if you know how to navigate through twitter, blog spot, wordpress, Facebook, LinkedIn or other networking sites, that tells would-be bosses that they have someone who understands marketing more than most. Be sure to include mainstream software too.

4. Publications. Don't have any? Think again. All those blog posts you've stayed up late writing. Perfect. You're a published author. Employers will appreciate your love of the written word, and the fact that you can navigate successfully through the English language. One caveat here -- if your blog is entitled "All the bosses I hate" you should probably avoid putting that on your resume.

5. Use power verbs. What are power verbs? I was in charge of six employees. No! You supervised six employees. Some other power verbs to include on your résumé: executed, improved, produced, developed, directed, compiled, implemented, evaluated, designed, coordinated, and facilitated. Click here for Boston College's .pdf of action verbs.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

School House Rock: Conjunctions

Let's jazz it up at Conjunction Junction. If this tune doesn't stick in your head for the rest of the day . . .

Conjunction junction what's your function? Conjunctions are: and (additive, this AND that), but (the opposite of and, not this BUT that), and or (when you have a choice, like this OR that). Conjunctions hook up words, phrases and clauses to make them work right.

Pretty easy, right? Let's look at subordinate conjunctions and coordinate conjunctions.

Here's some tips from the OWL at D'Youville College in New York:
>Subordinate Conjunctions
A subordinate conjunction is a word or phrase that begins a dependent clause. Examples of subordinate conjunctions are the following: since, because, when, if, after, although, until, etc.

Example #1
I don't function as well as I normally do when I get tired.
Explanation: The subordinate conjunction is "when," and it begins the dependent clause "when I get tired."

Example #2
We can't buy groceries since he left his money at home.
Explanation: The subordinate conjunction is "since," and it begins the dependent clause "since he left his money at home."

>Coordinate Conjunctions
A coordinate conjunction is a word or phrase that connects two clauses. There are only 7 coordinate conjunctions: and, but, or, nor, so, for, yet.

Example #1
They went to the theater, and we went with them.
Explanation: The coordinate conjunction is "and," and it connects the two independent clauses.

Example #2
They wanted to go boating in the lake, but the weather was uncooperative.
Explanation: The coordinate conjunction is "but," and it connects the two independent clauses.
Ready to take conjunctions out for a spin? Click here for a Coordinate Conjunction test, and here for a Subordinate Conjunction test.