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Wilfrid Laurier University Centre for Student Success
January 31, 2015

Canadian Excellence


The First Sentence: Some Tips to Get You to Sentence #2

The First Sentence: Some Tips to Get You to Sentence #2
by Seth Adema

One of the most challenging sentences that you will write in university is the first line of an essay. What makes this sentence difficult is that you, as a writer, have a clear sense of where you are going, but how do you communicate this to your reader without their having any context? This blog post should not be read as a formula for the perfect opening sentence (such a thing does not exist), but rather a few useful approaches that you can take, depending on what you are writing and who you are writing for.

What you could do:

-You could begin with a direct, succinct explanation of your research topic and position within it. This is useful because it eliminates unnecessary sentences that do not help you make your argument. Often the most direct approach gives the most clarity, and nobody has ever criticized a writer for being too clear.

-Narrative introductions can be useful to show why your argument is important. By giving a concrete example of your subject, whether it is a historical event, a common problem in the business world, a scientific principle, or any other subject you may be writing about, narrative illustrations can move your argument away from the abstract and into the concrete.

Explain a problem that you are attempting to solve in the essay. This might make the most sense in business or scientific papers, but it has wider relevance if you see something that does not seem to make sense in the humanities (e.g., why an author used a particular theme or why a historical process took place). If you are an astute reader, you will notice that this blog post began with a statement of a problem, namely the challenge of the first sentence in university writing.

-You could start by giving a quote and explaining its relevance to your argument. Remember that if you choose to use a quote, it needs to be directly related to your argument, and the following few sentences should explain the context and significance of what you quoted. In other words, do not use a quote as a way to replace your words with somebody elses; you are using somebody elses words to launch into your argument. Often professors will tell you not to begin with a quote because you run this risk, so use this approach with caution.

-Go back to the opening paragraph after you have finished the essay and think about whether your opening line says something important about your argument. If not, look at ways to revise it. If you do, the bullets above might help.

What to avoid:

-You do not want to be overly grandiose in your opening. One of the most common problems in university writing is taking the principle of the Funnel Paragraph to its extreme. For example, do not start an essay with a description about something that happens throughout history if you are talking about a particular event. Often, when essays begin in this way, around half-way through the first paragraph students get to what they really want to talk about. Remove the fluff and get straight to the point.

-Do not begin with a quote but assume that your quote speaks for itself. You are speaking. Use your evidence to help you speak, not to keep you silent.

These ideas should be treated as starting points. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to start your essays. You are trying to present your argument in the most useful way possible. Asking whether your opening is really supporting your argument is usually a good way to decide on how to begin an essay.


via Oxford Dictionaries

The Blueprint Magazine: Call for submissions

The Blueprint is looking for people to contribute to their next issue. Submissions are due Friday, January 16th via Learn more here.


The HB Pencil Lamp

If I had a lot of money, I would buy this for our Writing Centre:





The designers, Michael & George, have also produced a miniature version that stands about 40cm high.


photos via Fast Co Design

Tips for International Students Working on a Team

Tips for International Students Working on a Team

Jianan Mo

Michael Jordan said: Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships. Teamwork happens in every aspect of our lives. It happens, for example, when we have to finish team-based assignments. Almost every business class you take at Laurier has a team-based assignment. Teamwork with international students can provide a more empowered way of working because this teamwork will encourage multi-cultural ideas. I did two group projects last week and I had fun working with my team members. I would like to share some tips for international students about how to work on a team.

1.Fully prepare before every meeting.

Reading textbook or assignment instructions and creating ideas about how to do the assignment can be part of preparation. If you prepare for the group meeting, you can help your team through generating more ideas, which helps you to leave a good first impression. You will get lost during the meeting if you dont prepare.

2. Always be reliable.

Demonstrating reliability can be a big part for being a vital person in your team. There are some methods to show reliability such as working hard, meeting group deadlines and commitments, and coming to every meeting on time. Objectives and goals of the whole team cannot be met if some of the team members don't work towards the group commitments. These team members will probably be kicked out from their groups.

3. Be an active participant in a group.

An active participant is a solution-oriented person who always shares ideas with other team members and consistently shows a positive attitude. An active participant isa key component of a group. Ateam is built for solving problems. Trying to be a solution-oriented person can help international student become a valuable team player. As an international student, one tactic to become an active helper is figuring out the part of the assignment you are good at. I am an international student on campus. I sometimes take the quantitative part of the assignment since I am good at calculating and take a small part of writing a professional report. In this way, our group members can learn from each other.

4. Maintain effective communication with your team members.

Effective communication helps all group members to have clear group objectives and to make sure all group members are on the same page. Communication determines how successful the group project will be. Be friendly to your team members. Building trust with the team members is the first step international students should do. For me, I always start the conversation using some topics other group members are interested in (e.g., dance shows on Sunday). Not only talking about the academic things shows you are willing to make friends with them in your life!

In conclusion, being fully prepared before every meeting, always showing reliability, trying to become an active helper in the group, and maintaining effective communication with your team members are four things international students should keep in mind when they are working on teams!



Conference: Canadian Association for the Study of Discourse and Writing - Call for Papers

The Writing Commons:
Research and Pedagogy in Writing and Discourse

The SeventhAnnual Conference of
the Canadian Association for the Study of Discourse and Writing (CASDW / ACR)

University of Ottawa - Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Saturday, May 30 to Monday, June 1, 2015


We invite papers on all aspects of writing studies for the seventh annual conference of CASDW/ACR, the largest gathering of writing studies scholars in Canada.In particular, we invite papers on research into discourse and on writing theory and pedagogy connecting with our theme of The Writing Commons. This theme suggests multiple interpretations of common and the intersections of these meanings with writing.

Papers might address topics such as:

the nature of public discourse and public writing; past, present, or future of public discourses

writing commonplaces: beliefs and perceptions about writing and writing pedagogy; how these commonplaces are challenged or supported

the writing centre as a writing commons

writing to build public knowledge, disciplinary knowledge, or the professions

common versus individual voice(s) and identities in writing

writing and accessibility: who needs access and improving access

the role of writing in academic institutions: democratic impulses and policy making

writing and resources what we have, what we share, what we need to protect

Papers that address the 2015 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences theme of Capital Ideas s are also welcome.

We invite papers that draw on work in genre studies, rhetorical theory, writing studies, writing centre theory and practice, and professional and technical writing research and practice. We welcome papers that connect with CASDWs heritage as a place for sharing research on technical and professional writing as well as those that connect with its more inclusive mission to examine all forms of discourse and writing and to explore pedagogical practices and innovations.

The proposal deadline is January 12, 2015 (See Proposal Requirements)

(PDF Version)



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