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Writing Survival Guides

This website contains useful flowcharts and guides that can help you succeed with writing for college and graduate school. If you use these flowcharts, please be sure to mention Susan Smith Nash and refer to this URL.

Please note that this website is constantly expanded and updated.

Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.

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New Guides for Expository Writing

Why Do Kids Kill? Sample Cause-and-Effect Essay Flowchart   It is difficult to explain why there have been so many cases in the United States of kids killing parents, relatives, schoolmates, and total strangers. This essay flow chart helps students recognize how to support an argument and to avoid flaws in their logic.

Pit Bull Brainstorming:  Brainstorming is an invention strategy for composition that can take many forms. While some find it useful to use diagrams, outlines, decision trees, and clusters, those tactics tend to focus on the "what" instead of the "how" and the "why." In order to approach deeper issues, and to trigger chains of thoughts, a very powerful technique is to develop series of questions.

Coffee Wars: Starbucks vs. Dunkin Donuts Sample Compare-Contrast Essay.  Writing a comparison-contrast essay can be fun if you can find engaging items, concepts, or issues to write about. One good topic is coffee. Starbucks commercialized drinking upscale coffee drinks, but even before Starbucks became an international presence, boutique coffee had already significantly shifted the coffee-enjoyment experience.  

Eating Disorders Extended Definition Essay Flowchart Sample Topic. New Because eating disorders touch almost all women, either directly or indirectly, it is a topic that is quite engaging for first-year composition classes. 

Understanding Anorexia. New. There are four journal assignments that help students make connections between anorexia, society, and individual psychology. Students focus on cases of individuals who died from the disease (Christy Heinrich, Karen Carpenter), look at media depictions of anorexia and celebrities depicted as anorectics or bulimics (Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, Mary-Kate Olson, Princess Diana), and examine "silent suicides" and anorexia in the elderly.

Lapacho Tree Bark: Anti-Cancer Miracle, or Rainforest Hype? -- Take a Position Essay FlowchartThis is an excellent assignment which gives individuals an opportunity to examine the arguments of writers, their use of logic, and the nature of the "evidence" they are using to support their claims. It also gives individuals a chance to look at two sides of the story, and to examine evidence through lenses colored by presuppositions, assumptions, beliefs, and values.  

Shipwreck Treasure Success Stories -- Process Essay Flowchart. This essay assignment gives an individual the opportunity to learn how to describe and write about a process.By examining the processes of groups who have been success, the writer can gain an appreciation of the necessary steps. For example, the Odyssey Marine Exploration group found and recovered a Civil War-era ship that sank during a storm in 1865. Located off the coast of Georgia, the ship was located in 1,700 feet of water. The Company recovered $75 million in gold and silver coins, as well as more than 13,000 artifacts.The process could even lead to a successful treasure hunt!

Weight Loss Herbs: Hoodia, Guarana, Ephedra, Coca Leaf Tea. This assignment gives students an opportunity to evaluate the claims that certain herbal products can help individuals lose weight. Students are directed to sites that provide information, and then are encouraged to do their own literature review. They must evaluate the information sources and determine degrees of bias.

Writing Research Papers
Reporting on Research Guide  
  Have you ever had difficulty describing, synthesizing, and reporting on the research you've done on a topic?  Let this handy little flowchart help take away your pain...

Thesis or Dissertation Survival Guide   Here is a step-by-step guide, and an approach to developing a thesis or a dissertation. Please refer to the "Research Paper Guide" for an in-depth analysis of the thought process that goes into organizing your thoughts when mapping out your thesis. Sample Topic:  Post-Colonial Over-Compensation in V. S. Naipaul's In a Free State, The Enigma of Arrival, and A Way In the World.  

Research Paper Overview
This provides a detailed overview and description of the structure of an excellent research paper.  It guides you through a set of questions, ideas, and ways of thinking so that your research paper provides a balanced, well-researched, and well-reasoned argument.

Research Paper Guide and Flowchart
An easy-to-use outline that helps you research your topic, helps you position your thoughts and findings, and gives you a place to detail the history of the ideas, background, and previous work.

Research Tips
Avoid the random muddle of research!  This chart will help you organize your research process.

Expository Essays

Extended Definition Essay
Example:  The RedSpot Fish.  Respond to this series of questions to develop an outline and then a working draft of your extended definition paper.

Taking a Position Essay
Save the Puffer-Fish!  (or don't) Let this outline, plus series of provocative questions help you build an interesting, well-argued essay.

Compare and Contrast Essay
Redfish vs. Greenfish:  They're the same but different.  Let this flowchart help you develop an excellent, depthful essay.

Synthesis and Critical Thinking Guide  

Here is a flow chart you can use as a guide or a point of departure for writing a journal or essay.  It can help you organize your thoughts, and remind you when and where research and outside sources can help your argument.

Close Readings

This flow chart helps you develop a strategy for analyzing texts, and developing an approach to doing what is known as a "close reading," which also involves a step-by-step guide to analyzing and making meaning from what you have read.

Science and Current Events Writing and Thinking
Use this guide to help you respond to a current event that reflects scientific issues.  This will help you identify the major topics, conduct relevant research, analyze your findings, and discuss them fully.

Revision Process
Follow this checklist either individually or in a group for peer-revision process

Interdisciplinary Essays and Research Papers -- (Useful Writing Texts)
Interdisciplinary Essay Flowchart
Identifying a topic that interests you and developing an approach for doing research in an interdisciplinary manner, then synthesizing the results of your research.
Sample Topic:  Bereavement and Pets

Interdisciplinary Essay: Another Approach
A step-by-step approach for writing an extensive interdisciplinary essay, based on research and analysis.  A procedure for interdisciplinary thinking, research, and analysis.
Sample Topic: Who Gets Custody of Mutzie?

Building-Block Approach to Interdisciplinary Research Papers
Expanding upon a topic, creating a structure for the findings of your research, organizing and placing data within hierarchies based on relevancy and freshness of insights.
Example:  Post-traumatic stress disorder in the families of active-duty military who have been in dangerous combat for more than 6 months, or who have been wounded.

From Pythagoras to PETA 

Explore the Cult of the Bean-Eaters, and find how to protect pigeons from exploitation! It's all here, and more, in an exciting exercise designed to help hone organization skills and build confidence, all while avoiding the traps of unintentional plagiarism.

Before and After You Write

Audience Analysis
Before you write, during the writing and revision process, the key to an effective presentation is understanding your audience.

Understanding Arguments: Probing Underlying Assumptions
Part of the analytical process involved in writing a paper involves understanding the underlying assumptions and beliefs that form the basis of arguments for and against an issue.  The objective is to get at the underlying assumptions, to determine not just what was said, but who said it, for what purpose, for whose benefit.

Debate: Persuasive Discourse (Argumentation) In Action
An in-class activity that helps teams stage arguments.  It breaks down the components of persuasion along classical Greek lines, and provides both a strategy and a mechanism for putting it in action.  How and why do people believe?  When can you cause them to change their position?  What role does self-interest play?  These issues are examined here.

Avoiding Plagiarism
Many people do not understand that there are, in fact, many different varieties of plagiarism..  Sometimes individuals unwittingly plagiarize, sometimes they do it deliberately, thinking that they will not get caught.  What are the underlying issues?  Why would an individual feel the need to plagiarize?  This site helps clarify the issues and get at eliminating anxieties that result in plagiarism.


Plagiarism Intervention  

Flying off in the wrong direction, borne by winds of copied & pasted, unattributed sources? Help is here!! Here are two strategies to try to help wean oneself away from unintentional plagiarism.

Citing Scientific Sources from the Internet
Trying to determine how to cite sources from the Internet can be quite challenging for writers of scientific article.  Style guide vary, and there does not seem to be a single standard.  What is listed on this site is a generic form that can be used in many types of scientific applications.

APA Style Guidelines

Examples and guidelines -- very helpful!

Creative Writing Survival Guides

Reality Construction Chamber
Stuck?  Looking for a formula for innovative writing?  Wondering how you can mangle & twist one reality into another one?  Discover new realities and indulge yourself with respect to your favorite philosophers or luminary thinkers...

Strange But True Narrative Construction Chamber
Here is a flowchart that will help you construct intriguing narratives that use as their starting point an approach to characterization and description.  This flowchart allows the writer to mesh philosophical insight with quirky human traits.  A winner!

Narrative Construction Machine
This flowchart will help you develop a narrative that foregrounds consubstantiality -- which is to say that it helps you establish an immediate emotional connection with your reader. Enjoy!!

Problem-Solving and Leadership Topics Writing Survival Guides


People Under Stress   

Here is a flowchart that helps you analyze the impact of post-traumatic stress or war stress on a situation.


Resolving Culture Clashes at Work or at War    

This flowchart gives you a systematic approach to analyzing culture clashes in the workplace, wartime situations, home, or recreation.  The focus is on developing an analytical approach.


Team-Building Under Duress    

This flowchart explores how to build effective teams in difficult times typified by a shortage of resources, funding, personnel, and/or time.

Reporting on Articles that You Have Read: Business and Technical Writing

Analyzing and Making Connections   This exercise is designed to help you analyze your reading for key ideas and then to make connections with other articles and issues in the world. It will help you extract key elements from an article, and will encourage you to think of your own experience and education.

Executive Summary New!! This exercise is designed to help you produce executive summaries of an article or research findings. It will help you extract key elements from a long article for use in a presentation or report.

Recommendation to Management  

Invest in Turkmenistan?  Carpets, pipelines, or gas processing?  Your company is considering an investment in Turkmenistan, either in pipeline construction, gas processing, or in exploration and production licenses. You have been asked to prepare a report.