Happy Thanksgiving – and the official start of Crunch-Time

In Tools, Uncategorized on November 26, 2009 at 9:00 am

Photo by Espen Klem

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you’re having a great time celebrating this most American of holidays — and taking an important respite from the busy pace of school. If you’ve studied in the states for a while, you know that Thanksgiving is all about eating a huge turkey dinner, hanging out with family, and being grateful for all the good things in life. The day after Thanksgiving is the official start of the December holiday season, including shopping, decorating, travel planning, and general hustling and bustling.

Many of my memories of Thanksgiving have to do with school, actually. When I was in high school, we had a week’s worth of Thanksgiving vacation each year, and usually, our teachers assigned a large research paper, due as soon as we returned the following Monday. I remember procrastinating over many of these Thanksgiving weeks, then rushing to have everything finished by the deadline.

Thanksgiving is still like that for many of us, since the start of the holiday season is often the start of end-of-semester crunch-time, as you realize that final exams are coming up and research papers are due in nearly every class you’re taking at the same time. This is when I see students stumbling around the halls, with red eyes and papers everywhere. It’s no wonder. There’s a  semester’s worth of knowledge for students to synthesize in a short amount of time. At the same time, you might be planning trips home to see your families, gathering gifts to give friends and family, and registering for your classes next semester. It’s a stressful time, and it’s easy to accidentally let something fall through the cracks.

I’m testing out a service that I’d like to offer to help you get through the next month. If it’s a hit, I’ll offer it again in January, to help you over the entire semester.

Custom Crunch-Time Helpfrom Thanksgiving through December 24th. With this service, you’ll get study tips, pep talks, and motivation strategically placed around deadlines for your classes — tailored to your class schedule and your study habits. An important note is that this is not tutoring or hands-on help (which I do plan to offer, actually, in the new year). Custom Crunch-Time Help is mainly for motivation, strategies for studying, and support. Here’s how it works:

1)      First, you’ll email me a copy of your syllabus for each of your classes (up to 5)

2)      Next, you’ll make sure that I have your email address and a phone number where I can leave voicemail messages for you. You’ll receive both voicemail messages and email reminders from me to help you plan that research paper, study for that test, and take a rest in the midst of it all.  A special note: I hate spammers, and I promise not to share your information with them (or anyone else, for that matter). In fact, you won’t even be added to the Student in the States mailing list, unless you make a separate request.

3)      Third, send me an email to let me know a little bit about how you study. Do you cram the night before a test? Do you study on the weekends, or every afternoon? I’ll ask you about your biggest challenges. Do you always procrastinate? Do you have test anxiety? Do you have trouble concentrating during class? I’ll time my messages to help you when you need it most – and to help you overcome your biggest challenges.

4)      I’ll use the deadlines,  the description of your study habits, and information on your syllabus to send you messages to help you get started on that paper or study for that test. I’ll send pep talks before test day and reminders to relax and get good rest, and I’ll send messages to give you tips on concentrating for an 8am class, staying calm during an essay exam, or conquering procrastination. Hopefully (if I do a good job!), you’ll feel supported, encouraged, motivated, and ready to get through crunch-time as easily as possible.

Cost: $40 (messages during crunch-time only)

If you’re interested in trying it out, visit the page here. I’ll be taking sign-ups until November 30th (midnight). After that, I’m not sure there would be enough crunch-time left for you to get your money’s worth of messages.

Monday Grammar & Teacher Journal

In Grammar, Uncategorized on November 24, 2009 at 3:48 am


Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be talking about some specific punctuation rules for research papers. Last week, we talked about how to use punctuation with quotation marks. This week, we’ll talk about how to use punctuation when citing sources within your paper.

In-text citations is the official name for what happens when you cite sources within your papers. In-text citations are the references you use after a quotation or paraphrase from your research. In MLA citations (for English and other humanities classes), you’ll include the author’s surname and the page number in parentheses, like this (Obama 46). Here’s what an in-text citation would look like after a direct quotation and after a paraphrase:

Direct Quote: “I don’t waste time thinking about things more than once” (Allen 22).

Paraphrase (when you put it in your own words): It’s not efficient to think about things repeatedly (Allen 22).

We’ll talk more about how to quote and paraphrase in future posts, but for now, I want you to look at the punctuation. Notice how, in both the quotation and the paraphrase, the period at the end of the sentence doesn’t come until after the citation is finished. The idea is that, when you cite a source, the citation is part of the sentence. Also, it looks neater, doesn’t it? Try it next time you’re citing sources for a paper.


I’m sorry I missed my post last Thursday! I owe you all an apology. The truth is that the end of the quarter is just as busy for teachers as it is for you. We’re grading papers, planning classes, getting all the assignments ready to explain to you. I’ve also been working on something for our website, though. I’d like to start offering more tools to help you as students, and I’ve been busy at work, preparing the details for you. I’ll unleash the full plan in my Thanksgiving post on Thursday. In the meantime, thank you for being so patient with me!

Monday Grammar & Teacher Journal

In Grammar on November 16, 2009 at 10:23 pm


Over the next couple of Mondays, I thought we might talk about some specific punctuation rules for research papers. First, let’s talk about how to use punctuation with quotation marks. If you learned British English, you might be a bit confused about how we punctuate quotations in the US. In British English, you have to think about the sentence as a whole, and you use punctuation differently, depending on the quotation’s role in the sentence. In the US, it’s a bit simpler. The punctuation for a quotation goes, 99% of the time, inside the quotation marks, like this:

Dylan Thomas said, “Someone’s boring me. I think it’s me.”

In this example, the period at the end of the quotation goes inside the quotation marks. There’s also a comma after the word “said,” where the quotation is introduced. Here’s an example that’s flipped, with the tag (the part of the sentence that identifies the speaker) at the end:

“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal,” Albert Camus said.

Notice that there’s a comma instead of the period at the end of the quotation — and also that it goes inside the quotation marks. Pretty easy, right? Here’s an example with a quotation that’s broken into two parts:

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” George Price once said, “but hasn’t the fine line between sanity and madness gotten finer?”

The first part of the quotation has a comma afterward. Then we have another comma after “said” and finally, the question mark (still inside the quotation marks) to end the sentence. In this instance, the quotation is all in one sentence. What happens, though, if the quotation is broken into two — but it’s also made up of two complete sentences? Take a look:

“Interestingly, according to modern astronomers, space is finite,” Woody Allen said. “This is a very comforting thought– particularly for people who can never remember where they have left things.”

Can you see the difference in how this is punctuated? There’s still the comma at the end of the first quotation, but there’s a period after the word “said.” This is because the sentence is complete at this point, and the following part of the quotation is also a complete sentence, so it can stand on its own.

Next week, we’ll talk about what to do with quotations when you also have APA or MLA citations to add. Happy punctuating!