Steps for Revising a Paper: Scientific Edition

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This powerpoint provides easy-to-follow steps for revising a scientific paper. It is a great resource to use when self-revising a paper or working with a peer on their scientific paper!

Check it out on the link below!




Perseverance Pays Off for NAU Undergrads

By: Claire Seel


Absolute Zero: A love-stricken astronaut longs for a home he can never return to in this deep space drama.

Wanting more than classroom experience from their years at Northern Arizona University (NAU) led Studio Art major Dana Kamberg and English and Creative Media & Film dual major Spenser Williamson to create an ambitious, real-world project. They decided they would write, create the sets and armatures, direct, and produce a 14-minute stop-motion film, reasoning that this would offer the most inclusive set of opportunities for themselves and their peers. And it worked: they have participation from business majors, forestry majors, music majors, and more.

It was not long before the script, written by Williamson was complete. Pre-production storyboarding and armature creation, Kamberg’s area of expertise, followed soon after. The two were joined by Music Major Film Minor Gunderson who is composing an original score. The three students contributed considerable sums of their own money to the project, but reached a point of needing help purchasing equipment. A long, challenging, and at times disheartening process of research, cajoling, revising plans, presentations, and more to gain funding for their project ensued. In the end, they won a $3,500 grant from ASNAU. This is the story of that journey.

The Challenge

When the three began looking into funding they discovered that there is not much opportunity for undergraduate research funding at NAU. They reached out to the Vice President’s office for assistance and were advised to seek loans. Not wanting to go into debt for their project, they instead looked into Student Activities Council (STAC) and the Associated Students of Northern Arizona University (ASNAU)


In addition to lacking funding, the group needed a faculty advisor, one who experienced in tracking down funds and guiding student projects from start-to-finish. Serendipity stepped in, providing them with an involved and energetic faculty advisor, David VanNess of the Sculpture department, when a stranger overheard them discussing their project at Michael’s.

Guided by VanNess, the group began applying for funds.

The Application Process

Kamberg tells us that the application process is intense: “There are forms to fill out to qualify to fill out forms!” They decided to start small and applied to ASNAU. They had proposals, statements from their advisor, and examples of their work, and were rejected. Rather than accept this setback, the group approached ASNAU to find out why they had not been granted funding. They tweaked their project proposal and were granted approval from ASNAU to take their idea to the Student Senate, who approved it. In the end, to get funds they created an event in which all pre-production work and all work-in-progress materials will be exhibited along with a screening in 2018. They also created a student group, the Arts & Creative Media Group, open to all majors that provides collaborative opportunities for creative projects.IMG_2762

As they were pursuing funding and support they found that many students across the university’s disciplines are looking for resumé-building, non-academic projects that draw on skills learned in theory in the classroom but that also have practical applications. These students have been very happy to help and get involved with the project and the club. There are 15 regular participants and five people who come and go.

Strategies for Success

To be successful in gaining funding, the group recommends asking “Why?” and then being flexible enough to turn ‘no’ into ‘yes.’ They ultimately have been able to show that they are working on the project, that they have created something truly interdisciplinary—that benefits the university and the student body.

The first post-funding hiccup!

After receiving approval, the group was notified that receipts are due two weeks after the event but also on 3/2/17. This was a catch-22 situation in which an exhibit in 2018 became implausible and the group temporarily lost their funding. They persevered, and in the end, after a great deal of back and forth, they worked out with ASNAU that they could present receipts before the end of the semester and still hold the event in 2018 as planned.

Another Hiccup!

After jumping through the extra hoops, ASNAU went through the packet again and found that they couldn’t fund the event after-all, because it is in 2018. There will be a new student senate in 2018, so by funding the exhibit for that year, the 2017 senate is pre-supposing that the 2018 senate will also be willing to fund the project. Still undeterred, the group is looking at a workaround in which they do a pre-screening event this year, and re-apply for funding in 2018 for the full event.

Hiccups Resolved!

The group reports that they have been re-approved for their funding, and the project can go forward.

Final Thoughts

“You’re going to get a lot of nos. Don’t accept that no. You have to make it work for you. Find a way to make it work for you,” Dana Kamberg.

Today, almost a year into the process, the three have invested a lot of time and effort, as well as personal funds for a project about which they are truly passionate.


Writing and Reading in Unfamiliar Territory

By: Beth Monnig

Generally students that come to the writing commons are coming to work on an assignment for an English class, most often ENG 105. It is typically easy to work with these students because, as a ENG 105 teacher, I know what assignment they are working on and I know the expectations for that assignment fairly well. It is large-iconalso likely that I know their teacher and know how I can directly contact him or her if a problem arises.

However, every so often a student comes with work for a class that I am not familiar with at all. Perhaps it is Engineering, perhaps it is Greek Mythology, either way, I feel immediately out of my league. How in the world am I supposed to provide writing help to this student when I barely understand the topic myself? I know little to nothing about ghettos during the Holocaust. How can I ensure that the student is meeting the criteria of the assignment if I don’t understand the subject she is studying?

Ianetta and Fitzgerald stress two things that can be successful for tutors wor
king with students’ writing in a discipline that is not familiar to them. One thing that the authors propose is to be honest with the student about what you know. It is unfair and unhelpful to pretend expertise when you are actually unfamiliar with the subject matter. This could result in harming the student’s work if you suggest changes that are actually incorrect.

Instead, the two authors advise that the best source for finding out information about the unknown discipline is the student herself. If you do not know what the assignment is asking, ask the student. She is the one in the class and therefore is the “expert” in relation to the subject being discussed. If you need clarity about a certain topic being discussed in her paper, ask the student to explain what she is talking about in that particular section. A few questions that Ianetta and Fitzgerald recommend are: “What is the goal of this text? Do you have a model?” and “Why did you decide to write about this?” Framing the tutoring session in this way gives power to the student to recall what she learned in class and relay it to the tutor. This 2-business-people-writing-on-a-meeting-300x180will ultimately help the student to better understand the text and find a more effective way to articulate her ideas.

Ianetta and Fitzgerald’s principles were extremely useful in discussion with the student working on comparing Jewish ghettos during the Holocaust. Despite my considerable lack of knowledge on the subject, I used questioning techniques to get the student to explain the articles she had read to me before I read her comparison essay. In this way I was able to adequately give feedback to the student on how well her essay explained and emphasized the things she had told me in her discussion. I focused on how well she articulated her ideas, not on whether or not those ideas were factually correct (since this is something I could not answer). Not only did I feel the session was beneficial for the student, I also learned quite a lot on a subject I was not familiar with.   

The Beautiful Writing Series, Fall 2016 Re-Cap

By: Sarah Begovac

Writing is an important skill to have in any profession or field of study. The Interdisciplinary Writing Program started the Beautiful Writing Series (BWS) as a way to show how writing is utilized in different careers. Various professionals in diverse fields of study come to discuss what writing is like outside of the university in a panel discussion, where students and faculty are free to ask any questions that pertain to writing.

On September 29th, we invited two prominent members of the Flagstaff community to come and talk about their writing experience. Claire Martini is the Citizen Volunteer Coordinator for the Grand Canyon Trust and talked about writing for the Uplift Program, which is a climate conference for young people, by young people. Molly Joyce is the sales manager of Flagstaff Bike Revolution and talked about writing advertisements and web content for social media.

Both of these women addressed what it is like to write to an audience that is wide and diverse, and how language choices change when writing to a larger audience. Unlike writing a paper for a professor and turning it in for a grade, they talked about how their writing represents their business/organization so they have to make sure that their writing accurately reflects their company’s values. It’s important to utilize language in a way that appeals to your intended audience, and that audience changes depending on what medium you are using. For example, when writing a post to Facebook, it is important to keep the writing brief, concise, and straight to the point. Conversely, they discussed how writing for a grant requires more professional and technically sound language.

Lastly, they offered some personal advice for students who may be struggling with what they want to do with their degree after they graduate. Both suggested that it is better to graduate with something, whatever that degree may be, even if you change your mind later on, so that the degree can serve as a window for various opportunities. Also, they both stressed that it is essential to know how to write in any field of study. People will take you more seriously, and you will be seen as more credible.

On October 20th, the Interdisciplinary Writing Program hosted the second installment of the Beautiful Writing Series (BWS) that was open to the Flagstaff community. For this installment, we invited two panelists to discuss changes in the journalism industry and environmental activism in an open panel discussion. Audience members were encouraged to ask the panelists questions about writing at any point during the discussion.

The first panelist, Michael Chizhov, talked about writing for environmental activism based on his experience working for the Grand Canyon Trust, an organization that is dedicated to protecting and preserving the Colorado Plateau. His position entails communicating all of the Trust’s work to the general public, which mainly includes the volunteer community. In the panel, he discussed how writing is the most efficient form of communication for his team because they want to reach a wide audience. In order to do so, he talked about how social media plays a huge role in communication. For example, many of his volunteers keep up to date on current events regarding environmental preservation by using Facebook and their website’s blog. Michael discussed how he posts on these social media sites on a regular schedule in order to optimize audience involvement.

The second panelist, Elizabeth Edwards, talked about how the industry of journalism has changed since the 2008 economic recession. Elizabeth has been a primary leader in Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine and its many publications that are under the umbrella of MyNorth Media. Elizabeth began working as a staff writer, but is now a managing editor and manages other magazines such as Northern Home & Cottage, MyNorth Wedding, MyNorth Holidays, MyNorth Vacation Guides, and the website Elizabeth discussed how after the recession, the market changed and to keep pace she changed the format and style of her writing in her publications. She talked about condensing her articles and optimizing her material for web-based interactions with her readers. Which, of course, meant learning about search engine optimization and how to utilize social media as a form of advertisement and involvement. She stressed the importance of knowing your audience for any publication and staying up to date with current forms of communication mediums.  

The Beautiful Writing Series will continue to bring in guests for the Spring 2017 semester, and we encourage students and faculty to attend these panel discussions to gain new perspectives on what professional writing is like outside of a university.

In addition to the Beautiful Writing Series, the Interdisciplinary Writing Program also offers the Writing Commons as a resource for assisting students with their writing skills. Students are encouraged to make appointments with a Writing Assistant so that they can work on their writing with another student.

Closed for Winter Break

Hello! The University Writing Commons is closed for Winter Break. We’ll be back, ready and excited to provide you feedback beginning in the second week of classes, January 23rd at the Inclusion & Multicultural Services office, Health & Learning Center, and Cline Library. You can learn more about our Spring 2017 schedule by visiting the University Writing Commons official page.

The Literature Review: Guidance from the Cline Librarians

By: Claire Seel

cline-research-tips-pagePopular wisdom has it that the literature review is among the most dreaded steps of thesis and dissertation writers at universities nationwide. But it need not be, if we lean on the expert advice and expertise of our subject librarians. On Wednesday, October 12, 2016, Education Librarian Brittany Blanchard presented, in conjunction with the Graduate College, an overview of how to do a lit review.

Let me just drive home the point that you’ll want to go to your subject librarian. As Blanchard discussed, there are a number of strategies for finding and organizing information, many of which will be subject-specific. The subject librarians are experts at these strategies: Make use of their knowledge and your lit review will go much more smoothly and — dare I say it? — quickly.

So, to get started, let’s ask the question we’re all afraid to ask: Just what is a literature review? Well, Blanchard tells us, contrary to popular opinion it is neither a list nor an annotated bibliography. Rather, it is:

  • A comprehensive examination of extant research on a defined topic
  • A synthesis of that research
  • A critical review

A well-done lit review shows your audience a number of important things. First of all, it shows that you have a firm grasp on what your field is all about, and that you know enough to contribute meaningfully to the conversation. Furthermore it places your research into the larger picture, demonstrating that your work is original and adds new knowledge to your field. And, it provides you with an intellectual, historical, and theoretical framework for your writing.

Choosing Topic Questions

Before wading through the databases, Blanchard recommends that you begin with a good brainstorming session. Your subject librarian will happily assist you with this step, as well. Sketch out what questions you want to answer or find answers to, and then break these questions down further. Keep going until you have a number of very narrow, easily managed sub-topics. Blanchard recommends doing this using a mind map or spider chart. The more focused your topic is, the better off you will be. To paraphrase her words, if you start your research and get 40,000 results, your topic is too broad. If you get four results, your topic is too narrow. If you get 400 results, that’s about right.

Prepare to Start Your Research

Look at your mind map or spider chart and ask yourself: If this information exists, where will I find it? What fields and what subtopics are most likely to be useful. Will the information be found in a book, journal, dissertation? Also, which questions are the most important or interesting? Further to the positive questions are the important negatives: What information should be excluded from the search? Would it be anything written before a certain date? Would it be particular theories?

As you ask yourself these questions, Blanchard recommends that you create keywords that you can use to search and to organize your results. She further recommends that you take a piecemeal approach. The lit review will not be completed in a weekend and there is no reason to try to do everything all at once.

Start Your Research

First things first: Find out if someone has already done the work for you. Check other dissertations and theses, including those written by your peers at NAU, annual reviews, and systematic reviews. Also look at the big names and the big studies, both good and bad. Find out who other people are citing and discussing. Here, Blanchard reminds you that your subject librarian is your best friend, and adds that your advisor or faculty mentor will have much to offer in helping you know where to search.

As You Proceed

Different information will be turned up in different searches. So check databases, use general web searches for grey papers, use google scholar, do citation searches, and anything else you can think of. Blanchard states that, “If you’re only going to one place, you’re probably not doing this right.” Be flexible and rely on the resources available to you and you will find the information you seek.

In fact, she says, remember to occasionally: Pause * Skim * Weed * Reevaluate. Do you need to narrow your topic or the parameters of your search? Are you finding answers to your brainstorming questions? Are one or more subtopics looking more promising than the others? Answering these questions as you go will help you stay organized as you move along the process.

Staying Organized

Perhaps the most daunting part of the literature review is the organization. Blanchard has valuable advice here, too. First, take notes and label as you go: You want to keep track of search strings, of keywords that payed off, when and where you visited. She recommends using a bibliography reference tool such as RefWorks, Zotero, or Mendely. She states and reiterates that you must “Save, save, save.”

  • We all get pressed for time, but Blanchard cautions that no matter what, don’t let an article go without taking a picture of the citation information, or writing down the full name and author, or something specific that will help you identify it later.
  • Also save search strings, and if you are a writer, note jotter, etc, take pictures of those. Bad things can happen to paper, so take pictures and back your pictures up to the Cloud.

The next key step to staying organized is to use a Synthesis Matrix, which you put together once you have summarized and evaluated your sources. Essentially, a Synthesis Matrix is a table arranged by themes or by case study. When inputting a source into the Synthesis Matrix, Blanchard recommends that you consider using specific quotes and page numbers; it can also be useful to add geographic information. This worksheet can help you get started.

The Synthesis Matrix can help you to identify gaps in your research and get started writing as it provides a visual comparison of who is talking about each of your topics, and what they are saying about it.

Writing It Up

Before you start writing, consider: What is the most logical way to organize your literature review? By topic? Chronologically? By Methodology? Look at your Synthesis Matrix and think about your readings. Are there major themes that appear? Are there major agreements or disagreements among your sources? Any serious controversies? These questions will all help you get started on the vital step of putting pen to paper, or hands to keyboard, and launching the written portion of the exercise.

More Resources and Tips:

Cline Library’s Graduate Students General Research page

Cline Library’s Guide to the Lit Review

Log onto NAU’s VPN because it tricks your computer into thinking you’re on campus

Documentary Delivery Services: Never pay for anything!

Click the RSS feed button and Search While You Sleep! Citation alerts can be set up to match your specific criteria:


Beautiful Writing Series: Enhancing Student Perceptions of the Value of Writing


Panelists Claire Martini and Molly Joyce at the Beautiful Writing Series, September 29, 2016.

Students often question the value of writing in “the real world.” To enhance student understanding that writing is a valuable skill in every field, the Interdisciplinary Writing Program (IWP) launched the Beautiful Writing Series (BWS) in the Fall 2015 semester.

Now in its third semester, the BWS brings professionals from a variety of disciplines to talk to students and faculty about the type of writing they do, who their audiences are, and considerations they must keep in  mind as they write.

To date, the BWS has hosted two creative writers and professional teachers, a doctor, a science editor, a sales manager, and a volunteer outreach coordinator. You can read more about each speaker’s contribution to the Beautiful Writing Series on the IWP’s Symposiums & Events page.

The IWP strongly encourages all teachers to attend – and to offer extra credit to students for attending – the panels. The final panel of 2016 will be October 20th from 3:30-4:30pm in the Health & Learning Center (HLC) Room 2403, and will feature a journalist and a representative of the Grand Canyon Trust.

Never Pay for Anything: Demystifying Cline’s Resources

By: Claire Seel

Cline’s homepage:

Did you know that Cline can save you time, money, and hassle? It can.

Here we are in grad school, doing research, relying on online databases and Cline Library’s Research Librarians to get us through. To ease our way through our studies, the librarians have teamed up with the Graduate College and launched a series of workshops aimed at grad students to ensure that we make full use of what they have on offer.

The first workshop for Fall 2016 was held on September 23rd in the multimedia room. Brittany Blanchard, Research Librarian for the educational fields, was the facilitator.

Which brings us to an important point: if you need in-person help, you’ll save time by going straight to your subject librarian. These experts have specific knowledge of the databases most likely to be useful to you in your search, and will have tips and tricks at their fingertips to streamline your research. The services of the subject librarians are available to all students at NAU, those on the Flagstaff Mountain Campus as well as extended campuses and online. 

The workshop kicked off with a review of the library’s physical resources, including study spaces, carrels and lockers, computers and technology, and hours

The handiest button in the world!

The website’s Ask Us! button is on every page, and gives you instant access to the library’s live chat, email, phone number, and FAQ page.

Another tip: Brittany recommends that grad students go to NAU’s website and connect our computers to the university’s VPN (virtual private network). This essentially tricks our computers into thinking we’re working on campus, which can make accessing articles less of a hassle.

The workshop moved from physical resources to database searching. This section was a surface overview of the multiple databases, journals, and library sharing resources available to us via the Cline. A grad student can search databases by title or subject, with subject being the recommended search because the subject librarians have gone through the databases and narrowed them down to the best bets, or, rather, those databases that they consider most likely to be useful.

If you would like to learn more, the librarians encourage you to go to the Research page and make an appointment. They will walk you through time-saving search techniques, ways to broaden searches and ways to save your searches and get the program to generate citations from articles you’ve saved.

One thing that was repeated throughout the workshop was to never pay for anything: Articles, books, software. Chances are excellent that whatever you need, Cline either has it or can get it. So always go through them first and save yourself money.

Finally, don’t forget that coming up on October 12th they’ll be digging deeper into their offerings with a workshop on how to get started with a Literature Review. These workshops are given in coordination with the Grad College. You can learn more about what they are offering on their Events Calendar, and you can RSVP for the literature review here:

Headstorms and Outlines

student in snow
A student enjoying the snow

By: Claire Seel

Northern Arizona University has a robust community of international students. Coming from countries as diverse as China, Kuwait, and Brazil, these students are here in Flagstaff for the same reason domestic students are here: to get a degree, to improve their post-educational job prospects, to impress their families, to grow as individuals. Kathy McKeiver, Coordinator for the Center for International Education, reminds us that international students are going through all the growing pains that domestic students are going through, but are also much further from home and adjusting to a new culture and a new language.

An important facet of that adjustment is absorbing the expectations of American academic writing. With this in mind, two University Writing Commons (UWC) Writing Assistants held a workshop for the CIE 100 class on September 8, 2016. Maria (Masha) Kostromitina and Dannae Patterson planned a lesson focused on outlining and brainstorming an essay while cultivating a sense of community with small group and large group discussion, leading students to reflect on their international experience and to better understand the application of outlining for a writing prompt.

In their write-up of the experience, Masha and Dannae noted that “Our experience was extremely positive. We did not anticipate their eagerness to learn about outlining. We also were very pleased with their participation in small group and large group discussion. “ Kathy agreed, saying that she was quite impressed with the level of student participation in the discussion, because in her experience, international students are hesitant to engage.

Kathy notes that international students face a number of challenges unique to language learners, with the most serious being that everything takes an international student longer to accomplish: note-taking, listening comprehension, reading, and writing. But especially reading. Kathy said that any instructor wishing to learn more can look into a faculty development series in which her colleagues are participating.

Kathy’s favorite teachable moment was when the Writing Assistants brought up the word “brainstorming” without thinking to explain what was meant by ‘brainstorming.’ She said that Dannae’s use of body language to demonstrate bringing ideas out of the head and into the room was quite useful for the students. One student wrote in the follow-up to Kathy that learning about ‘headstorming’ had been a highlight of the session.

How successful was the workshop? Would they do it again? Absolutely. Kathy is pleased that the students are aware of the resources of the UWC and were introduced to it in such a positive, interactive fashion, while Masha and Dannae say that, “We really enjoyed working with a population that we adore and hope to do this again soon.”