Writing In-Class: Five Tips for Mastering Essay Exams

As is the nature of a writing center, we typically don’t work with you on in-class essay exam questions.  On the other hand, we know that thinking through the audience, purpose, and genre works for any type of writing. Here’s our tips for mastering short and long response essay questions on your finals.

  1. Read the question and look for key words. Your professor wants different responses for terms such as: analyze, argue, describe, evaluate, reflect, or compare/contrast.
  1. Plan your response. Don’t jump in without knowing where you’re going.
  1. Structure matters. Whether you’re writing a short or long response, have an introduction (or topic sentence), body (details and support), and conclusion (say what you said).
  1. Be detailed. Don’t include irrelevant facts or filler, but it’s probably good if you feel like you’re over-explaining.
  1. Save time at the end to review and revise. After you answer all questions, go back and read each question and response. Edit and add if possible.

Good luck on the rest of your finals, Knights! green book


Serious Researchers Only… Undergrad Research Week 2015

On Sunday, senior Honors students officially kicked off Undergraduate Research Week 2015 by presenting their theses. On Tuesday, two events took place: paper and poster presentations.

At the paper and poster presentations, the writing, research, and visual aids were certainly impressive! Though, the best part for me was the opportunity to interact with student-researchers and see final projects. In the Writing Center, we pride ourselves on talking to you when you’re in-process. When we meet, you’re still considering your topic from multiple angles. There’s so many rhetorical decisions still left to make. It’s exciting to be a part of your development, but the downside is we hardly ever get to see how your presentations, papers, and projects turn out in the end. I think it’s now safe to say that Bellarmine students are doing a fantastic job polishing projects and actively participating in the conversations of their disciplines!

On behalf of the Writing Center, I want to say “thank you” to the student presenters. It takes confidence and a leap-of-faith to bring one’s work to the public’s attention. I also want to acknowledge the faculty mentors and the administration for making this happen!

Now… what’s in the works for next year?

More photos from the paper and poster presentations



When I was on a plane, heading to the Bahamas, I got a random idea about comparing writing a paper and flying planes.

Starting a paper is just like trying to take off in a plane. Sometimes the takeoff is quick and smooth, while other times you are sitting and waiting. Sometimes it is hard to begin writing a paper, because narrowing your focus can take a bit of brain storming.

Once you complete the introduction, you are in the longest portion of the paper, which are the body paragraphs. The body paragraphs can be compared to the flight when cruising altitude has been reached. This comparison can be made because most of the flight is very calm, but there may be some unexpected writing blocks. Airplanes experience the same idea when the plane goes through turbulence. The turbulence the plane experience can be compared with the loss of focus in the body paragraphs, which causes for issues with the flow and coherence of the paper.

Ending a paper is just like landing a plane, because you have to get it just right. Have you ever been on a plane and the pilot lands too soon? The right is bumpy and you are trying to hold on tight. Well, if you end your paper too soon or have a poor conclusion, your reader can experience the same bumpy effects when reading. When writing your conclusion, you want to gently bring the reader to a nice gradually stop by restating your main points along with making those points connect back together.

So the next time you are writing a paper, keep an eye out for any off topic or loss of focus points in your paper. Remember you want your paper to be like a plane ride, smooth with easy transitions.