Adverbs: To Use or Not To Use?

Hemingway abhorred them. Stephen King famously quipped, “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs.” If there can be such a thing as a controversial part of speech, adverbs probably are it.  

On the one hand, adverbs can be useful tools to enhance your writing. They can convey important information about how something is said or done, which can completely change the meaning or add more layers of significance. On the other hand, adverbs can clog up writing, become repetitive, and turn into shortcuts that cover up for lazy writing elsewhere.

So, should you use adverbs? We’ll look at both sides and let you decide!

Adverbs: The Case In Favor

Adverbs are like the spices in your kitchen cupboard: you can do without them, but if they’re used in the right amount, they can elevate the end product from “just fine” to exciting.

In essence, an adverb is meant to enhance the context around a verb – typically an action verb – by adding information about how an action is performed.

 The ideal teaching candidate will communicate ideas efficiently.

Please speak slowly – German is my second language and I can’t always keep up.

 They also can modify adjectives, usually by denoting degrees or emphasis.

 The new graduates were extremely happy.

When used properly, adverbs genuinely enhance or clarify the meaning of verbs, adjectives, or sentences. On a larger scale, they might create tension, foreshadowing, or suggestions about a character.

 For instance, let’s say there’s a character who performs a morally shady action and whose motivations are, at that point in the story, a bit murky. If they perform that action verb “slowly” or “deliberately,” that might suggest to the reader that they’re enjoying the villainous action. If they perform that action “hurriedly” or “distractedly,” that same action suddenly might be cast as something the character finds distasteful or is being forced to do.

They can also reflect priorities, as in the “job listing” example above. Being able to communicate “efficiently” draws focus to that qualification, implying its importance as opposed to other qualities not named.

Used sparingly and with specific goals in mind, adverbs can be a real asset to your writing. And yet many successful writers still disparage them as the root of all writing evil. Why?

Adverbs: The Case Against

At some point, you’ve probably read a paragraph like this:

She quickly locked the door.

 “Do we actually think we can pull this off?” she said doubtfully. She looked up at him worriedly. His face creased suddenly.

 “We have to,” he said, quietly but certainly.

That was annoying to read, wasn’t it? That’s a prime example of how adverbs can clutter up writing and produce the exact opposite effect the writer wants.

When we look at many adverb examples, we often see instances where writers use adverbs as a sort of shortcut to “spice up” writing that could be much more concise. Instead of using words that carry their own connotations, writers often use adverbs as the quickest way to add description to a sentence.

Compare the above adverb examples to something like this:

“Do you actually think we can pull this off?” she asked. Her voice was trembling almost as much as her hands were, and she avoided his gaze.

 A crease appeared on his face.

 “We have to,” he muttered.

 The second version – though perhaps not exactly cliché-free either – avoids a bunch of adverbs while also giving us more information in the implications of the words. “Muttered,” for instance, gives us a sense that perhaps the male character is reluctant or cynical, rather than the muddled “quietly but certainly.”

There are also instances where adverbs add information that already is in the sentence.

“Give that back!” she shouted menacingly.

He sidled down the corridor sneakily.

 “Shouted” already implies a degree of menace or anger, while “sidled” implies a sneaky action, making “sneakily” redundant. They’re not technically incorrect, but they’re not strong writing.

 Conclusion

You don’t need to strip your writing of all adverbs, unless you really want to. But just like it’s always a good idea to check for proper use of MLA style or APA format, check for adverb usage! A good rule of thumb is to try to eliminate around a third to half of the adverbs from your first draft. Use them sparingly, and you’ll find yourself with interesting yet concise writing!

 

6 Tips for Writing Better Facebook Posts

by Amanda Cross

How do you create a Facebook post that gets engagement, showcases your best skills, and doesn’t create a cyclone of regret later? Keep reading for some excellent advice on how to write Facebook posts you can be proud of!

1. Always check for spelling and grammar

Text or internet speak is different from incorrect grammar. It’s one thing to write “LOL”— write “lagh out lod,” and that’s what your followers are going to be doing. Before you send any Facebook update, you should take some time to look through your post. (Remember that if you have to edit a post after publishing it, Facebook will let everyone know.)

Read through your post word-for-word, correct any spelling and grammar errors, and then hit “Post.” Never post as soon as you finish writing something!

Here are some common mistakes you might make:

  • Using the wrong homophone: “To,” “too,” and “two” may sound similar, but they have different meanings. Same with “there,” “their” and “they’re.” Even seasoned writers mistake similar-sounding words, so make sure to review for these.
  • Misusing apostrophes: Apostrophes indicate possession or the omission of other letters and numbers. If you’re talking about multiples of something, you don’t need an apostrophe (for example, “free popsicle’s in the quad!” is incorrect).
  • Misspelling words: Before you become the subject of an “autocorrect fail” meme, double check for misspelled words.

If you want to make sure your post is airtight, run it through BibMe’s grammar checker!

2. Don’t go on too long 

The more characters you use to make a point, the more room for error. Plus, there’s more chance for you to go off-topic or lost the audience’s interest. While Facebook doesn’t currently put a word limit on status updates, try to keep your posts short and sweet. Your friends are probably too busy to read long rants anyway.

3. Add images or videos to grab friends’ attention

The Facebook feed doesn’t have an end; it keeps going as long as the reader continues scrolling. That means it’s easy for your friends to scroll right past your updates. A great way to grab their attention is to incorporate eye-catching visuals. Add an image, a collection of images, or a video to spice up your status updates. Facebook has a ton of additional tools to help grab your audience’s attention, such as GIFs and polls, which you can also use to your advantage.

4. Be valuable

When people see your Facebook posts, they’re forming a judgment about what you have to offer them. When you create valuable content, you create an excellent reputation for yourself online. Share content that enriches the lives of your friends. Here are some examples of valuable content:

  • Funny or inspirational quotes
  • Lessons you’ve learned
  • Study tips
  • Scholarship information
  • Companies hiring
  • Free/discounted things you’ve found
  • Hot takes on current events or hyperlocal events
  • Suggestions for things to buy based on your personal experience

It doesn’t matter what you choose to focus on; your page could be all about the latest video game news, cryptocurrency, or makeup! You just need to find a group of people who are interested in the topic that you intend to discuss.

5. Use the grandma rule

Remember that no social media content is created in a bubble. Beyond the question of where the data is stored, someone can easily take a screenshot of your post and hang on to it.

The gray areas become a lot more black-and-white when you follow the grandma rule: don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother (or someone you hold in high esteem) to see. Would you be embarrassed if they saw the Facebook post you are about to make? If so, don’t post it.

6. Include a question to the audience

The final way to write better Facebook posts is simple: include a question to the audience.

If you want your friends to like your posts or comment on them, you need to let them know that. Otherwise, they’ll likely react to your post in their heads and keep scrolling. Help them out with a quick discussion starter. You may even want to leave your answer to the question in a comment to get the conversation started.

You’re now ready to tackle Facebook with a fantastic post that will get your friends talking. Happy posting!

When your social media break is over, get back into study mode by learning how to do a works cited page and how to write an annotated bibliography!  

The Proper Noun We Always Forget to Capitalize

It’s easy to let a proper noun slip past your “shift” key while writing. There are some trademarked words that just seem so…generic. Check out this list and never be fooled by a proper noun masquerading as a common noun again.

Can you pass me a Kleenex?

In a haze of pollen, it’s easy to forget that Kleenex is actually a brand name, and thus a capitalized proper noun. Blow your nose on a tissue, however, and you won’t have any such concerns.

I need to make a Xerox.

This one is quickly becoming obsolete, but we still make copies from time to time. That’s right—copies. Xerox refers to the company that makes the machines, so should be capitalized as a proper noun. (Which also means that technically, you can’t use it in Scrabble. Good luck using up all those X’s.)

Who’s up for Frisbee in the quad?

When you get together a game of Ultimate, you’re throwing around a capital-F “Frisbee.” That flying plastic disk is a trademark of Wham-O, which kindly reminds you on its website: “If your disc doesn’t say Frisbee® – it is not real!” And don’t you forget it.

Grab me a Coke from the fridge, please.

This soft drink has become so ubiquitous, it’s easy forget to capitalize it when writing. But as Pepsi fans will remind you, Coke is just one brand of cola, thus necessitating a big “C” like all other proper nouns.  

Ugh, how long do I have to wait on hold listening to this terrible Muzak?

Yep, those sleepy strings you hear in elevators and waiting rooms everywhere was actually the patented creation of Mood Media. As this article explains, the company created Muzak in the 1930s in order to get people in a more spendy mood while they shopped. Beware the power of the bland.

Spell check should catch any errant lowercase proper nouns, but it’s even better to learn them by heart. You wouldn’t want to offend one by forgetting to capitalize it, rendering it nothing but a common noun.


Here’s a bonus: words that used to be proper nouns, but became plain ol’ common nouns through continued use. Perhaps one of these origin stories will spark an idea for your next
research paper.

Take the Motorstair to the 3rd floor

Before the Otis Elevator Co. relinquished its trademark on the word, other escalator manufacturers called their products the Motorstair, the Electric Stairway, and Moving Stairs.

I’ll pack you some soup in a Dewar flask.

The thermos, known generically as a “vacuum flask” or “Dewar flask” after its original inventor, has a long and complicated history. After a trademark war in the Mad Men era, a court declared “thermos” a generic term. The Thermos Company is still alive and kicking, though, and we can bet their employees never suffer the indignity of cold coffee.

Call me (clamshell) maybe

Hang on tight for this throwback: The term “flip phone” was once patented by Motorola, which manufactured the first of these 90s-era gems, known generically as clamshell phones. No need to capitalize flip phone anymore—just make sure you don’t exceed your minutes.

Learn more about all kinds of nouns, common and proper, and make sure your writing is capital-A “Amazing” with BibMe’s grammar checker!  

It’s vs. Its: What’s the Difference?

The English language is a tough business. So much so, it’s unimaginable to have mastered all its intricacies. (See what I did there?)

Determining whether to use “it’s” or “its” is an essential building block of good writing, but it’s easy to let this little word topple your Jenga tower. Even the most seasoned writers are apt to forget an apostrophe every now and again. (That’s why even experienced writers can benefit from an online grammar check like the one right here on BibMe!) 

Take the following text message exchange:

A: When do you want to see that superhero adventure movie no one can stop talking about, the superhero adventure movie to END ALL SUPERHERO ADVENTURE MOVIES???
B: Its playing at 8 tonight. Wanna go?
B: *it’s
B: *it’s playing at 8 tonight
B: That was all autocorrect. I know the difference between it’s and its, I swear. PLEASE YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE MEEEE.

Ok, maybe things aren’t always this dramatic. But knowing the difference between a regular ol’ pronoun and a possessive pronoun is essential for understanding English grammar (and using it to express yourself in writing). Especially when it comes to that tiny, impossible-to-define, root of all description: it.

When do you use “it’s” and when, “its”? We hope this comic will help set the record straight.


What's the Difference Between It's and Its? Cartoon - BibMe blog

Bonus: here’s a practical tip for making sure you’re using the right form of it’s: run the “it is” test

If you’re not sure whether to put in the apostrophe, see if your version of “its” works as two words: it is.

It is nice out.
I’m sure it is going to work.


In these instances, “it is” can be replaced by
it’s:

It’s nice out.
I’m not sure it’s going to work.  

Lovely!

For the other version, take these sentences:

Put the toy back in its place, won’t you please.
The robot took its sweet time making my dinner.

You wouldn’t say “the robot took it is sweet time,” now, would you? There you go: no apostrophe needed.

Not sure your paper is free of rogue apostrophes, reckless subject verb agreement, or other wilding grammar errors? Take our free grammar check for a spin!

 Illustrations by Liv Bishop

Write the Best Formal Thank You Note in 5 Simple Steps

We all need a little help in school (and life). Showing appreciation for all our parents and friends have done for us usually happens casually, whether it be a simple “thank you,” returning the favor, or another gesture. But what about those times where a little formality is needed?

Like thanking your teacher for writing you a letter of recommendation. Or following up after a job interview. Or when you’ve conducted an informational interview with a professional. Or showing appreciation to anyone who’s ever give you guidance, time, or resources. Each of these instances should be followed up with a thank you note.

Most of us have busy lives and if someone donates a portion of their day to you, it’s only polite to repay them with a small note of thanks. With the five simple steps below, you can be sure to create thank you notes that leave a great impression.  

Then, make sure your letter is polished and professional (not to mention free of embarrassing typos) by running it through our online grammar checker!

Step 1: Choose Your Medium

Nowadays email is the most common medium for sending thank you notes. It’s fast and professional. There are instances, however, when you should consider sending a handwritten message on stationery. If someone has gone above and beyond for you or if your relationship is more personal than average (for example, a very good friend of your parents), a handwritten note can be a nice touch.

Step 2: Craft Your Opening Line

Resist the urge to get too creative with your letter opening. Thank you notes are very traditional. Following classic form demonstrates maturity and poise. “Dear” is the appropriate salutation. Be sure to actually write “thank you” and simply follow up with what you are thanking the individual for.

Example:

  • Dear Helen,
  • Thank you for…
    • meeting with me yesterday.
    • the great informational interview
    • taking the time to speak with me over the phone yesterday.
    • donating to our student fundraiser.

Step 3: Make It Personal

This is your chance to shine and show your personality. Highlight something specific you spoke about. If this is a note following a job interview, it the right place to reiterate your interest in the position and your unique qualifications for it. Three or four sentences is a good target for this section.

Examples:

  • It was great speaking with a fellow New Yorker.
  • I never knew how much goes into pricing a garment.
  • Your ideas on diversity in the workplace were inspirational.
  • The opportunity to intern with you and learn more would be amazing.

Step 4: Closing

Your closing should be short and simple. Reiterate your thanks, add another sentence if you wish and choose one of the well known closing phrases listed below.

Examples:

  • Thank you again,
  • I look forward to speaking with you soon.
  • Your advice was invaluable.
  • Regards,
  • Best Regards,
  • Sincerely,

Step 5: Proofread

A thank you note is often your final chance to make an impression. Be sure a typo is not the last thing you are remembered for. Most importantly, double check the name of the person and institution you are sending the note to.

 If you’re looking for extra help, there are many great grammar and spell checker services online.  

Quick Tips:

  • Don’t make your note too long. Three short paragraphs are enough.
  • Don’t be overly complimentary. It often turns people off, especially if you don’t know them very well.
  • Don’t procrastinate. The following day is best; anything over a week is much too long. 

Your final note should look something like this:

Dear Helen,

Thank you for meeting with me yesterday.

 You taught me a lot about the fashion industry behind the scenes. I never knew how much goes into pricing a garment. The opportunity to intern with you and learn more would be amazing.

 Thank you again for taking the time to speak with me. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best Regards,

Kristen

 Thank you notes are easy, polite, and a way to show your best side. All you have to do is keep it simple.

 If you’re worried about punctuation, subject verb agreement, and overall good grammar, try BibMe Plus. You can check your letter or paper for grammar and spelling mistakes as well as automatically create a works cited page in MLA, an APA format citation, or references in thousands of styles.

4 Ways to Battle Writer’s Block (and Win)

by Amanda Clark

Writer’s block. We’ve all experienced this demon. You get an assignment, sit down to begin, and BAM! Nothing. Or you write a stellar first page, feel like a writing rock star and then—BAM! Nothing.

When you have deadlines to meet, a foggy brain can be more than a nuisance. Next time, skip the stress and try these techniques for battling writer’s block—and winning. (And don’t forget to run your paper through a grammar checker before handing it in!)

  1. Take a break

It may sound counterproductive, but one of the best things you can do to battle writer’s block is take a break. Go for a run, watch an episode of This is Us, or even do your math homework. Whatever you do, the important thing is to take a break from slaving over your assignment.

Sometimes our minds just need a writing siesta. When you return in an hour or two, you might be surprised to find that when you sit down to type that paper on the periodic table, your fingers fly with style.


  1. Read something related to your topic

It’s easy to get writer’s block after you run out of ideas. After getting off to a strong start, your train of thought derails, frustration sets in, and before you know it, an hour has rolled by and you’re still staring at a blinking cursor.

Don’t let this happen to you! When you’re out of fresh ideas, hit the books.

Let’s say you’re writing a paper on the Civil War. Well, bust out your old history textbook and get reading. Or maybe you have to write a poem, and you happen to have your favorite book of poetry by Billy Collins lying on your desk.

Read these nuggets of inspiration, and they could very well get your thoughts flowing again.

They might even beef up your works cited page. Sweet!


  1. Reach out to others

It’s easy to stay connected through Snapchat updates and Instagram stories. So why not use your friends and family as resources to help you out when you’re stuck?

Having some issues writing about music theory? Facebook your Uncle Ronny who majored in music. Can’t think about how to develop the plot of your story for a creative writing class? Text your friend Lila whose last short story received an “A.” Just make sure to cite sources!

You can even get coffee and have a face-to-face conversation about your struggles, and let collaboration magically heal writer’s block.


  1. Change your surroundings

So you may love to study and write at the local pizza joint because it has great munchies and free Wi-Fi. But if you’re finding it difficult to concentrate with the football game playing on TV and the soda fountain gurgling, it might be best to move to a different environment.

Try to find someplace quiet and uncluttered. Maybe you’re most productive at a small park or the library. Finding your ideal work location could save you hours of time in the long run.

If you’re sick of staring blankly at that computer screen, take a deep breath. Then try one of these four techniques for battling writer’s block. You should be finishing that assignment in no time!

Once your paper is written, make sure your bibliography is just as sharp! BibMe’s citation generator is an easy and fast way to create citations in MLA style, APA style and more. 

The 5 Writing Secrets I Wish I’d Known in High School

by Muranda Mendez 

As a college student, I’ve learned new tips and techniques that have made me a stronger, more efficient writer—and even made the writing experience more enjoyable. Sometimes I’ve found myself thinking, “I wish I’d known this earlier!”

So, here are five writing secrets that I’ve discovered in college that I wish I’d known as a high school student.


1. Find something you like about the topic

It can be hard to write if you don’t think the topic is interesting, or if you’re only writing with your teacher (and their gradebook) in mind. Of course, sometimes a paper topic is just uninspiring. But if you strive to find something you find personally interesting, the writing process will be a lot more enjoyable, whether it’s a literary paper or a research paper. If you find something you like, the writing process will be easier, and the end product will be more fun and interesting to read.

In high school, I dreaded Shakespeare. I found his writing dense, even more so when I knew I’d have to write about it. In college I also encountered Shakespeare, but I learned to pick something about his plays I actually enjoyed exploring. Rather than focusing on the entire play, I picked pieces such as nature symbolism or gender relations. It made writing about Shakespeare a lot easier.

2. Write five sentences

Figuring out where to start can be more difficult than actually writing the essay. If you’re having trouble, try writing out five sentences that could compose your essay. Here’s an example:

      • Thesis: This is the sentence that states your argument and how you’re going to prove it.
        • Example: A lot of students view essay-writing as a tedious task, but it can actually be fun and a great way to express themselves.
      • Body #1: This is the sentence that begins the process of proving your argument.
        • Example: Students focus mainly on achieving a good grade or pleasing the teacher, rather than the writing itself, making it seem more tedious and boring.
      • Body #2: This sentence proves your argument in a new way.
        • Example: If students focused more on what interested them, their writing would improve and the process would be more enjoyable.
      • Body #3: This sentence is either a counterargument or another way to show how and why your argument is right.
        • Example: They would express their opinions with more passion, making the final product more well-rounded and interesting to read.
      • Conclusion: This sentence summarizes your argument.
        • Example: While many students view essays as a boring task, with the right mindset and set of tools it can actually be an enjoyable and enriching experience.

Often, the hard part of writing is actually organizing your thoughts. Once you have the outline sentences written, the paragraphs will be easier to fill in!

3. Use sources

Before college, I viewed the requirement to cite sources in my papers as an obstacle to overcome. In college, though, I’ve discovered that sources can actually be a valuable writing resource.

If you’re struggling with what to say, try finding sources on the topic. Often when I’m writing, I find a source that helps me think about the topic in a way I haven’t previously. This not only gives me more ideas about what to write, but it also helps me argue against potential counterarguments to my thesis.

While you don’t want to make your essay too “source heavy,” using sources to support your argument shows that you have research skills and makes your writing more sophisticated. Just make sure to accurately cite, whether you’re using Chicago style format or MLA style!

4. Focus on the “how”

When writing an essay, it’s easy to get stuck on the “what” or the “why.” If you focus on the “how” instead, you’ll have more to write about and your analysis will go deeper.

For example, instead of writing about “what” theme the author is trying to convey, write about “how” the author conveyed that theme. If you focus only on the “what,” you’re just reaching the surface of the argument. Writing about “how” allows you to write about symbolism, metaphors, foreshadowing and more for a literary analysis essay, or historical context, social implications and more for a research paper. You might find yourself exceeding your teacher’s word count!  

5. Jump, jump, jump around

It might seem like it would be easiest to write your essay from beginning to end. However, jumping around helps keep you engaged on your assignment and makes it easier when you get stuck.

This is where the five sentences trick also come in. After you write the five sentences, you can go back and forth filling them in. Sometimes an idea for a different paragraph might come to mind, and it makes sense to write that idea in rather than feeling obligated to stay on the paragraph you’re currently writing. When you edit and run a grammar check, you can make sure everything fits well together. Sometimes I find that my essays have a stronger, more cohesive argument the more I jump around, because an idea from one paragraph inspired the next paragraph.

Becoming a better writer is a process that’s unique to everyone. However, these five tips and techniques have helped me enjoy writing more than ever before, as well as getting better at it. Try them in high school, and you’ll likely find you’re more prepared for college writing!

Does Anyone Really Know How to Use a Semicolon?

by Muranda Mendez

You’ve seen them in grammar handouts from teachers, pushed somewhere between warnings on overusing commas and misplacing apostrophes. Maybe you’ve tried to stick one in your essay, checking 10 times to make sure you were using it correctly.  

The semicolon has puzzled students for decades. It seems so smart and sophisticated—but how do you know you’re using it right?  

Simply put, a semicolon is a punctuation mark that is used to separate two independent clauses. So what is a clause exactly? A clause is part of a sentence that contains the subject and verb. The key to using a semicolon is that you’re connecting two independent clauses, meaning that it expresses a complete thought. So by using a semicolon, you’re connecting two sentences which could stand on their own.

Sound confusing? Let’s look at some examples:

This is a dependent clause:

When the students formed a study group for their quiz.

Notice how this clause can’t stand on its own as a complete sentence.

Now here it is as an independent clause:

The students formed a study group for their quiz.

Now the clause makes sense as a complete thought or sentence. In this case, the word “when” is what makes the dependent clause unable to stand on its own.

Remember, a semicolon can only connect two independent clauses. Here are some examples of misused semicolons

  1. The store was having a huge sale on many items; clothes, toys, and electronics.
  2. Desperate to fit in with her friends; Mackenzie pretended to have watched the new show.
  3. While they were swimming; they saw dolphins and turtles.

If you want to check whether or not you’re using a semicolon correctly, just read the two clauses on their own and see if they make sense. If they don’t, it’s a miss. In the first example, a semicolon is used to introduce a list; it should be a colon. The last two examples attempt to connect a dependent clause with an independent clause using a semicolon; it should be a comma. If you’re still not sure you used punctuation correctly, try running your paper through our grammar checker tool.


Finally, let’s look at an example of when you should use a semicolon:

Incorrect: Emily is very smart, she was in advanced reading when she was eight years old.

Correct: Emily is very smart; she was in advanced reading when she was eight years old.

The mistake here was a comma splice. A semicolon fixes that because it allows the independent clauses to stand on their own, while still showing that they’re connected.

Correct: In English class we read stories; we also read nonfiction texts.

Correct: Great writers use semicolons; using a semicolon shows a sophisticated understanding of grammar.

Correct: A lot of people have traveled here from Los Angeles, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Chicago, Illinois; and Orlando, Florida.

All three of these example are correct. The first two connect two related independent clauses. The third separates items in a list that already contains commas, which is another valid use of the semicolon. Another tip for checking if you’re using a semicolon correctly is to substitute in a  conjunction (and, or, so, but, yet, for). In the first example above, you could have written, “In English class we read stories, and we also read nonfiction texts.” Using a semicolon allows you to take out the comma and the conjunction!

As you can see from these examples, semicolons don’t have to be intimidating. Hopefully you now feel more confident about adding one into your writing. Your teacher will likely be impressed!

More BibMe resources: Get tips on how to cite a website and how to cite a website in MLA.

How to Brainstorm When You’re Out of Ideas

We’ve all experienced the mental block that occurs when the well of ideas has run dry. Snap out of staring-into-space mode with these brainstorming tips for infinite ideas generation.

Switch Up Your Method

There are lots of different brainstorming methods to choose from—so if one isn’t working for you, try switching to another. Examples include:

1. Free Writing

Free writing means picking up your pen (literally or figuratively!) and writing continuously for a set time period. Don’t worry about your spelling or a grammar check for now—just let the ideas flow! The goal is that you free yourself from the constraints of over-thinking or deliberating whether an idea will work or is ‘good enough’. Forcing yourself to continue with a train of creative thought could take you somewhere unexpected.

2. Mind Mapping

Also known as clustering or creating a spider diagram, this method basically involves branching points out from a core idea. Each point can connect to further branches, letting your core idea lead you somewhere that might have been too much of a leap to make otherwise.

3. Bullet Method

The bullet method is great for those who prefer a more ordered brainstorming session. It involves breaking a topic down into subtopics, which are then broken down further into bullet lists of connected ideas. It’s essentially a more structured-looking mind map! This method is ideal if you wish to note down any sources of inspiration that you might later need to create a works cited page for your MLA or APA style citations.

4. Venn Diagrams

Venn diagrams are a good method for comparing two or more things, and can be especially useful when planning compare and contrast essays. They involve drawing a circle for each thing that needs to be compared. In each circle you write the ideas, traits or characteristics that are relevant to that item. The circles should have an overlapping section for their shared characteristics.

Focus On Quantity, Not Quality

This might go against all your academic instincts, especially if you have perfectionist tendencies. However, allowing yourself the freedom to simply create ideas, without worrying about them further at this stage, could lead you somewhere that you wouldn’t have otherwise got to.

Set A Time Limit

Setting a timer can be an effective way to focus the mind on the task in hand. A time limit will also help prevent you from getting stuck on over-thinking your ideas, and will encourage you to just get as much down on paper as possible before your time runs out!

Change Your Surroundings

Sometimes, a change of scenery can work wonders for creativity. You could physically change your surroundings by taking yourself off to the library, a coffee shop or somewhere else you wouldn’t normally work. Or you could go for a more subtle change such as switching from your computer to good old-fashioned pen and paper. Or try playing background music, if you’re used to working in silence.

Find A Friend

Adding another person to the mix can be really effective in sparking inspiration and unblocking the flow of ideas. Why not try getting some of your class peers together to brainstorm in a group (check with your tutor first). Alternatively, having an impartial third-person to bounce ideas off can be useful as their questions could lead you to consider a new perspective.

Sources

https://medium.com/@WriterLionel/sound-advice-what-to-listen-to-while-working-601af736846

https://www.wrike.com/blog/techniques-effective-brainstorming/

https://www.thoughtco.com/creating-a-venn-diagram-1857015

 

 

How to Write a Hypothesis

What is a Hypothesis?

A hypothesis is your initial prediction about your topic or argument. Although you’re probably used to writing hypotheses in science, you can also use them effectively in other areas of research. Why Start With a Hypothesis?

When researching, creating a hypothesis gives you a place to start from. It helps you frame your research and know what to look for. Sometimes, your research question is just too big. When you start with a hypothesis, it can help you narrow your scope and figure out what information to focus on.

For example, instead of starting with the topic of the United States, which is very broad and may have too much information, you might choose the thesis “The United States almost lost the Revolutionary War,” which would help you narrow your search to information on the American Revolution.

What Should a Hypothesis Look Like?

You shouldn’t worry about creating a hypothesis that is right or wrong. It’s just a prediction! As you research, you will find out if your guess was correct.

As you write your hypothesis, make sure that it:

  • Relates to the topic
  • Uses higher order thinking
  • Looks like an argument
Each of the hypotheses below relate to the question:
“What would the United States be like if we never fought the Revolutionary War?”
There are a lot of possible answers to this question. A hypothesis will help you focus on specific pieces of information.

Hover your mouse over the blue and green icons to learn more about why the examples below are or are not good hypotheses.

Beginning Your Research: Identify the Information You Need

Once you have a hypothesis, you can identify what information you need to find out. Most likely, you will need to find data and evidence related to your prediction. This evidence may support your prediction, or it may prove it wrong; both are okay!  The point of research is to learn, not to be right.

If your hypothesis is, “The United States would be a much smaller and less diverse nation if we never fought the Revolutionary War,” some of the information you will need to gather includes:

  • ​Statistics on population and diversity before the war and today
  • Specific examples of how fighting the war did or did not lead to greater diversity
  • Specific examples of how fighting the war did or did not lead to the nation growing
If you can’t find the information you need to support your hypothesis, that’s okay! You can adjust your hypothesis as you gather information and learn more about the topic.

Conclusion


Creating a hypothesis is helpful and will be the central theme of your project. Don’t be afraid to explore different options before deciding on one that you like the most.

As you research, it’s ethical to build a bibliography to keep track of the sources you use to support your hypothesis. Easily make one in MLA format, APA format, Chicago, or more with BibMe citation tools. Our premium BibMe Plus service also offers a grammar check to help you improve your writing. Try it today!