Saint Mary's University Writing Centre

Halifax, NS

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School Writing Vs. Authentic Writing

Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care

by Ken Lindblom

Many students dislike writing in school, and it’s no wonder.  Five-paragraph essay formats, predictable essay questions on books they didn’t choose to read, all written for a teacher (or faceless exam scorer) who knows more about the subject than they do.  Who would find this “schoolish writing”–as Anne Elrod Whitney has called it–appealing? Certainly not Tim Dewar’s daughter, who has “better writing to do”! No where in the world outside school is writing expected to be formulaically written without a real purpose and without a real audience.  As noted educator, Grant Wiggins, has put it:

The point of writing is to have something to say and to make a difference in saying it. Rarely, however, is impact the focus in writing instruction in English class. (29)

While many students claim to dislike writing, according to a PEW Report, today’s young people actually write…

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Succeeding as a ‘non traditional’ student

The Thesis Whisperer

This post is by Colin Cohen, who completed a doctorate at the School for Health in the University of Bath in south west England. Colin is what we call in the trade a ‘non traditional student’: older, part time and not working in an academic field. Many people have talked to me about what an isolating experience this can be. Colin successfully completed his doctorate, faster than many others do: I think we can all learn something from this post – especially number 2.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 10.27.59 amThis post is about the challenges of undertaking a part time doctorate, whilst working full time in a non-academic setting where I felt isolated from a learning environment. In particular it is focussed on how I tried to maintain momentum and motivation. I offer some suggestions about what worked for me, and hope that people who read this might avoid some of the mistakes I made…

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Why Plagiarism Doesn’t Bother Me At All: A Research-Based Overview of Plagiarism as Educational Opportunity

Teaching & Learning in Higher Ed.

Plagiarismby Gerald Nelms

When I began teaching back in the early 1980s, any student plagiarizing upset me a lot. I experienced exactly what Richard Murphy describes in his 1990 College English article, “Anorexia: The Cheating Disorder”:

Plagiarism irritates, like a thin wood splinter in the edge of one’s thumb. With any sort of reasonable perspective, I realize that one student’s possibly copying part of one paper on James Joyce is a small matter. In a typical semester, I teach 120 students and read perhaps 600 student papers. In a typical day, I have two classes to prepare and teach, committee meetings to attend, conferences with individual students, the utility bill to pay, a child to pick up from a Cub Scout meeting. But everything I touch rubs the sliver in my thumb and sets its irritation pulsing. As much as I try, I cannot ignore it. (p. 889)

And, for…

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Single-parenting through a PhD

The Thesis Whisperer

Parenting through a PhD can be tough, but what about single-parenting through a PhD? Degree of difficulty = high! If you are in this situation is a PhD doable? You bet it is – but it’s likely your university could do more to help. Orla Egan tells us more.

Orla just submitted her thesis for the MA in Digital Arts and Humanities in University College Cork and has finished the first year of her PhD programme in DAH.  She works on the the development of a Cork LGBT Digital Archive and lives with her 8 year old son, Jacob, in Cork city. Orla blogs on her PhD and life at OrlaEgan.

Orla Egan and Jacob Egan-Morley submitting MA to UCC September 2014 Orla Egan and Jacob Egan-Morley submitting MA to UCC September 2014

Its 8.30 in the morning and I’m just back from the school run. I have five and a half hours before I pick up my son. How…

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Michelle Obama says “get yourself to the writing center.”

Michelle Obama says go to the writing centre

So if you are struggling with an assignment, go to a tutoring session. If you’re having trouble with a paper, get yourself to the writing center.” – Michelle Obama



Obama. (2015, June 10). Michelle Obama to Chicago High School Grads: ‘Stay Hungry’. Time Magazine. Retrieved from

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Counterstories from the writing classroom: Resistance, resilience, refuge

Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care

by Deb Kelt & Amber Warrington

In a statement that has nearly gone viral in the teaching community, Nancie Atwell urged new teachers to choose the private sector over public schools. Though Nancie’s statement received much press, her words don’t stand alone. Often we hear from teachers leaving their beloved classrooms, stating they “just don’t know what to do about” the many problems they see. These stories crop up all the time on our news feeds — stories about testing, standards, mandates, burn out, frustration, hopelessness.

Instead of telling stories that offer few solutions, stories that seem finite, stories that offer endings rather than beginnings, we urge writing teachers to consider and embrace counterstories of their work —  to find hope and possibility in the nuanced work we do with both student writers and colleagues in public schools.

We look back on our writing classrooms, and we remember moments of…

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