Saving and Losing Work

It’s no secret that technology is flawed. Whether it’s not saving your work when you tell it to or refusing to start up, technology has let me down more times than I can count. This summer, for example, I had a computer that randomly gave up on turning on at all. The consequences may not have been as great as if it had been during the school year. However, I did lose all of my progress on something I had been working on on the side for years. As such, I have some tips to help others avoid what happened to me, including sending copies to others, saving to a cloud storage account, and most importantly what to do if you lose all of your work.

Sending copies to others

Along the same line’s as Kaitie’s post about peer review, it is important to ensure that others look at your work. This is beneficial in all of the ways that she lists, but it is also beneficial in that it allows you to back-up, and if need be recover, your work. If you send it to someone to look at, you can retrieve that version that you sent from your email. This is something I have used a number of times when transferring between computers. If you aren’t ready to have someone else read your work, send it to yourself. This is particularly useful when you are working on a school computer and don’t have a flash-drive. Sometimes, when you use a flash-drive to get a copy of your work off the school computer, it can bring along a virus, so it is always good to have an extra uncorrupt file on hand.

Saving to a cloud storage account

One incredibly useful tool that many of us have access to is cloud storage. If you are a PC owner, you have a bunch of options for cloud storage. When I was using a PC, I know that I had a lot of cloud storage through Microsoft and through OneDrive. Now, they have combined the two and are calling it OneDrive. PC and Mac have access to a program called Dropbox. Much like Google Drive, you can share your pieces with others as well as store them in the cloud.
Mac users have another option in cloud storage that we often forget about: iCloud. iCloud allows users to back up all of their data, not just documents, to the cloud and access them from any Apple product. For example, I have my messages connected to both my phone and my computer. The cloud allows the two devices to work together and make sure my information is up to date on both. This works for documents as well. You can work on a document in Pages (or many other programs), save it to iCloud, and access it from another device. If you save it from Pages, you can access it through iCloud’s website under the Pages option. If you saved it to iCloud in general, say from a Word document, you can access it through the iCloud Drive option. However, if you save it to iCloud Drive, it will download to whatever device you are on for you to work on it.

What to do when technology fails

When you do lose work, consider what your deadline is for. If it’s for your mentor to look at your current research, explain to them the situation. More often than not, teachers will understand technology issues. If it’s a submission deadline for the program, there’s not as much leeway on deadlines. Either way, here are some steps that I recommend that you consider taking.
  1. Most importantly, do not panic. More often than not, you can retrieve your work, even if it’s not your most recent draft, from an email to or from your mentor. You may have to redo some of your work, but it’s better than starting from scratch.
  2. Start contacting the people you work with who have read your work. Search your email for the document title to see if you sent it as an attachment at some point.
  3. Redo any work that you lost. Do not worry about getting the wording exactly the same. It can be beneficial to rewrite anyway. You have thought about your contents longer than when you wrote your initial draft. Because of this, you will have an easier time being concise.
  4. If you lost most or all of your work, rewrite it. Do not give up hope. It will take some time, but not nearly as much as your initial draft took. Like I said before, you have been thinking about it and already written a draft, so you will be able to compose your new draft quickly.
Remember, you have ways to prevent losing your draft, whether it is sending your work to someone or saving it to the cloud. You also have the skills to rewrite your information quickly. Follow these tips, and it won’t seem like such a daunting task.

Starting the Semester Strong

It’s the start of a new school year, and you’re pumped to be back, or maybe you’re starting your entire college career. There are some important thing to remember as you go through your first few weeks concerning homework, sleep, and health.
Homework
The dreaded “h” word. Whether you’re new to college or a seasoned veteran, this word means hours spent doing something you don’t want to do for a class you maybe don’t want to be in. You have to remember these simple things regarding homework: it will help you succeed in this class and future classes, it does matter to your immediate understand of the class, and it should be done as soon as possible.
I cannot count the number of times that my previous classes have influenced my understanding of my current classes. Now, you might think “of course it does, Alexis. They’re all about writing.” However, I can tell you that I have studied a number of different styles of writing, from screenwriting to writing for a job. I did not think that my screenwriting class would influence my understanding of nonfiction writing, but it has. I have learned to connect the different commonalities to improve my writing style. I’m sure this is true in other majors as well. Math is important to any science, so it’s good that you have to take Math 141. Writing skills are important to any major that requires communication between peers, so it’s good that you have to take English 101 and 102. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. Homework takes these skills from previous classes and teaches you to use them in your current class. Without it, you might not realize that these connections are there.
Your current classes may suggest certain writing assignments but not require them. One important thing to remember: it doesn’t matter if they’re required, the teacher thinks it will help your understanding of the subject matter. I’m not saying to do every single suggested activity. If you completely understand what is going on without doing the assignment, don’t waste your time doing it. However, if you have no clue what’s going on, do the assignment. It will help, even if you don’t immediately realize it. Your grade relies heavily on the homework that you have to do each day, so make sure you get as many points as possible. Don’t give up with half the points you could potentially earn.
You also don’t want to be unable to complete an assignment because you put it off. Again, I know this from personal experience. I have always been a procrastinator. However, this semester while working two jobs and doing an internship and taking eighteen credits, I have learned that the homework that I would normally put off until the last minute is better off being done as soon after it is assigned as possible. Doing this allows me more time to hang out with friends, and it allows some of stress of having all of that going on to be released. I don’t have to worry about how much time it’s going to take, because I’ve already done it. If you take nothing else from this article, which you should, remember this: do not put your homework off, it lessens the quality of your work.

Sleep

As an insomniac, I know the importance of sleep. I have never received the recommended hours of sleep without taking a sleeping medicine prescribed by my doctors. Get the amount you need. It might seem pointless. However, that party you went to the other day caused you to go to bed at 3 A.M. Now, you’re tired and oversleeping. Staying up later than you would any other day will throw off your sleep schedule. Waking up later than usual, as you most likely would end up doing after staying up until 3, also throws off your sleep schedule. I don’t mean that you should stay up until three every night, so you can go to parties and have fun. I’m saying that you should go to bed at a decent time every night, even if it means leaving the party a little early. Scientists recommend 9 hours of sleep every night. This is because if you don’t get enough sleep, you become grumpy, have a shorter temper, and are more likely to catch whatever illness is going around at the time. The less energy (produced by sleep) your body has, the less well your immune system deals with the onslaught of illnesses that college, and dorms, provide.

Health

One thing that you should absolutely remember regarding your health: if you push yourself to go to class when you are genuinely sick, you likely will end up missing more subsequent classes. This does not mean skip class for every little cold you get, because you will get a lot from the exposure to new germs. It simply means that if you have the flu or strep or whatever other big illness goes around, stay home. Your teacher will probably be happy to avoid that illness. If you find yourself getting a lot of the sicknesses that go around, go to the doctor and get a doctor’s note. You probably have more going on inside your body. You have to make sure you keep in touch with your teachers if something like this happens. It’s important to remember that college is four years (or slightly more than four years) of your life and serious, untreated illness could cause issues your whole life.
So, while you enjoy the beginning of the semester, remember that you also have to work on homework, sleep, and take care of yourself. Please, keep these ideas in mind.

Working with Writer’s Block

Writer’s block happens to the best of us. From forgetting your information to not knowing where to start, we’ve all been there. The good news is that it is temporary. Here are some amazing tips for coping with writer’s block.

Change Locations

Oftentimes, changing locations will help provide you with a new perspective. A number of authors (such as Richelle Mead or Michael Grant) have said that when they have writers block they leave their houses. Some of them go to a hotel, some to a coffee shop. The important thing is to avoid somewhere with a lot of distractions. Don’t go to the park, if you’re a people-watcher. Don’t go to a book store coffee shop, if you’re going to be distracted by the books. You know what works best for you.

Take Breaks

If you find yourself drifting off, it’s time for a break. You can go on Facebook, read a book, take a walk. Most importantly, you need to give your brain a break so that you know you are producing your best work. It’s also important to allow yourself time to process what you’ve already written. It will stop you from thinking too hard about something, which can cause your piece to sound confused. Most likely, you’ll confuse yourself as well. For example, you could be thinking it needs to be researched and cited, but really you just need to write your opinion.

Free Write

Write about something else for a while. This is akin to taking a break. It will allow your mind to focus on something else. You could write whatever comes into your head on a separate piece of paper or in a separate document, in a manner similar to a journal. There doesn’t even need to be cohesion. If your brain jumps from a test to a train, follow it. However, be careful not to mix your paper and your thought stream together until you are struck by a new idea for your piece. You should try to brainstorm for a while and don’t get so absorbed in your new topic that you forget about what you need to do. This gives your mind a break and allows you to get some of your distracting thoughts out of your head. If you happen to write something related to your topic, incorporate it into your old topic. Most importantly, know your limits. If all you can think about is food, it’s probably time to eat something. You won’t be able to produce your best work if you aren’t able to focus on it.

Music

Listening to music stimulates the brain. Multiple studies, including one by Johns Hopkins School of Education, show that music helps students learn and remember new information. It also focuses the student on the task at hand. I have found that music helps me to get past writer’s block. In fact, I’m listening to music as I write this. Music is important. You can create your desired environment through the different genres of music. If you want relaxed, listen to orchestral music. If you want upbeat, listen to pop. There is a music genre for any type of environment you want, it just might take a while to find it. I personally listen to my Lindsey Sterling station on Pandora while working on papers. The instrumentals help me to focus on my work without distracting me with lyrics. She also has a bunch of cool songs.

Keep these ideas in mind next time you are working against writer’s block. It is necessary to learn how to get around it, so you can write your paper the way you want. Writer’s block happens, but we don’t need to let it rule our finals weeks.

Analyzing Audience

In any type of writing, it is important to know and understand your audience. This is particularly useful when you are presenting information that is considered important in research. If you know and understand your audience, you can tailor your wording and persuasive techniques to match your readers. There are a number of important things that a writer needs to consider about their audience: education, occupation, age, and applicability.

Education

The audience’s education can tell a writer what words to use and what words to avoid. It also allows the writer to understand what prior knowledge the audience will have on the subject. For example, if the audience is people who have a high school education with no experience at college, you would avoid using words that are less common outside the speech of academics. Because the audience will not have heard the words enough to be familiar, they may not understand what is being said. If the audience has their PhD, you would be able to use those academic words. However, in the latter case, it is important to analyze what discipline their degree is in, because if the audience contains English professors and you’re presenting scientific information, you may not be able to use some of the more scientific terms. This goes alongside the second point: prior knowledge. You can assume, if the audience members are scientists in the field you are presenting in, that they know the basic workings what you are experimenting with. You would not need to explain as much of the process or what you are working with as you would need to if the audience had little to no scientific background.

Occupation

This category may seem closely related to education. However, it is important to know the occupation of your reader as well as the education, because they tell you different things. Even if your audience member has a PhD in science, they may not work in the field of science. So, they would be less familiar with the current scientific development than a scientist who may study these developments as part of their job. The audience member who does not work in science may have forgotten some of what they learned and may need a refresher. Ultimately, it is important to provide information in a way that anyone, even those who are less informed, can understand so that there is no confusion over what you are saying. This may seem tedious, because you know what you are saying. But your audience might not know, so make it clear and concise.

Age

There are many differences between age groups that are important to remember when you are writing. If the audience is older, you would avoid using some slang that hasn’t been around longer and speak in a more formal tone. If the audience is younger, you would speak using any slang you wanted and would use a less formal tone. Just like in real life, anything said would be different for someone who is a child compared to someone who is an adult. Also, you can consider how long the audience may have been out of school. They may or may not remember everything they learned. There is also the possibility that they know more than they did in school, depending on their job. If the audience is full of older adults, they would most likely have more practical knowledge. You can tailor your references and example to whatever age group you are writing for.

Applicability

The readers want to know why your article or work is important, why it applies to them. If you make it clear, say to an audience of scientists, that your work furthers other research in the field, then they will be more likely to read it. This applies to any of the different disciplines that work on undergraduate research. If you have some new evidence or claim that Shakespeare was a fraud, then English teachers would be interested to read it, whether to agree or disagree. Humans are curious creatures as a whole, if you provide something interesting that they don’t know, they’ll read it. This is why it’s important to remember what your audience has read and how it is important and applicable to them. They won’t want to waste time reading information that they already know.
Altogether, these factors, education, occupation, age, and applicability, allow you to tailor your research presentation and make it more interesting to people who may read it. It is important to encompass all possibilities within each category and find the balance between the different styles you may use.