How to improve your writing

How to improve your writing

Writing can seem like an impossible task when you’re learning English. The good news is that with a bit of practice, you’ll be writing with ease in no time.  Let’s take a look at different ways to improve your writing.

This may sound a bit strange, but read as much as you can.  You’ll be amazed at how many writing tips you can pick up by simply reading. You’ll pick up the writing tone, different styles and new phrases, all of which will help you.

Next, try writing and ask someone to read what you’ve written. I know feedback can be tough sometimes, but finding out if you’re getting your ideas across is an important step in improving your writing.  It can be scary at first, but can be the most rewarding bit of the writing process.  Ask a friend, teacher or classmate for their feedback.  Did they understand your text?  Did they enjoy it?  This can help you understand what worked and what didn’t. Don’t take it personally, and focus on what needs improving.

You don’t always have to write long pieces of text to improve your writing.  With all the social media platforms out there, you could try microblogging or getting involved in forums and chats in areas you’re interested in. If you are organising a book club, you could also write down your thoughts before you go.

Another easy way to practise your writing is to keep a diary.  It can be as simple as writing down what you did during the day.  Or you could treat your diary as a notebook for ideas to develop later on.  With writing, it’s not about the length of each text but it’s about writing as much  as you can in as many different situations as possible.

With a few minutes of consistent practice every day,  you will gain confidence in no time.

Thesis Statement. What is it?

Thesis Statement. What is it?
Thesis Statement. What is it?

What Is It?

§ The thesis statement is the one sentence that contains your topic and opinion about that topic.

§ Your good thesis statement should be specific—it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper  and should be supported with specific evidence in your paper.

§ In terms of organization and structure, thesis statements typically appear in the last sentence of the  introductory paragraph.

How do I to develop one?

§ Thesis statements often need to be adjusted as your research and writing progresses.

§ Start with a tentative thesis statement that addresses the focal points of your research report.

Topic + Opinion = Thesis Statement

Examples of Closed Thesis Statements:

Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and the 14th Dalai Lama show that mankind is  more kind than cruel.

The Columbine High School shooting, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Trail of Tears exemplify  why mankind’s ability to do evil outweighs its ability to do good.

Examples of Open Thesis Statements:

Mankind is not perfect, but the moral sense allows man to do more good than evil.

Although a small number of individuals are kind, mankind is cruel, destructive, and violent.

Human beings are inherently good, but oftentimes their kindness and compassion does not emerge  until catastrophic and destructive events occur.

The amount of hate and violence that man inflicts on his own kind proves that mankind is the lowest,
cruelest animal.


§ The introduction is one paragraph in length with the thesis statementó as the last sentence.

§ The introduction should be general information and common knowledge; therefore, no citations are necessary.

unless it is within a direct quotation.)


-quote w/ lead (no quote dropping!)
-statement of fact
-anecdote a.k.a. story
-“Imagine…” statement (no ‘You’!)
– (AVOID QUESTIONS! Especially with research writing.)


– Explain the research topic
– Connect Hook to Thesis


A wise man once said, “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth  and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall.” These are the words of Mahatma Gandhi. Mark Twain refutes Gandhi in his satirical essay “The Lowest Animal.” Twain believes mankind is cruel, inflicts pain for pleasure, and has made a graveyard of the globe. He argues that because man has a moral sense which allows him to know right from wrong, mankind is capable of committing atrocious evils, but
Mark Twain is wrong. A few instances of evil cannot categorize an entire species as such. The 9/11 first responders exemplify how in the face of evil, hundreds of ordinary individuals heroically emerge to assist their fellow man.

List of Research Topics for Argumentative Essay

List of Research Topics for Argumentative Essay
List of Research Topics for Argumentative Essay

Below are lists of possible research topics for evidence or counterarguments depending on which stance you take. These lists are just starting points and should be used for brainstorming and preliminary research.


  • Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • Concentration and internment camps
    o Treaty of New Echota
    o Trail of Tears
    o Japanese-, German-, and Italian-Americans, and Native Alaskans during WWII
    o Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp
  • Crimes against humanity
    o South African apartheid
  • Cruelty towards animals
  • Domestic Terrorism
    o Oklahoma City Bombing
  • Drug Wars
  • Genocides or Ethnic Cleansings
    o Turkish massacre of Armenians in WWI
    o Holocaust (NO!)
    o Pol Pot
    o 1994 Rwandan Genocide
  • Hate groups
    o Ku Klux Klan
    o Aryan Nations
    o Westboro Baptist Church
  • Hate crimes
    o 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing
    o Matthew Shepard murder
    o James Byrd Jr. murder
  • Human Trafficking
  • Massacres
    o Nanking Massacre
    o My Lai massacre
    o Kent State massacre
    o Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting
    o 2011 Tucson supermarket shooting
    o Boston Marathon Bombing
  • Psychology experiments
    o The Stanford Prison Experiment
    o Milgram Experiment
  • Salem Witch Trials
  • School shootings
    o Columbine High School
    o Virginia Tech
  • Slavery
  • War crimes
    o Bombing of Dresden in World War II
    o Abu Ghraib prison torture
  • Villains and Dictators
    o Idi Amin
    o Josef Mengele
    o Joseph Stalin
    o Muammar Qaddafi
    o Saddam Hussein
    o Bashar al-Assad


  • Nobel Peace Prize winners and nominees
    o Mother Teresa
    o 14TH Dalai Lama
    o Nelson Mandela
    o Martin Luther King Jr.
    o Mahatma Gandhi
    o Bono of U2
    o Al Gore
  • Philanthropic/altruistic individuals
    o Warren Buffett
    o Bill Gates
    § Eradicating Polio
    o The Giving Pledge campaign
  • Disaster relief aid and efforts
    o 9/11 first responders
    o 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami
    o 2010 Haiti earthquake
    o 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado response
    o Hurricane Sandy
    o 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami
  • Japanese senior citizens tackle nuclear crisis at Fukushima following Tohoku
  • Heroes
    o Cesar Chavez
    o Miep Gies
    o Louis Pasteur
    o Jonas Salk (creates polio vaccine, tests it on himself, never patents it)
    o Frederick Douglass
    o Harriet Tubman
    o Oskar Schindler
  • Human rights/Humanitarian organizations
    o Amnesty International
    o American Red Cross
    o Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres)
    o UNICEF
  • Non-profit /volunteer groups
    o Habitat for Humanity
    o Peace Corps
  • Strangers helping strangers
    o Donation of organs to strangers
    § Kidney transplants
    o Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Foundation
    o Pay It Forward Movement
  • Underground Railroad
  • 9/12 Project

An Argumentative Research Paper

An Argumentative Research Paper
An Argumentative Research Paper

Your Task:

In your English class, you are reading and discussing Mark Twain’s satirical essay “The Lowest  Animal.” Your teacher tells you that some people would argue that Twain’s assessment of mankind  is accurate, while others would argue that Twain is generalizing—blaming certain atrocities from  history on all mankind as opposed to the few individuals that were truly responsible.

To explore this issue further, you will be provided two common research sources from your  teacher, and you will be responsible for finding two more sources on your own. Research  thoughtfully. Keep track of source information. You will need it for your works cited page. Read all  the sources carefully, and take notes on the information you find.

Your Assignment:

After completing your research, write an argumentative essay in which you take a stance on  the topic of mankind and whether humanity is innately kind or cruel. Make sure you establish an argumentative claim, address potential counterarguments, and support your claim with evidence from the sources you have gathered. Develop your ideas clearly and use your own words, except when quoting directly from a source. Be sure to reference each source by
author’s last name and page number when using facts or details taken directly from the sources.

– Your research paper must be at least 1000 words not including your Works Cited  page. Your final typed report must utilize MLA (Modern Language Association) format with 12 pt Times New Roman font, 1 inch margins on all sides, and correct headings and headers.

– Your final research must include a minimum of five sources (“The Lowest Animal,” two teacher-provided common sources, and two self-selected sources). You may choose to use more.

– Your final research paper must have a counterargument where you acknowledge an  opposing side of the argument but then deny all or part of its validity.

– Your final research paper must include at least two direct quotations. Remember to  lead into the quote with the author’s name and any appropriate credentials.

– Your final research paper must include two graphics (pictures, charts, etc.) to go  along with and additionally support your research and evidence. Graphics must enhance the information presented. Avoid inappropriate and distracting graphics.

– Plagiarism will result in a failing grade. Cite everything that is not common knowledge using in-text citations and list all sources in alphabetical order on a Works Cited page.

– Uses a formal, objective tone (Write in the third-person. No ‘I’ or ‘you’.)

Introduction to Writing or “Why we revise and edit”

Introduction to Writing or “Why we revise and edit”
Introduction to Writing or “Why we revise and edit”


Let’s face it. Students wait until the last minute to write their essays or research papers then turn in their work full of run-ons, fragments, misspellings, and dangling modifiers. And then there are the weak paragraphs with lack of details and elaboration. The current student mindset is “I answered the question. I don’t need the extra stuff because I just got straight to the point.” To help students understand the research paper writing process, this activity is a metaphor for the research paper writing process illustrating the importance of revising and editing student work.


Students will create a pencil holder or cup out of modeling compound and draw connections between creating the holder and improving their design to the research paper writing process.


 Modeling compound such as Crayola modeling compound or Play Doh (*Note: If teacher would like for students to keep the final product, use an air drying compound as products like Play Doh do not dry thoroughly and will crumble. If teacher plans to reuse the compound, Play Doh works well but ask students not to blend the colors together. Another option is to ask students to bring their own.)

 Toothpicks or other tools that students may add details to sculpture

 Miscellaneous art materials to add to model such as mini pom poms, eyes, “jewels”, flowers, decals, etc
(*Note: Teacher may ask students to bring their own so they can decorate their own theme but have a few miscellaneous items for students who forget.)


Step 1: Begin discussion with the question “Why write a research paper?” Write the question on the chalk or whiteboard (or if you prefer, a large piece of kraft paper or something similar), then send students to the board or paper, 2-3 at a time, to answer the question. After everyone has had a chance to answer the question, review the comments with the group drawing arrows or circles to show connections between answers. (5 minutes)

Step 2: Pose the question “How is sculpting like the research paper writing process?” Lead students to discuss how the terms pre- writing, rough draft, revisions, editing, and final draft might relate to sculpting. (3-5 minutes).

Step 3: Pass out the modeling compound; each student should use one color to begin with. Leave toothpicks and decorating items for later. Instruct students in creating their pencil holders. The following script is provided to direct students, but, of course, teachers may create their own or improvise to suit their needs. Dough refers to the modeling compound as Play Doh is a specific brand of modeling compound and all students may not be using that particular brand.

Sample Thesis Statements

Sample Thesis Statements
Sample Thesis Statements

Thesis statements must: 

  • Be relevant
  • Be specific
  • Include the primary thematic focus
  • Be debatable

 Not all that we perceive is made to be comprehended, and the simple act of accepting that brings us closer to the meaning of life. This is less a tale of two lost souls trying to find their way in a harsh world than it is a jovial, joking message that our perception of dreams versus reality is completely subjective. The insertion of fantastically ridiculous characters is more for comedic effect on Murakami’s part than anything else, and intentionally so (he himself says this bluntly in interviews). It is not a lesson either. There are no morals in this book, but simply a pitch that it is easier to dream than we think it is, awake or asleep.

The major theme rendered by the novel is that one’s duty to oneself as a person outweighs one’s duty to society or to others. This idea, although commonly accepted in men, when adopted by women was met with outrage.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern live in a constant state of confusion, unable to really comprehend anything, while still appearing to have a grasp on reality, though they do not. The bumbling of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern demonstrate that the world is an incomprehensible place. It is confusing and random, and because of this, impossible to understand.

Love, cruelty and tragedy are deeply intertwined throughout the novel, leaving a sense of mystery. Though more often than not these relationships between the characters are evolved first from love, then blossom to heartbreak and finally end in an intense passion of cruelty, desire, and a thirst for revenge.

Through a labyrinthine caricature of New York City in the early twentieth century, the author critically analyzes the struggle for equality through change in racial, social, and gender equality.

The Main Steps of Writing a Case Study

The Main Steps of Writing a Case Study
The Main Steps of Writing a Case Study

Step One: Case Study

Choose one from 3 Types

Period 2 – 4 to 5 pages; 6 sources, minimum

Plus title page and Works Cited page

Periods 4 & 6 – 5 to 6 pages; 7 sources, minimum

Plus title page and Works Cited page

Period 1 – Honors – 7 to 8 pages; 9 sources minimum

Plus title page and Works Cited page


Use your good writing skills  to produce an interesting, original, significant formal case study.

  •  12-Point font, plain style font – not Courier
  • MLA form is mandatory (including one inch margins)
  • Pure double-space; not default spacing
  • Use transitions effectively and consistently
  • Use parenthetical citations (Jones 33) and a Works Cited page

Required Sources

  • One from Questia
  • One from Galileo
  • One from Google Scholar
  • One must be a periodical (Newspaper, magazine, or journal in paper or electronic form)
  • One must be a primary document

*Personal Interviews are an option, but must be cleared with teacher

Step Two:
Multi-Media Presentation

8-10 Minutes
10-15 Min. Honors Students


• Based on research paper, sources and original thought
• Illustrated with
o Relevant pictures
o Graphs that can be read from a distance
o Other useful, attractive graphics

Must include an “extra element” beyond PowerPoint – such as:

• Video
• Audio
• Original surveys / original research
• Display on a side table
• Costume or equipment
• Final product – such as a piece of artwork
• Fund raising element
• Other

First type of case study: Process Analysis

  1. Directive Version:

Teach the audience to do something

Concrete Examples:

How to effectively make a compost pile

How to build a deer stand

How to run a lawn cutting service

How to bake and sell homemade bread for a profit

Abstract Examples:

How to improve your memory

How to write a song

How to prepare for college

Combination Examples

How Twitter works and how to use it

  • Students will actually perform the process themselves.
  • They will document their work with still camera or video camera.
  1. Informative Version:

Explain how something works

Students will break down a complex process into logical steps, taking care to explain how one part relates to another


What happens to cans once they are placed in the recycling bin

How a Hollywood movie is made

How a good coach creates a winning team

How the US forces are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan

What process  a recruit goes through to become a solder, sailor, or marine

How TV ratings services work / including your own original research on what people are watching

  • Students will have to rely upon pure research to illustrate these topics
  • Students can augment their case study with original research

Architects And Architecture – A Brief History

Architects And Architecture – A Brief History
Architects And Architecture – A Brief History

One doesn’t usually think of architecture as being an art form, but it is.  Many architectural experiments were proposed by well-known engineers and architects.  Frank Lloyd Wright, an American architect drew up plans for a building one mile high!  R. Buckminster Fuller, an American engineer proposed the possibility of making a giant dome, enough to cover an entire city!  He was thinking that by doing this, the climate could be well controlled and make living easier in frozen or desert places.  

In order to create successful architecture, the designer or architect has to be mindful and able to meet certain requirements in their resume.  The building that he or she is designing must be strong, of sound construction and able to suit the function for which it is being built.  The beauty of the size and shape of the structure and the balance of the different parts comes from the architect’s artistic and technical insights and gifts.  

Construction is essentially a science.  Architects nowadays know the various right ways to build a structure.  From past experiments long ago, today’s architects understand what materials to use, what weight they will bear and which ones are strong or weak.  They also have learned which materials will resist the sun and rains harm and how to fasten these materials together properly.  

One of the earliest architectural examples is the Egyptian tombs.  Since the pharaohs, (the kings) were regarded as gods; their final resting places had to last forever.  These tombs are called pyramids and some are still standing after 5,000 years!  About 2,700 BC the great tomb of King Zoser was built by the architect Imhotep.  It was as high as a 20 storey building and built using giant steps.  This is the earliest record today that we have of an architect and his client!  

The Mesopotamians, who lived between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, built towns and temples made of mud bricks with reeds since they had no trees to construct their buildings.  These people covered their structures with glazed tiles. These glazes were melted at a high heat and then fused with bricks for a hard, shiny surface. Their houses were sometimes two stories high and the second story would open onto a balcony.  Sometimes they even whitewashed the outsides of their houses.  

The Greeks contributed to architecture by giving us the orders.  These are the styles for a column and its parts (shaft, capital and base) and also the entablature (architrave, frieze and cornice), which are the supports.  These Greek orders, called Doric, Ionic and Corinthian were later added to by the Romans and others.  These orders are still used in architecture to this day!   

After World War II, architecture started to move away from its boxlike severity of the era between the first and second World Wars.  Le Corbusier used reinforced concrete forms in the 1940s and 1950s.  One of his achievements was the Notre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp, France.  Its roof was curved and made of reinforced concrete held together by concrete struts.        

The recent trends that architects are using now are to build buildings that are energy and fuel efficient and economical.  Architects also are incorporating designs using solar energy and better insulating materials.  One can only dream of what kind of home we will be buying in the future!

Decorating the garden with a seasonal theme

Decorating the garden with a seasonal theme
Decorating the garden with a seasonal theme

If you have a garden, then you already have a canvas on which to enhance your home’s attractiveness. A garden has many possibilities available when you think about decoration. First of all, undertaking the planting of seasonal flowers, with a little effort, can work magic in the garden. If you have specific trees that bear fruit or flower during specific seasons, these can also be the highlight of your garden during the particular season. However, most folks don’t have the luxury of fruit bearing or flowering foliage in their gardens so a little creative decoration is what should be done.
Silk Garden Floral with Planter
The main space within a garden area is usually the lawn and other areas of grass. Grass is like blank slate and by itself looks beautiful. However the look of the grass may be enhanced with certain objects that reflect the season. In summer for instance, you could put out a bird bath on a pedestal. This will help by encouraging the birds in (which in themselves are seasonal attractions.
Daisy Print Garden Set by Wild & Wolf
Trees and bushes too can be decorated without making them look ugly. There are many cultures across the globe that attach colored string (or even bunches of colored string) to the branches of trees, so that these waft about in the breeze. If that’s not your style, you could place an outdoor lamp at the base of a large plant so that its leaves are highlighted from below at night when the lamp is switched on. Garden lighting in fact is fast becoming a decorative niche. Weaving lights through a hedge creates an exciting effect when the lights are switched on.
Playing with water too is fast gaining momentum as a popular mode of garden decor. During the winter, water frozen in an outdoor mould may be hand carved and left as a garden attraction for the entire winter period. The carving could be a modern abstract creation or represent an object or life-form. A summer water decoration would be a still pool or a large outdoor fish tank (if you live in a cold area, an outdoor fish tank may not be practical). An autumn and spring fascination may be setting up a decorative water fall that launches from the roof to a collection pond at ground level. Direction of water flow is maintained by stretching out string from the higher level to the lower.
Figurines have long been used in garden decoration and these may be rotated according to the season. Going with themes from folklore is popular and you could get really creative by delving into forgotten or unique figurines from a variety of global cultures. Garden gnomes especially may be dressed up according to the season and make for a unique conversational item.

Seasonal Decorative Lighting Ideas for Home Decor

Seasonal Decorative Lighting Ideas for Home Decor
Seasonal Decorative Lighting Ideas for Home Decor


Chris Table Lamp by Barbara Cosgrove

Lighting can make a marvelous impact within and outside the home. The use of lighting effect dates back to medieval days when castles and manor houses used to be decorated with torches in a manner that indirect lighting effects were created. Today the technology exists to completely transform a home every season of the year. There are varieties of lighting methods and the kind you would use would depend on variables like the size and location of your home, the amount of money you’re willing to spend and the amount of specialization you’d want in the lighting effects.

Living space lighting is the first place you’d want any changes made. Ideally, a mixture of indirect light, focus lamps and colored light should be used so as to bring out the  the best within the room. Depending on the season, the lights could be accented or dimmed to give a more open or even a more intimate feeling to the living space. Indirect lighting could be either golden or white fluorescent lighting and could reflect off either ceilings or walls.

Dimmer controls should be appropriately placed for each set of lights, preferably according to which ‘wall’ the lights are on. But if this is too technical, the simple way to enhance the lighting would be to place lamps about the living space; table lamps as well as floor lamps so as to create the required effect. These lamps may have their covers changed to suit the season and even have the light source changed from between high wattage to low wattage illumination according to season.

This kind of lighting may be extended throughout the interior of the house. But besides the living room, the next places for decorative lighting for your xmas decorating season would be the bedroom and the dining area. The bedroom lighting would create a more intimate surrounding; while dining room lighting would concentrate on simply dimming and focusing light on food and specific decorative accessories to highlight the season.


External lighting though can really bring out the flavor of the season, especially if there are festivities due. Garden lighting can enhance the effect of foliage in trees and hedges and make these look more attractive. These may be used through various seasons to highlight different aspects of the foliage as well as being used during winter to highlight snow on the plants if there is any. Also, there are a variety of decorative lights available that are suitable for seasonal festivities such as blinking lights, par-cans, and focus lamps.

All said, lighting within and outside the home, makes for excellent seasonal decorative features. These are especially suited for national and religious seasonal festivals and add much liveliness and spirit to the home. While being prudent in your use of lighting, exploring the advantages of using light to change the look and feel of your home according to the season is definitely worth exploring.