Tools for writing in college

By Jerry Patton, director, Columbia College Region C3 and Online Program

Jerry Patton, Online ProgramAs part of Columbia College’s academic rigor, writing is expected in all upper-level courses. Columbia College has a resource called the Elizabeth Toomey Seabrook Writing Center and Tutoring Services. This is an actual physical location on main campus where students can walk in and receive assistance in person. However, the site is user-friendly for those of us at locations far removed from Missouri. Take time to check out the various handouts and links provided on the site that assist in writing and editing your essays. Additionally, I have chosen to include some useful sources that I have recommended over the years from my college teaching experience.

In the online program, our goal is for students to become more proficient in writing. This newsletter article will provide tips on writing. More importantly, various websites will be provided with resources to help you write a scholarly paper. Of course, instructors might expect APA or MLA format. For an excellent resource for sample papers of both types, click here. This website has a wealth of information on writing.

Writing happens in stages, from brainstorming ideas to outlining a paper, writing and revising drafts and then proofreading the final copy. The first step in writing a paper is to choose a topic and take a stand. In some instances, the professor will assign the topic. Even if the topic is given, the writer must decide on a main point which will become the thesis statement. After the thesis statement, the body of the essay should support the view or thesis that you are building around. If you are a beginning writer, stick to simplicity. If you develop a good thesis sentence, then the body is easy because the thesis sentence should outline the entire paper. In the body of the essay, you should provide evidence, point by point, of whatever you stated in your thesis statement that was the basis of your topic. Here is an excellent website to understand writing a thesis statement. Furthermore, here is a website to assist in writing a scholarly paper, one to assist in APA citations and one to assist with in-text citations.

Writing in the passive voice versus the active voice is a mistake that instructors often critique. A quick trick to remember to stay in active voice is “SVO:” subject, verb, object. In active voice, the subject performs the action stated by the verb. If you reverse the sequence, “OVS,” then you have passive voice. In passive voice, the subject is acted upon by the verb. So, for example, an active voice passage would be, “Passive sentences bore people.” The passive sequence would be, “People are bored by passive sentences.” Other examples might include: “Barbara changed the baby’s diaper” (active), or “The baby’s diaper was changed by Barbara” (passive).

A requirement of any paper is originality. Plagiarism refers to breaking copyright laws, and instructors will impose a punitive grade as a result of it. There are ways to write a paper without plagiarism. First, understand what you read. If you are reading reference material, read the material and then put it aside to try and compose your version of what you read. Avoid paraphrasing sentence by sentence. If you mentioned a reference in your paper, place a parenthetical citation right after the last sentence. To be free from plagiarism, point out the source and the author’s name to make yourself safe. To ensure that your paper doesn’t exhibit plagiarism, use free, online programs to check your paper. The main thing to avoid plagiarizing is having the “knack” of paraphrasing and putting information in your own words without repeating and plagiarizing. Read to understand!

Happy writing!



Is one résumé enough?

by Grossnickle Career Services Center (go to top)

Resume/job applicationOften in the Career Center, a student will tell us they are applying to hundreds of jobs, but not getting any response. While this can happen for a number of reasons, one question we always ask is whether they are tailoring their résumé to fit the different jobs. One standard résumé often isn’t specific enough to the job to catch the attention of the recruiter – it’s always better to modify it to make sure the résumé speaks to the position. With that in mind, here are some quick tips to help you point your résumé in the right direction:

  • Think about how your work translates to different industries. Let’s say you managed a restaurant for five years. If you are looking to go into Human Resources – your résumé can highlight the hiring, training, employee relations part of your job. But if you are looking to go into project management, you can de-emphasize the HR part of the job and instead focus on work that you did to make the restaurant more profitable or run more efficiently. You always want to angle your work so it reads to the industry and employer you are applying for. Generic and/or irrelevant points will just be skipped over and eats up valuable space.
  • Remember that placement on the page is important. So sometimes it may not be a matter of rewriting aspects of your résumé, but rather placing it higher in the résumé so it’s more easily noticeable.
  • When graduating, often times we add a “Relevant Coursework” category under your degree. Be sure to list courses that are relevant to the job – not to your major. This could include high level courses in your major, but also courses outside your major that will help you in the position.
  • Use the job description as your guide. Typically in a good job description, they will use key words and talk through the qualities they need. You want to be sure you can demonstrate as many of those qualities as possible. Use your work and/or volunteer experiences to showcase the skills you have in response to what the employer is looking for.

Focus on the skills section. If you are going into marketing, list out the social media platforms you are interested in. But if it’s for a medical administration position, they may want to see a more expanded list of office software.



Tips and reminders for adult students

by Department of Marketing (go to top)

Don't forget remind reminder notepaperAs an adult learner, we know you perform a balancing act managing work, family and household obligations while investing in your future by earning a degree.

We also know the New Year is a good time to remind yourself to breathe. You’ve got this! Remember why you started and celebrate how far you’ve come. In the meantime, we have a few suggestions to help you stay focused in 2019.

Make a weekly schedule that provides flexibility.
Making a weekly schedule helps you carve out time for your studies. Spread your assignments over several days to allow for unexpected circumstances. Multi-task when it makes sense. Read an assignment while waiting for laundry to finish, for instance. Or download the VitalSource Bookshelf mobile app to listen to it during your morning commute.

Enlist the help of family and friends.
Talking through a lesson with someone else has proven to be an effective way to make sure you have a working understanding of the material. So tell your kiddos, spouse, friend or mom about what you’re learning in class. And make sure they understand why you need time to focus on your studies. If you have children, this can be a great opportunity to stress the importance of education.

Take advantage of resources.
CougarTrack offers academic resources that are available 24/7. And you have access to e-books, articles and academic videos through Stafford Library’s online system. Of course, if you need additional academic support, contact your instructor or advisor. They will be happy to assist or point you to additional resources.

Reward yourself.
Reward yourself with a relaxing walk, some downtime in front of the TV or a special meal when you finish a difficult assignment or successfully complete a class.

Keep your eye on the prize.
We’re ready to celebrate commencement with you when you’ve finished your last session. And every eight weeks, you’re that much closer to having your degree.

Be proud of yourself. We are!



Thinking ahead to summer school?

by Department of Student Success and Money Stacks (go to top)

Young woman reading a book lying in hammockIt may seem early to be thinking about summer courses but we are at a prime time to be planning! And while it does not fit in to everyone’s schedule, summer courses are a great way to help you finish your degree faster. If you have decided to take courses, the next step for a lot of students is to figure out how to pay for them. Setting up a payment plan and paying out of pocket is always an option, but you can also utilize federal financial aid. If you have not done so already, filling your 2018-19 FAFSA at is the first step.

One type of aid you might be eligible for is the Pell Grant if you have been awarded this for the academic year. Some students may be able to use up to 150% of their awarded Pell over the summer. Students may receive Pell for up to the equivalent of 12 semesters (about 6 semesters) or 600%. To be eligible for Pell funds in the summer, you may be required to be enrolled at a minimum of half-time or 6 credit hours for the semester. To check if you are awarded Pell Grant, log in to CougarTrack and review your Electronic Award Letter. You can also read about Pell Grant eligibility at

Another option in using federal aid for summer courses is to allocate some of your federal loans for summer use. You would need to stay within the annual and aggregate limits for federal loans, but you can move any unused funds from this academic year to help with the summer educational expenses. In order to utilize federal student loans you would need to be enrolled at least half-time for the semester. To reallocate your loans you can fill out the Stafford Loan Request Form found on CougarTrack.

If you have questions about whether you might be eligible to use your Pell Grant eligibility over the summer or reallocating your federal loans feel free to contact Financial Aid.



Select feature films available from Stafford Library

By Stafford Library (go to top)

Person holding a iPhone with LinkedIn on the screen.Working with Online Education, Stafford Library has purchased streaming rights to 30 feature films used in online courses. The Swank portal allows access to most of the titles. However, due to restrictions from some production companies, not all titles are listed in the portal. All titles available through Swank can be found in the library’s catalog by searching for Swank Streaming Video. These videos include closed captions and are to be used only in the classroom.

The library also subscribes to Films on Demand: Master Academic Collection which includes more than 30,000 documentaries, archival films and newsreels. Films on Demand titles include closed captions and public performance rights.

Contact Stafford Library at 573-875-7381 or for more information about these streaming video collections or other electronic resources.