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Friday, April 3, 2015

Top 5 pitfalls to avoid when writing a paper

You’ll be assigned to complete many different kinds of writing tasks in college (such as article reviews, literary analyses, or lab reports), and not all of them will look like the famous five-paragraph essay you learned to write in high school English.  There are significant differences among the writing genres you’ll encounter, but there are a few qualities that all good pieces of academic writing have in common.  Here are five pitfalls to avoid if you’re going to write an excellent paper of any kind.

1.Hiding your main idea (or not having a main idea). Depending on the type of assignment, your main idea may be called your thesis statement, your purpose statement, or your research question.  It may be at the beginning or the end of your paper.  But you need to have one, and it needs to be clear to your reader.

2.Not having an outline. Don’t worry; this doesn’t have to be the highly formal “I, A, 1, a” type of outline.  You don’t even have to make an outline before you begin writing—some people like to write a messy draft first and then organize it later.  But at some point, you need to get your paper into an order that’s logical and easy to follow.  Each paragraph should have one topic and should lead clearly into the next paragraph.

3.Using sources irresponsibly. In many assignments, you’ll be asked to quote, paraphrase, and/or summarize source material.  Appropriate types of sources vary greatly depending on the type of assignment, but you always need to make sure you understand and properly represent each source (even if you will ultimately disagree with it) and give the author credit using the citation style your professor requires.

4.Assuming the reader thinks just like you. Since your reader (professor or otherwise) is not inside your head, you need to be clear about any assumptions that underlie your argument, define terms that you’re using in a specific way, and check your logic to make sure you haven’t made any unexplained leaps.

5.Not proofreading. Ideally, your paper will go through several revisions as you work to make it clearer, more convincing, and better supported with sources.  But after you’re finished revising, you still have one step left: proofreading.  In this step, you check for surface-level (but still important) errors such as misspellings, missing words, and incorrect punctuation.  Try reading your paper aloud when you proofread.  You’re more likely to catch mistakes if you see them and hear them.

If you follow your professor’s guidelines for the assignment and avoid these five pitfalls, you’ll have a solid paper that you can be proud to claim as your work!

What pitfalls will you be avoiding the most? Which ones did we miss? Use #5pitfalls to share your thoughts on Liberty Landing!

Postedby Luis Lucchini at 4:52 PM | Permalink

Thursday, March 5, 2015

10 ways to get in shape without a gym

by Jamie Swyers

Your local gym may be the most common place to start working towards your fitness goals, but if you struggle to show up regularly or dislike the monthly fees, it’s nice to have other options.  Lifting weights and running on a treadmill are just a couple ways to stay healthy, but if they aren’t fitting your schedule or giving you any enjoyment, here are 10 other ways to get in shape - no gym required.

  1. Walk the dog: In addition to the long list of emotional benefits owning a pet brings, studies show that dog owners are more likely to get the required daily amount of physical activity.  Just like dogs need regular activity to stay healthy and happy, so do their owners.  Be the first to volunteer to take the dog out (or even the neighbors’), to help you stay motivated to walk regularly.
  2. Hiking: Hiking is a rewarding and memorable activity that can keep you in great shape.  While general physical activity has been shown to decrease stress, The American Public Health Association acknowledges that being around nature increases relaxation levels.  Spend time with your family next Saturday by picking a nearby hiking trail, packing some healthy lunches and enjoy the great outdoors!
  3. Biking: Riding a bike has been a long standing option when it comes to recreation and exercise.  Many cities are becoming more bike-friendly to accommodate bike commuters, or at least have a local park with bike paths for community members to enjoy.  Biking is a low impact but effective cardiovascular workout and can help you get outdoors and enjoy exercise.  Just make sure you wear a helmet and follow local traffic laws to stay safe!
  4. Home Fitness DVD: By investing in a few cheap fitness DVDs, you can take your gym workout to your living room.  Most don’t require extensive equipment and there are many equipment-free options to help you get the benefits of a group fitness class in the privacy of your own home. (Pro Tip: Remember to close the dog in another room to avoid being licked in the face in the middle of the ab workout!)
  5. Join a Team: What better way to get fit than to have a blast doing it?  Many cities offer adult sports leagues such as baseball, ultimate frisbee, basketball, and more.  Get together a team and relive the high school glory days, while you get the benefit of built in accountability.  It may be easy to skip a session at the gym, but missing a game is harder since you have a team counting on you.
  6. Play with your kids: Kids don’t exercise - they play! But as an adult you know that actually playing kids, instead of simply chaperoning, is exhausting.  Kids are born with an excitement for movement and most kids go right from walking to running no less than everywhere they go.  By committing to playing with the kids (saying yes to the piggy back rides, games of tag and swing sets), you get a fantastic opportunity to bond with your children, while investing in your health.
  7. Create your own bodyweight workout: If you are familiar with some basic exercises, it’s easy to put together a quick and effective circuit routine you can do at home with no equipment.  Exercises like push-ups (on your knees or toes), squats, jumping jacks, tricep dips off a sturdy chair, and planks can be done in a circuit of 45 seconds on and 15 second rest.  Repeat the sequence 3 times for a quick and effective 15 minute workout. Make sure you understand proper form of each exercise before you begin and if you experience pain, stop and contact a health professional to ensure circuit training it right for you.
  8. Take the Stairs: Everyone one knows taking the stairs can be an effective way to increase your activity level during the day, but purposely spending extra time a few days per week making several trips up and down the stairs can improve your strength and cardiovascular capacity. 
  9. Make chores a workout: Modern convenience has made several chores easier, but you can still do a few things the old fashioned way and get an amazing workout. Mowing the lawn, washing the car, shoveling the driveway and cleaning the windows can all keep your heart rate elevated and your muscles moving for a substantial amount of time.  Try putting additional effort into scrubbing the mirrors or vacuum at a quicker pace and it will be apparent that this work is physically taxing.  By combining your workout with some extra household chores, you score more than just a clean house.
  10. Schedule Active Social Outings: Going out to dinner with your friends or significant other is common place, but get creative and plan something active you all will enjoy.  Whether that is sledding, taking ballroom dancing lessons or going ice skating, try something that will keep you moving while you socialize and catch up.  
Postedby Luis Lucchini at 1:32 PM | Permalink

Friday, February 20, 2015

How to write a great email to your professor

by Tess Stockslager

As the director of the Center for Writing and Languages, I’m passionate about helping students learn to write clearly and effectively no matter what they’re writing, including emails.  As an LUO instructor, I’ve received many clear and personable emails from students, but I’ve also received some that made me cringe.  From those two areas of experience, I give you this list of practices to keep in mind when emailing a professor.

  1. Spell his or her name correctly.  You can find this information in multiple locations in your Blackboard course.  Also, make sure you use the title the professor prefers.
  2. Get right to the point.  It’s fine to open with a chatty sentence or two—i.e., “I hope you’re having a good weekend!”  But you don’t need to tell your whole life story, and you definitely don’t need to apologize for bothering the professor.  If you’re asking a good question, then you’re not bothering him or her, so there’s no need to apologize.  If you think you might be asking a bad question, see #3 and #4.
  3. Search for information on Blackboard before you contact your professor.  I am always happy to help my students understand the course material better or clarify what I’m asking them to do.  But sometimes I get emails asking questions about information the students could have located in the syllabus or elsewhere on Blackboard.  Please try to locate the information yourself first, but if you can’t find it or don’t understand it, don’t be afraid to email your professor.
  4. Ask clear, specific questions.  I’m sure you want your professor to answer your question thoroughly in his or her first reply, so that you don’t have to email back for clarification and wait even longer for the reply you needed.  If you want a clear, specific answer, ask a clear, specific question.  Mention details like the assignment you’re asking about and what kind of problem you’re having (if any).
  5. Include a closing.  An email is less formal than a written letter, but it’s more formal than a text message.  Most email recipients still expect a greeting (“Dear Professor X”) and a closing.  The closing can be as simple as “Thanks” and your name.  It may not be necessary (after all, your name is in the recipient line), but it’s polite.

Just remember that in most cases, you won’t be able to meet your LUO instructors face to face, so unless you talk on the phone, your written communication is the only way they’ll be able to get to know you.  One of the best ways to make a good impression on your professors is to write emails that are polite, correctly spelled, and clear, and that sound like they were written by a real person—you!

Postedby Luis Lucchini at 2:46 PM | Permalink

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Top 5 Things You Need To Do to Stay Fit

by Jamie Swyers

If you’ve been to a gym recently, it’s no secret that the floor is a bit more crowded and the machines are harder to come by.  Losing weight and getting fit both remain in the top ten most commonly set New Year’s resolutions.  While many resolutions rarely last, a new year is a great time to reevaluate where you are and what you want to accomplish.   In the forefront of the mind of a Christian is that we are stewards of all that God has blessed us with, including our bodies. Romans 12:1 says, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” But how can you keep that resolution you set after a winter of extra couch time from being a long forgotten January promise?

So as we enter 2015 here are my top five tips for getting and staying fit all year long.

1- Find What Works for You

There are hundreds of exercise routines and programs that promise to be the “magic bullets” to healthy body, but remember, the best exercise is the one you can stick with!  Don’t force yourself to run if you hate running and if you aren’t into working out in a gym, find an outdoor routine you’ll enjoy.  There are so many modes of exercise out there so it may take a few tries until you find something that works for you.  If you strive for consistency in whatever routine you follow, it will pay off.

2- Start Slow

 Don’t try to do everything at once; if you haven’t run since high school, starting off by signing up for a marathon is asking for an injury.  Take your time and remember, it’s not all or nothing and some is definitely better than none.  In the same way you wouldn’t give a second grader a three inch novel for their first book report, you shouldn’t set yourself up for failure by doing too much too soon.  Once you have developed sustainable exercise habits, you can build up the duration, frequency, or intensity of your program.

3- Set Goals

Set realistic but challenging goals and write them down.  You’ll want to make sure your goals are very specific and measureable so you can easily see when they are achieved.   Make sure you include a time frame to keep you focused.  For example, “I want to get in shape” is not a great goal, however, “I want to be able to be able to complete a Turkey Trot 5k in November 2015” is.

4- Tap into the Power of Accountability

I cannot stress enough the importance of community.  Working with a qualified fitness professional or registered dietician is a wonderful decision if you have that opportunity, but even the support of a friend or spouse can increase the likelihood of you sticking with a routine when you encounter difficulties.

5- Rely on the Lord

Pray for God to give you strength to care for his temple and to use the journey to help you grow spiritually.  Challenges and difficult situations often facilitate the most personal growth, so it’s clear that God has so much to teach us through the process of changing old habits. 

By considering these five tips you can start on an enjoyable and sustainable fitness journey.  Remember, it’s not a 6 week challenge or a 12 week plan- it’s every day, taking small steps to take care of the body God has blessed you with.  So, what do you find that works for you? What goals will you be setting for yourself? Use #Fit15 to talk to us on Liberty Landing!

Jamie Swyers is a contributor for Inside LU Online. She is the Associate Director of Fitness at the LaHaye Recreation and Fitness Center at Liberty University.  She is passionate about holistic wellness and a balanced approach to health; spiritually, mentally and physically.

Postedby Luis Lucchini at 1:01 PM | Permalink

Friday, January 9, 2015

10 habits to start in 2015


It's that time of the year again.  In another week we will be watching the ball drop and a new year will break the dawn.  How has the past year been for you?  Has it held lots of surprises or been rather quiet?  Has it meet your expectations or been a tough year?  I know for me, it's been a little bit of everything - Highs and Lows. 


So what will 2015 look like for you?  What goals, dreams and hopes are waiting just on the other side of January 1st?  What kind of habits do you hope to break? What habits do you hope to start?


I asked our Online Communities staff this very question - "What are 10 good habits to start in 2015?" - and here is the list we came up with:


  1. Drinking more water (not tea, soda, or lemonade - just water)
  2. Give more random compliments
  3. Have your neighbors over for a meal
  4. Read a portion of your Bible every morning.  1-2 verses a day is a good start. 
  5. Praise your spouse every day.  Privately and publically.
  1. Set aside time every day to read
  2. Walk at least 10,000 steps every day
  3. Extend your quiet time by 10 minutes
  1. Read through the Bible with your spouse
  2. Be intentional in prayer


So now it's your turn.  What suggestions do you have? What habits are important for you to cultivate in this new year.  You can leave your thoughts on Liberty Landing, using #2015habits!


Postedby Luis Lucchini at 4:21 PM | Permalink

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