Author Archive | Samina S.

Image by National Rural Knowledge Exchange, Flickr

Image by National Rural Knowledge Exchange, Flickr

The best way to get to know someone is to communicate. Ask questions. Listen intently. Make direct eye contact. Ok, sounds simple – these are common techniques, but when attending an event, mastering these skills becomes an art form – better known as networking.

Before the Event

Read the description to make sure this is an event you’d like to attend. It may seem like a simple act, but look at the schedule, find the location to plan your trip accordingly and most importantly, research the event. What is the event about? Who is attending? This will give you a good idea about what topics will be discussed throughout the event, as well as the speakers and their backgrounds.

Business Cards

Take business cards, not resumes.

  1. Write your name. If people have struggled with your name in the past, include pronunciation or your nickname in brackets.
  2. In place of a job title, it is fine to say you’re a student looking for “__” position.
  3. Don’t forget to include your contact information: phone number, email address and LinkedIn profile. Keep in mind your email address should be professional. Don’t make it your school email address. If you’re still using your elementary school nickname, create a free Gmail account – it’s worth it. If you have a website with your portfolio or a site that you created, include it.
  4. Make sure the information is legible and accurate. This is how they’ll remember you – make sure it represents the professionalism you tried to convey in person.
  5. If someone asks you for your card, ask for his or hers.
  6. Don’t just hand out cards. Develop some interest so they put the card in their “follow up” pocket and not in their “don’t bother” pocket (yes, some do this).

At the Event

  • Be comfortable but professional. Yes, you’re trying to get a job – but you’re also trying to connect with another person.
  • If you aren’t sure, ask. Don’t just agree with everything they say. Show them you’re listening by asking questions and displaying your interest in them and the position.
  • If you have a name tag, place it on your right side. After shaking hands the person will notice your name. Introduce yourself verbally on top of this.
  • Have a good firm handshake. Speak clearly, confidently and coherently. It’s all about the first impression!


  • If there is food, help yourself, but depending on the meal, don’t make it an opportunity to network. If a company is hosting a dinner, employees might be there to enjoy themselves – the last thing they want is to be pestered for a job. Weigh the room.
  • If you are right handed and have a drink, take it in your left hand, and the opposite if you are left handed. When you go to shake hands, you won’t have a damp hand.


  • Listen carefully. Ask questions if you’d like to know more about something.
  • Don’t make it all about you. Take this as an opportunity to learn about the other person and what they do – remember, you want a job that will fit your personality.
  • Ensure they have the opportunity to ask you questions.
  • You won’t be the only person there. Measure the right time to insert yourself into the conversation, and make room if someone is waiting. You want recruiters to notice your politeness and respect for others.
  • If the conversation isn’t great, politely say, “Thank you, it was nice to meet you,” shake their hand and excuse yourself.

After the Event

The follow up is one of the most important parts of networking – and one many students forget about. How are you going to connect with them in the future? If you got their card, great. If they have LinkedIn, connect with them and write a quick message, i.e. “You and I met at “__” where we spoke about “__”. I loved your view on “___”. I’d like to connect with you.”

Keep in mind networking opportunities don’t just take place during events. You can research potential companies you’d like to work for or intern with and contact the head of the department and speak to them over the phone. It is more personal, and your message won’t get lost among all the emails they receive. It isn’t being too forward, it is creating your own opportunities. Some sites such as Ten Thousand Coffees allow you to get to know someone in the industry and ask for advice. (Read our previous article on Ten Thousand Coffees here.)

Regardless of the event or the individual, keep these four things in mind: 1) Why are you attending the event? 2) What do you want them to know about you? 3) Who are you going to talk to? 4) What do you want to take away?

This ends the chapter on the guide to networking. Embrace opportunities or create them yourself. Put yourself out there and start the conversation.

Image by JD Johan Larsson, Flickr

Image by JD Johan Larsson, Flickr

Post-secondary schools have one requirement: textbooks. We cannot escape the long lines at the bookstore, the required readings, and taking notes on each chapter, but the format is changing and this may work toward the benefit of students. Ebooks are now becoming more and more popular.

First, this isn’t a choice of one or the other. Second, though it may seem so at times, technology isn’t always the way of the future. And last, the traditional, overpriced, heavy choice isn’t necessarily the worst.

Benefits of the eBook

  • Cost effective. The exclusion of printed pages and overhead costs like shipping and storage reduces the overall cost for students by a substantial amount.
  • Easier to Carry. With electronic books, as long as you’ve got a laptop, you’ve got your ebook. Instead of carrying the weight of multiple textbooks, just make sure you have a laptop, tablet, iPad, or even a smartphone.
  • They take up less space. Instead of piling your textbooks on your desk, shelf, or floor, ebooks are stored on your laptop.
  • Printable. If you want to focus on a specific page, image or chapter, you can print it out to make notes or highlight important content. This combines the best of both worlds.
  • Fonts can be resized. You can choose the view of the ebook, similar to reading documents using Word or Adobe Reader.

Benefits of the Textbook

  • It’s what you’re used to. You’ve been using textbooks for the majority of your school life. You don’t need to worry about technology, short battery life, or straining your eyes while glaring at screens.
  • You can resell them. Whether it’s back to your school bookstore, online, or to a friend or classmate, you can sell your textbooks to others. With the ebook, it is one code for one individual, available on one platform.
  • Tangible. Interacting with a physical book, you can make highlights, changes, and keep track of pages and readings. Studies have shown that you retain more information from a tangible book than reading on screen.
  • Commonality. Professors will tell you how to access the ebook, but the textbooks are common in bookstores, making them easier to find.

Don’t forget to look for other purchasing options or textbook exchange websites like Tusbe. Check for Facebook groups, buy a used book, or look online by checking the author and ISBN number.

The process of reading, writing and rewriting helps you retain information. The best way to determine which method of learning is best suited to you will help you succeed. You’re not restricted to one type of book either – you can balance both methods. Perhaps it makes more sense for certain classes – keep that in mind when making your purchasing decisions.

Image via

Image via

The universal definition of plagiarism is using words that aren’t your own without giving credit. Essentially, you’re stealing someone else’s ideas. It’s a simple concept: just do the work and cite anything that isn’t original. 50% of students have been known to plagiarize – it’s pretty safe to assume you know someone who has done it.

Students are taking 4 to 5 classes in a semester and writing multiple papers and mid-terms, while juggling a part-time job and trying to remember the concepts involved with sleeping and eating. But when it comes to plagiarism, we know the rules; maybe we even know a list of good sites from which to obtain sources. So why does this still happen? Last minute papers, hectic schedules and bad days just end up being a list of poor and ineffective excuses to your professor.

Professors talk about how to avoid plagiarism and improve writing skills by recommending websites, providing endless resources and even telling stories about that one student who made a mistake, had to meet with the Dean, had a hearing and lost. Whether accidental or intentional, the student got in trouble. We hear the rules again and again, and it’s emphasized so much that it loses meaning. There’s a section dedicated to plagiarism in the syllabus for each course, but it doesn’t make a difference.

At this point, you know what it is and how to avoid it, and the professor’s comments are just guidelines. However, there’s one thing the professor isn’t considering: your education.

According to Tyler Evans-Tokark, a Writing Specialist at the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre, two methods that trip students up are “patch writing” (cobbling together texts from various sources), and paraphrasing – both without citing. He states it is more of “a lack of literacy” than an intentional stealing of ideas. Students should learn to strengthen writing skills based on knowledge and the reason behind the rules instead of just learning that “plagiarism is wrong.”

Evans-Tokark advises that research is the key to a successful paper. Write the ideas, formulate what you’d like to say, and then do the research – that way you’re finding sources to strengthen your own point. Keep up with readings to remain knowledgeable about the material and familiarize yourself with the topic. He can sympathize with students stating the juggling of classes and personal lives leads to sloppiness in papers and bad judgement, but he says time management is vital. It’s about investing time into your education for a better outcome.

He defines a good writing piece as one with a structured setup. Create a model to introduce ideas and add rhetorical moves. This doesn’t mean using big words to sound more intelligent. It’s about using parallelism and patterns of argument, and this begins by expanding the “five paragraph essay” format enforced by high school teachers. Another tip is adding two controversial sources with opposing views. Remember to always expand on the class material.

In the meantime, talk to professors or TAs for advice on format and styling, and while writing the paper, always cite, make your own arguments and research your ideas. When researching articles, study the writing style of the sources you’re using – the best way to improve your writing is to read that of others. When writing the paper, other tips from Evans-Tokark include colour-coding drafts to keep yourself organized, and to quote less, writing in your own words.

Evans-Tokark is full of ideas for improving knowledge and understanding among students. For example, he says professors and TAs could implement online tutorials or quizzes to test students’ knowledge on certain topics (Blackboard lets you do this). Other examples include practice quizzes in tutorials, exercises, i-Clickers, and student debates.

Special thanks to Tyler Evans-Tokark of the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre for his input.

Image by Erin Kohlenberg, Flickr

Image by Erin Kohlenberg, Flickr

There’s more to writing a proper English essay than throwing together an introduction, body and conclusion. Here are some tips on how to knock your essays out of the park:

  1. Write the Introduction Last
  2. The first thing to do is figure out what you want to say. Once you have a clear idea and you have supported it with scholarly sources and examples, then start by introducing the topic, what you intend to say about it, and how you are going to explain it to the reader. It is safe to assume he or she has no previous knowledge of the topic.

    This is the lead for the rest of the essay. Make sure it grabs your readers’ attention. Don’t be afraid to use something unconventional or an interesting fact. You want to keep the reader interested enough to continue reading.

    Remember, the thesis statement is the last sentence in the introduction.

  3. Writing a Thesis
  4. The thesis should answer a few questions. How does your essay relate to the topic? Most importantly, what are you arguing? Does it focus on an idea for which you have ample information to write about?

    The thesis is the intention of the paper. What is the point of reading the paper? It should be original and answer the “so what?” question. Given the topic, what are you trying to say and why is it important?

    Remember to include the author, the issues with the text, and your approach in proving your point – i.e. compare and contrast, a methodical or theoretical approach?

  5. Essay Outline
  6. The outline of the essay is an introduction, body paragraphs and your conclusion. Do not follow the five paragraph or “hamburger”-style essay. These formats need to be expanded and more analytical in post-secondary education.

  7. Paragraph Format
  8. You should start your paragraph with a topic sentence that introduces the intent of the paragraph. Follow it with your supporting point and the evidence. Each argument often has three points, and each point should have its own paragraph. Each paragraph should contain a conclusion that directly relates to the thesis. Your points must always relate to the thesis, the topic and what you’re proving in the essay.

    Make sure you indent and it is double spaced.

  9. Citation
  10. Spend time making sure you have properly understood the citation. Should you write “bibliography” or “works cited”? Is everything spelled correctly? Properly formatted? Know the difference between writing a quotation and paraphrasing.

    Do you need to include the author, title of the book, year or page number? What form is the professor asking for?

  11. Organization
    • If possible, use multiple screens – it helps you to sort information, and there is a lot that needs to be written and properly structured in the essay.
    • Colour-coordinate – highlight, change the font, and alternate between first and following drafts. This allows you to create your own legend. It keeps track of when you’ve written certain information, and you can pick and choose if you still want to use it or rewrite it.
    • Create its own folder – any information on your computer associated with your essay is in this folder. This is another organization technique that makes it easier to access your work.

  12. What Type of Essay is this?
    • Compare & Contrast
    • Argumentative

    This will help you structure your essay in terms of organization, word choice and even research. After you’ve figured out what you’re going to say, how are you going to say it? It’s safe to say you’re going to argue something or bring an obscure fact to light, but what’s the best way to explain it in five-plus pages?

  13. Take Time to Read Over the Entire Essay
  14. After you’ve written the essay, leave it for a day and come back, so you can read it with fresh eyes. It will be easier to catch mistakes, improper spelling, organization issues, and identify what doesn’t make sense.

  15. Peer Editing
  16. One useful technique is to have someone who hasn’t read your essay, or who has little to no knowledge of the topic, read it out loud to you. While they’re reading it, take notes. How does it sound to you? Is this the way you wanted the writing to come across? Does it make sense?

    Finally, ask them questions. Was it clear and easy to read? Could they understand the point you were trying to make? Most importantly, did they enjoy reading your essay? Bias not included.

Regardless of the type of essay you’re writing:

  • Avoid general statements
  • Refrain from using clichés
  • Present new ideas
  • Use your own words only – or cited otherwise
  • Make sure it relates to course material
  • Save everything, constantly!
  • Keep track of what you’re writing
  • Does it make sense?
  • Do you like it?
  • Have you done what’s required?
  • Ask questions for clarifications

These essay-writing tips should help you get on your way to submitting a thorough, properly structured essay. Tweet us @StudentsDotOrg and let us know if these tips helped you!

Before you start writing, be sure to check out this article on how to avoid getting an “F” on your academic paper.

Are you writing your supplementary essay? These tips might help you too.