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Writing the Research Paper: Interview with Amanda Christie

 

This week we interview Amanda Christie, academic writing coach and editor at PFAU Academic Writing, about what it takes to write a solid research paper. We thought this topic would be helpful to our listeners who are currently working on their term research papers and feeling a bit overwhelmed. While writing can be stressful and time-consuming, a well-thought out and detailed research, note-taking, and planning process can make writing much easier.

Screenshot 20201129 125306 1 1 e1611451922988 283x300 Writing the Research Paper: Interview with Amanda Christie

 

Amanda comes from a family of teachers and professors, but she also is no slouch herself. She has a BA (Hons) in Global Development and Gender Studies from Queen’s University, and has worked on research projects with the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, Newcomer Women’s Services, and Singing Out. She also presented at several conferences throughout Ontario as coordinator for a youth drop-in centre, and has a real passion for the education of young adults – helping them to edit essays, improve assignments, enhance university applications, and polish up English as a second language skills.

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What do you think is the value of feedback from other people on research papers?

No matter how good a paper might be, it is always nice to have a second set of eyes on it to make sure that someone else can understand you. It is really easy to make assumptions about what you mean when you are reading your own work. When you wrote it yourself, you know what you mean, but someone else might not understand your argument. In addition, it is great to have an outside perspective because you might be asked questions that you did not think about and given suggestions on how to expand your argument. Sometimes other people might even have extra resources for you that are helpful for the paper. Generally, it is just great to exchange ideas with others.

 What do you think is the most challenging aspect of writing a good quality research paper?

I think the most challenging thing is keeping the paper organized. Often, people have a lot of really great ideas, but they do not always communicate them clearly, which results in the effect being lost. You can have the best argument in the world, but if it is not coming across to your readers, it is ineffective. I think that it is important to remember the flow of your essay and that each paragraph should have strong arguments that related to your main point. You should back those arguments up in a logical way and building upon each new idea. Ideas should not come out of the blue and you should not be jumping back and forth between topics or ideas. It is key to also have transition sentences. The ability to link your ideas into a coherent argument or logic is what takes a paper from a C to an A.

What is the most common error you see when providing feedback on research paper drafts?

I think the most common error is the lack of specificity and evidence, for example, insufficient supporting evidence like statistics and quotations. I find that a lot of people do not always back up or prove their claims, and they just stick them in their papers as assumptions and reality. On the flip side, sometimes people use evidence incorrectly or in a way that is not as impactful. For example, you may be plopping a quotation into an essay without any subsequent analysis. I think that goes back to taking the time to do detailed research notes to help you figure out which evidence you want to use and which is no longer relevant.

What are the top three tips for students who are adjusting to university-level writing?

First of all, I want to remind everyone to not take their grades personally. Your worth is not tied to your grades; it is merely a measure of skill assessment. Second of all, work on developing strong thesis statements. The thesis statement sets up the argument and structure of your paper. Third of all, ensure that your essay structure and flow works to support the argument that you outline in your thesis statement. It is essential to ensure that your ideas connect to and build off of each other, and not just merely floating island on the page.

 

Recommended Books

Decolonizing Methodologies by Linda Tuhiwai Smith

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks

Thank you, Amanda, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Writing Online: Interview with Melody Belliveau

We interviewed Melody Belliveau, a freelance writer and author of the website, TheSocial-Commentary.com, about the journey of becoming a writer. This interview is a part of our Careers in the Liberal Arts series. Most people think of writers as authors of books, but there’s actually probably more writing than ever before with the advent of the internet. Websites, social media, newsletters, and online editorials all are areas where you can become a writer. 

Melody Photo 300x246 Writing Online: Interview with Melody Belliveau

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 Melody started out writing for a local newspaper in her early thirties as a mother of four children. Then, family life put a pause in her writing career until she had to step back from her previous position due to health issues and decided to start her own website to inspire, encourage, and support others. She continues to challenge herself with new projects, aiming to publish in a national magazine next. You never know when your writing career will flourish. The key is to never give up.

Could you tell us a little bit about your project you’re working on now? How did you start your website?

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Through joining the Dress for Success workshops, I was able to be paired with a mentor and received an opportunity to have a column in one of the local magazines. I excitedly submitted the article, but when the edits came back I felt like it had taken my original voice away and wasn’t the right fit for me. I was disappointed, and wanted to give up.

After talking to my mentor about the experience, she that I could create my own website to express my opinions. Even though I was not an expert in technology, I was able to slowly build my website through the help of tutorials. It was like a dream come true!

My goal with my posts on the website is that when people read them, they can either relate to my work or find something in there that can help them. I also plan to use my website as a platform to help with my ultimate career goal to have my own Social Commentary magazine.

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You’re stay-at-home a grandmother of ten. What keeps you going and motivated?

Being able to help people keeps me motivated. When I see people commenting on posts that I write – “thank you so much! I needed that today” – it feeds my soul because they are saying that I just fed theirs. I want people to see that every one of us matters and be inspired by my work. I have enjoyed writing from a young age and I want to speak up and share my voice.

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What advice would you give to your younger self?

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Go after your dreams and set a plan to help you achieve those dreams. Go take those classes that you are interested in and zone in on your purpose. I felt that my whole life, I just let everything else get in the way. And now that there is not anything to get in the way, I’m going for it. It’s gonna be my legacy.

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Melody’s Book Recommendations and Resources

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Book:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

Resources:

Your Move with Andy Stanley

The Write Launch

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Thank you, Melody, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

The Art of Proofreading: Interview with Daina Sparling

We interview Daina Sparling, an editor and proofreader at PFAU Academic Writing, about something students often take for granted – editing! Good writers know that the first draft is never going to be their best work. They need to put aside time to revise, edit, and proofread their work. The best writers have colleagues or professionals to provide them with insights on their work and to fix any issues. Like all art, writing takes multiple drafts to reach a level of greatness.

Color headshot 300x200 The Art of Proofreading: Interview with Daina Sparling

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Daina has a Psychology degree from the University of Alberta, and several years experience working as a Research Assistant for the Department of Medicine, Division of Studies at the University of Alberta. While at the university she collaborated with other academics in the creation, editing, and statistical analysis of examinations used in the medical school. Diana also has over three years of experience editing graduate-level dissertations and publications with PFAU Academic Writing. In her free time, Daina enjoys travel, beekeeping, and camping with her husband and two children.

What is the value of receiving editing support?

It is important to have somebody look your work over because we do not see our own faults very well. For example, if I studied abroad I would absolutely ask somebody, who is a native speaker, to look at my work because different languages have different expectations and structures. The real value is that you not only end up with a more polished version of your written work by hiring an editor, but you also learn from them how to become a better writer. For example, if there are common errors that I see in the work, I will point them out to client so that they can avoid those errors in the future. In addition, the comments made on the draft related to content or questions asked about what the writer intends to say, helps the writer to become more clear in their ideas and expression as they continue through the writing process. It is also beneficial to have the help of an editor, who has experience in writing and working with different kinds of text so that they can teach you how to adapt your work to appeal to different audiences. Writing is just another medium through which to communicate your ideas. If you can work with someone who will help you to improve those communication skills, then you have more opportunities and avenues through which to share your research and thoughts.

What skills and knowledge do you think good editors have?

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First, I think that whatever language you are using to write your essay or dissertation, it is always beneficial to find an editor who is a native language speaker, especially for international students. I think it is a helpful added step to have another pair of eyes to look at your work.


Second, a good editor is someone with a strong set of technical writing skills, such as: grammar, punctuation, spelling, structure, format, citation styles, etc. You want to be able to trust that they will recognize and fix your mistakes.

Third, and possibly most importantly, a good editor should also be able to figure out what is the person actually getting at. In other words, what does the writer intend to say. A good editor does not change the writer’s meaning, but enhances it. I think good editors tend to be empathetic. We can get a sense of the person through their writing and adapt it in a way that is suitable for them, as opposed to having some sort of formula. I think a good editor needs to be able to work together to accomplish the goal of the client. I do not want that client’s work to sound like my own, but rather the best version of their words. As a result, a good editor will be able to suss that out and decide what is the actual content that this person is trying to convey.

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Tell us a bit about your own process. How do you edit a paper?

The first thing that I do is just take a quick scan through the work to see what is it about how long it is. Then, I will go back to the original project instructions. It is always really helpful to be given a copy of any assignment or submission instructions to ensure that all the requirements have been fulfilled. If your writing submission does not have the right components, it is not going to help you even if it is edited perfectly. Then, I will read through the paper looking for structural issues, content issues, and clarity. At this point, I will suggest broad sweeping revisions where relevant. Then, I will take a second look reviewing for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. I usually let it sit for a day, and then do a final read to make sure that I haven’t missed any mistakes.

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What are some common mistakes that you often see in the essays that you edit?

The first one that is absolutely glaring for me is the tense. It is necessary to make a determination and decide whether you are in the present, past, or future before writing down 40 or 50 pages of work into a document. Which tense people should use is going to be dependent on what they are writing. A paper talking about literature may use a different tense from a personal response essay. There is nothing more difficult than editing for 10 or 20 hours and having to go back and forth wondering what the author is talking about because they switched from present tense to past tense in the middle of a paragraph.

The second common mistake is acronyms. Students should make sure that they have spelled out the full name of any acronyms they use in the essay, and placed the acronym in brackets after the full them. Only after that, can you use the acronym consistently throughout your essay. You cannot assume that people will know what you are talking about, for example, what BMJ stands for. Do you know? I still don’t.

The third thing would be capitalization, such as the capitalization of names and organizations. People often get proper nouns and common nouns mixed up. For example, China and china mean two different things when you change the capitalization in the word. You need to check whether or not the technical terms that you are using need to be capitalized or not. The internet is your best friend for checking this out. This is another one of those errors that can be missed easily, but to a technical reader or an employer, it is a big problem if they see that their organization is not capitalized.

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Resources Recommendation

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Style Guide (APA, MLA, Chicago)

Purdue OWL

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Thank you, Daina, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

_

To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Healing through Creative Writing: Interview with Linh Nguyen

 

We interviewed Linh Nguyen, a Vietnamese-Canadian writer and workshop facilitator, about the gifts that writing can provide to your well-being. Writing can be a great emotional relief, healing old wounds, providing unique insights, and enhancing personal growth.

000026030021 1 214x300 Healing through Creative Writing: Interview with Linh Nguyen

 

 Linh is passionate about #OwnVoices storytelling and creating space for underrepresented artists in mainstream media. She holds an H.B.A. in English from the University of Toronto and specializes in writing creative non-fiction and children’s literature. Her current project is a middle-grade children’s portal fantasy manuscript, which she is currently being submitted to several publishers. Linh is also one of our creative writing instructors at PFAU, with some really inspiring upcoming courses.

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What drew you to creative writing?

For me, I think what drew me to stories in the first place was that I’ve always been a big reader. I did not start writing by myself until Grade 6, which was the year that my father and I immigrated to Canada. It was a pretty challenging year for a number of reasons financially, personally, my mom and my baby brother stayed behind in Hanoi that year. So it was a challenging time for the family, and we had a lot to adjust to, facing a new culture and country. I wanted to escape a lot of that, so I turned to stories. That year I think over 200 books.

My favorite genre was were portal fantasies, which is the type of fantasy when the main character starts in our regular worlds and then finds himself in a different world through some series of circumstances. For example, the Witch in the wardrobe, the Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland. Those stories were always my favorite. Also, that was the year I discovered Harry Potter. I guess fiction provided me with the escape that I wanted, and the portal fantasy and print title there. The portal fantasy was like a metaphor for the immigrant experience. About partway through the year, I started writing some of my own stories to reshape my own experiences and have continued ever since.

I know that you’re passionate about unrepresented artists. Where did this come from?

Honestly, I only started paying attention to this over past three years. Before that, I think I was still writing with a very white gaze. In the first draft of my novel, all my characters were white. It wasn’t until I finished that I realized this and thought – “But, that’s not my experience.”

Afterwards, I listened to a TED Talk by Chimamda Ngozi Adichie called “The Danger of a Single Story.” She talks about an experience she had writing in Nigeria, as a kid, and how she was writing about snow, even though she’s never seen snow before. That was very relatable to my experience because all I had consumed were stories about white characters, so I ended up writing about white characters even though that wasn’t reflective of my lived experiences. It took a very intentional reflection for me to actually start bringing my identity and voices of Vietnamese immigrants into my work.

I think community has played a really big part in this as well, such as being involved with Project 40 Collective, which is about uplifting, underrepresented voices. They’ve all been teaching me how to foreground identity in my work. This is totally new to me because my background is in English literature in university, where the majority of authors are white men. It took me so long after graduating to realize that Hemingway is not the be all and end all of good writing. It’s really important to see stories of people who look and sound like you when you’re growing up. Otherwise, you end up adopting the dominant gaze, which is what I did and I had to push myself out of it in a lot of ways.

In what ways can students use writing as a form of self-care in their daily lives?

I think the biggest difference between essay writing and writing for self-care is the intention. In my workshops, I don’t focus on technique as much as I focus on developing voice. The object is drawing out feelings and making space for feelings. It’s not so important to have nicely written words, but to be real and raw. The goal is to come out feeling proud of how you tuned into yourself and feel more grounded in yourself.

Recommended Books and Resources

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

Linh Nguyen

Thank you, Linh, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Please visit our calendar to register for our research essay or creative writing courses.

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

_

To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Academic Integrity: Interview with Lisa Pfau

 

We interviewed Lisa Pfau, the founder and CEO of Pfau Academic Writing, about her own experiences coaching students through academic integrity issues. For students, especially from other countries with different expectations, the expectations around academic integrity may take time to adjust to. Academic misconduct can lead to serious consequences from verbal reprimand to notation on the transcript or even suspension from school. During COVID-19, the issue of academic misconduct has heightened since schools can no longer use exam centres and classrooms, making them more concerned about cheating. This additional pressure has led to some misunderstandings and false accusations.

Lisa scaled e1612409991281 300x250 Academic Integrity: Interview with Lisa Pfau

 

After graduating in 2007, Lisa Pfau worked in public policy and research, including: as a political intern at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing and a Research Coordinator at the University of Toronto. These experiences provided Lisa with the knowledge and networks to help her clients transition from academic to professional life.

She currently enjoys teaching specialized Creative Writing and Research Essay Writing courses and workshops at PFAU: Academic Writing, and other educational institutions, such as the University of Toronto and University of Alberta.

Over the past 20 years, she has mentored hundreds of clients in reading/writing fundamentals, critical thinking, research proficiency, organizational skills, and academic/career goal setting, as well as, research papers, scholarship proposals, and grad/professional school applications.

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What is the difference between positive collaboration with classmates and academic dishonesty?

I think the key is to give someone else credit if you are using their ideas. I would say that positive collaboration is when working together on an assignment, it is clear who did what, whose idea it was, or where all these thoughts coming from. You are not just “stealing someone’s idea.” I think academic misconduct is when you knowingly take an idea or information from somewhere else and you pass it off as your own information with the expectation that you will be rewarded.

This actually happened to me in grad school before. When I was in grad school, we had a shared office space in the basement of the Munk Center at the University of Toronto. Those of us who took the same class would be in the office before class discussing the reading. I would say discussing the readings and bouncing ideas off each other is collaboration. However, what happened is when went to the class, the professor called on us for the class discussion, and my classmate verbatim repeated what I said in the basement office about what I thought about the reading. She passed it off as her own thought even thought it was almost like a direct quote. That would be an example of academic misconduct. I think the key is respecting other people’s thoughts and ideas, and giving credit when using them.

How to avoid violating academic integrity?

For assignments, I always say it is better to over-cite than to under-cite resources, especially in high school and post-secondary essays. Make sure you let the markers know where your information came from, and make it really clear that the analysis is your own ideas and interpretations of the data.

When it comes to exams. I would check with the TA, or the professor, in advance of the exam if the syllabus is not completely clear on exam protocols. Being clear on expectations is really important now that students are taking exams at home. I think something you can do to protect yourself during at home exams is to shut all the windows and everything on your computer. Then, restart your computer so that it comes up totally clean and nothing is open. If you are just studying for the exam, you might forget that a window relevant to the course material is open, and later that may appear on the course software and put your academic integrity into question. Another reason to restart your computer prior to exams is if using your computer and the exam is timed, you do not want the computer to shut down in the middle of the exam and make you lose all your information or cause a time delay. I think that is probably the best thing you can do to make sure that there is no misunderstanding or opportunity for suspicion.

What can students do when they are accused of academic misconduct?

Definitely go to your school counselor and your registrar’s office; they tend to have specialists handling these types of situations because a lot of students get in trouble with these kinds of issues every year. A lot of student are in the same stressful situation. So, the school counselor is a great resource to talk to regarding the issue, the next steps, and understand what the instructor accused you of and potential penalties. Sometimes when you are really scared it’s hard to take it in right away, so it’s good to consult other school resources to help you to fully understand the situation and what you can do to resolve it.

In universities with a law school, part of your tuition often goes to pay for the law students to gain practical experience through dealing with simple cases, such as academic misconduct. So if you are at a big university that has a law school, you can reach out to them and find out what kind of support they have for students in this situation. Getting legal support, especially for the more serious cases, can help you to understand the situation and feel more secure having a representative on your side.

Recommended Books and Resources

Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger, Christine A. Padesky

Check with your school academic counselor

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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_

For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

_

To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

University Applications 101: Interview with Lisa Pfau

We interview Lisa Pfau, founder and CEO of Pfau Academic Writing, about applying for university or college from high school, a critical step in many students’ lives. It is important to be fully prepared by exploring the programs and/or schools of interests, admission requirements, and application processes as there are different requirements. Extensive research and a solid plan are necessary to succeed in the application process.  

DSC05821 edited 300x300 University Applications 101: Interview with Lisa Pfau

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As you may know, I have over 20 years of experience helping students with essay writing, application support and career development. One of my favorite things is getting to know students and helping them to develop their application essays.

What do you suggest students look for when picking a program or school?

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Every year, and this still is the case, Maclean’s magazine publishes a university ranking edition. The magazine tells you all the universities in Canada, sometimes colleges, and their rankings. The magazine also ranks them by graduate school, medical school, law school and undergraduate program.

I was a pretty good student, so I wanted to go to one of the top 10 schools in Canada. The top school for Bachelor of Arts in Canada is Mount Allison University. But that’s all the way in the Maritimes, and that was too far from home for me. So eventually, I chose the University of Alberta, which at the time was ranked fifth. So if you’re a good student, you might want to go to a top school and see how they are ranked.

I would also consider your area of interest or study. You can choose the schools with reputable programs of your interest, which may not be the overall top school, but top in that field. For example, later on in life, I studied Chinese Politics. In Canada, there are really two or three universities that specialize in that, the University of British Columbia and University of Toronto were my top choices.

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What kind of timeline should students expect?

I think the post-secondary application is something you should really start thinking about in Grade 11. When you apply, the schools are not going to have all of your Grade 12 marks. The schools will look at your Grade 11 marks and courses. Meeting course prerequisites is important as it will impact your acceptance. For example, Engineering has certain Math and Science prerequisites, and you should be able to show on your transcript that you are doing those courses when you apply. The other thing is to think about grades. They’re mostly going to see your Grade 11 marks and part of your Grade 12 marks. It is important to start thinking about your grades and investing and making your grades stronger as soon as you enter high school. Find out what the requirements are for your program early on, so that you plan those last two years of high school appropriately and make sure to get all those prerequisites to get into the programs you want.

Most people don’t know this, but the grade that every school will look at, no matter what you study, is your English grade, not English language, but English literature. A lot of times people may think that they do not need English for their programs of study, but schools will look at your English grades regardless. They know as a professional, you have to be a good communicator no matter your field of study.

In addition, it is time-consuming to choose the right university. Things such as booking those appointments with your guidance counselor to find out about the application process, researching schools, and planning visits all take time. If you want to apply for scholarships or student loans, you need to account for that time as well. If your wait until the last minute, you risk doing a sloppy application and missing out on your dream program.

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What advice do you have for high school students transitioning to post-secondary school?

Whether you are a Canadian student or an international student, going to university is a big transition because you are no longer living at home. A lot of students are totally on their own. And of course, university and high school are very different from each other in the way that they’re structured. In universities, you can get lost in the crowd and nobody cares about you. I mean, if you take the time to talk to your professors, and they get to know you, of course, they care about you. However, the classes are so much bigger, so unless you take the initiative, nobody is going to notice if you skipped class. Whereas in high school, instructors or administrators are going to call your parents, check attendance, and track progress. Once you get into university, you are on your own, and you need to be responsible. So I think that’s a big change.

In this respect, going through the application process and thinking about what you want for your future actually can help to prepare you a bit for the new challenges of university itself. It’s a stressful process with tight deadlines somewhat similar to what the first year of assignments and exams feels like to new students.

I think the best thing someone told me is that it is gonna be a big transition and expect that your grades will drop by 20%. I had that impression already in my mind, so I knew university is gonna be very different from high school and it is going to be harder. As a result, I knew that even if I don’t do as well as before in the beginning, that is normal and it is actually part of the process and I can learn from that and improve. I think having a positive growth mindset is really valuable because it can be a big shock to the system.

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Resources Recommendation

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Maclean’s Magazine

Ontario Universities Info

Application Coaching at PFAU

Guide to Universities in Canada

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Thank you, Lisa, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

_

_

For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

_

To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Life Insurance & Financial Planning for Students: Interview with Mario Schwarzenberg

We interview Mario Schwarzenberg, who is the owner/broker of MSI – Mario Schwarzenberg Insurance Services Inc., an insurance brokerage, has been offering its customers competitive insurance rates since the early 1990s. This week’s episode is about something we don’t like to talk about, death and critical illness. When we are young we often think we are invincible, but this is not always the case. We are all fragile human beings, and at some point our lives will end. It is important to think of these eventualities sooner rather than later as it can save you a lot of additional hassle, stress, and even money.

Screen Shot 2020 10 15 at 5.14.32 PM 211x300 Life Insurance & Financial Planning for Students: Interview with Mario Schwarzenberg

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As a brokerage with many years of experience in selling insurance, paying claims and access to all major insurance companies, MSI offers a variety of plans at the most competitive rates. MSI offers a wide array of insurance services including Life Insurance / Mortgage Insurance Business Benefits: Key-Person & Buy-Sell funding Dental & Medical Benefits for Businesses and Families Living Benefits: Critical Illness Insurance, Income Replacement / Disability Family Benefits Included with Insurance.

When people think of insurance, they usually think of car insurance, but there are actually different facets of the insurance industry. Can you tell us about the different insurance divisions and what they do?

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That is correct. The majority of the time, people are introduced to insurance with the car or home, but there are other divisions like life insurance, critical illness, living benefits and people benefits. Those are a big part of proper financial planning for younger people because they are valuable in the case you are injured and need income replacement or even when you are older and pass away and there are estate costs. The earlier to start thinking of these things, the easier it is to qualify and save money.

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People often think of life insurance that only comes up in murder novels when a rich relative dies suspiciously. But, you think it is something that everyone should think about. Why is it so important to a person’s long-term financial planning?

For wealthy people, insurance can help to preserve their wealth by covering the cost of capital gains taxes or estate taxes. For people whose estate is smaller or people who do not have assets, they can use insurance to replace their income to help provide for the family and cover daily expenses, such as paying the mortgage or children’s tuition.

The majority of the time, young people would learn about insurance when something tragic happens within the family or close circle of friends. They don’t think about it because they don’t think they will die anytime soon. However, my very first claim in the insurance happened when I was in my twenties and a good friend of mine passed away. He had a young family, and the insurance helped them to keep their house. It is not about making anybody rich, but rather the family left behind can continue living and have fewer financial worries.

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What is the difference between permanent life insurance and term life insurance?

Term insurance offers protection for a specific period of time. It is most often purchased by young families who want temporary coverage while their children are growing and they are responsible for a mortgage. They would usually purchase between 10 to 20 years of term insurance to ensure that if something happens to them while their children are small, they will be taken care of. In other words, it is most often purchased to deal with an accidental or unexpected death.

Permanent insurance lasts for your whole life though. You have coverage whether you pass away from an accident or old age. It is useful in terms of covering funeral expenses, capital gains tax, and other estate taxes and expenses as it is non-taxable. It helps to ensure that the value of your estate is passed onto your beneficiaries. In some cases, insurance proceeds may even be bequeathed to a charity after death. Permanent insurance premiums tend to be more expensive than term insurance, but if you start young it is usually comparable and overtime it can add up to a decent sum. In some cases, the balance can even be accessed before death to cover unexpected expenses in old age. It takes a longer term commitment, but it is more flexible in the end.

I think the best option is a combination between permanent and term insurance. Permanent insurance can be used to protect your estate, while term insurance can protect yourself and your family during the years when you are building your assets and responsible for taking care of loved ones.

What advice would you give a young person who thinks life insurance really isn’t necessary for them?

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Since each person’s needs are very different, talking to an insurance broker would be beneficial because they can ask questions specific to their situation and needs. Brokers have access to different companies and can go through a variety of different plans, so there are many different options to choose from. It is beneficial to have at least a basic understanding of insurance.

I would definitely invite them not to only limit their inquiry to personal insurance though, but their overall financial future and financial planning. Understanding that permanent insurance is actually less expensive when purchased at a younger age and can act as part of your investment portfolio is useful, for example. Talking to an insurance broker does not necessarily mean that you need to buy insurance at that very moment. You can do the inquiry and learn about the available options first. You are not obligated to purchase the coverage.

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Book Recommendation

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Personality Isn’t Permanent: Break Free from Self-Limiting Beliefs and Rewrite Your Story by Benjamin P. Hardy

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Thank you, Mario, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Canadian Educational Experience as an Indigenous Student: Interview with Fernanda Yanchapaxi

 

We interviewed Fernanda Yanchapaxi about the experience of Indigenous students studying at Canadian universities and the issues that they care about. Six percent of the entire world population identifies as Indigenous, and 5% of the Canadian population. In countries with a history of colonization, such as Canada, there is an underlying pain and tension between the Indigenous and settler communities. As a result of generational trauma and discrimination, Indigenous students face different obstacles to their education than settlers or international students.

Fernanda edited 1 300x300 Canadian Educational Experience as an Indigenous Student: Interview with Fernanda Yanchapaxi

 

Fernanda Yanchapaxi is an Indigenous/Mesitzx PhD student in the Social Justice Program at the Ontario Institution for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. She has over 15 years of experience working in the education sector to promote egalitarian policies and strategies that contribute to the healing of generations of racism and oppression. She has worked with youth and professionals to promote Indigenous activism, policy development, and program implementation. Her current research focuses on Indigenous knowledge with the context of Western intellectual property norms in her home country of Ecuador. 

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As a student, how do you think your experience has been different from other students because of your Indigenous roots and growing up in Ecuador?

Yes, Canadian universities have been very different from what I am used to before. We have different systems and the institutions work differently. It has been a privilege to be able to have access to resources that other people do not have in Educator whether they are Indigenous or not. The main difference here from what I have been seeing is that the institutions are not centering Indigenous people, Indigenous history, and Indigenous perspectives in terms of how they understand or support students. As someone who does not speak English before, it has been very challenging for me to adapt. I have been very lucky to have Indigenous professors and Indigenous mentors within the institution. If I did not have these support, I probably would not be able to continue my study.

What kinds of changes do you hope to see within the university system to support the education and professional development of more Indigenous students, like yourself?

I think the universities still remain hostile for some specific groups of students that did not have access to a lot of resources, which include not only Indigenous people but black people as well. I think universities should hire more Indigenous professors for Indigenous studies, admit more Indigenous students, and make partnerships with Indigenous communities for research.

What advice would you give to your younger self if on the day that you started your grad school program?

I would suggest doing research about your program, and finding out if the program has Indigenous professors. Look at the areas of study and if there are Indigenous professors, request to have them as your advisors from the beginning. I do not mean necessarily research supervisors, but rather advisors within the programs. Look for existing Indigenous student groups that have already been working with the university. Gather as much support as possible. As someone who has attended universities as an Indigenous person, I know that it will make a big difference. Knowing there are people just like you and there is a community providing you with support and resources are very helpful.

Fernanda’s Book Recommendation

The Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano

Lisa’s Book Recommendation

Harper’s Anthology of Twentieth-Century Native American Poetry edited by Duane Niatum

Thank you, Fernanda, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! You can find out more about Fernanda by following her on Twitter @mfyanchpaxi. 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Choosing a Vocation: Interview with Emily Gordon

 

We interviewed Reverend Emily Gordon, a minister of the United Church of Canada here in Toronto, about vocations. A vocation is defined as a strong feeling of suitability for a certain occupation. People who talk about being called to do something or that they couldn’t imagine doing anything else are likely pursuing a vocation. One profession that requires individuals to feel called to it before they can even get an entry level position is ministry. This is an area of work that is often not discussed by career counselors because of its status as a vocation, but for individuals who seek meaning, purpose, and a connection to something beyond themselves this may be the ideal path.

March 300x225 Choosing a Vocation: Interview with Emily Gordon

 

Emily did not start out her education knowing that she would one day become a minister, but her education has helped her in ministry. Emily completed her Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in English and Classics at Mount Allison University, followed by a Masters of English in Print Culture from Simon Fraser University. After a couple years of exploration and reflection, she felt the call to the Ministry and enrolled in a Masters of Divinity at Emmanuel College, becoming an ordained Minister in 2015. Her original love of reading and writing is now expressed in reflecting on Biblical and other spiritual texts and writing prayers and sermons for church services and materials. 

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Can you tell us a little bit more about your journey to realizing that you felt called to become a minister?

For me, vocation is a calling. It is a voice that’s calling you toward something – certain work or a certain purpose. In order to become a minister, part of the process that denomination asks you to take part in is being clear that this is a CALLING, rather than just an idea of something that you could do off a list of many things. It’s a fairly significant commitment that you make, and most ministers that you talk to will say that wasn’t an easy decision. You don’t just sort of fall into this.

So, originally I thought that I was going to be a professor and go into academia. I did an Honors degree and Master’s degree, and I was expecting to complete a PhD in English Literature. However, I began to realize that I was not feeling satisfied with the idea of the work that I’d be doing for the rest of my life. As much as I enjoyed reading and writing my whole life, it wasn’t the only thing that I wanted to do. I felt that I wanted something more meaningful. I wanted to find a way to make an impact on people’s lives.

Most people who go into ministry have a call story. My call story is fairly direct. When I realized that I wasn’t going to continue in academia, I spend a lot of time thinking about what can I do. And one day, when I was asking this question, I felt that I heard a voice, not an actual literal voice, but a fully formed sentence that rose up from within me. For me, I understood that as God speaking to me because it felt both like a completely new idea of going into ministry, but also something that felt deeply familiar and deeply right. I spent some time in very careful reflection to make sure this wasn’t just a passing idea, but something that I was called to do. I spent some time discerning and traveling and working in a church. Then, I began the discernment process in the United Church, which consists of going before a discernment committee to ask and answer a bunch of different questions. Then, I went to back to school to study theology, and eventually was ordained a minister in 2015.

Do you have any advice for students on how to plan for schoolwork at home during the pandemic?

Back when I was a student, I used a technique called Parking Lots. I first started using this technique when I was writing essays. The parking lot is the place where you put any ideas you have that are unsure where they fit into the essay yet. Or, if you wrote something and realized it did not belong where you put it, you could copy and paste that whole paragraph or set of sentences into the parking lot. Similar to the actual parking lots, it gives you a place to store things in case you need them again. If you figure out where it belongs eventually, the work is not lost, so you do not have to spend time worrying about it or thinking about it.

The parking lot approach can also be applied to the things going on in our lives too. On days when I am not working, one of the strategies I sometimes use depending on the workload I have, is starting a parking lot. This is usually just a page in my planner or just a scrap of paper, and then anything that pops up in my mind goes onto that. It can be, for instance, follow up with Lisa, or finish writing that prayer for Sunday. Once I’ve got those things written down, I know I will not forget them. This helps me to clear my mind and focus on the present, so that I can enjoy my days off fully. In addition, as soon as I am working again, I’ll be able to just look at that list and add it to the to-do list for the day.

For students who are religious, or perhaps spiritual, what would you say is something that would be beneficial to their daily spiritual practices?

I think often times we have a very narrow idea of what can be a spiritual practice. It might be meditation or prayer or reading scripture, but we sometimes miss all of the other things that can be spiritual practices. For instance, one of the things that is a good spiritual practice for me personally is going for a walk. The opportunity to move, be outside, see the world, not talk to anyone, and have space to reflect on what’s happening around or inside of me really helps me to stay grounded.

Intentional breathing is another option. Intentional breathing does not have to be as long as meditation. For people who may not find many meditations meaningful, they might appreciate doing a few minutes, or even seconds of intentional breathing. Intentional breathing can be something as simple as breathing in for five counts, then pause for three counts, and the breath out for seven counts. If you repeat that three or four times throughout the day or any other time when things happening just start to feel a bit too much, it can help you to recenter. What it does is it grounds you into where you are. It brings air, and oxygen into your body and nourishes you, so that you can better cope with the stresses around you.

Recommended Books and Resources

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus & the Heart of Contemporary Faith by Marcus J. Borg

Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power―And How They Can Be Restored by Marcus J. Borg

The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris

Thank you, Emily, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

_

To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Grade Appeal: Interview with Lisa Pfau

 

This week PFAU Academic Writing Creative Marketing Assistant, Jingyi (Jane) Miao interviewed Lisa Pfau, the founder and CEO of Pfau Academic Writingabout how to successfully appeal a grade. Sometimes students work really hard on an assignment, but they do not get the grade they are expecting. This is usually because of a misunderstanding between the marker and the student. In these cases, it is often helpful to meet with your TA or professor to discuss the grading. These discussions are more challenging during Covid-19 because of social distancing; however, it is possible with strategies to successfully negotiate a better grade.  

DSC05821 edited 300x300 Grade Appeal: Interview with Lisa Pfau

 

Lisa has over 20 years of experience helping students with essay writing, application support and career development. Jane first met Lisa three years ago as a first-year International student at the University of Toronto. Lisa has helped her with the transition from high school to university, especially understanding the best way to talk to professors and TAs about assignments and grades. 

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In what kinds of situations would you recommend students appeal their grades?

It kind of depends on how you feel about the assignment or exam. Did you feel that you put a lot of effort into the work? Do you feel like you prepared well? Do you feel like you took the time to read the question and talk to the TA and talk to the professor? Is it a huge surprise when you receive this grade? Maybe students thought that they did a good job and were expecting a grade in the 80s or 90s, but only got 60-something. Then, I think it’s worth going to talk to the professor or TA. On the other side, if you are aware that you might have made some mistakes, then I don’t think it’s worth appealing your grade. It is really when your expected outcome is very different from the actual outcome then it is worth appealing your grades.

 Could you please provide us with an overview of the grade appeal process?

It is actually a very elaborate process that is kind of similar to going through the civil court system with a complaint. First, I would caution that not many individuals are going to go through the formal process, and it worth avoiding unless you really feel you’ve been treated unfairly. In a case where you feel that the professor or TA has a bias against you or has expressed some dislike of you, and you feel mistreated, I would suggest a formal appeal. Or, if your exam or paper being lost by the grader and you ended up receiving a zero would also be a situation when I’d recommend a formal appeal.

The first and best step regardless of your situation is to go and speak directly to your teacher, TA, or professor about the grade. Now, before you ask them to regrade your exam or assignment, take the time to clarify what you did wrong and why you received the grade that you did. If after that discussion, you still disagree with the grade that you received, then I would suggest requesting them to regrade it. However, I suggest you don’t do that on the spot, but take some time to think and prepare your grade appeal request. In many cases, in order to have an exam or assignment regraded, even by your Professor, you need to submit a request in writing. Students should prepare an argument to point out where they think the markers made a mistake and what they believe they deserve for their work, and submit this along with their official request.

If students think that the re-graded assignment is still unfair, then they can appeal to the department through another formal request. It is important to document each step through email and notes as much as possible, especially if you feel you have been discriminated against or are dealing with a missing assignment/exam. Students can go see their undergraduate advisors and talk to them and find out the specific process to appeal to a higher level. It is always good to have additional support and familiarize yourself with all the procedures before you proceed. As I said, I can be a lengthy process if you take it all the way to the top.

As you proceed, the process becomes more formalized, much like a court case. You will need to submit forms, provide documentations or proof, and meet submission deadlines. Usually, after the department you would appeal to the Faculty of Arts, for example, and then the University Senate, if you are very serious. This would be similar to taking a case to the Supreme Court of Canada in that it is your last resort and the final decision about your grade appeal. Students will often times appear before the Senate, and give some sort of statement. After which, the Senate would vote on your grade appeal, along with many other areas of administrative business. Very few students who come to me to ask about appealing an assignment or exam grade go that far. Most grade appeals are resolved after a simple conversation with a Professor.

What tips would you give students before they talk to professors about their grades?

I encourage you to take a growth-mindset. That means going to talk to your TA or your professor about why you received a certain grade, rather than simply claiming – “I deserve a higher grade!” There are a couple of reasons why I encourage students to approach with the intention to learn, not defend.

First, you will be more successful in your grade appeal if you have a clear understanding of what the grader was looking for and can demonstrate to them in concrete terms that your assignment or exam did in fact fulfill that criteria. If you can point theses areas out to the grader, it makes their job much easier too and they are more likely to understand your perspective if you can show that you also understand theirs. Thus, it is useful to gather more information about the grading process and where you might have gone wrong, before you go in guns blazing.

Second, no one likes to deal with complaints, especially TAs and Professors. Teacher’s are motivated by students’ passion for learning, and put off by the clamor for higher grades. If you can show that you actually want to learn and improve, you are more likely to get a positive response from the grader.

Third, it is possible your grade may decrease through the regrading process as you are risking the grader picking up on another mistake that they may have missed during their first review. Therefore, it is essential that you review your work and determine that there are actually areas that the grader missed and deserve marks before handing them your work again. They will pay much closer attention the second time around and do not want to be shown up by a cocky student, so make sure you know what you’re talking about before you accuse someone of making a mistake.

 

Recommended Books and Resources

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy

Slack

Trello

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

_

_

For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

_

To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.