writing tips

Conducting Research in Sociology: Interview with Jemimah Amos

This week’s episode is about the study of Sociology. Sociology is the study of human interaction or individuals as members of a group. Many students take a first-year Sociology course unsure what it is about and may even leave the course confused or overwhelmed by the breadth of information and topics that can be researched in the field of Sociology.

 

 

Jemimah Amos 300x300 Conducting Research in Sociology: Interview with Jemimah Amos

 

This week’s guest is Jemimah Amos, PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Windsor and PFAU Academic Writing coach and editor. Her academic and research interests include migration, race and ethnicity, feminism, and qualitative methodologies. She is also an academic tutor and graduate assistant in the department of Sociology at the University of Windsor working closely with students to improve their understanding of course materials, assignments delivery, and essay writing.

 

_

For new Sociology students, who are the main theorists that they might encounter?

 

There are three main theorists: Karl Marx, Max Webber, and Emile Durkheim. 

 

Karl Marx is a conflict theorist. Conflict theory posits that there are fundamental differences of interest between social groups. These differences result in conflicts being common and persists in society. It is not something temporary as the functionalists suggest. 

 

Max Webber and Emile Durkhein are considered functionalists. From a functionalist perspective, society is analogous to an organism – it has various parts and all parts function independently, but together for the survival of the organism. For example, institutions, such as, education, family, religion, and the economy, perform individual functions that when in equilibrium create a stable society.

 

 

What are some tips you would give students to write a solid Sociology paper?

 

  • Create a literature review: pay attention to theories, methods, and information on your topic of interest.

 

  • Get out the high school mindset that there’s a right answer. Find the best answer and support it with evidence.

 

  • Understand assignment and exam expectations: type of assignment, topic, word count, grading distribution.
    • For instance, if a question asks for three aspects of a theory, but is 6 marks. You would probably get a mark for each point, plus an additional mark for an explanation or example for each point.

 

 

Recommended Books and Resources

 

 

 

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

 

Missed Podcast? Watch Video Here:

 

 

_

 

For more advice about writing, check out our weekly, podcast, videos, 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.

Feeling through Creativity: Interview with Phoebe Taylor

 

 

This week’s episode is about the connection between mental health and creativity. Oftentimes students are so caught up with getting good grades or a prestigious job that they forget to have fun. They forget that learning is supposed to bring joy. They don’t realize that writing a research paper is actually a creative process, and it is possible to inject their own personality in the process. Most of all, they can easily buy into the idea that being successful means suppressing one’s emotions. But, feelings are not our enemy, they are our friend.

 

Phoebe Taylor 200x300 Feeling through Creativity: Interview with Phoebe Taylor

 

This week’s guest is Phoebe Taylor, artist, mindful mover, community maker and creative director of Okay Shoe. Her work explores the intersection of art, mindfulness, intuition and movement. Okay Shoe works collaboratively with artists to create stuff + space for feeling okay. My work as a visual artist utilizes zines and other modes of public art and installations. She believes one good rock show can change the world, art is for everyone to make and enjoy, and everyone deserves to feel good in their body, even you.

 

_

How do you think creativity plays a role in self-care and mental wellness?

 

Yeah. Oh man. I don’t really feel like we live in a world that really allows any space for creativity and when it does, it’s like it looks a very specific way. You know, like art goes in a gallery and you know, who’s creating art and who’s who’s in control of those things. I think we have a very narrow idea of and I think you would read that in my intro I really do believe like all humans are creative beings. And there’s just every everything in the whole world that tell us not to be creative. And I asked a lot of people kind of like, you know, talking about how I work as an artist and when I’m working with individuals as well. I asked people it’s like, well, who told you that you can’t be creative? Because I think like when we talk when we talk a lot about you know, kind of core beliefs and and all those things. It’s like, oh, wait a second, like Who put this here? Who put the seed in me like who watered it? And I think a lot of the time it’s like well, meaning, you know, whether it’s a parents teachers a real life person or not, you know, maybe on the television. I mean, I could make a list of kajillion systems to be creative. So yeah, I when I think about that, I grew up as a pretty creative child. I feel very lucky

 

I don’t feel like we live in a world that really allows any space for creativity, and when it does, it looks a very specific way. Like art goes in a gallery and who’s controlling that idea of art is very narrow. There’s also a lot in the world that tells us not to be creative. I work with a lot of individuals and one of the main questions I ask them is – “Who told you that you can’t be creative?” It comes down to core beliefs and how they impact us. Who put this belief here? We put the seed in me and watered it? A lot of time it is well-meaning parents and teachers, or even television.

 

Fortunately, I grew up as a pretty creative kid. My parents were artists and I feel very lucky to have had that outlet. Creativity is really a tribute to children. As children, we need care and play. Being creative links to our ability to play and connect with our emotional selves. If we had our first grade teacher following us around everyday reminding us of important life lessons like share, take a break, have a nap, eat a snack. It’s all very basic self-care techniques. 

 

The best way to tap into my needs that I’ve found is medication. I love that. I would say take a breath, I would say pause to my clients. They know it’s hard. I’m also a meditation teacher. I think our effort is in trying and paying attention. Pay attention to what you pay attention to and pause and check in with your feelings like – Do I do I need a glass of water? Do I need to have a nap? Do I need to go and doodle? We stay connected to our creativity by staying connected to ourselves.

 

 

I know that you run a workshop Finding Play in Creativity. Tell us what this workshop is about.

 

“Finding Play and Creativity” is an approach that I use in the individual workshops that we host through Okay Shoe. Specifically, every month we host Okay Hang online. I usually start with an opening question to start the process of reflection as people are logging into the Zoom room. Instead of asking people – “How are you?” – where we expect an answer of “good” or “okay” – I ask something deeper and more meaningful. 

 

I also create a space where people can create whatever they want or be who they are feeling that day. There is no pressure to create. It’s about finding playfulness and supporting each other through our creative processes.

 

How do you think students who are struggling with the pressure and stress of assignments could benefit from some of the things you teach in this workshop?

 

We actually do often have students drop into our workshops who are stuck on projects, like grant applications or school applications. They need a space where they can just say – “I don’t know what I’m doing right now with this.” I don’t know what I’m writing. I just need an external infusion of inspiration of some kind. Sometimes, the workshop helps the person to kickstart their writing process. Other times, they are just sitting there doodling on the back of a card for an hour.


Doodling is so amazing for our brains. Again, I’m not a scientist. However, I have read a lot of interesting science around it. It gives our brain a space to just kind of wander around. It is in this space where ideas come from. My favorite director, David Lynch, talks about his process of develoing ideas as “going fishing”. He calls ideas “fish”. He says you have to go out on a dock, sit, and quietly go fishing. Doodling or Okay Hang or morning pages is my fishing process. I can go back and evaluate my process and ask myself questions like: What keeps coming up? What’s the idea here? What am I actually thinking about? What is the threat here? Am I just interested in oceanic life? Maybe I need to go write my dissertation on this? Elizabeth Gilbert talks about going back to her morning pages and seeing that she continually talks about learning Italian and decides that she’d better go to Italy. A whole book – Eat, Pray, Love – came out of that process of self-reflection and evaluation. So you never know where these seeds are going to come from. You need to give yourself and your brain space to wander around and go fishing.

 

What tips or strategies would you have for someone staring down writer’s block/creative block?

 

From my experience, when you’re just so deep in the weeds of what’s going on, it can be hard to know what to write. When I am stuck, it’s hard to dig into what I am trying to accomplish. Walking away and coming back to it can help me to reset. It reminds me of what the nugget of thing is. I, then, try to write towards that nugget. Taking a mental break and using the other side of the brain makes it easier to come back to the task.

 

 

 

Recommended Books and Resources

 

 

 

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

 

Missed Podcast? Watch Video Here:

 

 

_

 

For more advice about writing, check out our weekly, podcast, videos, 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.

Playful Prose: Interview with Davood Gozli

 

 

This week’s episode is about overcoming the tortures of writer’s block. So often students avoid starting a paper because of the pain associated with writing that first sentence, but writing doesn’t have to be so terrible. In fact, in many cases, it can be fun. It is an artform after all. Today we’ll be talking about how to make writing enjoyable, and even playful. 

 

Davood Gozli 300x300 Playful Prose: Interview with Davood Gozli

 

This week’s guest is Davood Gozli, PFAU Academic Writing editor and coach, specializing in Psychology. Davood has over seven years of university-level teaching experience, a BSc from Trent University, and PhD in Psychology from the University of Toronto. He has published a book and dozens of peer-reviewed academic articles—including several articles co-authored with students—and has helped hundreds of students feel more comfortable about writing. Most notably, he believes in the power of writing as a personal practice that can excite, enliven, and empower us.

 

_

What is it like writing a book? Were there moments you were stuck? How did you overcome them?

 

My book started out as a journal article that was rejected by several journals. I was passionate about the idea, but I still got stuck. I found that being separated from the writing project for a couple weeks would throw me off and make it harder to go back. Rhythm is very important. Showing up everyday in small ways is key. Touchbase with your writing project in a consistent and predictable way everyday. By maintaining this rhythm, even my body would start to feel like writing.

I also realized that writing is a way of living. Once you start setting up a writing routine, you notice that other parts of your life need to change as well. For instance, I realized that I needed to go to bed early enough to get enough sleep to get up and write. I also needed to become more organized by setting a timer and only letting myself write for an hour before getting onto other things.

 

Why do you think we struggle with writer’s block?

 

There are several reasons why someone would struggle with writer’s block. As I said, straying from one’s routine can cause a blockage, and of course, not taking care of one’s self and being unwell. However, I think the biggest blockage is expectations. Putting too much pressure on one’s self and worrying can block the creative flow. It is important to set manageable goals and stick to them.

For students who struggle with writing the first sentence of the paper, what tips would you give them?

 

There are a few things that can help one get over the anxiety of writing that first sentence:

  1. Take breaks when you can’t focus

  2. Set a minimum daily achievement (ie. 300 words)

  3. Set realistic expectations. Focus on writing clearly and concisely. Imagine you are writing to a friend. 

  4. Write what you can. Don’t worry about making it perfect. You now have some raw material. Then, ask yourself what makes it bad and use it to improve upon it. 

  5. Write about what you want to write about. You want to write about memory, so you write about what you want to write about later. It is like a plan/list of ideas. It creates a useful distance that can ease you into the writing process.

 

 

Recommended Books and Resources

 

 

 

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

 

Missed Podcast? Watch Video Here:

 

 

_

 

For more advice about writing, check out our weekly, podcast, videos, 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.

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.

_

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! 

_

_

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.