Author Archives: Danika Rockett

Taking English 102? Read on for a frighteningly good Frankenstein resource!

Autumn is here, and Halloween is just around the corner–it’s a great time to curl up on the couch (hot cider and fuzzy blanket optional!) with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, especially if you’re enrolled in Straighterline’s English 102 course. While we here at SL think Frankenstein is a fun read for students, we know the two writing assignments associated with it–the application essay and the evaluation essay–can be tough. You’re being asked not only to engage deeply with the text, but you’re also required to investigate what others have said about Frankenstein. On top of all that, you’re supposed to integrate your own opinion about Frankenstein‘s message and its critics’ thoughts as well! We’re asking a lot, but we know you can do it. There are a couple of great, short videos available through PBS that we think might help, so we’re posting them here:

Frankenstein Crash Course Part 1

Frankenstein Crash Course Part 2

Remember, if you decide to incorporate these sources into your assignment in any way–even if you just got an idea from them–you’ll need to cite properly. Purdue’s Online Writing Lab can help.

Have any tips for or questions about these assignments? Let us know! We’re here to help.

Happy Halloween!

An editing tip form a Course Manager: Proofread out loud.

Whoa, what’s up with this title? It seems that someone neglected to proofread and wrote form instead of from, right? You may wonder, how could a good writer ever make such a mistake?

In fact, proofreading your own written work is typically much harder than proofreading work by other writers. As Nick Stockton of Wired magazine explains, this is because you already understand what your own writing is trying to convey. Therefore, if something is amiss due to a typo, you are likely to skip over that typo; as you read silently in your head, your brain will often say the correct word without realizing that a completely different word is on the actual page!

As a former English professor and now a Course Manager at StraighterLine, I have seen these kinds of typos frequently. I purposefully misused form in the title here because this is one of the most common typos I have seen over the years. Because the words form and from contain the exact same letters, it can be surprisingly easy to type one when you meant to type the other. Spellcheck will not inform you of this error because it isn’t smart enough to recognize the wrong word is being used.

So, how can you proofread more effectively and catch these pesky typos?

My number one tip is to always read your essays out loud as you proofread.                       If youproofreading read silently, your brain is likely to see what should be on the page instead of what is actually there. Thus, you will not recognize the typo. But if you read the essay out loud, you are much more likely to see what is actually on the page and catch many more mistakes than if you proofread silently.

The next time you are proofreading an essay, try this tip and see how many mistakes you can catch!

Yo, a free alternative for Word? Word.

Well, the lingo in this title might be totally 1990s, but the tips offered here are for 2014 and beyond.

If you’re attempting to complete your college courses without word processing software, things are bound to get frustrating. Microsoft Word is a great option. Unfortunately, a licensed copy of Microsoft Word can be expensive, with the most basic version running close to $100 even at a discount. So what is a cost-conscious student to do?

Look no further because an excellent open-source option is available! With Google Docs, youGoogle-Docs can create, share, edit, save, and access text-based documents, spreadsheets, and more. The files are compatible with your StraighterLine courses, so you can use Google Docs to upload assignments in variety of courses that require text-based submissions. Be sure to check out this resource, and here are some swell tips to get you started.

This software will be super helpful in any college course, but particularly in ones where writing is the focus. Speaking of that, we have a selection of awesome writing courses that you should check out, including English Comp and Business Communications! If you’re interested in improving your writing skills, these courses are a great place to start.

“I could care less …”

Have you ever said this when you want to imply that you don’t care about something? If so, then you actually communicated the wrong message. What you should have said was, “I couldn’t care less,” which means you literally do not care at all.

Speaking of the word literally, some people have a habit of using this word inaccurately. Its meaning implies something that is real or actual. For example, you might say, “After the party, my house was destroyed.” Hopefully, you mean that your house is just really messy and not actually destroyed. Thus, you wouldn’t want to say, “After the party, my house was literally destroyed” (well, unless your guests actually burned the place down).

As you work toward completing your courses, try to be precise and accurate with your language choices, especially in courses such as English and Business Communication, which  require an element of writing.

If you’re interested in other “Word Crimes” like the two highlighted above, you should check out a new video from Weird Al Yankovic, titled–you guessed it!–”Word Crimes.” Using the popular song “Blurred Lines” as a base, Yankovic cleverly scolds those of us who are guilty of crimes against language. The thing is, he’s actually correct in all of his accusations, so while you’re listening to his satirical take on this pop song, you might consider taking notes. 

What’s wrong with citing Wikipedia in research?

You’ve probably been told that Wikipedia should not be used in academic research, but have you ever wondered why this is the case? The site does contain lots of information that seems useful, but the more important consideration is whether or not the information is credible. In fact, Wikipedia has published numerous errors and factual inaccuracies over the years.

Just a few examples of errors published on Wikipedia include false death reports and ridiculous hoaxes (remember, pranksters can easily edit the entries). Here is a short list of some top reasons why you should never cite Wikipedia in research:

1. Wikipedia readily admits that some of its articles are “complete rubbish.”

2. It is easy for vandals to edit the site and make purposefully incorrect statements.

3. People with an agenda can easily make entries appear credible, as was seen in Shane Fitzgerald’s hoax entry.

The bottom line is this: For academic purposes, your research methods are a big part of success. Use only credible sources whose information has been vetted by experts in the field. Refer to this detailed handout, which exposes an error we found on the site and explains how you might use Wikipedia for locating source material (but never for citing it).

Do I need an “en dash” there?

Or you may be asking yourself, “Just what the heck is an ‘en dash’ anyway?” This nifty infographic, created by The Visual Communication Guy, breaks down 15 punctuation marks, including the mysterious “en dash,” into usage and level of difficulty. 

15 punctuation marks

You may notice that the comma wins the prize for highest difficulty, so be sure to review comma (and other punctuation) rules as you are drafting and revising your English and Business essays! Click here for poster-quality, printable versions.

How do you take notes?

Have you ever considered how your note-taking method affects your studying? For instance, do you type your study notes out on a computer? Or do you write them out by hand on paper? Or maybe you have a hybrid method that involves writing by hand on a tablet with a stylus?notetaking

As it turns out, the way you take notes could make a difference in how well you retain the material. According to a recent study by professors at Princeton and UCLA, “students who write out their notes by hand actually learn more than those who type their notes on [computer keyboards]” (Mueller and Oppenheimer qtd. in Eck).

In other words, as Mueller and Oppenheimer put it, “the pen is mightier than the keyboard” when it comes to taking notes (1159). For example, while keyboard users typically write more words in a shorter timeframe, those who write by hand tend to gain “a stronger conceptual understanding” of the material (Eck). This could go a long way towards maximizing your study time, so keep it in mind the next time you’re planning a study session!

The bottom line: Use a computer keyboard if you want to take quicker notes. But if you want to take better notes, you might opt for the old-fashioned route.

Click here to read Allison Eck’s full story, which explains more of these research findings. And for more great study tips, consider taking one of our College Prep courses!

Eck, Allison. “For More Effective Studying, Take Notes With Pen and Paper.” Nova Next. PBS,                   3 June 2014. Web. 4 June 2014.

Mueller, Pam A. and Daniel M. Oppenheimer. “The Pen Is Mightier Than the                                           Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking.”                                                    Psychological Science 25(6):1159 – 1168. Print. 2014.

What’s your style?

Visual … Auditory … Kinesthetic … Do you have a learning style?

Read through the questions below to see if you can identify with a particular style of learning: Types of Learners - New Page (5)

So what does this all mean? First, keep in mind that most people do not fall under just one category of learning style. Most of us will have characteristics that encompass multiple styles, which is good because it indicates a higher degree of flexibility. Still, if you can identify which styles are best representative of your habits, you may be able to adjust your study routine to improve your academic performance!

This interactive quiz may help you determine your own learning style.

Rock-paper-scissors: What’s your strategy?

 Of course we all realize that math is useful for everyday tasks, from calculating an appropriate tip at a restaurant to determining how many miles your car is getting for every gallon of gasoline.


But one mathematician has been using his skills for an even more leisurely purpose. Visit this blog from Slate to read about math-based strategies for “always,” according to author Harrison Jacobs, winning at rock-paper-scissors. While you’re at it, you might check out this recent Slate post, which includes a shout-out to StraighterLine!

(And if you’re interested in brushing up on your own math skills, you should definitely consider taking one of our math courses).

Could you use some MLA assistance?

In many writing courses, the required citation style is MLA, which stands for Modern Language Association. While the MLA Handbook is a great resource to have if you plan on doing future research in the Humanities, you can also find useful MLA resources in some of your StraighterLine courses.

In fact, we are happy to present a brand new resource for MLA citation help: the Citation Assistant! This tool includes a variety of sources, both print and online, that you will likely use for your StraighterLine courses. Input the relevant information about your source material, and the Citation Assistant will format the Works Cited entries for you.

This tool will be useful in courses such as English 101, English 102, and Business 105, all of which require properly formatted MLA references.

So be sure to check out this new resource, and good luck with your research!