Write an Essay in Two Hours part 1: The Perfect Topic Sentence

College is complicated. Between classes, paying bills, and learning how to adult, students have a lot to deal with. And when you’re given that dreaded essay assignment, things get that much harder. However, college essays are actually very little to worry about.

In my three years of studying English literature, I have gotten pretty good at efficiently writing an essay, and—worst-case-scenario—writing one only takes me about three hours in total. Granted, I don’t usually do it all at once, simply because my ADHD brain can’t handle doing laundry for more than thirty minutes at a time, let alone a college-level paper, but an average student can very easily do it all at once with my method.

And now, today I’d like to share with you my secrets for how to write a college-level essay in three hours or less.

This tutorial will last through three blog posts, so stay tuned on Monday for part 2. (If it’s already past Monday, a link to part 2 will be here.)

 

The Enthymeme: Syllogism at Its Finest

I’m sure you’re currently wondering something along the lines of: “What the heck is an enthymeme?” Well, not to worry, dear reader. It’s actually quite simple.

In Ancient Greece, the concept of Philosophy and the study of “How to Argue” was first beginning to form. Scholars like Plato and Aristotle were making great claims for how to argue, and these claims still hold true today. One of them, come up with by Aristotle, has become known as a “Syllogism.” It is a set of three true facts that combines a general statement (major premise) with a specific statement (minor premise) to make a conclusion. The most famous example of a syllogism is Aristotle’s original example:

“All men are mortal.” (Major Premise)

“Socrates is a man.” (Minor Premise)

“Therefore, Socrates is mortal.” (Conclusion)

For the purpose of this post thread, we’ll be using the above syllogism to make our essay.

Now, if you think way back to grade school when you first started learning essays, you’ll remember that very basic topic sentence you learned. It was the essay’s entire argument—the thing you were trying to prove.

If we look back at a syllogism, the topic sentence is in fact the conclusion statement. In a grade school paper, you would be trying to prove the statement: “Socrates is mortal.” Your body paragraphs would consist of various ways to prove that Socrates is mortal: Socrates can die, or Socrates’ body deteriorates, to name a few. However, this topic sentence makes your entire paper very broad, to the point where you’re arguing things that would seem pretty obvious to us. It doesn’t make for a very concrete paper.

That’s why the enthymeme is the true secret to writing a solid paper. The best stories have perfect premises, and the enthymeme is the Harry Potter of topic sentences.

 

How to Make an Enthymeme

Step 1: Form a syllogism. For the purpose of understanding, we will simply be using Aristotle’s syllogism from above. (Note: there are only three rules to a syllogism, and ALL MUST BE FOLLOWED.)

  1. All statements MUST be true.
  2. The Minor Premise and the Conclusion MUST ALWAYS have the same subject (Socrates).
  3. The Major Premise MUST be the following formula, but with all specific subjects (Socrates) removed: All/anything [Minor Premise] is [Conclusion]. (i.e. “All men are mortal.”)

Step 2: Separate the parts. An enthymeme consists of two parts, which can be located throughout the syllogism:

  • Claim: what you are trying to prove (aka the grade school topic sentence). In our syllogism, the claim would be: “Socrates is mortal.” The claim is always the Conclusion statement of the syllogism.
  • Reason: Why your claim is true. In all cases of an enthymeme, the reason is the Minor Premise from the syllogism, and in the case of our syllogism, the reason is: “Socrates is a man.” (Note: this is what our body paragraphs will be seeking to prove. Not the claim. This.)

Step 3: Merge with the word “because.” The anatomy of an enthymeme is: “Claim because Reason.” In the case of our enthymeme, our claim and reason combine to make: “Socrates is mortal because he is a man.”

 

Checking if Your Enthymeme Makes Sense

The tricky thing about an enthymeme is that you are letting your entire paper rest on whether or not the enthymeme works. However, it is very easy to check. (Note: this step can also be used to form the initial syllogism.) This is where the Major Premise comes in. The Major Premise (also known as the Unstated Assumption) must be a statement that any sane man would agree with, regardless of age, race, gender, or political opinion.

As I said above in the rules of a syllogism, the Major Premise must be the Minor Premise and the Conclusion, with the Subject replaced with a general word like “all” or “anything.” If we take the Minor Premise (Socrates is a man), and add it to the Conclusion (Socrates is mortal), but replace the subject (Socrates) with the general word “all,” then fix a bit of grammar, our Major Premise is: All men are mortal. Exactly as it was in the syllogism.

The question you next have to ask yourself is: Is this true? Can any sane man, woman, child, democrat, republican, etc. agree with this? If your answer is no, then you need to rework your enthymeme until the answer is yes. Once your answer is yes, then your enthymeme is ready to go!

 

Your Enthymeme Is Ready!

I know that looking back, this looks too complicated. You just want to get started on that silly essay! But I promise you: taking the 10 to 20 minutes to make your enthymeme can cut your essay writing time in HALF! I’d say that’s well worth the short time to form it!

 

A Brief Recap

Here are all the pieces we used to create our enthymeme today, placed side-by-side:

  • Major Premise (Syllogism): “All men are mortal.” [What any sane man can agree with]
  • Minor Premise (Syllogism): “Socrates is a man.” [What your body paragraphs are trying to prove]
  • Conclusion (Syllogism): “Socrates is mortal.” [The claim that you are ultimately trying to prove in your essay]
  • Enthymeme: “Socrates is mortal because he is a man.” [The perfect topic sentence that you will include in your essay]

 

On Monday, Part Two of this blog thread will cover how to use your enthymeme to form the perfect outline, and on Friday, Part Three will show you how all this preparation will allow you to write a 1,000-word essay in an hour!

 

Thanks, and I will see you on Monday,

Mikhela (pensandconverses)

Five Ways to Craft an Assignment List

My first two years of college were spent floundering about, forgetting assignment after assignment until I was struggling to pass my classes with a solid C. It got to the point where I was on Academic Warning more than once.

I tried various planners (this was before my bullet journal craze), but none of them could keep track of every little thing that came my way. I needed a system that could hold every assignment, all in one place.

When I finally found the solution, I felt a little silly. A to-do list for assignments. It was so simple. How did I not think of that?

I began my search for the perfect assignment list. And today, I’m going to share the various techniques I tried with you, in the hopes that you’ll skip the mistake-making I made my first two years.

So without further ado: here are three ways to craft an assignment list.

1: Syllabus Highlight

This is the simplest form of assignment list, as all you need is your syllabus, a pen, and a highlighter. Flip through your syllabus until you get to the term schedule. Highlight any assignments, including tests, projects, essays, etc. Then, go back and underline any readings you might have. I like to underline my readings so they’re obvious at a glance, but separate from the lesser common assignments.

Here is a photo of the term schedule from my Spanish class, for example.

20160404_094506

And here is an example of my online class.

20160404_094730

This system will work best for you if:

  • Your professor includes all information on the syllabus.
  • You only have one or two classes, with only a few assignments and readings.

I would not recommend this system if:

  • You have multiple classes.
  • You have multiple assignments.

2: Written Out List

This assignment list is pretty self-explanatory. Make a chronological list of all assignments and readings you have for the term. I like to color-code it by class, and make a tiny ‘R’ next to an assignment if it’s a reading.

Here’s an example of one I made for the first three weeks of the term.

20160404_103835

This system will work best for you if:

  • You want a linear, chronological view of your assignments.
  • You like to keep it simple.

I would not recommend this system if:

  • You don’t think of time linearly.
  • The list would be more than five or six pages.

3: Calendex 

So, this is inspired by a bullet journal tool called the calendex. If you didn’t see it in my last post, here is a link to the explanation given by the creator.

Basically, the calendex is meant to by an annotated index for the bullet journal, where you make a spread of boxes for the dates and fill them in with markers corresponding to the details given on other pages. It works well as an overview of the term.

Here is my calendex I tried for this term. The readings section was a bit of a mistake, because of the annotated textbook titles being wrong (long story).

20160404_144700

This system will work best for you if:

  • You use a bullet journal and loved the calendex.
  • You like a visual overview of what assignments are due when.

I would not recommend this system if:

  • You are not a visual learner.
  • You have more than a few classes due in one day.

4: Technology

There are far too many class planner apps to choose from out there. I personally use myHomework for android on my tablet, and it works really well. I would also recommend Planner by Appxy (I only don’t use this one because it connects to the family calendar, and I don’t want to spam my family members with quiz notifications). They have a free version on Google Play,  but I could only find a link to the premium version.

Screenshot_2016-04-04-14-47-23

This system will work best for you if:

  • You’re a digital type.
  • You want something you can put on your phone.

I would not recommend this system if:

  • You’re an analog type.
  • You want something physical and tangible.

5: The Class Spread

This last one, combined with my bullet journal,  is the one I use. I got the idea from a long-term project planner spread I saw on Pinterest. Basically, you set one page for each class, and use special boxes coordinated with each other to include all your information. To make up for only having one page, I use it only a month at a time. So next month I’ll make new spreads for May.

In its essence, this system is about making it lovely enough that you’ll want to fill it up.

This assignment list can’t fully be explained, as it’s fully customizable, but here are examples of my four classes in my own format.

This system works best for you if:

  • You’re inspired by pretty things.
  • You want something more free form and abstract.

I would not recommend this system if:

  • You want something simple.
  • It’d make you overwhelmed.

So that’s it. Those are my 5 ways to make an assignment list. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope it inspired you to take control of your life!

Have a lovely day!

Mikhela

Plan With Me: April

I’ve always loved Spring. It’s warmer, and I can finally stop dragging my winter jacket around with me everywhere I go. Plus, Spring flowers are just plain pretty. Ever since Ishtar, goddess of sexuality and fertility for the ancient Babylonians, became the patron goddess of the world’s rebirth, Spring has been the time for the Earth’s yearly Renaissance.

This last month, I participated in the March #PlanWithMeChallenge on Facebook. They have an Instagram group as well, but seeing as how I don’t actually have an Instagram account, I stuck to the Facebook group last month. And oh my. The sheer amount of inspiration and epiphanies I had last month was unfathomable.

Basically, the #PlanWithMeChallenge deals with the bullet journal. If you don’t know what a bullet journal is… well, first, this post is all about bullet journals, so I think you’re in the wrong place. Second, the bullet journal is a system of using a pen and a notebook to keep track of your entire life. The bullet journal is a planner. And a diary. And a college term schedule. And a goal setter. And basically anything else you want it to be. The beauty of the bullet journal system is that the creator, Ryder Carroll, left it so bare-boned that his original system works just fine, but it is entirely customizable.

And the bullet journal is forgiving, too. It’s not like a regular planner, where if you miss a day, every time you open your planner that day stares right back at you judgingly. If you miss a day in the bullet journal, or a week, or a month, or whatever, just pick back up right where you left off. I’ve seen people just start right back up with a new day, people try to record what they did in the days they missed, and–I don’t remember where–I saw one person draw a tiny sleeping Pikachu where they missed a day.

Anyways, we’re getting off topic. Back to Spring. As it is the first day of April, I decided to take you on a quick journey of just how much I have grown since I started the #PlanWithMeChallenge. So, without further ado, come and take a look at my bullet journal at the start of March, and how it has evolved, before I set up for April.

(Side note: if you don’t know much about the system, it’s best to take a quick look at it first, as my version is a bit different from the original. Here is a video by Ryder Carroll explaining the basics of the system, and here are my two favorite bullet journal blogs for some inspiration: bohoberry and tinyrayofsunshine.)

 

This is my March monthly log. Generally, I like Ryder’s original monthly log layout, but for March I tried a bullet journal staple: the habit tracker. Around two weeks in, I began to slack off, because the habit tracker wasn’t immediately nearby my dailies, so it sort of got lost in the notebook. So later on, I implemented a weekly spread, and stuck my habit tracker in that.

You might also notice the brain dump. That worked really well for me (especially the signifiers, which I found on Pinterest), but this next month I don’t think I’ll give them a designated page. Rather, I’ll just incorporate the signifiers into my notes bullets in my dailies.

20160401_081330

Here are my food log and sentence journal for March. The food log is based on the USDA’s portion suggestions from the MyPlate, the replacement for the food pyramid. Each color corresponds to a food group (red is fruit, green is veggies, and so on), and each box is a serving. So for example, If it were to eat two Tablespoons of hummus with half of a pita on the 11th, I’d go to the 11th and mark off one orange box and one purple box. However, like with my habit tracker, having to go back to my monthly to mark it off became a pain, so on the 28th it became a part of my weekly as well.

As for the sentence journal, I got the idea from a book at Barnes and Noble. Instead of having to commit to huge journal entries, write one sentence every evening about your day. After the 28th, this one was moved to my dailies.

20160401_081342

Next are three spreads of dailies. About halfway through the second week, I realized that the chronodexes (the circular time schedulers) look amazing but also take up too much time, effort, and space to be worth it, so I cut them out. It was probably the hardest cut I made in March, because I love the Chronodex idea. If you feel the bullet journal isn’t right for you, try downloading the free Chronodex template here.

So halfway through week 11, I abandoned the spreads I’d made completely and tried something else.

In the meantime, I made this “Books To Read” spread. The spread is actually pretty famous on Pinterest, and I’m sure if you searched “bullet journal ideas” it’d be near the top of the page, but for me it’s just too much space. When I migrate to a new journal, I plan to shrink this spread of 104 books down to a single page of 52.

20160401_081412

I got this Level 10 Life spread idea from bohoberry. This was my first attempt at it, and the goals I made to achieve my level 10 life were pretty vague. So at the beginning of the second quarter of the year (this month), I redid it with more concrete goals. We’ll get to that in a bit.

20160401_081421

This page is just a spread of doodles I made the day I learned how to draw Celtic knots.

20160401_081430

Moving on, here is what I tried when I gave up the chronodex dailies. If you notice, I clung on to the system, and tried to turn it into a weekly page. But this only lasted a week and I am now (unfortunately) completely chronodex-free.

Here is where I started experimenting with headers. All of these I got from bohoberry.

20160401_081439

For week 12, I tried to stick my habit tracker into my dailies. If you notice, about halfway through the week is when I decided to implement a time tracker, and around the weekend I gave up on the habit tracker–it was simply too much to put in a spread.

Also during this week I discovered the 1-3-5 rule. In a day, make your to-do list with one big task, three medium tasks, and five small tasks. Then when that task list is made, you’re done. No more. It has been working phenomenally to keep me from overexerting myself, so I’m not dead to the world by the next day.

20160401_081447

Right around the 25th of March, I found myself wondering what exactly I was doing with my bullet journal. For this spread I made a diary entry looking back on my bullet journal journey. Then on the right page, I split it up into past, present, and future, and wrote down everything I wanted my bullet journal to record. This spread helped me get a more firm grounding in my system, and was the beginning of the ending of my planner-floundering, and my bullet journal became more concrete from there.

20160401_081456

This is my first weekly spread. I got the idea from bohoberry, and added a few tweaks of my own. If you notice, this is where we re-see my food log and habit tracker. The food log is the same format as my original one, but the big boxes from my monthly spread have shrunk into two circles per box.

The spread is split into four columns. The left column is reserved for time-sensitive events, like assignment due dates and meetings.

The second column is for day-sensitive events–things that have to be done on a specific day, but not by a specific time. If you notice, I did a lot of editing as this week went on (and i mixed up Easter, but please just ignore that).

The third column is for tasks and trackers. Any smaller tasks I want to do this week that don’t have a specific due date, and the rest is dedicated to my food log and habit tracker.

The last column is for projects. This last week I was going through all of my stuff, and I was preparing for this post here. But the projects can be changed to anything you want. Generally, I considered the top two to be medium-sized projects–things bigger than the task list, but not too big–and the bottom project to be a big project.

20160401_081506

This spread was a big one.

20160401_081514

On Monday, I was using my Pentel Slicci .25mm pens that I have been since starting the bullet journal system in November.

20160401_081620

But that afternoon, I bought my current pens–my Faber Castell PITT artist pen set in S (.3mm), F (.5mm), M (.7mm), and B (brush pen), and my Staedtler triplus fineliners 10-pack. And a quick look at the spread shows the difference in quality.

Also, this was where I started my sentence journal in with the dailies. The short sentences in fancy colored font tossed about the spread are my sentence journal. And the green celtic knot on the right is just a doodle I did in class.

20160401_081707

This is my cleaning calendar and yesterday’s daily. I copied the cleaning calendar off of a printable I found here. It’s been working pretty well so far.

20160401_081720

Here is my updated level 10 life. If you notice, I made monthly goals for the next quarter, which you’ll see reappear in a minute.

20160401_081727

This is my spring term spread for this college term. It’s based on the calendex future log system for the bullet journal. It was a bit of a failed spread–particularly the readings bit–because I came up with a better idea the very next day. But I still plan to use this spread as an overview, so I can see when multiple classes have assignments due in one day.

20160401_081958

Remember when I said the level 10 life goals would reappear? We have officially reached my April plan. I went back to Ryder’s original system, but I added a little box of the Level 10 Goals for April at the bottom of a task page. I had planned on connecting them into a mind map, but I sort of liked the look of them bouncing around in the box there, so I left them as is.

20160401_082007

Here are my prompts for the #PlanWithMeChallenge, and a new challenge I’m starting this month: the #RockYourHandwriting challenge. The numbers act as a tracker, and–if you’ll notice–I already completed today’s. I like how colorful this spread turned out, and I think I might keep it in May. But we’ll see.

20160401_082017

I got this spread from something similar off of Pinterest, and it is officially one of my favorite spreads in my bullet journal. For each of my four classes this term, I made a page for everything that’s going on this month. The blue page on the left is for my English class, and the red on the right is for my Creative Writing class. I love love love the way it turned out.

20160401_082027

This spread is for my other two classes, and I love them as well. The green page on the left is for Spanish, and the orange one on the right is for an online Money Management class I’m taking. Now, since it’s an online class, the Money Management class didn’t have enough information for me to fill the whole page, but I still think it looks good.

20160401_082036

Here is today’s daily. I feel like I’ve come a long way from the beginning of March.

20160401_082049

Here is my spread for next week. As we speak, I haven’t quite finished it yet. But it should be done by the time I post this.

20160401_082830

Well, I do believe that that is about it. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below. I hope you enjoyed this look into my bullet journal!

I will see you on Monday guys! Bye!

Welcome to Blogging!

Hi there!

I’m Mikhela. It’s okay if you’ll never remember how to spell it. My 9 year old sister still doesn’t.

I’m 20 today, 21 in July. I’ve been meaning to start this blog for a long time, but I’m a giant procrastinator. But when I read that being a writer in nearly any field requires a blog as a portfolio, I figured that now would be as good a time as any to start.

Let’s see… A little bit about me… Well, I’m a junior at the University of Oregon, majoring in English. I love reading, writing, rock climbing, and planning. That last one is a bit ironic, though, because I never actually do the things I plan to do. It’s like when you go into an office supply store and clear half the shelves with purchases, and it’s soooo satisfying. I like what a Tumblr user once called it: “the illusion of productivity.”

For now, I will be easing myself into the swing of having a blog, and not posting extremely frequently, but I hope to eventually be posting regularly–preferably Mondays and Fridays. My material will probably cover things like how to survive college, writing tips, and the bullet journal.

Until then, hopefully future loyal readers, I hope you all have a wonderful day!

Stay happy,

Mikhela.