The Importance of Preliminary Outlining

I am a college student, and as a college student, I’m given the responsibility of writing dozens of papers per semester before being given a pretty piece of paper after four years that says, “You did it; good luck now lol.” Seeing as some of these papers have been assigned at fairly inconvenient times, many nights I have found myself hopelessly hurling words at a Google Doc in an attempt to piece together something resembling an essay, praying that a coherent idea might stick to the page. Of course, any time someone suggests that I do some outlining before writing my full paper, I exclaim, “I don’t have time for that!” as I continue drop-kicking my laptop in frustration. Perhaps you can relate.

Yes, writing an outline can sometimes feel like doing an extra, unnecessary assignment when you are already stressed out. But forming a preliminary outline before jumping into the essay can keep your thoughts structured and save an incredible amount of time, especially if you often find yourself desperately staring at a blank document thinking, “Maybe if I believe hard enough, the paper will write itself.”

So, what is a preliminary outline? A preliminary outline is a rough set of ideas that will eventually turn into a thesis statement and the branching concepts surrounding the thesis. After narrowing down a topic and finding reliable sources, preliminary outlining is a crucial step in organizing all the information you’ve found and determining what is relevant to your paper and what is not. This will be particularly useful when it comes time to analyze and organize your sources alongside your main arguments and commentary.

So how should you organize and structure your outline? Well, since the outline is preliminary (meaning in preparation for something larger), there isn’t a tried and true way to form it. However, I would recommend trying to stick with the same structure as most papers: an overarching idea at the top and minor ideas below it. Keep in mind what your thesis might be and what branching elements can come from it. Also, reference your sources, and start thinking about how and where in the paper you might want to utilize them. There will be a lot of moving pieces in this stage, so be flexible and understand that your ideas may change as you gather more information from your sources.

Okay, before you start hyperventilating about making the perfectly constructed outline, breathe. All of these steps are for your benefit, and they are meant to help you. If your outline helps keep your information organized and your ideas together, then you have made a good outline. So the next time you find yourself with a blank Word document at two in the morning and your stress makes you want to take a chainsaw to your laptop, consider starting with an outline before tackling the big assignment.

Written by Ryan

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Work Like a Dog Day

According to the website, National Today, Work like a Dog Day is “inspired by the strong work ethic of canines, especially service dogs, [but] is meant to honor people who put in that extra bit of hard work.” It is essentially a cooler version of Labor Day inspired by our canine companions! There are a few ways to celebrate this glorious holiday listed below:

Work Like a Dog

One of the best ways to honor Work Like a Dog Day is, well, by working like a dog. Every day, our dogs are happy and eager to serve us; try emulating that. Arrive early to work and stay late. Take initiative on projects and assignments. Ask your boss if you can offer extra help around the office and have a positive attitude.

Give a Dog a Bone

Whether a child, companion, coworker, or canine, we all know someone who works harder than most; reward them for all that they do. Dogs are encouraged to behave and complete tasks through praise, treats, and love. Similarly, we humans need validation and appreciation to motivate our work behavior. For instance, treat your boss to a free lunch, do a chore for a sibling, offer to take a shift a coworker doesn’t want. Even a simple thank-you card and a heartfelt message from you would suffice.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie 

In celebration of Work Like a Dog Day, you could take the day off! After a long day of work, dogs need plenty of rest so they can continue serving their owners. In the same way, humans must rest and reset, so we can function properly and efficiently. Take the day to snooze on the couch with a furry friend nearby, or stop by an animal shelter and play with puppies. Do things that will free your mind of work worries for the entire evening. Let sleeping dogs lie and laissez les bons temps rouler (let the good times roll)!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy an image of my dog Sweeti, a ten-month-old Swedish-Danish Farmdog!sweeti

Written by Ashley

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Better or Worse?

Imagine this: you arrive home and drag yourself through the door after a long day at work during the hot summer. After eating and doing some chores around the house, you realize it is almost 7 pm. How is that possible? You just got home! Oh, well. You mosey on over to the couch, and you pull out your phone to check social media. All you see are photos and videos of your friends living their best lives at the beach, on vacations in other countries, or exercising. After being on social media for a few minutes, you start feeling unhappy about your life and glance away from the screen. You look around and see a plain apartment with only a few decorations on the wall. You were content a few minutes ago, so what changed? Here is the answer: comparison, the thief of all joy.

Personally, I have been struggling with comparing myself to other people without even realizing that I was doing it. After evaluating my feelings and talking with some of my loved ones, I saw the truth. I am absolutely blessed, but I was bogging myself down with all of the comparisons. What if I was taller, skinnier, richer, faster, prettier, etc.? Would any of these things make me happier? Well, the simple answer is no. This is my discovery after experiencing years of comparison and envy.

1. Realize where your source of joy lies. I guess the better way to say this is: realize who your source of joy is.

You always hear about joy spreading throughout the world, but where does this joy come from? Peter answers this question by stating in 1 Peter 1:8-9, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (New International Version). In this short passage, Peter points out that we are filled with joy because of our faith. We do not find joy in our circumstances. Instead, our joy is anchored in Christ alone. Although we might experience hard times, our joy would never waver, unless we are placing our joy in the hands of something or someone apart from Christ. If we place our happiness in the material world, then we might be upset if we do not have the nicest things. However, if we place our joy in Christ’s hands, then we will be joyful and content with life no matter our circumstances.

2. Remember that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

When I was younger, one of my teachers talked with me about this saying: the grass is always greener on the other side. She pointed out that this is never the case. If we have this mentality, then we will always be comparing our lives to others and living in envy. She told me something that I will never forget: the grass is always greener where you water it. Rather than comparing your life to those around you, simply take time to enjoy the blessings you have. Invest in the different aspects of your life that you typically take for granted. Instead of complaining about how you work too much, invest your time and make a difference in your work-place. Perhaps changing your perception will change your reality. If you walk into work with a more upbeat attitude, you will most likely be more productive and have a better day altogether.

3. Realize most Snapchats, Instagram posts, and Facebook posts are only the most interesting part of peoples’ days.

Each post you see on social media is probably a glimpse of that person’s day. They don’t take photos or videos of the hard parts of the day, whether it is visiting an ailing parent in the hospital or working overtime to provide for their family. I am sure they sit at home oftentimes and think the same things you think about them. Everybody only posts the most exciting moments of their lives, so never let them get you bogged down. You may have experienced exhilarating moments throughout the week, but if you keep comparing yourself to others, then you may never notice them.

4. Lastly, take time to make a list of all your blessings.

In middle school, I was in a class focused around being grateful and thankful for all of the things each of the students had in his or her life, big and small. At the beginning of each class, my teacher had us write down things we appreciated for about ten minutes. Some mornings I would be in a sour mood, so it would take me a bit longer to start the assignment. After a few minutes, however, my attitude would start to change. I would realize how grateful I should be for all of the blessings in my life. Whether it was my grandmother getting out of the hospital or a simple sunrise, my day was radically transformed. I think it is interesting that we are called to rejoice in the bad times as well as the good times. Philippians 4:6 states, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (NIV). Personally, I think the word thanksgiving is a key aspect of this scripture. We are not to pray and grumble about our anxieties and hardships. Instead, we are to thank God in the midst of all of these problems. I definitely believe there is a connection between gratefulness and attitude.

After trying a few of these tips, I hope you will start to see all of the amazing things in this world that most people take for granted. Stop feeling down about the things that you do not have. Rejoice in the blessings He gives you daily instead. Be present, be active, and never stop being grateful.

Written by Trisha

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Recognizing the Work 24-Hour Period Holiday: Labor Day

It is that time of year again: the first Monday in the month of September. “What do you want to do? I don’t know, what do you want to do?” Sound familiar? Every year, for the past fifteen or so years, this has been the conversation that has plagued my family. Despite prolonged deliberations, we arrive at the same solution. The van is quickly loaded and off to Ellen’s Amusement we go! Alright, let me backup just a smidge. This chosen day of fun falls on Labor Day! Honestly, I have never known or cared why most people get this day off from school/work until I did a bit of digging. (Googling like crazy!) Putting my family tradition aside, here are a few things I discovered about Labor Day.

What does Labor Day even celebrate? Great question, but don’t overthink it. Honestly, it is as simple as it sounds. Labor Day is the celebration and recognition of Americans in the workforce.

The first Monday of September is designated as Labor Day. Yes, this is another one of those holidays that switches dates from year to year. Ironically, Labor Day was first celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York. However, the holiday was not nationally recognized until President Grover Cleveland signed off on it in 1894. For you math people, that was nearly twelve years later.

Peter McGuire of the American Federation of Labor and Matthew Maguire of the Central Labor Union are no doubt tied closely to the holiday’s formation. However, there is still an open debate about which, if either, was the first to propose this holiday. Essentially, the origins of the holiday are chalked up to the contributions of group efforts made by the CLU and the AFL.

Hopefully, after reading this blog through entirely, you have learned a thing or five about Labor Day. As a final parting thought, remember to not wear white after Labor Day, a phrase everyone has probably already heard and may never know why. (I still do not understand why!)

Written by Jodan

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