Thursday, July 31, 2014

How to Summarize Source Content

One way to increase the credibility of your ideas is to incorporate expert ideas into your own writing with summary material.

What's summary material?

A stack of books is bigger than a summary on a piece of paper.
Can you summarize your favorite novel or film?
Unlike a quotation, which is an exact replica of another writer's original words, sentence or sentences, a summary "is a concise statement, written in your own words, of information found in a source" (Palmquist, 2012, pg. 257). For example, you can't possible quote an entire chapter in a textbook, but you could summarize its main point.  You might also summarize the main point of an entire article or entire book, or even just one paragraph.  The important thing is that you make your summary original, concise, and use it in such a way that the reader knows you have borrowed the information.  In other words, always cite summary material, and add it to your paper using attribution words.

Can you show me an example of summary material?

When summarizing an entire article on poisonous spiders, for example, a writer might compose the following paragraph:

It's exceptionally important that people enjoying the outdoors be able to identify poisonous spiders indigenous to the area where they are spending their leisure time.  Misidentifying a poisonous spider might have traumatic results.  For example, Dr. Sam Wessel, in an article called "A Guide to Poisonous Spiders Across the World," tells how, in 1994, his brother misidentified a spider in the desert as being a benign spider from his hometown in Ohio, a forested area.  The misidentified desert spider was extremely poisonous, and as a result of the confusion, his brother lost his entire arm by the following year (2009).

What makes a summary a good summary?

The writer of the previous paragraph follows all of the rules for using summary material.

  1. The original article was several pages long, but the summary concisely reiterates just the main point that supports the topic sentence of the paragraph.  
  2. Furthermore, the writer was successful in letting readers know where they can find the original story; in Dr. Sam Wessel's article, "A Guide to Poisonous Spiders across the World," which was published in 2009.  
  3. We can also easily tell which information from the paragraph belongs to the original writer, and which information came from Wessel.

To summarize using summary material, be sure the information you summarize is pertinent to your own, original point.  Make sure the reader can distinguish your own ideas from the ideas that came from a source.  Last, but not least, make sure you cite the summary material.


Palmquist., M. (2012). The Bedford Researcher (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford's/St. Martin's.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How to Crochet: American Single Crochet or British Double Crochet

A stocking cap shows the crochet symbol for a single crochet and reminds us that a single crochet stands 1 loop tall.
The American Single Crochet stitch is also known as the British Double Crochet.

The American single crochet stitch, also known as the British double crochet stitch, is an easy-to-learn basic stitch that any beginner can master.

The single crochet is a great stitch for making projects that require a fabric that isn't too "holey."

For example, the single crochet stitch can be used for washcloths, hot pads, slippers, tablecloths, jewelry, scarves, bags, purses, amigurumi, blankets, bowls, felted fabrics, ornaments, and clothing.  The texture of the fabric can be altered by using different size hooks with the appropriate weight of yarn.

Want to Learn the Single Crochet?

By watching a few videos and remembering the sing-song mantra "around, through, pull through one, pull through two," you, too, could soon be making your very own projects while reaping the many mental health rewards of this craft . . .

because . . .

if you didn't already know, just the act of crocheting, itself, has an added benefit:  Crocheting is good for your mental health!

  1. First, it's a very good form of stress relief and can be therapeutic for many people. 
  2. Second, it's a relatively inexpensive, creative outlet.
  3. Third, it's also a great way to connect with others, and 
  4. fourth, it also helps people give back to their communities.  
As a matter of fact, a psychologist friend of mine recently told me crochet is even sometimes used to treat PTSD or severe anxiety.  A skein of yarn and a hook cost under $10.00.  There are a multitude of online groups and local classes for learning to crochet, and, according to Wikipedia's Crochet entry, some ways people give back are to create clothes and blankets for soldiers, cancer patients, homeless shelters, newborn babies, and nursing homes (para. 43).

Are you ready to pick up a hook and learn how to crochet?

Try my complete online crochet course, "Crochet for Stress Relief" on  Use this crochet coupon code link to sign up for a free Udemy account and take the course for only $10.00!  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Outlining an Essay

The thesis goes on the outline, then the topic sentence, then the evidence.
Are you skipping or under-utilizing this important step in the writing process?

Having trouble writing essays?  It may not be that you're a bad writer. You just could be skipping or under-utilizing one of the most important steps in the writing process: outlining.

Outlining helps writers save time, focus on main ideas, write more clearly, and add coherence to essays.

Outlining Saves Time

Before writing an essay, you should create an outline to help you organize your thesis, main ideas, and evidence.  Using the outline to pre-plan an essay helps you save time by helping you ensure that what you put down on the page the first time is what you mean to put down on the page the first time.  You will spend less time revising and editing drafted paragraphs if you spend some time planning key ideas before you  draft complete paragraphs.

Outlining Helps Writers Establish Unity

When outlining, you should begin by placing your thesis statement on your outline so that it leads all of your additional points.  Next, add your topic sentences, the complete thoughts you're going to give the reader that each support a piece of your thesis statement.  This will help you ensure overall unity for the entire essay.  Then, add your evidence under each appropriate topic sentence. This will help ensure unity within individual paragraphs. The lead-in and summary portions of the introduction and conclusion can be added last.

One type of outline that is familiar to most people is a table of contents.  Notice how writers break their ideas into main ideas and sub ideas in a table of contents, and information about those ideas can be found under those particular subheadings.  The same idea applies to an outline for a paper.

Outlining  Helps Writers Maintain Clarity

Placing all of your ideas on an outline after prewriting can help you maintain clarity.  You can look at an outline, each of its parts, to check whether or not you have included enough evidence to support each main idea or topic sentence.  You may realize, when you glance at the outline, that all of your evidence supports only one or two topic sentences and that other topic sentences are left unsupported.  If that's the case, you can complete some research, do some more prewriting to brainstorm examples, reword your ideas, or combine ideas to better balance and support your thesis.

Outlining Helps Ensure Organization and Coherence

Simply writing an essay start to finish as ideas occur to you will make for a very unorganized mess of ideas. Unorganized messes of ideas make for very bad reading, and you want all of your ideas to be understood by your reader, right?  An outline can help you organize your ideas effectively.  Once your ideas are on the outline, you can rearrange them to suit your purpose.  For example, if your purpose is to compare and contrast solutions to a problem, you can look at your outline and determine if the order in which you've placed your ideas will help your reader see the similarities and differences easily.  If not, you can rearrange ideas on an outline a whole lot easier than you can rearrange ideas after you've drafted entire paragraphs.

The steps in the writing process are tried and true, but oftentimes new writers skip steps in order to "write faster."  In the end, it doesn't pay off, and those writers spend more time revising for major errors.  Skipping the outlining step in the writing process could prove to be detrimental to an essay's unity, coherence, and clarity.

Want to learn more about writing essays?  

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sentence Diagramming: Wise Words Wednesday

Diagramming Wise Words by Will Rogers

Will Rogers, American cowboy humorist and social commentator, once said "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." Those were wise words, as they remind us that we must always take responsibility for our own lives, our own direction, and our own continuous self discovery and accomplishments.  

Let's discover and a accomplish a little bit today, using Will's wise words as a springboard into a lesson on diagramming sentences.

Identify Clauses

This sentence has three subjects, all "you," paired with three different predicates: "you'll get run over," "you're," and "you sit."  Two of those subject-predicate pairs begin with subordinating conjunctions, "if," and "Even if."  That means those two pairs are subordinate to a main clause, "you'll get run over."

We must diagram the main clause above the others to leave room for the subordinating conjunctions to be diagrammed below the main predicate. Draw your three base lines as shown in the image at the top of this post.

Fill in the Subjects and Predicates

Place all of the "you" subjects in the appropriate space to the left of each of their respective base lines.  Add the predicates on the right sides of the base lines.  Be sure to add the vertical line between the subject of each clause and the predicate of each clause.

"Run Over" as a Phrasal Verb

When it comes to diagramming "run over," don't confuse "over," the particle, for "over," the preposition.  In this instance, "over" is part of the verb.  In English we use "run over" as one verb to describe one specific action.


When it comes to diagramming "you'll" and "you're," be sure to separate the pronouns from the verbs.  It may look a bit odd to have "'ll" and "'re" on your diagram, but it is accurate and correct to do so.

"If" and "Even if" as Subordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions are diagrammed on a "step," and subordinating conjunctions are diagrammed on a diagonal.

As stated earlier, "Even if" and "if" are subordinating conjunctions.  They are diagrammed on dashed lines that connect the verb in the main clause to the verbs in the subordinate clauses.  Whereas coordinating conjunctions are diagrammed on the horizontal part of a "step," subordinating conjunctions are simply diagrammed on a diagonal.

Diagramming the Prepositional Phrase "On the right track"

"On the right track" is a prepositional phrase.  "On" is the preposition, and "track" is the object of the preposition.  Prepositions are diagrammed on a diagonal line under the words they modify, and the objects are diagrammed on horizontal lines that stem from those diagonal lines.

Diagramming the Modifiers

The modifiers we have yet to diagram are adjectives and adverbs.  "The" and "right" are both adjectives, and they are diagrammed under the noun they modify, "track." "Just" and "there" are both adverbs, so they are diagrammed underneath the predicate verb they modify, "sit."

Thereby we get the diagram pictured at the top of this post, the wise words by Will Rogers,

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." 

Want to lean more about diagramming sentences?  

Try my complete online course at called "Diagramming Sentences: From Beginner to Expert in Twelve Lessons," or purchase my textbook online as an ebook or hard copy!

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Friday, July 11, 2014

How to Use Quotations as Source Content in Essays or Speeches

A man take an oath on a bible and swears to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth about his source content.
Quotations can add a lot of credibility to your argument.
However, you should use them carefully and sparingly.

When using the words of others, an ethical consideration writers must make is to credit those others.  Failing to give credit to original authors, or severely overusing content written by others, is a serious violation of academic honesty.  That violation is called plagiarism.

Here are three key ideas to keep in mind when you feel you must quote, or use the exact words of others, to support your own ideas.

1. What's the first rule of using quotations in your papers?  Quote only when necessary.

There are times when only the exact words of a source author will do the information justice.  For example, when quoting something clever, figurative, or full of expression that adds to its meaning, only the exact words of the writer will suffice.  On the other hand, there are a lot of times when information could more easily be paraphrased or summarized to fit more neatly into your own writing.  Of course, you must still give credit, whether the information is quoted, summarized, or paraphrased.

Fair warning: Never quote material out of context or with an incomplete understanding of the material.  This always leads to weak writing, or worse, inaccurate or even unethical writing.

2. Weave quotations seamlessly into your own sentences.

Even when using the exact words of another writer, you must weave those words into your own writing.  What I mean is, you should introduce the quotation, give the quotation, and show its relevance to your own ideas all within one or two connected sentences.

Take a look at the difference between the following two examples.  The first is choppy and seems incomplete.  The second weaves the quotation seamlessly into the author's own sentences, the first of which is a topic sentence that is then supported by and added to by the quotation from an identified expert.  There is also a transitional device, "According to," that makes it clear to the reader the idea is shifting from the writer's own writing to the ideas of a source author.

  • Original

“It’s overuse in the last part of the century (especially by Euripides, who often employed gods to resolve his plots) led to the term deus ex machina, god from the machine, to describe any contrived ending” (Brockett & Hildy, 2008, pg. 27). 

  • Revised

However, as time went on the physical mekane came to be relied upon not only as part of plays’ spectacle and staging, but as a plot device. According to Brocket and Hildy, writers of History of the Theatre, “It’s overuse in the last part of the century (especially by Euripides, who often employed gods to resolve his plots) led to the term deus ex machina, god from the machine, to describe any contrived ending” (2008, pg. 27). 

3. Give full credit to the original author.

Most importantly, always give full credit for quoted source content to the source author.  

  • Always write down all pertinent information about a source when you find it, so that no matter which style guide you are asked to use, you will have the information necessary to cite your sources, both in the text of the paper and on a bibliography page.  
  • Always use quotation marks to designate quoted material.  Make sure quoted material is transparent and easy to distinguish from your own ideas.
  • Always revise if there is ever any ambiguity about whether information in a paper is source content or the writer's own words.

In other words, use source content you're proud to use, and briefly brag about your sources in the text of the paper (i.e., "writers of History of the Theatre").  Make the reader understand that your source content is both relevant and authoritative.

To summarize, using source content requires an ethical consideration, which is to avoid stealing source content and claiming it as your own.  In order to avoid that plagiarism pitfall, always give credit to the original author, weave quotations into your own writing, and only use quotations when necessary.

Need to know more?  Try

Giving Speeches: The Ethical Use of Source Content
Avoid Unintentional Plagiarism
Evidence: Writing Well-Supported Paragraphs
Research and Writing Basics: Evaluating Source Content

Looking for a complete online writing course?

Try my complete online essay writing course on Udemy called "Quality Paragraph and Essay Writing."   Sign up as a Udemy student and get 50% off the regular price by using this coupon code. 


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Four Thieves Blend Hand Salve

Image of a lemon, cinnamon, rosemary sprig, and eucalyptus sprig.
It keeps my hands soft and is rumored to ward off the plague!

I recently learned of an essential oil blend called Four Thieves Blend, and I decided to put its use to test in the form of a hand salve.

Four Thieves Blend has a long and varied history, including use by physicians and citizens in England and France during the long history of the plague (Young Living Essential Oils, 2012).  It is rumored that grave robbers during the 15th Century used a blend of herbs and vinegar to protect themselves from the plague-ridden bodies they were robbing.  When caught, the rumor goes, they fessed-up to having used the herbs in order to be given a lighter sentence (Wolansky, 2012; Young Living Essential Oils, 2012).

The Four Thieves Blend Oils

There are several practical applications for this blend in the 21st Century, including cleaning kitchen and bathroom surfaces, scrubbing floors, polishing furniture, warding off illnesses, and making homes smell nice. Whether or not the historical plague-fighting rumors are true, the oils used in the blend, including clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus, and rosemary, have “antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-infectious properties” (Wolansky, 2012).

Although there is a brand name for this blend of essential oils, I chose to create my own blend using the recipe available on the Mountain Rose Blog and essential oils from our local health food store.  Because I am already aware of the warming properties of clove and cinnamon by way of teas and powders, I was interested in taking full advantage of the warming properties of the clove, cinnamon and eucalyptus oils in a new way. I looked for ways to incorporate this blend into a solution for my often cold hands and feet, and after looking through several books and Web sites about herbal properties and the use of essential oils, I decided to create a simple salve to apply to my hands and feet that should warm them when applied.  That the salve might ward off the plague without harsh pharmaceuticals I feel is definitely a bonus.

Making a Hand Salve

My first step was the test my sensitivity to the oils, so I applied one drop each of clove, cinnamon, lemon, rosemary, and eucalyptus to my wrist.  I could feel the skin tingle and warm, but my skin did not turn red or irritated, so I continued with my salve.

In order to create my salve, I used items I had in my home.  I used ¾ cup safflower oil, an oil known for its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties, and approximately 1 ounce of paraffin wax.  To the bottoms of each of two small canning jars, I added 15 drops of my homemade Four Thieves Blend, plus an extra 10 drops each of clove, cinnamon, and eucalyptus oils. I melted the paraffin wax with the Safflower oil in a saucepan on the stove, and I slowly spooned it into the small canning jars.  I let the salve cool completely before adding the lids so as to prevent would-be condensation in the jars.

Using the Hand Salve

The salve firmed to a state the consistency of petroleum-jelly, and a little went a long way when applied.  I applied a fingertip amount to my hands, then used what was left on my hands to rub my feet.  I put socks over my feet and went to bed.  The tingling and warming was weaker, of course, than with the undiluted drops I had tested, but I could feel the warmth of the oils. The Safflower oil also lived up to its reputation, and my hands and feet felt exceptionally smooth in the morning.

If you try or have tried various uses and recipes for Four Thieves Blend, please share your own experiences and recipes with me in the comments section below this post.  As a side note, if I were to make another batch, I would probably use coconut oil instead of safflower oil to keep the salve more firm.

Special Note

Please keep in mind that if you choose to try this for yourself, you must follow some safety precautions. When creating my salve, I did heed the safety warnings given by the makers and sellers of the essential oils. First and foremost, these essential oils are not meant to be ingested. Secondly, I played it safe with the salve and did not add too much of any one of the essential oils because some people have sensitivity to certain oils. I will test the salve and strengthen or weaken it as per my family’s needs.  Even though my method was more experimental than professional, I took the appropriate measure to remain safe in the kitchen.

Additionally, please consult a doctor for any serious medical condition.  I do not recommend essential oils in lieu of proper medical care.


  • Young Living Essential Oils. (2012). Four Thieves Vinegar: Evolution of a Medieval Medicine. Retrieved from
  • Wolansky, I. (2012). Recipe: Four Thieves Oil. The Mountain Rose Blog Daily Herbal Musings. Retrieved from

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.