Archive for December, 2012


How to Write a Research Proposal

Most students and beginning researchers do not fully understand what a research proposal means, nor do they understand its importance. To put it bluntly, one’s research is only as a good as one’s proposal. An ill-conceived proposal dooms the project even if it somehow gets through the Thesis Supervisory Committee. A high quality proposal, on the other hand, not only promises success for the project, but also impresses your Thesis Committee about your potential as a researcher.

A research proposal is intended to convince others that you have a worthwhile research project and that you have the competence and the work-plan to complete it. Generally, a research proposal should contain all the key elements involved in the research process and include sufficient information for the readers to evaluate the proposed study.

Regardless of your research area and the methodology you choose, all research proposals must address the following questions: What you plan to accomplish, why you want to do it and how you are going to do it.

The proposal should have sufficient information to convince your readers that you have an important research idea, that you have a good grasp of the relevant literature and the major issues, and that your methodology is sound.

The quality of your research proposal depends not only on the quality of your proposed project, but also on the quality of your proposal writing. A good research project may run the risk of rejection simply because the proposal is poorly written. Therefore, it pays if your writing is coherent, clear and compelling.

This paper focuses on proposal writing rather than on the development of research ideas.


It should be concise and descriptive. For example, the phrase, “An investigation of . . .” could be omitted. Often titles are stated in terms of a functional relationship, because such titles clearly indicate the independent and dependent variables. However, if possible, think of an informative but catchy title. An effective title not only pricks the reader’s interest, but also predisposes him/her favourably towards the proposal.


It is a brief summary of approximately 300 words. It should include the research question, the rationale for the study, the hypothesis (if any), the method and the main findings. Descriptions of the method may include the design, procedures, the sample and any instruments that will be used.


The main purpose of the introduction is to provide the necessary background or context for your research problem. How to frame the research problem is perhaps the biggest problem in proposal writing.

If the research problem is framed in the context of a general, rambling literature review, then the research question may appear trivial and uninteresting. However, if the same question is placed in the context of a very focused and current research area, its significance will become evident.

Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules on how to frame your research question just as there is no prescription on how to write an interesting and informative opening paragraph. A lot depends on your creativity, your ability to think clearly and the depth of your understanding of problem areas.

However, try to place your research question in the context of either a current “hot” area, or an older area that remains viable. Secondly, you need to provide a brief but appropriate historical backdrop. Thirdly, provide the contemporary context in which your proposed research question occupies the central stage. Finally, identify “key players” and refer to the most relevant and representative publications. In short, try to paint your research question in broad brushes and at the same time bring out its significance.

The introduction typically begins with a general statement of the problem area, with a focus on a specific research problem, to be followed by the rational or justification for the proposed study. The introduction generally covers the following elements:

State the research problem, which is often referred to as the purpose of the study.

Provide the context and set the stage for your research question in such a way as to show its necessity and importance.

Present the rationale of your proposed study and clearly indicate why it is worth doing.

Briefly describe the major issues and sub-problems to be addressed by your research.

Identify the key independent and dependent variables of your experiment. Alternatively, specify the phenomenon you want to study.

State your hypothesis or theory, if any. For exploratory or phenomenological research, you may not have any hypotheses. (Please do not confuse the hypothesis with the statistical null hypothesis.)

Set the delimitation or boundaries of your proposed research in order to provide a clear focus.

Provide definitions of key concepts. (This is optional.)

Literature Review:

Sometimes the literature review is incorporated into the introduction section. However, most professors prefer a separate section, which allows a more thorough review of the literature.


The literature review serves several important functions:


Ensures that you are not “reinventing the wheel”.

Gives credits to those who have laid the groundwork for your research.

Demonstrates your knowledge of the research problem.

Demonstrates your understanding of the theoretical and research issues related to your research question.

Shows your ability to critically evaluate relevant literature information.

Indicates your ability to integrate and synthesize the existing literature.

Provides new theoretical insights or develops a new model as the conceptual framework for your research.

Convinces your reader that your proposed research will make a significant and substantial contribution to the literature (i.e., resolving an important theoretical issue or filling a major gap in the literature).

Most students’ literature reviews suffer from the following problems:

Lacking organization and structure

Lacking focus, unity and coherence

Being repetitive and verbose

Failing to cite influential papers

Failing to keep up with recent developments

Failing to critically evaluate cited papers

Citing irrelevant or trivial references

Depending too much on secondary sources

Your scholarship and research competence will be questioned if any of the above applies to your proposal

There are different ways to organize your literature review. Make use of subheadings to bring order and coherence to your review. For example, having established the importance of your research area and its current state of development, you may devote several subsections on related issues as: theoretical models, measuring instruments, cross-cultural and gender differences, etc.


It is also helpful to keep in mind that you are telling a story to an audience. Try to tell it in a stimulating and engaging manner. Do not bore them, because it may lead to rejection of your worthy proposal. (Remember: Professors and scientists are human beings too.)


The Method section is very important because it tells your Research Committee how you plan to tackle your research problem. It will provide your work plan and describe the activities necessary for the completion of your project.

The guiding principle for writing the Method section is that it should contain sufficient information for the reader to determine whether methodology is sound. Some even argue that a good proposal should contain sufficient details for another qualified researcher to implement the study.

You need to demonstrate your knowledge of alternative methods and make the case that your approach is the most appropriate and most valid way to address your research question.

Please note that your research question may be best answered by qualitative research. However, since most mainstream psychologists are still biased against qualitative research, especially the phenomenological variety, you may need to justify your qualitative method.

Furthermore, since there are no well-established and widely accepted canons in qualitative analysis, your method section needs to be more elaborate than what is required for traditional quantitative research. More importantly, the data collection process in qualitative research has a far greater impact on the results as compared to quantitative research. That is another reason for greater care in describing how you will collect and analyze your data. (How to write the Method section for qualitative research is a topic for another paper.)

For quantitative studies, the method section typically consists of the following sections:

Design -Is it a questionnaire study or a laboratory experiment? What kind of design do you choose?

Subjects or participants – Who will take part in your study ? What kind of sampling procedure do you use?

Instruments – What kind of measuring instruments or questionnaires do you use? Why do you choose them? Are they valid and reliable?

Procedure – How do you plan to carry out your study? What activities are involved? How long does it take?


Obviously you do not have results at the proposal stage. However, you need to have some idea about what kind of data you will be collecting, and what statistical procedures will be used in order to answer your research question or test you hypothesis.


It is important to convince your reader of the potential impact of your proposed research. You need to communicate a sense of enthusiasm and confidence without exaggerating the merits of your proposal. That is why you also need to mention the limitations and weaknesses of the proposed research, which may be justified by time and financial constraints as well as by the early developmental stage of your research area.

Common Mistakes in Proposal Writing

Failure to provide the proper context to frame the research question.

Failure to delimit the boundary conditions for your research.

Failure to cite landmark studies.

Failure to accurately present the theoretical and empirical contributions by other researchers.

Failure to stay focused on the research question.

Failure to develop a coherent and persuasive argument for the proposed research.

Too much detail on minor issues, but not enough detail on major issues.

Too much rambling — going “all over the map” without a clear sense of direction. (The best proposals move forward with ease and grace like a seamless river.)

Too many citation lapses and incorrect references.

Too long or too short.

Failing to follow the APA style.

Slopping writing.


PAID NEWS: The bane of ethical journalism

India has finally woken up to the menace of ‘paid news’ culture in mainstream media. The practice that involves money in unethically acquiring media space for the beneficiaries remained an important issue in India for many years. But lately a number of influential media persons’ organizations have shown their concern with this kind of journalism in the country.


The practice of offering envelopes to reporters remained visible across Asian media and especially India and China for decades. But lately the practice appears to be becoming institutionalized, not by poverty-stricken reporters but by the publishers themselves.


It is alleged that many media houses in India, irrespective of their volume of business have started selling news space after some ‘understandings’ with politicians and corporate people without disguising those items as advertisements.


During the meet of the South Asia Free Media Association (India Chapter) in Mumbai during the first week of December, the issue of paid news was officially discussed with serious concern.


Then came the annual general meeting of the Editors’ Guild of India during the fourth week of December, where most of the members expressed concern at the growing tendency of a section of media groups (both print and visual) to receive money for some ‘non-advertorial’ items in their media space.


The Editors’ Guild sent a letter to each of its member-editors throughout the country asking for pledges that his/her publication/TV channel will not carry any paid news as the practice ‘violates and undermines the principles of free and fair journalism’.



The letter, signed by Rajdeep Sardesai and Coomi Kapoor, President and Secretary General of the Guild respectively, expressed hope that ‘the entire journalist fraternity would come together on this issue’ and defend their credibility with public declarations on the subject in order to restore public trust.


Indian media has been recognized as sensitive, patriotic and a very influential tool in the socio-political sphere since the days of the freedom movement. The father of the Indian nation Mahatma Gandhi initiated his movement with the moral power of active journalism. Today, India with its over a billion population supports nearly 70,000 registered newspapers and over 450 Television channels (including some 24×7 news channels). The Indian media, as a whole, often plays the role of constructive opposition in the Parliament as well as in various Legislative Assemblies of the states.  Journalists are, by and large, honored and accepted as the moral guide in the Indian society. While the newspapers in Europe and America are losing their readership annually, the Indian print media is still getting stronger with huge circulation figures and market avenues. For democratic India, the media continues to be acclaimed as the fourth important pillar after the judiciary, parliament and bureaucratic set-up.


Unfortunately a cancer in the form of paid news has been diagnosed with the Indian media in the recent past. Millions of rupees have been reportedly been paid to media houses.


Some veteran editor-journalists like Prabhash Joshi, the founding editor of the Hindi daily Jansatta, who died in November, and BG Verghese, previously the editor of both the Hindustan Times and Indian Express, warned the Press Council of India that paid news has already turned into a full-blown scandal.


It is worth mentioning that the Mumbai SAFMA meeting had serious discussions and was deeply concerned about the recent trend of commercialization of mainstream media, and degradation of media ethics and practices in the country. All the speakers in the meeting of SAFMA (which is recognized by the SAARC), were unanimous that the media in the entire region must come forward in a transparent way and maintain public trust.


Addressing the audience, eminent journalist and the rural affairs editor of The Hindu, P Sainath disclosed that the corporatization of the media world has threatened the existence of free media. “Newspaper owners are greatly influenced by political clout,” P. Sainath warned another media group. It was Sainath who raised the issue of paid news through his regular columns in The Hindu, urging the Press Council and Election Commission to take appropriate action.


“The proprietors now grant space for vivid coverage for the benefit of their ‘friendly politicians’ in the newspapers,” Sainath warned in his speech. “Furthermore, to entertain their growing demands, many media groups have even gone so far as to arrange extra space (during election periods). Let’s finish the culture of paid news; otherwise it will finish us in the coming days.”


An official statement of the SAFMA meet was attended by many distinguished editor-journalists of India and had expressed serious concern at the growing trend of selling news space.


“Recent assembly elections in Maharashtra and elsewhere revealed the spread of the pernicious practice of accepting money for editorial space to contestants. In fact, this evil had been perpetrated by institutionalizing  it,” stated the South Asian Free Media Association.


Meanwhile, the Press Council, a quasi-judicial body, has decided to investigate, establishing a committee to examine violations of the journalistic code of fair and objective reporting.


The Press Council Chairman GN Ray, a retired justice, acknowledged that a section of Indian media had ‘indulged in monetary deals with some politicians and candidates by publishing their views as news items and bringing out negative news items against rival candidates during the last elections.’


Even a documentary titled ‘Advertorial: Selling News or Products?’ was produced by an eminent media critic and academic Paranjoy Guha Thakurta for India’s national broadcaster, Doordarshan. Guha Thakurta, a member of the Press Council investigative team said in an interview that the committee had received many complaints from the journalists that a large number of newspapers and television channels (in various languages) had been receiving money to provide news space (and even editorials) for the benefit of politicians.


Speaking to this writer from New Delhi, Guha Thakurta claims that the paid news culture has finally violated the guidelines of the Election Commission (of India), which makes restriction in the expenditure of a candidate (for any Legislative Assembly or Parliamentary elections).


“Amazingly, we have found that some newspapers even prepared rate cards for the candidates in the last few elections. There are different rates for positive news coverage, interviews, editorials and also putting out damaging reports against the opponents,” Guha Thakurta asserted.


The Indian Election Commission recently asked the Press Council of India ‘to define what constitutes paid political news’, so it can adopt appropriate guidelines. During a recent meeting, the elections body also directed the Press Council to ‘formulate guidelines to the media houses’ to require that the money involved be incorporated in the political party and candidate expenditures.


Lately, the Guild had submitted a memorandum to the Election Commission expressing its grave concern over the paid news phenomenon. A delegation from the Guild, led by its President Rajdeep Sardesai met the election commission on January 22 and urged the Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla to ‘take strong action against both candidates and media persons who violate the disclosure norms of election expenditure in regard to media publicity.’


Rajdeep Sardesai, the Editor’s Guild President and also the chief editor of the CNN-IBN television news channel, speaking to this writer, said that the Guild was ‘deeply shocked and seriously concerned at the increasing number of reports detailing the pernicious practice of publishing paid news by some newspapers and television channels, especially during the recent elections’.


“We strongly believe that the practice of putting out advertising as news is a grave journalistic malpractice. Moreover the trend threatens the foundation of journalism by eroding public faith in the credibility and impartiality of news reporting. It also vitiated the poll process and prevented a fair election, since richer candidates who could pay for their publicity had a clear advantage,” Sardesai added.


While admitting the right of news media to go for advertisements at various occasions, Sardesai insisted that the ‘media houses should distinguish the advertisements with full and proper disclosure norms so that no reader and viewer is tricked by any subterfuge of advertisements published and broadcast in the same format, language and style of news’.


With the same notion, a Guwahati-based media observer Hiten Mahanta claims that many regional newspapers in North East India sell favourable reporting for extra income.


“You can find a number of examples in Guwahati, where the proprietors of the media houses had misused media space for their individual benefits. It is amazing how some newspapers change their point of views towards a politician or party suddenly after getting money (in cash or kind ),” Mahanta said.


There are specific allegations that many journalists in Guwahati, who are among the lowest paid in India with starting salaries as little as US$50 a month, enjoy regular payments like monthly lump sum compensation from politicians in power. Licenses for wine shops are offered to reporters (and accepted happily by many) with the inherent understanding that they only write positive stories and if possible, kill negative reports against their politician-financers.


However, the newspapers of Assam still maintain ethical values in respect of editorial space, as those are not being utilized visibly for earning extra hard cash till now, observers say. But how long this will continue remains a bigger question.


Women can’t avoid media’s portrayal of the horror of aging


DANBUIRY — Get rid of my laugh lines. Don’t let my hands show my age.

That’s how Beth Hoolehan, 51, of Newtown, feels after flipping through a typical women’s magazine geared to her age group.

“There’s a bombardment of pressure being geared towards women starting in their 40s that we need to look like we did in our 20s,” Hoolehan said.

American culture does not value seniors, said Heidi Rankin, prevention educator at the Greater Danbury Women’s Center. And until recently, older women were almost invisible in media and advertising.

“There is a sense that there is no place for me, and that can be a very isolating kind of feeling,” Rankin said.

But as female baby boomers continued to age, media and advertisers realized they had to stop denying what their audience was, she said.

“They realized they should stop ignoring them. That’s the good news,” said Bill Petkanas, Western Connecticut State University professor of communication. “The bad news is that the media is going to do to them what it did to younger women, which is making them idealize the idea of perfection.”

Twenty years ago, women of a certain age had the expectation they could retire from media pressure, Petkanas said. After 50, women were portrayed as comic relief — goofy, cute, but hardly sexy.

“The Golden Girls,” Angela Lansbury, and Edith Bunker defined the older generation.

“People grew out of the idea that they’re supposed to be perfect,” Petkanas said. “They said, now we can be clever and intelligent, and not focus on youth.”

But now, he said, older women are increasingly portrayed as sexy. For example, Italian actress Sophia Loren, 76, created a buzz at the Golden Globe Awards at the beginning of the year when she showed up without a wrinkle on her face.

As a spokesperson for L’Oreal Paris anti-aging products, Diane Keaton, 64, glowed in an all-white suit as she spoke about the benefits of L’Oreal’s anti-aging products.

“I noticed a new ad with Diane Keaton,” said Eleanor Pianforini, 86, of Brookfield. “It was a wrinkle cream of some sort. Diane Keaton is in shooting distance of my age, so I might be persuaded to use that product.”

Linda Graff, 67, of Brookfield, said she resents erectile dysfunction drug commercials that show women desiring sex while the male can’t perform.

“For me it works the opposite,” Graff said. “A lot of women after they hit 55, they don’t need sex that often. But there’s this misconception that women are craving it.”

Graff referred to a drug commercial that shows a woman approaching a man in the kitchen and being rejected. After he takes the drug, the kitchen turns into a forest.

“I don’t like it,” Graff said. “It’s a fantasy thing. It’s a drug-pushing thing.”

Petkanas said he wouldn’t be surprised if diseases like anorexia and bulimia, which typically afflict young women, start plaguing older populations as well.

Debbie Chasen, executive vice president of Norwalk-based Johnson Talent Agency, said her older models are getting a lot of work.

“They do a lot of work with hospitals and for new products coming out for older people,” Chasen said. “Some of our 60-year-old women will be doing beauty. I think that’s because people are so much healthier these days.”

American advertising thrives by making people feel unhappy with them and that buying a product will make them feel better, Petkanas said.

Most Americans have taken that message to heart, he said. “In America, we fear aging more than we fear death. But this concept of anti-aging, its absurdity.”

And it’s not just looking youthful — there’s pressure to act youthful, too, Rankin said.

The AARP recently highlighted a 75-year-old who biked across the U.S. in one of its publications. Although meant to inspire, this could also make women of limited ability feel even more inadequate.

Media literacy and critical analysis is essential at any age, Rankin said. When looking at an ad, women should ask themselves, is it true? Is it realistic? Is it harmful?

Even though she’s media savvy, Rankin, a 56-year-old, admitted feeling less beautiful when she bought an age-appropriate bathing suit at the beginning of the season instead of a bikini.

“I deal with it with a sense of humor and tell myself that youthful expectations are unrealistic,” Rankin said. “But it’s hard not to buy into those messages, because there’s no alternative message to grab on to.”



How to Design a Website

Rule #1:

 Listen to your client. You may design the “world’s best website ever in the history of the universe and beyond,” with rich blacks, sophisticated fonts, and bold, artistic colors for a site that screams “explore me now!” Unfortunately, your client wanted an orange menu bar with chunky pink and orange type. You’re fired, and your best website ever—that the client owns the rights to—languishes on their backup hard drive somewhere, never to be seen by mortal man.

Study your client’s corporate identity. Have the client show you some websites that they really like. This will not only cue you in to what tickles their fancy, it will also give you some design ideas that you may not have considered.

In case you thought we were kidding about the orange and pink website, just imagine that coolest-ever sophisticated site promoting this product:

Rule #2:

Know your audience and what they are looking for, and design accordingly. The reason people have websites is because they want other people to see them. It may be informational, or it may be commercial, or it may be for entertainment purposes geared to a particular demographic. Your job, as designer, is to know who you are designing for, and to keep them on the page when they land there.

You may think, “If it looks good, they will stay.” But this is not necessarily the case. Consider real estate, for example. Here is a site that features a clean, fun design. It has lots of white space which opens things up, bold colors, and a very modern looking widescreen format with links prominently featured:

Now consider this approach to selling real estate in the same area: it’s cluttered and very busy, garish colors, and slathered with ads.

Guess which one actually works better for people looking for homes? That’s right, the one that actually lists homes! When people are searching for “homes for sale in Santa Monica,” they don’t care about the aesthetics of the site. They don’t want to know about the real estate agent, or see pretty pictures of the town. They want to see homes.

Rule #3:

 Listen to yourself. You understand what the client likes, and you know what your market is searching for. Finally, it’s time to pay attention to you, the designer!

Build up a template in the graphics application of your choice. On separate layers (so you can modify things later without destroying the overall template) create the elements that go into your page. Those elements might include:


 This is an element that will be common to every page on your site. The header consists of the title and logo of the site, as well as links to the other subsections of the website (ex. About, Contact, etc.). Visually and practically, this will tie everything together. It’s good practice to make the first button on a menu bar link back to the home page.

Let’s look at Apple,for example:

As with most everything Apple, their home page features a very clean, uncluttered design. Notice the menu bar across the top, with logical topics for each button, plus a search field—always a nice touch if your site supports it. Now let’s look a landing page for one of the buttons, the iPad, and let’s take a look at a few of the elements:

The menu bar changes only by darkening the iPad button.

The subject of the landing page is in large black letters in the upper left.

A new sub-menu bar appears so that you can learn more about the product. If you click each of those submenu headings, you will see each page will offer new topic-relevant content, but will be identical in layout and design.

Many times, each main heading in your menu bar will multiple sub-headings that you need to account for. Instead of creating a secondary menu bar, you might use popup menus like this example from Musician’s Friend:

Side bar.

This will be common on many pages of your site, but not necessarily all—–context is king. But it’s a very important element, and needs to carefully design to be intuitive and unnecessarily cluttered. Unlike the menu bar, the content of a side bar can be very dynamic. Consider these two sidebars from real estate marketer Trulia. The first is for buyers:

And the second one is for renters. Notice the entirely different focus for very similar information, and it appears in exactly the same spot on the side bar:


This is where it all happens, and is the most variable part of your design. If you are designing an e-commerce site, for example, one page may have a product review in the body, while the next has 20 items for sale. Your job is to tie the two together so that they don’t look disjointed, visually. Use similar colors, fonts, and interface elements to draw it all together.


This is something that not ever site has, or needs. It’s often used for things that might clutter an otherwise clean interface, or provide access to parts of the site that are not the site’s primary focus.


Censoring Social Media Does Not Prevent Riots

Censoring Social Media Does Not Prevent Riots

Last year Britain suffered the worst civil unrest seen in the country for decades, as riots spread out from London to other cities around the country.  Attention at the time focused on the role of technologies such as Blackberry Messenger played in supporting the looting on display, with some politicians calling for social media to be shut down during such social troubles.


As a libertarian I’m very much opposed to such actions, so it was with much relief when researchers found that social media plays a positive role in riots rather than a negative one.


This hypothesis has been further supported by new research.   The paper, titled “Social Media Censorship in Times of Political Unrest – A Social Simulation Experiment with the UK Riots,” suggests that far from helping calm civil unrest, if governments were to censor social media it would actually fan the flames further.


This is according to two European researchers who built a computer model showing that high levels of censorship (e.g., Hosni Mubarak’s decision to turn off Egypt’s Internet) result in sustained periods of violent activity, whereas no censorship leads to spiky periods of violent outbursts broken up by relatively long periods of relative calm.


It’s timely as of course the same tools many claim were responsible for the liberation of people during the Arab Spring, are portrayed by western governments as a threat to the values of freedom and peace they supposedly stand for.


The authors attribute their findings (albeit computer-generated) largely to the idea of “vision,” which plays a pivotal role in sociological experiments trying to determine how individuals act during times of protest or rioting. Put simply, less censorship means more vision, so citizens (called “agents” in the computer model) know what’s going on around them and can act in more uniform and rational manners. More censorship means less vision, so citizens are less aware of their surroundings and tend to act randomly.


It is of course worth remembering that social media is merely a tool for communication and sharing.  Riots happened before social media arrived and the underlying reasons for such mass actions have remained much the same down the years.


A Guardian analysis of individuals arrested during the U.K. riots in August, for example, found that rioters were overwhelmingly “young, poor and unemployed” (read “more disenfranchised than ordinary citizens”). And even before the advent of social media, non-violent protests have been the norm in the relatively stable and rich United States for decades, with only minimal violence breaking out during the Occupy protests that took hold in dozens of cities nationwide during 2011.


How to Write a Feature Article

While news articles give the facts, feature articles dig deeper, exploring the why and the how of an incident. Of the two types of articles, a feature article is often considered the more creative of the two. Writing feature articles often looks at issues and trends while appealing to the human interest of a story. Because features appear in newspapers and magazines, they present more opportunities to freelance writers who know how to write a feature article.

Find your story.

Look for not only at what interests you, but what people are talking about.

Pay attention to the news. Sometimes feature articles come from looking at a news article and asking why that incident occurred.

Is there something happening in your community that might be of interest to the country or the world?

Learn more about your story.

 Proper research will provide the meat for your story.

Gather information from interview sources and previously published material.

Decide on what type of feature you want to write.

 There are many kinds, from the personality profile to the how-to feature.

You might want to find out what people are thinking about what’s in the news for a new feature or put a human touch on an historical event.

The primary objective of an informational feature is educating the reader.

The most common type of feature writing is the human interest story that tugs on heartstrings by recounting how someone overcomes insurmountable odds.

Organize your feature article by thinking of it as a three-act play.

The first act is the introduction, in which the freelance writer introduces the subject while capturing the reader’s interest.

The second act of feature writing is the body, which provides the information in an interesting, logical manner. This is where you’ll often see quotes.

The last act of your feature is the conclusion, in which you pull everything together.

Think about the best style for a feature article.

 Often this is determined by the subject and the type of feature.

Consider whether the feature comes across as chatty or literary, humorous or serious. Match the style to the tone of the subject.

Look for variety in sentence and paragraph structure. No one wants to read long paragraphs exclusively and short sentences give feature writing a staccato effect.

Add details to keep a feature article interesting.

 Freelance writers use anecdotes, descriptive writing, figures of speech, facts, comparison vs. contract, and even shifts in time (flashback and foreshadowing) to keep a reader reading.

Create titles that not only add interest to a piece, but communicate what a story is about.

Feature writing often includes subheadings. There is an average number of sections with subheadings. Use too many and you’ll lose the interest of reader and editor, alike.

Dealing with Exam Stress

In today’s world exams are an unfortunate necessity. There is a lot of pressure on people to succeed that exam stress is a big part of many people’s lives. While this article can’t make the exams go away it will hopefully help you to deal with some of the stress that you might be feeling and that in turn will allow you to focus on your exams.

What is Exam Stress?


Stress is natural part of being human. It’s your body responding to changes in the world around you. It changes how your body works and puts your mind into different moods. When you’re getting stressed about an exam – it just means that you really care about the result you will get. That can be a good thing if it pushes you into working extra hard as you try to get a good result. But it can be bad if you get too worried and the effects of the stress stop you doing well. When exams get too much, the stress can show in your body.


How to spot if you’re stressed

You could be showing signs of stress if you’re:

Feeling tired

Ache all over

Cry and feel sad

Have panic attacks

Have broken sleep

Suffer from stomach upsets

Have itchy skin rashes

More likely to get colds and ‘flu


Developing a positive mindset


Its human nature to be negative sometimes, but developing a positive mental attitude will help you do your best.


Picture yourself getting a big fat A and visualize this over and over in vivid detail. If you maintain a positive, ‘I can do it’ attitude building up to your exams, your stress will be transformed into positive energy that can be harnessed to enhance your performance.

View the exam as a time-bound project of 90 days. Look forward to the fun and challenge in store on completion.

It’s only an exam! You’re not going to die. Your family will not get kidnapped and tortured if you fail. And there’s always the reset!

An exam is simply an opportunity to show what you know.

Exams are designed to HELP you, and provide your tutors/teachers with feedback so they can help you further.

You will be just the same person before and after the exam. Exams don’t measure anything really important about you.

You have had a number of successes already and have actually passed many exams – hold on to that. Focus on the positive aspects of the past rather than the negative ones, as this will spur you on to yet more successes.

Stopping negative thoughts


Thought-stopping technique

When we become anxious we begin to have negative thoughts (‘I can’t answer anything’, ‘I’m going to panic’ etc). If this is happening, halt the spiraling thoughts by mentally shouting ‘STOP!’. Or picture a road STOP sign or traffic lights on red. Once you have literally stopped the thoughts, you can continue planning, or practice a relaxation technique.


Use a mantra

Derived from meditation, a mantra is a word or phrase which you repeat to yourself. Saying something like ‘Aum’ or ‘relax’ under your breath or in your head, over and over again can help defuse anxiety.



Looking out of the window, noticing the number of people with red hair, counting the number of desks in each row… all help to distract your attention from anxious thoughts and keep your mind busy. Mental games such as making words out of another word or title, using alphabetical lists etc are all good forms of distraction.


Bridging objects

It can help to carry or wear something with positive associations with another person or place. Touching this bridging object can be comforting in its own right, then allow yourself a few minutes to think about the person or situation which makes you feel good. This can have a really calming effect.



In exam anxiety or panic we often give ourselves negative messages, ‘I can’t do this’ ‘I’m going to fail’ ‘I’m useless’. Try to consciously replace these with positive, encouraging thoughts: ‘This is just anxiety, it can’t harm me’, ‘Relax, concentrate, it’s going to be OK’, ‘I’m getting there, nearly over’.


A few tips


A good way to minimize the amount of stress that you are feeling is to create a revision timetable. This way you can be make sure that you have plenty of time to revise all the subjects that you need to do. Having a revision timetable will also give you the chance to build in rest breaks and time to spend relaxing. This will help you to stay calmer. If you find yourself sitting and getting more and more stressed you need to take a break. Go for a walk or take an hour to watch some television do something to take your mind off your stress.