Strong writing skills aren’t optional

Learning how to write well is perhaps the single most important thing you can do while in college, especially if you are majoring in a liberal arts subject. In my experience, too few students realize how important it is to develop strong writing skills – and this can cause real problems when it comes to applying for jobs and graduate programs.

Strong writing skills shouldn’t be treated like an optional ‘extra’ that you can consider picking up, like a foreign language or a new software package. They are an absolute must. Simply put, you will be badly hamstrung for the rest of your professional life if you can’t write well.

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Writing a great introduction

The opening paragraph will be the most important part of every paper you will ever write in college. Being able to write a good introduction will keep your readers happy—not least of all those grading your papers!—but it will also help you, the author, in some significant ways. Unfortunately, many students struggle with writing strong introductions. What follows are some tips to avoid common pitfalls.

In my judgment, a great introduction ought to do three things: (1) state an argument in answer to whatever question you have been tasked with answering, preferably in just one sentence; (2) preview the logic underpinning that argument; and (3) give “signposts” as to how the rest of the essay will unfold.

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Donald Trump and Washington’s Arab Gulf allies

I’ve written a short article for Gulf State Analytics, a Washington-based consultancy that focuses on the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. My piece discusses what can be expected from President Trump when it comes to foreign policy in the Persian Gulf.

The presidency of Donald Trump has great potential to bring about significant changes in global affairs. Throughout his candidacy, Trump railed against so-called “globalism” while advocating an “America First” posture that would unabashedly place the country’s narrow self-interests above the concerns of friends, allies, and trading partners. Trump styled himself as an iconoclast, someone who could be relied upon to bring a new approach to almost every facet of U.S. foreign relations, including trade and investment policy, alliance commitments, support for international organizations, nuclear proliferation policy, and respect for international law and human rights.

Click here to access the piece, part of GSA’s Monthly Monitor newsletter.

What good in-class participation looks like

There is good participation and then there is bad participation. And because so many professors grade students on their in-class contributions, it’s really important for students to know the difference.

The first thing to stress is that points for participation don’t come free of charge. Contrary to popular belief, participation points aren’t a way for professors to pad your grade at the end of the semester. Instead, they are a serious mechanism for judging your in-class contributions. Therefore, you should never expect to get a good grade for participation – or even a passing grade – if you aren’t earning those points.

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