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Helping Students Write Effective Thesis Statements

Helping Students Write Effective Thesis Statements

All writers have had, at some point, difficulty locating and confidently stating their point of view—in other words, difficulty composing a well-stated thesis. For students composing writing for class, the reality of articulating their argument can be a particular challenge. Below, we offer some tips for instructors looking to help students find and state their argument confidently and convincingly.

Encourage your students to read, research, and prewrite to develop their point of view.

Writers often need to learn more about their topic before they can effectively state and support their position. Moreover, it is often helpful for writers to hold on taking a position before they research. Instead, they might explore the perspectives and approaches that already exist on their topic and position their argument based on what they find.

Remind students that a thesis usually has two parts: a statement of the writer’s point of view and a summary of the reasons/evidence the writer will draw on to develop that point of view.

It’s not uncommon to see a half-completed thesis statement–one that offers a claim but doesn’t pair that claim with any support. So readers are left knowing what the writer thinks about a topic without having a sense of why the writer thinks the way he or she does. We try to emphasize to writers that they must explain “why” they think they way they do about a given topic, issue, problem. Though many thesis statements don’t include the word “because,” a thesis using this word can serve as an example of answering the “why” part of the question. We sometimes use the example of a lawyer in court arguing on behalf of a client. Simply claiming that her client is innocent won’t be enough for the jury; the lawyer must also explain that her client is innocent because.

Writers can think of their thesis as a short summary of their entire essay—a summary that accounts for their position and their support for that position. In this way, a thesis serves as the essay’s road map, as something that can help guide the reader through the text.

Offer students examples of the kinds of arguments they can make in their essays.

Most academic writing contains some kind of argument, but the arguments can differ in both content and form. These differences are guided by genre conventions, disciplinary approaches, and by the writer’s individual goals. It is often useful to give your students examples of arguments that are acceptable and unacceptable for the assignment you’ve given them. More specifically, you may find yourself needing to talk about the types of evidence you want to see them use to support the arguments they are making—or the types of claims that are appropriate for the assignment.

On a related note, students might have problems differentiating a thesis statement that takes a clear position from a thesis statement that is, in reality, a statement of fact. To help writers make this distinction, we often ask them to consider whether their thesis has a counterargument—whether their thesis could be disagreed with or altered in some way.

Advise students to rewrite their thesis when they revise their essays.

Many writers need to draft an introduction, including a thesis, before they can feel comfortable moving to writing the body of their essay. But most writers discover their argument as they draft, so their initial introduction and thesis often don’t accurately foreground the body of the essay once the draft is complete. As a result, writers should think of their initial thesis as being in the “working” stage. They can also think about the kind of work their working thesis may do for them. Specifically, a thesis can guide the writer just as handily as it guides the reader. We like writers to be mindful of the argument they are trying to make as they compose, as this mindfulness helps them stay focused on providing relevant evidence and reasoning to support their argument.

We have some useful resources about writing thesis statements and making arguments.

Step 4: Refine your thesis statement

To help writers make this distinction, we often ask them to consider whether their thesis has a counterargument whether their thesis could be disagreed with or altered in some way. Remind students that a thesis usually has two parts a statement of the writer s point of view and a summary of the reasons evidence the writer will draw on to develop that point of view.

Shona has a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees, so she’s an expert at writing a great thesis. She has also worked as an editor and teacher, working with students at all different levels to improve their academic writing.


Homework Hacks: 8 Tips to Get It Done Faster

After all, both of these issues usually result in you putting off your homework until the very last minute.

You probably already have a to-do list to keep yourself on track. The next step is to prioritize the items on your to-do list so you can see what items need your attention right away.

Homework Hacks: 8 Tips to Get It Done Faster

Homework is no fun, especially if you’ve got a full schedule. You only have a little bit of time and a little bit of energy. And it takes so long to get through it.

Not anymore. We’ve got some helpful homework hacks for you that will make doing your homework faster and less painful.

1. Plan Your Homework and Make a List

When you start your homework, you’ll probably jump right into the first thing on your mind or the first thing you pull out of your backpack, then work your way through the rest of your assignments. There’s a better way.

Figure out how much time you have to do homework, then list out all the different tasks that you have to do. Estimate how long it will take to complete each assignment to see if you need to allow yourself more time. Be realistic. Once your list is complete you can work straight through instead of stopping frequently to figure out what to do next. It will also be extremely gratifying to cross things off after each assignment you finish!

2. Get Out All the Books and Supplies You Need

While you’re working, you discover you need a calculator, you need a certain book, you need a new pencil, you ran out of paper… the list can go on.

Since you’ve now identified all your assignments, figure out everything you need to get each item done and bring it to your workspace so it’s there when you need it.

3. Find a Quiet Place to Work Without Distractions

Speaking of workspace, you probably prefer doing your homework in front of the TV, but that can actually be the biggest distraction of all. Sitting in front of the TV is probably slowing you down, making homework time seem much longer that it actually is.

Find a place that’s quiet, with as few distractions and clutter possible. Remember, the faster you get it done, the faster you can get back to fully enjoying Netflix.

4. Turn Off Your Phone

We know this is probably the last thing you want to hear. How can you live without your phone? But for a couple hours, its totally worth it. Every time you get a notification and check your phone, it breaks your focus. It then takes more brain power to get back on track to what you were working on.

5. Listen to Classical Music While Working

However, classical music is great for background audio. There aren’t any lyrics or beats to distract your focus. And research has shown that students who listen to classical music score higher on tests than students who listen to other genres of music. So find some good classical playlist on Spotify, then celebrate with Queen Bey when you’re done.

6. Eat Snacks and Drink Water

At the end of a long day, you may be mentally and physically tired. If you go straight into homework it may take you a long time to finish and it won’t be your best work.

Having some light healthy snacks and drinking plenty of water helps revitalize your brain and body. Avoid soda, energy drinks, or sugary snacks that will only make you crash before you’re done.

7. Take Short Breaks in Between Homework Tasks

If you have a lot to do, you may feel the pressure to just work straight through hours and hours of homework. But this will likely end up slowing you down, prolonging the entire session.

Do your work in short sprints. Go hard at a task, then take a quick break to stretch and walk around. It’ll re-energize your mind and body to keep going. For starters, try working for 25 minutes, then taking a 5-minute break.

8. Reward Yourself After You’re Finished

Our brains work off of reward systems. If you give yourself a reward when finishing your homework, it makes it a lot easier to start your homework the next time and you’ll get through it faster. Rewards could be being able to watch a show, eat ice cream, play a game, or going out and doing something fun.

Now that you’ve got all these tips, go get your homework done faster than ever before. It may be hard at first, but keep using these tips and it’ll get easier as you go.

Plan Your Homework and Make a List

When you start your homework, you’ll probably jump right into the first thing on your mind or the first thing you pull out of your backpack, then work your way through the rest of your assignments. There’s a better way.

Figure out how much time you have to do homework, then list out all the different tasks that you have to do. Estimate how long it will take to complete each assignment to see if you need to allow yourself more time. Be realistic. Once your list is complete you can work straight through instead of stopping frequently to figure out what to do next. It will also be extremely gratifying to cross things off after each assignment you finish!

#3: Change Up Your Environment

Procrastination can also negatively affect your health by increasing your stress levels , which can lead to other health conditions like insomnia, a weakened immune system, and even heart conditions. To sum it up people who lack motivation to do their homework are more likely to not do it at all, or to spend more time worrying about doing their homework than.

So why does this technique work? Using small rewards more often allows you to experience small wins for getting your work done. Every time you make it to one of your tiny reward points, you get to celebrate your success, which gives your brain a boost of dopamine. Dopamine helps you stay motivated and also creates a feeling of satisfaction when you complete your homework!


Homework Hacks: 8 Tips to Get It Done Faster

Ielts academic writing describing process and procedures

An example of this can be seen in this diagram from a past IELTS process diagram question about the manufacture of bricks.

These connectors are the same you would use to write a graph over time when you explain a series of changes.

Ielts academic writing describing process and procedures

It is less common in the writing test, but sometimes you will get an IELTS process diagram to describe.

However, there are different types of task 1 (line graphs, pie charts, maps etc) and each requires knowledge of a certain type of language.

What is an IELTS Process Diagram?

The diagram illustrates the process that is used to manufacture bricks for the building industry.

Summarize the information by selecting and reporting the main features and make comparisons where relevant.

IELTS Process Diagram Brick Making

IELTS Process Diagram – Brick Making

A process will have a number of stages that are in time order. So you should start at the beginning, and describe each stage through to the last one.

In the example above, this is fairly clear. It begins with the digging of the clay, and ends with delivery.

Processes are not always this clear, and you may have to look more carefully to spot the beginning, and there may also be two things happening at the same time.

So it is important that you look at other sample processes to get a good understanding of how they can vary.

Introduce the Diagram

The diagram explains the way in which bricks are made for the building industry.

As you can see, this has been taken from the question, but it has not been copied. You need to write it in your own words.

Highlight the Main Points

An IELTS process diagram is different to a line, bar, pie chart or table in that there are not usually key changes or trends to identify. However, you should still give an overview of what is taking place.

The ‘public band descriptors’ state that to achieve a band 6 or more for ‘task response’ the student must provide an overview in a task 1.

As there are no trends to comment on, you can make a comment on, for example, the number of stages in the process and how it begins and ends:

Overall, there are eight stages in the process, beginning with the digging up of clay and culminating in delivery.

Give the Detail

Now you need to explain the IELTS process diagram, and there are two key aspects of language associated with this:

A process is a series of events, one taking place after the other. Therefore, to connect your stages, you should use ‘time connectors’.

Here is the rest of the answer with the time connectors highlighted (notice that you simply go from the beginning to the end of the process):

To begin , the clay used to make the bricks is dug up from the ground by a large digger. This clay is then placed onto a metal grid, which is used to break up the clay into smaller pieces. A roller assists in this process.

Following this , sand and water are added to the clay, and this mixture is turned into two differing types of brick by either placing it into a mould or using a wire cutter. Next , these bricks are placed in an oven to dry for 24 – 48 hours.

In the subsequent stage , the bricks go through a heating and cooling process. They are heated in a kiln at a moderate and then a high temperature (ranging from 200c to 1300c), followed by a cooling process in a chamber for 2 – 3 days. Finally , the bricks are packed and delivered to their destinations.

These connectors are the same you would use to write a graph over time when you explain a series of changes.

** If you use before, this means that you will be mentioning a later stage before an earlier stage, so you need to use it carefully. If you can use it properly though, it will get noticed.

Before being dried in the oven, the mixture is turned into bricks by either placing it into a mould or using a wire cutter.

When we describe an IELTS process that involves humans (a man-made process as opposed to a natural one), the focus is on the activities, NOT the person doing them.

When this is the case, we use the passive voice, not the active. For a natural process, such as the life-cycle of a frog, we use active as there is not a person doing the activity in the diagram.

This is a brief explanation of how to use the passive voice, but if you are new or unsure about using it, you should do some further study and practice.

In the active voice (as above), the digger is doing the verb i.e. the digger is doing the digging.

When we use the passive voice, we make the object (the clay) the subject, and make the subject (the digger) the object. We also add in the verb ‘to be’ and the past participle (or Verb 3).

So throughout most of your description for your IELTS process diagram, you should be using the passive voice.

This is difficult as some verbs cannot take the passive. For example, ‘to go’ cannot be passive, so it is kept in the active voice:

This is why you need to make sure you practice the passive so you know exactly how to use it.

Also, as you will see from the description, it is more usual to to comment on who or what is doing the action so the ‘by. " phrase is excluded.

To begin, the clay (which) is used to make the bricks is dug up from the ground by a large digger. This clay is then placed onto a metal grid, onto a metal grid, which is used to break up the clay into smaller pieces. A roller assists in this process.

Following this, sand and water are added to the clay, and this mixture is turned into bricks by either placing it into a mould or using a wire cutter. Next, these bricks are placed in an oven to dry for 24 – 48 hours.

In the subsequent stage, the bricks go through a heating and cooling process. They are heated in a kiln at a moderate and then a high temperature (ranging from 200c to 1300c), followed by a cooling process in a chamber for 2 – 3 days. Finally, the bricks are packed and delivered to their destinations.

Varying your Language

Sometimes it may be appropriate just to use the same language that you are given in the IELTS process diagram to describe it, but you should try to vary it.

You may be able to use nouns from the diagram as your verbs. For example, the noun packaging in stage seven becomes:


Processes are not always this clear, and you may have to look more carefully to spot the beginning, and there may also be two things happening at the same time. A cyclical process, on the other hand, is a process that goes back to the beginning and repeats over and over again, such as the life cycle of a frog or a butterfly.

In the second paragraph, you should give a general description of the diagram/s or process. The detail comes later in the essay.


How to Write High Quality Captions


Captions are one of the most important parts of your website. They are the first thing people see when they visit your site, and they are the only thing they will see if they use a screen reader.

If you don’t have captions on your images, you are violating the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which is the most widely accepted set of guidelines for making websites accessible to people with disabilities.

What is a Caption?

A caption is a short description of an image that appears below the image. Captions are used to describe the image to people who are visually impaired, to help them understand what the image is about. They can also be used to provide additional information about the image, such as the name of the person who took the picture, the location where the picture was taken, or any other information that is relevant to the image or the subject matter of the picture.

Why Should You Write Captions for Your Images

There are many reasons why you should write a caption for each of your images.

The first and most important reason is that you are making your website more accessible for people with visual impairments. If your website is not accessible to them, they will not be able to use it, which means that they will be missing out on a lot of information that they could be getting from your website if it was accessible.

If you are unsure whether or not your site is accessible, the best way to find out is to use [WebAIM’s accessibility checker](/webaim/tools/accessibility-checker/). It will tell you if your site violates any of the WCAG guidelines, and if it does, it will give you a list of things that you can do to make your site more accessible.

If your site does not pass the accessibility check, you will need to make some changes to make it accessible. There are many ways to do this, but the most common way is to add captions to your images so that they can be read by people who use screen readers.

If you have images on your website that are not captioned.

How to Write Good Captions

Writing captions is not difficult, but it does require a little bit of practice. The most important thing to keep in mind is that captions should be short and to the point. They should be written in the third person, and should not include any unnecessary information.

7 Tips for Writing an Effective Grant Proposal

Maria-Veronica Banks

Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal: The Basics

So, you want to write a grant proposal? This is exciting! This means that you have valuable research to do or a particular nonprofit to build or a community resource you’re passionate about developing. You have a distinct vision for how something could be improved or advanced, and you’re ready to ask for funding or other support to help this vision become a reality.

As you reach toward this unrealized vision by developing a grant proposal, you should think about successful grant writing as an act of imagination. Professor Kate Vieira, a Curriculum and Instruction professor at UW-Madison with considerable grant writing experience, describes grant proposal writing as a creative process akin to fiction writing—these are works of imagination. Professor Vieira recommends approaching the task of writing a grant proposal with an attitude of wonder and excitement as you strive to turn your ideas into something real. You have a great idea, and you think that you’re the best person to achieve a specific goal. Now you just need to convince others to get excited about this vision as well.

How to Write an Effective Grant Proposal

Follow directions

Start by reviewing the Request for Proposals (RFP). Are there geographic limits? Does your organization meet eligibility requirements? Does the timing make sense for your organization?

If the funding opportunity seems like a good fit, think about how to frame your ask according to the grantmaker’s priorities. For example, NEEF coordinates with a variety of public and private partners to determine the funding source, goals, and metrics for specific grants.

Be sure to read the RFP carefully and directly respond to all parts of the question. Be clear about who the grant contact is, check your spelling and math, and make sure not to omit contact names or contact information. Pay attention to character limits. Have another staff member review your project budget to make sure line items are accurate.

When applying to a NEEF grant, don’t be overwhelmed by the application process. “We want to reduce the burden as much as possible for grantees and ensure NEEF’s grants process is accessible to all,” Banks said. “Our goal is that there are no surprises as we work together through the application process!”

Pay attention to your partnership letter

Photo of five people from partnering organizations celebrating a grant project

Do your research

Many nonprofits have elevated their digital presence in order to engage existing supporters and reach new audiences, especially during the pandemic. But building a new website or signing onto various social media channels will not necessarily equate to visitors or followers.

Before embarking on any online communications project, do the necessary research. Define your target audience. What are their demographics? Are there any barriers to their engagement with your public land site or organization?

Design an intentional strategy and tell us how you will conduct focused outreach. The grant application is the place to map out your goals and state how you will track your effectiveness in reaching your target audiences.

Align your budget and project narrative

Make sure that the project budget is a direct translation of the narrative in fiscal terms. Additionally, if the grant would only partially support the project, show where the rest of the funding will come from. It is especially important to include matching funds as well as other funding sources (foundation, governmental, corporate or otherwise).

Grant reviewers are likely considering the project’s sustainability, and demonstrating buy-in from other funders will only strengthen the application. This additional funding shows that the project will likely continue to be funded even after the grant period ends.

Define success

Make sure that the project budget is a direct translation of the narrative in fiscal terms. Additionally, if the grant would only partially support the project, show where the rest of the funding will come from. It is especially important to include matching funds as well as other funding sources (foundation, governmental, corporate or otherwise). Grant reviewers are likely considering the project’s sustainability, and demonstrating buy-in from other funders will only strengthen the application. This additional funding shows that the project will likely continue to be funded even after the grant period ends.

First, determine the end goal of your project and how you will measure the degree of its success. Grant reviewers are looking for your intent, but also numbers and metrics that go along with it.

Tell a clear financial story

One of the most common weaknesses seen in grant applications is that the applicant does not present a clear financial story. Before applying for a grant (of any size), be prepared to submit crucial financial documents.

Strong, concise financial information signifies that an organization’s accounting processes are efficient and transparent. Essentially, it tells a grant reviewer that the applicant will be able to manage a grant effectively.

“Many of NEEF’s grantees are mostly volunteer-run, and we understand that keeping financial information maintained can be a big undertaking,” Banks said. “These resources can help you build financial capacity that will help put your organization in a strong position to apply for grants.”

You’ve Won a Grant! Now What?

Your first “to-do” item after receiving a grant should be to acknowledge the gift. Make sure to fill out any paperwork required by the funder, and send them a thoughtful thank you letter (not the same thank you letter you send to everyone else).

Next, plan with the folks on your team who will be carrying out the proposed project to make sure everyone understands what is required: this might include attending meetings, planning site visits, tracking data, or writing reports.

Keep in touch with the funder through the project period with occasional updates – especially if an organizational change occurs such as a change in staff, or receipt of additional funding.

Make sure you note your report deadline and get that report in on time. Each time you contact the funder, you are building a relationship with them. Hopefully one that will benefit your organization’s mission for years to come!

About the Learning Lab

We’re using human-centered design to help us understand the capacity-building needs of under-resourced nonprofits in order to inform our social impact investment strategy. Read our blog post about the brand new Learning Lab.


Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal: The Basics

How to Fill Out Your W-4 Form? Answers to FAQ About the W-4

w-4 form joint filing 2020

How to Fill Out Your W-4 Form? Answers to FAQ About the W-4


If you’re filling out a Form W-4, you probably just started a new job. Or maybe you recently got married or had a baby. The W-4, also called the Employee’s Withholding Certificate, tells your employer how much federal income tax to withhold from your paycheck.

The form was redesigned for 2020, which is why it looks different if you’ve filled one out before then. The biggest change is that it no longer talks about “allowances,” which many people found confusing. Instead, if you want an additional amount withheld (perhaps your spouse earns considerably more than you), you simply state the amount per pay period. Here, we answer frequently asked questions about the W-4, including how to fill it out, what’s changed and how the W-4 is different from the W-2.

Why Do I Need to Fill Out Form W-4?

As just noted, the form tells your employer how much federal income tax to withhold from your paycheck. You’ll need to complete a new W-4 every time you start a new job. If your new company forgets to give you one for some reason, be sure to ask. If your employer doesn’t have a W-4 form from you, the IRS requires it to treat you as a single tax filer, which means withholding the highest possible amount from your paycheck for taxes. You can get back the amount you overpay, but only in the new year when you file your tax return.

You should complete the redesigned W-4 only if you started a new job – or if your filing status or financial situation has changed. You do not need to fill out the new form if you have not changed employers. Your company can still use the information provided on the old W-4 form.

Form W-4 changes for 2020

In 2020, the IRS released a new Form W-4 for 2020 with two key changes. The first is the form’s title. Form W-4 used to be titled “Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate.” But in 2020, that title was shortened to “Employee’s Withholding Certificate.”

And that title shortening is a result of the other key change to Form W-4. Prior to 2020, employees used W-4 to claim withholding allowances. The number of allowances determined how much income tax was withheld from each paycheck; employees who claimed fewer allowances had more tax withheld from each paycheck, while employees who claimed more allowances had less tax withheld each pay period. The value of these allowances were, in part, based on personal exemptions.

But a 2017 tax bill, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, eliminated personal exemptions—and so Form W-4 also eliminated allowances. Now, instead of employees figuring out the right withholding allowances (which proved confusing for many), the new Form W-4 has employees fill in the relevant information to determine accurate tax withholding (like filing status, number of dependents, and additional income)—and then the employer does the calculations from there.

How to fill out a W4 form in 2020

Now that you understand what a W-4 form is, why it’s important, and the changes for 2020, let’s jump into how to fill it out. That way, you can guide your workers through the process—and make sure you have the information you need to accurately calculate their tax withholdings.

All employees must complete steps 1 and 5 on Form W-4. Steps 2, 3, and 4 only need to be filled out if they apply to the employee. Note: only employees hired in 2020 and beyond need to fill out the revised Form W-4. Employees hired prior to 2020 will have their withholdings computed based on their most recent Form W-4.

Step 1: Personal Information

W4 Form Step 1: Enter Personal Information

Step 2: Multiple Jobs or Spouse Works

W4 Form Step 2: Multiple Jobs or Spouse Works

If your employee works other multiple jobs, they would check the box next to section 2(c) and complete the Multiple Jobs Worksheet. Depending on the number of jobs the employee and/or spouse holds, they can fill out the worksheet as follows:

Line 1

If the employee has two jobs or they’re married filing jointly and their spouse also has a job, the employee should fill in Line 1 of the worksheet by using the withholding tables on page 4 of Form W-4, which have columns for the highest paying job on the left and the lowest paying job on the right. Employees should find their wages, cross reference the highest and lowest paying jobs, and enter the number at the intersection into Line 1.

Line 2

Line 2a

Using the same process as we just covered for Line 1, employees should cross reference their highest paying job and second highest paying job and enter the number at the intersection into Line 2a.

Line 2b

Then, they should add the wages from the two jobs from Line 2a and use them as the “Highest Paying Job,” cross reference with their wages and salary from their third job, and enter the number at the intersection into Line 2b.

Line 2c

Once an employee has completed Line 2, they can move on to the rest of the worksheet. Just keep in mind that while employees should fill out a W-4 form for each of their jobs, they should only complete steps 3 through 4(b) for their highest paying job (they can leave those sections blank on their other W-4 forms).

Step 3: Claim Dependents

W4 Form Step 3: Claim Dependents

If employees have children under the age of 17, they should multiply the number of children by $2000 and enter it into the first box on the worksheet. For all other dependents, they should multiply by $500 and enter into the second box. Then, they should add the values from the first and the second boxes and enter the total into Line 3.

Step 4: Other Adjustments

W4 Form Step 4: Other Adjustments

  • Line 4a: Other income (not from jobs). If your employee has additional income that isn’t subject to withholding (including interest, dividends, and retirement income), they can enter that income on Line 4a and elect to have the additional amount withheld from their earnings to compensate.
  • Line 4b: Deductions. If your employee expects their deductions to exceed the standard deduction (which, for 2020, is $12,400 for single or married filing separately, $24,800 for married filing jointly, or $18,650 for head of household), they would fill out the Deductions Worksheet on page 3 of Form W-4 and enter the result on Line 4b.
  • Line 4c: Extra withholding. If your employee wants to have additional tax withheld each pay period, they can enter the withholding amount on Line 4c.

Step 5: Sign the form

W4 Form Step 5: Sign Here


How To Answer “What Areas Need Improvement? ” (Interview Question)

How To Answer 'What Areas Need Improvement?' (Interview Question)

Streamline your space.

Before you do anything else, take a few moments at the start of each day to organize and declutter your workspace. A clutter-free environment helps you think more clearly and produce better results, said Kristoph Matthews, head of engineering at NewtonX and founder of on-demand storage company Boxbee. By cleaning up and organizing your space, you can greatly increase your productivity and limit the time you spend searching for items.

Color can have a major effect on your mood and productivity throughout the day, said Jenny Gauld, interior designer for office furniture and accessory retailer Turnstone. Blue can impart a calming feeling and can help you focus, while red may be great for work that requires accuracy and attention to detail. Plants can also help people focus: A study by the American Society for Horticultural Science found that workers who were exposed to plants in their workspace reported feeling less stressed and more productive.

Decorate your workspace.

In addition to adding some color and plants to your workspace, decorating your desk or cubicle with a few personal knickknacks can help you feel more relaxed, which can boost your productivity. Gauld suggested adding meaningful career memorabilia, such as diplomas, awards, and other decorative items that help you feel appreciated and will motivate you.

Everyone has at least one task on the to-do list that keeps getting pushed back because the thought of doing it seems awful. That task is actually the one you should complete first, according to Matthews. Instead of waiting until the last minute to finish it, get it off your plate as soon as possible. Your other tasks will seem less daunting by comparison, and you’ll stop stressing about that one task all day, making you more productive overall.

Example Answers For “What Do You Need To Improve?”:

Now that we looked at the big mistakes to avoid when sharing areas for improvement in the interview, and how you SHOULD answer, let’s look at some word-for-word sample answers to make sure you’re ready.

Areas of Improvement – Example Answer #1:

“As a Staff Accountant, I don’t get to lead very often, at least not formally. In the long-run, I’d love to start taking on more responsibilities as a leader. This could be leading meetings or projects, mentoring or training newer team members, and other tasks like that. I enjoy the hands-on accounting work and that’s still what I want to be doing, which is why I applied for this position. However, I haven’t had much chance to lead yet in my career, so I’d say that’s an area for improvement or something I could get better at.”

In this example, you’re naming something specific you could get better at, but making sure not to name something that’s vital to the day-to-day work in this job. You’re also showing that you’re ambitious and motivated to learn more in your career, which is always a good thing.

Areas of Improvement – Example Answer #2:

“I’m working on improving my skills with some project management and organizational tools and technologies right now like ___ and ___. As I take on more and more management in my career, I’ve realized if I become an expert in project management software, it will make me and my team even more productive. So I’m trying to go from ‘good’ to ‘great’ in these areas.”

This example answer above works great for that question, too. So if they ever ask for something directly related to your core job, that you still need to improve, follow this formula…

Areas for Improvement – Example Answer #3:

“In my last job, I spoke with a lot of customers on the phone, and became quite good at it. However, a few other people on my team were responsible for most of the emailing when it came to customer service, so I’m a bit rusty in this area. I think email communication is really vital in customer service, because one or two wrong words can lead to the message being interpreted incorrectly. So I’ve been working on reviewing and brushing up on some of the best methods for making sure customers are satisfied with email communications.”

This sample answer is an example of naming a real weakness or something you honestly feel needs improvement… which is another perfectly fine way to answer this interview question.

How To Answer “What Areas Need Improvement?” – Quick Instructions

  1. Choose one specific area that you’re actively working on improving
  2. If you’re going to mention being weak in a certain area, make sure that you do not say anything that’s vital or crucial to the job you’re interviewing for
  3. Rather than naming a weakness, consider naming something you’re already average or okay at, but wish to become much better
  4. Sound humble, “coachable,” and willing to learn new things and take on new challenges when answering
  5. Use your answer to show employers that you’re self-motivated and actively looking for ways to improve your skills and value in your career
  6. Give a genuine answer and never a generic answer like, “well, sometimes I work too hard, so I need to learn to take more breaks”
  7. Practice your answer at home! Nothing comes out the first time, so before you go on an interview, rehearse what you plan on saying when the interviewer asks, “what’s something you need to improve on?”

Hold Up! Before you go on an interview.

Get our free PDF with the top 30 interview questions and answers. Join 10,000+ job seekers in our email newsletter and we’ll send you the 30 must-know questions, plus our best insider tips for turning interviews into job offers.


How to Write a Resume in 7 Easy Steps

Example of a general resume

500+ Resume Examples:
Free Samples for Any Job & Industry

Want to save time and have your resume ready in 5 minutes? Try our resume builder. It’s fast and easy to use. Plus, you’ll get ready-made content to add with one click. See 18 resume templates and create your resume here.

Professional Resume Builder

You’re a builder, and writing a resume is just something that gets in the way. Craft your own resume with our step-by-step guides that’ll wow recruiters and get you back to the building site.

You’re a natural-born leader. You know how to follow expert advice. Think of our guides as executive summaries and our resume samples as perfect benchmarks. Follow our advice and you’ll craft the perfect executive resume.

Whether you craft compelling copy, take two on television, or report rumors and revelations, you know how to send a message. Send the hiring manager a powerful message about how you’re the best fit for the job with a great resume.

One bad customer experience, you lose them for life. One mix up on your resume, it’s thrown in the trash. Use our sample resumes to craft one that’ll leave the hiring manager 100% satisfied.

The best salesperson offers a solution to a problem. We offer the same for your sales resume. Just follow our expert advice and use our resume template to land multiple interviews.

Start with our resume writing tips

Every list of resume writing tips will tell you the same thing: Start with your contact information. Your name, phone number, email address and, if applicable, links to your website and LinkedIn profile. Then list all the jobs you’ve had.

The top of the page is valuable real estate. If you want the reviewers to give your resume more than a quick scan, you need something up there that’s going to make them want to keep reading.

Back in the day, resumes had an objective statement just below the contact info that explained the type of job a candidate was seeking. Today, many hiring managers and recruiters expect to see a short, snappy paragraph that’s more like a profile. Think of these important two or three sentences as your 30-second elevator pitch: They should quickly summarize your experience and training, and highlight your relevant skills for the role you’re seeking.

How to format a resume

This study shows that formatting a resume is extremely important to land your next job. This article details all the best practices for formatting your resume and discusses some standard resume formats.

1. Left-align the content

It might be tempting to justify your bullet points and other content as it makes your resume looks neat and clean. But due to uneven spacing between the words, justified format decreases readability.

2. Use 1-inch margins

If you need more space, you can reduce them to a half-inch margin but don’t make them any smaller than that. If the margins are too small, it will make your resume look extremely busy to the reader — resulting in readability issues.

The standard margin is one inch on a normal Google doc or Microsoft Word document. So, if you are thinking about what would compel someone to shrink the margins, the answer is: to fit everything on one page.

While it’s good to keep your resume short and to the point, you don’t have to stick to one page only. According to Zety, hiring professionals are 1.4 times more likely to pick candidates with two-page resumes for entry-level roles. So if you need to add another page to your resume without any fluff or unnecessary details, it’s okay to do so.

The end goal is to format your resume in a way that’s readable and looks easy on the eye. Playing around with margins to fit more content on a single page won’t accomplish this goal.

3. Select a professional font

It would be best to stick to professional and easy-to-read fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. You need to choose a font that doesn’t distract from the qualifications and achievements on your resume.

To break up your resume into sections, make your name and section headers larger and more prominent. You should also use bold, italics, and underlining formatting to break up the text, highlight specific sections, and make the document easy to read.

4. Divide information into clear sections

Make sure to differentiate each section with a header that stands out from the rest of the text. Your header should also clearly state the intent of the area. For example, for your skills section, your header can be ‘Relevant Skills,’ or for the experience section, you can add ‘Work Experience’ or ‘Relevant Experience.’

You might be tempted to add other sections to showcase your achievements, like standardized test scores, but it’s better to stick to relevant information that shows your relevant skills for the job.

Kushaan Shah, Lifecycle Marketing Manager at Grammarly, suggests sticking to things that show you are competent at a job and says, “Adding your standardized test scores or Enneagram and MBTI scores don’t show the recruiters whether someone is capable of doing the job they are applying for.”

5. Use bullet points

In addition to action verbs, adding hard numbers will also double down on the impact you made while working in each role. For example, mention the revenue generated, dollars saved, the number of sales you made, or the customers you helped.

Amanda Natividad, VP of Marketing at Sparktoro, focuses on metrics when writing work accomplishments and says, “Don’t tell stories, show KPIs. Save the storytelling for your interview, where you tell the stories behind the metrics.”

Use the past tense when talking about your past work achievements. But suppose you are listing down job responsibilities and accomplishments in your present job. In that case, you should write it in the present tense, i.e., ‘managing a team of 10 people,’ ‘working on increasing blog traffic to 100k monthly visitors,’ etc.

David Fano, CEO of Teal — a platform that helps professionals speed up their job search, shares how to write metrics and says, “[The thing you affected + by how much and how long + “doing” and/or “resulting in” statement = solid achievement] is a great formula to come up with action-oriented metrics.”

6. Keep it short

When working on your resume, it’s best to remember that the shorter it is, the better. Win Shi Wong, Digital Marketing Manager, says, “Less is more, and the recruiter will thank you. Make it easy for them to extract the important information from your resume.”

Remember to focus on all the necessary details that make you stand out from the competition. Anthony Garone, the author of Winning the Job Search, says, “The goal of your resume is for a human being to read it and want to talk to you or learn more about you.”

7. Reconsider adding your headshot

Studies show that ethnic-sounding names receive fewer interview offers. Taneasha White, a writer and sensitivity reader, shares, “Adding your photo to a resume might result in similar discrimination, potentially based on identities such as your perceived racial and ethnic background, religion, or assumed sexuality or gender identity even though none of these pieces of your identity negatively influence your qualifications for employment.”

What’s the best resume format to use?

Reverse chronological resume format

In a reverse chronological resume, you list your work history with the most recent job title at the top. It also includes a resume objective or summary before the work experience section.

This resume template emphasizes work history, so it’s most effective for candidates with a lot of experience in the field. Through this format, you can showcase your work history front and center, which can help catch the employer’s eye immediately.

Pros and cons of using a reverse chronological format

Functional resume format

The functional resume format focuses on an applicant’s skills. While the reverse chronological format highlights the work experience, a functional resume emphasizes the candidate’s skills and qualifications.

Erin Riska, a Talent Acquisition Expert, believes functional resumes do the job better and says, “Functional resumes make the best sense when you consider that a great resume is a marketing document; a highlight reel. But chronological format continues to reign supreme, primarily out of fear and unexamined expectations on the part of hiring teams.”

Pros and cons of using a functional resume format

Combination resume format

In the skills summary section, list down all the skills relevant to the job and give examples of past achievements and work experiences where you gained these skills or utilized them.

Pros and cons of using a combination resume format


5 Tips for Formulating a Successful Strategy

The strategy is ready for implementation only if it leads to a business model with acceptable margins

Formulate the Winning Strategy
Choose and Capitalize on Business Strategy

T extbooks sometimes explain business strategy simply as a firm’s high-level plan for reaching specific business objectives. Strategic plans succeed when they lead to business growth, a strong competitive position, and strong financial performance. When the high-level strategy fails, however, the firm must either change its approach or prepare to go out of business.

Define Your Terms!

Define Business Strategy

Business strategy is the firm’s working plan for achieving its vision, prioritizing objectives, competing successfully, and optimizing financial performance with its business model.

The choice of objectives is the heart of the strategy, but a complete approach also describes concretely how the firm plans to meet these objectives. As a result, the strategy explains in practical terms how the firm differentiates itself from competitors, how it earns revenues, and where it earns margins.

Business strategy explains how the firm differentiates, generates revenues, earns margins.

Strategy in business—like strategy in chess—must have tangible objectives, a realistic plan for reaching them, and accurate knowledge of strengths and vulnerabilities. [Photo: Battle of the Somme, soldiers on break playing chess. Querrieu, France, October 1916]

Business strategy explains how the firm differentiates, generates revenues, earns margins.

Strategy in business—like strategy in chess—must have tangible objectives, a realistic plan for reaching them, and accurate knowledge of strengths and vulnerabilities. [Photo: Battle of the Somme, soldiers on break playing chess. Querrieu, France, October 1916]

Strategies Reflect the Firm’s Strengths, Vulnerabilities, Resources, and Opportunities. They also Reflect the Firm’s Competitors and Its Market.

Many different strategies and business models are possible, even for companies in the same industry selling similar products or services. Southwest Airlines (in the US) and Ryan Air (in Europe), for instance, have strategies based on providing low-cost transportation. The approach for Singapore Airlines focuses instead on brand image for luxury and quality service. In competitive industries, each firm formulates a strategy it believes it can exploit.

Formulating Strategy Is All About Meeting Objectives (Goals)

In business, the strategy begins with a focus on the highest level objective in private industry: Increasing owner value. For most companies that is the firm’s reason for being. In practical terms, however, firms achieve this objective only by earning profits. For most firms, therefore, the highest goal can be stated by referring to “profits.” The generic business strategy, therefore, aims first to earn, sustain, and grow profits.

An Abundance of Strategies

Strategy discussions are sometimes confusing because most firms have many strategies, not just a single “business strategy.” Analysts sometimes say marketing strategy when they mean the firm’s competitive strategy. And, a firm’s financial strategy is something different from its pricing strategy, or operational strategy. The firm’s many strategic plans interact, but they have different objectives and different action plans.

The Strategic Framework

The strategic framework is a hierarchy. At the top sits the firm’s overall (or generic) business strategy. Here, the aim is the highest-level business objective: earn, sustain, and grow profits. Some may immediately ask: Exactly how does the firm achieve it’s profit objectives?

Firms in competitive industries answer the “how” question by explaining how the firm competes. For these firms, therefore, the overall business strategy is rightly called a competitive strategy. A “competitive strategy” explains in general terms how the firm differentiates itself from the competition, defines its market, and creates customer demand.

However, detailed and concrete answers to the “how” question lie in lower level strategies, such as the marketing strategy, operational strategy, or financial strategy, The marketing strategy, for instance, might aim to “Achieve leading market share.” Or, “Establish leading brand awareness.” Financial strategy objectives might include: “Maintain sufficient working capital” or “Create a high-leverage capital structure.”

Moving Forward Strategically

As you move forward and embark on your strategic planning, tap into the knowledge and case studies of those who’ve come before you. To hone your strategic thinking skills, take a course on strategy, or speak with contacts in your network about their experiences.

Do you want to formulate winning strategies for your organization? Explore our portfolio of online strategy courses and download the free flowchart to determine which is the best fit for you and your goals.

About the Author

Catherine Cote is a marketing coordinator at Harvard Business School Online. Prior to joining HBS Online, she worked at an early-stage SaaS startup where she found her passion for writing content, and at a digital consulting agency, where she specialized in SEO. Catherine holds a B.A. from Holy Cross, where she studied psychology, education, and Mandarin Chinese. When not at work, you can find her hiking, performing or watching theatre, or hunting for the best burger in Boston.

Step 6: Cascading Goals to Departments and Team Members

Now in your Departments / Teams, you need to create goals to support the organization-wide goals. These goals should still be SMART and are generally (short-term) something to be done in the next 12-18 months. Finally, you should develop an action plan for each goal. Keep the acronym SMART in mind again when setting action items, and make sure they include start and end dates and have someone assigned their responsibility. Since these action items support your previously established goals, it may be helpful to consider action items your immediate plans on the way to achieving your (short-term) goals. In other words, identify all the actions that need to occur in the next 90 days and continue this same process every 90 days until the goal is achieved.

Examples of Cascading Goals:

Step 2: Tracking Goals & Actions

Monthly strategy meetings don’t need to take a lot of time – 30 to 60 minutes should suffice. But it is important that key team members report on their progress toward the goals they are responsible for – including reporting on metrics in the scorecard they have been assigned. By using the measurements already established, it’s easy to make course corrections if necessary. You should also commit to reviewing your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) during these regular meetings.

Your Bi-Annual Checklist

Never lose sight of the fact that strategic plans are guidelines, not rules. Every six months or so, you should evaluate your strategy execution and plan implementation by asking these key questions:

Why Track Your Goals?


10 Ecommerce Tips to Grow Your Brand in 2022

Selling internationally

5 Practical Tips For Small Businesses Making the First Steps Toward Ecommerce

Ecommerce has completely and utterly transformed the landscape of retail. The range of products and services which are purchased through digital platforms is virtually endless, including everything from groceries and electronics to clothing and toiletries. National, multinational and international brands alike have been operating successful ecommerce platforms for a number of years, but these household names aren’t the only ones profiting from the e-commerce revolution.

More and more small businesses are running successful and profitable online stores, and in this article, we’re going to be looking at why the opportunities provided by ecommerce are so lucrative, profitable and indispensable.

Develop Your Ecommerce Skills

These tips are just the beginning of your investment in growing your ecommerce brand. Sign up for our free ecommerce course taught by Gretta van Riel so you can learn how to start and scale a successful ecommerce brand from scratch.

​​Luke Ferris is the content editor at Foundr and writes about leadership, podcasting, and pop culture. He is a graduate of Michigan State University’s journalism school, and his bylines include Issue Media Group, Michigan History Magazine,, Habitat for Humanity, Holland Sentinel, and Gordon Food Service. When he’s not writing, he’s podcasting, discussing cinema over coffee, watching Tottenham Hotspur FC, or reading a book at the beach.

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9 ways to grow your eCommerce business in 2022

Business is booming when it comes to eCommerce, but the fact remains that if you want to grow your eCommerce business, and attract more customers and traffic, then you must market it. There is more opportunity out there for you right now but remember, there is also more competition.

eCommerce will continue to grow in 2022. So, if you are deadly serious about the growth of your eCommerce business, you should already be seeking to put a strategy in place to help your business move forward.

There are many ways you can ensure your eCommerce business continues to grow but of course not all will be suitable for your specific business or its needs. There are some processes that apply to most though and which can be easily implemented.

How to grow your eCommerce business

1. Ramp up your customer service

Customer support team

When consumers receive excellent eCommerce customer service or know that should they have a question or a problem, you are easily contactable, they are more likely to buy from you as it gives them additional peace of mind.

Remember, we live in a world of wanting instantaneous results which is why Chatbots – automated customer service software systems allowing online chat without human interaction – are an excellent choice for your customers to easily reach you with their queries. If you can answer a query quickly, the chance of the sale is higher so your conversions should increase.

How? If you’ve got time on your hands, you can build your own Chatbot. However, most eCommerce businesses will want to look at specific Chatbot software. There are some free ‘out of the box’ Chatbots which are worth considering and others which can be commissioned to be built and tailored to your individual requirements.

If you’re an eCommerce business selling on multiple channels, then you might want to consider an eCommerce helpdesk like eDesk which consolidates your customer queries from sales channels, social and email into a central shared dashboard.

2. Publish blogs and newsletters

Leveraging content is one of the most effective and proven ways to help your eCommerce business grow. Unfortunately, many business owners ignore the power of this strategy because it takes time and effort and results are not instant. It’s a long-term approach that works only when quality and consistency are involved!

Writing and posting engaging content on your blog can massively boost your organic SEO – but only when implemented correctly. One or two posts every few months isn’t going to cut it. Likewise, if you only post sales-orientated content, that won’t work either. The more helpful and engaging content you publish, the more visible your eCommerce business will become online – and the more customers you will attract.

Similarly, sending weekly bi-weekly or monthly newsletters – again written with educational and helpful topics in mind – to your prospects and customers will remind them of you. It will also instil trust and help them see you as the expert in your niche – so they are more likely to buy from you!

How? Blog posts and newsletters should be educational, engaging and informative – think e-guides, checklists, ‘how-to’s’ and ‘tips’ type subjects relating to your business or product and aimed at your target audience. Post at least once a week on your blog and send a newsletter monthly. If you don’t have time or the ability to write content yourself, you can outsource this to a professional content creator.

3. Post on social media

Social media

Just like publishing content on your blog and sending out in a newsletter, social media is a fantastic eCommerce tool that can bring you a greater reach and help you influence shoppers with your product or service.

Facebook and Instagram are particularly crucial for the opportunity to publicise product promotions or special deals, so you must have a strong presence with a business page on these platforms.

Again, you shouldn’t just post offers and product information on your social media – that can turn consumers off. You should offer genuine, helpful information alongside your product or service.

How? Post every day. Yes, really! Just like your blog posts, consistency is key as it sets your eCommerce business into the minds of your target audience. Get a good mix of posts out there. Some sales, some product promos and some educational and informative posts. Spread your eCommerce business across all social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn so that you really expand your reach.

4. Give Google Shopping a go

Google Shopping offers free ads to merchants after a period when its paid for service was the only option available. It’s free, so why wouldn’t you take advantage to help your eCommerce business grow?

Google Shopping ads can help you get your products in front of customers as it’s a type of comparison search engine. The great thing is that they are visual too. A typical Google Shopping ad includes a product image, the price and your business or store name. When customers search for a product on Google, if your product description meets the criteria searched for, then it will appear in front of the customer. You’ll only pay each time someone clicks on one of your Google Shopping ads.