In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at prewriting (you might want to read the first post in this series by clicking here).

Prewriting describes the work you do before you begin to write; these strategies can help you generate ideas. What are good prewriting strategies? Consider the following:

Brainstorming (Listing): Quickly jot down your thoughts and ideas as they come to you. Some writers like to use bullet points or list their ideas in short phrases. When you brainstorm, don’t worry about connecting or clearly expressing your thoughts. You’ll clarify what you’re trying to say later on. In the prewriting stage, it’s important to just RELAX and let your ideas flow without judgment or worry. (By the way, if you have a couple of minutes, try this technique for calming your mind prior to beginning your work).

Freewriting (Journaling): This strategy is similar to brainstorming in the sense that you’re focusing on getting your ideas and thoughts down on paper. While brainstorming resembles a list of short phrases, however, freewriting usually consists of full sentences. Think of freewriting like a journaling exercise. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Again, relax and let your ideas flow without judgment, worry, or censorship. If you can’t think of what to write, put that phrase down on your paper: “I can’t think of what to write.”

Clustering (Concept Mapping): Clustering helps you form associations between thoughts and ideas. Usually, you begin clustering with a single thought or idea in a circle in the middle of your paper. You then create a “map” of associated words/thoughts/ideas in other circles around the middle circle and draw lines to show the associations between the different words/thoughts/ideas. Take a look at the following example:



So there you have it: three different prewriting strategies to try out on your next writing assignment. In our next installment, we’ll take a closer look at the next stage of the writing process.

Need help? Have some other ideas you’d like to try out? Stop by Academic Support at 690 Walnut Ave, #215.


Katie Brundage

The Write Stuff

One of my favorite grammar jokes goes, “The past, the present, and the future walk into a bar. It was tense.” As you join me in my overly-unbridled enthusiasm deep appreciation for the subtle witticisms that are grammar jokes like this one, you might wish to consider a related topic: verbs (and the time and action that they convey) are not the only sources of tension in your lives as graduate students. It has come to my attention that writing, in general, is a big headache for a lot of you. Thus part of my job as a Learning Specialist is to help you overcome these headaches by providing you with the necessary resources and strategies. And hey, I might even get you to like the writing process.

The key word here is process. Writing is—and should be—regarded as a process. It is rare that any person can sit down in front of his or her computer, tablet, or phone and construct a perfectly-crafted piece of writing on the first take. Many students fail to consider that the writing process is just that: one of drafting and revising…and drafting and revising again…and again…and (lastly) editing and proofreading.

You might think of the writing process like this:


Or this:wp2

Or this:



Which writing process is best? Whichever one works for you.  Each student’s writing process is unique. You will need to experiment to find what works best for you. Regardless of the process you use, there are similarities between each: drafting, revising, and editing. Some students find it extremely helpful to prewrite before they actually begin writing. Your last step in the process should be proofreading.

In the next post, we’ll go over these steps in greater detail. In the meantime, think about your own writing process: what works? What would you like to improve?

If you are needing assistance with strategies for efficient learning or writing, please feel free to contact the Academic Support Office at Touro University, California for a consultation or support.

Active Learning


Are you familiar with the concept of Active Learning? When we study, we often approach the learning task passively by simply reading the textbook information with no intentional goal beyond comprehension. While retention or comprehension may be the desired effect of studying, it is not always an effective learning strategy. Previous research suggests that we retain only about 15-20% of what we read passively.

Recent research by Augustin (2014) suggests that we don’t fully retain information unless it is followed by an intentional process that supports retention. One method of retaining information is through self testing.

The Testing Effect.
The testing effect is enhanced when we receive feedback about what we have read in the form of active recall.  Active recall is a term applied to the repetition of information. As a retention strategy it is significantly more effective than passive reading or studying. Testing is a form of active recall that can be applied in different ways.  Giving yourself a short quiz after reading a chapter or section of text has the ability to enhance your retention by 10%. Testing as a form of delayed feedback given at the end of a study session has the greatest impact on enhancing learning.  Self testing can be used as a metacognitive strategy for enhancing retention through working memory.

Some active recall strategies you might consider after a study session…….

1.  Create a test to give yourself at the end of the chapter.

2.  Write down the five main adverse effects of beta blockers.

3.  Draw a picture that illustrates the Kreb’s cycle.

Each example demonstrates how factual knowledge can be actively retained after the study session through active recall. Active Learning methods enhance retention through intentional feedback.
Cognitive neuroscience continues to inform our understanding of how to be more efficient learners. We can use testing and feedback as active recall methods during our study sessions to make the retention of complex information more efficient.

If you are needing assistance with strategies for efficient learning, please feel free to contact the Academic Support Office at Touro University, California for a consultation or support.

Donald D. Matthews PsyD

Augustin, M. (2014). How to learn effectively in medical school: test yourself, learn actively, and repeat in intervals. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 8-7 (2014) pp. 207-212.

Diary of an intern’s night shift

Diary of an Intern On Her First All Nighter Lauren photo

by Hope Olzewski

First Night Shift on Family Medicine Inpatient Rotation at Arrowhead RMC

(Note, not all nights have been this challenging, and this is an abbreviated form of the entire night.)
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Not a Crammer, Nonetheless I’m Cramming

Cartoon crammingDear Dr. J,

How do I prepare for the lectures during the week of block exams? Sometimes I don’t get the lectures until a day before the exam.

Not a Crammer

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Enhance Study Strategies-Use Apps

Apps imageStudent Panel Describes Apps That Have Helped Enhanced Academic Success

Study Apps Student Panel Synopsis: 8/29/2017

Study Apps:

  • Quizlet: Quizlet is a mobile & web-based study app where you can search millions of study sets or create your own. Improve your grades by studying with flashcards, games and more.

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Practice Beyond Mastery: Study For Mastery

How to activate your brain’s ability to learn:

Photo of practice and masteryIn music, you have scales. In Jiu Jitsu, it’s drilling. Most of us just call it practice. Whatever you label it, many believe that greatness, heck even mere competency, requires training a skill well past proficiency. It’s continuing to practice your free throw even after you’ve nailed every shot. It’s playing through that song one more time even though you’ve made no mistakes. Scientists call this training past the point of improvement ‘overlearning.’ And a recent study in Nature Neuroscience suggests that it might improve performance by altering chemicals in the brain that “lock” in training.

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A Balancing Act

IMG_20170208_223740_912I had a lovely conversation with Grace Nguyen, Vice President of Finance for SGA and on the board of CAPA as a student liaison. My question for her was: How do you manage the dual MPH, PA program and stay active in extracurricular activities?

According to Grace sticking to a schedule is essential. She manages her big priorities first.   Her first semester in the program she just worked and worked and did not do anything fun. She was miserable.

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Compulsively Obsessed with the Internet

igromania-1894847_1280Dear J&B,

I am always distracted. I try to study but I find that I’ve spent 2 hours reading Reddit and I haven’t been able to focus. Once I sit down to study I’m on Facebook. I live alone and even when I study in my apartment I can’t keep my mind focused.

Compulsively obsessed with the Internet.

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5 Ways to Stay Focused

Stay focused.png5 Simple ways to stay focused on your goals

Do you struggle with reaching your goals? The reality is that most people do struggle. When you set goals for yourself, you undoubtedly have the very best of intentions. You want to succeed with your goals and reap the many benefits that come with making successful and important changes in your life. However, there is something that you may fail to account for in your goal planning i.e. life itself. Just when you are ready to take the necessary actions and make those vital changes; life gets in the way and you are unable to remain focused on your goals. If you cannot remain focused on your goals, you will lose momentum and fail to make the progress you desire. This soon leads to a loss of confidence and motivation.

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