Writing Q & A with Jeff McMahon

Below is a Q & A with our very own Writing Advisor, Jeff McMahon. Read below for advice on writing, particularly the final papers everyone is facing right now. Both Matt and I met with Jeff last year and benefited from his advice and the opportunity to talk through our own writing blockage.

Exactly a year ago, I went into Jeff’s office for help with a 20 page paper on 3 different objects and left about 30 minutes later, tired but optimistic, with 1 cohesive argument. Remember, too, that you can meet with Jeff to discuss papers, the thesis, and principles of argument throughout the year.

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9 Winter Life Hacks


Winter is here. Ned Stark warned us and now that it has arrived, we must face the cold, cold truth.

Although the Chicago winter is tough, it doesn’t have to be entirely horrible. Below I have compiled Maph Central’s V.I.I. (Very Important Items) for the winter as well as some more general tips for the cold weather. Chicagoans, feel free to post additional advice in  the comments!


We will all become The Winter Soldier

Very Important Items:

Sarah: Scarves! “In Chicago it’s not the actual temperature that gets you, but the wind-chill. A scarf makes all the difference.”

Maren: Fleece-lined tights (or fleece-lined anything) and Glogg Winter Drink.

Kerri: Puffy Jacket. It may not look as cool as your wool peacoat, but it is time to embrace the sleeping-bag look.  Continue reading

The Thesis: Fall Edition

Dear MAPHers,

You may be solely focused on completing your finals right now. That is fine and, in that case, feel free to return to this post in the future.

However, if you are also starting to think about the thesis, read on!

Late November feels like a weird time, or at least it did for me last year. Mostly because we’re encouraged to think about the thesis, but without taking any action. Meaning, I was told to think about potential advisors, but not to approach them. Or to think about my object, but not to write about it yet. All of this felt somewhat confusing and frustrating… but it was all excellent advice. Continue reading

Eat, Sleep, Read: Part III (Managing Reading and Workload)

Eat, Sleep, Read is a three-part series on wellness in grad school. MAPH is a challenging year in a lot of ways, but you can make it way easier physically, mentally, and emotionally by taking care of yourself and managing your workload. For Part III, we’ll cover some academic tips that might help you manage your workload and deal with school-related stressors.eatpraylove

Obviously, one of the biggest stressors in grad school is the workload. In fact, it’s probably the biggest stressor. Getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating well—all these important aspects of wellness become difficult to maintain because there’s constantly so much to get done. So we’ve come to the last (and perhaps most important) post of this wellness series: how to manage your academic workload and find some balance in grad school!

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Eat, Sleep, Read: Part II (On Sleep)

Eat, Sleep, Read is a three-part series on wellness in grad school. MAPH is a challenging year in a lot of ways, but you can make it way easier physically, mentally, and eatprayloveemotionally by taking care of yourself and managing your workload. For Part II, we’ll cover some tips that may help you get better, more restful sleep during your time in MAPH.


“Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!” – Grad Students (or Shakespeare, I guess)


Sleep and grad school don’t always mix well. Between classes, writing, reading, and other demands, there aren’t enough hours in the day, and it will inevitably seem like there aren’t enough hours to get a full night’s sleep. But keeping a regular, healthy sleep schedule in grad school will make you so, so much happier. As someone who pulled all-nighters all through undergrad, I can attest that the best life change I implemented during my MAPH year was committing to being better about sleep (I only pulled one all-nighter during MAPH, by accident—long story). Below find some tips that might help you get more restful sleep on a more regular basis!

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Harnessing the Power of the Internet

Last year, I felt torn between a need to be productive and a need to take breaks from studying. We all need breaks, especially coffee breaks.  But then there can be this sense of guilt or concern of “Oh no! I am not doing my homework!” or other similar exclamations. This often connects to the conflict that, while courses are the first priority for the next 8 months, soon finding a job will also be competing for your attention.

Thus, I want to suggest a way for you to both be productive and to take a break from that book you’ve been staring at all week.

These are three small things that you can do and work on that are 1. not all about school and 2. productive for life in and after Maph.

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Chicago Humanities Festival

Do you live in Chicago? Are you interested in the Humanities? Possibly even to the point of studying them for an entire year?

Boy, do we have the event for you!  The Chicago Humanities Festival.

This year, the Chicago Humanities Festival theme is Journeys and they have a truly incredible line up. Through their site, you can search for events and speaker, or search by your own interests. You can even download the program and look through the entire line-up. (I, for one, am excited about the Mark Bittman event as well as the Future of Higher Ed.) There are also musical performances, the CHF Parlor, and workshops.  Continue reading