Word.

I’m going to teach you how to research and YOU’RE GOING TO LIKE IT!

Research? Research…… Research!!!! Through the wonder of punctuation marks I just introduced you into the world of research which can be confusing (the question mark), cause deep thoughts (the dot dot dot) and be exciting (the exclamation points).  What I am about to present to you is a research guide that was come up by a seasoned college student (myself) that I believe can and will help any high school student who is looking to come into college, grab research by the horns and ride off with it into the sunset.

The first and most basic thing that can help you become a good researcher is the environment you choose to do research in. If you are trying to interpret something you are reading in your room with Jay-Z blasting on the speakers while listening to your roommate tell you all about how special he or she feels about being chosen to rush for a sorority or fraternity, then you are probably not going to grasp the material very well. The best place to go to research is the library where it is quiet and you can concentrate. Also doing it without music on in your headphones would be ideal but depending on the document music will not inhibit you much. If you can listen to music and at the same time feel like your grasping what is being said in the document you are reading then you go right ahead slim. However, if you find yourself getting to the end of a page and thinking “ I have no clue whether I just read about a dog who likes cats or a cat that likes dogs,” then I would consider getting rid of the music. There is also an alternative which can be a nice middle ground between the two, and that is to listen to music without any words. There are two main groups of music without words. There is classical, Sebastian Bach could really play the cello, and instrumentals, for example one of those twenty minute long Grateful Dead songs in which they’re just “really feeling the music man.”

Now that we have your environment all figured out lets move onto the actual research itself. Your college library is probably going to be the best place to find information you need to complete your paper. First of all this is where all the books are but a library is much more than that. It has librarians who are going to be able to help you find what your looking for. All you have to know is your topic, in fact you could probably go up to a librarian not even say hi or anything and just say “cheese puffs” and they will whirl you away to the section in the library where all the books written on cheese puffs are. So we have the physical part of the library but almost all colleges also have online resources as well, which is actually where I look first for information because I do not even have to leave my room or put pants on to look at them. College libraries have extensive online information and once again all you need to know is how to type in your topic to the search bar and many books or articles will come up that you can read online.

Once you have your environment and sources settled now comes the hard and most rewarding part, the reading. The best thing to do when reading is to take notes. The way to do this is when you find something that you think relates to your topic, you write a note down on it that summarizes the points and then explains how it relates to your paper. You also include the page number so it would look like this: (pg. 81) King Henry decapitated another one of his wives, this is further evidence that his unrelenting search for a male heir had driven him crazy. Now your probably not going to have time to read entire books or even entire articles and so a good way to find the information you need in the fastest way possible is to look at the subtitles in books or articles. Subtitles in books can be found in the table of contents or the index and in articles they are normally just part of the actual text. So if your looking for information on the Civil War battle of Gettysburg you do not need to read a whole book on the Civil War. Rather go to the table of contents or index and find a section titled “Battles in the North” which will include the Battle of Gettysburg and by just reading this section you will get the information you need.

So thats my research guide. I hope you enjoyed it and if one day we meet in person I am expecting a very sincere thank you.

Credibility: Establishing yourself as a reliable source by using credible sources

Credibility: Establishing yourself as a reliable source by using credible sources

When writing a paper it is incredibly important to have evidence that comes from reliable sources to support your arguments. Your audience needs to be able to trust in you as an author and believe the information you give them.  A friend once told me that if my hand is bigger than my face I will develop cancer within the next five years. “Where did you hear that?” I asked. She told me it’s what “they say.” But who is they and why should I believe them? These are some of the things to look for when finding credible sources for your paper.

Nowadays a lot of research that students use for papers comes from the internet, and as we all know, the internet cannot lie…at least that’s what “they say.” When using the internet for research, it is important to use reliable websites. Websites such like medical journals, government websites, news sources, and databases and generally good sources of information. Websites that you may not have heard of are probably not in your best interest unless they provide you with a detailed background of the author. The author of the article is incredibly important, and if the author is not provided then that source is more than likely not credible. It is important to look for the date the article was published as well because the information could be out of date or irrelevant.

Because credibility is so important, the Longwood library provides students with a database for credible sources. A student can go online to the Longwood website, click library and type in any key word or phrases that are related to their topic. A list of scholarly journals and articles will appear for the student to choose from. Majority of these sources provide the author or authors and their background- level of knowledge, current job, ect. The date of publication is located on the article along with a list of sources that the article itself uses.

Along with valuable sources, it is important to establish your credibility by showing enthusiasm and organization in your paper.  You must make sure your audience knows that they can relate to you and trust in you as an author and provider of information. If you are not completely familiar with the topic that you are writing on, which does in fact happen in college, this is where credible sources come into play. If these sources are credible they will provide you with the information you need to truly understand your topic and fully relay the information to your audience.

A few things for you to remember about credibility:

  • Find a website with a good background or good reviews
  • Look for an author and a background of the author
  • Publication dates are important to ensure the information is still up to date
  • Look for databases to provide you with scholarly sources on your topic
  • Show enthusiasm and organization when writing a paper

Searching for the Best Sources

Searching for the Best Sources

When doing research for a college style paper, it is very important that you use sources to back up your argument or to have evidence that something is true. And even though there may be a lot of sources that you can turn too, to help your argument, you have to be careful on certain information that you obtain; because not all information is true. That’s why I think that doing research is the most difficult part of writing a college style paper, because as a student you have to be able to distinguish in some cases which information is true or false. Not only that, but you have to pick out what information is best for you argument. For example, in high school, when you did research for a paper, most of the information that you obtained were from encyclopedias, books, and several websites; not to say that those were bad places to get information from but as a Freshman in college you will learn quickly that when doing a college level paper, you will need to use a greater and wider variety of sources. Meaning that you will have to go further in depth with you research and begin to use a variety of databases to locate books, articles, reports and last but not least scholarly  journals.

  • Word of Advice: Using academic journals is the best way to go, when it comes to writing a college style paper. Professor s’ like to see information being obtain from other  professors  or people that may have been there at the time of the event or have done research on that particular topic over the years.  Many college professors also like to see the usage of library sources as well; mainly because they are factual and provide a good amount of evidence that you could possibly use in your paper.

But as I said before, even though there are a lot sources to choose from, its best that you base your paper off of one solid source that may either be of your interest or a topic assigned by your professor; because once you narrow it down too one source that you may agree or disagree with, it will be easier for you to find other information in support or against the argument or issue that is being brought forth. But you have to remember, when looking for other sources to help your argument you have to be careful as I said before. In a since, doing research is like a conversation that you may be having with your friend. For example, let’s say a friend has heard a rumor and they come tell you about it but you don’t think that what they have told you is true. What do you do next? Well me personally I want to know the truth. So then I go to ask someone if they have heard the same thing or do they agree with what my friend has told me. And if the information that I have received if good I will believe it. But see I had to venture out and see if I could find a pattern that gave some clarity on the issue that was brought to my attention. So when doing research just thinks about it as a conversation you want find out the truth, so that you will be able to use your findings for more clarity or to expound upon.

Planning and Researching for your Paper!

Research and Planning

 

            When it comes to writing college papers, time management is very important. Time management is critical in order for you to be able to create a well written paper by the due date. There are several components to time management; one of which is the researching and planning for your paper. Research and planning your paper is essentially laying a base for the rest of your paper to be built upon, although for some students this can be the hardest part. When researching and planning your paper there are two important things to consider. How early should I start planning and researching? And, what is the goal or objective of my research and paper?

            So, how early should a college student start planning and researching in order to efficiently manage their time? For starters, you should begin your planning and research way before you even begin to think about writing the paper. Its best to begin planning and researching for your paper around two and a half weeks before the due date. This gives you a great deal of time to do some in-depth research and adequately plan the layout of your paper. This amount of time gives you some wiggle room in case something unexpected happens while researching or planning.  For example, say you’ve been researching for three days, and suddenly, you find that there isn’t as much information on your topic as you thought and you need to switch your topic. Since you started two and a half weeks before the due date you still have two weeks left to research, plan, and write your paper before it is due. This also leaves you plenty of time to take care of other assignments that you may have for different classes.

            When it comes to time management, another important question you should ask yourself is, what exactly is the goal of my paper? Before you sit down to do research or planning, it can be very helpful to think on, and decide what the purpose of the paper is and what exactly your research needs to accomplish. If you can determine what the goals are, it will make planning and researching for your paper much easier because you have an idea of what you need to find and how you want it to all fit together. Something that I myself find very helpful is, once you decide on your goal or goals, you can create a list of key ideas and concepts that you want to look into while researching. This creates a much faster and more fluid researching process because you already know what you would like to look into. Also, this allows you to do more in-depth research because you spend more time focusing on the previously selected topics and less time looking for topics themselves.

            If you ask yourself these two questions before you start researching and planning, it will make researching and planning much easier for you. I personally find that this helps take a lot of the stress out of writing a paper, and it saves me a load of time. Hopefully it will do the same for you all, good luck freshman!

Summarizing

If a thesis is a roadmap to your paper, then the summarization of key points are designated markers/pit stops that decide the route you will take. Similar to planning a road trip, there are several paths to take; however, sometimes the quickest route on your map is not the best, depending on how things happen in between. For instance, you want to decide which points to summarize (your stops) before you really get started. Just like planning for a road trip, you need to decide what to take and what to leave out in your summary. As an example, writing a summary of the Harry Potter series could be done with many stops, going over each book at length, or you could just make a few stops covering everything like so- Harry is born and before he’s even three years old his parents are murdered by an evil psychopath named Tom who calls himself Voldemort. Harry goes to school and becomes a wizard, fights with Voldemort several times, gains and loses friends, and after 7 years from their first conflict at Harry’s school Harry defeats Voldemort and everyone is happy. Except Voldemort, because he’s kind of, you know, of dead.

Continuing from the previous stop, we should address another fact- summaries don’t cover everything, just a broad spectrum of all key points. I only covered the most basic of details of the entire series, not individual books written, making it extremely short. Again, similar to an actual road trip, you don’t really remember every second of the trip, just a few things that happened. Your summary will include the highlights, but you don’t want to write about every tree you passed, or the color of generic cars you passed on the way, that’s what your other paragraphs are for! Here, you just want to talk about the highlights on the way- the random events that stick out in your mind. For example the terrifying moment when you’re between two trucks turning into the same lane you’re in, or the huge accident on the side of the road, perhaps even a conversation you had with another person in the car (assuming you’re not making the trip alone) or any number of random events that may have happened to you on the way. The summary only tells so much, and that’s just fine, as long as you highlight the important things, and don’t bore the audience with the number of trees and shrubbery. However, though a summary should be short, it should never be lacking key points, and should not be too short as to miss points that are important. Remember, haste makes waste, but procrastination is your downfall. Not too long that it covers the entire paper, but short enough your reader can know what to expect.

Finally, we reach the end of your summary (planning your trip), and the beginning of the writing (the drive itself) of your paper. From here, remember what you want to cover (your pit stops) and what you will bring with you (details, details, details) on your journey. Now, go out there and have a nice trip in the road trip of writing!

CREATIVITY IN WRITING

A brilliant man by the name of Albert Einstein once said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Therefore, one can jump to the conclusion that creativity is essential when it comes to being an awesome writer. This quote also reminds us that creativity is fun and writing can be as well. While there are no set rules for creativity, I have come up with four simple guidelines regarding creative writing. These guidelines involve having an open mind, thinking outside of the box, using your imagination, and being bold and brave in expressing your thoughts and ideas.

The first guideline involves having an open mind and a broad worldly view that takes in everything around you. Having a closed minded attitude and a thick headed mindset is a terrible way to approach being a creative thinker and/or writer. Instead, a more tactful approach to being creative when it comes to writing is to have a perceptive outlook on certain topics at hand. This means being open to new ideas and even new ideas of thinking. Reading other great writers can be a source of inspiration and learning.

My second rule of thumb is to think outside of the box. Yes, of course, you have to follow guidelines and rubrics if you want to be successful in writing. However, one also needs to think beyond the guidelines in order to let one’s creativity shine. So, think beyond the rules and try to look at things from different angles and perspectives at all times.

A third rule to go by is to maximize the use of your imagination. A good way to tap into your imagination is to dream out loud. Of course, dreaming takes time, but it is crucial for envisioning interesting possibilities. Creative writers spend a lot of time ruminating on their thoughts and ideas, so be sure to allow time for dreaming.

My final suggestion for being a creative writer is to be bold and brave. Yes, creativity involves bravery and the willingness to not hold back on great ideas even if they seem off base. The way I see it, is that creativity is like a computer, you simply have to hack into it. By tapping into your creative mind, you unlock all of the interesting ideas waiting to be brought to your attention. The good news is that this kind of hacking is legal and can bring great results.

Hopefully by now, you can see that creativity is a very important factor in regards to writing. As Einstein suggests, creativity is also fun. So, my advice is to view writing as a fun endeavor and open yourself to it. Be open and perceptive, think outside the box, imagine and dream, and be brave and bold in expressing your thoughts and ideas. Be willing to tap into your creative mind and let the interesting ideas flow out of you like a river running free. If you follow these simple suggestions, I am sure that you will become a great creative writer, too.

 

Structure the Backbone of Writing

Writing! People spend months often years trying to perfect their writing. One of the most difficult things in the world to master, writing has been the way of transferring ideas from one mind to the next. It has evolved from being used for stories, to research, to messaging, and even puzzles. Without writing the world would be at a stand still people would be bored beyond belief. People need writing, but what does writing need? The answer to that question is structure. Writing needs structure to stay focused and give clear thoughts to the audience each individual writer chooses to address.

Writing Is like a child, it starts out weak and without a strong structure, it falls apart the farther in life it gets, or in writing terms the farther into the book or paper it gets. In life if a child has a rocky start and doesn’t get the necessary nutrition and skills needed to survive they could end up on the wrong end of life and be in trouble. This is similar to writing in multiple ways. In writing if you don’t have the necessary thesis statement, supporting ideas,(nutrition) and style that grabs the reader’s attention (skills) than your ideas often fall apart and you head off topic often resulting in the loss of a reader.

In writing the reader is everything. The reader is the critic, the audience, and the consumer. Without the reader there is no story. Often students and writers in the professional world will lose structure in the middle of their writing and go off topic. This often results in a loss of the reader’s attention. People love to read good books, articles, and essays. It is almost an aspect of life and good structure makes a good writing.

When writing it is a key point to have a good introduction, this is the backbone for your entire essay. Without a spine a human does not stand straight. Without an introduction a essay does not stay together. The introduction should be a lay out of your entire essay it holds your thesis statement and all the supporting ideas that your body paragraphs will be talking about. It is important to keep your structure clean and clear so it is easier for you to pass on your thoughts. Don’t get off topic. Stick to your topic and full fill you purpose of writing to the fullest.

Learning to structure a paper cleanly and clearly is the first step in mastering the art of writing. It often takes years for people to become great writers often people never achieve mastery in writing due to its difficulty, but multiple people have come close and its all because they knew how to structure their writings. They were brilliant and many people would consider them genius. So ask yourself will you be the next “Genius” who can efficiently structure their papers and make wonderful pieces that shall be read for centuries or will you be the writer who loses their ideas midway through a story or essay? Everyone has the potential, but it takes practice. As the key phrase goes, ”practice makes perfect!”

Take the time and revise

You think your paper is perfect and clear? Well it isn’t. Nobody does anything right the first time, that is why when writing we have revising. Revising your paper is like a second chance. It allows you to correct your mistakes and really make sure your paper makes sense. You want your reader to understand your argument and the topic you are discussing. I mean when you are reading do you want to be confused? NOPE, so don’t make your paper confusing to your reader. Be smart and do it right. Going back through is going to help make your paper appear more credible and help you look credible. You will be able to fix silly mistakes and of course, make sure you make sense.

It is important when going back and revising your paper that you look over your arguments. You want to make sure you state both sides of what you are arguing. The trouble many people have in writing is adding the counter-argument to their argument. The counter-argument is like being nice to a bully. Nobody wants to be nice, but sometimes you have too. Nobody wants to give credit to the person who opposes their view, but you have too, because in the end it benefits you. Adding the counter argument in your paper automatically gives your paper more credibility. It shows your reader that you understand your stance isn’t the only stance on the topic, that there are other sides.

Next, you want to make sure your argument is clear. It is important to make sure the reader understands the argument you are stating. Sometimes when we are writing we can get carried away in arguing our points and start rambling. Once again this is why we have revising. Revising will allow you to go back and check for rambling and check to make sure your argument makes sense. Your argument should be clear to the reader. If you are talking about one point, don’t talk about another. In your thesis statement you choose about 2-3 points to talk about in your writing. DO NOT talk about different points while arguing one. In order to keep your argument clear you want to stick to the points that you choose. Adding to many will confuse the reader, which we have already said we don’t want to do.

Lastly remember when to remain objective and subjective. When you are going back through your paper you want to check through and make sure that you are being subjective when you need to and objective when allowed. Subjective is putting your opinion into the paper and objective is not. The first paragraph should always remain objective until your thesis. Also the conclusion should always remain objective. The conclusion is when you are tying everything together. We don’t want to hear any more of your opinions or arguments. The right time to be subjective in your paper is when you are stating your argument in your paper. This is when you can add your opinion. This is when the reader wants to know what your thinking and how you feel. Knowing when to be subjective and objective helps your writing become more credible. It is worth going back and revising to make sure.

Hooking the Reader

Hooking the Reader

Alone in a dark dorm room sits a college freshman, hands on his forehead, with the only source of light coming from his laptop. The screen has a grand total of eight words, consisting of the student’s name and date. It’s obvious he doesn’t know where to start, and let me guess, you don’t know where to begin in your research paper either. You’re thinking about how to start, what words you need in order to form that first sentence, and what sentences you must blend together to launch that paper of yours. How are you ever going to grab the reader’s attention? How are you going to hook them? Well, don’t worry aspiring freshman, beginning your paper by engaging your reader can actually be quite simple.

The main question you need to ask yourself is “What hooks me when I begin reading a good piece of writing?” For me, I like to have a story told to me or have the writer put me into a scene that will later affiliate with the topic of the paper. For example, the way I painted the picture of the disgruntled college student at his laptop took the reader to a place that we have all seen before.  Using this tactic is effective because it can both entertain the reader while informing them on the topic that will be discussed in your paper.

There are other tactics that you can utilize as well to hook the reader to your paper. You can start by including a quote that is involved with the topic of your paper. After writing the quote, you should explain why you used these words and how it applies to your argument. For example, if I were to write a paper on how dog fighting is actually a more popular activity in our country than people might think, I could start the paper with a quote from convicted NFL player Michael Vick. “You got the family dog and the white picket fence, and you just think that’s all there is. Some of us had to grow up in poverty-stricken urban neighborhoods, and we just had to adapt to our environment. I know that it’s wrong. But people act like it’s some crazy thing they never heard of. They don’t know.” This quote both interests the reader and also supports my argument that I am about to reveal.

You could even ask a question for the beginning hook. If I’m writing a paper about America’s addiction to television, I could start by writing, “Have you ever wondered why we are obsessed with television? Why do we feel the need to sit down and watch a screen for hours instead of living our own lives?” I would then go into the science and reasons why we all want to stare at TVs.

The beginning “hook” of a paper could and should be the most fun part of a paper to write. This introduction can give you a chance to add a little fiction to a paper that will otherwise be informative and factual.

Think about your favorite movie. I’m sure that the film didn’t have a boring opening scene, but rather opened with an entertaining scene that set the tone for the rest of the film. “Star Wars” begins with a small space battle, making the viewer want to see more immediately. The average reader, unfortunately, will not give your paper a chance if they are uninterested from the start.