Category Archives: College

The Advanced Guide To Writing a Research Paper

how to write a research paper

Research papers are designed to display your level of expertise in a subject and your ability to transmit information in a compelling way. While it’s essential that you do extensive research before writing your paper, the tricky part actually lies in the writing process. There are many common mistakes to avoid and even great writers have areas where they can improve.

Here’s a breakdown of areas to focus on while writing your research paper:

Gather evidence

Sometimes a teacher or professor will give you a specific topic they want you to write on. In that case, you should read with that topic in mind and highlight or write down examples that support the topic you’ve been assigned. Other times, it’s up to you to decide what to write about. In that case, you have more leisure to explore what arguments interest you most as you read.

Make a list of possible thesis

As you do more research, you can start to narrow down the list. Eventually, you’ll end up with one or two options that have the strongest evidence and from there you can choose which topic to write about.

Introduction

The introduction is your opportunity to hook your reader. Get them interested in your topic so that they want to read more. There are several approaches you can take to the introduction:

Tell an anecdote – an interesting story humanizes the issue and helps the reader identify with the topic on a personal level.
Use a quotation – sometimes there’s a perfect quote for your topic that gets right to the essence of your thesis. If you have that quote in stock, use it.
Use a statistic or fact – they add credibility to your claims and also show you’ve done your research.

Thesis statement

A good thesis statement presents a strong opinion about something. It’s usually presented in a way that could be argued for or against. For example: Parents should monitor their children’s social media accounts. This is a strong statement that someone could very well argue for or against.

A weak example of a thesis statement: Some parents find it worrying that they have no control over their children’s social media activities. This statement is useful to the argument and can find its way into another section of your research paper. However it’s not strong enough to qualify as a thesis statement. Its use of the qualifier “some” makes it difficult to argue against.

Your thesis statement should be made in the opening paragraph of your research paper. It should be the last sentence of your first paragraph.

Show the evidence

After you’ve presented the thesis statement, you’re ready to get into the meat of your paper with supporting paragraphs. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence in which you present a statement. After the statement you’ll present evidence as to why that statement is true based on the research you’ve done. You’ll also explain why you believe the research supports your thesis statement which is the analytical part of your essay. Example:

Many children have no adult supervision over their social media accounts (topic sentence). A study by XYZ in 2014 revealed that less than x% of parents monitor their children’s social media accounts (supporting evidence). This can pose a threat to children’s safety and parents should make more efforts to be aware of their children’s social media interactions (analysis).

Transitions

In order for your research paper to flow logically, it’s important to pay attention to transitions. Transitions are what bring the reader from one idea to the next. The analytical statement in the example paragraph above can lead to a new topic sentence.

Ex: The number of children who are lured by strangers through social media is increasing. This is a new topic sentence, but it’s related to the analysis presented in the last paragraph and it helps support the thesis statement.

A weak transition would be: Many children use the internet to play video games with their friends and do not need to be monitored. This is an unrelated topic and does not support the thesis statement or offer a strong transition.

Keep it interesting. In order to maintain your reader’s interest, it’s important to pay attention to how you’re presenting these ideas:

  • Vary your sentence length and structure.
  • Check for overused words. Use a thesaurus to help you find new ways to express the same idea.
  • Steer clear of cliches, stereotyping and generalizations.
  • Keep the language simple – avoid over-reaching with sophisticated vocabulary.
  • Write clean sentences – avoid run-on sentences or overly complicated explanations.

Conclusion

The conclusion is where you wrap up your research. It’s a good place for you to pose questions or to suggest further steps or research for your topic. Leave the reader pondering about the future of this issue.

Leave time to edit

There is no substitute for time in the editing process. I don’t mean the amount of time you spend editing, but the amount of time you spend between the moment you write the last sentence and the moment you begin your editing process. Your thoughts need time to settle. The longer you give yourself to rest, the easier it will be for you to spot holes in your argument, weak topic sentences or flaws in your analysis. You’ll also have an easier time recognizing grammar and punctuation problems.

How to edit

The best way to edit is to read your paper out loud. Reading aloud turns off the auto-correct that your brain does when reading. You’ll pick up on more grammar mistakes and also have a better sense of the rhythm of your paper. Have you varied sentence length and structure or does it read as one long mono-sentence? Are some of your sentences difficult to read out loud? That probably means you can go back and simplify the language. If spelling and grammar are not your strong points, have a friend read it for you or use an editing app.

2015 Summer Reading List: Don’t Miss These Books

2015 summer reading list

Is there any better time for a book lover than the summer? A body of water, a cool drink in your hand, and endless sunlight is the perfect backdrop for cracking the spine of a new book. Below is our Summer Reading list, a mixture of fact and fiction for all bookish tastes.

The romantic is sure to enjoy the latest novel by Susanna Kearsley, A Desperate Fortune, that offers two happily-ever-afters within its covers. Those looking for the chill of suspense on a hot day will enjoy Lori Roy’s tale of fate and families set in 1950’s Kentucky, Let Me Die In His Footsteps. And those looking for more emotional stories will find Scott Simon’s memoir about the loss of his mother, Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime, graceful and touching.

These stories and many more beg to be read this summer. So grab some sunscreen and a beach blanket because it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy one of these engrossing tales.

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

The latest book from Susanna Kearsley features a dual timeline: the first following Sara Thomas, an amateur code-breaker in the present and the second, Mary Dundass, an exiled Jacobite living in 1732 France. In present day, Sara agrees to break the code of Mary’s journal. It is believed to simply be the diary of an average woman living in the 1700’s, but all is not as it appears. To start, the diary must not leave its home in a French chateau. Between jobs, Sara agrees to live in the home as she decodes the diary. As we follow both women on their journeys, romance and intrigue will blossom for both. A book of both delicious romance as well as adventure this tale will definitely keep the romantic in you very happy.

The Rocks by Peter Nichols

This novel, set on a posh resort island, holds a mystery. Once upon a time, a newly married couple was still on their honeymoon when something happened. Something so cataclysmic that the two managed to live on the same small island for sixty years and never exchange a single word between them. Now their own (unrelated) children find themselves star-crossed lovers and the web of their parents’ secrets lies in the way of their own happiness. This story delves backwards through the years, uncovering secrets and lies until finally the truth is revealed in all of its bittersweet and romantic glory.

The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl

This work of historical fiction takes the reader to the last years of book piracy and the forgotten world of the Bookaneers. The end of the nineteenth century was a time of loose copyright laws where it was incredibly easy to publish a book without an author’s consent. Society was full of hungry readers and quick-fingered thieves who stalked authors and print shops hoping to lay their fingers on the latest manuscripts. With an international law looming that will end the era of the Bookaneers, this book follows the last great steal of this literary era. Following two rival Bookaneers and a furiously writing Robert Louis Stevenson to the island of Samoa, readers will live the adventure, triumph, and failings of a dying breed of pirate.

Let Me Die In His Footsteps by Lori Roy

This book is for the lover of suspense. The author, Lori Roy, is a former Edgar Award winner and this time she’s weaving a tale of spellbinding suspense following a girl of fifteen going on sixteen. It’s 1952 and on the night Annie Holleran is exactly fifteen and a half she runs through her family’s lavender fields into forbidden territory. It has been generations since a Holleran entered Baines’s land and Annie does so to seek her fortune in a well. But when the dead body she spies in the well’s dark waters appears in the daylight, Annie’s world will be forever changed.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Knoll set out to write a book where the lead character was a female Don Draper and in her debut novel Knoll achieves that goal. We follow Ani FaNelli, a woman living a perfect life. Her job is perfect, her friends are perfect, her glamorous wardrobe is perfect, and let’s not forget about her rich fiancé…he’s perfect too. Ani was a bullied child whose experience at the hands of her private school classmates sparked in her a desperate desire to reinvent herself. But there is more than a bad childhood buried in her past – no, there is another secret. One more painful and private that is threatening to rise to the surface and mar the perfection that is Ani FaNelli.

Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime by Scott Simon

A memoir of strength and beauty, this book is a tribute to a dying mother, her memorable life, and the bond between mother and son. In 2013 NPR Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon started tweeting from his mother’s hospital room, the tweets of a son dealing with his mother’s dying went viral. The 140 characters gained so much attention that when Simon’s mother finally passed, her death became national news. This memoir evolved from those tweets as well as Simon’s memories of his mother, a woman who lived a glamorous life in the era of Mad Men. This is an emotional read is sure to leave you fulfilled.

10 Non-Fiction Books to Read This Winter 2014-2015

non-fiction books to read this winter

With the short days of winter having arrived, we’ve turned our attention to compiling a list of reading material to get writers through until spring. There’re lots of great books to choose from, so we’ve shortlisted this selection of 10 non-fiction books that are making their way up the bestseller ladder. Enjoy!

1. Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace – Anne Lamott

A compilation of new and selected essays written with Ms. Lamott’s stylistic humor and self-deprecation, Small Victories offers insights into the human condition. Drawing from her own experiences with family and friends, Ms. Lamott connects with the reader at a deep, heart-felt level. With wit and intelligence, she delves into the trials and tribulations of daily life and gives us her stories as a vessel to shift our perspective from the “why me?” mindset to the one of gratitude and appreciation. Small Victories could be called Small Miracles as she invokes the grace of forgiveness with her charming storytelling.

2. Dreamers and Deceivers: True Stories of the Heroes and Villains Who Made America – Glenn Beck

Engaging stories of American history’s visionaries and black hats, Mr. Beck uses his considerable storytelling skills to delve into the characters’ psyches. Using perspective to look back on these fascinating people and events, he shows how they affected not only their times but also the future. Each chapter centers around a person or historical event told in an anecdotal style, as Mr. Beck draws us into these spellbinding vignettes. History made interesting and exciting.

3. The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age – Astra Taylor

Proponents of the new digital media landscape make promises of a utopian society with unrestricted communication, autonomous artistic expression and a cultural balancing of society. But Ms. Taylor challenges the presumptions that the new media is an improvement over the old guard, pointing out the contradictions contained in today’s technological consortiums – elitist control of access, surreptitious marketing, and an unrealistic emphasis on personal popularity.

A savvy analysis of digital reality, The People’s Platform summons the reader to question the kind of culture and democracy we’re creating with our tacit agreement to cede power and control to the monopolies of the 21st century. Excellent reading for anyone who uses the internet.

4. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History – Elizabeth Kolbert

More than any other species on the planet, mankind alters the Earth in ways that compound change in a frightening manner, accelerating the destruction of the very forces that support life here. A sobering and disturbing subject, Ms. Kolbert reports with clarity the hard science and historical concepts behind the impact humans are having on our environment and ecology as a bona fide, destructive geological force. Told with scientific exactness, wit and lucid prose, The Sixth Extinction reads like a good thriller – enthralling, compelling and gripping. An important and enlightening read for our times.

5. Little Failure, A Memoir – Gary Shteyngart

A best-selling novelist, Mr. Shteyngart’s memoir is full of humor and pathos as he explores issues of ethnicity, immigration, integration and creative expression. Refreshingly free of blaming others for life’s foibles, Mr. Shteyngart exposes his every wart and floundering efforts to fit in with droll candor. The descriptions of his outlandish family and the cultural ridiculousness of both the old world and the new, are poignant and heartrending. A wonderful foray into the alchemy of turning misery into art.

6. The Motivation Manifesto – Brendon Burchard

Peak performance trainer Brendan Burchard has delivered a towering work that will shake even the most lethargic out of their familiar comfort zone. The Motivation Manifesto urges us to reclaim our personal power by overcoming the twin demons of external, social oppression and our own inner resistance of self-doubt, fear and daily distractions. Much more than the trite euphemisms found in a majority of self-help books, Mr. Burchard provides deep psychological insights combined with wisdom that will inspire you to think carefully about accepting mediocrity for one more day.

7. Monster – Steve Jackson

From the fascinating world of true crime, Monster is a well-researched and compelling account of repeat offender Thomas Luther and the dogged pursuit by Detective Scott Richardson to bring him to justice. The reader gets to know both sides of Tom Luther, as well as the other characters involved, as Mr. Jackson skillfully guides us through their motivations, insights and fears in this compellingly well-written case study.

8. The Secret History of Wonder Woman – Jill Lepore

Pulp fiction comes to real life in this wonderfully bizarre tale of Wonder Woman’s creator, William Marston, who is equally famous for the invention of the lie detector. Racy, colorful and improbable, Ms. Lepore investigates the contradictions behind the man responsible for one of America’s leading icons of feminism.

9. The Empathy Exams – Leslie Jamison

In The Empathy Exams, Ms. Jamison delivers an exquisitely written series of essays on pain -emotional, psychological and physical pain, and asks primary questions about the reality of pain itself. Penned with humor and keen insight, The Empathy Exams offers a peek into out mind’s inner workings in relation to the way we judge and relate to empathy. Philosophical and passionate, it’s a moving attempt to guide us into being more generous and genuine in the manner in which we relate to ourselves and others.

10. What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions – Randall Munroe

Funny, entertaining and strangely heart-warming, What If is written in a breezy style with quirky sketches illustrating the mathematical and scientific points outlined in Mr. Munroe’s explanations. He offers scientifically sound answers to strange and inane questions (many of which he receives at his science Q&A blog) in a way that makes science fun and approachable. Not your typical science and technology textbook.

And there you have our selection of 10 non-fiction books to read over the long winter months, ones that will hold your attention and entertain. Some science, a bit of true crime, a dash of philosophy and the wacky origins of Wonder Women… showing that truth really can be stranger than fiction!

20 Laziest (But Effective) College Life Hacks

Study may sometimes try to get you down and leave no time for anything else! So what should you do? Here are some tips to hack your college life and enjoy it to the max.

lazy

1. Get Stuff Done! You know the drill – you sit down to seriously work – for real this time! – on that paper that’s due on Tuesday. Three hours later you’ve gone through another four levels on a FaceBook game, commented on a status update from your ex, watched a video of a pug jumping up a set of stairs and gotten into a bit of a flame war with someone on a message board. Self Control and Cold Turkey are here to help. These web based programs let you enter a list of websites or programs that are off limits for a certain amount of time. Just load in the website addresses and program names, set the timer and Bingo! You won’t be able to access any of them – or turn off the blacklist – until the timer is up.

2. Lending out a Book, lecture notes, MP3 player or anything else you actually want to get back one day? Snap a picture of your friend with the item about to be borrowed. Set a timer on your phone for when it’s supposed to be returned.

3. Are the charging wires for you MP3 player, phone, tablet, e-reader and laptop turning your desk into the land of spaghetti? Grab a box of medium or large binder clips, attach them to the edge of a shared table or desk and thread each charger end through the wire handle. They’ll keep the ends sticking up and ready to use and keep them from slipping back into the tangle of cords.

4. Setting your alarm for an especially early class? Change the alarm to a song you can’t stand, set the volume to max and then toss it across the room before you go to sleep.

5. Need a cold beer or soda, like, NOW? Make the most of your study break with a cold drink. Wrap a wet paper towel around your drink can or bottle and pop it into the freezer for 15 minutes. You’ll get an ice cold drink without having to wait.

6. Your parents just told you they’re coming over and the whole place smells like dirty feet? Tape a few dryer sheets over your air conditioner or air vents and turn them on. The place will small amazing in no time.

7. Don’t throw out that Post-It note quite yet! Pop motivational or flash card post-its all over. Once the test has passed, run the sticky side between the rows of keys on your keyboard to get out dist fluff and whatever else gets stuck in there. You’ll have used them to help prepare for your exams and you get a clean keyboard too!

8. Tired of marketing emails clogging up your Inbox? Filter by the word ‘unsubscribe’ and you’ll catch them all. Just move them to your Trash or set your filter to do it automatically.

9. Getting ready to haul your textbooks, DVDs, games or other books down to sell them to a student or secondhand store? Use a rolling suitcase instead of cumbersome boxes. They’ll be easier to transport and you won’t have to worry about the box falling apart.

10. When you need to copy a direct quote from the internet into your paper, use Ctrl+Shift+V to paste it into your document. You’ll copy the text but all the internet page formatting will be stripped away.

11. Get some quick sources for your paper by grabbing a definitive book on the subject. Flip to the back and go through the book’s bibliography – instant source list.

12. Make the most of Office Hours. Hitting up professors during Office Hours can help you get a better understanding of the material and it also makes you more memorable to the instructor. You’ll stop being thought of as a student number and start being remembered as that clever kid with all the questions.

13. You won’t need to buy textbooks for every class. Not every professor insists you buy the recommended textbook. Check with former students or email the professor directly before the class is set to begin and ask if the textbook is mandatory.

14. Check out international versions for textbooks. Often, textbooks printed as International Versions have the same content, just on lower quality paper. The price is typically less than half of what you’ll pay at the student store but you will have to order them online and allow a longer delivery time.

15. Grab your gum. Chewing gum – particularly minty gum – has been shown to boost focus and concentration.

16. Go old school when it comes to notes. Writing notes and brainstorming by hand helps you to retain information better than typing on a computer. Go back to pen and paper to outline a paper, make notes about a chapter or brainstorm for thesis ideas.

17. While you’re at it, take notes for someone else. Taking notes that someone else will need to understand will force you to take better notes in general. Being able to explain a concept to someone else will force your brain to process the information more thoroughly.

18. Need to get practice exams for a class? Enter “site:edu [subject] exam” into a search engine to get old exams to practice on for classes you find especially difficult.

19. Underpromise and overdeliver. When you’re planning out how to tackle studying, get your part of a group project done or finish a paper, give yourself plenty of time and set small, realistic goals. Give yourself more time than you need and you won’t end up with deadline jitters.

20. Get rid of your phone! When it’s time to buckle down and study out your phone on silent and leave it in another room. Text messages, phone calls, status alerts and breaking news can all wait for an hour.