Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Since we’re talking about research…

After posting about the research paper, I was inspired to follow up with a blog entry about plagiarism, or actually how to avoid plagiarism. For the most part, plagiarism happens accidentally. Most of the time, students have simply forgotten to give credit to the author, or the students were unaware of how to give credit or that they even needed to do so. Before you get lost in the piles of research, let’s have a heart-to-heart about some great ways to avoid plagiarism and show off your amazing research skills.

To Cite or Not to Cite: Have you heard of the term common knowledge? Students tend to confuse common knowledge with knowledge that they already had in their head. Saying the sky is blue is common knowledge, but if you already know why the sky is blue (without researching it), then that is not common knowledge and needs to be cited. Another example is George Washington. Saying George Washington was the first President of the United States is common knowledge, but saying that George Washington became president in 1789 is not common knowledge. It’s important to know the difference. When in doubt, look it up and cite it.  

Keep Track of Your Sources: Research papers require a lot of, well, research. It’s easy to read something at some point during your research and then forget where you read it. When this happens, you may be tempted to just stick it in your paper and not cite it. Don’t do that. Review your sources to find the information you need to cite. Next time, keep careful notes about the specific information that came from each of your sources. At the end of this entry, you’ll find a link to a handy software plug-in that will help you keep track of all the sources you find.

Paraphrasing: Another way that plagiarism happens is when a student paraphrases but doesn’t change enough of the words. This one can be a little confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. The general rule is not to use more than two words, in a row, verbatim from the source. If you use more than two words verbatim in a row, then you need to put them in quotations. Of course, even if you change enough words to paraphrase, you still must include an in-text citation at end of the sentence. Basically, anything that you borrow, whether it’s a direct quote, summary, or a paraphrase, needs a citation.

The Works Cited Page: Lastly, we need the works cited page. Your works cited page (or reference page, depending on the documentation style) needs to contain bibliographical information for all the sources that are included in your paper. I see students that have a long list of sources on their works cited page, but they’ve only cited one or two in their paper. That’s another thing to avoid. Make sure that every source in your works cited page is in your paper and vice versa. Check out our website at DelMar.edu/SWC for a list of helpful handouts.

It can be easy to avoid plagiarism; you just need the proper tools and knowledge. Always be aware of what ideas you’ve borrowed and what are your own thoughts. As long as you’re careful, you should be fine. Don’t be afraid to ask a consultant or your professor if you’re unsure of whether something needs to be cited. Plagiarism is a serious academic offense that can result in failing a class or being put on academic probation. Cite your sources carefully, and give authors the credit they deserve!

The Helpful Plug-In: Want some help saving all of your sources? I’ve used a plug-in called Zotero to do my own research. Zotero allows you to save sources, organize them, and make a works cited page. It’s amazing and really awesome for any research paper. It’s available for Mac and Windows, and you can get plug-ins for your browser. As with any helpful citation generator, you want to CHECK your citations carefully before you submit your paper.

Hope this helps, Readers! I’m diving back into my research! See you next time the sun is up, the breeze is cool, and the waves roll into view. ‘Til then, hang ten!

P.S. Help me reach 1000 followers! Follow @theSWC on Twitter! 

Monday, November 6, 2017

It's Research Paper Time!

We’re staring at the end of the semester, Roxy Readers! It’s so close, but yet so far. Most of y’all probably have a research paper looming on the horizon. You may even be in different stages of it. A research paper can seem overwhelming at first, but like all things, with practice it will become easier. Here are some great tips for writing that research paper.

  1. Look at the assignment instructions: Don’t skip this step! Professors are super awesome and give you this handy set of blueprints for your paper. Take them seriously. When a professor gives you very specific instructions on what to write, follow them. There’s a good chance that a giant chunk of your grade is fulfilling the assignment requirements. This is the easiest thing you can do and one of the most important steps. So read over those instructions with a fine-tooth comb before, during, and after writing your paper. If you need help deciphering something in the instructions, come see us. 
  2. Pick a topic that you like: You should pick a research topic that you’re interested in, while still staying within the parameters of the assignment. This will make the research and writing process much more enjoyable. Trust me. If you have to write about something that you know nothing about or don’t like, you may find this entire process painful. If you enjoy your topic, you’ll be more likely to put some heart into it and actually like what you’re doing.
  3. Give yourself plenty of time: Don’t wait! You’ve probably done this before and then swore you’d never do it again. Don’t try to write your paper the night before it’s due. That’s stressful! Don’t do that to yourself. Give yourself time to research, outline, write, and revise. Ration out your time so you don’t tailspin into a panic attack. 
  4. Have a strong thesis: Your entire paper will be built around this thesis. Make sure it’s a strong statement that clearly outlines what you’re going to discuss in your paper. Once you have your stellar thesis, make sure you follow it throughout your paper. Keep looking back at it to see that what you’re saying supports your thesis. This should prevent you from veering away from the topic. 
  5. Do your research: Say what you want in your research paper, but back it up with reputable sources. You’ll want to gather these sources from scholarly publications and legitimate websites. The school’s library website will be your best friend. 
  6. Ask for help: Seek the help of your teacher or a writing center consultant if you get stuck at any point. Don’t give up and come back to it five days later. Ask for help after the first day, and then you can spend those other four days accomplishing something.
  7. Revise: This step is super important. Once you’ve written the paper, you aren’t done. You still need to read through it multiple times and revise and edit carefully. Reading through your paper backwards is a great way to catch sentence-level errors. If you’re looking for information holes, then I’d advise reading through it beginning to end.
Well, there you go. These are the basics for writing a solid research paper. Research papers can be daunting, but if you prepare and know what you’re heading into, they are completely doable. Good luck and happy researching.

See you next time the sun is up, the breeze is cool, and the waves roll into view. ‘Til then, hang ten!

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Tutorial Session



Roxy Readers - I finally have a chance to say hello again to everyone. It’s been a busy time for our coastal area. We are still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, but we are on the rise! Despite the challenges our community has faced, we are very busy at the SWC. Many are first-time visitors so I thought I’d devote this blog to discussing tutorial sessions.

#Truth…. We are a welcoming place full of friendly people, lots of technology, and some awesome coffee! Still, some people feel a bit nervous walking into a tutorial session. Here’s a play by play that can help ease your nerves and give you the confidence you need to ace that tutorial session and leave feeling accomplished.

The Intro (not to your paper, but to your tutor!) - We’re super good at putting you at ease. The tutorial session might start with some stellar eye contact, an awesome handshake or smile, and an introduction. We want you to feel comfortable here.

The Sit Down – Let’s get to work. Your tutor will ask you what you’re working on. Once that’s out of the way, we ask you which professor it’s for, what class, and if you have the assignment sheet. We’ll likely look over the assignment sheet so we can become familiar with the professor’s expectations for the assignment. All of this preliminary stuff allows us to give you the best and most accurate service that we can.

The Good Stuff (what you specifically want help with) - We try to make sure you lead the session. We want to work on what you want to work on. Once we have a game plan, the tutor may read your paper if you have part of it written. If you haven’t written anything, then we’ll help you brainstorm, storyboard, or just talk it out. Basically, the theme of the session is you!

The Time – The sessions last up to 20 minutes, but you can come back as often as you want. Towards the end of our time together, we’ll start to wrap things up and ask if there’s anything else we can work on before we part ways. You are welcome to hang out for as long as you want and sign up for another session after you’ve incorporated what you learned in our time together.

Good to Know – A common misconception about writing centers is that we are here to edit (correct) your paper for you. This is not true. Our mission is to teach you to be a stronger, more confident writer. We won’t write on your paper, tell you what we think your grade should be, or put words in your mouth. We want your writing to be your writing. We’ll focus on higher order concerns first like content and organization before we address lower order concerns like grammar.

There you have it, your basic tutorial session. Of course, each one is different. That’s why we love our jobs so much! Hopefully this helps ease you into a tutorial session with one of our amazing tutors. Come visit us at the SWC and find out what all the hype is about.

See you next time the sun is up, the breeze is cool, and the waves roll into view. ‘Til then, hang ten!


Monday, May 8, 2017

Stop Procrastinating!

Hi Roxy Readers – we’re in the middle of final exams for the Spring 2017 semester, and it's crunch time. Once again, I'm sharing information about apps that will help you avoid procrastination. I've added a couple of new apps, so give them a try.

Do it Now, Not Later!

When you find yourself procrastinating, you just have to prioritize. Do you really need to check Facebook for the tenth time this hour? Is Snapchat really more important than your grade? Of course not! Procrastination happens for many reasons, and sometimes we need a little help with our choices. Let’s face it, our phones are more distracting than our computers now. Facebook just feels better on a small screen even when our MacBook is open in front of us. Here’s some great ways to break your smartphone and internet addiction so that you can get stuff done!

1.       OFFTIME
This is an app that lets you block other apps that you know are distracting to you. For example: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, games, or Twitter. You can also set aside blocks of time for family, work, or “you time”. It even gives you statistics on how you use your phone so you can finally see that you spend five hours a day on Snapchat. That’s a wake-up call. OFFTIME is available on iOS and Android.

2.       AppDetox
This app also allows you to block certain apps and view what your usage is like. However, this app lets you know when you break the rules. Sometimes we need a visual reminder that we need to change our ways. Only available on Android.

3.       Productivity Owl
This Chrome extension is really serious about keeping you on track. If it notices that you’ve been spending too much time on frivolous websites, the Productivity Owl flies in and closes your tabs. Of course, you can control what the owl thinks are frivolous websites and regulate how much time you’re allowed to spend on the sites. If you start to get addicted to watching the Owl fly in, you may need to move on to a different extension.

This free Android app temporarily blocks programs on your mobile device. You set the date and length of time to block. Once that time is up, you'll have access to the apps again. 

5.       StayOnTask
This app will randomly check that you are doing what you've said you would do and not wasting time. Again, you set the parameters, and the app will pop in to see if you're on task. StayOnTask is a free app in Google Play.

All of these programs have one thing in common: you have to want to get things done. Sometimes all we need is that extra push. Push yourself, please; you’ll be happy you did. The end of the semester is so close, and we just need to hang on. Before we know it, we’ll be riding the waves again.

That's it for now, Roxy Fans! This is my last entry for the semester. Good luck on your finals!

See you next time the sun is up, the breeze is cool, and the waves roll into view. ‘Til then, hang ten!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

You CAN Do This!


Greetings, Roxy Readers! Well, Spring Break 2017 is loooong gone in the rear view mirror, and we are all working hard in the SWC. We still have some time to go before the semester ends and finals start, so it’s time for that last push. We must keep going to classes and get all our projects and papers done because glorious summer break is right around the corner!

Here are some awesome ways to help you get through the rest of the semester and finish strong!

1.  Get some sleep.
Try to go to bed at a reasonable time, especially the night before you have lots of work to do. Turn off distractions like cell phones, TVs, and computers. These bright screens can interrupt your sleep. You want to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world! It’s hard, but you can do it!

2.  Be Organized!
Make some time to get organized. Toss papers that you know you won’t need anymore and find the ones that you know you will. Go crazy; use some tabs, hole-punch some stuff, and maybe even break out a highlighter. These things definitely help me. It’s much easier to take an open-notes test or write a final exam essay when you can easily find notes and readings.

3.  Set Goals
If you know that you have a 10-page paper due in three weeks, don’t wait 2.5 weeks to get started! Set a timeline with realistic goals for yourself. Be aware of due dates that go along with certain projects, papers, and tests. Set reminders on your phone. If you have a planner, use it!

4.  Don’t Procrastinate!
It’s so easy to get distracted. There are many things that you’d rather be doing than schoolwork. Procrastination is a bad habit though, and you will feel so much better when you can relax and watch Netflix without a giant project looming over your head. Remember that.

5.  Reward Yourself
Treat yourself for all of your hard work! Go see a movie, go to the coffee shop, check the latest Snapchat stories, or do whatever you do to recharge. It’s okay to take small breaks as you move through your goals. Make sure you get back to it, though!

6.  Surround Yourself with a Support System
Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to make good choices and succeed! Right now, you don’t need those friends who tempt you to stop studying and go to the beach. They need to chill for a while and let you work.

7.  Be Positive!
It’s so easy to wallow when you’re in the trenches. But remember—the end is near! There is a light at the end of the tunnel! Stay positive, stick with it, remember these tips, and YOU WILL MAKE IT.

You can do this! Now, go be amazing!

See you next time the breeze is cool, the sun is up, and the waves roll into view! ‘Til then, hang ten!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Midterms & Spring Break

Can you guys believe that the semester is already halfway over? It’s exciting and also a little scary for those of us with deadlines looming over our heads. Midterms means papers are due.

Sometimes those papers are written outside of class, but other times they’re timed essays that are written during the actual midterm. Being told to write an essay in an hour, in a classroom with the instructor watching can trigger anxiety. Don’t fret. Here are some tips on how to tackle that in-class essay.

Be prepared:

If possible, do research ahead of time. A lot of times, teachers will give you the essay topics in advance. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS! Compose simple outlines for each topic and make sure you know the basics like names, dates, titles, and possible quotes. Writing about a literary piece? Find quotes ahead of time and mark important moments in your story. Your teacher will let you know if you can use your notes. Even if you can’t use your notes, there’s no need to panic. Just be prepared!

Spend your time wisely:

You don’t want to run out of time and only have an introduction written. To avoid that possibility, do not spend too much time on any one part of the essay. It will be better to have a whole essay than one stellar introduction when you’re finished. Trust me.

Leave time for revision:

This goes with the previous tip. Make sure that you leave enough time to revise your essay when you’re finished. You want to make sure that everything makes sense.

Practice:

If you’re still really nervous, then practice! If you have the topics ahead of time or have a good idea of what the topic might be, you can practice writing a timed essay. It should alleviate some stress about the actual thing. On the flip side, if you find that you have a hard time writing the practice essay, then you may be able to figure out what you need to work on before the big day.

Visit the Stone Writing Center:

Remember that Stone Writing Center can help! We can help you prepare for the exam and offer feedback on your practice essays.

Most of all, take a deep breath, and do your best. Hopefully these tips help you feel a bit better. We’ve all been there, and it does get easier over time. Remember, too, that spring break is just around the corner! 


That’s it for this time, Roxy Readers!

See you next time the breeze is cool, the sun is up, and the waves roll into view! ‘Til then, hang ten!


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