Skip Navigation Links
Research Papers? You Got This! Part 2

by Mary Steffenhagen

Last week, I wrote about research techniques and tips that I've found useful for preliminary research for a paper. Now it's time to start writing!

You have sources and a direction in which to head but you won’t go anywhere without a strong thesis. A strong thesis states your idea concisely and directly. It should be very specific but also something that is not beyond argument – your paper will be proving a point and disproving others – so starting off with “I argue” is a good way to state your thesis confidently.

Quotations from your sources, especially your primary source, are the excellent additions to strengthen your arguments. Don’t let them overpower your own voice, though; if you’re quoting every other sentence, back off a bit. You can still include that information if it’s necessary but try paraphrasing it (with attribution, of course) and injecting your own viewpoint. Use quotations to point back to the thesis and, like the thesis, make sure they are strong and not just in there to bump up the word count (although quotes are great for that if you really need it).

Assuming you have the bulk of the paper down, write your conclusion and intro. The intro is incredibly obvious once you have the body of the paper done – after all, your ideas are concise and flow together in a real format. It goes without saying that the intro is crucial: It has to seize and hold your reader’s attention and present your thesis. Your conclusion is equally important and you shouldn’t just summarize what you’ve already said. Think of these sections as your answer to “So what?” Make your reader see why your argument (and all the work you’ve done) is worthwhile.

Next come the dreaded citations. Whether it’s APA, MLA or Turabian, I’ve never known anyone to enjoy citations but they are crucial to correctly attributing your sources. (Remember, inadvertent plagiarism is still plagiarism.) The Purdue Online Writing Lab is an excellent resource when you are unsure of how to cite something and I often use Calvin College’s Knight Cite to format the source information for me.

It should come as no surprise that your next step should be proofread, proofread, proofread. Get a friend to read your paper over, too, as new eyes catch mistakes better than eyes that are used to seeing them.

Lastly, print it off, smell the fresh ink and breathe a sigh of relief. Maybe there’s even time tonight for a few hours of sleep! I hope what I have learned from writing a plethora of research papers will make your process less daunting and more worthwhile.

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


Comments

Research Papers? You Got This! Part 1

by Mary Steffenhagen

Leaves are changing hues, the nights are arriving sooner and the library is crowded into the wee hours. That’s right: We’ve officially entered paper writing season. Almost every college student finds himself or herself pulling an all-nighter at one point or another to chip away at the writer’s block a research paper inevitably brings. As an English major, I’ve probably written a few more papers than other students but nearly everyone encounters some such assignment in the common core no matter his or her major. If you’ve been staring at a mental brick wall for hours, never fear: There are plenty of resources and tricks to get around that writer’s block and make that research paper a reality.

First, know your databases. Your university most likely has access to too many scholarly journals to count but databases make them easy to find. I’ve made quite good friends with EBSCOhost, a database which encompasses more databases on topics from Mark Twain’s mystical view of the soul to current technological developments in the military. (ProQuest is equally useful.) Searching within such a broad database gives so many options that research is quite easy, even if you’re unsure of your topic. Most will give you online access to the source you need and your college library may have archived physical copies of a journal...or even ebooks. They may not be as easy to procure but don’t limit yourself to online only sources: Talk to a librarian and see what they'd suggest - you never know what's out there unless you ask!

Now that the database or librarian has given you a paper to use as a source, start picking it apart...from the ending. If you check the bibliography or works cited, you’ll avail yourself of even more sources by basically following the author’s bread crumb trail. Find the thesis – aka the driving point of the paper – within the first few paragraphs and build off of it. Whether you agree or disagree with the author, their sources and citations will lead you to more evidence supporting or debunking the viewpoint. I tend to start with my own idea and look for research related to it but if you’re short on time, picking apart your source’s sources will save a lot.

Next week, I’ll talk about some writing techniques that have aided me in my paper writing. In the meantime, good luck researching!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


Comments

Mending Your Pockets: Suggestions for Saving in College

by Mary Steffenhagen

As a college student, it can sometimes feel like your pockets are riddled with holes. Most expenses are necessary but cutting the ones that aren’t isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Like most big projects, it's all about knowing how to use your resources to your advantage.

If you haven’t done so already, create a budget. Thankfully, you don’t have to do any of this manually – there are websites that do it for you. I use Mint.com, which is helpful because it links right to your checking account, sends weekly updates by email and, best of all, it’s FREE. There are options for adding budget and saving goals and the site breaks down your spending so you can see what’s going to entertainment, food, school and the like. Once you have your budget squared away, half the battle’s already won!

Despite your best efforts to prune expenses, perhaps you still feel like your university always has its hands in your pockets. The price of textbooks can be a shock once you get your syllabi and if your professors direct you to the university bookstore, you’ll almost certainly be spending more money than you need to. Amazon Student is always a useful option for textbooks and free shipping but there are also some great sites where you can get books used: I use BetterWorldBooks.com and HalfPriceBooks.com a lot. Think about renting books as well, perhaps for the core classes you would never use again. Half.com is a good resource because it links up to your university – sometimes even right down to your class – to help you find what you need for less.

Check around your college town to find out if any business offer deals for students who present their IDs. Restaurants, grocery stores and even locally-owned businesses often participate in such deals – it’s good PR, after all – and if you truly can’t curb your shopping urges, try visiting thrift shops and consignment stores.

Saving money won’t happen overnight – it’s an ongoing process. Starting tweaking in increments and you’ll have those pocket holes mended in no time!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


Comments

Becoming a Commuter Student

September 5, 2013

Becoming a Commuter Student

by Mary Steffenhagen

Living on campus is almost a necessary rite of passage for the college freshman. “Don’t miss out on the full college experience!” you’re warned, enticed with stories of spacious dorms, fantastic parties and few rules. Sure, living in the dorms can be fun, exciting and new but it also has it downsides: expensive room and board fees, a mandatory meal plan with food usually not worth the cost, lack of privacy or the risk of a bad roommate. Being a commuter student, on the other hand, isn’t as difficult as it seems: Your school probably has commuter lockers if you have a lot of books, packing a lunch is cheap and quick and carpooling is an efficient way to travel with friends.

I lived on campus for my first two years of school and experienced all the downsides listed above to varying degrees so this year, I am living at home and commuting. In some cases, the pros and cons were obvious. Did I want to pay thousands for a meal plan rather than eat with my family for free? No. Would I rather share a small space with three girls instead of having my own familiar bedroom? No. But would I like to be closer to campus than have the 40-minute commute I now have each day? Yes. I was reluctant to commute at first but I found that the time spent would be made up for and then some by the money I would save. If living at home for a year or two is an option for you, consider it! You’ll save money that you can put toward paying off any student loan debt or – who are we kidding – buying stuff you actually want when you want it.

If a long commute doesn’t interest you but you’re still looking to live off campus, it’s not too late to begin the apartment search. It is possible to find a nice place with affordable rent: College towns often have complexes with student budgets in mind. Splitting rent is an easy way to keep costs down and this time you get to choose your own housemate!

When you live off campus and commute, your time feels more like your own and it doesn’t have to revolve around what’s going on at school. If you’re feeling the itch to leave campus, check out your options and see what’s best for you!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


Comments

Popping the Bubble: How to Keep Up on Current Events in College

by Mary Steffenhagen

The crisis in Syria! The Bradley Manning sentencing! The fracking debate! Yet another random act of violence!

The media bombards us with information and news every second of every day – a sensory overload of grim stories and political biases. It's overwhelming but college can become a sort of bubble, a relaxing retreat from the cares of the outside world. You don’t see the news unless you turn on your own TV or radio or follow a news site or newspaper. With all the other fun things to do, who’s got time to be depressed and bored by other people’s problems?

It’s incredibly easy to feel that what you see on CNN doesn’t affect you – a college student in America – but it does. You may not live in a small village in the Middle East but actions cause ripples and what happens across the globe may, in any small way, touch your life. Some events will affect you directly. For example, President Obama recently signed a bill to restore lower interest rates on student loans: This directly affects you and me, who will now be paying a 3.4 percent interest rate on our loans as opposed to the previous 6.8 percent.

Current events are nearly always incendiary topics as well. You will encounter a diverse range of people in college with a diverse range of ideologies...and a shrug and a “Whatever, I don’t really care about that” won’t get you off the hook in discussions anymore. It’s important to know where you stand and even more important to do your research, so as not to form a hasty assumption. First off, it will help you not to look like a buffoon or needlessly offend others and secondly, being able to form and articulate a well-thought argument is an invaluable skill!

Lastly, being cognizant of “the outside world” is an important development in the whole messy process of becoming an adult. Forming opinions, arguments and worldviews – and having them challenged – is a necessary part of life...especially in an environment such as college, where it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them. So don’t let college become a bubble and cut you off from the vital circulation of ideas and news. Get (and stay) informed!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


Comments

Making the Most of Your Spare Time

by Mary Steffenhagen

It’s agonizing to suddenly relinquish a free and easy summer schedule to the clutches of the college schedule...but what happens when your weeks in school are just as free they are over break?

You may end up with a situation a lot of college students dream of: a surplus of free time. This happened to me during my freshman year, as I had a pretty open class schedule, a weekends-only job and didn’t join any clubs. I ended up bored to death nearly every day! But I didn’t realize that the extra time was an advantage that not only gave me a chance for homework but time to focus on personal goals. If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few tips as to how to best spend your time:

However you choose to spend your extra time, make sure you enjoy yourself. Having time to yourself while in college is a rarity and you may not have such an opportunity in later semesters. College is about exploring and learning...not being bored because there’s nothing to do. So get out there and make use of your time – you won’t regret it!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


Comments

Making Time Your Friend Instead of Your Enemy in College

by Mary Steffenhagen

Some days in college feel like a battle against the clock: We students are constantly at the beck and call of our class schedule, homework and the professors who assign it. Add a job on top of that or perhaps an internship, sprinkle a few friends in here and there, squeeze in a few meals and the day is already gone! Believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be that way no matter how busy you may find yourself: It all depends on the way you organize and prioritize, and you’ll often find that it’s the little things that count most.

I’ve found that doing things the night before (and I don’t mean homework!) can save loads of time and worry. Try setting out your clothes, packing your meals (if you commute) or putting together your necessary class materials before you go to bed rather than in the morning before class. If you end up running late, you’ll still shave off crucial minutes; plus, it’s easier to make sure you won’t forget anything if you check it over twice.

Draw out your general weekly schedule and stick it somewhere obvious. I have found that being able to actually see where your time is being spent is incredibly helpful as opposed to just going day by day in a planner. Block off the times you know you’ll be in class, take advantage of the empty spaces and you’ll soon get into a groove that allows you control over your time.

I multitask...a lot. Say you’ve got a lot of reading to do – try finding it in an audio format and listen to it while you work out, do laundry or drive. All those obnoxious little activities that must be done can do double-duty if you need them to.

If you still feel overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to make time for yourself. Skip a class if you must, put aside the obligations and homework and just take some time to relax. All the planning in the world is no use if you’re simply too overworked. It’s OK to throw the schedule out the window every once in a while and do what makes you happy. Time is a precious thing – even more so in college, it can seem – so make the clock your friend rather than your enemy!

Mary Steffenhagen is a junior at Concordia University of Wisconsin who is majoring in English with a minor in business. She hopes to break into the publishing field after graduation, writing and editing to promote the spread of reliable information and quality literature; she is driven to use her skills to make a positive impact wherever she is placed. Mary spends much of her time making and drinking coffee, biking and reading dusty old books. In an alternate universe, she would be a glassblower.


Comments

Meet Scholarships.com's Virtual Interns: Mary Steffenhagen

by Mary Steffenhagen

Hey there, Scholarships.com readers! I’m Mary, a junior English major/business minor student at Concordia University of Wisconsin.

I’ll admit, I didn’t give my college search as much time or thought as I should have. I chose to attend Concordia for two main reasons: I was offered a substantial academic scholarship (and rather a lot of financial aid) and was able to take a free trip to London, Normandy and Paris through the honors program during my freshman year. However, my time at Concordia has been well spent as I have been able to take a number of fascinating classes with some exceptional professors, make a few lifelong friends, travel and even get some decent sleep.

I love having a busy schedule so this year I plan to intern in Milwaukee and hopefully (fingers crossed!) head to New York City in the winter. I've indulged myself a little with my English major – reading and being impacted by what I read has always been one of the best parts of my life – and I am looking forward to a career that not only allows but requires me to do just that.

The opportunity to be a virtual intern with Scholarships.com is one I couldn’t pass up: Not only is this the sort of writing experience necessary for my resume, but it’s a bit out of my comfort zone. I hope to challenge myself to be a resource to you readers and help bring some insight into the ordeals of life as a college student.

I’ll sign off with the most important thing college has helped me realize (so far): Challenge yourself and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can accomplish. Thanks for reading!


Comments

Recent Posts

Tags

ACT (19)
Advanced Placement (24)
Alumni (16)
Applications (76)
Athletics (17)
Back To School (72)
Books (66)
Campus Life (444)
Career (115)
Choosing A College (41)
College (918)
College Admissions (225)
College And Society (271)
College And The Economy (330)
College Applications (141)
College Benefits (282)
College Budgets (205)
College Classes (437)
College Costs (454)
College Culture (548)
College Goals (386)
College Grants (53)
College In Congress (78)
College Life (500)
College Majors (212)
College News (502)
College Prep (164)
College Savings Accounts (17)
College Scholarships (129)
College Search (109)
College Students (375)
College Tips (99)
Community College (54)
Community Service (40)
Community Service Scholarships (26)
Course Enrollment (18)
Economy (96)
Education (24)
Education Study (28)
Employment (36)
Essay Scholarship (38)
FAFSA (49)
Federal Aid (86)
Finances (68)
Financial Aid (361)
Financial Aid Information (37)
Financial Aid News (31)
Financial Tips (35)
Food (44)
Food/Cooking (27)
GPA (80)
Grades (91)
Graduate School (54)
Graduate Student Scholarships (19)
Graduate Students (63)
Graduation Rates (38)
Grants (61)
Health (38)
High School (128)
High School News (62)
High School Student Scholarships (142)
High School Students (257)
Higher Education (110)
Internships (525)
Job Search (167)
Just For Fun (96)
Loan Repayment (33)
Loans (39)
Military (16)
Money Management (134)
Online College (20)
Pell Grant (26)
President Obama (19)
Private Colleges (34)
Private Loans (19)
Roommates (99)
SAT (22)
Scholarship Applications (153)
Scholarship Information (140)
Scholarship Of The Week (226)
Scholarship Search (181)
Scholarship Tips (70)
Scholarships (360)
Sports (61)
Sports Scholarships (21)
Stafford Loans (24)
Standardized Testing (45)
State Colleges (42)
State News (33)
Student Debt (76)
Student Life (499)
Student Loans (130)
Study Abroad (66)
Study Skills (214)
Teachers (94)
Technology (111)
Tips (479)
Tuition (92)
Undergraduate Scholarships (35)
Undergraduate Students (154)
Volunteer (45)
Work And College (82)
Work Study (20)
Writing Scholarship (18)

Categories

529 Plan (1)
Back To School (351)
College And The Economy (463)
College Applications (244)
College Budgets (333)
College Classes (548)
College Costs (703)
College Culture (904)
College Grants (132)
College In Congress (123)
College Life (868)
College Majors (321)
College News (823)
College Savings Accounts (55)
College Search (382)
FAFSA (108)
Federal Aid (118)
Fellowships (23)
Financial Aid (637)
Food/Cooking (76)
GPA (277)
Graduate School (106)
Grants (71)
High School (479)
High School News (206)
Housing (172)
Internships (564)
Just For Fun (202)
Press Releases (1)
Roommates (138)
Scholarship Applications (183)
Scholarship Of The Week (301)
Scholarships (546)
Sports (73)
Standardized Testing (58)
Student Loans (220)
Study Abroad (60)
Tips (741)
Uncategorized (7)
Virtual Intern (531)

Archives

< Mar April 2014 May >
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
303112345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930123
45678910

Follow Us:

facebook twitter rss feed
1 
Page 1 of 1