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To Wiki or Not to Wiki?

Citing the Right Sources in Your College Papers

September 21, 2011

To Wiki or Not to Wiki?

by Kara Coleman

Five years after Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia, more than one million articles have been contributed to the free-for-all Internet encyclopedia. The open editing format allows for an unlimited amount of information to be shared all over the world but unfortunately, some teachers don’t consider Wikipedia to be a credible source...or they simply want their students to do a little more searching for information. Here’s how to make more informed choices when searching for works to cite.

When you Google your topic, don’t just click on the first link that pops up. Check out the site’s address before you visit. Remember, ANYONE can post ANYTHING on the Internet: An English professor at my community college was known to occasionally log on to Wikipedia and edit articles, just to see if her students were using the site.

College and university websites are reputable. If MIT posts an article about its latest technological breakthrough, take that information and use it. The same holds true for sites belonging to trade journals. A writer for an aviation magazine is talking directly with people who design, build, work on and fly airplanes in order to write articles for other people who design, build, work on and fly airplanes. Their information has to be accurate.

It’s also acceptable to cite articles from credible news sources like CNN or The Wall Street Journal. These are publications everyone is familiar with and they have years of coverage to show for it. The bad apples are few and far between.

Something to keep in mind when doing online research is that if something is true, it’s probably going to be on more than one site. If you come across conflicting pieces of information, be sure to check a number of other sources. And you don’t have to ignore Wikipedia completely: The bibliographies at the end of each article can provide some valuable links!

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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Como Se Dice College?

The Best Languages to Learn in School

September 21, 2011

Como Se Dice College?

by Alexis Mattera

Regardless of how demanding your college class schedule and major requirements are, a foreign language course could be among the most useful credits you accumulate.

According to Dr. Ali Binazir’s recent Huffington Post article, he recommends taking a foreign language to all incoming college students because “universities generally do a fantastic job of teaching them, they're a super-useful lifelong skill, and they're generally an easy 'A'.” But are all languages created academically equal? It depends on your future goals, he says: If you don’t want be treated like an "ugly American" while studying abroad in France, learn French but if you want to get a leg up in business negotiations, opt for Chinese. Here are the rest of the doctor’s orders, broken down by ease of learning, employability enhancement and "cool factor":

Chinese: Ease of learning - 1; Employability enhancement - 10; Cool factor - 10

Japanese: Ease of learning - 2; Employability enhancement - 7; Cool factor - 10

French: Ease of learning - 6; Employability enhancement - 1; Cool factor - 10

Italian: Ease of learning - 10; Employability enhancement - 1; Cool factor - 9

German: Ease of learning - 5; Employability enhancement - 2; Cool factor - 9

Spanish: Ease of learning - 10; Employability enhancement - 8; Cool factor - 6

Russian: Ease of learning - 4; Employability enhancement - 8; Cool factor - 9

Portuguese: Ease of learning - 9; Employability enhancement - 8; Cool factor - 9

Binazir has taken lessons in six of the eight languages listed and his explanations of why each language made the list are entertaining and informative. Are you taking or considering taking a language in college? If so, which one and why?


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Should You Write an Honors Thesis?

by Jacquelene Bennett

To write an honors thesis or to not write an honors thesis? That is the question. If you are a senior in college, you know the dilemma that I am talking about.

At the beginning of their last year as undergrads, college seniors are presented with the option of doing an honors thesis - typically a 25- to 30-page research paper or paper that concentrates on a single subject within your declared major; you must not only demonstrate what you have learned while attending school but you will have to defend your work to a committee. Being a senior in college comes with a lot of stress and pressure – finding a job, filling out grad school applications, and completing capstone projects and papers are just a few of the things on a college senior’s to-do list – so why would anyone think of taking on another anxiety-filled task?

The pros of undertaking this type of project is that you will not only have a substantial piece of writing to present to grad schools and future employers but the work you’ve done will be reflected on your university diploma and resume. The cons of this project are the massive amount of work and time you have to devote to it. Honors thesis requirements differ from school to school but you’d be hard pressed to find a college where the experience is an easy one.

So is writing an honors thesis right for you? Well, that is a decision that you (and your advisor) have to make. After much debate, I found I do not have the time or enthusiasm to write an honors thesis...but if you do, good luck!

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Building Your Network in College

by Shari Williams

It’s the beginning of the semester, meaning there is still plenty of time to get involved on campus. If your school is offering some sort of “Meet the Clubs” fair, find some time between classes to stop in. Why, you may ask? In addition to allowing you to meet people that share the same interests as you, clubs are great networking tools.

As a college student, you may hear some variation of the word “network” just about every day. From social networking to networking events put on by various organizations, making connections is vital. Depending on the type of club you join, members often share the same majors. Knowing the people within your major will give you a good support system especially during exam and course selection time. It’s easier to set up study sessions or discuss requirements for a class you are planning to take with someone who's already taken it.

You will find that the people who join clubs that are major-related are very serious about their future careers. For example, the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is a student offshoot of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) that provides equal access and networking for student members and professional members. If you’re looking for a mentor or internship opportunity, a club like this is an excellent place to start your search.

No matter what year in college you are, it isn't too late to join a club and start networking. Take the time out to check out the clubs offered at your school – major-related or not – and get to know those around you. You’ll make friends, be better prepared for your classes and even get a leg up in your job search after college – you never know when and where you’ll see your fellow club members again!

Shari Williams is a senior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.


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Librarians: The Ultimate Research Aid

by Lisa Lowdermilk

I was working on a research paper recently and spent hours scouring the web for the answer to a question one of my teachers had asked. I didn't know about “Ask a Librarian” then but if I did, I would have saved myself a lot of time and frustration.

What is “Ask a Librarian” you wonder? Basically, it's a site hosted by Florida State University where a live person – a real-life librarian, in fact! – answers your questions. In today's world of automated answering services, it's great to have access to a resource like this one...plus, it's free!

You start off by typing in your name, email address, subject (they include psychology, business, music, politics and many more) and the question you want an answer to. So far, so good? Next, you must provide some background information regarding your question so that the librarian understands the context of your question and how you will use the information. For example, telling the librarian that you need to know how photosynthesis works for a specific experiment you're conducting (and explaining the experiment in detail) is more effective than just telling the librarian that you need to more about photosynthesis. You also have the option of telling the librarian which sources you've already consulted so that he/she doesn't waste his/her time and yours by returning the same results. Just make sure you don't wait until the night before your paper is due, as it typically takes three days for a librarian to get back to you through this service.

Waited until the last minute, did you? It happens to all of us now and again so in this case, ask your school librarian for help. Discussing your issue much easier in person and eliminates the back and forth (and potential misunderstandings) of email as well. Even if you’re not pressed for time, find a librarian and pick their brain – most will be more than willing to help you out!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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It’s OK to Just Say No!

October 4, 2011

It’s OK to Just Say No!

by Kara Coleman

Regardless of whether they’re children or adults, Americans are busier now than ever before. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “That’s like saying that the Earth is round. Everyone knows that,” and that may be true but college is the perfect time to learn the power of two little letters: N-O.

Over the course of this semester, I’ve found myself saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t commit to that,” more times than I ever thought I would. I live and work in a town that’s about a 30-minute drive from where I go to school, so I do a lot of driving back and forth for classes, newspaper staff meetings and school events. I spend a few hours each week tutoring eighth grade math and I babysit one night a week, on top of the 25 or so hours I spend at my regular part-time job. This puts a severe time limit on the time I have available to spend with family and friends so I decided that I had to learn to say no.

When a parent called and asked if I could tutor her daughter two nights each week, I asked if we could do it on an assignment-by-assignment basis instead. When I received a text asking if I could help paint sets for an upcoming theater production one night after work, I declined because it was the only night that week that I didn’t have to go anywhere after work.

It’s hard to say no when we are asked to do something because we think we’ll be letting somebody down if we say anything less. But you know what? If you don’t say yes, someone else will. Know your limits and how much you can commit to without going crazy and learn to just say no!

This summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree. She is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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The Death of the Library As We Know It

by Jessica Seals

Years ago, most college students did not have personal computers and they had to go to the library if they wanted to access information in an old periodical or journal. That’s not the case today: The majority of students own computers that allow them to write papers, put presentations together and do research on the Internet. All of this can be done in the comfort of one’s own dorm room, apartment or home, making the library a less utilized resource on campuses.

When I was younger, my mom used to take me to the library every month so that I could check out new books to read. Now that I am in college, I am ashamed to say that when I enter my school’s library, I am sometimes unaware of where I need to go. I am in my senior year and I have only visited the library a handful of times; however, I have encountered students who have been here longer than I have but have never been to the library or can count on one hand the number of times they have been there. I’ve had several professors encourage us to do our research in the library but most of us still prefer to research periodicals and journals in the databases that have been set up when and where it is convenient for us.

Whenever I do go to the library, I notice just how much the availability of personal computers has changed the usage of the facility. Very few students are in the library and I rarely see many looking through hard copies of books or periodicals. Most of the students in the library are using the computers to type papers that are due that day or using the computers because they do not have one or do not have Internet access at home. The library does have areas where people can form study groups and meet but this does not entice more people to stop in – after all, dorms have common areas that serve the same purpose.

With the declining popularity of libraries, I have to wonder how many of them we will start to see close their doors because people are not visiting them like they used to. Do you think this is a possibility as well or will libraries withstand the test of time...and technology?

Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.


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Recognizing Your Responsibilities

by Darci Miller

I grew up with parents who were very involved in my life. I don’t mean that in a bad way – they were as involved as any good parents should be – and was grateful they always made sure I finished my homework, was on top of my deadlines and didn’t forget an appointment.

I didn’t realize any of this on a conscious level until I began attending college. Suddenly, I had somewhere to be on a certain day and only I was responsible for staying organized and reminding myself about it. If any of you have applied for study abroad, I’m sure you know what I’m going through: During the last week of September, I realized that the October 1st deadline had crept up on me. This set off a week and a half of printing documents, scheduling appointments with the study abroad office as well as my academic advisor, getting my transcript, writing essays, etc.

It’s a little overwhelming figuring out what I needed and trying to schedule around classes and work and life. Luckily, I quickly learned that I need to write things down. I’ve become dependent on my planner, whiteboard and Post-it notes to help me manage my time and tasks. In the last few weeks alone, I’ve made dozens of lists of things I need to remember to do. This method works for me but if it doesn’t work for you, figure out what does before something falls through the cracks.

Sometimes I still wish I woke up to notes on the table scribbled by my dad – “get form signed” or “talk to your advisor” – but now I know I can handle life’s responsibilities by myself. To this day, sometimes keeping track of everything feels like a full-time job but I’m proud to report that my study abroad application was submitted (in full!) on time. I’d call that a success.

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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A New Approach to Learning

October 18, 2011

A New Approach to Learning

by Alexis Mattera

Did you know that approximately nine out of 10 of the nation's two- and four-year colleges enroll students with disabilities and 86 percent of those schools enroll students with learning disabilities? Promising statistics...but only at first glance: The Department of Education reports just 24 percent of these schools say they can help disabled students "to a major extent." Fortunately, Landmark College exists.

The transition from a specially designed high school program to a mainstream college campus environment can be a bumpy one but Vermont-based Landmark has developed a number of programs and strategies to help these students stay focused, remain on top of assignments and understand their rights as college students with documented learning disabilities like dyslexia or attention-deficit disorder. Offerings include boot camp-style seminars, internship programs and scholarships paired with one-on-one coaching – assistance bureaucracy-mired traditional colleges often cannot provide – and with the number of disabled college students steadily increasing (they comprised 11 percent of the college student population in 2008, up from 9 percent in 2000), these programs are helping to take away the social stigma associated with these disorders and empowering students to speak up, seek assistance and ultimately succeed.

You can learn more about Landmark’s goals and additional information about learning disabled students here but we think student Morgan Behr sums up what Landmark is addressing perfectly in 10 words: "We're not that weird. We're normal. We just learn differently." What do you think about Landmark’s approach to learning?


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UC System Changes Admissions Requirements, Confuses Applicants

by Alexis Mattera

Thinking about applying to one of the University of California’s 10 campuses as a freshman for the 2012-2013 school year? If so, read the admissions requirements carefully, lest a change intended to ease your college-related stress levels send them sky high instead.

As standardized tests go, all UC campuses call for freshman applicants to submit scores from the SAT and ACT but have eliminated supplemental SAT subject exams from the list of admissions requirements. Though many students are breathing sighs of relief that they do not have to prepare for, take and afford another exam, others are still signing up for the subject tests in droves because they think it will boost their chances for admission. UC officials say students who do not take the tests will not be penalized but those who do and score well will be viewed in the same positive light as someone, say, with a leadership role in a school club would be. This explanation – plus the fact that specific programs like engineering and science do recommend subject tests – has left students and counselors understandably confused.

You can read more reactions from both sides here but as the November 30th application deadline draws closer, we have to wonder where our readers stand. If your dream school did not require you to take supplemental exams, would you follow the rules or still take the exams and hope doing so would give you a leg up on your competition and why?


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