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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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How to Make It as a Humanities Major at a Tech School

by Kayla Herrera

Sometimes the location of a college or university can draw you in more than the school itself. This can be said for someone who wants to attend college in a big city or someone who wants more of a college town setting. Me? I wanted to go home again. I went to a technological school in the place where I once moved away from. Even though my major of choice was not technical in nature, I told myself I could make it work.

At my school, the humanities department is not taken care of very well. The curriculum seldom expands and many professors are not quite sure what they are doing. There is a career fair every semester but companies mainly come for engineers, leaving us humanities majors left out and forced to try harder to find jobs and make connections without the school’s assistance.

How did I do it? I focused on extracurricular activities. I searched for internships and small writing jobs on my own or through professors at my school. That is how I scored my first internship and first freelance writing job – just by asking around and putting myself out there. Also, get involved in a club or organization that relates to your career interests. If one is not available, create one; chances are, there are other students who share your goals.

If your field is the minority at your school, you’ve got to stick your neck out there and really make yourself known. Classes at my school are limited so I rely on outside experience to round me out. You cannot be shy: Send your resume around even if positions haven’t been advertised and contact potential employers to introduce yourself. Putting forth that extra effort will only get you that much more ahead outside the classroom.

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs, a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., and a writer for Examiner.com. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.


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Flipped Classrooms Gain Momentum, Critics

by Alexis Mattera

Picture two Advanced Placement classes. One features a teacher giving a lengthy lecture while students take notes and the other has the instructor fielding questions and interacting with students based on the previous night’s digital assignment. Which one is producing higher AP test scores and information comprehension? According to some, it’s the latter – a method being referred to as flipped classrooms.

A growing number of teachers are recording their lectures, uploading them to iTunes and assigning homework based on their digital lessons. Instead of covering an entirely new topic during class time, students review the material at home, bounce queries off of friends and arrive in class the next day ready to work out any remaining problems they’re having with the teacher. The approach may seem strange but teachers who have tried it – including Stacey Roshan, a calculus teacher at the Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland – say flipped classrooms offer greater control over material and more face time with students.

The flipped classroom method is gaining more support – the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has taken note – but also has amassed its fair share of critics: Lisa Nielsen, author of the new book "Teaching Generation Text," worries that low-income students may fall behind because they don't have reliable Internet or computer access at home and says the approach "could lead us down the path of doing more of something that doesn't work because it gives us more time to do it."

Has anyone experienced the flipped classroom method first-hand? If so, what did you think of it? If not, would you be willing to give this learning method a try?


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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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The Freshman Experience

October 19, 2011

The Freshman Experience

by Julius Clayborn

You know those feelings you get when you are about to embark on a new and exciting journey and are completely overwhelmed by curiosity? Well, I harbored all of those same sentiments...at least until one unbearable train ride to college.

Let me give you a brief synopsis on my less-than-brief journey to Cornell. It consisted of an awfully long (more than 12 hours!) and uncomfortable train ride from Illinois to New York. Imagine going that long without Facebook or other social networking sites – the horror! My excitement, coupled with utter nervousness, would not let me sleep at first but I eventually drifted off into an awkward slumber, awaking in Syracuse. From there, I continued my journey to campus.

Once I reached Cornell's campus in Ithaca, there was an abundance of people to assist with luggage and to help new students get settled in their new homes. I found this very helpful, for the realness of the entire situation hit me once I put my things away and looked at my ID card: "I am a freshman in college. I am a freshman at Cornell. Wow." I was in shock for a while but the apprehensiveness soon passed. I had the opportunity to immerse myself into the orientation activities and leave all of my worries behind. There was everything from rock climbing to music concerts and I met some pretty cool people while doing it all! I got to explore the campus, hear urban legends and attend a riveting convocation ceremony that reminded me of why I chose Cornell the first place.

When I finally started classes, I was grateful to have been allowed the opportunity to be taught by brilliant professors who are masters in their fields. I knew that by the end of these four years, I would leave Cornell smarter. I would move beyond regurgitating information and would truly have an intellectual grasp on the world. Although future train rides will be bumpy ones, I know the reward at the end of the line is well worth it.

Julius Claybron was born on Chicago’s South Side in the Harold Ickes public housing projects. At the age of five, he lost his father to diabetes and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who helped him to enroll in Urban Prep Academy – a public all-male college-preparatory high school – during his sophomore year. Julius started to read when he was just two years old and still enjoys escaping in books during his spare time. He just began his freshman year at Cornell University this fall, where he plans to double major in psychology and English literature.


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Tackling Test Time

October 25, 2011

Tackling Test Time

by Angela Andaloro

If you’re like many college students out there, midterms are on your mind right about now. It feels like classes just started yesterday and you’re already being tested on what you know! While you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to begin studying, here are some tips that’ll help you breeze through those exams – whether it’s the first or final time you’ll be taking them.

Recall what your professors said. It’s easy to zone out during class, especially when you think the same points are being repeated over and over again. Those points, however, are the most important and likely to pop up on the exam. Make sure to pay extra attention to that information and indicate its importance in your notes.

Look back at your syllabus. They may seem like they’re full of the same old stuff for each class but if you're looking for an outline of what topics you’re tackling from week to week, your syllabus can serve as a great starting point for studying. Use those topics to build yourself a study guide and fill in specific details based on your class notes.

Ask questions. As much as we may think otherwise, professors are trying to help us learn...not hold us back. Drop in on their office hours and ask questions – you’d be surprised at just how much exam insight your professor is willing to give up! – and realize the more information you have, the less guessing you’ll have to do. Your studying will be that much more productive.

These tips may seem like common sense but you’d be surprised how quickly these skills can escape you when it comes time to study. Just focus, keep a level head and you’ll be sure to get through midterm time in one piece.

Angela Andaloro is a junior at Pace University’s New York City campus, where she is double majoring in communication studies and English. Like most things in New York City, her life and college experience is far from typical – she commutes to school from her home in Flushing and took nearly a semester’s worth of classes online – but she still likes to hang out with friends, go to parties and feed her social networking addiction like your “average” college student.


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Pick Your Classes Wisely

October 27, 2011

Pick Your Classes Wisely

by Jacquelene Bennett

Sometimes the most difficult part of a university class is not the homework or the tests but the process of picking out and registering for the class itself! Seeing as though this will be my last time registering for classes, I thought I would pass along some tips and tricks of the trade.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t want to overload your schedule with gen ed requirements early on in your college career; rather, you should aim for a nice balance between your gen eds and the classes you need to take for your major and/or minor. My rule has always been “half and half” – half of the classes I take are gen eds, while the other half is for my major or minor. This method not only keeps you from hating a semester because you were taking nothing but uninteresting classes but helps you in the long run by allowing you start on your degree requirements sooner.

Begin mapping out your course schedule with your adviser well before registration time. They can help you plan your classes semester by semester, give you insight on professors and create a list of back-up courses in case your first-choice classes are already filled by your registration date. You should also talk to friends or people who have taken the classes you’re interested in to get a feel for the material and workload.

Once you’ve registered for your next semester, make a list of classes that you want and need to take the following semesters as well. You’ll be able to see if you'll have time to pick up an internship, job or fun elective.

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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Dealing with an Uncooperative Group Member

by Radha Jhatakia

Group projects are inevitable in college and at some point, you’ve probably been stuck with a group member who is uncooperative. This person doesn’t do their fair share of work, doesn’t show up to meetings or argues and causes tension in the group. While it’s not fun to deal with, here’s how to make the situation bearable for all members. After all, your grades depend on it!

Set up guidelines when you form the group. Create requirements and state the consequences of not completing the tasks assigned. Also, make sure to state at what point you will drop a member from the group; this is important to avoid carrying dead weight for the whole length of the course.

Approach the problematic member in a friendly manner: They may not realize that they’re being uncooperative and it will prevent him or her from getting defensive. Ask them if they need help getting their assignments done or if the work is too much for them. In subtle manner, let them know that they need to participate more in the group to be fair to all the group members. People will be more willing to cooperate if they don’t feel like they’re being attacked.

If the person is still uncooperative, speak to your professor to avoid jeopardizing your grade and dealing with the stress of a hostile environment. Just be sure it’s a group consensus and you’ve exhausted the other options because your professor will ask you about both before deciding on a course of action.

We’ll encounter uncooperative individuals in college and beyond but instead of stressing out about it, remain calm and try to work the situation out. There is a solution out there – you may just need to come together as a group to find it!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Smile...You’re on Camera: WGU Uses Webcams to Monitor Online Test Takers

by Alexis Mattera

For students seeking more flexibility in their college schedules, online classes are often an excellent alternative. Coursework can be done from anywhere with an Internet connection but when it comes to test taking, how do instructors know the person answering the questions is doing so honestly? Western Governors University has come up with a solution: Say cheese!

Up until a few years ago, WGU online students had to take their exams at one of the school’s 6,000 on-site assessment centers. This proved to be a burden for the majority of the student body – the average student is 36 years old, has a family and takes a full course load while working full-time – so WGU began allowing students to take exams off-site if monitored by webcams. The cameras show the student, his or her computer screen, their hands and profile and a 180-degree view of the room to ensure the student isn’t obtaining information from another source during the test. And just in case something goes awry, there is support available to assist with any technical issues.

While some students still opt to take their exams on-site, most have adopted the program with open arms: There are 30,000 WGU webcams in use and about 80 percent of the 10,000 exams per month are taken via webcam. Do you think WGU’s webcam program is beneficial to busy students as well as the school’s reputation? If given the option, would you smile for the camera or take your tests on-site?


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Missing Classes in College

November 4, 2011

Missing Classes in College

by Jacquelene Bennett

Being sick, waking up late, doctors’ appointments and myriad other reasons prevent us from going to class some days but I am here to tell you not to worry. That’s right: It’s okay to miss class...as long as you do so responsibly (aka not every day)!

One perk of being a college student is that unlike high school, you can miss class without a reason or consequence. Not to sound too harsh but professors don’t really care why you missed class but they will notice when you aren’t there, even more so in a smaller, discussion-style class. If you have to miss class for any reason, however, your professors do want you to be responsible about it so if you know that you are going to miss class on a day when an assignment is due, you have to let your instructor know, even if it means calling them the day of if you’re sick or if there’s an emergency.

Another way to be responsible when missing a class is to still get your assignments turned in even though you are absent. Ask one of your classmates to turn in your homework for you and grab any new handouts or see if your roommate has time to drop by your professor’s office hours. Just don’t take advantage: They aren’t going to hunt you down to give you your work – that’s your job.

Like most things in college, missing class is ok – sometimes getting some sleep after 20 straight hours of cramming IS more important! – but only in moderation. It’s tempting to opt out of a lecture, especially for underclassmen still getting acclimated to the college lifestyle, but your grades will reflect it. Choose wisely!

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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