4 Things You're Not Doing In Your Research Papers

4 Things You're Not Doing In Your Research Papers

Your paper isn't a collection of randomized ideas, it's a conversation.
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The end of the semester is grueling enough, and the fact that professors mercilessly assign 10-page research papers left and right only serves to increase the stress of wrapping up a semester of hell. Research papers loom like it’s their business to generate enough anxiety to power a whole factory, and ignoring all thoughts of the incoming deadline and topic that you haven’t even considered only makes things worse. Unless you’re an English major, this is probably one of the 10 essays you’ll ever write in your career, but it helps to have a set of strategies that are going to help these couple of papers go as smoothly as is possible for you.

1. Outline

Honestly, even as an English major, I used to consider outlining a bad word. But, if you're someone who struggles with structure, outlining is going to help you organize your thoughts like nothing else. Your outline doesn't need to be a thought web or a KWL chart or any of the ridiculous designs that your elementary school teachers swore by. All an outline has to be is an organization of ideas, which means ideal outlines don't exist. They vary from person to person and an outline that serves you well for one paper might drive your next paper into a complete disaster. Consider your topic, consider your ideas, and remember that there's nothing formally required of a quick outline.

2. Transitions

Transitions are going to help you take your thoughts and connect them so that your paper flows without sounding choppy. A good transition is going to be a sentence at the beginning of your new paragraph that ties your new idea to your old idea, much like the previous sentence of this bullet point has done. Your paper isn't a collection of randomized ideas, it's a conversation that you are having throughout the duration of those 10 pages. You don't interrupt yourself when telling your friend about your day by interjecting about an article you read in class last semester, so you shouldn't interrupt your dialogue about nuclear weapons with seemingly random paragraph about roaches. But...if you begin your roach paragraph with a comment about how cockroaches are probably the only insect capable of surviving a nuclear attack, your transition saves the day.

3. Broad statements

The other day, my professor voiced his desire to ban students from using the word "society" in their essay. What is society, who is society? The word is empty and being that vague and broad in your statements will only help you lose your audience. Ditch words like "certain" or "perspectives" and instead reference direct and concrete ideas. Figure out what you mean, and then say it.

4. Concluding with a thesis

One of the best things I've had said to me this semester has been that writing is thinking. The end of your essay is going to be significantly better than the beginning because you've spent your entire piece thinking about your subject, thus you're extremely likely to find your thesis in your conclusion. Pick it out and marvel at how damn brilliant you are for finding it...then pick it up, plop it into your introduction, and start your essay all over again.

Cover Image Credit: Pleuntje / Flickr

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To The Teacher Who Was So Much More

Thank you for everything
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I think it's fair to say that most people remember at least one teacher who had a lasting impact on them. I have been incredibly lucky to have several teachers who I will never forget, but one individual takes the cake. So here's to you: thank you for all you have done.

Thank you for teaching me lessons not just in the textbook.

Although you taught a great lecture, class was never just limited to the contents of the course. Debates and somewhat heated conversations would arise between classmates over politics and course material, and you always encouraged open discussion. You embraced the idea of always having an opinion, and always making it be heard, because why waste your voice? You taught me to fight for things I believed in, and to hold my ground in an argument. You taught me to always think of others before doing and speaking. You showed me the power of kindness. Thank you for all the important lessons that may not have been included in the curriculum.

Thank you for believing in me.

Especially in my senior year, you believed in me when other teachers didn't. You showed me just what I could accomplish with a positive and strong attitude. Your unwavering support kept me going, especially when I melted into a puddle of tears weekly in your office. You listened to my stupid complaints, understood my overwhelming stress-induced breakdowns, and told me it was going to be okay. Thank you for always being there for me.

Thank you for inspiring me.

You are the epitome of a role model. Not only are you intelligent and respected, but you have a heart of gold and emit beautiful light where ever you go. You showed me that service to others should not be looked at as a chore, but something to enjoy and find yourself in. And I have found myself in giving back to people, thanks to your spark. Thank you for showing me, and so many students, just how incredible one person can be.

Thank you for changing my life.

Without you, I truly would not be where I am today. As cliche as it sounds, you had such a remarkable impact on me and my outlook on life. Just about a year has passed since my graduation, and I'm grateful to still keep in touch. I hope you understand the impact you have made on me, and on so many other students. You are amazing, and I thank you for all you have done.

Cover Image Credit: Amy Aroune

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My University Encourages Exploration Of The Arts, Even When You're A STEM Major

Going on this trip not only re-awakened old interests of mine but also created a new-found appreciation and love for other topics like stem cell research and E. coli painting.

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At the beginning of the month, I took a trip to New York City with 23 other girls from my dorm. The whole trip was focused on exploring the connections between the arts and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). This trip was centered around integrating the arts into STEM and how the interactions between all the fields can benefit society and inform on each other, thus turning STEM into STEAM.

Some of the days we spent at Rutgers while the other six days we went to different places around New York that related to different elements of STEAM.

Day 1: Judith Modrak and National Geographic

For our first excursion, we visited Judith Modrak, an NYC-based artist who draws inspiration from psychology and neuroscience. She showed us a sneak peek of some sculptures that were going to be in her next show. After a short lunch break, we went to National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey which immersed us in a realistic ocean environment. It was a good example of how technology and art came together to spread the word about the dire situation our oceans are in and encourage interest in ocean conservation.

Day 2: MoMath and Paula Croxson

Let's face it, math is not a very popular topic, but I have to be honest, the Museum of Math, whose nickname is MoMath, was the most entertaining museum I've ever been to. They had interactive activities that got children (and college students) to care about math and the different concepts. There was a bike that you could go on, logical games, and they had a tessellation wall that you could mess around with. After embracing our inner child, we sat down with Paula Croxson, a neuroscientist, science communicator, and senior manager for Education Programs at Columbia University's Zuckerman Institute. She gave us some tips about public speaking and we all had to give two-minute TED talks.

Day 3: Genspace and Public Art Scavenger Hunt

The only time we ventured down to Brooklyn was for Genspace, a community lab where the public has access to lab equipment that allows them to conduct experiments. There, we got to paint with safe e-coli which was much harder than it sounds given that our "paint" was clear and there really wasn't any way for us to tell where we already painted and where we didn't. If you look up some of the stuff that people have done online it's really incredible and a great example of the interaction between art and science. After Genspace, we were let loose in the city on a public art scavenger hunt. All we had to do was roam around and take a selfie with at least three works of public art. We found some of ours in a subway station, Columbus Circle and at the zoo.

Day 4: New York Hall of Science and the Cooper Hewitt

The New York Hall of Science was really cool because we got to see the "Infinite Potentials" exhibit which featured images of the possibilities of stem cell research. The exhibit was also curated by our incredible teacher, Julia Buntaine, and Marnie Benney. If you just walked into the exhibit and looked at the images but didn't read any of the plaques, you would still be able to appreciate the beauty of the images. My favorite one was by Dana Simmons which showed a cerebellar Purkinje neuron, a neuron that assists in controlling motor functions and balance. As for the Cooper Hewitt, we were unable to go due to the government shut down, so we just had a free afternoon in which I caught up on some rest at the hotel.

Day 5: BioBus and the MET

This was, by far, one of the most interesting days in NYC. We traveled uptown to visit the BioBus, a portable and easily accessible classroom that aims to encourage scientific exploration in younger kids. While we didn't actually get to go on the bus, we did visit a stationary classroom where we dissected cows eyes (I'll spare you the details and the photos). After that, we headed back downtown to visit the MET Costume Institute. I've been to the MET more times than I can count, but this time, we got a behind the scenes look into how they preserve fashion garments. I personally love fashion (even if I don't dress like it). I grew up watching project runway and dreaming of being a fashion designer, so visiting the costume institute had a special place in my heart.

Day 6: Guggenheim and the American Museum of Natural History

I've been to the Guggenheim before, but most of the time I don't like a lot of the exhibits that they put on, except for the Hilma af Klint. I'm not really sure what it was about that specific exhibit that I really loved but it was definitely more intriguing than what I've seen in the past. After the Guggenheim, we traversed Central Park to get to the American Museum of Natural History to watch Dark Universe. Once we sat down, I realized that I saw the show before and proceeded to zone out (or fall asleep), but I also realized that it was a good example of how technology and art can interact to educate people about the universe.

Not only was this trip an eye-opening experience that re-awakened old interests of mine and created a new-found appreciation and love for other topics, but it also allowed me to become closer with some of the girls in my dorm and form a smaller community within many of the other communities I'm involved in.

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