Megen Boyett, Consultant
It’s the start of the semester, which means, it’s time again to think about research papers! I know, it’s only the second week, and yet, that paper looms ahead of you on your syllabus. It will not be ignored and it will not be denied, but it will be here in about 15 weeks. Worst of all, it’s going to need outside information and some advance planning, both things that a four-day caffeine binge during finals week won’t provide.
The worst thing about new semesters is that, once again, you have the opportunity to find out how little you know and how much you wish you knew. But take heart! The best part about new semesters is that they’re a new beginning! You’ve got time again to get things done right! And, better still, there are resources for you to use right here on campus. Here are five places to get what you need for those research papers and have a less stressful semester:
- The Writing Center, of course!
Are you unsure where to start an assignment? Do you need some help figuring out what it’s asking for, or what you should do next? Have you written as much as you think you possibly can on a topic, but only gotten halfway through the page requirement? Bring your assignment and whatever you have so far into the writing center. Sit and talk it over with us for a while (let’s say, up to fifty minutes). Believe me when I say, it’s oh-so-helpful to have someone to talk about your work with, especially when they aren’t giving you a grade at the end. If nothing else, you’ll leave knowing what questions to ask when you go back to class.
- The Research Lab at Ekstrom Library
You know the sources are out there! You just don’t know where to start looking, and it’s a little intimidating to wade through so much information on your own. Fortunately, the librarians at Ekstrom do have a good idea of where you should start. You can ask questions at the research desk (1st floor), you can set up an appointment to learn how to use databases, or you can even chat with a librarian online at http://louisville.edu/library/services/ask.html.
- Citation Databases
Does thinking about citation styles give you a cold sweat? Then, of course, ask your writing center consultant. We all have our favorite sites for citation help. One of the most commonly suggested is the OWL, or the Online Writing Lab at Purdue. It has quick links to citation style guides and plenty of examples. Another really good program is EndNote, which stores all your sources for you and formats bibliographies and in-text citations. Best of all, it’s free through the U of L library!
- Your professors
I have yet to meet a U of L professor who won’t make time during office hours for a student to talk about a paper. Your professors are valuable resources because, after all, they wrote the assignment. Not only can they answer questions about what they want you to do, they’re also good for helping you talk through ideas and suggesting potential sources. Put their expertise to use!
- The Writing Center, again
You’ve researched, you’ve drafted, you’ve cited to your heart’s content. You’re pretty confident that you know what your professor wants and even how to do it. Now it’s all (or almost all) down on paper, but you’re still not sure that your paper says what you want it to. Come back to the writing center and read your paper aloud with a consultant! Never underestimate the value of talking about your writing with a student who’s been trained to talk about writing. Being able to hear feedback before you hand in a paper not only gives you one last chance to make changes and turn in the paper you meant to write, it’ll with future writing assignments, too. (Plus, it’s really fun to talk about something you created with someone who wants to read it. Trust me.)
Here’s to a fabulous semester! Here’s to knowing what you’re doing and to asking when you don’t know! Here’s to caffeine headaches after something other than an all-night paper-writing-palooza, because, after all, don’t you have better reasons to stay up till 2 am?