You have had your first day of class, and on your syllabus, in upper-case letters, is the phrase you dread: RESEARCH PAPER due the last day of class. Panic sets in; hands get sweaty; heart beats wildly.
Guess what? You do not have to panic! Try these tips and go to your happy place! (Some of these tips can be found in The Secrets of College Success; page numbers are noted.)
1. DO NOT PROCRASTINATE! The quickest way to having a miserable experience (and often a lousy grade) is by waiting too long to begin the process.
2. Start from where you are. Decide on a topic early, either by choosing from the topics you are given, or by looking through your class materials for a good keyword. (p. 118). If you aren’t completely sure of the meaning of a topic, use encyclopedias and dictionaries (such as through CREDO via the library) to clear it up.
3. Divide it down. Break your paper into small pieces by setting your own deadlines for research, outlines, and drafts. Don’t try to cram it all into one afternoon; each piece you put to writing is a step toward completion. (p. 73).
4. Start with the library. Tens of thousands of books and articles are available, and if you choose the full text option in the databases, you can read the entire article online. We even have e-books.
5. Interlibrary Loan is your friend. Use this for items that we don’t have; that means you have access (usually for free!) to thousands of articles and books.
6. Write (or type) it down. Take really good notes on your source and include the page numbers. This makes doing the bibliography, footnotes, or references list so much easier! (p. 120)
7. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation. Ask your teacher and/or a librarian. Don’t waste time if you are truly stumped or don’t understand something.
–Contributed by Maria Bagshaw, Reference/Instruction Librarian