Has your professor assigned an annotated bibliography? Do you need help keeping track of all the sources for your research? Learn from Writing Cener Tutor Maddy Lee how to organize your sources and write effective annotations.
Register for the workshop here: https://mcdaniel.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cMuTXorH8PAVvMx
Do you need to create an annotated bibliography for an essay or other assignment? Come to this workshop to learn more about creating annotated bibliographies as well as learn about a research organization tool, Zotero. Bring a current assignment to practice on!
Location: Hoover Library Board Room
PowerPoints are the bane of many a student’s existence. They’re irritating, difficult to work with, and easy to tweak into an unreadable mess. The following ten tips should help, however, when approaching these sticky assignments.
- Go for a crisp, clean, professional look, not an artistic or messy one. This includes not having unnecessary pictures, ‘cute’ fonts, words in strange colors, and ‘fun’ elements such as incessant visual and audio effects. Go ahead and pick a nice-looking theme, but don’t overdo it.
Don’t be this person. Use an appropriate font and images with transparent backgrounds—avoid the white box around images!
- Make everything possible to read. This means using easy-to-read fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, or Georgia, making sure text has a strong contrast with the background, and using organizational tools like bullet points and numbered lists judiciously. Text needs to be large enough to read easily and pictures need to be relevant and easy to understand.
Never do…basically any of this. Don’t use ‘cute’ fonts, yellow text, or even more than one font in your PowerPoint. Use contrast: cool colors in the background, like blue or gradient gray, go better with a little bit of text in a warm color, like red or plum.
- Limit text displayed on-screen. Try using the 7-7 rule: only 7 words on each line of each slide, and only 7 lines per slide. Obviously, this isn’t always possible, but it does help to practice being concise and saving detailed information for the presenter to present vocally.
Holy walls of text, Batman!
- Use pictures—carefully. Pictures are a great addition to your PowerPoint, and some successful presentations only have text in the titles of their slides, but if you over-saturate your presentation with them they will soon lose their effectiveness. Only use relevant pictures, and be careful to ensure that they are either of good quality or are justified in not being so.
This would be a bad image to use in a PowerPoint about non-Euclidean geometries, for example.
- Don’t make it too long or short. Practice your PowerPoint at least twice and time it. Try to aim for the average of the minimum and maximum presentation times–if you asked to have a 10-15 minute presentation, shoot for 12.5 minutes; if you are assigned a 30-45 minute presentation, try for 37.5 minutes. A presentation that is too short makes you look lazy, and a presentation that is too long bores the listener.
You almost certainly don’t ever need to see this. Too many slides!
- Don’t rush. Leave appropriate pauses between bullet points and slides, giving time for students to take notes and the audience to absorb, process, and respond to new information. Rushing through a presentation gives the impression that you hate presenting, and professors are sharks that feast on your discomfort.
Not a good life OR writing motto.
- Delude yourself into displaying confidence. It is perfectly normal and fine to feel impeding doom at the very idea of having to make and give a presentation. However, acting confident by smiling, gesticulating, answering questions, and projecting your voice all give a good false impression that you are secure and confident in your PowerPoint, and thus help your audience enjoy and pay attention to your work.
Imagine yourself as Wonder Woman. Do her stance before every slide if you need to.
- Have a cheat sheet and practice off of it. Make a ‘cheat sheet’ of some sort, out of index cards or a typed outline, and practice giving the presentation by speaking from the sheet. This will help the presentation flow together better and alert you to changes you need to make to your PowerPoint.
A creative way to use a cheat sheet. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spicker_trinkflasche.jpg
- Present as if you are not a robot. This means that you cannot simply sit or awkwardly stand in front of the computer or class and read off of the slides. Instead, gesture, walk back and forth in front of the room, and elaborate on your points. Smile and nod at people, and address the audience as if they exist. Make your presentation pop with props and embedded videos and audio files. Please note that if you are, in fact, a robot, this is a great opportunity to infiltrate human society.
Don’t be this adorable robot. Be better than this adorable robot. Crush its adorable robot dreams into dust.
- Go to the Writing Center or otherwise get feedback on your PowerPoint. Go ahead and book an appointment with us today, here! We’re willing, able, and happy to help you with any kind of writing, including multimedia writing.
Log on and make an appointment today!
Last week, I paged through each syllabus for my classes, looking for the page count for all of my papers. Chances are you’ve done the same. There’s always that feeling of joy when a paper that makes up big chunk of your grade is only five or so pages long. A short paper is not so bad, right? Then, on the flip side, there’s that feeling of complete helplessness when the minimum page requirement for a paper is ten pages or more. As I saw that I would be faced with more than one of those this semester, I began to panic. Here’s a list of tips I came up with that I plan on using to conquer my bajillion page papers:
- Start planning early. If you have an English essay about a particular book, start reading it now. If you have a research paper, start brainstorming a topic and head to the library. The beginning of the semester may feel hectic, but you have more time now than you will later on.
- Outline! Outline! Outline! It’s annoying, yes. BUT it will help you stay on track.
- Divide the paper up into smaller pieces. Your paper will feel much more manageable when you only work on a page or two at a time.
- Set up a schedule for working on your paper. If your paper is due in a month, commit to working on it at least two or three times a week until then.
- Just start writing. Remember that even if what you write at first isn’t very good, it’s better than nothing. You can always go back and make changes, but you have to start somewhere.
- If you have any questions about the expectations for your paper, ask your professor right away. It’s better to ask now than to realize that you’ve done something wrong and then have to start over again.
- Take a break if you need to. If you’re getting frustrated or overwhelmed, sometimes it’s best to walk away from the paper for a bit. Do something relaxing for a few minutes and then go back to the paper. Clearing your head will help more than you think.
- Make an appointment at the Writing Center. Or make several appointments with us. We’re here to help!
– Rebekah, peer tutor
Have you ever been overwhelmed when searching for sources for a paper? Do you wonder how to sort out which sources will be the most helpful? Are you worried that you won’t have enough time to take notes on everything?
Fear not, young writer! Your friends at the trusty Writing Center have some tips for you on how to do more efficient research and how to take better notes. This way, you can organize your information so it can be put into your research paper without much hassle and stress.
You’d be surprised at how many items come up in a search of something that may seem simple. Be as specific as possible when you are doing research online.
Use quotation marks.
If you use quotation marks in an online search, the database will search for that phrase in particular. For example, if you simply searched friendships among co-workers without quotations, you may find sources that use one or two of those keywords. BUT, if you search “friendships among co-workers,” you will be more likely to find a source with that exact phrasing.
Evaluate the source.
Is the article a scholarly, peer-reviewed article, or is it from a newspaper or magazine? You can narrow down the type of source you want when you search online. Also, if you’re using Google Scholar, it will tell you how many times that source has been cited in other works.
Don’t forget about the library!
The library is always a wonderful source for research. There are specific research librarians who are more than willing to help you find the sources you need. You can also use the multiple databases the library has to find scholarly sources. There is also a brand new feature on the library’s website this semester. Students who need help with finding sources can now engage in a live chat with librarians. How cool is that?!
Determine what information you need before you start.
Read your paper prompt and jot down a few ideas of information you think would be important to mention in your paper. This way, you’ll know what to look for as you’re reading through your sources.
Make a system.
Create your own way to take notes that best helps you organize the information. You could use bullet points for major headings and take notes on that section under that bullet point. Also, WRITE DOWN THE PAGE NUMBER! Every type of citation (MLA, APA, Chicago) requires a page number at some point. Save yourself some time and write down the page where you found the information so you don’t have to go back and look through an entire source for a sentence or two. Trust me, I’ve been doing this for a while and it helps TREMENDOUSLY.
Don’t write everything down word-for-word; try to paraphrase things into your own words so you can write similar ideas in your paper. If you find a direct quote that you might want to use, go ahead and copy it down verbatim (but make sure to label it as a direct quote so you remember).
If you use these tips the next time you have to write a research paper, it will make the process much smoother and organized. Good luck!
Check out these sources for more tips on research and note taking:
-Kelsey, Peer Tutor
You know that feeling. The one where you have a paper due tomorrow, the Writing Center is closed, it is way too late to email your professor with any questions, and all you have is a thesis statement. You’re not even sure if your thesis argument is well written, but at this point you just have to accept it.
Let’s first pretend your thesis statement is as follows:
“Historians have always debated the true cause of the start of the Civil War.”
It isn’t the best thing you have ever written, but it is a start! And the best thing about thesis statements is you can tweak them constantly as you write your paper.
Soo…about writing this paper… Unfortunately you cannot just turn in your argument and pray that your teacher will agree with you. The first place you can start is the most obvious! The Hoover Library–but wait, it’s three in the morning it’s past midnight so they must be closed. Well lucky for you, the library has its own website with a great place to search for books and articles that McDaniel College owns, as well as those available from other locations.
If you just click here: www.hoover.mcdaniel.edu, you can do a bunch of this research at any point of the day, from anywhere!
Click here for a more narrowed search:
Once this site has loaded the easiest option for you to click on is “Academic Search Complete.” This option allows you to search multiple databases all at once, which will widen your search and get you the best articles and journals for your paper. Be sure to check off “Scholarly Journals” and “Full Texts” to find the best articles for your research.
After you have completed all of those steps, type “causes of the American Civil War” into your search bar. Make sure you are specific in what you type into the search bar so you can narrow down the search even more. From there, the Internet does all of the work for you by finding your articles. Unfortunately, it can’t read them for you.
If your search looks like this, celebrate! You did it right.
Not let’s imagine you read a lot of useful articles. You probably read so many articles that you are overloaded with a lot of research that may not even help you. Here is where you will have to go back to the original thesis you have already decided on. As said before, your thesis may have to be changed.
As you researched the start of the Civil War, you realized that your thesis statement isn’t exactly what you want to argue anymore. Now you have to make a tough decision: keeping your body paragraphs or rewriting your thesis. Let’s be honest, the body of your paper is awesome, for a first draft, and you know it. The only thing to do now is tweak your thesis and make it fit what you’ve already got written!
Here is your thesis revision:
“Although historians have always debated the cause, the American Civil War started because of the debate on slavery and states’ rights.”
Perfect. Now you realize that this is what you have been trying to say all along. You jump up and do a weird little dance, hoping that your roommate is still passed out and that she didn’t see. You decide that you’re going to go to sleep before the sun comes up and they start cutting the grass at 6 a.m. outside of your room, and then you can proofread before you hand it in.
You, my friend, have done it. Eight perfect pages in one evening. Hopefully, you’ll never procrastinate again…but if you do, we’re always here for you!
For even more advice on this topic, check out our helpful presentation about next steps.