Quick Tips Part 5: How to Come Up with a Thesis

By Stefanie Weisman

If you’re a high school or college student, you probably dread having to come up with a thesis.  A thesis is the argument you make in your paper based on research and/or your own experience.  Sometimes a thesis will come to you very quickly, in a flash of inspiration.  But most of the time, it takes a lot more work.

When writing a research paper, consider yourself part of a scholarly debate.  It’s perfectly acceptable – even encouraged – to challenge the ideas you read in a book or heard from your teacher.  A thesis should be your own unique, original contribution to the debate.

To come up with a thesis, think critically as you read books, articles, and other sources.  You should constantly ask yourself questions such as:

  • Why did a person or character do something?  What motivates him/her?
  • Who/ What is responsible for an event or action?
  • What is the cause of something?  What is the effect of something?
  • What is the significance of an action or event?
  • What are some potential flaws in an author’s argument or idea?  Are there other possible explanations?
  • What do you think about an issue?  Do you agree with the given interpretation?  Why or why not?
  • How did an event or action take place?  Why did it take place the way it did?
As you do research, try thinking like a reporter – always ask “who, what, where, when, why, and how?”

Do you have any tips for coming up with a thesis?


For more tips on writing papers, check out The Secrets of Top Students.

Quick Tips Part 3: Common Grammar Mistakes All College Students Should Avoid

Make sure you know the difference between . . .

  1.  Your vs. You’re
    • “Your” is the second person possessive adjective and describes something as belonging to you.
      • Ex.: Your paper is written very well.
    • “You’re” is the contraction of “you are.”
      • Ex.: You’re going to do very well on this test.
  2. Its vs. It’s
    • “Its” is a possessive adjective meaning “of it” or “belonging to it.”
      • Ex.: I love that bakery.  Its bread is to die for.
    • “It’s” is the contraction of “it is” or “it has.”
      • Ex.: It’s also got amazing coffee.
  3. There vs. Their vs. They’re
    • “There” can indicate a place, introduce a noun or clause, or be used for emphasis.
      • Ex.: I’m going to be sitting over there.
    • “Their” is the third-person plural possessive adjective meaning “of them” or “belonging to them.”
      • Ex.: I don’t like our new neighbors.  Their dog was barking all night.
    • “They’re” is the contraction of “they are.”
      • Ex.: They’re buying a house.
  4. Who’s vs. Whose
    • “Who’s” is the contraction of “who is” or “who has.”
      • Ex.: Who’s going to the baseball game tonight?
    • “Whose” is the possessive form of “who.”
      • Ex.: Whose baseball bat is this?
  5. Who vs. Whom
    • “Who” is a subject, the person performing the action of the verb.
      • Ex.: Who wants ice cream?
    • “Whom” is an object, the person to, about, or for whom the action is being done.
      • Ex.: To whom should I send this letter?
  6. Then vs. Than
    • “Then” can mean “at that point in time,” “next,” “in addition,” “also,” “in that case,” “therefore.”
      • Ex.: The man opened the door.  Then he turned off the light.
    • “Than” is a conjunction used in comparisons.
      • Ex.: He is taller than his brother.

For more tips on grammar and writing, check out The Secrets of Top Students.

Quick Tips Part 2: How to Use Citations in Your Papers

By Stefanie Weisman

Writing a paper and need help with citations?  Can’t choose between APA, MLA, and Chicago Style?  Here’s a quick overview to help you decide:

The three most common citation styles are APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), and CMS (Chicago Manual of Style).  Your teacher may tell you which one to use, but MLA is used most often in humanities courses; APA is generally used in social sciences, engineering, and business courses; and CMS tends to be used in history courses.

All of these citation styles consist of two parts:

  1. A section at the end of your paper, in which you list all the sources you used for your paper, in alphabetical order.  In MLA style, this is called the “Works Cited” page.  In APA style, this is called  the “References” page.  And in CMS style, this is called the “Bibliography.”  In this list, you will usually have to include the author of the work, the title, the journal or anthology it comes from (if applicable), the editor or translator (if applicable), the publisher, the publisher’s location, and the date of publication.  If your source is a website, you will probably have to list the web address and the date you accessed it.
  2. Attribution for each quote, paraphrase, and summary in your paper.  Whenever you use someone else’s words or ideas, you must state the source and the page number(s) where they come from.  This may occur in the form of in-text citation, which appears within the body of the paper (as in the case of APA and MLA); or in the form of footnotes or endnotes (as in the case of CMS).
You do NOT need attribution when:

  • You state your own, original ideas.
  • You state something that is common knowledge.

If you’re in doubt about whether something needs attribution, however, you’re better off citing it just to be on the safe side.

 

Here are some great online resources to help you with citations.

Online Guidelines:

  1. Bedford/ St. Martin’s Website guide to researching and documenting sources
  2. The OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab

Online Citation Generators:

  • Griffith University provides a free online referencing tool in which you select what citation style you are using and the type of source you are citing.  It then shows you an example of how to format that citation.
  • Son of a Citation Machine is another free online source in which you choose your citation style and enter information about your source in order to view the correctly formatted citation.
  • EasyBib provides a free citation generator for MLA format.
  • You can also use Zotero to organize your research and generate citations automatically.  This requires you to download some free software.

What are some tools you like to use?


For more tips on writing papers, check out The Secrets of Top Students.

 

Quick Tips Part 1: Taking Notes in Class

By Stefanie Weisman

It’s back-to-school time!  I’m going to be posting a series of “quick tips” on this blog, to help you start the school year off right.

Here’s quick tip #1: When taking notes in class, make sure you use lots of symbols and abbreviations to record things quickly and efficiently.  Here’s a list to help you get started:

Symbol/ Abbreviation  Meaning
 + and, in addition to, plus
 –  except for, excluding, minus
 =  equals, is equal to, is the same as
 ∼  is similar to, is like, is about, resembles
 <  is/ has less than
 >  is/ has more than, exceeds
therefore, thus, because
leads to, results in, means, signifies
 ↑ gets bigger, increases, grows
Δ change in [something]
w/ with
w/o without
b/c because
ex. for example
vs. versus, as opposed to

You should also develop your own abbreviations for different types of courses – especially for long, complicated words that come up frequently.

And when the teacher uses multi-syllable words that take a long time to write, try to substitute them with shorter synonyms – for example, “means” instead of “signifies,” and “but” instead of “however.”


For more study skills tips, check out The Secrets of Top Students.

The Secrets of Top Students Back-To-School Giveaway

The Secrets of Top Students

The Secrets of Top Students

Hey all you students and parents out there!  Since it’s almost back-to-school time, I am giving away a copy of The Secrets of Top Students: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College.  All you have to do is click here to enter.

Rules: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The 50th eligible entrant will win. This giveaway started Aug 14, 2015 10:16 AM PDT and ends the earlier of Aug 21, 2015 11:59 PM PDT or when the prize has been awarded.

Click here to enter giveaway.

About the book:

The Secrets of Top Students includes tips and techniques that every student should know. For example:

  • What is the first thing you should do when taking a math test?
  • What is an often overlooked place for coming up with a thesis?
  • What music should you listen to while studying?
  • Why is it bad to be a perfectionist?
  • What are the good and bad types of motivation?
  • What foods should you eat to boost your brainpower?
  • How much do top students really study?
  • Should you bring your laptop to class?
  • What are three game-changing learning techniques?
  • And much, much more.

Written in a conversational, down-to-earth manner, The Secrets of Top Students shows you how to maximize your learning and get the grades you want. Filled with innovative, time-saving techniques, this book also includes advice on motivation, the mind-body connection, and technology inside and outside the classroom.

Going to School with PTSD: Online Education and Anxiety

By James Hinton

I was an older student with an anxiety issue. After spending time in the Army, including several combat tours, I had been diagnosed with PTSD. Being around large numbers of strangers worried me. Noisy settings where I was not completely in control gave me the need to run for it. I would even feel a touch agoraphobic if I was not close to something I could bunker up within.

When I made the decision to obtain a college degree after getting out, these all presented me with significant problems. While some of the university classes I participated in had relatively small class sizes that enabled me to learn faces fairly quickly and find a certain degree of comfort with, large classes were a daily struggle. I would have to position myself close to doors so I could bolt outside for relief if needed. More boisterous classes could result in frequent, embarrassing episodes where I just plain had to get out.

Eventually I made it through and obtained my Bachelors, but it was not a particularly easy or enjoyable process. My struggles had frequently led to my considering quitting, which had only caused the depression that comes with PTSD to get worse. Preparing for class had been an anxiety inducing process that involved my wondering whether I’d make it through to the end, or have to make a dash for the door yet again.

I still wonder sometimes how I made it to graduation.

Continue reading

What Type of Learner Are You? How to Find Your Learning Style

Editor’s Note: The concept of learning styles is controversial.  The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of this website.

By Cindy Boesel

A clash of learning styles can be one of the biggest setbacks in the learning process. That’s why it is important to discover the learning style that suits you the most. People are different, and every one of us requires a different kind of support, special attention to certain things or some alone time to acquire maximum information. The sooner you discover your natural learning predispositions, the better chance you have to successfully change your learning techniques. Let’s take a closer look at different learning styles and methods to recognize your preferences.

Learning styles

We distinguish seven major learning styles. Keep on reading to find out how to differentiate between them.

What's your preferred learning style?

What’s your preferred learning style?

Continue reading

Top 10 Learning Techniques: Which Are Most Efficient?

10 Learning Techniques: Which Are Most Efficient?

Infographic provided by Online Education Blog of Touro College.


For more tips on studying and much more, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

Memory Retention and the Forgetting Curve Infographic

The importance of reviewing what you learn…
Memory-Retention-and-the-Forgetting-Curve-Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics


For more tips on studying, memory, and much more, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

6 Ways to Stay Motivated With Online Learning

By Tess Pajaron

During the last few years, online learning has become a viable alternative to traditional learning environments. This modality of studying helps students to save both time and money on commuting, but prospective learners should remember that its specific nature radically differs from regular classroom learning styles. In order to make the most from their online courses, students must boast excellent time management skills, have clear study goals and stay organized throughout their period of study.

Since online learners bear much more responsibility over their learning process, they require a high level of motivation for completing their coursework. Here are 6 practical tips on how to stay motivated and enthusiastic when attending an online course.

Tess Pajaron1.  Choose your field well

There is nothing more important for staying motivated than following your passion, which you also consider significant to your life and career. When choosing an online course, consider your options carefully and go for those learning opportunities that will help you achieve the career you want. This awareness will help keep you on track – you will see your activities as a meaningful part of a larger whole.

2.  Establish realistic goals

This is another important point that can significantly affect your attitude towards your studies. If you’ve always struggled with writing, don’t expect to create a great essay in a couple of hours. This way you’re just setting yourself up for failure, and it’s safe to assume that every failure will also negatively affect your motivation.

Be realistic, set reasonable goals for yourself in appropriate time frames. Once you accomplish them, you’ll immediately feel a sense of achievement. This feeling will keep you going, helping you realize your full potential over time.

3.  Track your progress

Keep a journal or a calendar filled with small weekly and monthly goals. Make sure to closely track your progress by ticking off every accomplished task – seeing so many little goals achieved will boost your self-esteem and help you stay motivated, even when the amount of work starts to stress you out.

4.  Talk about your learning materials

Don’t shy away from commenting on your study process. If this is a challenge, make sure to keep in touch with your instructor through a designated e-learning platform or simply by e-mail – you can share your insights and ask for additional resources.

It’s important to stay connected with your trainers and assessors as well as other students who are studying your course, or within your course area. Many online education providers now have specialized learning platforms that are designed to connect students with each other. Often, there are dedicated social media groups such as Facebook groups, Pinterest share boards and even blogs that are included as part of your online course. Make sure to keep in touch with your trainers through a designated e-learning platform or simply by e-mail – you can share your insights and ask for additional resources.

5.  Think positively

Positive thinking is an important part of the whole motivational process. Feeling fatigue or stress can affect your perception of the class and the subject itself, making you miserable and unproductive. Try to think positively and talk with your instructor or other students. Their advice might help you through hard times. Remember to reserve some time for yourself once in a while – no one can be expected to manage all their daily tasks and education without a break.

6.  Reward yourself

Consider all the work you’re doing – objectively speaking, you absolutely deserve to have your success acknowledged. When you accomplish one of your goals, be it a minor or major one, make sure to reward yourself with something that will make you happy. Each and every one of these rewards will help you stay motivated in the long run.

It’s safe to say that online education demands just as much self-discipline on the part of learners as traditional education settings. It does, however, bring immense benefits to both your personal and professional life – so choose your path, believe in yourself and stay on track. With enough self-conviction and motivation you’ll be able to reach your goals.

Tess Pajaron is a Community Manager at Open Colleges, an online learning provider based in Sydney, Australia. She has a background in Business Administration and Management.


For more tips on motivation and much more, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!