Quick Tips Part 7: Using Technology for Group Projects

By Stefanie Weisman

Group projects are an unavoidable fact of life in high school and college.  Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, there’s no denying that technology can make them a whole lot easier.  Here’s some great free software that will let you share documents, set up meeting times, work remotely, and lots of other cool “teamwork” stuff.

Google Docs: Allows you to share and collaborate on documents in real time.  You and other members of your group can make changes to docs simultaneously; the app will show you who changed what, and when.

Skype: If one of your members can’t meet in person, bring a laptop to the meeting and have him/her participate through Skype.

Trello: Trello is a project management program that can do wonders for group work.  With this program, you can share documents, make lists of tasks to be done, and keep track of progress.

Dropbox:  Allows you to store and share large files with a group.

Lastly, use a program like Google Calendar or MeetingWizard to plan meeting times.

What are your favorite group project apps?


Get more back-to-school tips with The Secrets of Top Students.

Quick Tips Part 6: How to Study Actively

By Stefanie Weisman

Did you know you learn better when you study actively?  Next time you have a test, instead of passively reading and re-reading your textbook, try the following active study techniques:

  • Explain concepts in your own words, to yourself or someone else.  Remember: it’s okay to talk to yourself!
  • Make review sheets/ Write out the main points.
  • Join a study group in which you and the other members test each other on the material.
  • Write and re-write things — like names, dates, formulas, vocabulary, and verb conjugations — from memory.
  • Draw out/ diagram complex concepts.
  • Do practice problems — and don’t look at the answers until you’re done!
  • Take practice tests provided by your teacher.
  • Think up potential test questions (and answer them).
  • Test yourself with flash cards, lists, etc.

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

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 4: How to Use Google for Academic Research

By Stefanie Weisman

Sure, you use Google to look up cute cat videos, but it can also be a great tool for academic research.  Here are some tips on how to use Google to find sources good enough to cite in your papers.

  • Use double quotes to search for an exact term or a set of words in a specific order.
  • Include “site:” to limit your search to a particular website (e.g., “site:nytimes.com”) or top-level domain (e.g., “site:.edu” – this is useful if you only want to search websites hosted by universities).
  • If you’re looking for pdf documents – which tend to be more scholarly than regular websites – enter your search term(s) followed by “filetype:pdf”.
  • When trying to find a term on a web page, don’t forget about Ctrl-F (or Command-F if you use a Mac).  Just type the word or phrase you want to find in the box that pops up, and it’ll show you all the places where it occurs.
  • Use Google Scholar to search for academic articles, and Google Books for easily searchable texts.

What are some Google search techniques you like to use?


For more tips on writing and research, 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.

Infographic: Top 10 Trends for Back-To-School and College 2015

The summer is half over! Have you done your back-to-school shopping yet?

Top 10 trends for back-to-school and college 2015

Source: National Retail Federation


Don’t forget to order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students for the new school year!

Is There a Right Way to Drink? A Healthy Perspective on College Drinking

By Adrienne Erin

Congratulations! You’ve finished high school. Now it’s time to head off to college. Isn’t it great to feel free? No parents and no boring home life. You’ll get to make new friends and have new experiences. And best of all, you’ll get to go to parties. What’s not to love?

It’s a given that you’re probably going to drink at least once in college. Chances are you’ve heard the pep talk about alcohol multiple times already, so you know what’s coming. But the point is: Sure, you can have fun, but it’s important to remember you’re in college to learn. Part of that learning is to gain a healthy perspective on drinking.

There’s a wrong and right way to drink. Which one will you choose?

The Wrong Way to Drink

This shouldn’t really need explanation, but people still abuse alcohol every day. Those who don’t drink responsibly can exhibit reckless behavior such as:

  • pressuring others to drink
  • binge drinking
  • drinking at a very fast pace
  • messing with other people’s drinks
  • driving drunk

If you think you see someone drinking irresponsibly, do your best to stay away from them. Find some new people to hang out with, or leave the party.

The Right Way to Drink

If you’re underage, it’s obviously wrong to drink in the first place. But if you do choose to drink at a party, keep these tips in mind:

Make a plan for how you will get home.

This should be the first thing you think about when preparing for a night out. Know how you’re getting home well before the party.

There are a few ways to go about this. You can have a designated driver within your friend group. If there’s public transportation in your area, like buses or trains, use them. NEVER get into a car with anyone who has had too much to drink, and NEVER drive drunk – even if you’re just tipsy. You’ll pay for the consequences of those poor decisions for the rest of your life.

Pace yourself.

It takes a little while for the effect of alcohol to kick in. You might feel completely fine right after taking a shot, but remember that you’ll start to feel the effect a few minutes after.

Make sure to space out your drinking. Having a non-alcoholic drink in between, such as soda or water, helps keep you from going too fast. Aim to keep a one-to-one ratio with one glass of water for each glass of alcohol. For each alcohol beverage you have, drink a non-alcoholic beverage.

Keep in mind that safe, responsible drinking means no more than one drink in an hour.

For reference, one drink equals one 1.5 oz. shot of 40% alcohol, one 5 oz. glass of wine or one 12 oz. beer per hour.

Drink with people you know.

It’s a wise choice to stick with your friends while drinking. If you go alone, you could get into trouble and have no one to look out for you. Avoid drinking with people you don’t know that well or don’t trust. These people could potentially be dangerous, or they might run off somewhere else without telling you.

It’s also important to stay with friends who drink in moderation. Stay away from people who oppose not drinking as much, or encourage binge drinking.

Keep an eye on your drink too, especially if you’re with people you don’t know well. They might seem friendly, but they could sneak date rape drugs or something else dangerous into your drink.

Eat something before or during drinking.

If you drink on an empty stomach, you’ll feel the effects of alcohol quicker. You might also feel sicker. Eating before you go out will help you stay under your drinking limit.

Be sure to eat a meal rich in proteins and carbs. These help to absorb the alcohol.

Know your limits, and measures.

You are the most important person at the party! Your friends may keep a close watch over you, but you also have to take care of yourself. Part of this is knowing your limits. Listen to your body – it won’t take much to figure out how much is enough.

If it’s your first time out, drink at a steady pace to determine your alcohol tolerance. It also helps to drink with friends or people you know well so that you won’t get socially anxious and drink more than you can handle.

You can quantify your tolerance, as well. For example, it could be “three beers per night,” or “two glasses of wine in four hours.”

If you want a fun, harmless way to help you determine what an effect certain amounts of drinking could have on your body type, try this choose your own adventure game.

Know how to turn down a drink.

Drinking is supposed to be a social activity, not a place to show off how much you can stomach. There’s no need to keep up or even accept a drink in the first place.

When you don’t want to drink, decline with a polite excuse. A simple “No, thank you,” should do the trick, but if needed, you can add more. Try things like “I don’t drink,” “I have to drive home,” “I’m the designated driver,” or “I’m pacing myself.”

Choosing Not to Drink is Totally Okay

If you don’t like drinking to begin with, it doesn’t make you uncool in the slightest. You should applaud yourself for steering clear of a night that could negatively impact your health or your life. In fact, there are tons of other alternatives to a night of partying.

You can always stay in and have a fun-filled night with your friends. Watch movies, play video or board games or see what’s going on around campus. Or, check out this list.

College campuses usually have great alternatives to parties on weekends. These can include things like dances, paint parties, movies, social gatherings, speed dating or athletic intramural events.

Whichever you choose, know that there’s a right and wrong way to drink. When you go out, plan ahead of time and be alert. You’ll thank yourself after a long night of partying – and if you do things right, maybe you won’t feel so groggy the morning after, either.