The Scavenger Hunt

Imagine this: you are in a dark room feeling each object around you to gather some understanding of where you are. If anybody could see you right now, they would instantly be reminded of Velma from Scooby-Doo frantically searching the ground to find her glasses. As time goes on, you finally give up and let the darkness consume you. This grim illustration accurately depicts what searching for applicable and reliable sources feels like. Oftentimes, you feel like you are continually searching for one article that sheds light on your topic and opens a whole new world of writing opportunities. In the midst of the chaos and panic, it is easy to give in and use irrelevant and unreliable sources. However, I am here to help you fight the darkness and find the best sources for your paper.

Because technology is such a prominent tool in our lives today, we should probably start with sources on the internet. In high school, my teachers stressed the importance of gathering information from credible websites. What makes a site credible? Typically, if the source’s URL ends with .gov, .edu, or .org, then the information is probably trustworthy. Because .gov websites contain information published by governmental entities, these websites are credible. Likewise, .edu sites are published and sponsored by universities; therefore, the information should usually be accurate. However, the .org websites are a bit different. Generally, these sites should contain accurate information, but each is published by a specific organization leaving more room for error and bias.

Now, you might be asking yourself about .com websites because they are the most common. If you want to use a source that ends with .com, then you should do more digging and researching on that website and article. By looking up the author, you will be able to see his or her credentials. If the person is simply a writer with no expertise or knowledge in the subject of the article, then you should probably find another source. Then, look at the website. Does it seem to be a blog or a chatroom? Are there any misspellings within the website? Does the author seem biased towards his or her own beliefs? Are there any other red flags that you notice in your investigation? If any of your answers are yes, then it might be best to search for other sources.

What if your professor requires a certain number of scholarly articles?  No need to fear! If you go to Dallas Baptist University (DBU), then you attend an amazing university that offers great resources for its students. To find scholarly articles, go to the website and click on the library tab, where you will find numerous scholarly databases. If you do not go to DBU, then you should check with your school’s library about scholarly sources. Perhaps, they have a system like ours and can help you navigate through it.

Depending on your topic, particular databases might be more beneficial to you. For example, some are specifically designed for business courses; others are for psychology courses, while still others target various disciplines. If you want to strengthen your paper, then finding information within these databases will be the way to do it. Since they can be a bit challenging, the library has a research desk where there are professional individuals who can help you navigate through the darkness.

Before I end my informative discussion about finding trustworthy sources online, I must make a point about the infamous Wikipedia. Although this website can be helpful in the brainstorming stage of the writing process, you should never use it in the actual research paper. Because anybody can edit Wikipedia, the information might not be credible or true; therefore, you do not want to use it to back up the claim in an academic research paper. You can use it to generate some ideas about the path of your research but find some more scholarly sources like the ones discussed above to cite in the paper.

After reading this article, I hope you no longer have to stumble in the darkness. Instead, you should be able to confidently find your way to the brightest light to help you on your journey. You will no longer settle for unreliable or irrelevant sources due to your fear of the darkness. You will be able to navigate the world-wide web to find the sources that fit perfectly into your paper and strengthen your points. Now, the scavenger hunt begins.

Written by Trisha

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The Freedom to Choose

Tap, tap, tap, tap. The repetitive rapping of my pencil against the desk broke the deafening silence in Mrs. Brantley’s English class as my peers and I anxiously awaited the starting bell. If the rumors were true, today Mrs. Brantley would assign the dreaded fifth-grade-signature assignment, our first research paper. Although she prepared us well, tension permeated the room as we worried about undertaking such a strenuous task. Once class began, Mrs. Brantley detailed the requirements of our paper; when she stated the most “exciting” part of the assignment, I slumped down in my seat, already defeated. How would I ever decide on a topic interesting enough to merit writing a five-page paper! Perhaps some of my classmates appreciated the free reign our teacher gave students regarding the subject of the paper; however, her “generosity” only increased my anxiety.

Looking back to my middle school years, I realize that freedom of topic choice is a tremendous blessing. Most college students are chained to specific prompts and are often unable to complete assignments that coincide with their interests. If you are given the opportunity to choose your own topic, here are a few tips that will help you through those indecisive moments!

When you’re first looking for a topic, try browsing through the table of contents of different textbooks, encyclopedias, biographical dictionaries, and even consider consulting the good old internet in order to find general ideas for potential research topics. This early research will help you to determine whether there are enough available materials to develop a paper.

When you decide on a general idea, you can begin brainstorming. Brainstorming consists of free writing, making lists, and drawing clusters of ideas to narrow down a specific topic.

The following are four steps the Writing Center suggests to help narrow down a topic:

  1. Ask questions to determine the nature of the assignment. These questions will help you create a specific question that addresses a specific aspect of the topic.  Is this a research process essay that shows a step-by-step description? Is this a critical paper that arrives at some judgment or conclusion? Is this a narrative or descriptive paper of some aspects of the topic? Is this an argumentative paper that argues for or against a particular idea in the topic?
  2. Write down the topic and all the categories or major issues, then study areas that are part of the topic.
  3. Choose one major category and see if it has any more specific issues that can be addressed in a research paper.
  4. Create a question that will allow the writing of a process, description, argument, narration, or critical analysis of the topic using all the ideas from the sources discovered during the research process.

Overall, make sure to choose a topic that piques your interest. Trust me, humans are naturally compelled to learn more about things that interest them and therefore you will be much more likely to research something you are passionate about. Although professors rarely provide completely open prompts, most give students the freedom to research topics of interest within a specific subject. For example, if your professor assigned an essay about child development and you were particularly interested in linguistics, you could choose to write a paper about language development in children.

Though research papers seem to have developed a negative stigma, the right topic can transform the assignment into something interesting, valuable, and rewarding. Follow these tips and suggestions and you may be surprised by what you find.

Written by Leah (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!!)

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Happy Independence Day!

As the days of summer seem to get hotter and longer, I can’t help but feel excited when the 4th of July comes around. With fireworks, hot dogs, pool parties, and all the fun-in-the-sun you can imagine, it feels like the climax of summer. It’s the time when even banks are closed, families gather around the barbeque, and everyone seems to wind down with a glass of ice-cold lemonade. July 4th is a special holiday beloved by every American.

Most of us know July 4th, 1776 as the day America declared her independence from Britain. With that said, here are a few fun facts you might not know about one of America’s favorite days of the year.

  • To start, July 4th wasn’t deemed a federal holiday until 1870–about 100 years after America declared independence.
  • Americans consume about 155 million hot dogs on the 4th of July, and we spend about $167.5 million on watermelon.
  • Calvin Coolidge, America’s 30th president, was actually born on July 4th. Imagine sharing your birthday with your country!
  • America’s tradition of fireworks can be traced back to our first Independence Day in 1777 when we fired 13 cannons to represent the 13 colonies.
  • Last, but certainly not least, the Declaration of Independence was formally declared on July 2nd, which was the day John Adams believed to be “the most memorable epoch in the history of America.” Turns out, he was a couple of days off, but was nonetheless accurate in the day’s description! July 4th was the date that Congress approved the final text of the Declaration of Independence.

All fun facts aside, it is important for us to always remember those who fought before us. Our freedom to celebrate the 4th isn’t entirely free but is constantly paid for by our faithful, hard-working military. This 4th of July (or 2nd—whichever you choose), take a moment to shake a soldier’s hand and say thank you or whisper a prayer for those in the line of duty. It is because of them we get to enjoy our beloved holiday, and thanks to them, we are able to call America home.

Written by Camille (NEW: Click on author’s name for more information about him or her!)

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