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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Letter from a Semicolon

Dear Students,

Salutations. My name is Sam Ike Olan, but my closest companions refer to me as “Sam the Semicolon.” I am writing this letter because my relevance in writing appears to be rather confusing to some of you. Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence, and, as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers. Some writers may even misuse me, believing that I serve a similar purpose to that of Connie the Comma. Today, I hope to provide some clarification on my significance and show you how to properly utilize me in order to add some semicolon spice to your papers.

First and foremost, if you forget everything I say in this letter, remember this: I unite independent thoughts. This may seem vague and confusing at the moment, but just keep that sentiment in the back of your mind as we walk through this letter.

My main purpose in writing is to function as a bridge between coherent ideas (or independent clauses) that could otherwise stand alone as complete sentences. To show you what I mean, let’s look at a sentence from earlier in this letter:

Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence, and, as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers.

You may have noticed that Connie the Comma is shouldering quite a heavy load in the middle of this sentence. Let’s try to alleviate her workload. Looking at this sentence, you’ll see that there are two ideas being expressed here that could stand as their own sentences. Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence. As a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers. Instead of Connie the Comma having to be used repeatedly, I could function as a bridge between these two thoughts and keep them together as one sentence.

Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence; as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers.

Notice how my presence hasn’t changed the meaning of these sentences all that much. As I stated earlier, I merely connect two coherent ideas and make them one whole sentence.

Another thing to note regarding my use is that I generally connect two independent thoughts that build off of one another or are closely related. Technically speaking, you could use me to unite two ideas that aren’t correlated, but it is recommended to make sure the two thoughts have some relation to one another. Let’s look back at our example:

Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence; as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers.

Not only do both of these independent ideas discuss my usage, but the second thought builds upon the original thought. The first thought is based around the lack of knowledge regarding me, while the second thought lays out the effect such uncertainty can have. This is exactly what I meant when I stated that I unite independent thoughts. My usage has connected these two related concepts and allowed the overall idea to flow much better (not to toot my own horn here).

A common misconception people have about my usage is that Connie the Comma and I are interchangeable. Although we may look similar in certain aspects, we most definitely are not indistinguishable. Let’s take one final look at our example sentence:

Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence; as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers.

Some individuals who are unfamiliar with me may think that it is appropriate to simply place Connie the Comma where I am in this example sentence. The truth is Connie the Comma is not strong enough to connect these two independent thoughts by herself. She would need a conjunction, or one of the FANBOYS[1], to help carry the two ideas. However, I can carry these thoughts with no additional help.

I shall end this letter with the sentiment I expressed near the beginning of this letter: I unite independent thoughts. If nothing else in this letter made sense to you, just remember that I am used to connect two ideas that could otherwise stand on their own.

I hope this letter gave some clarification on my usage and that you will continue to utilize me properly in your writing going forward.

Sincerely,

Sam “The Semicolon” Ike Olan

[1] This acronym describes the seven coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

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

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Mind Crumbs

Perhaps the most basic definition of a metaphor is a figure of speech that equates two things for the sake of comparison and symbolism. It is a unique tool that helps people describe their feelings and emotions toward a certain person or thing as accurately as possible.

I loved reading and writing poetry growing up, and metaphors were one of my absolute favorite devices. Metaphors are splashes of color that beautify and give life to the words on the page. They cover the nakedness of dull expression with the elegant texture of a silky garment. See what I did there? Metaphors open doors to endless possibilities and invite the creators to explore their imagination freely.

I not only enjoy but have delight in creative writing through metaphors because it allows me to express my thoughts and ideas so clearly and precisely. Here are some of my absolute favorite ones:

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Pablo Picasso

Picasso is an incredible artist who needs no introduction, and I love this metaphor because it tells us that art offers new and exciting experiences and helps us get through the darker moments of our lives.

“All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.”

Khalil Gibran

This metaphor reminds me of another metaphor that illustrates the depth of the mind according to Sigmund Freud, who made the distinction between the conscious and unconscious mind. This idea is illustrated by an iceberg. The top (a small surface of ice) is the conscious mind while the bottom (a vast surface of ice under water) is the unconscious mind, also known as the subconscious mind. There is so much that we do not say, yet those thoughts affect our actions and feelings every single day, it is a rather scary thought.

“A good conscience is a continual Christmas.”

Benjamin Franklin

I love this one because it is such a cheerful yet chastening metaphor. When I do not have a lot on my mind or have rectified all my wrongs, I am a happier and a more colorful person—just like Christmas! In other words, the metaphor is telling us, “whatever you have not made right, do so if you want to be happy.”

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst.”

John 6:35

The Bible itself is essentially a poem. There are countless, beautiful examples of metaphors, especially in the Wisdom Books (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job). However, I found this metaphor to be one of the most beautiful. Though Jesus compares himself to bread and water, it is clear to see that He is much more than that. Bread makes us full and water quenches our thirst, but we get thirsty and hungry yet again. Jesus, on the other hand, offers nourishment that lasts forever because it is for the soul.

I might not be as brilliant as Picasso or as elegant as Franklin, but I have found that using metaphors to express myself has led to the exploration and discovery of a new writer in myself. It has allowed me to learn from others and develop my own style. It has been a heavenly journey!

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

 

Letter from a Quotation Mark

Dear Students,

My name is Quinn, and I would like to take a moment to share a little bit about myself. The first thing you should know about me is that I am a twin. My sister, who is only a few minutes younger than me and always follows behind me where ever we go, is named Qiana. Together, we are quotation marks, me being the opening quote and Qiana being the closing quote. We are completely inseparable!

Qiana and I are both suckers for a quality quote, and you can always find us hanging around them. In fact, we get quite frustrated when someone quotes without inviting us to join the party. Our favorite kind of quotes are ones where three or more words are copied directly from either a primary or secondary source. If a quote is paraphrased, Qiana and I don’t bother showing up. With all this in mind, if you can remember just a few simple things about us, we should be able to get along just fine.

Firstly, whenever Qiana and I go to a quoting party, we usually invite our friends, Connie Comma and Petunia Period. Now, Connie, she’s not always the biggest fan of quotes, so I take it upon myself to stand between her and the quoted words. On the other hand, Petunia loves a good quote, and Qiana is nice enough to let her stand next to the quoted words. When we’re at a quoting party, we stand like this:

According to Collins Dictionary, “quotation marks are punctuation marks that are used in writing to show where speech or a quotation begins and ends.”

Sometimes Connie Comma and Petunia Period are in different positions. For example, Connie isn’t always free to join us at the party. Also, Petunia has a close friend named Cynthia Citation, and when she joins the party, Petunia prefers to stand behind her. When this happens, we stand like this:

The Visual Communication Guy reminds all his readers that Quoting doesn’t mean summarizing or paraphrasing; it means repeating exactly what someone said (par. 2).

Another reason that Petunia Period might not stand right next to the last word of the quote is when the author’s thoughts continue on after the quoted words. Here is an example of how we stand in this instance:

Quotation marks are used to enclose article titles or parts of a document but not larger works, such as an entire novel or encyclopedia.

Something else you should know about me and Qiana is that we are huggers! Whether we’re hugging the first letter of the quote or the ending punctuation, we’ve got to be hugging someone. We wouldn’t be caught dead at a quoting party standing like this:

The grammar website, English Sentences, states that   We use quotation marks for all kinds of things in writing and literature, like sharing quotations, adding emphasis, expressing dialogue, and identifying titles. 

Oh! I completely forgot to tell you that twins run in our family. Qiana and I have two baby brothers who are also twins named Quashawn and Quentin. They are a little bit smaller than we are but no less important. They accompany us to our quoting parties when we know that there’s going to be a quote inside a quote. At these kinds of quoting parties, we stand like this:

Matthew 4:19 states, And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (English Standard Version).

The last thing you need to know about me and my sister is that we sometimes get intimidated by long quotes. For example, in certain writing formats, block quotes are used for longer quotations. Block quotes are set apart from the author’s text and sometimes formatted differently. This is a lot of information, but the most important thing to remember is that Qiana and I never go to block quoting parties; they’re just not our thing!

Well, I hope that this letter has helped you to get a better idea of how to more effectively invite me, my siblings, and my friends to your quoting parties. Just remember, the most important rule is that you always invite us!

Sincerely,

Quinn Quotation Mark

Who’s who?

Quinn – opening quotation

Qiana – closing quotation

Quashawn – opening apostrophe quotation

Quentin – closing apostrophe quotation

Connie – comma

Petunia – period

Cynthia – citation

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

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Letter from a Hyphen

Dear Students,

Oh, hey! Can’t you see me here? What? You don’t remember me? Well, I am your old friend, Haleigh the Hyphen, the thin dash periodically used in writing. Although I might seem elusive at first, I really am a helpful punctuation mark.

For example, if you are writing compound numbers or fractions in your academic paper, then I am a crucial element to your sentence. Let’s say that you are writing the number 23 ¼ in your essay. In some formats, you would write it like twenty-three and one-fourth. Likewise, I am needed when connecting a series of numbers or dates. My function is not only helpful in academic writing, but it is also useful in the works cited portion of your paper. If you are citing numerous pages, you would squeeze me between the beginning page number and the ending page number. Perhaps you started reading on page forty-five and finished on page fifty. In this instance, you would simply use me like this: 45-50.

In order to clarify your writing, you should use me to distinctively distinguish between two words with the same spelling that have different meanings. As an illustration, the word “recover” means to find; however, re-cover means to repair. Although this might not seem like a big deal at first, I can guarantee you that I make a big difference when talking about your shiny, new Camero. By adding me, you will be able to distinguish between the two words and create clarity in your essay. You might also avoid panicking about the fancy things in your life.

Also, I can connect a prefix to a number, a capital letter, or a word that begins with the same letter the prefix ends with. For example, say there was a pro-American patriot who decided to re-evaluate his stance on the post-1920s view of women. In this instance, I am used in different ways in order to ensure that the rules are met. Without me, there would be some confusing and cluttered sentences. I am also an essential part of forming compound adjectives, joining invented words or long phrases used as adjectives, and connecting suspended compounds. Look at this goofy story to see what I mean: my friend is a well-known actress with a holier-than-thou attitude. She wanted a one- or two-year lease on an apartment in Hollywood; however, tragically, her ex-husband left her and took all of the money. Does that show you how important I can be in a sentence?

Lastly, I am used when words are divided at the end of a line. Although this is typically when you are hand-writing, it is still a vital part of my role as a punctuation mark. For example, if I decided to write an organized and correctly punctuated letter to my friend, then I would make sure that all of these rules are followed. I hope after reading this blog, you remember me and are no longer afraid of me. I cannot wait to show up in your writing!

Sincerely,

Haleigh the Hyphen

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

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Letter from a Comma

Dear Students,

Some of you might have noticed that I am a rather complicated punctuation mark. There are some hard fast rules for my use but some other times using me may seem completely random. You’ve heard terms like “phrase” (a group of words that does not contain both a subject and a verb) and “clause” (a group of words that contain both a subject and a verb, but not necessarily a complete thought). You’ve probably also learned to use me in some situations but not others. Yeah, commas are complicated. But Connie Comma is here to help! Let me see if I can clarify some of my convoluted rules. (By the way, did you see the places I was missing in this paragraph?)

Sadly, I’m not a very strong punctuation mark. I’m flattered that many of you think that I’m strong enough to hold together two complete sentences, but I can only make so many trips to the gym. Check out this sentence: The dog barked at the mailman, but the mailman did not pay attention. See how I’m used? My close buddies, the conjunctions for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so, have to help me hold these big sentences together. Some of you make the opposite mistake and flatter the conjunctions in these situations, forgetting all about me! Always remember that both of us are needed to connect compound sentences.

Oh! I have also seen many of you excluding me from lists in one way or another. I must follow every word in a list, except the last word. For example, when I go to the store, I buy bread, ham, and cheese. When I cook soup, I add chicken, noodles, and salt to the broth. Do you see where I stand in these two lists? Some of you make lists like this: trees, bushes, and leaves. That is a list of only two things: Trees then bushes and leaves. In that situation, bushes and leaves are one item in the list because I was not included after bushes. When I separate the second-to-last and last items in a list, I am called an Oxford Comma, and I am always used in academic writing.

When you connect a dependent clause to an independent clause, you need to include me at the end of the dependent clause, such as is done at the beginning of this sentence. When I am not included the sentence just keeps going on and on and the meaning of the sentence becomes confusing (just as this sentence does because I wasn’t placed after the word “included”).  Also, with phrases that begin sentences, I am needed, just as this sentence demonstrates. In other words, every time an introductory phrase or clause is used, I should follow it!

Here are some nerdy terms for ya: appositive phrases, restrictive and non-restrictive modifiers, expressions of contrast, and direct address. All of these are situations in which I am needed. Those first two, appositives and modifiers, are basically glorified adjectives. For example, Connie (aka lil ol’ me), who is a comma, is going to help you understand when to use commas in these situations. In that sentence, the phrase “who is a comma” is a non-restrictive modifier; in other words, the sentence would have made sense without it. In these situations, my necessity can be determined by how essential that part of the sentence is to the rest of the sentence. If that sentence would not have made sense without the “who is a comma,” then I would not have been needed. For example, the teacher who has the mohawk gave me an A. In this sentence, if “who has the mohawk” was not included, it would be unclear who I was talking about. Therefore, I am not needed.

In expressions of contrast, however, I am always needed (just as with the “however” in this sentence). If a part of the sentence communicates what something is not, I should be there. Ants, although small in stature, are exceptionally strong. The “although” phrase does not communicate the same idea as the rest of the sentence; rather, it gives a side piece of information.

Someone once said, “All great things must come to an end.” This letter, I am afraid, must conclude soon. Just a couple more tips, and we will be finished. When direct quotes are used, I am needed with phrases that come before or after the quotes, such as the case in the first sentence of this paragraph. “There are too many comma rules,” exclaimed the harried English student. And don’t forget, if the phrase comes after the quote, the comma always goes inside the quotation marks (as seen in the example above).

States and dates: that’s the last thing we have to talk about. When incorporating cities and states into sentences, remember that I always follow the cities and states, unless the state ends the sentence. Check out this example: I went on a road trip from Dallas, Texas, to Ouachita, Arkansas. Notice a comma follows Texas, but not Arkansas because of its location in the sentence.

A similar rule applies to dates: commas always follow the day and the year, unless the year ends the sentence. For example, the car was bought on January 31st, 2010, and tuned up January 1st, 2013. Notice the comma after 2010, but not after 2013.

I hope you now better understand how to incorporate me into your academic and personal writing. I know I’m complicated and convoluted, but I make your writing so much clearer! If you have any questions or need clarification, just visit the DBU Writing Center. There are qualified, certified consultants there that know all about me!

Written by Michelle

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