Duly Noted

notes memePulling out a cellphone and taking pictures of the board is not notetaking, yet several students rely on it daily. It is safe to say that you’re probably not going to look back at pictures of 99+ slides from your anatomy class; it just means that you have less space for pictures of actual faces.

Notes are extremely important for success in any course because they determine the way you study, and the way you study determines how well you do on examinations. Taking notes doesn’t have to be a painful process. One might even dare to say that it can be fun! The only thing you must do is figure out which notetaking method works best for you and helps you retain information for a longer period of time.

Addressing the Paper vs. Laptop Issue

The tools students use to take notes have significant effects on the quality of their notes and, therefore, understanding. The preference to use laptops for notetaking is rising because laptops tend to be more convenient and comfortable. Taking notes on laptops requires no extra materials or effort. Typing is faster and correcting mistakes is much easier compared to writing. However, laptops can also hinder comprehension.

Studies conducted at Princeton University and the University of California asked a group of students to take notes by hand, while they asked another group to take notes on their laptops. The results showed that those who took notes on their laptops didn’t understand the lecture material. These students also had the tendency to type notes verbatim, which means that they weren’t processing the information at all. There are countless additional studies done on laptop use in the classroom that illustrate how detrimental it is to the learning environment. This, however, does not mean there is no efficient way to take notes on your laptop, it just means you must be extra cautious, disciplined, and attentive.

Bullet Points

Taking notes in bullet points is essentially outlining. In this method of notetaking, the student is narrowing down a broad idea into small and concise main points. This is one of the best ways to digest large amounts of information due to the level of engagement required. However, it is hard to be detailed or in-depth when using the bullet point method. In this case, students can incorporate other notetaking methods along with bullet points to aid their level of understanding.

Diagrams 

This notetaking method can be extremely useful for every type of learner but especially visual learners. Diagrams create a roadmap for the brain through which it can process various kinds of information. Because of this, the brain doesn’t have to work extremely hard to recall or retain information. Neural pathways established by the mapping process allow for long-term data storage. The diagram method is especially helpful due to its ability to highlight relationships between ideas and concepts.

Color Coding

Color coding puts ideas into different categories—a thought process that already comes naturally to the brain. It is much easier to digest information that is organized into categories because it’s clear to see how they relate and differ from one another. Color coding also gives students the freedom to continue to build upon their categories or create new ones as they see fit. This not only encourages structural and critical thinking but a deeper understanding of the subject as well.

In conclusion, notetaking is obviously not limited to the categories listed above, there are a variety of other ways to take notes. However, the most important thing is that you understand which style suits you best and improves your unique combination of learning styles. If your notetaking method fails to give you a greater understanding of how you learn, it is time to re-evaluate the way you take notes.

Ong, Thuy. “Evidence Mounts That Laptops Are Terrible for Students at Lectures.” The Verge, The Verge, 27 Nov. 2017, http://www.theverge.com/2017/11/27/16703904/laptop-learning-lecture.

Written by Kenean

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Notes are extremely important for success in any course because they determine the way you study, and the way you study determines how well you do on examinations. Taking notes doesn’t have to be a painful process. One might even dare to say that it can be fun! The only thing you must do is figure out which notetaking method works best for you and helps you retain information for a longer period of time.

Addressing the Paper vs. Laptop Issue

The tools students use to take notes have significant effects on the quality of their notes and, therefore, understanding. Preference of laptops for notetaking is rising because they tend to be more convenient and comfortable. Taking notes on laptops requires no extra materials or effort. Typing is faster and correcting mistakes is much easier compared to writing. However, laptops can also hinder comprehension.

Studies done at Princeton University and the University of California asked a group of students to take notes by hand, while they asked another group to take notes on their laptops. The result showed that those who took notes on their laptops didn’t understand the lecture material. They also had the tendency to type notes verbatim, which means that they weren’t processing the information at all (. There are countless additional studies done on laptop use in the classroom that illustrate how detrimental it is to the learning environment. This, however, does not mean there is no efficient way to take notes on your laptop, it just means you must be extra cautious, disciplined, and attentive.

Bullet Points

Taking notes in bullet points is essentially outlining. In this method of notetaking, the student is narrowing down a broad idea into small and concise main points. This is one of the best ways to digest large amounts of information due to the level of engagement required. However, it is hard to be detailed or in-depth when using the bullet point method. In this case, students can incorporate other notetaking methods along with bullet points to aid their level of understanding.

Diagrams 

This notetaking method can be extremely useful for every type of learner, especially visual learners. Diagrams create a roadmap for the brain through which it can process various kinds of information. Because of this, the brain doesn’t have to work extremely hard to recall or retain information. Neural pathways established by the mapping process allows for long-term data storage. The diagram method is especially helpful due to its ability to highlight relationships between ideas and concepts.

Color Coding

Color coding puts ideas into different categories—a thought process that already comes naturally to the brain. It is much easier to digest information that is organized into categories because it’s clear to see how they relate and differ from one another. Color coding also gives students the freedom to continue to build upon their categories or create new ones as they see fit. This not only encourages structural and critical thinking, but a deeper understanding of the subject as well.

Conclusion

Notetaking is obviously not limited to the categories listed above, there are a variety of other ways to take notes. However, the most important thing is that you understand which style suits you best and improves your unique combination of learning styles. If your notetaking method fails to give you a greater understanding of how you learn, it is time to re-evaluate the way you take notes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work Cited

Ong, Thuy. “Evidence Mounts That Laptops Are Terrible for Students at Lectures.” The Verge, The Verge, 27 Nov. 2017, http://www.theverge.com/2017/11/27/16703904/laptop-learning-lecture.

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The Importance of Preliminary Outlining

I am a college student, and as a college student, I’m given the responsibility of writing dozens of papers per semester before being given a pretty piece of paper after four years that says, “You did it; good luck now lol.” Seeing as some of these papers have been assigned at fairly inconvenient times, many nights I have found myself hopelessly hurling words at a Google Doc in an attempt to piece together something resembling an essay, praying that a coherent idea might stick to the page. Of course, any time someone suggests that I do some outlining before writing my full paper, I exclaim, “I don’t have time for that!” as I continue drop-kicking my laptop in frustration. Perhaps you can relate.

Yes, writing an outline can sometimes feel like doing an extra, unnecessary assignment when you are already stressed out. But forming a preliminary outline before jumping into the essay can keep your thoughts structured and save an incredible amount of time, especially if you often find yourself desperately staring at a blank document thinking, “Maybe if I believe hard enough, the paper will write itself.”

So, what is a preliminary outline? A preliminary outline is a rough set of ideas that will eventually turn into a thesis statement and the branching concepts surrounding the thesis. After narrowing down a topic and finding reliable sources, preliminary outlining is a crucial step in organizing all the information you’ve found and determining what is relevant to your paper and what is not. This will be particularly useful when it comes time to analyze and organize your sources alongside your main arguments and commentary.

So how should you organize and structure your outline? Well, since the outline is preliminary (meaning in preparation for something larger), there isn’t a tried and true way to form it. However, I would recommend trying to stick with the same structure as most papers: an overarching idea at the top and minor ideas below it. Keep in mind what your thesis might be and what branching elements can come from it. Also, reference your sources, and start thinking about how and where in the paper you might want to utilize them. There will be a lot of moving pieces in this stage, so be flexible and understand that your ideas may change as you gather more information from your sources.

Okay, before you start hyperventilating about making the perfectly constructed outline, breathe. All of these steps are for your benefit, and they are meant to help you. If your outline helps keep your information organized and your ideas together, then you have made a good outline. So the next time you find yourself with a blank Word document at two in the morning and your stress makes you want to take a chainsaw to your laptop, consider starting with an outline before tackling the big assignment.

Written by Ryan

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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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