Tutor profile: Sara D.
I have to write an argument about a controversial topic, but I can't think of one that I care about.
This is a common problem. It is nice to be able to write about something you're passionate about, but sometimes that just isn't available to us. When I find myself in this situation, I try instead to find a topic that is interesting to me. You can google "controversial topics" to browse through some topics. Look for something that piques your interest. Something that you have heard of, but don't know much about might be the best fit, because though you might not be passionate in it yet, researching to find out more could help your interest grow. Do some preliminary reading to see if you think you might be on one side or the other. You don't have to be a firm believer in a cause to be able to write this type of paper. It will build your writing skills either way, which is probably a reason your professor assigned it. Give yourself a day or two to decide if you can. If you still feel like you cannot choose a side, look at the information. Is more information available about one side versus the other? Do you understand one side more easily than the other? If you are still on the fence, you can just pick one. Just because you're writing a paper that makes a particular argument, doesn't mean that you have to agree. It just means that you have taken a stance and can present the evidence to support that claim.
Subject: Study Skills
I have a big test on Chapter 3 next week. The chapter is 50 pages long. I didn't understand anything the instructor said about it. I am overwhelmed. What should I do?
The good news is that you have a defined subject matter. Making a study plan will be helpful so that you can spend the next week in the most efficient, effective way. Figure out how much time you can devote to studying on each day. Be realistic, consider how important this test is, how long you can really focus at a time, and what your other obligations are. Spend your first session looking over the content. Look for subheadings, smaller topics, or another way to break the bigger 50 pages into smaller pieces. If it's difficult to find an obvious way to break things down, use page numbers. Do not create too many subtopics, you want to devise a manageable to do list. Aim for 5-10. As you make your plan, try to match the pieces that are a priority to places where you have more time in your schedule. Is there an introduction or summary that could help you determine what is most important? Are there pieces that you already feel confident about or things that feel way out of reach? Your study plan should account for when you will study over the next week and what topic you cover. Covering one smaller topic at a time will feel less overwhelming. If working with a subject tutor, meeting with your professor, or studying with a classmate would be helpful, schedule those interactions into your plan as well.
Subject: Library and Information Science
I am working on a research project that requires me to use 5 scholarly, peer-reviewed sources. How can I get started?
A source is any outside work or research that you use to support the points you make in your writing. Your instructor has been helpfully specific, so we already know something about what kind of source to look for. Your project requires "scholarly" sources which I think of as being written for scholars (like you!) and written by professionals in the field. We are looking for things that will be academic versus casual or for entertainment. "Peer-reviewed" sources are a subset of scholarly resources, that are usually considered to be of the highest quality. Actual peers of the author of the article, who are also experts in the field, have read, reviewed, and worked with the author until everyone is satisfied with the work before it is published. These kinds of articles are often most easily available through library databases that might be provided to you through your school. There are also open educational resources that everyone can access. Your first step will be to figure out what you have access to. Your instructor may have recommended where you look, you can look at your school's library website, or you can use open educational resources online. The next step will be to determine exactly what your topic is so that you can start looking in the most appropriate place. We wouldn't waste our time looking for groceries in a clothing store, so we won't waste time looking in a database or publication that won't provide us with information on your topic. The better idea you have about what your topic is, the easier it will be to find corresponding sources. Once you have chosen the most appropriate place to look first, and your specific topic, you can start searching. Your searches will be most efficient in this case, if you select any available options for scholarly and peer reviewed articles.
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