Tutor profile: James B.
How do I develop a good thesis?
By far the most important thing you need to learn about researching at the academic or any level is to BE SPECIFIC. The more specific and focused you can be about your research goals and intent the easier it will be for you to write a really good paper. This generally means making sure that your thesis statement is narrow enough to actually be beneficial. For instance, in intro composition courses you'll probably be asked to write an argumentative essay, and they will probably ask you to stay off of "hot button topics" like abortion or gun laws. Generally, more than any political motivation, these topics are considered off-limits because they're too broad. Thousands on thousands of researchers in many different fields have conducted research on all the various facets of abortion; one six page college essay cannot cover all that. What COULD a six page college essay cover? How about something more like, "psychological effects on women post-abortion"? In this, rather than trying to summarize decades of research into all the many benefits and detriments of abortion down into six pages, we're talking about something much more focused. We're not talking about society at large, we're talking only about the women who have undergone an abortion; we're not talking about ALL the effects of abortion (economical, societal, etc.) we're ONLY talking about the psychological effects. Narrowing down your focus in this way will make your essay more pointed in its analysis, not to mention make it much easier to do research on.
Subject: Library and Information Science
How do I make sure the research I'm collecting is good?
Libraries nowadays, especially through their online catalogs, are connected to EVERYTHING. All manner of research is accessible through libraries now, which means there's also some research accessible that's not actually good to use. The tried and true method of making sure you're getting good research is to use sources that are listed as peer reviewed. If a source is peer reviewed, it means that other researchers in that field have reviewed the research and considered it up to par. Generally you can search for online peer reviewed articles by opening up the advanced search options in whatever library catalog you're looking through. Another good way would be to see how many times the article has been cited by other researchers. There are a lot of ways to find this information. Sometimes, if you make your way directly to the journal website, you can get it directly from there, like with JSTOR (if you have the article up there should be a button somewhere reading "Items Citing this Item"). If it's not one the cite itself, find the article's DOI number and look it up on Google Scholar. There will be a little button below the article that reads, "Cited by" and then give a number. Keep the date of the article in mind when doing this: if the publication date is fairly recent, it would make sense for it not to have been cited so much. If it's been out for awhile and has been cited a lot? That's probably a great article to use! If it's been out for awhile but hasn't been cited very much? Maybe look for something else. Also! If you find an article you like, look through the materials THAT article has cited in the works cited at the end of the article! This can be a great way to find more relevant research!
How do I use commas correctly? What exactly are they for?
In English there are many, many ways to break up a sentence. To put it simply, the purpose of any punctuation is to make your sentences more clear. They are there to put in logical separations to things so that we understand how all the subjects relate to all the objects and verbs. Though there are some rules about how to use each of these, remember this: in the end, it's all about clarity. So, the humble comma. Commas are great, casual separators in sentences. You can usually replace any of the fancier punctuation (semi-colons, colons, em dashes) with a comma and get by alright. Of course, most people know that we use commas to separate things in a list, like when you're say something like, "I'm going to the grocery store to pick up some apples, blueberries, and cherries." The other thing commas are for is to separate "clauses" of a sentence. There are essentially two types of clauses, independent and dependent, and commas can be used to separate any combination of them. Independent clauses read like a full sentences, they normally have their subject, object, and verb in there. A dependent clause is a part of a sentence that can't stand on its own. If an independent clause appears at the beginning of the sentence, you put a comma after it, like in the sentence, "When we get to the house, let's look for ghosts." See how "let's look for ghosts," could stand on its own as a sentence, so that's the independent clause. It can appear at the end of the sentence, like, "The house is haunted, which makes it prime real estate." It can also appear in the middle of the sentence, like, "Let's go, when the sun sets, to the haunted house." Clauses can be difficult to spot sometimes, but there are some easier indicators for when you should use a comma. For instance: coordinating conjunctions. It's a fancy phrase that really just means, "sticking two equal parts of a sentence together." There's only seven of these, and we have an acronym for them: FANBOYS. That's, "for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so." If you see one of these buggers in the middle of a sentence, there should probably be a comma before it. More difficult is subordinating conjunctions, of which there are many. These connect two parts of a sentence that aren't equal, so like an independent and a dependent clause. These go opposite of coordinating conjunctions: if you see SUBordinating conjunctions in the middle of a sentence, no comma. However, if you see them at the start? That's gonna need a comma. Common subordinating conjunctions: however, while, which, after, although, before, if, since, until, unless. (You've probably also noticed that we use commas to format quotations. A comma will go at before the starting quotation mark, and if you have more sentence AFTER the quote, then you put another comma BEFORE the final quotation mark. But I digress...) Alright, so, I know this all looks really wild and difficult, but remember what I said at the beginning: punctuation is for CLARITY. More important than any of these grammar "rules", which are frequently broken in English, you want to use punctuation to make sure people can understand you. If you do that, you're gonna be fine.
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