Tutor profile: Laureen C.
My teacher keeps taking points off for not using the Oxford comma. What's the big deal?
While not everyone believes in the Oxford comma (as you'll see when you read different types of materials in different subject areas), the Oxford comma is a useful one -- particularly when it comes to establishing clarity for your reader. For example (and yes, this is meant to be funny): >> For breakfast, I had eggs, toast, and orange juice. <-- your reader can clearly see that what you had 3 items for breakfast: eggs, toast, orange juice >> For breakfast, I had eggs, toast and orange juice. <-- without the comma, in theory, "toast and orange juice" could be one entity; you could say "For breakfast I had eggs, mom and dad." and be talking to your parents (or to "toast and orange juice"). (This image helps explain this more visually: https://img.buzzfeed.com/buzzfeed-static/static/2014-01/enhanced/webdr02/15/13/enhanced-buzz-19782-1389811855-0.jpg?downsize=700:*&output-format=auto&output-quality=auto) It can also confuse the subject: >> I was playing with the puppies, Kit Harrington and Shakira. <-- this means the puppies you've referred to are named "Kit Harrington" and "Shakira" >> I was playing with the puppies, Kit Harrington, and Shakira. <-- this version, with the Oxford comma, means that you played with puppies, also Kit Harrington, and Shakira too.
Subject: Library and Information Science
Can you help me decide on a research topic? I hate this part!
Choosing a research topic *is* a challenge -- in fact, even at the college level, most (over 75%) students find that getting started with research is the part they struggle with the most. I think part of that is the anxiety over choosing a topic--and many instructors want topics before any research has been done, which can add to your stress if you find you have trouble with your topic later in the project. But it doesn't have to be this way and I know one GREAT strategy you can try that may help you to have a better research project experience right out of the gate! It's "Pre-Research." This is where you do some research to help prepare you for research! > This can help you get a sense of the dimensions of your topic (is yours too narrow/focused? or too broad/unfocused?). If it's too narrow, you'll have trouble finding enough to tackle your assignment; if it's too broad, you'll have trouble staying on a path, transitioning in your writing, and likely feel overwhelmed throughout the assignment. > Pre-research can also help you understand the nuances, or branches, of your topic -- sure, the Civil War and Slavery is a great starting point, but do you want to focus on slaves who fought in the War, or the role of commerce, or the impact freeing slaves had on society in the South, or how Abraham Lincoln developed his perspectives on slavery, or... or... or... so many choices! These branches help you see where you might go -- and they may even show you where your curiosity sparks! > Another thing pre-research can help with is building your vocabulary. This element of exploration should help you see important terms, people, and ideas/theories/etc., for your topic of interest. Build a word bank for yourself - this will help in searching (especially if you need *more* or *specific*/*different* sources) and in the writing process too! As a last piece of advice: I often urge students to resist choosing topics about which they know *tons* -- why? Because it impacts how we write, what sources we choose, etc., in a way that can make us rely on our opinions and info we "know" rather than what we research, what we discover, and what we have learned! So think about things you want to know *more* about, things you're *curious* about, and let's take that list and see what research questions and idea we can develop to help you have a topic that works for your assignment and that you actually enjoy!
What's the point of reading and studying literature?
Reading and studying literature actually has a wealth of benefits, some smaller or larger, some more or less surprising. While I have always loved books, I know many who really had to work to see the value in reading, particularly reading material that's challenging (either or read, or in its content/perspectives). A few of the benefits of reading/studying literature include chances to use different parts of your brain than you would use for other activities (especially activities you're used to doing, e.g. math or science or sports) -- so it's a great workout! -- as well as opportunities to relax or escape (that can be super important in a tech-heavy, super-connected world). Additionally, research has shown that reading helps develop empathy, which is extremely important, and aids in growing your vocabulary too! There are words I know only because of books -- same with elements of history, places, careers, and more. Books have a lot to give, and a lot to connect us to (even when just connecting to ourselves), and engaging with literature aids in all that. With regard to empathy, those books that talk from perspectives with which we may not agree or that challenge our worldview are *critical* toward developing critical thinking skills, broad perspectives, and keen arguments -- we need to be able to see more than our opinions and literature (and lots of other types of reading material, like graphic novels and business industry books and memoirs) help us do that!
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