Tutor profile: Katherine V.
When speaking or writing in the past tense, how do I know if I should use the preterite or imperfect tense?
For non-native Spanish speakers, identifying when to use the preterite versus the imperfect in the past tense can be tricky. Practice and exposure to the language can certainly help Spanish Language learners identify patterns and become more comfortable with the distinction. There are, however, several clues to help you determine when to use which tense. The preterite is typically used for actions in the past that have a definitive end-point. For example: “yesterday I ran” would be “ayer yo corrí (preterite)”. This example refers to a specific point in the past and a specific action that has been completed. The imperfect tense, on the other hand, is best suited for actions or states of being in the past that do not have a definite end or were habitual. For example, “when I was young, I was very happy” would be “cuando era joven, era muy feliz” (imperfect). In this example, we are describing a long, ongoing state of being in the past. While there are certainly situations in which the distinction between preterite and imperfect becomes more complex, this general distinction is a helpful first step.
I’m having trouble figuring out how to use citations in my writing. What should I do?
Citations are an important component of academic writing, and work not only to demonstrate that your argument is well-researched and supported by evidence, but also serve to appropriately credit the authors and researchers on whose works your argument is based and to prevent incidents of plagiarism. There are many citation styles, each with distinct rules which are used by different academic disciplines. MLA style, for example, features parenthetical (in-text) citations, and this style is used primarily for writing within the disciplines of language and literature. Papers on textual criticism would be well-suited to this style. APA style, which also includes in-text citations, can be used for a wide variety of disciplines, but is especially widely used within the fields of psychology, linguistics, sociology, and economics. Writers within the social sciences will often utilize the APA citation style. The Chicago style of citation is particularly popular within historical research and writing and utilizes footnotes rather than in-text citations. This citation style allows the writer to include notes detailing or contextualizing their use of a source without detracting from the flow of the paper itself. When considering which citation style to use, first take a look at any assignment or prompt you’ve been given. Instructors will often explicitly state which style of citation they prefer. If no particular style is given, consider the paper you will be writing. A literary criticism paper will likely be best suited to MLA, while a paper on the history of Roman aqueducts would be better suited to the Chicago style of citation. Because each citation style has its own particular rules around how to appropriately cite sources, it’s important to be familiar with these standards when sitting down to write. There are a wealth of resources available to ensure your citations comply with standards. Consider borrowing an official manual of style from your local library, or consulting Purdue’s Online Writing Lab website. There are several free online citation generators, though these should always be double-checked before submission for accuracy. In addition, many databases and even Google Scholar will generate citations for sources in a variety of citation styles.
Subject: Library and Information Science
I'm having trouble finding information on my research topic--I just can't seem to find what I'm looking for! What should I do next?
Finding the "right" information when researching can be a challenge--sometimes we're confronted with too much information (much of which may not be relevant to us) and other times, we can't seem to find much at all. There are a few steps we can take. First, we should carefully consider our information question. What is it we are really looking for? For instance, if we're wanting to gather information for an academic paper on the role of gender in literature, we may run into a few issues. We’ll want to first consider which sources are most appropriate for our particular information need. For an academic paper, we’ll likely want to limit our sources to peer reviewed journal articles, literary criticism published by university or other esteemed presses, and the text itself. Next, we’ll want to do a little bit of digging. What happens when we use a library database, catalog, or other source aggregator to search for sources on the role of gender in literature? In this case, we’ll likely find way more sources than we know what to do with, many of which won’t be relevant to our question. When we find too much information, that’s often a clue that our “question” is too broad. In cases like this, we’ll want to narrow our focus. Our first order of business might be to better define the scope of the “literature” we want to write about. Do we want to look at the role of gender in British literature, American literature, Latin American literature, or some other subgenre like gothic or coming of age literature? Perhaps we’d like to narrow “literature” by its publication date--for example, 19th century literature. Maybe we would even like to select a specific author or group of authors whose works we want to examine. Once we’ve settled on the scope of the literature we’d like to write about, we might want to turn our attention to the second piece of our original information question: gender. Are we wanting to primarily discuss representations of women or perhaps symbols of femininity in the works about which we’re writing? Or maybe we’d like to look at characterizations of masculinity in the relevant texts. Would we rather focus on female authors, or perhaps compare and contrast works written by women versus men in the genre or time period we’re looking at? After we’ve settled these questions, we can come up with a list of search terms to guide our hunt for relevant sources. For example, if we decide to write specifically about the works of female authors in southern gothic literature, we might consider searching by terms like, “southern gothic literature”, “feminism”, “female authors”, or even specific writers like “Flannery O'Connor”, “Zora Neale Hurston”, “Harper Lee” or “Carson McCullers”. The results of searches using these terms (or a combination of these terms) is likely to yield a richer and more relevant return than our original, overly broad query of “gender in literature”.
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