Resolutions for a Fresh Start
“And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught
For auld lang syne.”
~ Robert Burns
Have you ever wondered why, when the ball drops at midnight, nobody seems to know all the words to the song, other than the pressing question of whether or not the auld acquaintance should be forgot, and that bit about the auld lang syne? Well, now you know. Above is the 5th verse (yes, really, there are five verses) in all of its Scots glory, which now allows you to feel better about New Year’s Eve, and which now allows me to type the phrase “right gude-willie waught” one more time and drive spell check into wiggly red underscore frenzy.
Go ahead: sing the 5th verse. You know the melody. Give it spin. I’ll wait here.
Anyway, now that we got the melody looping in your head for the rest of the day, let’s talk Resolutions.
The problem with most resolutions, especially those of the improving-my-academic-performance variety, is that our planning can be overly ambitious. It’s like resolving to whip yourself into shape by adopting a plan where you work out three hours a day, seven days a week and, falling short of the lofty goal, abandon the initial resolution for yet another shameful period of slothful anti-health. It’s supposed to be a resolution, not a guise for self-punishment.
If you’re looking to post better grades and/or learn more, start with small, simple strategies. Let’s get back to basics:
- Review your lecture notes after class within 24 hours. This needn’t require a massive amount of time; 20 to 30 minutes max. Couldn’t get to the notes in 24 hours? Don’t abandon the resolution, adjust the plan and get to them in 48.
- Go to class. Even if you think you don’t get anything out of lecture because A) I hate the professor B) The lecture makes no sense and I just get more confused C) Life is so much better in bed – lecture is still three hours a week with the course material. At the very least, if you’re not replacing missed class time with study time, you’re falling further behind.
- Read more, especially if it seems like you don’t read at all. I’m not saying read everything. Remember the whip yourself into shape thing earlier? Same principle. Start with Power Point slides, or chapter summaries. And don’t just read for the sake of reading, think about what you’re reading.
- Come to Weingarten. Our friendly learning instructors know their way around all kinds of academics-related resolutions. At least one of us knows what a right gude-willie waught is.
Now sing the fifth verse of Auld Lang Syne one more time.
Senior Learning Instructor
Tech Tuesday: Zotero
This Tech Tuesday we are highlighting Zotero which is a browser extension and stand-alone desktop application for Windows and MacOS. Zotero is most commonly known as a citation manager similar to EasyBib or Mendeley. While Zotero is excellent at managing citations, it is capable of so much more. This article will provide an overview of its most useful features. Future blog posts will expand on Zotero with in-depth how-to guides. I like Zotero because it is feature rich and can help students keep readings and citations well organized. Another huge perk is that Zotero is open source software. Not only is it free, but it also has a number of useful plug-ins and add-ons.
Managing Citations and Outputting References:
As mentioned, Zotero is an excellent citation manager. The base install of the desktop application comes with a variety of standard citation styles including MLA, APA, Chicago and others. Have an obscure citation style only used by a specific discipline, don’t fret, chances are you can find it in the Zotero style repository here.
Outputting in-text citations in Zotero couldn’t be easier. Select the reference or references you want a citation for, right-click and select “Create bibliography from item” choose in-text citation, your chosen style, and copy to clipboard. Then, simply past the citation where needed in your document. You can create full reference pages in much the same way. Simply choose bibliography in the output section.
Add, Organize and Manage Citations
Zotero has feature rich folder options to keep your citations organized. You can create a folder for a given class or project and then store all your citations in the folder. Adding citations is easy. If you’re using Google Scholar, you can simply download an RIS file (RefMan) using cite function in Google Scholar and open it with Zotero. Books can be added using the wand button () and then adding the ISBN for the book. Zotero will handle the rest. Using add-ons Zotero can even scan PDF’s of journal articles and collect all the citation and metadata info directly from the article. A how-to blog outlining just how to do this will be available soon.
Have a class with a heavy reading load? Zotero is great for keeping all your readings organized. Add them all to a folder for that specific class and then you can write summaries or outlines for each with the built-in note taking function.
Alternatively, or in-addition, you can also add any attachment you want to a given reference. For STEM students, this could be particularly useful if you draw diagrams in your notes and you want to keep them together with a specific reading. As mentioned, Zotero is free you can download it here. Check back soon for specific how-to guides that will expand in-depth on the various features and options Zotero has to offer.
Staff Writer: Randall Perez
Bigger Pictures: So Much to Read, So Little Time
“The flood of print has turned reading into a process of gulping rather than savoring.”
~ Raymond Chandler
Raymond Chandler, the author who gave us The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye and Farewell, My Lovely, as well as generously providing the epigram for today’s blog post, died way back in 1959. He had good reason to bemoan the “flood of print”. During his career paperbacks became cheaper and easier to produce, to say nothing of large circulation magazines and daily newspapers, many of which published multiple daily editions. So while Old Ray didn’t live long enough to witness the mad proliferation of text brought to us courtesy of the world wide web, there was certainly a greater availability of potential reading material.
In the land of academic reading the idea that a student will savor what’s been assigned seems beside the point. When confronted with hundreds of pages of required reading, the first urge is just to power through, roll the eyeballs over line after line of words, words, words until this nightmare is over. Because that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Complete the assignment, finish the book, read the PDFs. Move on.
Savoring, in Chandler’s parlance, here is akin to processing, to thinking deeply, which is after all what we’re supposed to be doing anyway. I’m not saying that we can do that with every assigned page of text, but I am saying that we should at least pick out chunks that resonate with us as readers and we should reread these bits, and think about what these passages mean not just in the context of the class material, but beyond.
On the other side we should acknowledge the dilemma of those tasked with building the reading list and the syllabus. This requires more than anything else to strike a balance between breadth and depth. Deciding what should be skimmed and what to read deeply is as much art as science, even for those who assign the work.
This is an old tension, maybe even an ancient one. Did the sages of Sumer worry that the unprecedented availability of cuneiform tablets made it more difficult to appreciate what had been pressed into the soft clay with a stylus? Sure. Let’s go with that.
Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk
Reading: Books & Library
Every semester we all have to buy books. Lots…of…books! Whether they’re for a statistics, literature, or language course they add up, and not just in volume. But that’s usually not the end of the story. You start writing a final paper, you do your research, and you identify the perfect reference book. Most of the time your book is available in the library database–success! But every once in a while you run into the little red minus sign next to the words “Checked out.” E-Z Borrow, Borrow Direct, and Interlibrary Loan (ILL) are three great resources you may consider using. Here are a few scenarios that summarize the benefits of all three systems and provide guidance for using the one most appropriate for you.
I have an assignment due at the end of the month and the book I need is checked out at Penn.
If you’re pressed for time, try using Borrow Direct or E-ZBorrow. Borrow Direct is a rapid book request system that allows you to search a collection of over 60 million volumes through the libraries at Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, MIT, Duke, Dartmouth, John Hopkins, Yale and Princeton. If a partnering university has your book it will usually arrive within 3-5 business days. You can also try E-ZBorrow. E-ZBorrow will search for your book in over 60 academic libraries in Pennsylvania and nearby states. If your book is unavailable through both of those mediums, try Interlibrary Loan. ILL takes longer deliver so be sure to adjust the “need by” date on your request to reflect your deadlines.
I need to borrow a book for the semester, should I request it through ILL or Borrow Direct?
Borrow Direct books are loaned out for six weeks at a time, and are non-renewable more than once, a total of 12 weeks. The semester is 14 weeks so this option can leave you in a bit of a crunch, especially at the end of the semester. Try ILL. Most loans range from 2-6 weeks but vary depending on the lending institution and can typically be renewed.
Penn doesn’t own the book I need. I found it on both Borrow Direct and E-ZBorrow but am told that the book is non-requestable. What should I do?
There are some core textbooks that are not available for request on Borrow Direct and E-ZBorrow, such as calculus textbooks. Try placing an ILL request.
Whatever your situation may be, try out these great resources to be connected with your eagerly awaited books. If you know you’ll need a particular book within a specified time frame, plan ahead!
Staff Blogger: Erica Saldivar Garcia