How to Use the Internet as a Reliable Research Tool

Online Research

(Photo Credit: Exponential Programs)

Postmodern college students have a research tool not available to students decades ago: the Internet. While the Internet is a boundless source of useful information, it is also littered with less than reliable sources. Another issue many college students face is figuring out how to do in-depth, college-level research, according to Project Information Literacy (PIL). PIL’s online survey of nearly 2,000 college and high school students found that Google was the research tool of choice for nearly 90% of students. While Google can be a beneficial tool, it shouldn’t be your only option for research at the college level. This piece offers some tips about how to use the Internet in more useful ways to conduct research.

Explore Databases

Your high school librarian might have shown you how to access a research database from a workstation in the library.  Once you get to college, the number of online databases available to you increases exponentially.  PIL’s study found that college students today have 19 times more databases available to them than their high school counterparts.  Locate higher education institutions near you along with online resources associated with those institutions.

It’s important to know what database to employ to obtain information that’s actually relevant to your project.  Temple University’s Research Guide recommends that instructors suggest specific databases to use, noting that a 2010 PIL survey revealed that only about 14% of college handouts recommend specific databases.  If your assignment fails to specify, it never hurts to ask your instructor.

Review Individual Sites

The Internet grows larger every minute.  Not only is more information available online every minute, college students can get home internet access for less money than in the past.  A 2012 infographic from Domo divulges that nearly 600 new websites pop up online every minute.  As a student doing research for a credible academic paper, it’s your job to sift through websites to find the ones that provide information that’s accurate.

Luckily, myriad websites give clues as to whether or not you can trust them to offer reliable information. One way to judge the reliability of a website is to look at its domain or URL.  If you’re tracking down health statistics from a government agency, for example, a site that ends in .gov, such as CDC.gov or FDA.gov is going to provide you with accurate information from the actual Centers for Disease Control or Food and Drug Administration.  A website such as CDC.com or FDA.com isn’t necessarily connected to the federal agencies.

You can also discover more about the person who penned the article on the site.  Typically, a credible author will be an expert in his or her field, such as a doctor or a professor.  The article should ideally cite sources and direct you to those sources so that you can verify the information or learn more.

Connect with Your School’s Library

Although the Internet is full of information, there are other resources.  Print books and journals are still excellent sources when writing a paper or working on a project.  You don’t have to trudge to your campus library to track down the books you’re looking for, though.

You can locate books that might be relevant using your school library’s online card catalog.  Some schools let you put the books on hold or check them out online, and then pick them up the next time you’re on campus.  You can also download e-books from the digital collections at some campus libraries, meaning you don’t even have to pick up the books in person.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Raise Him Up: A Single Mother’s Guide to Raising a Successful Black Man: A Review

Raise Him Up Moore

(Photo Credit: BookLook Bloggers)

In Raise Him Up: A Single Mother’s Guide to Raising a Successful Black Man (2013), Stephanie Perry Moore offers the reader some personal insights about the struggles single black women face rearing successful black boys who develop into men.  Extensive research has empirically proven that black male students academically lag behind all of their peers throughout every level of education.  The narratives of single black women who rear black boys receive limited focus in the professional literature.  This book, therefore, provides a needed account of the challenges and problems encountered by single black women rearing black boys, especially their efforts to rear successful black boys who evolve into successful black men.  Moore contends that using spiritual instruction and guidance available in the bible is essential to producing successful black boys and men.  The author relies heavily on the Book of Acts to support her suggestions and arguments.  She gives the reader prayers they can use in their work with their black male child.  One chapter is devoted to rearing a successful black male student-athlete.

While the book offers important practical challenges and problems encountered by single black mothers rearing black boys, Moore made a poor strategic choice of employing the Book of Acts as her primary source for biblical support for the things she suggested and asserted.  The biblical support is simply forced throughout the work.  The chapter on rearing a successful black male student-athlete appears tacked on and lacks adequate coverage.  The chapter on rearing a successful black male student-athlete would have been better as a separate, standalone project.

Overall, the book leaves much more to be desired.  This book is a classic case of a good idea not executed well.  During the review process of this book, someone should have made a compelling case to Moore to buttress her biblical support for her arguments and advice by choosing more relevant scriptures to enhance her arguments and advice.  Although there are some nice qualities about the book, I cannot highly recommend the book because of its many failures.

BookLook Bloggers gave me a complimentary copy of the book to compose a professional review of it.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Find Your Passion: 3 Quick Career Transitions

Job satisfaction is a lost concept, at least according to 65 percent of workers in the U.S. and Canada who responded to a 2012 Right Management survey.  Nearly half of those surveyed, or 44 percent, were completely unsatisfied with their current positions; 21 percent were somewhat unsatisfied. Only 19 percent reported overall satisfaction.  If you’re in the majority that finds little to no joy on the job, it may be time to align your passions with your purpose and launch a new career.

Animal Lover

Your lifelong array of dogs, cats, rabbits and other pets may attest to your love of animals, and you can turn that love into a paycheck with a career helping animals.  The demand for veterinary assistants is expected to increase by 10 percent over the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and you can join the ranks by launching a career in the field.

Photo by Animal Kingdom Pet Hospital via Flickr

Online institutions like Penn Foster offer diploma programs in veterinary studies, with the overall goal of readying you for a position as a veterinary assistant. Duties can include monitoring and caring for animals after surgery, preparing instruments and assisting with medication and emergency first aid.  An American Veterinary Medical Association survey reported a well-above-average satisfaction level for vets, and their assistants may enjoy a similar level of delight.

Design Junkie

If you’re accustomed to hearing great praise when people walk into your home and see what you’ve done with the place, you may be able to extend that talent to others with a career in interior design. Interior designers are a creative lot with flexible work choices. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports about 25 percent of interior designers were self-employed in 2012, and the field is expected to grow 13 percent over the next decade.

Photo by Rogue-Designs via Flickr

Gaining a strong understanding of the industry goes far beyond matching up throw pillows.  Buttress your innate talent and artistic eye with training in the field, which you can do in fewer than six months. You’ll then be armed with the knowledge about match lighting, colors and materials with space requirements and homeowners’ tastes.  A StudentsReview survey that polled interior design majors after graduation found more than half were satisfied with their line of work.

True Crime Buff

If your nightstand is stacked with nonfiction crime novels and the first news stories you read involve court cases, a hunch says you might enjoy a career in Criminal Justice.  A solid place to start is with an associate’s degree in the field, which can serve as a stepping stone into a variety of job choices.

Photo by Ban Spy via Flickr

A degree in Criminal Justice can supplement your existing knowledge of the court and corrections systems, outline how police management operates and even touch on theories of what makes people turn to crime.  Top it off with basics on the nature of crime, law and Criminal Justice and you’re ready to job hunt for local, state or even federal government jobs at USAJobs.gov.  While job growth in the field depends on the exact position you choose, a StudentsReview survey reported nearly 70 percent of Criminal Justice graduates were satisfied with their new jobs.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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7 Writing Tips for Communicating with Diverse Cultures

Business Writing

(Photo Credit: Christian Science Monitor)

When sending written communication to business professionals from a culture different than your own, familiarize yourself with their written communication preferences and acclimate your approach, style, and tone to meet their expectations.  The following is a list of 7 highly recommended tips to consider:

1. Use simple, clear language. Use precise words that don’t have the potential to confuse with multiple meanings.

2. Be brief. Use simple sentences and short paragraphs, breaking information into smaller chunks that are easier to capture and translate.

3. Use transitional elements. Using transitions from sentence to sentence and from paragraph to paragraph helps your writing to achieve the cohesion and clarity it needs.

4. Address international correspondences properly.

5. Cite numbers and dates carefully.

6. Avoid slang, idiomatic phrases, and business jargon. Mundane writing is full of slang and idiomatic phrases, phrases that mean more than the sum of all of their literal parts. Your readers may have no idea what you’re saying when you use idiomatic phrases.

7. Avoid humor and other references to popular culture. Jokes and references to popular culture usually rely on subtle cultural issues that might be completely unknown to one’s readers.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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The Haves and the Have Nots Should Be Longer

Tyler Perry's The Haves and the Have Nots

(Photo Credit: Oprah)

Tyler Perry has just completed a successful first season of his new hit drama, The Haves and the Have Nots (2013), on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).  Although it’s an hour long show on Tuesday nights, it’s really only a 30 – 35 minute program when one factors in the numerous commercials.  With so many interesting dynamics and complexities, the show needs to be two hours long or air twice a week for one hour each of those days.  Perry has indicated that in the second season of the show he will be providing viewers with more background information about the characters that will help viewers to understand how they evolved into the characters we see today.  Viewers can certainly benefit from deeper knowledge about the backgrounds of all his characters, and I believe that he will execute the revealing of their backgrounds in interesting ways.

For those who assert that Perry’s works lack sophistication and complexity, I would love to engage in a serious discourse with them about these unfair critiques when it comes to The Haves and the Have Nots.  Of course, many people, especially many of his African-American critics, simply will not like anything he does because of his unwillingness to cater to their narrow visions of who he should be as an actor, director, writer, producer and man.

The show offers a powerful reaffirmation: all relationships and families have problems, no matter how much money they have and regardless of their race and ethnicity.  At the core of the problems that exists between the characters in the work is a failure to be sincere.  In some degree, all of the characters engender vexing quandaries for themselves and others by lacking the courage to deal frankly with their internal and external challenges.  We will never solve our problems by running away from them.  Our problems are conquered when we muster the courage to address them candidly and thoroughly.

More background information about all of the characters will enable fans of the show to increase their investment in their favorite characters, and viewers will be able to gain a greater appreciation for all of their characters, even if they do not personally like some of the characters.  I am a huge fan of the show and was eager each week to watch it.  I do, however, come away from each episode feeling like something is missing, something that’s essential.  This feeling of something essential being absent is mostly not a positive thing.  The show needs to benefit from an additional hour each week to take it to the next level of greatness.

In order for all artists to continue to advance, it’s necessary for them to involve themselves in reflective thought.  They must consider ways to ameliorate their works to keep them fresh, relevant and interesting.  Perry is not exempt from this need to engage in critical reflection about The Have and the Have Nots.  Whatever he has to do to extend the time of his episodes should be done.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

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Make Homeschooling Easier with Technology

Homeschooling

(Photo Credit: Black Blue Dog)

The best learning experiences are the result of a dedicated educator, a student’s curiosity to learn and a supportive environment that values academics. Using technology as a resource can enhance these learning experiences and academic environments, whether lessons are learned in a school or at home.

You’re not just the parent of a homeschooler; you are also a teacher.  You want to inspire your child to think critically and stay motivated.  Technology can cultivate new ways of thinking and new ideas. Android or Apple tablets can specifically serve as creative tools and interactive textbooks.  Tablet materials and apps can customize the learning experience and tailor materials to suit the learning style(s) and meet the needs of a student.

Online Textbooks & iTunes U in Class

Enrich learning experiences at home with electronic textbooks on a tablet.  Services like iTunes U provide customized, hands-on lessons for homeschooled teens of all levels.  Texts and photos come to life when you use electronic textbooks.  Think back to the days when you turned pages and used a marker or highlighter to note sections in printed textbooks.  The postmodern student can learn by swiping a screen, engaging in interactive animations and even rotating a 3-D object.  Highlight notes with a finger.  Zoom in on a diagram.  Create digital study cards.  The tablet is a space-saving, all-in-one learning device that functions as any type of textbook, a note taker and study partner.  Keeping learning materials on a mobile device can be handy for your student to study anywhere.  Homework can be done on a car trip or at a friend’s house.

As a home educator, you can also use online educational apps to organize lesson plans and learning materials for a course in one central location.  Build courses using the iTunes U Course Manager, and your student can listen to an audio lecture, watch a presentation and organize coursework notes.  Then your student can complete assignments and share what he or she learns using any of the thousands of academic-oriented apps available, tablets and popular smartphones.  Help your teen engender a multimedia presentation using special effects in Keynote or a visual web journal using multi-touch editing.  A tablet-based learning curriculum is a dramatic improvement from the days of overhead projectors and plastic report covers and binders.

Smartphone Social Apps

While tablets enhance learning, reserve the smartphone for socialization and fun.  A blog post by Heather Sanders from The Pioneer Woman writes that as a home educator and mom, she welcomes smartphones as a communication tool that “can help students expand their specific hobbies or areas of interests.”  Her daughter Emelie turns to smartphone app Tumblr as her virtual inspiration board and Feedly as her blog reader.  She uses Instagram and Snapchat to share videos and photos with friends. The Kik instant message app also keeps her in touch with international friends.  Sanders’ other daughter, Meredith, likes Wattpad for writing books and reading stories from other authors.  You can even use the smartphone as a study break or incentive.  For example, if your teen aces an exam let her chat with friends on her phone or stream media from Netflix as a reward for meeting her goal.

With the sophisticated advances in technology, postmodern homeschooling can be a rewarding experience for both the teacher and student.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Bobby Portis: The Nation’s Most Underrated Freshman Basketball Player

Bobby Portis

(Photo Credit: SW Times)

ESPN listed Bobby Portis, Arkansas freshman sensation, as the 16th ranked recruit in the nation.  He leads Arkansas in scoring and rebounds with 13.1 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game.  The 6’10 242 pound freshman has been named SEC Player of the Week 3 times.  Mike Anderson, Head Coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, consistently plays 12 men every game.  Arkansas has a deep and balanced team.  Under Anderson, Arkansas has an aggressive defensive style of play.  The goal is to wear the opposing team down over the course of the game.  With this defense-first style of play, Portis has still been able to average 13.1 points a game and 6.6 rebounds.  Because the Razorbacks have so much talent and balance, they do not have a traditional “go-to” player.  Imagine the numbers Portis could achieve if Arkansas used him as its “go-to” player.

Arkansas has a 18-9 overall record and is 7-7 in SEC play and the team is winners of 5 of their last 6 games.  On Thursday, February 27, 2014 on ESPN, the Arkansas Razorbacks will face the #17 ranked Kentucky Wildcats in Rupp Arena.  In the first meeting this year against the Wildcats at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the Razorbacks defeated them in a thrilling game.  Another win against the Wildcats and a highly favorable remaining regular season schedule should land the Razorbacks in the NCAA Division I Tournament.  Without Bobby Portis, however, the team would not have achieved its current record and boasted high quality wins against Kentucky, Minnesota and Clemson.

With what Bobby Portis has been able to accomplish this year as a freshman, why has he not received as much national attention as other freshmen have?  Is Bobby Portis the nation’s most underrated freshman basketball player?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Whoopi Goldberg’s Anti-Fashion Look

Whoopi Goldberg

(Photo Credit: Black Film)

On ABC’s The View, Whoopi Goldberg shares with television viewers her unique fashion style.  It seems that her fashion style resists hegemonic American fashion expectations.  An American woman has to confront societal fashion norms: she is expected to dress in appealing and feminine ways.  To be honest, Goldberg always looks sloppy and like she’s just lounging around her home or ready for bed. The thought that she simply does not know how to dress in an attractive and professional manner would not be reflective of perspicacious thinking, however.  Goldberg is a smart and highly accomplished.  She’s also very interested in politics and making political statements.  With this in mind, it does not appear sagacious to divorce her politics from her fashion (or anti-fashion) style.

Even before Whoopi Goldberg joined The View, she was not interested in the politics of respectability, that is, politics that asserts that one must look and act a certain way.  She’s unafraid to be herself.  In an America where assimilation and duplicity are increasingly becoming more embraced, Goldberg’s conspicuous commitment to being herself is refreshing and should be commended.  Although your view of what she should wear as a professional may not align with her idea, it’s vital to understand that you should not attempt to impose your view on her.  Dress how you want to dress and let her enjoy the same freedom.

When you see Goldberg in clothing that is noticeably loose-fitting, do you ever consider that one of the primary motivations behind her fashion choices is comfort?  Is it too unbearable to contemplate a person resisting both traditional and postmodern fashion styles?

What Whoopi Goldberg wears does not have an impact on how well she’s able to do her job.  If Goldberg started dressing like Oprah, would this change how well she’s able to do her job?  No!

Although, as previously mentioned, I believe that the way she dresses is sloppy and looks like she’s lounging around at home or ready for bed, I have no desire for her to change the way she wants to dress.  I also have no longing to impose my fashion style on her.  Fashion gives one an opportunity to express his or her individuality, and we all should respect Goldberg’s expression of her individuality through her fashion style.  Additionally, as previously mentioned, we might find it useful to consider the political statement(s) her fashion style divulges.

Let Whoopi simply be Whoopi.

Have you ever had an experience with someone who has tried to impose his or her fashion style on you?  Do you believe there is a certain way that those who are on television should dress?  Does the way Whoopi Goldberg dress bother you?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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College is Expensive So Cut Costs and Save More

College Expenses

(Photo Credit: Original People)

Nearly 20 million Americans attend college each year, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Of that number, 60% borrow money to cover the costs.  Footing the bill for a higher education can be daunting, and the last thing you need to be worrying about while blazing your career path is how to fund the next four years.  This piece offers some fairly painless ways you can cut costs and earn extra money while remaining on top of your already overflowing to-do list.

Start a Business

Starting your own business can help you manage costs while you’re in school and if done well, could even become your full-time career.  A funding site like Kickstarter can help generate interest and funding for your product without having to go door to door peddling your wares.  To date, the site has helped fund 55,000 creative projects with $950 million in pledges.  Therefore, depending on your craft, you can obtain substantial support to finance your venture while keeping ownership over your creativity.

You can also secure funding for your business through other means.  Look for assets you can liquidate. For example, if you receive regular structured settlement payments, you may be able to sell your future payments for a lump sum of cash now.  You could then use the money to build capital toward your enterprise.  You can learn more about selling your future payments at J.G. Wentworth’s Facebook page.

Create a Budget and Stick to It

CNN reported in June of 2013 that 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, but financial analysts recommend everyone build a six-month cushion of savings.  A budget will aid you in saving for your future.

Start by calculating all your expenditures for a month.  Once you’re aware of what you spend, you can resolve where you can cut costs.  For example, instead of indulging in eating dinner at restaurants every Friday, consider having more candlelight dinners at home with tasty appetizers.  Use a budgeting app like Mint.com to help you track your spending.

Cut Costs

  • Instead of purchasing brand new textbooks, take advantage of used bookstores and e-books. Sell your books once the semester is finished.

  • For transportation, carpool, take the bus or subway or check out whether Zipcar services are available in your area.  Check if the Student Services office offers students who commute any options to reduce their gas bill.

  • Food costs can be tackled by thinking ahead.  Clip coupons, make shopping lists and stick to them—this way you won’t impulsively buy food you don’t need when you get to the store and blow your budget.  Thinking ahead will also help when you are deep in the throes of a cramming session the night before an exam and hunger rears its ugly head.  Instead of ordering takeout, you can rely on your well-stocked refrigerator for a perfect snack.

Begin to transform your spending habits to save money and become the fiscally conscious citizen you aspire to be.  In time, you will be able to spend more extravagantly, knowing you have a thriving savings to see you through the tougher times.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Toronto Colleges

Toronto Film Schools

(Photo Credit: What Culture)

Toronto is viewed by some as the second to top place connected with film production (right after Hollywood, of course).  The city can boast the best studio in the world and one of the greatest American film festivals: the Toronto International Film Festival.  With such advantages, Toronto is really able to conquer the film industry.  Amazing opportunities and enthusiasm allows the city to grow larger in the eyes of the world.  One should take an opportunity to explore what film schools in Toronto have to offer: Toronto Colleges.

Toronto colleges sure should be prepared to enroll new film lovers into their ranks.  The latest trends, demand and favorable conditions empower a great film school to flourish.  Every year, young and hungry talented people fill Toronto film schools with positive energy and innovative spirits.  They are dreamers with strong motivation and faith that one day their desires will come true.  Toronto colleges and Toronto’s film school give the young opportunities for a great career in the film industry, offering amazing programs and internships.  Toronto colleges and Toronto Film School organizes many spectacular events like movie screenings and stage plays which are perfect ways for young artists to shine.  Toronto Film School is there to promote individualism and ingenuity.  Students are there to make mistakes, draw conclusions, have fun and make their passion grow.

When we finally come to Toronto, when we read all the Toronto colleges’ booklets, when we see the city and feel the potential enclosed in it, we will know what we want to do and which train we should jump into to get to the place we want to be in the future. Toronto has so much to offer and is willing to share with us.  Let’s take what it gives us; it’s worth it.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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