Super-Sized List of Online Academic Databases

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Ive been spending a lot of time writing and researching this semester.

Im actually having dreams about one of my papers – and I have so much more research to do.

Anyway, here is a list of online databases that Ive been using to find journal articles for my lit reviews.

Most of these databases require a student ID and password, but Im listing them here because its quick access if youre in a school library:

How to Write a Fascinating Thesis Statement

No professors or teaching assistants want to read a boring paper. They want to read a paper that engages them; a paper that is compelling and clearly articulated.

So how do you write one of these papers?

Well, the most important part of writing a fascinating paper is to develop a great thesis statement.

You see, your thesis statement is the spine for your entire paper. Its the glue that holds your paper together. The more complex, specific, and interesting, the better your paper will be.

So here are some steps to breathe life into your next thesis statement:

Get Excited About Your Topic
No matter what you have to write about, you should try and get excited about it. The more interest and excitement you put forth, the better your paper will be. Even if your paper topic bores you, this is your opportunity to get creative and think of a way to make it exciting. Thats your challenge – and you can do it.

Develop A Strong Opinion About Your Topic
Writing a great thesis statement means you need to develop a strong opinion about your topic. This is how radio talk show hosts keep their audiences – they spew strong opinions that attract listeners and phone calls. If youre not sure how to form a strong opinion about your topic, start reading through journal article abstracts. Check out Google Scholar and read through thesis statements pertaining to your topic. Jot down any strong opinions that look interesting to you.

Use Exciting Adjectives to Spice up Your Thesis
Dont just say that something is good or bad, empower your nouns with exciting adjectives that describe what you really think. Adjectives like oppressive, tyrannical, and bloodthirsty are powerful because they portray a strong point of view about something or someone.

Focus Your Thesis On One Main Idea
As mentioned in the introduction, your thesis is the glue for your paper. Make sure your thesis doesnt divert into different directions. Stay focused on one main theme to keep your paper organized and your reader on topic.

Get Extremely Specific in Your Thesis
A generic thesis statement weakens a paper because the reader isnt clear exactly what youre going to be arguing about. However, if your thesis includes specific details about your argument, it will prepare the reader for whats ahead. It also helps you stay on task as you argue your points with specific examples.

Keep a List of Interesting Thesis Statements
Just as copywriters have a swipe file of powerful headlines, you should develop your own list of powerful thesis statements. Whenever you come across a thesis statement that intrigues you, add it to your list. The longer your list of thesis statements, the more ammunition youll have when you need to craft your own.

Here are three examples of thesis statements to get you going:

Weak Thesis:
The North and South fought the Civil War for many reasons, some of which were the same and some different.

Average Thesis:
While both sides fought the Civil War over the issue of slavery, the North fought for moral reasons while the South fought to preserve its own institutions.

Strong Thesis:
While both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, Northerners focused on the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their own right to self-government.

Recommended Reading:

Why You Should Use Google Scholar for Research

If you dont have access to library databases at home, you should definitely start your research using Google Scholar. To describe Google Scholar as simply a website that archives and organizes online journal articles would be an understatement.

Google Scholar not only lets you search for articles by search terms (like every other journal database), but it provides you with great search features like:

Related Articles Link
Most every article listed within Google Scholar has a related articleslink. The related articles link expands on articles not cited within the article itself, and can provide you with a long list of scholarly journal articles you might not have thought about checking out. You can spend hours just clicking through the related links of the journal articles youre interested in.

Cited By Link
Another great tool on Google Scholar is the Cited by __ link. This nifty link will give you set of online journal articles that cite the article youre interested in. So the articles with more citations should give you an idea of the articles importance within your research topic
. Its a great tool to quickly find articles most referenced in other journals, which means you might want to consider reading and citing those highly referenced articles too.

There are many other advanced search features and scholar preference searches, so go check it out.

How to Cram for Final Exams

Its final exam time, and that means many students are having all night cram sessions right now.

Cramming isnt the best way to study, but sometimes its your only option especially if you havent been keeping up with your class readings.

Here are some cramming tips from around the web:

Divide up your time.

  • Figure out what you actually have time to do. Tally up your total study hours and estimate how much time youll need to spend studying each major concept, allotting the most time to the material you are least familiar with. Tackle the most unfamiliar concepts first, while youre still fresh, and save the material you know best for last. If you need to re-allot your time, donate more minutes to the lowest-ranked material to make sure you understand it fully.
  • Work steadily, but take frequent five- or ten-minute breaks to conserve your energy and avoid getting overwhelmed. Take a walk; get a snack and some fresh air. Move around often to prevent fatigue.

How to stay alert.

  • If youre having trouble staying alert while youre cramming, and you have no time for sleep, drink some coffee. If youre tired right before your test, drink some more. Caffeine aids mental alertness. Tea has also been proven to aid concentration.
  • Run up some stairs or do some jumping-jacks. Exercise gets blood flowing and relaxes you. It also increases your alertness.
  • It has recently been proven that the smell of cinnamon and peppermint can help you stay alert. So chew on some gum if youre feeling worn out.

How to remember.

  • Recite, recite, recite. Recitation will burn facts into your mind like no other study method. Recite the material out loud until youre sure that youll be able to recall the information selected.

Study selectively.

  • You have to decide which information is most important to remember and concentrate upon those facts and ideas. Resist the temptation to try and learn all of the important-looking material. Youll need to use as much time as you have to remember the material youve chosen.
  • As you go through your notes, find important definitions, concepts and equations. If you dont know them by heart, write them down on a separate piece of paperyour cramming notes or, better yet, on 3X5 note cards. This will help you identify what you need to know, and youll have a handy set of flash cards. The process of rewriting may also help you memorize the content.

Eat a good breakfast.

  • Eat a good breakfast the morning of the test. Fueling up with nutritious foods will help keep your nerves steady and your brain engaged. Leave yourself enough time to give the test material one last review before you leave for school, but dont look at the material after that.

How to Add RAM to Your Brain – 8 Memory Hacks

You can instantly retrieve more information faster and easier by memorizing data in organized patterns.

Here are 8 ways to make information cement in your mind:

1. Acronyms
I’ve used acronyms throughout my college and grad school career. They’ve helped me memorize information for class presentations, and helped me memorize details for exams. An acronym is simply a word wherein each letter represents another word. For example: HOMES (The Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior)

2. Acrostics
Acrostics are sentences in which the first letter of each word helps you remember items in a series. For example: Zoe Cooks Chowder In Pink Pots in Miami (The Essential Minerals: Zinc, Calcium, Chromium, Iron, Potassium, Phosphorus, Iodine, Magnesium).

3. Act it Out
Use your acting ability to make a connection with the material you’re trying to learn. For example: reenact a dialog between two historic figures – or carry on a debate between two different philosophers, politicians or literary critics.

4. Categories
Organize information into broad categories to help you remember information faster. For example: Types of Joints in the Body (Immovable, Slightly Movable, Freely Movable).

5. Peg Words
Develop a chain of associations between whatever list you need to memorize and a peg word. Peg words are associated with numbers (e.g. zero is hero; one is a bun; two is a shoe; three is a tree; four is a door; five is a hive; six is sticks; seven is heaven; eight is a gate; nine is wine; and ten is a hen). Here’s how peg words work with the atomic numbers in a periodic table: (1) Imagine a hydrogen hotdog on a bun; (2) Imagine a helium shoe balloon; (3) Imagine a lit tree on fire (lithium); (4) a door made of berries (beryllium); (5) a hive with bored bees (boron); and the list can go on. The odd pairing helps you memorize information quickly.

6. Rhymes
Make up a silly rhyme or pun to help you memorize information. For example: Brown vs. Board of Education ended public-school segregation.

7. Recordings
Make a recording of yourself giving a lecture about the subject you’re studying. This is especially helpful for foreign language classes or a vocabulary section on a standardized test.

8. Visualizations
Turn an abstract idea into an image of something that is as specific as possible. For example, visualize a scene from a historic period. Make it as real as possible in your mind. Use all your senses and imagine what it must smell like, feel like, etc. The more specific you are, the more you’ll remember.

What are some strategies you use to memorize information faster?

[Photo by Rofi]

Recommended Reading

How to Improve Your Reading Comprehension

If youd like to improve your reading comprehension, try the SQ3R method. This is an acronym that means: Survey, Question, Read, Recite and Review.

Heres how it works:

Survey Your Text
Prior to reading, take a few moments to scan through your text. Get an overall feeling for how much youre going to read, and how the text is sectioned off. It helps to read through all the headings and any thesis or conclusion statements during this time. This will help you understand the point of the reading prior to beginning.

Question Everything
After surveying your text, ask yourself some questions prior to reading. What questions do you have about the subject matter youre about to read? What does the title of the text suggest? What does the author want to tell you about this subject? Whats the most important information on each page? Asking these types of questions will focus your mind on the text, and will help you pay attention. If you start to daydream, ask more questions and try to answer them.

Reading
As you read, try to find answers to the questions you have. Think through what the author is saying, and try to develop more questions as you read. If you have a lot to read, plan on dividing up the text so you can take adequate breaks. Studies suggest youre more likely to remember the first and last things that you read. So divide up the text and take breaks.

Recite the Text
After reading a chunk of text, take a break and try to recite what youve just read. Try to summarize your reading as best you can. If you have trouble, look back at your reading to see what youve missed. This might take some practice, but pretty soon youll start remember what youve read a bit quicker.

Review
After youre finished reading, review what you just read. Ask yourself the same questions you had in the beginning of the reading, and see if you remember the answers. Think how the reading material fits with your class or assignment. Also think about possible ways you might be tested on the material, and you can best prepare.

Something thats not mentioned in this method is the importance of taking notes. Note taking is very important to help you remember key facts. Just dont get too wrapped up in taking notes without thinking through what youre writing. Take notes on the most important parts of your reading, and something that will help you quickly review what you just read.

How to Study Smarter, Not Harder

Dartmouth published a paper discussing ways for students to improve their memory as they study. These tips will help any student study smarter, not harder. Here are some of our favorite study tips:

Recite As You Study
Recitation should first take place as you read through each paragraph or section. Quiz or test yourself. This promotes understanding as well as faster learning because it is a more active process than reading or listening. It also tests understanding, revealing mistakes or gaps. Recite in your own words. Auditory learners should spend more time in reciting orally what they are learning than visualizers. Read aloud passages you find difficult.

Take Fuller Notes
Visual learners should take fuller notes during lectures and their readings, as they learn more readily by visualizing than hearing. Auditory learners should take fuller notes perhaps on their readings. Notes should be in your own words, brief, clear but succinct. They should be legible and neat. Writing notes better reinforces memory than mere underlining, which is frequently done mechanically , often to excess and does not check understanding.

Study the Middle
The best time to review is soon after learning has taken place. The beginning and the end of material is best remembered, so pay close attention to the middle which is likely to be forgotten. The peak of difficulty in remembering is just beyond the middle, toward the end. change your method of review.

Sleep On It
Study before going to bed unless you are physically or mentally overtired. Freshly learned material is better remembered after a period of sleep than after an equal period of daytime activity because retroactive interference takes place.

Connect Ideas Whenever Possible
There are two ways to memorize: by rote (mechanically) and by understanding. Multiplication tables, telephone numbers, combinations to safes, and the like are better learned by rote. ideas, concepts, theories and significances and the like are learned by understanding. Sometimes they work simultaneously.

The more association you can elicit for an idea, the more meaning it will have; the more meaningful the learning, the better one is able to retain it. Always note similarities in ideas and concepts, and put them in their proper place in a larger system of ideas, concepts and theories. A bare literal understanding is often of little valuable. Never be satisfied with a hazy idea of what you are reading. If you are not able to follow the thought, go back to where you lost the trail.

Read ways to help you study smarter. . .

The Cure for Writers Block -10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Brain

As an English Lit. major in college, I had to write dozens of essays a quarter.

And, unfortunately, I got hit with writers block on a regular basis.

I tried to combat it by spending more time researching in the library, but that just made my problem worse.

You see, even though research is important it didnt help me write my paper. In fact, Ive found that research just helped me procrastinate more.

So how do I cure my bouts with writers block?

Here are 10 ways that have helped me write when Im not in the mood:

1. Relax your mind.
The more you worry about not having ideas, the more youll freeze up your mind. You need to relax and think positively about your writing assignment. Realize that everyone goes through writers block, and the cure is to relax your mind.

2. Take a hot shower.
I dont know what it is about a hot shower, but it really helps me refresh my body and mind. The hot shower helps me relax and focus on my writing assignments. Its also a place where I brainstorm easily. Take a notepad and leave it next to your shower door for when the ideas start flowing.

3. Write freely.
Whenever Im at a loss for words, Ill just start writing. It doesnt matter what you write, just write something. The very act of getting words on a page will help you build confidence, and help your mind to start pumping out your thoughts.

4. Write what you would say to your friend.
Sometimes it helps me to pretend that Im explaining the subject to a friend. By imagining a conversation with a friend, it helps me write what I would say – and this is a great way to trick yourself into writing.

5. Dont worry about punctuation or organization.
When youre struggling with writers block, this is not the time to focus on punctuation or how youre organizing your paper. You want to eliminate everything that stands between you and getting words on a page. So just write and dont worry about anything else.

6. Take deep breaths.
There are many benefits to breathing deeply in meditation, and one of them is to help you refresh your mind. I personally like Dr. Weils deep breathing exercises when Im feeling tired and uninspired:

  1. Inhale through your nose for four seconds
  2. Hold your breath for seven seconds
  3. Exhale through tightly pursed lips, creating back pressure, for eight seconds.
  4. Do this eight times, twice a day, everyday.

7. Move around.
Get your body moving and possibly even try writing in a new location. Just by moving around will get your blood pumping faster and will help you feel more energized.

8. Concentrate on a different section of your paper.
If youre stuck writing your introduction, just skip it. Start writing another section. Dont worry if you dont have the best paragraph structure – just write and the words will start to flow. You can always edit later.

9. Listen to music.
Sometimes listening to classical music or jazz can help you start writing. It doesnt work for everyone, but Ive found that it can help me block out any surrounding noises and focus on my writing. Try music when youre out of words.

10. Dont worry about failing.
Look, a lot of people get writers block because they think theyre afraid of failure – or they think they cant write a good paper. You have to get rid of that negativity and start writing. The more you write, the better your paper will be. You can always edit it later – and find a friend to proofread it to give you some suggestions.

So just start writing . . .

Flash Card Hacks

Flash cards can help you memorize information quickly and more efficiently.

As long as you carry them with you, you can study whenever you have a free moment. You’d be surprised how many times during a day you can break them out and start studying.

And flash cards can be used to narrow down the subjects and terms you’re having the toughest time learning. As you practice, you can start creating two stacks of cards: the stack of cards you know well, and the cards you still need to study.

Flash cards not only help you learn quicker, but it builds your confidence with the material you’re learning.

Here are 5 great websites that you can use to create, share, and find free flash cards:

Flash Card Wiki
Create and share your web-based flash cards

Pauker Open Source Flash Cards
Create and import your flash cards

Pro Profs Flash Cards
Tons of free flash cards ready to download

Flash Card Machine
Interactive web application for you to create and share your flash cards

Flash Card Exchange
Print and share your flash cards

How to Prepare Yourself for Final Exams – 5 Smart Ways

So were all about one month away from final exams.

And that means that its time to start preparing ourselves mentally for the exams ahead.

If youre taking four courses, then you probably have to write four final papers; review notes from 40 different lectures; finish reading 8 to 12 different textbooks; and find time to prepare for final exams.

It can seem overwhelming, but if you start preparing yourself now, youll feel a lot better about getting everything accomplished.

Here are 5 ways to help you prepare your mind and body for a successful final exam season:

Spend Time Studying for the Tests that Carry the Most Weight
Not all final exams and papers are weighted the same. Make sure you know what percentage each paper or final exam is worth to your grade. That will give you some perspective on how much time you should designate studying for each class.

Focus Your Time on Difficult Classes
If youre pulling a solid A in American Literature, then you obviously dont need to spend as much time studying for that class. Instead, spend most of your study time on the difficult classes where your grade is borderline.

Spend Time Reviewing Class Notes Now
Do yourself a favor and spend at least one hour per class reviewing class notes. That means youll have reviewed all your class notes in just 4-hours. Highlight all the areas that are important, and look at the syllabus to narrow down the key areas you should spend your time studying. By simply going over all your class notes, youll get a good overview of the specific areas you should start studying. This will also provide your mind with a good summary of everything youve been learning this quarter (or semester).

Organize Study Groups
Most students wait until the last minute to form study groups. And those group meetings often turn into cram sessions. To avoid this, organize your study groups now to go over class notes and areas that should get studied. Youll all feel ahead of the game if you start your study groups now – and thats a huge way to reduce stress during finals week.

Design a Study Schedule and Stick to It
Make a commitment to spend at least an hour a week (per class) to focus on the final exam. By setting aside time now to focus on the final exam, youre preparing your mind for whats ahead. And youll also find areas that you have questions about. This will provide you plenty of time to get answers from your professors.