From brackets to parentheticals, ibids to et als, from citations to, well, more citations, the college research paper can seem a veritable casket of things that go bump in the night.
In keeping with the season of Halloween, folks at the Waldo Library thought it time to cast out some of the research demons that often can possess students.
Welcome to Night of the Research Paper. The program, a first of its kind sponsored by the library, will be from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, at the library on the Western Michigan University campus.
Students are invited to bring in their research papers — in whatever stage of the process — for guidance from library and writing center staff, as well as instructors. Among the bodies — er, topics — to be exhumed will be:
• Help students refine their paper topics;
• Find information sources;
• Organize ideas, and
• Create correct citations.
Plus, there will be Halloween treats and prizes, library sources suggest.
Two of the event’s organizers, Susan Steuer and Carrie Leatherman, also hope the fun and community-like atmosphere will help students clear some of the traditional research hurdles.
I’ve found that some students are very adept at research papers and understand what’s involved,” said Steuer, associate professor and special collections and rare book librarian. “Others are kind of ‘deer in the headlights’” when it comes to tackling a research paper project, she said.
“I also know that the changing environment in the way students can get information sometimes adds to the confusion,” she said, “as can the tendency to put off doing the work. And that was kind of the genesis of this: How do we get students to come in earlier before they reach the crisis point” in the research paper process.
Though this is the first such event of its kind, both women hope it will continue.
“We thought it would be kind of fun, playing on a Halloween-themed idea of the horror that some students might see in the work of writing a research paper,” said Leatherman, who is science librarian at Waldo.
Helping students narrow their topics can be another benefit.
“Especially in classes where students are given more freedom to choose their topic, they sometimes pick a broad topic,” Steuer said. “When we narrow the focus they can find resources very targeted for their needs.”
The evening will take on a “walk-in consultation” structure, Leatherman said, “with workstations to help them learn where to find a topic, work on your paper, get help with citations.”
In many respects, she added, the program will be an extension of the library’s reference desk, staffed by people who know how to navigate the library’s available research databases.
“We’ve encouraged instructors to come in, too, and hopefully they will get to see and work with some of their own students,” Steuer said. “I think we really are starting to develop a sense of community about how we work with our students,” Steuer said, “especially the newer ones who can sometimes be rather tentative in seeking help.”
Students are encouraged to leave their fears at the door and bring their research papers. Garlic, wolfs bane and other methods of warding off evil are strictly optional.
For more information about Night of the Research Paper, go to www.wmich.edu/library/researchnight.