Welcome back to Summer Term 2, everyone! I wanted to share a citing-related error and some common writing related errors that I ran into in my undergrad degree two years ago in hopes that I can show you how I learned from my mistakes and so you can avoid them too!
A common assumption for students, especially those new to the environment and expectations of university, is that all of the information found on the Internet is suitable to incorporate into an academic paper. Though sites like Wikipedia and others found through popular search engines do contain valuable information and are widely read and edited to prevent falsities or errors, it is safe to say your professors are mostly interested in peer-reviewed sources.
What is a peer-reviewed source?
Peer-reviewed sources are journals and articles composed by experts and reviewed by other experts in the same field prior to the text being published in an academic journal. This is done to ensure the quality of the research and the validity of the findings or conclusions.
For example, if Dr. Jill has conducted an experiment on the effect of classical music on the eating habits of spider-monkeys, before publishing her findings, other experts and professionals in Dr. Jill’s field must review her article to determine if her research methods were sound and her findings were valid.
The UBC Library has a very useful search engine on their website that can lead students to all kinds of specific articles and journals to enhance their studies and research. They also publish extensive guides specific to various fields of study to help you get started on your research paper.
However, even when using the library search tool you may encounter sources that are outdated or may not be deemed scholarly. These may be inappropriate for your project. Luckily there is a handy guide on the Library website that you can use to determine if the sources you have found are scholarly, peer-reviewed and suitable for your academic paper.
Another common writing and research error is choosing the wrong words or tenses.
Muddled wording or incorrect grammar happens to the best of us and even if your spell-check isn’t telling you anything is wrong with your work, you may want to comb through carefully or have a friend read through your paper or assignment for you to catch common grammatical mistakes such as a wrong preposition or the wrong word used in an idiom. (A preposition is a word or set of words that indicates location such as in, near, beside, on top of.) Use a thesaurus if you aren’t sure. An example of how tricky it can be to choose the right phrasing is how many people think the term is “slight of hand” when talking about magic tricks but it is actually “sleight of hand.”
“Illusion” and “allusion” are common mix-ups as well as spelling errors where “allergy” is replaced from “allegory.” Try to keep a sharp eye when editing to avoid mistakes like this. This is why it is also helpful to double-space your work while typing your drafts because your eyes have more opportunity to rest on the individual sentences and words themselves and can often catch small, silly mistakes that might confuse your prof and maybe lose you marks.
Sometimes students also have difficulties with verb tense consistency. When you’ve been working on a paper or assignment for prolonged amounts of time, you may feel tired and this is when it’s easy to make small mistakes such as switching from present to past mid paragraph or essay. For example if your essay has been using “Professor Apple said” and you suddenly switch to “Professor Apple says” the next time you use a quote from a source, it can be a bit confusing.
This is why proofreading can really be a life-saver and it’s good to get into the habit of doing it before you find yourself falling into the vortex of silly grammar mistakes that can cost you the whole idea or meaning behind your project or argument.
There are many resources and toolkits on the Learning Commons Site to help you navigate editing your work as well as choosing the best sources to optimize your academic results and to succeed!