research

Differences When Living Abroad

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Whether it be for study abroad, for work experience, or for any other reason at all, moving abroad can be both an extremely stressful and exciting opportunity in life. Once abroad you will find that many things are different and that some things that to you seem small and insignificant could be a big deal in another country. Here are five things you learn when moving abroad.

What Things Are Worth Can Be Different

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Things cost different amounts in different countries but the changes can be a lot more drastic than expected, especially if you are moving from a country with high costs like the U.S.A to a country such as Greece where the economy is struggling and prices are relatively low. It is a good idea to check conversion rates and the cost of living in the country that you are moving to in order to figure out how much you will need to spend.

People May Judge You

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Although everyone likes to think that they don’t have any predispositions towards other races, everyone has their own stereotypes and views of different cultures and races. It will be different being in a foreign country where people are not the same as you, and you are likely to be seen as different and judged based on where you are from. The liability of foreignness is a concept that says that being foreign is a liability in another country based on cultural views of what it means to be a native.

Other Cultures Aren’t Always as They Seem

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As mentioned in the previous point, you may have predispositions towards other races when going abroad. However, it is often nice to see that some of these can be completely wrong and may catch you by surprise. Although some cultural tendencies and stereotypes may come from a true place, it is important to keep an open mind as you never know how people may behave.

Actions that Seem Trivial May Not Be So

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Things that may seem small in one country, may have a much greater level of importance in others. In Europe and many other countries, check kissing upon greeting is very normalized. The amount of kisses varies from country to country and even within countries. However, this action within the United States would often be seen as an unwarranted familiarity that is inappropriate.

Things Can Mean Something Completely Different

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Signs, phrases, and actions in one country that are deemed appropriate may be completely inappropriate in others. One example of this is gift giving in India. In the United States there are not many real rules to gift giving, but if you hand somebody a gift in India, it can be seen as dirty as that is said to be the hand you use when utilizing the bathroom. The backwards peace sign in the US also means relatively nothing but is a extremely rude gesture in the United Kingdom.

There are a lot of things that might surprise you when living abroad, so do some research on the country and culture to be prepared!

Till Death (or graduation) Do You Part – Selecting a Research Topic

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The topics you studied in the general ed classes of your undergraduate years were one night stands; fun for the semester, but rarely thought about after. Selecting a research topic in grad school is the equivalent of dating in your late twenties; you’re looking for something serious that through all the toils and trials, will stand the test of time.

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Picking a subject that already has a fair amount of existing research is usually a smart way to begin your academic marriage. This probably seems counterproductive as you are thinking “Why would I pick something that already has been researched to death? What could I possibly discover.”As any experienced student will tell you, the starting point of all research papers is the literature review: the portion of the paper where you cite the works of people much smarter and more accomplished than yourself. One day, some wet behind the ears first year may be citing one of your many published works but for now, your professor is going to expect a certain number of citations to earn a passing grade. So while the 14th century mating habits of the indigenous people of Utah may sound like a winning topic, if your EBSCOhost search returns only three results, you my want to venture in a different direction.

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When you reach a certain age, you’re going to want to expand your family from just you and your partner, to a few children and maybe a corgi. As with your relationship, you’ll find it wise to select a topic in which you can branch out on during your time in your program. Keeping in mind you are selecting a thesis that you’ll be with from your intro class to your capstone, you most certainly will want one that will give you the most milage. My topic area of Greek Life has spawned research projects on diversity, privilege, academic success and hazing ethics. You and your topic will be expected to reproduce numerous times during your program, so pick one that is fertile.

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The most important aspect in choosing your topic area, is selecting something you are actually interested in. As with your significant other, you’re going to spend much time with your research topic. All of those long evenings hunched over your laptop in a coffee house or late nights closing down the library will be much more enjoyable if you’re studying something that piques and holds your attention. Just as passion fuels the fires of your romances, may it incite your academic pursuits as well.

How To Go From A “Good” To A “Great” Paper

Ask any one of my buddies.  When I have to write a paper, I want to literally shoot myself in the face & end it all.  I’m dramatic and whiny but I always get it done, correctly and on time.  I can’t make the process any more enjoyable but hopefully these tips can take your paper to the next level.

#1 Don’t worry about filling up pages.  This is the number one way to get a C or lower on a paper.  It leads to rambling repeated ideas rephrased and a lack of coherent structure. Instead, try to find more facts to back up your thesis statement or main points. Include graphs, charts, figures or anything else that will reinforce the message you are trying to get across.  Nobody can argue with the facts; words are wind.

#2 A great way to avoid #1, determine the scope of your paper.   Scope means the size of the question you want to answer.

I’ll give you an example of a prompt I received in an ethics and public policy paper.

“Which is more important: maximizing happiness or minimizing rights violations?”  The reading for the paper was 200 pages and the scope of the original question is HUGE.  A doctoral thesis could be written on that question alone and I only have 3-5 pages to work with.  So I change the question.  Instead of addressing everything, I answer ‘maximizing happiness is more important that minimizing rights violation when conditions A, B and C exist.  Boom, thesis and scope knocked out in one fell swoop.

Which naturally leads to step…

#3 unpack your ideas.  Focus on two or three points for a paper of 3-5 pages and then thoroughly argue them.  How do you achieve this?  Think of every objection you can think of to the point you are trying to make and address those weaknesses and objections.  Addressing counter arguments makes your thesis stronger, not weaker and it builds up to that page limit constructively while leaving the writer with only a few points to address well. That is, in a nutshell, what unpacking is.

One last word of advice, it is such a rookie mistake we have all been guilty of at one point or another, and it will bite you in the butt every time.  The thesaurus is not a data mine for you to intellectualize your paper with more eloquence. The thesaurus is to tease out nuances for an idea you are trying to express (ex. I don’t just want to beat my opponent, I want to hammer him).  Use with caution!

Good luck, I hope this helps!  Questions are welcome in the comments section.

 

Wonderbread

I’m reading Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections