Good writing and “info smarts” go hand-in-hand at college. But if you’re aiming for writing excellence, you’ll need to advance those info smarts, too. Before diving into specialty resources or learning fancy new search skills, it might help to get into a couple advanced habits first:
- Crank up the sophistication: You’re in college now (or on the way), so it’s time look past yourself. Reach for new horizons, analyze others’ ideas, and generate new insights. Compare, contrast, and critically think! You’re no longer limited by high school teachers’ guardrails; it’s time to impress professors. You’re a citizen of the world of scholarship now. By default, you need to fortify your thoughts and assumptions with evidence – solid evidence.
- “Do research” for classes besides COMP 101: Many students assume that once they’ve turned in the dreaded term paper for COMP 101, their need to “do research” at college disappears. In truth, some professors may not require research. But if you want to set the curve, you should make a habit of consulting other scholars’ ideas for most of your written assignments. Whether you’re describing a theory in PSYCH, examining an event in HIST, or tackling a MKTG case study, the information you’ll find in specialty sources will add richness and depth to your discussion.
- Go beyond Google: Google’s a great place to cast the net, troll for concepts, and fish for keywords. But think about it: if everyone’s searching Google (and everyone is – though some more effectively than others), where’s the competitive advantage? Besides, Google only searches a tiny fraction of the web. The “deep web” – password-protected databases, dynamically-created pages, or social media discussions, for example – is off-limits to search engines. Academic Search Premier on INSPIRE is a great first alternative; but as a matter of habit, you should consult advanced, subject-specific sources, too.
If you train your brain to think “advanced,” the next thing you know, you’ll be that way! Next up: the happy owl’s short list of advanced info types that all students should know and use!