I have a love/hate relationship with research papers. I love writing them, but I hate being on a deadline. Here are some of the tips I’ve found handy while writing papers for school.

  • Make a list
    • If you have multiple papers due, as it always seems to happen, make a list. I put the items in order of their due date or grade importance. As a procrastinator, I found this helped. It’s also positive to see things being crossed off. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Become best friends with your style guide.
    • As an English major, I was very familiar with the MLA style guide. In fact, my favorite book for school was my “MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.” I used it so often that I named it! Even though most schools put it on the “recommended” list, I urge you to buy it. You won’t regret it!
  • NEVER use Microsoft Word’s Bibliography tool.
    • I’ve heard teachers mention this a lot, and I’ve seen people have points taken off because their citations were incorrect because they relied on Microsoft Word’s citation tool. This is another reason to cling to your MLA Handbook.
  • Allow yourself breaks.
    • Take a break to read a book, or to watch a movie. Writing a paper is stressful enough without you getting burnt-out. Take an hour or so to do something you enjoy, then go back to your paper. Often, you’ll have new ideas as a result of letting your mind rest.
  • Know your writing style.
    • Some people are writers who double and triple edit with an outline, while others are stream-of-consciousness writers. Personally, I am the latter, but that style of writing isn’t for everyone. Knowing your writing style helps you plan out your paper easier. I never use an outline, but some people need it.
  • Don’t forget to eat and sleep!
    • Sometimes you get so engrossed in writing that you forget to eat, or you pull an all-nighter to get that paper done last-minute. While I completely understand the need to stay up all night to finish the paper, it’s not healthy, especially if you’re working on one paper after another. It also affects your writing when you can’t concentrate because you’re too hungry or tired. Take that break for lunch, take a nap. Your paper will be all the better for it.
  • Never plagiarize, even if your paper is going to be late.
    • I know a lot of teachers drum the plagiarism fact into your head, but it’s really important. Most teachers I knew would gladly have given you an extension rather than have you plagiarize just to finish the paper on time. Even if they take points off, it’s better than the alternative. If you plagiarize, at the very least you’ll get a 0 on the paper. At the worst, you could be expelled. Take the ten points off, trust me.
  • Try and have fun.
    • I know that papers can be stressful, but you should try to have fun. Try to make the paper about something of which you are very passionate. Argue something that you can turn into something fun. Sometimes teachers will allow you to write something different, as long as it’s relevant to the class. For example, my teacher allowed me to write about “Pride and Prejudice,” even though we read a different Austen work in class.
  • Don’t hesitate to talk with your teacher.
    • They want you to succeed as much as you do. If you’re having a problem, tell them. If you can’t get the paper in on time, tell them. If you need reference materials, ask them. I’ve never met a teacher who wasn’t willing to help.

Well, I hope this helps some of you with your papers! I hope that you have a good school year and good luck on your papers!

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As an avid seashell hunter here on the Gulf Coast, I figured I’d give you all some tips that will help you find the perfect seashells.

  • Look them up ahead of time.
    • Knowing what you’re looking for helps tremendously. Novice hunters will be impressed with a simple conch when there is the elusive Banded Tulip to be found.
  • Bring a seashell bag.
    • You gotta have somewhere to keep your stash of gorgeous shells!
  • If you can, wear bathing suit bottoms with pockets.
    • You never know when you’re going to run out of room in your shell bag, and pockets are a good way to keep your favorite shells separate from the rest of them.
  • Get a shell net!
    • While you can grab shells with your hands, it’s so, so much easier to scoop them up with a net that has a handle. If you can, have multiple nets. You don’t want to miss out on a Lightning Welk just because your net broke.
  • Don’t be afraid to blind-scoop.
    • While it’s always good to look for shells in the water to scoop up, blind-scooping can give you surprise treasures. One time I blind-scooped and got a Tiger Shark tooth!
  • Don’t let cold temperatures deter you!
    • While I wouldn’t recommend diving into the water when it’s cold, taking off your shoes, rolling your pants up, and going seashell hunting in December isn’t a bad idea. A lot of people are hesitant to hunt in the cold, but that means more for you!
  • Buy water shoes.
    • When Poseidon is bountiful and gives so many shells that your feet hurt to step on them, it’s wise to invest in water shoes. You never know when you might need them.
  • DREDGING IS LIFE.
    • Seriously. When they dredged here in Navarre, we found shells like the deep-sea Junonia. There were so many shells that it hurt not to wear water shoes!
  • Set a time limit.
    • If you can wear a watch, do so. If you’re anything like me, you could seashell hunt all day.
  • Have fun!
    • Seashell hunting shouldn’t be a job or a chore. Do it for the fun and for the thrill of finding your favorite shell. You’ll enjoy it all the more.

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Here are a few tips for those of you curious about buying awesome stuff at thrift stores!

  • Have at least $10 in cash.
    • Many thrift stores have a minimum amount for card purchases, and with the affordability of their items, you often find yourself just short of that magic number.
  • Like them on Facebook!
    • This may seem strange, but trust me, it’s important. My favorite thrift store often has sales on certain items, which is probably the reason my house became a library.
  • Don’t be afraid to check eBay!
    • Sometimes, you can find the perfect item on eBay for cheaper than the thrift store. You could also use eBay to check prices if you’re interested in thrift shopping for resell.
  • Keep an eye on the prices.
    • The thrift store I frequent occasionally gets name-brand items and has special pricing for them. For example, a purse could normally cost about $4.99 but if it’s a Louis Vuitton, it might go for about $50. Thrift stores check eBay too.
  • Be wary of very-worn shoes.
    • This may seem like a no-brainer, but trust me, I’ve seen people buy worn-out shoes. While this could be a good idea if you’re very strapped for cash, it isn’t the best idea. When you wear shoes, they get worn in a way specific to your own feet. And since no one’s feet are exactly the same, it could cause problems. Shoes are one of the few things you should buy new or near-new.
  • Check back often!
    • Thrift stores, especially chain or well-known ones, usually put new things on the shelves every day or they discount items. I’ve gotten great deals on things like crafting stamps and clothes because they had replenished their stock or they dropped the prices and I had visited often. I even managed to get two pairs of really cute, brand-new Converse shoes for $6 because I checked back.
  • Check the return policy.
    • My favorite thrift store chain allows returns for up to 14 days after purchase, but they are the exception, not the rule. A lot of thrift stores only allow returns for electronics and at that, only within a 24-hour window.
  • Try things on!
    • A lot of thrift stores have dressing rooms, and it’s always best to try on clothes before you bring them home, especially at thrift stores with the limited return policies.
  • Enjoy!
    • Part of the fun of thrift stores is the find. Remember when you found that perfect dress, or the perfect pair of shoes? You get the same feeling at thrift stores, except better because everything is so affordable. It’s so exhilarating to find a book you’ve been looking for at under $1.

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