Engaged Learning hosts workshop to help students with end-of-year research papers

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Editor’s note, March 29, 1:35 p.m.: This story has been updated throughout.

In a classroom located on the ground floor of Clements Hall, 15 undergraduate and graduate students gathered around a large table, laptops out, ready to follow along with SMU research librarian Rebecca Graff on how best to navigate research and citation tools on SMU Libraries websites for end-of-year papers and projects.

SMU’s Engaged Learning program hosted the “Research, Cite, & Write” workshop on Thursday, March 17. Engaged Learning, directed by Susan Kress, was created six years ago and is designed for undergraduate students to do research, engage in community service, work on creative activities, or pursue entrepreneurship as a co-curricular activity to enhance classroom learning.

“Engaged Learning was designed to make research in general easier for students,” Kress said.

Graff, an instruction coordinator and humanities research librarian at Fondren Library, spent the hourlong workshop demonstrating where certain reliable research websites can be found and how to use citation tools within the SMU Library search engine.

Throughout the workshop, Graff encouraged students to set up meetings, consult with the librarian working for their discipline or use the “Ask A Librarian” button on the Central University Library webpage, which allows students to immediately chat with librarians on duty.

“If students just ask their librarian, we can help make the research easier and will be able to find better information faster,” Graff said. “We can make the process less painful but we can only help if we are asked, so it’s really up to the students.”

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SMU students follow along as Librarian Graff manipulates the university's websites Photo credit: Evie Dole

Upcoming events on the Engaged Learning calendar include a “Final Projects” workshop from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 29. There is also a “How to Blog Using Digital Media” workshop from 12 to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12. Students interested in finishing the semester with a bang should attend any and all workshops hosted by Engaged Learning.

Students majoring in everything from political science to statistics came to the workshop to enhance their skills and prepare for the future. Ryan Cross, a sophomore double majoring in political science and international studies, came to this Engaged Learning workshop for help with a 10-page political science paper.

“This paper is only 10 pages long, but I know there are going to be a lot more longer papers coming up in my more advanced political science classes, so I really came to this workshop so I will be ready in the future,” Cross said.

One of the most sophisticated citation tools demonstrated in the workshop is known as RefWorks, a reference management software designed to aid students in citing publications and storing all of the information in the cloud. Graff advocated for SMU to purchase the highest-level upgrades within RefWorks. She wants students to focus on research instead of worrying about the format of a bibliography on a class paper.

“Research in not linear and can’t be done overnight, but RefWorks allows students to focus on the content of the research instead of editing and formatting,” Graff said.

Jasmine Kim, a junior physics and applied mathematics major and computer science minor, attended the workshop because she has plans to do research in the future and needs to know how to present her findings.

“I have never written a research paper before because of the classes I am currently taking, but I am going to need to know how because I going to want to document my research,” Kim said. “I did not know we had RefWorks to use. I will use that in the future to keep my citations.”

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