Princeton Underground: A researcher’s guide to lesser-known resources

Princeton’s resource network, like Firestone Library under construction, is so big and complex you could spend hours inside it but only see a small part, never knowing what you’re missing. Here are 3½ of campus’ most under-the-radar resources, and a guide to using them.

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The DSS Lab in Firestone: literally underground.

1a. Data and Statistical Services: Lab edition
What: The original inspiration for this post, the DSS Lab is literally underground. A well-lit room of big-screen PC’s, the lab is run by two incredibly friendly statistical consultants who can help you download, format, reshape, or analyze data.
Where: The A floor of Firestone – see this map.
How: The lab consultants’ schedule is available here. Walk-in hours are available from 2-5 p.m. on weekdays through December 16.
Underground tip: For brief, specific questions, send an email to the consultants at data@princeton.edu. Continue reading Princeton Underground: A researcher’s guide to lesser-known resources

“The People Make It”: How My Peers Have Shaped My Princeton Experience

Recently ranked the best university in the country by US News and World Report, Princeton has a lot to gloat about. Yet on the list of resources and opportunities that make Princeton exceptional, rarely are the students themselves mentioned. While my classes here have been enlightening, my relationships with classmates have had the greatest impact on me.

Every day, Princeton students take in a wealth of knowledge, and it’s only natural that we share it with each other. I have a friend interning at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab down the road who discussed her project with me over dinner. She’s looking at data from four different satellites orbiting Earth to study magnetic reconnection events, or in other words, when solar winds (streams of high-energy charged particles from the sun) disrupt the magnetic field around Earth. I had never been exposed to this field, but in just a few minutes was able to understand several technical terms from a field of study completely different from mine.

Magnetic reconnection is responsible for the Aurora Borealis. Things you learn over dinner!
Magnetic reconnection is responsible for the Aurora Borealis. Things you learn over dinner!

And yet, most of my conversations aren’t outright academic. Amongst friends, there’s no pressure to turn conversations into precept. I’ve found that this balance between casual and academic actually aids my studies.

Continue reading “The People Make It”: How My Peers Have Shaped My Princeton Experience

SUBMIT to Tortoise, Princeton’s Journal of Writing Pedagogy!

Tortoise is an annual journal that publishes excerpts from Princeton undergraduate and graduate student research, featuring interdisciplinary work that emphasizes the writing process. With Tortoise’s “early action*” deadline coming up on December 16th at 5 PM, I sat down with senior editor Sahand Keshavarz Rahbar to learn what the journal is about.

The Tortoise staff! L-R: Harrison Blackman, Myrial Holbrook, Ron Martin Wilson, Sahand Keshavarz Rahbar, Ryan Vinh, Regina Zeng, Natalie Berkman,
The Tortoise staff! L-R: Harrison Blackman, Myrial Holbrook, Ron Martin Wilson, Sahand Keshavarz Rahbar, Ryan Vinh, Regina Zeng, Natalie Berkman.

Continue reading SUBMIT to Tortoise, Princeton’s Journal of Writing Pedagogy!

Is It Time to Panic Yet?

Going into panic mode!
Going into panic mode!

Going into fall break, reality set in for myself and several other juniors in the Sociology Department as we wrote our first official proposals for our Junior Papers. While writing my draft, I had to answer several questions for myself and my professor. What was my choice of methodology? Where did I plan on finding my data? How was my research significant to others? And on top of those explanations, the most daunting question of all—what was my intended timeframe of completion?

My initial thought was that I should have plenty of time; the final paper isn’t due until January 10th and I already have a game plan for how I want to conduct my research. But as I began to create the deadlines for gathering my secondary sources, analyzing my data, writing the paper, and more, I soon realized that I needed to get started on several tasks within a matter of days if I didn’t want to end up scrambling at the last minute. So after deciding on my umpteenth deadline, I finally found myself going into a state I’m sure we are all familiar with: panic mode. Continue reading Is It Time to Panic Yet?

Five Tips for Studying During an Apocalypse

Does your work suddenly feel trivial? Meaningless? Low-priority? How can you do your readings or work on your thesis when it feels like the world is crumbling around you? Regardless of how you feel about the elections, you might be finding it hard to concentrate on anything but politics. You are not alone. So many of us have experienced this before, caught between our simultaneous needs for self-care and academic productivity. With that in mind, I have compiled a short list of tips that might help you with your academics as you go through tough times.

1. Ask for extensions on assignments. Princeton students sometimes forget about this. I have personally asked multiple times, and have never been turned down. Professors want to receive quality work, and if you feel an assignment won’t be up to standards by the deadline, it is okay to ask for more time. Extensions are not to be abused, but they can give you the time you need to complete assignments on a less stressful schedule.

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Sometimes when I need to brighten up my day I like to buy a mocha!

2. Every little bit counts. Sometimes, you don’t have the energy to do more than a few pages of reading. That’s okay! If you can space out your work and do a little bit at a time, you will have less to catch up on later when you are in an easier state of mind.

3. Do something that puts you in a good mood. Read a novel. Get ice cream. See a play. Personally, I like to go on long walks with friends. As Vidushi wrote in a recent post, taking time for things you find enjoyable fosters healthier work habits without compromising productivity. Stepping away from your assignments will let you recharge and be better prepared to work afterwards.
Continue reading Five Tips for Studying During an Apocalypse

Building Friendly Teeth: A Three-Fanged Guide to Procrastination-Busting

We all need friendly teeth.

Friendliness debatable, those are some great choppers.
Friendliness aside, those are some great choppers.

This is what Amanda Wilkins, director of the Writing Program, told me at the beginning of this fall: not the kind of teeth that draw blood, but certainly the kind that instill a little fear.

When immediate priorities are vying for our attention and long-term project deadlines are in the faraway future – perhaps a final paper that is weeks away, a JP not due until Reading Period, or a full thesis not due before April of next year, for crying out loud – it’s easy to push the long-term tasks off to another day, and then another.

Friendly teeth: progress deadlines with bite.

Insert friendly teeth: the intermediate accountability standards, made and enforced to keep us on track between now and the distant future. Also known as progress deadlines with bite.

I have a year to write my thesis – I don’t want to be just getting started in March. Heck, I want to be done by March, and spend the last month before my deadline deciding between fonts.

Kidding. The only acceptable font for a thesis is Times New Roman, size 12.

And one other problem: I am almost never early.

Fun fact: tusks are actually specially-adapted canines! These teeth mean business.

Call me a chronic time optimist – I consistently underestimate how long it will take to get from outline to paper, or to walk across campus to meet a friend, or to shower, brush my teeth, do my readings, and teleport to class. Chronic time optimism runs in my family, and was reinforced growing up in Hawaii, home of “island time.”

But I’m working on it. And I’m here to report that so far, progress – on my thesis, at least – is going better than expected, thanks to the snapping jaws of three types of friendly teeth. Continue reading Building Friendly Teeth: A Three-Fanged Guide to Procrastination-Busting

Swamped With Sources? Tips for Synthesis

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Accurate representation of me drowning in sources

After looking at the midterm essay prompt for my French class, I was immediately overwhelmed by the amount of readings I would have to review and analyze. Dozens of articles, books, and excerpts loomed on the syllabus, and I had no idea where to begin. I often run into this problem. Synthesis is a meaningful combination of several sources, and can be difficult to do when everything seems important. The pressure to come up with a unifying and relevant thesis makes these initial stages of finding information even more stressful. Having experienced this struggle several times, I’ve come up with a few ways to organize sources that will hopefully be useful in the writing process!

Writing begins with a research question. That question might come from a given prompt, or from a personal interest. Either way, it provides a loose focus that will help eliminate irrelevant information when you’re reviewing and searching for sources. To speed up this process, make sure that if you’re reviewing sources you’ve already read in the semester, you’re just reviewing and not re-reading! You’ve already done the brunt of the work: simply skim through the readings to select ideas and passages that relate to your research question. Also, don’t feel pressured to use every source you’ve skimmed. Ultimately sources should function to bolster your own conclusions, so instead of crowding your paper with them, further analyze the ones most relevant to your research focus.

Continue reading Swamped With Sources? Tips for Synthesis

Live Uncertainty- Learning Abroad in Brazil

I spent my fall break last week in São Paulo, Brazil, visiting a variety of art museums and community spaces with a focus on the 32nd São Paulo Bienal, themed Incerteza Viva—live uncertainty. The trip was part of my art history seminar, Contemporary Art: The World Picture. University-sponsored travel, whether through classes, workshops, or independent work, has been the highlight of my Princeton experience, and my time in Brazil was no exception.

A view of the São Paulo Bienal from above!
A view of the São Paulo Bienal from above!

Continue reading Live Uncertainty- Learning Abroad in Brazil

This Post is Not About My Thesis

As I sat down to write my post this week, my mind naturally wandered to that big research project I’m completing alongside my fellow seniors. And yet, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find anything novel to say about it. A few hours of trial and error alerted me to a simple fact: It wasn’t necessarily that I couldn’t find something to write about my thesis; it’s that I didn’t want to. I felt like it’d be nice to imagine undergraduate research without the long list of thesis-related tasks clogging up my reminders.

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Look at this room full of seniors who want to talk about their theses!

Still, my post needed to be written. So I came up with what I thought was a clever solution: collecting one-sentence descriptions of other seniors’ thesis topics, in order to grasp the variety of research on campus. That might’ve been an interesting post, but it’s not what I’m writing about here. Why? Well, would you be surprised to hear that other seniors are also avoiding thesis-related talk? It seems like many seniors are disillusioned with the whole research process.

Continue reading This Post is Not About My Thesis

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research: What’s the Difference and How Do I Choose?

Deciding Between Quantitative and Qualitative!
Deciding between a quantitative and qualitative research method!

It’s almost November now, and if you’re a junior, you’re used to everyone asking you the same question: How’s your junior paper going? If your experience has been anything like mine, your initial reaction may be, “It’s great!” I’ve finally come up with a JP topic that interests me, I’ve already talked to (and received incredible advice from) my professors, and I’m in the process of mastering my Magic Research Statement. Getting started on my JP feels like a walk in the park!

But as November creeps nearer, my reaction to the JP question is a little less confident and a little more like, “Ummmm……” For me, this pause and sense of apprehension grow from two measly words that have plagued the minds of researchers for years: quantitative and qualitative. Sure, I may know what I want to research, but that still leaves me with the challenge of choosing my research method. How does one go about choosing between quantitative versus qualitative research anyways? Continue reading Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research: What’s the Difference and How Do I Choose?