Tips for Synthesizing Information

Taking notes with an eye toward synthesis (that is, making connections to previous material, readings, lectures, and so forth) can give you a head start on the writing process.

One of the challenges of college is assimilating large amounts of information from a variety of sources: lectures, course readings, independent work research, precept discussions, extracurricular programming—the list goes on and on. Compounding the challenge is the fact that what’s ultimately demanded of students is not mere recall, which can be accomplished through memorization. Rather, we’re charged with synthesizing disparate materials, pulling things together, making connections across genres of information. In this post, I reflect on some of the ways I try to do this. Continue reading Tips for Synthesizing Information

Why You Should Talk to Your Friends About Your Research

While advising and formal research mentorship have been highly rewarding at Princeton, I have found more informal discussions with friends and classmates here to be invaluable in the development of my own ideas.

A professor recently offered this advice in class: if writing a paper isn’t going well—if you’re feeling the notorious “writer’s block,” for instance—then try writing a letter instead. In his view, this needn’t be a real letter to an actual person. The main point is to try to explain what you hope to achieve in a different way to a different audience.

Though I’d never tried letter writing of this sort before, I immediately appreciated my professor’s advice because of how it connects to a practice I’ve implemented in my own life for quite a while. That strategy is to “talk it out”—to take a break from a task that’s frustrating me and talk through the problem with a friend. This is the first reason that I think talking about research is helpful for each of us: it helps us clarify our aims and work through challenges. Continue reading Why You Should Talk to Your Friends About Your Research

Beyond Religion: Reimagining Scholarship in the Humanities

The Syrian town of Tal Abyad, which has recently been conquered by Turkey. Below, I consider the role of “imagined” or Andersonian nationalism in this move, and how the study of religion can shed additional light on certain drivers of conflict. 

I’m often asked why I study religion. To those asking, my decision usually registers as vaguely interesting, if a bit niche, but certainly not as very “practical.” Often such conversations prompt inquiry into my own religious life—as if one could only study religion out of personal piety or an ascetic willingness to forego the earning potential of an economics or computer science degree. Temperamentally inclined to charitable conversation as I am, I try not to take misunderstandings or dismissals of what I do too seriously. As other humanities students likely know, being on the receiving end of such attitudes come with the disciplinary territory. Continue reading Beyond Religion: Reimagining Scholarship in the Humanities

Reframing the Senior Thesis for Intellectual Interest and Public Service

The author’s research notebooks alongside excerpts from Rita Felski’s The Limits of Critique, which partly inspired this post.

As we work our way into the fall semester, my fellow seniors might find some truth in the well-worn Dickens adage, “It [is] the best of times, it [is] the worst of times.” While this sentiment assumes a different shape and quality for each of us, it does seem generally fair to say that our final fall of college brings with it many joys—such as the enjoyment of established friendships, institutional and departmental familiarity, and an overall excitement about the many possibilities ahead—as well as certain unique stressors, such as discerning what in the great wide world to do after graduation and, of course, writing that Senior Thesis. While no one blog post can assuage all of our collective life-directional angst, that needn’t stop us from thinking about how to make our present situation a little brighter. One key way in which I suggest we can do this is by reframing how we view our theses. Which is to say, if your thesis currently makes you feel stressed, bored, uneasy, or generally bad, I hope you will read on. Continue reading Reframing the Senior Thesis for Intellectual Interest and Public Service

Post-Princeton Life: An Interview With Nicholas Wu ‘18

For this year’s Spring Seasonal Series, entitled Post-Princeton Life: The Experiences of PCUR Alumni, each correspondent has selected a PCUR alum to interview about what they have been up to. We hope that these interviews will provide helpful insight into the many different paths Princeton students take after graduation. Here, Shanon shares his interview.

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Nicholas Wu ’18 currently covers politics for USA Today.

As part of our Spring Seasonal Series, I interviewed Nicholas Wu ’18. I first met Nick in the fall of my first year, in a class called American Politics. For the remainder of Nick’s Princeton career, he and I shared the occasional class, and eventually, both became PCUR correspondents. I’ve long admired Nick’s curiosity and talent for critically evaluating contemporary politics, so I’m thrilled that he’s now making a career out of that interest. As you’ll see below, Nick has actually just accepted a job as a politics reporter for USA Today! So, I encourage you to read on to learn more about Nick’s early career experience and his advice for those of us still on “this side of paradise.” Continue reading Post-Princeton Life: An Interview With Nicholas Wu ‘18

The Junior Paper: A Halftime Report

1879 Hall, home to Princeton’s Department of Religion, where in a few weeks the author will submit the final draft of his JP.

My friends and fellow students, springtime has sprung forth from the recently-frozen New Jersey soil. Spring Break is in the rear-view mirror, and we march toward Dean’s Date, finals, and summer at a steady clip. But another set of deadlines draws even nearer, deadlines whose immediacy can be seen on the tired faces of many upper-class students. Yes, friends, I’m talking about independent work, JPs and theses, the academic tulips of the Princeton spring semester. Continue reading The Junior Paper: A Halftime Report

Professorship and Mentorship: An Interview With Professor of Religion Anne Marie Luijendijk

This winter, for our seasonal series entitled “Professorship and Mentorship,” PCURs interview a professor from their home department. In these interviews, professors shed light on the role that mentorship has played in their academic trajectory, including their previous experiences as undergraduate and graduate students as well as their current involvement with mentorship as independent work advisers for current Princeton undergraduates. Here, Shanon shares his interview.

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Professor Luijendijk holds several appointments at Princeton, including Professor of Religion, Chair of the Committee on the Study of Late Antiquity, and Head of Wilson College.

As part of our seasonal series on faculty research, I sat down with Professor of Religion Anne Marie Luijendijk to discuss her work in Early Christian History through the study of papyrus manuscripts. Having taken a course with Professor Luijendijk before, I must say that she is one of the most enthusiastic educators I’ve ever met. As such, it was definitely a privilege to speak with her about her own research. You can read our conversation below. If you’re interested in advice for working with a faculty adviser, the importance of taking walks, or the historical study of ancient religious manuscripts, then read on! Continue reading Professorship and Mentorship: An Interview With Professor of Religion Anne Marie Luijendijk

A Research Reflection: Discovering Historical Documents in Rare Books

A sample page of the “Catecismo pictórico Otomí,” a rare surviving example of the sort of materials used by Spanish missionaries to attempt to convert Native American populations. A wonderfully digitized version of the catechism can be accessed via the library website.

This semester, I’m taking REL 357/HIS 310: Religion in Colonial America and the New Nation with Professor Seth Perry. Even though we’re only in the fourth week of the semester, we’ve been thinking about the final project for the class already, since it consists of independent research on a primary source from Firestone Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections Division, pertaining to the history of American religion. In this post, I’ll be sharing some of my reflections thus far on this project, which I hope will be of use to anyone engaging in primary source research—especially those feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of materials available to work with! Continue reading A Research Reflection: Discovering Historical Documents in Rare Books

Notes on a New Semester

The winter months (and wintry weather!) at Princeton present the opportunity to get organized for the upcoming spring semester. 

Welcome back, my fellow Princetonians! I hope that this finds you refreshed and rejuvenated as we begin the second semester. And if it doesn’t, fear not: this time of year has its own challenges, including bicker (for students who opt to join selective eating clubs), course shopping, and independent work deadlines. Thankfully, this post is aimed at a wide audience. In it, I will share a few reflections on the start of a new semester, which I hope will be of use both to the rested-and-ready as well as to the I-never-had-a-breakers among us. So, if you’re interested in beginning of the semester musings from someone who has now been through the process six times, read on! Continue reading Notes on a New Semester

Working With Books in Preparation for Finals

Our friend, the humble bookshelf. I find that browsing shelves sparks my curiosity, causing me to pick up books that I might not even find in a standard keyword search.

Books are, in many ways, at the center of the college experience—particularly for my fellow students of the humanities and social sciences. At Princeton in particular, books are both the subject of many conversations and the object of much loathing (“Can you believe Professor X assigned us a whole book on top of next week’s reading?”). So, inspired by my own recent work with books in preparation for reading period and finals, I thought I’d use my post this week to discuss some ways to digest and analyze these valuable sources of information.  Continue reading Working With Books in Preparation for Finals