Finishing Strong: Dean’s Date Traditions and Reading Period Excitement

Photo taken by Whitman College Council; depicts two young individuals smiling at the camera holding the showbill for Harry Potter
Keep an eye on your inbox for once-in-a-lifetime events that you can enjoy during Reading Period, like Whitman College Broadway trips!

Can you believe it is almost time for finals? Our fall semester is coming to a close and it feels surreal. It is true that finals season, reading period, and Dean’s Date can be stressful. Furthermore, if you are a first year, it may not be obvious how the whole system works. In sum, our last day of class is December 8th. Then, reading period, a week without classes used to study for finals and prepare for Dean’s Date, begins on the 9th and ends on the 16th. The 16th is the infamous ~Dean’s Date~ or a fancy term we use to describe the day in which many of our written assignments and final projects are due. Finally, we go out like legends and finish our finals from the 17th to the 23rd. You can check the date of your finals on the University Registrar and reach out to your Academic Dean about rescheduling them if you have multiple finals on one day. The next few weeks may seem like a gloomy time on campus, but I want to use this post to share some moments of excitement and sneaky Princeton traditions that you can look forward to.

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Publications, Conferences, and Professional Development: Motivations for Your R3

Research Correspondent, Amaya Dressler ’25, presenting her Writing Seminar R3 research at the Mary George Research Conference.
Research Correspondent, Amaya Dressler ’25, presenting her Writing Seminar R3 research at the Mary George Research Conference.

Writing sem. For many, it’s one of the most challenging courses they’ll ever take at Princeton. It forces you to think in new and challenging ways, often questioning some of the ‘basic rules’ we’d previously been taught about writing. With late nights spent drafting and redrafting, 8:30 am classes, and daunting essay prompts, it’s easy to understand how writing sem (short for writing seminar) gets its reputation. No student makes it out of writing sem with three perfect papers. Yet, in the midst of challenge, it’s easy to lose sight of the many professional opportunities that writing sem can offer. Whether you’re looking to get published, nail your next job interview, or just make a little extra cash, here are four ways that any student can make the most of their writing sem experience.

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How and Why to Use Firestone Special Collections

Hand turning page of a book of 13th century poems in Firestone special collections.
Hand turning page of a book of 13th century poems in Firestone special collections.

Where can you find trinkets Albert Einstein collected in Japan, diaries and manuscripts by Toni Morrison, and an autographed manuscript of The Great Gatsby? None other than our very own Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library of course! Welcome to the wonderful world of one of Princeton’s coolest resources: Firestone special collections. Basically, it contains anything in the University’s possession that is rare, valuable, and/or too old and fragile to be removed from the library. I learned about special collections recently through my AAS 244 class on Pre-20th Century Black Diaspora Art in which we often check out art and related manuscripts in the special collections.

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Tips for Writing about Your Research Experience (Even if You Don’t Think You Have Any)

If you’re someone who hasn’t yet done formal research in a university setting, one of the most intimidating parts of the process can be simply getting your foot in the door. Just like the way your options can seem very limited when applying for your first job, asking for a research position when you have no “experience” can seem discouraging — maybe even to the point of causing you to question whether you should apply in the first place. With that being said, there are some simple tips you can employ when applying for research positions to highlight the link between your existing interests and the work of the position for which you are applying.

Illustrated resume on a desk being held by anthropomorphic tiger paws/hands. Tiger is wearing a suit. Desk is covered in writing/working items like pens, reading glasses, and coffee.
Check out the Center for Career Development’s Resume Guide! (Image credit to Career Development)
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Submitted and Successful: 3 Final Steps Before Turning in Your First Paper

Photograph of Princeton University in the rain, with many students walking, biking, and scootering to class holding umbrellas or wearing rain jackets
These rainy, gloomy days are perfect for colorful umbrellas and cozy paper-writing sessions.

“Did I include a scholarly conversation? Where is the motive of my piece? Do I even have a thesis?!” The “Submit” button on Canvas can stir worrisome thoughts as it may seem permanent or stressful. The goal of this post is to walk you through a few final steps you can take to ensure that everything is in check and ready to go, so that you don’t feel like something is missing once turning in your assignment. These points are by no means the end all be all, but you may use them to help you feel more confident handing in your final product. Thus, without further ado, here are 3 final steps to follow before submitting your research paper.

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A Figure Speaks a Thousand Words

Example boxplot titled Boxplot of Magnesium, Ashwaganda, and Melatonin with Deep Sleep. The boxplot analysis indicates statistically insignificant variations among supplement types. The author describes the follow-up question after their ANOVA analysis: how does my sleep vary with a magnesium pill vs. without a magnesium pill?
The boxplot comparison accurately reflects the variation between different sleep supplements and their effect on deep sleep quantity. As seen above, the boxplot demonstrates the presence of a single outlier under the Magnesium group which could have easily skewed and misrepresented the data in another type of figure.

As anyone who has taken one of Princeton’s introductory statistics courses can tell you: informative statistics and figures can and will be incredibly useful in supporting your research. Whether you’re reworking your R1, writing your first JP, or in the final stages of your Senior Thesis, chances are you’ve integrated some useful statistics into your argument. When there are a million different positions that one can take in an argument, statistics appear to be our research’s objective grounding. The data says so, therefore I must be right. Right?

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Writing Seminar: Growing as a Researcher, Writer, and Person

Reflecting on my first year, I think about how quickly time flies. I’ve thought about how much I’ve changed over the course of a year and how my discussions with my peers and professors already began to shape the way I viewed the world. As an engineering student, Writing Seminar was especially memorable because it opened the door for me to engage with research in the humanities.

All first-year students are required to take a Writing Seminar. My seminar, WRI146 – Constructing the Past, taught by Dr. Emma Ljung, centered on the theme of how the past is closely intertwined with the present. In retrospect, one of my most pivotal periods in the course was the process of writing my R2, which focused on artifacts from the Princeton University Art Museum. Interested in delving deeper into my Chinese cultural background, I chose to work with the Guang, a dragon-headed bronze pouring vessel from the late Shang dynasty.

Image of the Princeton University Art Museum Guang

Pouring vessel with dragon-head lid (guang), China, Western Zhou dynasty, 11th century to 771 BC, bronze from the Princeton University Art Museum. Photo from Daderot on Wikimedia Commons.

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Conversations over Lunch: The Research You’ve Started Without Even Realizing

There’s nothing very special about the statement that lunch is fun – who doesn’t enjoy it? What I’ve found more surprising is that even with all the thought provoking classes I’ve taken at Princeton, lunch is consistently one of the most interesting parts of my day. Whether relaying key points from a particularly great morning lecture, talking about our new favorite YouTube video, or filling each other in about weekend plans, my friends and I use lunch as a chance to share our latest finds. What I recently began to consider is that this universal desire to start a conversation around our latest discoveries sits at the core of the research process.

Image with a sun flare in the front of Forbes College.
On this particular day, Hiba and I had lunch at Forbes.
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From Law to Coding: Writing my SPIA Quantitative Junior Paper

Photo depicts grand Princeton building at night time, with ivy climbing up brick that appears reddish in the lighting.
From courses at SPIA to starry nights at Nassau Hall, there are many opportunities to reflect on what type of research is meaningful to you

There are many reasons why I chose to major in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA), ranging from the impact that we have through service and the focus on policy and law. One unique feature of SPIA is the ability for concentrators to take more qualitative courses such as SPI333: Law, Institutions, and Public Policy and quantitatively-based courses, such as POL346: Applied Quantitative Analysis. During the Fall of my junior year, I wrote a more qualitative junior paper on risk assessment tools in the pretrial adjudication system and analyzed whether or not they make more biased decisions than do humans (see here to read more about my experience). Headed into my junior spring, I was presented with the choice of writing another qualitative paper or joining a quantitative research lab. Thankfully, I felt confident in my coding abilities due to past courses I had taken which prepared me for this moment (see here to read about how I gained a quantitative background in R as a SPIA major). I chose the lab without hesitation and my spring semester independent research journey began.

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Navigating Princeton in COVID-19 Isolation

      Although things have been looking brighter on campus, with a decrease in COVID cases and happier weather, the threat of COVID-19 still remains and can be a daunting obstacle. I tested positive for COVID-19 last month, and I was lucky enough to get through it, but an extra stressor was definitely keeping up with my classes while being in isolation. Everyone’s experience is different, especially when it comes to symptoms and classes, but I hope that my advice can help you get through a tough time if it ever comes to it.

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