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How to Write a Research Paper

by South University
January 15, 2019
A photo of South University students.

If this is your first time writing a research paper, it’s nothing to be scared of. Like all of your schoolwork, this will require time and effort, but you can do it! Learning how to do research, analyze and evaluate ideas, and communicate your perspective will be valuable in whatever career or area of study you’re pursuing.

Below, we break down how to write a research paper in six steps, covering everything from how to write a thesis and research paper outline to how to write a conclusion. Follow these steps for your writing process and you’ll be well on your way to crafting a strong research paper.

Confirm Your Requirements

“The most important part of successfully completing any assignment is to understand the scope of the assignment,” says Rachel Mitchell, MLIS, Director of Online Library Services at South University. “Don’t lose points on simple things like page numbers, word count, or citation style and formatting.”

To avoid mistakes, read your assignment and grading rubric carefully. Know whether to use APA or MLA format and citations, and always make sure you understand the goal of your paper.

Start Early

Set yourself up for success by starting as soon as possible. If your topic isn’t assigned, begin by brainstorming research paper topics. Choose something that interests you and is specific enough that the research process won’t be overwhelming. Because you’re starting early, you may have time to review potential research paper topics with your instructor.

The earlier you pick a topic, the more margin you have for the entire process. “Margin allows you to get clarification on the research paper format and requirements and to leave enough time to revise your first draft and get feedback from a colleague or tutor,” advises Mitchell. “Start early, plan your paper, and you should be done on time.”

Research

Begin the research process for a new topic by reading high-level information. From there, you’ll need to dig deeper and be selective about sources. Look for peer-reviewed books or articles referenced by others in the field. Websites with .edu, .org, and .gov are usually reliable.

As you research, save any source that might be useful, highlighting and annotating key points. Keep your notes in one location, clearly noting information and opinions from your sources versus your own thoughts and commentary. For help finding sources, ask your school librarian and utilize the online library.

Next, Mitchell recommends starting your MLA or APA citation page. “Once you know which sources you want to use for your paper, go ahead and format that reference page,” she says. “Start with citation generators, and double check with help from your librarians and library citation resources. Then, once you finish writing your paper, you are done!”

Organize and Outline

When your research is complete, group or color code your notes based on topic, looking for related ideas to write about. After reviewing your notes, write a thesis statement that explains the main concept or argument you want to convey in your paper. A thesis should be specific enough that someone could reasonably disagree with it. Remember, your thesis won’t be perfect on the first go-round. Write something down and edit it until it feels right.

Now it’s time to build out your research paper outline by listing and ordering the points that support your thesis. Under each main point, list sub-points or supporting information found during the research process. Creating this research paper outline can make writing a research paper much easier because you already know what you want to say and what order to say it in.

Begin Writing

Before starting, review your assignment instructions and research paper format requirements one more time. “Format as you go,” advises Mitchell. “Microsoft Word and the online library provide paper templates that allow you to plug-and-play as you complete portions of your paper.”

Use your outline as a guide, knowing things may change as you’re writing. In your introduction:

  • include your thesis
  • preview supporting points
  • offer background about your topic and its importance.

As you write, support your statements with statistics and information from your sources but don’t fill your paper with overly long quotes. Instead summarize and analyze what you read, making relevant connections and adding your own commentary where possible.

Finally, drive your argument home in your conclusion paragraph by summarizing how your individual points add up to support your thesis. The conclusion paragraph may also demonstrate the importance of your ideas, tie your argument into a broader context, or propose an action readers should take in response to your paper.

Revise Your Work

Once your first draft is complete, let it sit for a day or two. Then, approach your research paper with fresh eyes. Check your paragraph writing for:

  • complete and coherent arguments
  • concrete details and examples
  • logical structure and sequencing
  • relevant sources and supporting data.

Read your paper aloud and edit any odd-sounding sentences, transitions, or word choices. Cut or expand ideas as needed. When you’re satisfied, ensure that in-text citations are done correctly and all sources are on the citation page. Look for typos, grammatical errors, and anything not following the required research paper format. Do a final re-read before submitting your research paper and celebrating your hard work!

South University Academic Support Resources

South University is here to help our students throughout the writing, editing, and research process. If you need assistance at any stage, you always have somewhere to turn, including:

  • The campus & online library
  • Tutoring center staff
  • Your academic advisor
  • Your instructors

Some instructors even design assignments with check-ins along the way, so that you meet with them to review your thesis statement, research paper outline, and even a first draft before submitting your final research paper.

If you’re interested in starting or continuing your education at South University, contact us at 1.888.444.3404 or request information online.

by South University
January 15, 2019
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A Guide to Setting & Keeping New Year’s Resolutions for Students

by South University
December 31, 2018
A photo of two South University physical therapist assistant students.

The start of a new year signals a time to reflect and reset, to decide what new goals to pursue and where to focus your energy. If the idea of growth and development resonates with you right now in your academic, professional, or personal life, creating a new year’s resolution list can help to set you up for success.

Planning Your New Year’s Resolution List

For starters, you can pick either a few goals to stay focused on throughout the year or decide to select one aspect of your life to work on each month. Once you know your new year goals, begin by honestly assessing where you are today. Then set a specific, measurable goal for how much you want to improve and by when, listing the steps you need to take to get there.

To make sure you take action, set reminders to check in with your progress regularly, perhaps once a week. Ask yourself what’s working, what’s not, and what you should change. If you’re not meeting your goals, keep trying different strategies until you do.

Example New Year’s Resolution Ideas

A photo of South University students at their commencement ceremony.

To help you get started, here are a few smart goal examples for students to consider as you brainstorm new year’s resolution ideas.

  1. Complete your assignments early.
    Aiming to complete your projects and assignments at least one day early is one of the smartest academic goals you can set. When you stop procrastinating, you can reduce the stress of finishing projects at the final hour and gain an extra day to resolve any unexpected last-minute issues.

  2. Build your community of support.
    As a student, there will be times when you need encouragement or advice, so it’s good to not only stay close with current friends and family but also try to meet new people, like classmates or colleagues you haven’t talked with. Being social can be the perfect mental break when you need time away from schoolwork. By connecting with colleagues, classmates, and faculty, you’ll have people you can turn to for professional advice as well.

    If this makes your new year’s resolution list, remember to choose specific actionable goals, such as calling your sibling weekly or attending 3 social events per month. If your goal is vague, it’s too easy to not do it.

  3. Join school, community, or professional organizations.
    This new year’s resolution can help you build your network and get out of your comfort zone. By joining an organization, you could try something new, contribute to your community or professional field, and pick up new skills. Pursue this goal by breaking it down into steps—researching organizations, joining, attending, etc.—so that you follow through and stay involved.

  4. Stay focused while you work.
    Learning to stay on task is a big part of time management. To achieve this, find tools and techniques that help you stay focused, like a browser add-on or mobile app that blocks social media sites during set hours or following the Pomodoro technique to do your schoolwork (and only your school work) for set amounts of time. Again, if you choose this as a new year’s resolution, be sure to set measurable goals and track your improvements.

  5. Make healthy eating choices.
    Anyone with a full schedule knows how easy it is to fall into unhealthy eating habits. However, with a little planning, you can eat healthier. Healthy eating starts with smart grocery shopping as well as planning your meals and snacks. When setting health goals, name specific food to eat less of or stop buying. You don’t have to cut out sweets or fast food, but you can set limits for yourself.

  6. Prioritize physical activity.
    Adding more physical activity to your routine can actually increase your energy for your busy days. For the sake of measurement, include a desired number of workouts or a total movement time per week in your physical fitness new year goals. With some physical activity, you can also set goals for speed or reps.

  7. Get more sleep.
    How much sleep do you get on an average night? Do you have a regular sleep routine? Do you stay up late and then wake up early to finish your work? To achieve your goals for school, you need to approach each day with a fresh mind. That starts with a full night’s sleep. Remember you don’t have to get there right away. Instead, work up to 7 or 8 hours. Begin by removing habits that might be making it harder to fall asleep or causing you to wake up in the night.

Help with Achieving Your Academic Goals

If you need guidance or support on creating a plan to achieve your academic goals, ask your academic advisor for assistance. They can help with items on your new year’s resolution list that include goals like to stop procrastinating, earn higher grades, and improve your time management skills, to name a few. Our faculty and staff are here to help you with making 2019 your best year yet!

by South University
December 31, 2018
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Top Financial Aid Questions to Ask When Choosing a School

by South University
December 31, 2018
A photo of a student shaking hands with a support professional, perhaps a financial aid counselor.

Once you’ve selected your top school and found the right degree program for you, the question of how to pay for college is still top of mind for almost every student. Your school’s financial aid team will be key in helping you apply for financial aid and create a financial plan that fits your needs. Here are some of the critical financial aid questions to ask this college department.

What types financial aid options are offered?

Among the most obvious financial aid questions to ask a college, this is also the most important. Below are common types of financial aid for college students your school should mention.

Federal grants: Grants are a form of a federal financial aid that eligible students do not have to repay as long as they remain in school. “A student may have to pay back all or part of a grant if they withdraw from school before finishing an enrollment period,” explains South University Student Services Manager, Brent Whigham.

Federal student loans: “Federal student loans are borrowed funds that must be paid back to the Department of Education, with interest,” says Whigham. “Students are required to begin making payments 6 months after graduating, leaving school, or dropping below half time enrollment.”

To apply for federal student loans and grants, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

State aid: State-funded financial aid may be available for some students. Eligibility varies based on the individual state requirements.

Institutional scholarships & grants: Schools may offer institutional grants and college scholarships based on merit or need. Speak with your school to see what’s currently available.

Outside sources: Many non-profit and private organizations offer grants, scholarships, and loans that can help you to pay for college. Even your employer may offer tuition assistance or reimbursement. While many legitimate grants, college scholarships, and lenders exist, do be suspicious of offers that seem too good to be true and particularly those that require a fee. “Be cautious of online scams and consult with a financial aid counselor at your school if you are concerned with a certain online offer,” recommends Whigham.

Who will assist me with financial planning and paperwork?

Being unsure of how to pay for college is normal, and you shouldn’t be left to figure it out on your own. Make sure your school offers a dedicated financial aid advisor who can walk you through applying for financial aid, help you understand your financial aid options, and answer questions as they come up. At South University, this person will be your Student Finance Counselor, who will support you through all aspects of the financial process.

What transfer of credit options are available?

Transfer of credit can be a great way to reduce the cost of your education. Your school may accept transfer credit from:

  • Prior college credit
  • Military experience
  • Military training
  • Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DSST)
  • College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
  • American Council on Education (ACE) certifications

At South University, our admissions team will work you with to secure prior transcripts and any related documentation that we can evaluate for potential transfer credit.

What benefits are offered to military members, veterans, and family members?

For military personnel, veterans, and military family members, this is a must-ask financial aid question. Eligible institutions may offer programs such as Tuition Assistance, GI Bill® benefits*, the Yellow Ribbon program, and more.

“South University is proud to accept most military benefits available. Finance counselors can direct students to resources to determine what benefits may be available,” says Whigham. “We are also glad to offer a 10% tuition scholarship for qualifying military personnel, veterans, and active duty military spouses.”

When will I find out about and receive a financial aid award?

If you complete the FAFSA online, you may receive a Student Aid Report with basic details about financial aid eligibility in as little as 3 days. For a paper FAFSA submission, this may take up to 3 weeks. If you entered a school code in your FAFSA, that school will receive your FAFSA information and, depending on their processes, should be able to discuss your college financial aid options with you shortly.

Timelines for dispensing aid vary by school. At South University, once all of your documents are on file and your financial aid plan is approved, your aid typically pays around 4 weeks from the start of class. You can check financial aid status anytime on the My Finances page of your online portal.

Connect with the Financial Aid Team at South University
Our financial aid counselors are here to answer all of your college financial aid questions. To speak with our admissions and financial aid teams, request information online or call us at 1.888.444.3404.

*GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at https://www.benefits.va.gov/GIBILL/Trademark_Terms_of_Use.asp.

by South University
December 31, 2018
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How the GI Bill® Can Help You Advance Your Education

by South University
December 7, 2018
A photo of two South University nursing students in their commencement garb.

Many military members know that the GI Bill®* can help them pursue their education, but the details of GI Bill® benefits and eligibility are lesser known. So what is the GI Bill®? First passed in 1944 and since revised many times, the GI Bill® encompasses multiple education benefit programs provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While each program’s eligibility and benefits vary, over the years, the GI Bill® has helped millions of qualifying servicemembers, veterans, and their families further their education, training, and skills.

GI Bill® Benefits for College Degrees

Military members and veterans can use GI Bill® benefits for undergraduate degree or advanced degree programs. You can also use the GI Bill® to pay for multiple degrees if you have remaining benefits after your first degree. For example, you might pursue an undergraduate degree in Psychology and then a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

In cases where the GI Bill® does not fully cover college tuition, Active Duty, Reservists, or National Guard members may qualify for Department of Defense (DoD) funding such as Tuition Assistance or Top-Up benefits, which can cover part or all of the remaining tuition costs. Some states and/or schools also offer military scholarships/grants. Beyond these DoD and VA education benefits, you may qualify for financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

When using DoD or VA benefits, it is important to know your benefit limits and that eligibility may depend on successful course completion.

Major GI Bill® Benefit Programs & Eligibility

Post-9/11 GI Bill®: The Post-9/11 GI Bill® provides up to 36 months of education benefits for servicemembers who have served on active duty for at least 90 days after 9/10/2001 or were discharged with a service connected disability after 30 consecutive days. Honorably discharged veterans awarded a Purple Heart after 9/10/2001 can also qualify.

Individuals entitled to 100% of this benefit may have their entire cost of tuition and fees covered and paid directly to your school. In addition, you may qualify for a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) and book and supplies stipend. Active duty members may be able to transfer unused benefits to a dependent or spouse. See www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_gibill.asp for more information.

Yellow Ribbon Program: The Yellow Ribbon Program can assist veterans with 100% Post-9/11 GI Bill® eligibility whose tuition and fees exceeds the VA’s annual cap. Once you reach this cap, the VA and the participating school each cover half of the remaining tuition and fees until the new cap year begins (August 1 – July 31). (Select South University programs may be subject to a maximum yearly tuition & fee reimbursement.) Fry Scholarship recipients as of 8/1/2018 are now eligible to participate in the Yellow Program. Child transferees of active duty servicemembers may be eligible if the servicemember is qualified at the 100% rate. See www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/yellow_ribbon.asp for more information.

Montgomery GI Bill® Active Duty: Servicemembers who have paid into this benefit while on active duty may have a significant portion of their tuition and fees covered. This program can provide up to 36 months of education benefits paid directly to you, so you will need to work with your school on a financial plan. To qualify, servicemembers must have an honorable discharge and meet other eligibility requirements set by the VA. For more information, visit www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/montgomery_bill.asp.

Montgomery GI Bill® Selected Reserve: This program provides up to 36 months of education benefits. It is intended for members of the Selected Reserve and National Guard who have enlisted or re-enlisted in the Selected Reserve with an obligation to serve 6 or more years after June 30, 1985. To be eligible, you must complete initial active duty for training (IDAT). Eligibility expires upon leaving the Selected Reserve. This benefit is also paid to you monthly, so you’ll need to work with your school on a financial plan. For more information, visit www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/mgib_sr.asp.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment: This program supports eligible servicemembers and veterans with service-connected disabilities. Designed to help you prepare for, obtain, and maintain suitable employment, it may cover the entire cost of tuition and fees. Before receiving this benefit, you will meet with a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to develop an education plan. For eligibility details or to contact a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, visit https://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/eligibility_and_entitlement.asp

Fry Scholarship: This scholarship provides the Post 9/11 GI Bill® to children of servicemembers and surviving spouses of Armed Forces members who died in the line of duty after 9/10/2001. Qualifying individuals may receive up to 36 months of benefits at the 100% level as well as a Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) and a book and supplies stipend. For more information, visit www.benefits.va.gov/gibill or www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/docs/factsheets/fry_scholarship.pdf.

Survivors' and Dependents' Educational Assistance (DEA): DEA provides educational assistance to spouses and dependents of veterans who have died or are totally and permanently disabled as a result of their service. This benefit pays directly to the student, so you’ll need to work with your school on a financial plan. For more information, visit www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/survivor_dependent_assistance.asp.

Using Your GI Bill® Benefits at South University

To learn about using military and VA education benefits at South University, visit our Military Benefits page or view our Military Brochure. When you request information online or call South University at 1.888.444.3404, we’ll connect you with a team member who specializes in supporting military students as they prepare to pursue a college degree.

*GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.

by South University
December 7, 2018
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How to Stay Focused & Productive This Holiday Season

by South University
December 5, 2018
A photo of two South University nursing students studying a piece of medical equipment.

The holidays can be a time of celebration and fun, but they’re also known for being hectic and stressful. If you’re already busy with work and school during the rest of the year, here’s how you can better manage your time, focus, and productivity this holiday season.

Prioritize wisely

With everything going on this holiday season, clear your mind by getting your to-dos out of your head and onto paper. Whether it’s about school, work, or your personal life, write it down and decide if it should be done, today, this week, or later this month. You may be able to delegate some personal tasks to a helpful friend, family member, or spouse. If you explain that school is making you busier than normal and that you need to stay focused on working toward your goals, you’ll likely find someone willing to pitch in.

Make sure you’re also strategic in what you say yes to. For example, you likely don’t need to attend an event every weekend. To stay focused, you first must choose what to focus on and prioritize what matters.

Break down big projects

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by a school or work project and you already have a long list of holiday to-dos, skipping straight to the holidays is tempting. Instead, stop procrastinating and break down your project into manageable tasks. Ask yourself what is the first thing you need to do for your project. The second? Third? Keep going until you have a clear plan. Then work your way through each part and enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing each step.

Dividing time between your project and holiday list is fine as long as you’re not ignoring your project entirely.

“Give yourself time each day to work on your project until it’s done, so that you can get to your other priorities,” says Alexandra Young, Student Services Manager for South University.

Keep others informed

“The holidays are a wonderful time to get together with friends and family,” Young says. “However, you should let them know when you’ll be taking time before your gatherings for schoolwork. This allows you to stay ahead of the due dates so you won’t be worrying about assignments while you spend time with loved ones.”

Communicating in advance also sets expectations, so that you have fewer interruptions and can finish your work faster. The same goes for telling the people who live with you, especially if they’re taking time off work or your children are out of school while you’re at home working. Let people know what you’re doing and for how long so you can stay focused.

Shop smart

A photo of a South University student using a computer.

Whether you’re shopping online or in person, it’s easy to get caught up browsing the pages or aisles without realizing how much time has passed. Before shopping, create a to-do list and set a limit for how long you’ll shop.

Online shopping also makes it tempting to buy things as they come to mind. But don’t let shopping distract you from your work. Instead, decide what day and time you’ll shop and add it to your calendar. When you think of something to buy, simply add it to your list or online calendar event, so that you can do all your shopping at once.

On shopping days, stick to your list and keep an eye on the clock. For an even more productive day, squeeze in some reading or an assignment in before or after shopping.

Take advantage of days off

Over the holidays, you’ll have some days off class, but you can still work on coursework over your break. Young suggests, “Try to find time for readings or submitting a discussion response before big events.” (That way there’s no need to leave early and you can fully enjoy yourself.)

If you’re caught up, check your syllabus for upcoming work and find ways to get ahead. This helps you to stay in the routine of doing schoolwork, so that you’re still in the zone and ready to keep learning when your classes resume.

Enjoying the Holiday Season

Whatever tips you use for how to stay focused this holiday season, make sure you give yourself time for fun and family.

“Going to school can even be a great talking point to share with those who care about you! Let them know what assignments you’re working on during this festive time and share what assignments you really like,” says Young.

“Don’t look at school as a hurdle through the holidays; instead see it as a great accomplishment that you are progressing toward something positive!”

by South University
December 5, 2018
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