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Academics

In Academics on
May 16, 2016

Why You Should Join An Academic Organization

If you are an upperclassman with a relatively good GPA you have probably been approached at some point by an honor society on your campus. Today on the blog I am going to talk about the various kinds of academic organizations that are out there and give you a few reasons to join them.

Why You Should Join An Academic Organization | If your a student with a GPA over a 3.0 chances are you have been approached by an honor society or other academic organization. Click through to read my opinions about academic organizations and to listen to a podcast all about the importance of doing your research when you want to join an academic organization.

I am currently a member of two organizations in the sociological world–Alpha Kappa Delta (Sociology’s honor society) and the American Sociological Association. There are many different types of academic organizations but I feel like it’s best to focus on honor societies and associations.

Honor Societies

Honor societies are really tied to your academic prowess. If you are in school and have a GPA over a 3.0 you have probably been asked to join one of these organizations. There is usually a price tag associated with joining an honor society and they offer some perks (which we will talk about later.)

For Alpha Kappa Delta I had to be a sociology major (or show interest in sociology), I had to be to be at least a junior in college, I had to have a total GPA of at least a 3.3 and a sociology GPA of 3.0, and I had to have taken at least 4 sociology courses at the institution I was initiated at. I joined Alpha Kappa Delta in the second semester of my junior year. The fee for Alpha Kappa Delta was $40 for a lifetime membership

Associations

These are usually less to do with grades and more to do with just being a part of your academic world. They can offer a plethora of great resources to you though. I decided to join the American Sociological Association earlier this year. The American Sociological Association is a yearly membership and they have all sorts of tiers to the cost of membership. Since I was a student I got the membership for $50, but the most you have to pay per year is $360 (it’s tiered based on income and those paying $360 make $150,000+ a year.)

Now I am going to move into the perks of joining these academic organizations.

they look great on your resume

To a point, they are almost necessary for your resume in some fields. These academic organizations showcase something special about you and can really make your resume shine (and sometimes keep up) with the other top applicants for a job in your field. So many of my professors were also members of Alpha Kappa Delta or they are members of the American Sociological Association. Finding those big important organizations in your field so that you can become a part of them is crucial. Paying a little bit of money now so that you can say that you are a part of these great and influential organizations later in your career is so worth it.

Networking

On a larger scale, they are great for just networking in general. For instance, the American Sociological Association keeps a job bank on their website that is just open to members. Universities with sociology departments often post their open positions on the website, and these are the kind of jobs you don’t just find while searching your academic field on Indeed. These are great jobs and it gives you a leg up on networking and finding job opportunities just because you are a member of the association the job bank is listed on.

Not only that, but there are often other ways to network too. The American Sociological Association keeps up a LinkedIn group and they also have sections dedicated to various parts of sociology.

Lastly, the American Sociological Association also has yearly meetings in various places that you can attend as a member of the organization. These meetings are fun, you get to network and meet other sociologists, and you also get the chance to present research if you apply to. Associations and honor’s societies have all sorts of different conferences and networking events. There are all sorts of regional societies and associations too so don’t forget about those for even more fun networking events.

Funding

So we just talked about fun conferences and networking events, but let’s be honest, those cost money. These organizations often offer a plethora of funding opportunities, scholarships, and paper competitions for members to partake in. These opportunities can really add up for a student. If you can make $300 for travel just by applying and paying the $50 yearly fee, wouldn’t that be awesome? A lot of groups have all sorts of fun things just like that constantly happening in their societies if only the member apply to them. If possible try to find smaller associations and societies though, because obviously the bigger the organization the bigger the applicant pool.

These organizations can offer a ton in the way of scholarships and fellowships as you begin searching for money to fund your graduate program. Scholarships can be hard to come by so it is nice that these groups are able to provide that for their students.

Freebies/Resources/Discounts

Lastly, a big part of the reason for joining an academic organization is for the resources, freebies, and discounts you get as a member. In my honor society Alpha Kappa Delta we got a journal called Sociological Inquiry which was a journal that featured all sorts of work from sociology students across the country. There are also all sorts of other freebies and resources for members like a mentorship program. Not to mention being in an active chapter on your campus may be able to bring you resources as your honor society club on campus probably does a lot of fun events.

The American Sociological Association offers quite a few freebies and resources for members. We have a job board, we get a one year hard copy subscription to one of their many journals, we get all of the journals digitally, we get discounts on publications on their website, and more. A membership with the American Sociological Association has so many benefits and as I stated earlier I only pay $50 a year for a plethora of amazing freebies and resources. Sounds like a good deal to me! One cool book I recently got a discount on because I was a student member was a book featuring basically all of the Sociology graduate programs in the country that the American Sociological Association puts out. It’s normally $50, but since I was a student member I got it for $20.

Academic organizations often offer freebies and discounts on things like journals, merchandise, books, and more. These can be so beneficial to you as you begin to start your collection of journals and books in your field.

The Happy Arkansan Podcast

Today’s blog post has a special extra component for all you lovelies out there. I recorded an 8 minute podcast just for you. On this podcast I talk about all sorts of fun stuff like general academic organizations and why I don’t like them as much as the specific organizations I talked about on the blog. I also talk about how to do your research on the organizations that ask you to join so you can make sure that it will be a worthwhile effort.

I hope you enjoyed this podcast. Let me know in the comments if this is something you want to see more of, because recording it was so fun and low stress!

 Final thoughts

Academic organizations are definitely not cheap! They can cost a lot of money, but the affiliation with people in your academic field can be invaluable. You can gain so much by making these quick associations and it can turn into a great experience and resume builder for you. I encourage you to take a look at the academic organizations who recruit you, especially if they are related to your major so that you can create those important connections.

In Academics on
March 7, 2016

Reading With Purpose: Article Skimming 101

Today’s blog is all about reading with purpose, understanding the parts of an article, and skimming that article with intent. In graduate school right now I read a minimum of 6 articles a week between my two courses Violence & Society and Crime, Control, & Inequality. That’s a lot of reading, but you don’t read everything–you skim! I am going to teach you how to skim with purpose in today’s blog and I hope that you find this information super useful. These are things I wish I had learned way earlier in my college career, and it’s never too early to start working on understanding these concepts.

 Reading With Purpose: Article Skimming 101 | Being able to skim while reading is an important skill to have that all too often college students don't know how to do. Click through for my tips on how to skim read any article that you may have to read in college or graduate school.

Reading With Purpose

First of all it’s important to understand what reading with purpose actually means. There are a lot of reasons you might be reading an article. For example, each week I read three articles in my Violence & Society class. In my opinion my reads are a bit softer in this class because the purpose of my paper is a reflection essay/review of the major findings in the paper. Obviously I skim the entire paper so that I will be able to have a productive class discussion, but I don’t go into every single minute detail of a paper–I just don’t have time for that. In my Crime, Control, & Inequality class on the other hand, we take notes on each article so my reading has to be a bit more in depth so that I can get the most important information from the articles and into my notes. That doesn’t mean that I am reading every single article from start to finish.

When you sit down to read you really have to understand your purpose. Are you reading for fun, for a literature review, to study for a test, to write a reflection essay, to take notes? What is your purpose? This will help you decide and gauge the amount you need to skim or actually read of your article. Also think back to past assignment grades. Each week in my Violence class we write a 2 page single space reflection essay on the work that we do. These past reflection essays and the feedback my professor gives on them are perfect for assessing if my skimming is actually working or not, or if I need to delve just a little bit deeper for the content my professor wants. This helps me when I sit down to read for the week and write my essay.

So now that you know how to read with purpose I am going to introduce you to the various parts of an academic journal article and how to read these parts with purpose.

Parts Of An Academic Journal Article

Depending on your purpose of reading, various parts of a journal article might make more or less sense to sit through. I am going to walk you through the major parts of an academic journal article and how you can get through each part and read them with purpose.

Abstract

In my opinion, the abstract is one of the most important parts of an article. I feel like this is such an important piece to read no matter the purpose of your reading. The abstract is essentially a wrap up of the most important parts of the entire paper. It summarizes the major findings of the literature review, the data and methods section, and the conclusions. If you want to get a quick understanding of a study read it’s abstract.

Introduction

The purpose of the introduction it to set the scene for the entire paper. They will really let you know exactly what the paper hopes to look at, as well as give you a great look into the writer’s potential writing style. I really encourage reading the introduction, as it is usually only a page at most (and usually just a few paragraphs.)

Literature Review

Okay, now we are getting to a good bulk of a paper. The literature review can be quite lengthy, but super important to any paper reading. So how exactly should you approach skimming this section? I will let you in on a little secret:

All Good Literature Reviews Have Section Headings

So what does that mean for you? It means you can skip around. In this article, as you can see, I have also used section headings. It makes the entire article a more pleasant read, because as a reader, you can decide exactly where you want to start reading. Don’t care about learning about the abstract? That’s cool, because you can skip straight down to my discussion of the discussion or the literature review.

Literature reviews are just like that. This means a few things.

  1. You can see exactly what the literature review will be discussing at a glance.
  2. You can delve a bit deeper into the parts that you care about.
  3. You can read way less paragraphs by reading the introduction and conclusion paragraphs of each section.

Obviously reading through the literature review is important. In order to understand the literature review as a whole you need to cover each of the sections of the literature review. You don’t have to read every single piece of information in the literature review, but you have to actually skim the content and make sure you are picking up on the important pieces. I use a highlighter to go through and highlight any information I deem important or maybe just interesting. If it sparks a question I also like to make a few little notes in the margins as well.

Data & Methods

Okay, honestly I skim this part a lot. The data & methods is the bulk of any study/article, because it is actually what they are talking about. This is their contribution to the literature. This is what you came here for technically. You can skim this section pretty easily, but you have to know some important information.

Methods

This section basically outlines their methodology or how they intend to measure what they are looking for. They probably told you in the introduction what they are looking for. They may choose a survey, one-on-one interviews, group interviews, a content analysis, an experiment, something else, or a combination of various measurements. If you want to get the bulk of the methods section understand these questions.

  1. What method(s) they used to study their subject.
  2. Who participated in their study? What are their genders? What are their ages? Where are they from? What makes them a special and important group to study.

Data

This section is where they actually provide their results. What did the survey, content analysis, or experiment yield as far as tangible results. Honestly, I skip over this section quite a bit, because I am not super savvy when it comes to reading charts and various numbers. In my opinion the tables and extra frill are really there to say “I am way more science-y than my other doctorate competitors.” So what do I do if I don’t really look at the tables. I read their explanations of the data in the data section, but specifically in the discussion section.

Discussion

So this is where the data talk really heats up, this is where they discuss exactly what they found and how it relates to the literature they discussed earlier. If tables and stats give you hives then I would definitely suggest reading their actual discussion on the data that they found. I am not the best at statistics past the simple descriptive statistical analysis so I rely pretty heavily on their discussion of their data in the data and discussion sections.

Conclusion & Limitations/Future Research

The conclusion and limitations/future research sections can be super important. The conclusion section really ties up all the loose ends to any research that was done and really does a good job of tying all of the pieces and parts together in a nice, neat bow. This discusses if they really proved their hypotheses or not, and what that means as far as the validity of their research.  This is a great part to skim.

One section that I really wanted to touch on, that depending on your purpose you might skip or skim is the limitations/future research section. Sometimes this has a section all it’s own, but a lot of the time it’s just tacked on to the conclusion section. The purpose of this section is to let readers know what they had a hard time with. Maybe their sample wasn’t as big or as diverse as they would like or they were sponsored by someone who might have swayed their research a little. This also just talks about what they’d like to see in future papers. This is a great place to skim if the purpose of your reading is to get some ideas for future research projects. I love this article on how to use the future research and limitations section to come up with new research topic ideas.

Works/Literature Cited

Lastly, I also think the works cited part of any article is important to skim if you are reading to get ideas on your own research paper. You can use the sources they use to build your literature review, find potential data sets, and more. For instance, when I did research during my senior year of college in my senior seminar course one particular book kept coming up in the literature reviews of all the articles I was researching.  This was such an important resource for me when I was writing my paper, because I was able to actually have a great resource in my paper that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen because I was focusing specifically on articles.

Random Information About Skimming

To end this hopefully really beneficial talk all about article skimming I am also going to let y’all in on a few other random pieces of information about article skimming that I think are important.

Don’t Get Caught Up With Reading

When you are skimming, don’t get too caught up reading. Often times when you set out to skim it becomes a reading fest because one interesting thing might lead to another interesting thing. That is all fine and good, but remember to note when you are skimming over just reading a bunch of the words. The most important thing to remember is don’t discount skimming if you aren’t skimming but actually just reading everything in an article. Efficient skimming takes practice to get down, and it’s something that you will probably be working at for a long time.

Set A Timer

One practice that I use to not get caught up with my reading is to set a timer or at the very least a time that I’d like to be done with skimming an article. This helps get my brain conditioned to skim a bit faster and to spend less time reading every minute detail, because I admit I get caught up with reading too, and this is the best method I have found for curving that. You may not follow your time exactly right the first few times, but you can start to understand how these things may work together and change the way you skim to fit your time limit.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I hope that today’s post has been super helpful for anyone who is struggling to read all of the various readings they get each week. This is the information I wish someone would have told me when I first started college. I would have been so much more proficient at reading articles today if I had this basic information when I first started reading articles.

What are your best skimming techniques? Leave them in the comments below!

In Academics, Guest Posts on
July 9, 2015

How To Make The Most of Your Academic Advising Session

Not long ago (though longer than I would like to admit), I was a confused college student. You see, although I was an over-achieving, Type A, 4.0 GPA salutatorian, I was also a shy, small town girl who was the first in her family to graduate from high school, much less go to college, and suddenly I was plopped in the middle of this giant (to me) university halfway across the state, away from everyone and everything I knew, and I was supposed to be an adult and do my own laundry, and eat 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and know which classes to take.

I would love to say that a well-meaning Academic Advisor with a heart-of-gold stepped in, held my hand, and led me down the path to academic success, but that would be a lie. Instead, I would reluctantly go to my advisor’s office each semester because it was what I was required to do, show him/her the list of classes that my Type A self had already decided I needed for that next semester, get my advising sheet signed, and not ask a single question, despite the fact that I had no idea what I was actually doing.

Aside from taking Chemistry 2 before Chemistry 1 (long story) and changing my major halfway through my junior year, I did end up graduating on time, with honors, and with a mission—I wanted to be that well-meaning academic advisor with a heart-of-gold that could help students in ways that I wasn’t helped. And, part of that whole well-meaning advisor helping thing, is helping YOU (yes, you, right there) make the most of your advising experience and not make the same mistakes that I, and way too many college students, made.

 How To Make The Most Of Your Academic Advising Session | Do you have an academic advising session coming up? Take some tips from an actual academic advisor and learn what you should and should not be expecting from your advisor as well as how to have an effective advising meeting.

An Advisor’s Tips on Making the Most out of Academic Advising:

Know what an Advisor is and is not able to do for you:

Aside from telling you which classes you need to graduate:

You can expect your Academic Advisor to:

  • Actively listen to your questions and concerns and take steps to provide information, support, and referrals as needed. If he/she doesn’t know the answer to a question, he/she should find the answer or direct you to a resource that will be able to answer your question and reply to you in a timely manner.
  • Provide you with current and accurate information regarding your University’s, school’s, and major’s curriculum, requirements, and academic policies and procedures.
  • Assist you in understanding the purpose and goals of your major, required classes, and higher education as a whole, and their effects on your life and personal goals
  • Encourage and guide you to define and develop clear and realistic educational goals
  • Monitor and accurately document your progress toward meeting your educational goals, while maintaining strict confidentiality
  • Be a mentor to you by providing you with guidance, support, and advocacy
  • Be accessible for meetings during office hours, by appointment, telephone, or email
  • Treat you like an adult, with respect and courtesy

You should not, however, expect your Academic Advisor to: 

  • Provide professional counseling services. Advisors are great listeners, but unless they are Licensed Counselors (which most aren’t), they are not qualified to give you mental health counseling and could actually get in a lot of trouble for doing so. They can, however, direct you to someone who is qualified to help you.
  • Be available at your beck and call. Advisors have other students, other job responsibilities, and a life, so please don’t expect him or her to be able to drop whatever they’re doing to answer your question right that moment. Be respectful of his/her time and give them at least 24-48 hours to respond to your phone call or email. I like to remind my students of the old saying “A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”
  • Just do the minimum required to allow you to register for classes. At my previous institution, that would mean I, the advisor, would just go into the computer and “clear” you to register. At my undergraduate institution, it would mean getting a signature on a piece of paper and turning it into the Dean’s office. Either way, your advising meetings should not just be about being able to register for your classes, you should take the time to cultivate a relationship with your advisor and understand why you need the classes you need.
  • Ever be rude, hateful, or discriminatory to you in any way. Your academic advisor is there to mentor you and be an advocate for you, and his/her office should serve as a safe place for you. If that is not the case, then please talk to your Director of Student Services, Director of Advising, or Associate Dean.

Adjust Your Expectations.

I’m not going to lie to you and say that every academic advisor you meet is going to be friendly, helpful, and ready to mentor you in any way that they can, BUT I will say that MOST of us are like that and do have a passion for helping, so the first step in getting the most from your academic advisor is to go in convinced that you have one of the good ones. Set yourself up for success. If your first experience with him/her isn’t as positive as you’d hoped, try to chalk it up to them having a bad day. If your second visit is the same, then they probably just suck. I’m kidding. Kind of. (All jokes aside, if you really are having problems with your advisor, please refer to the last bullet above)

Share Your Load Of The Responsibility In The Academic Advising Relationship.

Schedule Appointments with Your Advisor

When I say schedule appointments with your advisor, I don’t just mean your required semester-ly advising appointment, but I also don’t mean schedule an appointment every time you think of a question. Schedule an appointment early on in the semester to meet your advisor, discuss your career goals, what you’re hoping to achieve from your education, and let him/her know a little about you.

When it comes time to register for your required academic advising appointment, do not, I repeat DO NOT, wait until the last minute. You should know ahead of time when you can register for classes, so be sure to get advised well before that time. If you wait til the last minute, you risk (a) not getting the quality of assistance that you need (b) not being able to get the classes you need. Seriously, the early bird catches the good classes, is all I’m saying.

Be On Time

If you’ve scheduled an appointment with your advisor (which, duh, of course you have!), please for the love of all that is great, SHOW UP ON TIME. Advisors schedule their appointments in blocks (usually 15, 30, or 45 minute blocks) and those blocks are usually back to back. So, if you show up 10 minutes late for a 15 minute appointment, one of 2 things will happen: (1) you will get 5 minutes of advising, which would be bad for you (2) you will put the advisor and every student after you behind schedule. Why is this important? Because Advisors, much like students, enjoy eating, and if they are behind schedule, they may end up having to work through lunch, then they will get hangry (hungry-angry) and no one wants a hangry advisor, am I right?

Come Prepared

If I had a quarter for every time I had a student come into my office who didn’t even know what he/she was majoring in, I would have several pairs of really nice shoes right now. Seriously, know your major, know what is required for that major, and have at least a good idea of which classes you will need for the upcoming semester. It will make the appointment go much more smoothly and will give you time to think of any questions that you might not normally think of on the spot.

Ask Questions

Please ask questions. It is the advisor’s job to answer questions and I PROMISE YOU, there are no stupid questions. Or maybe I should rephrase that and say that there is no question you can ask that will make your advisor think you’re stupid. So, any question/issue/concern you have—run it by your advisor. Even if he/she doesn’t know that answer, he/she should be able to direct you to someone who will. A tip, though: Don’t stop in every day and ask a question. Also, don’t email every day with a question. Save them up and ask a few at a time.

Be An Advocate For Yourself

Advisors are paid to know the information and relay that information to you in a way that you understand it. They are also paid to look out for your best interest and insure that you taking the courses that are best for you, your major, and your future. However, advisors are human and humans make mistakes. Even I, the greatest advisor of all time (I’m also renowned for my modesty), have made mistakes, so it is important that you do your homework/research and come to your advising meetings prepared, so that if your advisor has made a mistake, you can catch it, and respectfully discuss it with him/her. Prerequisites, courses that follow each other (like Chem 1 & Chem 2 from above), and courses that are only offered once a year are usually the places where human error occur. If you think your advisor has made a mistake, RESPECTFULLY ask him/her to clarify the information for you.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, too few students take full advantage of building a relationship with their advisor. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 7 million times—your advisor is there to help you. Literally, like in the true sense of the word, literally. So, let your advisor help you. Let your advisor get to know you. Let you advisor be your advocate, your mentor, and in a totally professional capacity, your friend.

About Amber

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Amber is a College Student Affairs Professional, with a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration degree and 5+  years of experience advising with both The University of Alabama and The University of Georgia. When she isn’t helping students reach their academic and career goals, Amber enjoys reminiscing about her sorority days, binge-watching  Netflix shows with her husband, cuddling with her 2 miniature dachshunds, and teaching her 21-month old daughter how to sing Recruitment door songs. Amber can be reached by emailAlso be sure to check out Amber’s Facebook page and check here profile out on LinkedIn.