Saturday, October 29, 2005

Library Gonzo:
Getting Papers Done the ZenFo Pro Way

This week in ...

In recent months, seven college students and two high school students, regular readers of the ZenFo Pro who contacted me offsite, have sought my advice to expedite the their academic and paper writing.

I've now confirmed that not one of the nine got below a B+ on their graded work. These accomplishments are theirs alone and I don't want to sound at all like I'm taking credit for their success. They did the work; I just offered some advice. But its nice, still, to know that one can reach across the World Wide Web and make a difference.

One student, a sophomore at a Nevada university, left me a rather emotional voicemail this morning - apparently, she has never gotten above a C on any paper she's written. Well, now she has a 98% on a paper, and her professor actually made a point of bringing her stellar work to the attention of the class.

The thing that made the difference, according to the student -- taking time to go beyond the "plug-and-chug" undergrad research model, to personalize a rather mundane topic into something personal and passionate, and to do the research she wanted to do to build her case. A lot of students fall into the trap of wanting to write papers to satisfy a particular prof or instructor.

Trust me. Faculty would much rather read a well-cited paper full of good ideas than a paper simply written to fulfill a course requirement.

A 16-year-old Ohio punker earned her highest grade ever on any academic assignment. The biggest hurdle she faced was not necessarily research-related; instead, this student felt that she was somehow pigeonholed into being a punk outcast in a preppy world and that people thought she was stupid because she wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth.

Instead of giving her some "Win One for the Gipper" type pep talk, I told her a story about a band called the Descendents, one of the best hardcore bands of all time. I told her the story of lead singer Milo Aukerman - who also holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and is one of the nation's most respected plant DNA scholars.

I recommended that she purchase/download a copy of Cool to Be You (Fat Wreck, 2004) and use that as motivation. Hit the stacks and the online catalog at her local public library and keep the album blaring through her headphones. Ignore that "people think this of me" feeling and keep the eyes on the prize.

Locally, I had the pleasure of helping one of my fellow OxBloggers finish up a research paper that had been hanging over her head a while back. I ran into her at a coffee shop Tuesday and got the follow-up. Her professor wants her to present the paper at a conference. He, too, gave her a shout-out in class for her amazing work.

Way to go, ladies!


Kara said...

Seriously, you give great paper writing advice! Thanks again!

Alice: In Wonderland or Not said...

way to go zenpro. ;)

Leigh said...

Awesome mentoring man! Keep it up!

The ZenFo Pro said...

Hey, thanks yourself. Must do coffee again sometime. Don't stress, chica...its just Miami :-)

Alice, Leigh: