Help with teaching, part 1: Intro

Many grad students find themselves responsible for a classroom without getting any any formal training in what to do there. Yes, there are teaching centers on every campus, but taking a class or classes in teaching can often be something you realize that you want (or need) to do too late — after the semester has already started, or after the registration period for these classes has ended. In this new series, we take you though your first class, from syllabus to lesson plans. Our focus is primarily on the North American academic context, since that’s what we know, but we’d welcome comments, suggestions, or additions/additional posts from experienced instructors working elsewhere!

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Forgotten Skills: Boolean Searches

Some of us might remember a time before the answer to everything was a (flippant) “Google it”. You had to consider where you might find the information you wanted, physically retrieve that source, hope it had a good index, and page through it. And if you were wrong, the process started all over again. Having powerful computer search tools certainly makes researching easier and faster, but it doesn’t always make it better, more efficient, or more targeted. Search engines like Google in particular can be scattershot, returning popular results rather than academic ones. In this guest post, we learn how to target your searches to get the best of both worlds: the precision of a reference library plus the speed of the internet.

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Help with Citation Abbreviations, Part 1: Secondary Sources

In this back-to-basics post (a nice theme for fall, if you ask me) I’m going to talk about how to figure out what all of those abbreviations are in the bibliography and notes of scholarly works.  I’m not sure if antiquity is worse than other academic disciplines in this regard, but looking at a typical bibliography of a scholarly work is a minefield of abbreviations for both primary and secondary sources.  In this post I will talk about how to decipher the abbreviations for secondary sources, and in a following post I’ll talk about the abbreviations for primary sources. Continue reading

Help with Advanced Languages: Mastering your Dictionary

We’ve had a few posts on how important your dictionary skills are to your language success, and we’ve even told you some of our favorite Latin and Greek dictionaries. But there’s another trick to mastering the dictionary, and that is to figure out its abbreviation system. Abbreviations provide important information, especially about verbs, but that information is provided in a sort of secret code. It’s not consistent between dictionaries, and sometimes not even within the same dictionary, but it’s worth learning some of the most common abbreviations. Yes, every dictionary will give them to you at the front — but do you really want a dictionary for your dictionary? I didn’t think so.

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