Back Home Again

May 8, 2009

Well, it seems as though the school year is basically over. I am still waiting to get grades in two of my classes, but I don’t expect any surprises from either of them so I guess that means I will graduate! I’m glad that I was able to get through college in 4 years. About half way through I decided to add Math as a major in combination with Computer Science. During the time I had to deal with the coursework, I second guessed my decision, but I am glad that I choose to do that. Certainly I plan to find a computer science related job, but I think the skills I have learned from my math classes will come in handy depending on what I do with computers. Even if they don’t, learning mathematics has taught me to think much more logically than I used to. As many programers know, being able to think logically is quite helpful when writing code.

The feeling of being “done” with school hasn’t fully set in though. I’m sure it will eventually, but I can’t really predict when that will be. Right now it just seems like another semester has ended and I have gone home to try and figure out what to do for the summer. Though, in my case, it’s what to do in terms of a job. I still have some time from now until there are a couple senior events and then graduation. I hope to make some more posts and work on my personal webpage in that time. Those plans aren’t really set it stone though so I may up doing something else instead.

It’s good to be back on Lightflame (my desktop computer) again. For the past weekish I was using only my laptop since I wanted to bring the motorcycle back to school and needed to bring Lightflame home when I had the car out at college. It was fun having the bike at college though, so it was worth forgoing the full power of my computer for a time.

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Research Paper Citations

September 15, 2008

So, to deviate from my normal theme of computer related articles I thought I would write about something thatΒ  I ponder quite often. That is the issue of citing sources within a paper. Typically this comes up the most within a research paper, but certainly citations can be used in papers of all types. What exactly do I ponder? Well… I wonder why the world of citations is so difficult.

Let me take some time now to point something out before I go in to the rest of the this post. I think that it is of the highest importance that sources be cited in a paper. There are many reasons sources should be cited. I 100% believe that students and professional researchers alike should be completely honest about where they got all of their information from! Please keep this in mind as you read the rest of the post, or I know I will get comments of the form “So you don’t think you should give credit to the original authors !?!?”. That is NOT what I am saying πŸ™‚ .

So, back to the main topic here. I think that it is too challenging to put citations in to a paper. There is nothing intuitive about it. Arguably the task is not hard, but it IS quite time consuming. I know there are websites and programs that will automatically cite things for you, but alas this does not always satisfy the stubborn professor that insists every period must be in exactly the correct spot. I, personally, am a huge fan of LaTeX and the citation package known as BibTeX. It does a fabulous job of keeping track of your in-text citations as well as your references page at the end.

First of all lets consider how many different ways there are to simply formats ones citations. Off the top of my head I can think of: MLA, Chicago, and APA. That is only the tip of the iceberg though. Enjoy this great Wikipedia article which lists quite a few other styles of citation. Why do we need so many different ways to cite things? I see no compelling reason. Basically when you cite a piece of information you are trying to indicate where you found the information, and who the original author/creator of the work was. Now, to help someone else find the same information might involve several parts. The point here is that there are really only two “simple” things that citations are meant to accomplish it doesn’t seem like there is a worthwhile need to have a boatload of other styles.

My second point of consideration is that teachers need not be so strict about dealing with a poorly formatted citation. I have lost the difference of a + or – part of a letter grade in the past just because a period or comma was out of place. No surprise there… the styles are so complex to follow, and so seemingly random at times that it is quite easy to miss silly things like that. Ultimately I don’t believe I have ever failed to indicate where I got my information from and the author of the information. Therefore why should I be deducted points? It is not as though missing a period or comma in the list of sources at all effects the previous content of my paper. Perhaps my teachers are just looking for arbitrary criteria to grade on? I suppose I will never know.

This then brings me to my third issue with citations. Why are they so insanely long winded? You need to practically buy a separate book to be able to cite things in the MLA properly! That is insane! Let us not forget that the point here is indicating where the information came from.

So what do I propose? Well first of all I think we need ONE and only ONE form of paper citations, peroid! Secondly, this form of citation should be able to adapt easily to new forms of media, but not be overly complex such that you need an entire manual just to cite things properly. Finally, my third point, is that professors and teachers should not be so strict about making sure every last peroid is in place. IT DOESN’T MATTER. If the student has shown where everything came from in a decent looking manner there should be no fuss! Concentrate on what they actually wrote, and not how well they can follow an over specified format πŸ™‚ . After all, we already have a discipline where people follow overly specified formats, computer science πŸ˜‰ .

If anything, switching to this sort of system would make it easier for everyone. Easier for people who need to cite sources because there would just be a single format to learn. Also it would be easier for people who are reading any material with citations because it would be uniform across the board πŸ™‚ .


College Time Again

August 28, 2008

In case it hasn’t been obvious from previous posts I am back at college and the semester officially started this past Monday. This means I am back to homework, projects, presentations, studying, tests, club meetings and events. In past years this transition from summer time to back-to-school time has not been so difficult. However I have noticed a trend over the years that each year when I come back there is more responsibility for me to take on the second I arrive on campus.

I don’t mind being responsible for things. In fact I view it as a necessary aspect of life. The part that sometimes startles me is going from having very little responsibilty to very much responsibility. I think it would have been better if there was a way for me to have a gradual transition between the summer and the school year. Fortunately this will be the last year this is an issue, at least with respect to college, because I will hopefully graduate at the end of the year πŸ™‚ .

There are lots of great things about being at college. Such as being around the sorts of people that understand exactly what you are saying because they are studying the same things, or just the simple fact that you basically get to live with your friends. Sure, you can live in a neighbourhood close to your friends, but at college most of them are right next door or living with you. This is something I think I might miss once everything is over.

It still seems like a long year ahead of me, and I hope that I am just as ready and able to deal with the challenges of academia as ever. However, for the past 3 years I have noticed a steady increase in workload from year to year. I love a good challenge and I readily admit that I learn the most when I am being challenged. I also think that too much challenge simply creates stress, which then hinders the learning process. The balance between being properly challenged, and not getting overly stressed is quite difficult to maintain. Mostly because once you take on a certain level of responsibly it is easy to see how people depend upon you for certain things and it is hard to tell some one, or some organization that you will no longer be able to help.

I have always felt very strongly about honoring my commitments, and I hope to still be able to keep up with all of them this year. This is shaping up to be one of my toughest semesters of college yet. It is also my last year here, and I don’t want to lose touch with friends and family because of being overburdened with work. I think I am going to have to make a serious effort to cut down on the amount of work that I currently have by next semester. I don’t want my last semester of college to be a time where my schedule is so filled with work that I can’t take the time to hang out with friends or communicate with friends who have already graduated.

This entry is a bit different than my normal computer themed ones, but I haven’t been all too inspired to write about computers as of late. Mostly because I haven’t really been using them for things other than doing homework assignments and checking e-mail. I hope to write the next segment of my college wireless network situation soon. So stay posted to see the outcome of that. I may have other projects on the horizon as well because the fans in my computer PSU seem to be on their way out…

That’s all for now πŸ™‚ .