Misc. Helpful Advice

5 Tips for Managing Unruly References

As authors research information to help support the work in their paper, they spend a great deal of time reading references. All too often we wind up with a stack of papers or computer files full of references. These references are important so that authors can cite the information from other sources that they wish to use to either support, acknowledge, or contradict their research. How do we organize and choose the correct references? In this blog we share five easy steps for managing references.

 

1. Sort your references into categories.

 


Most papers have an introduction, materials and methods, results, and conclusion/discussion section. It is best if you sort your references into those categories. The introduction should use references that provide historical information relevant to the paper topic. References used in the materials and methods should help the reader know why the author decided to use particular methods and how those methods are best utilized. When we select references for the results, they can be sub-categorized into those that support or contradict the data. The conclusion/discussion section draws once again on references that support the historical context necessary to understand the work and these references must also aid in the discussion of the relevant data.

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2. Use quality references.

It is important to use the most original reference possible. Additionally, authors need to use up-to-date and reliable references. The authors want to use references that have been peer-reviewed by leaders in the topic field. Peer-reviewed references have been checked for errors by knowledgeable reviewers well-versed in the field being studied.

3. Select references that are easy for people to access.

As our ever-expanding world of technology makes more information available, this is an easier step to manage. Still, we most often should select references that are in the same language as the paper being presented and easy to access by everyone with either access to the internet or a library.

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4. Keep the references to a manageable number.

Unless you are writing a review article and need to tie in the information you are sharing with an extensive number of other papers, select only the most pertinent sources. If a point needs to be validated by external references, this is most often accomplished by referring to three or four sources from unique author sets. Using a few select but widely accepted references that trace back to experts in the field will help readers of the paper being presented better understand the importance of this new work to the field of study.

5. Have all your references printed or in electronic format and easy to access.

In this new day and age there are multiple electronic programs that can be used to sort, catalog, and manage references. All too often people focus on getting the references into these bibliography programs and forget that it is the content of the reference that is critical. Authors need to have the abstract and a few notes about the paper easily accessible and a copy (printed or electronic) of the complete paper should be available. By having the information readily available, it alleviates improper citations and the possibility of plagiarism.

Follow these five suggestions and you will find that managing your references becomes less of a chore!

5 Things To Do Before Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

As our economy changes, more people are starting businesses, developing and marketing product that will make a difference for the world, and reaping the rewards of being an entrepreneur. All entrepreneurs have the drive and passion but many lack the preparation. Without preparation, the largest hurdle for most entrepreneurs is the financial success. Many people start with great ideas only to crash and burn nine or eighteen months down the road. Here are five things that every entrepreneur must do before he or she charges down the leadership path of entrepreneurship.

1. Take care of your personal finances.

The key here is to pay down your personal debt. If you are carrying more debt than you can handle with your current employment, it is time to downsize and pay off or eliminate debt before you follow your entrepreneurial spirit. Develop a monthly budget that you can stick to and takes into consideration emergencies such as car repairs, medical bills, and extra household expenses. Make certain you have at least a 12-month reserve of money to pay your bills. As an entrepreneur, you might not get your first paycheck for many months so be prepared to pay your bills from savings.

2. Make certain any of your contractual obligations will not affect your focus.

Look over previous employment contracts and make certain what you are deciding to pursue will not be in violation of that agreement. Review all current agreements you are involved with and if you plan on working part or full time as you follow this dream, make certain you can explain to your current employer how this will not affect your work performance.

3. Limit your distractions.

We all need to have our “fun” and have time for family but it is critical that anything outside of family time be evaluated for how it may take away from your focus on entrepreneurial activities. Keep in mind that you need a few diversions to help you balance your health and mental welfare but you just might have to give up a few of the extra-curricular activities. As a good way of planning your time, limit those extra activities to no more than 90 minutes a day on average.

4. Clean up your social media look.

You are going to be meeting with investors, bankers, potential partners, and of course, those who will purchase your product/idea/service and you need to look professional. Of course, you will dress the part but many of the people you will meet might check out your Facebook or Linked-In profiles, stop by your Instagram or Twitter accounts, and even read your blog. Sometimes when we are having fun, we might post pictures or say things we do not want to share as an entrepreneur. Clean up that image and show your best side.

5. Have a 12-month plan.

This plan needs to include your personal as well as entrepreneurial/business budget. Write, rewrite, edit, review, and seek counsel from trusted friends, colleagues, or professionals on the business plan. Include your vacation, medical appointments, and important events on the calendar portion of your 12-month plan. All of these ideas are very important for people setting off on entrepreneurial projects. The important thing to note is that these ideas also apply to anyone wanting to apply for a new job, write that first book, or set out on any new adventure.

Glove and Boots are here to fix your grammar!

The internets are full of wonderful advice – and here’s some from puppets Glove and Boots that we thought was relevant and entertaining… check it out if you need a humorous refresher on grammar!

10 Surefire Tips for Securing Capital Investment

vc investment capital

1. Protect your idea with a patent/copyright/trademark.
Depending on your business venture, you will need to take precautionary steps to protect your idea. This may involve filing a patent, copyright, or trademark. In any of these cases, it is important that you develop quality documents, easy to read figures, tables, and graphics so that the reviewer can determine the merit of your work. Venture capital investors may want to review these documents and along with your business plan, this might be the first impression of you and your capabilities.
Please remember that these protections do not keep someone else from trying to develop your idea, but they do give you the right to fight it out in court.

2. Write an excellent business plan.
Your business plan is a dynamic document. One investor group may need a particular format while another group may ask you to present the plan in their preferred review layout. The business plan needs to state who you are, what you are doing, why you need investment, the scope of the market (what is the valuation of the market), how you intend to proceed with the investment, and what the return on investment will be should someone invest. Most importantly, the business plan needs to be grammatically correct and have no spelling errors.

3. Have your business plan vetted and reviewed by experts in the field.
You need to take the time to have someone in your field read your business plan. Possibly a trusted colleague or a subject matter expert/reviewer/editor can help you with noticing the little things that are missing. These people can also help find areas of weakness in your business plan. With investors, you often have one opportunity to impress. Make sure that you put your best and most developed idea forward. In the business plan, it is important to point out how much you are investing of your own money into the idea.

4. Valuation is important.
Spend time thinking about the valuation and show that you did some real work on the projections. Find a banker or investor who might give you some time and help you develop the corporate valuation.

5. Develop a slide show.
To go along with your business plan you will need a slide deck that puts your business plan into pictures, graphs, text, and images that people can review. Many people are visual. Reading a long business plan may not be the first choice some individuals. Give them a slide show that they can scroll through and begin to “see” your idea.

6. Have your marketing plan developed and ready to show.
The success of many businesses comes with the marketing plan. It may seem like having your marketing plan all developed is not going to help you gain investment, but the truth is that investors will be far more impressed if you can show them the details of how you plan to make money on your idea and their investment.
Consider having flyers, a short video, and other items that will help you market to your target demographic. It is important to note that by developing your marketing, you will be able to fine-tune the demographic most likely to purchase your product or idea. Make sure to have all the documents, videos, and flyers proofread by multiple people. Nothing ruins a good marketing plan more than having bad grammar, typos, and spelling errors.

7. Invest your own money in the venture.
Invest at least a few thousand dollars in your new business. If you are not willing to invest, why will someone else want to loan you money? The capital investment you put in represents a material percentage of your net wealth and shows that you are dedicated to the success of the project.
Many entrepreneurs tell everyone about the sweat equity they are putting into the business. The truth is that everyone starting a new business is putting this type of effort in and potential investors expect this effort.

8. Have a working prototype available.
Investors do not want to take on product-development risk. If your idea is fabulous, they may take this risk but they will likely want a larger portion of your company. Have a working prototype available for review. A working prototype shows the investor that the development and proof-of-concept risk is mitigated.

9. Acquire Investment first from “friends and family.”
Many investors want to see that you have raised money from friends and family because it validates that people who know you think you are capable of making this idea come to life. How much should you seek from friends and family? This depends on your idea but $25,000 to $50,000 is a good sign that you are seen as capable and competent by family and friends.

10. Generate revenue.
This is a difficult task but very important. The company does not need to be making millions in the first month but a small amount of revenue will show that you have a good marketing plan and your idea is moving forward.

On a final note, raising capital is challenging and time consuming. If you take these ten steps, you will be better prepared to be a success in the capital investment round of funding.

Library Lady Jane: the Grammar Guru Grants an Interview!

Library Lady JaneIf you write anything at all and you haven’t heard of or followed Library Lady Jane (aka, Jane the Librarian), start getting to know and follow her now. She’s a guru of grammar and a darn nice lady too! We’ve admired her work for quite some time, so we decided to connect with her and see if she’d grant us an interview. To our great delight, she did!

Edit911: Where did you get your love of grammar?

Jane: I got my love of language from my Mom, and from constant reading, another love that was bequeathed by her and pretty much every member of my extended family.  Mom demanded perfect grammar and regular precision of vocabulary, and I loved being able to get it right.  When she saw that, she had me read books on language really early; I remember reading The Mother Tongue: English and how it got that way, by Bill Bryson, some time around fifth grade.

 

Edit911: Why do you think so many people have so much trouble with grammar?

Jane: People have difficulty with grammar because they hear it spoken and see it written imperfectly far too often, and they don’t have good models to imitate.  Grammar is taught in very dry ways, and grammar in school would never have interested me in the slightest if it hadn’t been a key to decoding formulas I already knew from reading great books from a young age.

 

Edit911: What advice would you give people who want to improve their grammar?

Jane: If you want to improve your grammar, read your own writing aloud.  Yes, it can be painful, but you will surprise yourself with what you catch if you add the sound of your own voice to the process of revision.  Also, read more.  Read good, well-written, entertaining books when you have the chance.

 

Edit911: Do you have a favorite grammar book and grammar website?

Jane: My favorite grammar book is The Elements of Style, affectionately referred to as “the Strunk and White.”  It’s the only physical book I find myself reaching for for reference purposes on a semi-regular basis.  I don’t have a particular favorite website, but I find myself agreeing with Grammar Girl a great deal of the time. I very rarely use only one resource for grammar or language questions, though, because when such questions arise they are often points that language experts have some disagreement on, or they’re points of definition of use and grammar terminology, so it is necessary to compare several resources.  Google is my best friend for that kind of inquiry; it definitely helps to have mastered some advanced searching techniques.

 

Edit911: What else would you like our clients and visitors to know about you and your work?

Jane: I’m just a librarian with a passion for language!  I got started working with Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) because I sent him a fan email about four years ago and offered to help him with proofreading, and that led to the creation of the semicolon comic (“How to Use a Semicolon“).  We’ve never met in real life.  He sends me comics, and I proofread them to the best of my ability and aim for a fast turnaround, because he often wants to publish as quickly as possible.  Sometimes we collaborate a bit more closely on the text, especially when he is focusing on points of grammar, but we’re not perfect. I’ve overlooked some mistakes that make me cringe now, and wow, the internet is an unforgiving audience for that kind of thing.

How To Use A Semicolon The Oatmeal

Jane has some additional advice: if you want to improve your own writing, or if you have a document that needs another set of eyes, I would encourage you to seek out resources that you might have at your disposal that you may not have considered.  Are you in college or graduate school?  Utilize the writing center on campus. I worked at Auburn University’s writing center for almost three years while I was in school there.  Out of school?  Try the public library. As a public reference librarian, I helped people with papers, resumes, even contracts occasionally, for free.

And, if you have a longer document that absolutely has to be right, it is worth it to pay for professional editing and proofreading services.  I have seen important documents that were poorly edited because someone didn’t want to pay an experienced professional for their time and expertise, and that only reflects poorly on you, the initial author.  Don’t skimp for this kind of service!

Thanks for your wise words and friendly exchange, Jane! You can follow Jane on Twitter @libraryladyjane