There's a popular writing prompt that asks students to identify one superhero power they wish they had and explain how they would use it.

Invisibility? The ability to fly?

How about the power to craft outstanding college papers without losing a single night's sleep?

When it comes to researching and writing papers – and achieving success online or on-ground – all students experience the same pains and challenges.

Which is why at Saint Leo University, all students have access to research and writing assistance through the Cannon Memorial Library.

New writing and research instructor

With the 2013 fall term, the library staff has welcomed a new writing and research instructor, John David Harding, to its staff. Harding joins Angel Jiménez who has been providing research and writing assistance to students for the past two years.

Brent Short, director of library services, says there is a natural link between research and writing. Students need to know not only how to find information and do research, but how to analyze, present and integrate that information into their writing, and he wants to offer support for strengthening both skill sets through the library.

"It's been a booming success so far with our original writing instructor, Angel Jiménez. We brought John David Harding on because we'd like to help as many students as possible, and we want to make sure our online students are aware that we provide research and writing support for them, as well."

Assistance tailored to students' needs

Maybe you really don't understand the difference between primary and secondary sources or scholarly versus non-scholarly articles. Or perhaps you need more clarity about what makes a source both relevant and reputable.

"Our goal is to help students improve their research and writing skills so that they become independent learners," said Jimenez. "To that end, we can help with any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming and researching to drafting."

Harding and Jimenez explain that the services they provide are not intended to be a quick fix for any individual assignment.

"We're not an editing service," said Jiménez. "Rather we engage students in a process that will create a long-term solution by developing the skills that will benefit them throughout their college careers."

How assistance works for online students

With extended evening and weekend hours, Harding and Jimenez are available to online students by both phone and e-mail. An initial discussion identifies the student's concerns and challenges. After that, they focus the student's attention on the issues in the paper that need improvement and provide guidance and additional resources on how to fix those issues. Students then edit their papers and send them back for review. The revision process continues until all of a student's concerns have been addressed.

Some common pitfalls and top tips

Jiménez and Harding say that the most common challenges students have researching and writing papers is organization and focus, using resources effectively, and the ethics of paraphrasing and using direct quotes.

Here's their most frequent advice they share with students:

  • Pay attention to assignment guidelines.

  • Start the assignment as early as possible.

  • Talk to your professors to gain clarity about the assignment and direction. They're your primary resource.

  • Don't be a perfectionist. You can't spend all your time writing the perfect sentence. Not only doesn't the perfect sentence exist, but it's time you could be spending on research or doing something more productive.

Need research and writing assistance?

Here's how to reach Angel Jiménez or John David Harding.

Angel Jiménez
(352) 588-8269
Office hours (EDT): Sun. 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Mon. 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Tues 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Wed. 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Thurs. 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

John David Harding
(352) 588-7576
Office hours (EDT): Tues. 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Wed. 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Thurs. 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Fri. 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.;
Sat. 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Have any tips for researching and writing papers that you would like to share in comments below?

Other posts you may be interested in reading:

13 Reasons To Contact Saint Leo's Online Services Librarian

Saint Leo Librarian Dedicated To Online Students

Student Success Tips: Editing Your Paper in 10 Steps

30 Embarrassing Grammar Gaffes You Must Avoid And Why

A Punctuation Cheat Sheet: Are You Guilty Of These 10 Common Errors?

Image Credit: R Schofield