From the IST research consultant: 3 tips for tackling your research paper

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Writing a research paper is nothing new to students in the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), but that doesn’t mean they always know the best place to go to get started. Thanks to Carmen Cole, the research consultant in the college, IST students have a personal resource to help them tackle their next big assignment.

Available to all IST resident and Penn State World Campus students, Cole helps students manage the entire research process. “I’m available to assist students with finding library resources, navigating the research process, citing their sources, and locating IST-specific sources,” she said.

Her expertise is particularly useful for IST coursework, which can require knowledge of a wide range of sources due to the college's connection to a variety of disciplines. “Because the college is so interdisciplinary, it might be difficult for students to figure out where to land,” Cole said. “The information they need can be from technology, health sciences, psychology, anything really. I can help them find those resources without getting overwhelmed.”

With another busy semester underway, Cole offered her expertise and shared a few tips to help IST — and all Penn State — students make writing a research paper more manageable.

Start early

“The research process doesn’t happen overnight. Make sure to give yourself enough time,” Cole said. It can take a while to identify and evaluate the correct sources for your assignment, so Cole recommends staying on track with the University’s research project calculator. Based on the due date, you can use the calculator to figure out when you need to hit certain milestones, like preparing an outline or writing a first draft. You can even receive email reminders for when those deadlines are approaching. “It’s a nice way to keep on task,” Cole said.

Use multiple credible sources

When writing a research paper, students need to demonstrate a broad understanding of a topic, which means using more than one example to support a thesis. “That’s where I come in; the research consultant helps find credible, reliable information. We even have resources specifically applicable to the work being assigned to students in IST,” she said.

In a world changed by the internet, she believes students need to develop research skills now more than ever. “I think it's clear we're living in a very complicated information environment,” she said. “The ability to critically evaluate information and sources is even more significant. If I can assist students in doing that in any way, I think that’s an incredibly important role for me in the college.”

Utilize University resources

If you’re stuck on an assignment, there are several places where you can find help. Besides reaching out to a research consultant like Cole, connect with your professor or seek out peer tutoring programs in your college, who may be available to assist with certain classes. For example, the IST Peer Tutoring program provides one-on-one student coaching for students having difficulty navigating certain assignments. “The people in the college of IST, in the University Libraries, and in the University are committed to seeing everyone succeed,” Cole said.

As a Penn State alumna herself, Cole has been continually impressed by the students she assists. “They are usually so passionate about whatever they’re pursuing. I really enjoy helping them find the resources they need,” she said, “whether it’s for a freshman’s research paper or a doctoratal candidate’s dissertation.”

For one-on-one help, IST students can schedule a session with Cole via email at Starting this semester, she also has open office hours from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursdays, outside room 206 in the IST building.

Last Updated March 01, 2017