Saturday, November 23, 2013

Lifesavers: My Favorite Study Sites

So funnily enough, this blog's first "real" post is not about makeup, nor fashion...No, it's about studying. Today I want to share with you some of my favorite study tools, resources, and motivators that have helped me out over the years.

1. Quizlet
Whenever I have to memorize vocabulary terms, people, or any type of list, I turn to Quizlet. This online flashcard site is fantastic- you can quiz yourself, play study games, take a test, and print out your virtual flashcards for homeroom cramming. You can even share the link with classmates, or study from other people's sets. It's a lifesaver!

2. NoodleTools
NoodleTools is, in my humble opinion, the best online citation generator. It organizes and saves all of your citations, and you can even link your paper or project to it so everything is in one place. It offers MLA, APA, and Chicago style citations, so you can accommodate any picky teacher. NoodleTools also offers help with parenthetical citations, and it's really easy to use. The only downside is that your school has to have an account there in order for you to use it. Check with your school or university library; chances are they can give you the username and password you need.

3. Written? Kitten!
This website is a great motivator for writing essays and the like. Basically, you can set the reward intervals, from 100 words to 1000, and a cute cat picture from Flickr pops up next to your writing space at each benchmark. The simple blue background and the positive reinforcement of fluffy kitties keeps me, at least, writing pretty efficiently- except sometimes I get a little...distracted by the adorable pictures. You can even customize what you want pictures of (puppies, Ryan Gosling, etc.); details on how to do that are here. Written? Kitten! was originally based on Write or Die, which actually punishes you when you stop writing. I was going to include Write or Die on my list, but apparently, the app and desktop edition have been revamped- and the free online version is nowhere to be found. Gasp! Sorry, Dr. Wicked, but at this point in my life I'm not paying $20 for your app. I'll just look at cats instead.

4. Wikipedia
Okay, shh, I know that you're not supposed to use Wikipedia. But frankly, it is a good starting point for getting the gist of something you have to write about. It's also my last resort when I can't find the information I need anywhere else. But, since you obviously don't want to cite Wikipedia in your bibliography, do what I do- click on the little numbers at the end of sentences that take you down to the Wikipedia article's own citation section. Often, the websites they use can lead you to even better sources. Or, if they're books, you can get them from the library to back up your illegally Wiki'd information.

5. SparkNotes
Another "forbidden" site, SparkNotes can be a true lifesaver if you never actually read the book. I, personally, use it more as a quick, helpful refresher before a literature test. It also offers insight into characters, symbols, and themes that are very useful for essay-writing. The video summaries for some of the novels are hilariously awkward (Exhibit A). A little-known fact is that SparkNotes also provides help for other subjects besides English- I crammed for my Math 2 SAT Subject Test the night before with a SparkNotes refresher of pre-calculus. (I had utterly forgotten how to do trig functions.) And then there's the hilarious online community of "Sparklers." The "Study Break" posts on the side of the website are nice, but they have definitely led to some long-term distraction for me on more than one occasion.

6. Khan Academy
Khan Academy is for learning concepts that a fast-paced class or an inept teacher may have left you struggling with. (It also might help your parents help your little brother with his math homework, if you know what I mean.) There are tons of videos on subjects ranging from calculus to art history, from third grade to college level. Everything is completely free and easy to access.Seriously, if you're having trouble with a certain subject in school, check this out.

7. Cold Turkey
This is actually a free computer program, not a website, that was recently recommended to me by a friend that has similar struggles with procrastination and distraction (ooh, ModCloth!). You can choose and customize websites to block- common culprits include Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube- and set a timeframe for the ban. Once you "Go Cold Turkey," there's no way to turn it off or get around it, at least for a non-tech-savvy person like myself. You just have to wait out the time by actually getting your work done. Image that!

8. The Library
Yes, yes, this isn't a website. But in addition to all of those lovely paper-and-ink books, librarians have access to some pretty great resources. Go on your school or community library's website and look for links to online databases and resource compilations. You may need a library card to access them, but that's free, and databases are a great way to cite books, magazines, newspapers, and scholarly articles that you might not have access to otherwise.

So, that about sums up my most-used resources for studying and essay-writing. Let me know what your favorite websites are in the comments!

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