Phi Alpha Theta Michigan Regional Conference
I became a history major upon returning to Grand Valley after a nearly two year break from college. Since then Ive taken fourteen history courses, yet I had yet to present a research paper until last weekend. I have presented research in classes, but never a paper. I chose to do a senior thesis with the History Department and Professor James Goode as a way of challenging myself and engaging with material interesting to me. I have spent countless hours researching and writing about US policy towards Syrian intervention in Lebanon in 1976. Phi Alpha Theta is a history honors society and the Phi Alpha Theta Michigan Regional Conference presented a forum for my findings and allowed me to receive feedback on my scholarly efforts.
Research papers and paper presentations require different sets of skill excel. In writing a paper you have a long period of time to present a thesis and detail in evidence. Meticulous research strengthens evidence and constant reworking improves the thesis. Paper lengths vary, but the structure is typically the same. I know these things from writing many papers during my studies. Three to four supplemental writing skills (SWS) course per semester have strengthened my understanding of what is required in a good paper. However, I have had little experience presenting my papers. The Phi Alpha Theta conference allowed me to offer my research and argue my thesis beyond the confines of a written paper.
The conference also exposed me to other students research, including graduate students. I have been to wonderful lectures, speeches, and presentations in the past. But the graduate students at the conference inspired me to continue my scholarly pursuits beyond my undergrad. My fellow undergrad presenters showed me what a good paper presentation should be like. But the graduate students displayed what thorough research and mastery of a topic produce. Two of the grad students presented topics of great interest to me and I want to be able to engage with material as much as them. I have always seen myself going to the Middle East upon graduating to improve my Arabic and see where my interests will take me. I still believe I need to approach Arabic fluency but I am certain that grad school will be in my future.
The conference introduced me to the professional academic world. Being surrounded by so many motivated and passionate people enhanced my education. By presenting at this conference I am inspired to offer my research findings more often. I feel as though I better understand the format for presenting a paper. My paper was very well received, but my presentation skills require honing. I will apply my experiences very soon at Student Scholars Day and carry this experience with me into the future.
Take your notes and use those to write your final draft. Here are some tips:
Introduction: Either start with a vivid description of the place, your experience, or a summary of what you are reflecting about. End with your thesis idea. Sometimes you may want to put a question first and then the answer
Example Thesis: Why was I feeling so peaceful while walking down this beach? I realized it was because the beach had always been a place of rest to me.
Body: Each of the questions you've answered can be a paragraph in the body of your essay. Take your notes and expand them. Add more details and examples from your experience and your life story.
Conclusion: Explain and expand on your thesis idea. Tell how this experience taught you something new or how it helped you to understand something. Another way to conclude is to suggest where you might like to go from this point in thinking about your thesis idea.
Example Conclusion: I sent my photo of "For Rhonda" to my friend along with a text letting her know how much I appreciate her help in letting me know that we can always find places to relax and renew in the midst of our busy lives. Now, I want to find a way to help Rhonda have a day off of her own, and I'm hoping someday we can take a trip to the beach together.