On Doing Research


January 14th, 2011

Themes: , ,

Your goal for this assignment is to research your story or archetype, discover diverse examples, and write a paper explaining how each example differs (in moral, tone, purpose, argument, medium, etc.) while still maintaining elements of the original.

You have already chosen your stories and “verbubbled” them, reducing them to their bare essentials. At this point you should be looking around for interesting mutations of the essential story or character type. With each new source, note similarities and differences from those already on your list. We will continue our research and begin outlines next week.

As a review of what we discussed Wednesday, here is a video I made last year to help with a library research assignment for my seniors.1 Commentary on the video is below.

After accessing the tulsalibrary.org, I navigate to the EBSCO databases, which is an aggregation of many peer-reviewed journals and other sources, and log in. I select “all” of the sources, but you could pick those you think will be most relevant.

(Jump to the next paragraph if you are familiar with Boolean operators in search engines.)

After searching “nerd,” it becomes clear that the term is also an acronym for “non-erosive reflux disease.” Because I didn’t want to read through 500+ articles about the disease, I include another search term, “reflux,” which isn’t likely to appear in the articles I’m looking for, and change the operator from “and” to “not.” In this way I can exclude any article that includes that word.

While I use Word to collect my notes and sources, it would be a good idea to use Google Docs instead. That way you don’t need to mess with corrupted files or remembering your flash drive.

As I read through the list, I open each article that might be valuable in a new tab.2 I’m not reading them, just looking for sources at this point.

After finding 10 or so potential sources (note the number of tabs at the top of my screen), I skim through each, closing those that aren’t related to my topic. Some aren’t available online, so I close those as well.3

If I find something interesting (don’t say journal, Stallings!), like you do when you’re journaling (dang.), I copy a chunk into a Word document4, add an in-text citation, and continue pulling information. Once I’ve decided that this will be a source I will likely use, I head over to the OWL at Purdue and look up the citation guidelines for an “Article in a Scholarly Journal that also Appears in Text.” I pop that into my Works Cited5 and keep searching.

Rinse, repeat.

See you all Tuesday; enjoy the weekend!

  1. For the record: I was researching “nerd culture” for a paper on Twilight. Don’t judge me… []
  2. To do this, left-click and choose “Open in a New Tab.” []
  3. If you find one that seems indispensible, you can ask for an inter-library loan of the journal and pick it up in person at your local branch. []
  4. You can see that I’ve already begun my outline in this example. I also remove those pesky line-breaks with a search-and-replace. []
  5. This example has an annotated bibliography, which requires me to explain how I used each source underneath each citation. You are not required to do this. []

The Final Paper

British Literature

January 25th, 2010

Themes: , , , , , , ,

In which you compile a number of sources to prove an amazing point about a novel of your choice.

I’ll present the essay in steps, then lay out the rules. Remember to record all information (essay titles, author names, URLs of interesting essays, and search queries) in your journal. Bring this journal tomorrow.

  1. Think about a few novels you’ve really enjoyed.
  2. Look up the titles or authors in the EBSCO Databases here. (Click the link, then click “EBSCO Databases, then “Select All,” continue, then “Continue,” check “Full text,” then enter your terms.)
  3. If you don’t find several articles about your book or author, start over from #1 –or– search for similar titles and authors, the period in which it was written, or the genre. Root around, you may come up with an idea just by searching similar works.
  4. Once you have a number of articles, check the bibliography, the source, the subject matter of each. If one looks solid, continue. If not, move on to the next one.
  5. Skim the article. If it’s interesting, print it (or email a copy to yourself and print at school tomorrow) and repeat #4 with another article. If it isn’t interesting, discard it and repeat #4.
  6. Once you have a number of interesting articles, grab your copy of the book and begin re-reading it if you’d like.
  7. Reflect and feel content about your full night’s work.

We’ll discuss all of the specific guidelines in class tomorrow, but here are some to set you in the right direction:

This is going to be a research paper over the historical, philosophical, or cultural context of the novel. As you go, you’ll record all steps, information gathered, and ideas in a journal. I will meet with each of you daily until you have a solid footing with this project. Come to class every day with an explanation of your night’s work along with your research, the work and your journal.

Historical: You will be explaining what circumstances may have enabled the novel to come about (the impact of previous works or the historical context). For example, if you wrote over Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, you might write about the “perfect storm” of Victorian Gothic literature and scientific exploration during the Edwardian eras.

Philosophical: You will be writing over the philosophy presented in the novel. A Freudian interpretation of Lord of the Flies (which we touched on during our discussions) would be appropriate here.

Cultural: Some novels seem to be timeless and continue to have impacts today. With the cultural essay, you will research the impact a novel had on a time period other than the one in which it was written. Of course, tracing the repercussions of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein would be great, or the resurgence of Lord of the Flies during the sixties (thanks, Ellen!) or recently, with the production of the movies.

Post any and all questions below or write them in your journals for class tomorrow. We’ll be looking at all of these approaches in more detail then.