As I mentioned in my previous post, a lot of what I’m going to be blogging about for the next few months is the process by which one goes about conducting research. I’ll likely be providing some commentary about the field of English language and literature as well. This shift is all part of my English Senior Seminar for my undergraduate degree, so while it may be a little dry and more formal, I hope you’ll at least find some of it useful.
This particular series, which I’m calling Commenting on Craft, contains responses to, appropriately enough, The Craft of Research, a great tool written by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. I’ll take two or three quotes from each section of the book and give a short response, partially so that I can sort out what’s going on and partially so that you all can get a gist of the book.
These quotes come from the introduction as well as the first two chapters of the book. The beginning is mostly concerned with A) choosing a topic that will interest you and B) making sure that topic will also be interesting to the reader.
But it would be a feeble education that did not change you at all, and the deeper your education, the more it will change the ‘you’ that you are or want to be.
I love this. Many people get hung up on research projects because they feel that their voices are lost under a sea of work done by other people, or maybe they’re frustrated that they have to conform to a certain style of writing that doesn’t seem like theirs. While it’s valid, for sure, to feel that way, Booth et al. would like you to think of it as changing your writing for the better–making it something that will guide you into the career you’ll ultimately choose. (And, really, the quote by itself is pretty powerful, isn’t it?)
[…] it would be a mistake to think that learning to write sound research reports must threaten your true identity. It will change the way you think, but only by giving you more ways of thinking.
Again, this addresses the idea of losing one’s own voice in the process of writing academically, but I think it ultimately answers the question we all have when starting a project like this: “Why is it necessary for me to do research in the first place?” It’s necessary, say the authors, because it gives you a whole array of tools you otherwise wouldn’t have found.
You establish your side of the relationship with your readers when you adopt one of those three roles–I have information for you; I can help you fix a problem; I can help you understand something better. You must, however, cast your readers in a complementary role by offering them a social contract: I’ll play my part if you play yours. But that means you have to understand their role. If you cast them in a role they won’t accept, you’re likely to lose them entirely.
This speaks for itself. Writing for the proper audience is important no matter what kind of writing you’re doing, but in academic writing, it’s especially important to consider if you want to have ethos. You don’t just want to write a bunch of information, wipe your hands of it, and walk away; you want your reader to get something out of it. Otherwise, what’s the point?
I hope, if you’re someone who finds yourself in the position of having to write an extensive research project, that this (and other posts in the series) will help you along the way. Cheers!