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The Craft of Research 2 Digital Paper Andrew Abbott Tricks of the Trade Howard S. Becker Writing for Social Scientists Howard S. Becker What Editors Want Philippa J. Benson and Susan C. Silver The Craft of Translation John Biguenet and Rainer Schulte, editors The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation Bryan A. Garner Legal Writing in Plain English Bryan A. Garner From Dissertation to Book William Germano Getting It Published William Germano From Notes to Narrative Kristen Ghodsee Writing Science in Plain English Anne E. Greene Cite Right Charles Lipson How to Write a BA Thesis Charles Lipson The Chicago Guide to Writing about Multivariate Analysis Jane E. Miller The Chicago Guide to Writing about Numbers Jane E. Miller The Subversive Copy Editor Carol Fisher Saller The Writer’s Diet Helen Sword A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations Kate L. Turabian Student’s Guide to Writing College Papers Kate L. Turabian 3 The Craft of Research Fourth Edition Wayne C. Booth Gregory G. Colomb Joseph M. Williams Joseph Bizup William T. FitzGerald The University of Chicago Press Chicago & London 4 Wayne C. Booth (1921–2005) was the George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago. His books included The Rhetoric of Fiction and For the Love of It: Amateuring and Its Rivals, both published by the University of Chicago Press. Gregory G. Colomb (1951–2011) was professor of English at the University of Virginia and the author of Designs on Truth: The Poetics of the Augustan Mock-Epic. Joseph M. Williams (1933–2008) was professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago and the author of Style: Toward Clarity and Grace. Joseph Bizup is associate professor in the Department of English at Boston University as well as assistant dean and director of the College of Arts and Sciences Writing Program. He is the author of Manufacturing Culture: Vindications of Early Victorian Industry. William T. FitzGerald is associate professor in the Department of English at Rutgers University. He is the author of Spiritual Modalities: Prayer as Rhetoric and Performance. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637 The University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London © 1995, 2003, 2008, 2016 by The University of Chicago All rights reserved. Published 2016. Printed in the United States of America 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 12345 ISBN-13: 978-0-226-23956-9 (cloth) ISBN-13: 978-0-226-23973-6 (paper) ISBN-13: 978-0-226-23987-3 (e-book) DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226239873.001.0001 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Booth, Wayne C., author. | Colomb, Gregory G., author. | Williams, Joseph M., author. | Bizup, Joseph, 1966– author. | FitzGerald, William T., author. Title: The craft of research / Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, William T. FitzGerald. Other titles: Chicago guides to writing, editing, and publishing. Description: Fourth edition. | Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2016. | Series: Chicago guides to writing, editing, and publishing | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016000143 | ISBN 9780226239569 (cloth: alk. paper) | ISBN 9780226239736 (pbk.: alk. paper) | ISBN 9780226239873 (e-book) Subjects: LCSH: Research—Methodology. | Technical writing. Classification: LCC Q180.55.M4 B66 2016 | DDC 001.4/2—dc23 LC record available at This paper meets the requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper). 5 Contents Preface: The Aims of This Edition Our Debts I Research, Researchers, and Readers Prologue: Becoming a Researcher 1 Thinking in Print: The Uses of Research, Public and Private 1.1 What Is Research? 1.2 Why Write It Up? 1.3 Why a Formal Paper? 1.4 Writing Is Thinking 2 Connecting with Your Reader: Creating a Role for Yourself and Your Readers 2.1 Conversing with Your Readers 2.2 Understanding Your Role 2.3 Imagining Your Readers’ Role ★ Quick Tip: A Checklist for Understanding Your Readers II Asking Questions, Finding Answers Prologue: Planning Your Project—An Overview ★ Quick Tip: Creating a Writing Group 3 From Topics to Questions 3.1 From an Interest to a Topic 3.2 From a Broad Topic to a Focused One 3.3 From a Focused Topic to Questions 3.4 The Most Significant Question: So What? ★ Quick Tip: Finding Topics 4 From Questions to a Problem 4.1 Understanding Research Problems 4.2 Understanding the Common Structure of Problems 4.3 Finding a Good Research Problem 4.4 Learning to Work with Problems ★ Quick Tip: Manage the Unavoidable Problem of Inexperience 5 From Problems to Sources 5.1 Three Kinds of Sources and Their Uses 5.2 Navigating the Twenty-First-Century Library 5.3 Locating Sources on the Internet 6 5.4 Evaluating Sources for Relevance and Reliability 5.5 Looking Beyond Predictable Sources 5.6 Using People to Further Your Research ★ Quick Tip: The Ethics of Using People as Sources of Data 6 Engaging Sources 6.1 Recording Complete Bibliographical Information 6.2 Engaging Sources Actively 6.3 Reading for a Problem 6.4 Reading for Arguments 6.5 Reading for Data and Support 6.6 Taking Notes 6.7 Annotating Your Sources ★ Quick Tip: Manage Moments of Normal Anxiety III Making an Argument Prologue: Assembling a Research Argument 7 Making Good Arguments: An Overview 7.1 Argument as a Conversation with Readers 7.2 Supporting Your Claim 7.3 Acknowledging and Responding to Anticipated Questions and Objections 7.4 Connecting Claims and Reasons with Warrants 7.5 Building a Complex Argument Out of Simple Ones 7.6 Creating an Ethos by Thickening Your Argument ★ Quick Tip: A Common Mistake—Falling Back on What You Know 8 Making Claims 8.1 Determining the Kind of Claim You Should Make 8.2 Evaluating Your Claim 8.3 Qualifying Claims to Enhance Your Credibility 9 Assembling Reasons and Evidence 9.1 Using Reasons to Plan Your Argument 9.2 Distinguishing Evidence from Reasons 9.3 Distinguishing Evidence from Reports of It 9.4 Evaluating Your Evidence 10 Acknowledgments and Responses 10.1 Questioning Your Argument as Your Readers Will 10.2 Imagining Alternatives to Your Argument 10.3 Deciding What to Acknowledge 10.4 Framing Your Responses as Subordinate Arguments 10.5 The Vocabulary of Acknowledgment and Response 7 ★ Quick Tip: Three Predictable Disagreements 11 Warrants 11.1 Warrants in Everyday Reasoning 11.2 Warrants in Academic Arguments 11.3 Understanding the Logic of Warrants 11.4 Testing Warrants 11.5 Knowing When to State a Warrant 11.6 Using Warrants to Test Your Argument 11.7 Challenging Others’ Warrants ★ Quick Tip: Reasons, Evidence, and Warrants IV Writing Your Argument Prologue: Planning Again 12 Planning and Drafting 12.1 Planning Your Paper 12.2 Avoiding Three Common but Flawed Plans 12.3 Turning Your Plan into a Draft ★ Quick Tip: Work Through Procrastination and Writer’s Block 13 Organizing Your Argument 13.1 Thinking Like a Reader 13.2 Revising Your Frame 13.3 Revising Your Argument 13.4 Revising the Organization of Your Paper 13.5 Checking Your Paragraphs 13.6 Letting Your Draft Cool, Then Paraphrasing It ★ Quick Tip: Abstracts 14 Incorporating Sources 14.1 Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing Appropriately 14.2 Integrating Direct Quotations into Your Text 14.3 Showing Readers How Evidence Is Relevant 14.4 The Social Importance of Citing Sources 14.5 Four Common Citation Styles 14.6 Guarding Against Inadvertent Plagiarism ★ Quick Tip: Indicating Citations in Your Paper 15 Communicating Evidence Visually 15.1 Choosing Visual or Verbal Representations 15.2 Choosing the Most Effective Graphic 15.3 Designing Tables, Charts, and Graphs 15.4 Specific Guidelines for Tables, Bar Charts, and Line Graphs 8 15.5 Communicating Data Ethically 16 Introductions and Conclusions 16.1 The Common Structure of Introductions 16.2 Step 1: Establishing a Context 16.3 Step 2: Stating Your Problem 16.4 Step 3: Stating Your Response 16.5 Setting the Right Pace 16.6 Organizing the Whole Introduction 16.7 Finding Your First Few Words 16.8 Writing Your Conclusion ★ Quick Tip: Titles 17 Revising Style: Telling Your Story Clearly 17.1 Judging Style 17.2 The First Two Principles of Clear Writing 17.3 A Third Principle: Old Before New 17.4 Choosing between the Active and Passive Voice 17.5 A Final Principle: Complexity Last 17.6 Spit and Polish ★ Quick Tip: The Quickest Revision Strategy V Some Last Considerations The Ethics of Research A Postscript for Teachers Appendix: Bibliographical Resources Index 9 Preface The Aims of This Edition This fourth edition of The Craft of Research is the first to appear since the deaths of the book’s three original authors, Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. In undertaking this revision, we—Joseph Bizup and William T. FitzGerald—faced the pleasurable and challenging task of reworking a book we have both long admired. Our goal has been to update and refine it without appropriating it from its original authors. The fourth edition has the same main aim as the first three: to meet the needs of all researchers, not just first-year undergraduates and advanced graduate students, but even those in business and government who do and report research on any topic, academic, political, or commercial. The book was written to • guide you through the complexities of turning a topic or question into a research problem whose significance matches the effort that you put into solving it; • help you organize and draft a report that justifies the effort; • show you how to read your report as your readers will so that you can revise it into one that they will read with the understanding and respect it deserves. Other handbooks touch on these matters, but this one is different. Most current guides acknowledge that researchers rarely move in a straight line from finding a topic to stating a thesis to filling in note cards to drafting and revision. Experienced researchers loop back and forth, move forward a step or two before going back in order to move ahead again, change directions, all the while anticipating stages not yet begun. But so far as we know, no other guide tries to explain how each part of the process influences all the others—how developing a project prepares the researcher for drafting, how drafting can reveal problems in an argument, how writing an introduction can prompt you to do more research. In particular, the book tries to be explicit about matters that other guides treat as a mysterious creative process beyond analysis and explanation, including • how to turn a vague interest into a problem readers think is worth posing and solving; • how to build an argument that motivates readers to take your claim seriously; • how to anticipate the reservations of thoughtful but critical readers and then respond appropriately; • how to create an introduction and conclusion answering that toughest of questions from readers, So what?; • how to read your own writing as readers will, and thereby know when and how to revise it. Central in every chapter is the advice to side with your readers, to imagine how they will judge what you have written. The book addresses the formal elements common to most genres of researchbased writing not just because writers need to understand their superficial shape but also because they help writers think. These genres—the research paper, the research report, the white paper, and many others—are not empty patterns or forms: 10 they also embody and enable specific ways of working and arguing; they help us all to develop and refine our projects, test our work, and even discover new lines of thought. How we write thus affects how we argue and research, and vice versa. In this sense, to learn the genres of one’s field is to learn the field itself. The book is informed by another conviction as well: that the skills of research and research-based writing are not just for the elite but can be learned by everyone. Some aspects of advanced research can be learned only in the context of a specific community of researchers, but even if you don’t yet belong to one, you can still create something like it on your own. Our “Postscript for Teachers” suggests ways you (and your teachers) can do that. 11 What This Edition Does Not Address Like the previous editions of The Craft of Research, this fourth edition treats research generally. It does not discuss how to incorporate narratives, “thick descriptions,” or audiovisual forms of evidence into your arguments. They are important topics, but too large for us to do justice to them here. Nor does this edition cover research techniques that are specific to particular fields. Likewise, while it discusses the principles that should guide online research, it does not attempt to describe the vast array of specialized search tools and databases now available online and through the library. Our bibliography suggests a number of sources for guidance in those areas. 12 What’s New in This Edition In preparing this fourth edition, we have kept in mind the positive reception of earlier editions and the wide audience they attracted, an audience that ranges from first-year students in composition classes, to graduate students and other advanced researchers, and even to professionals working in fields such as business, medicine, and law. Indeed, this audience is an international one: the book has been translated into Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese. What we have been most mindful of is that The Craft of Research is the result of an extraordinary collaboration among three gifted teachers and scholars in whose footsteps we are proud to follow. While seeking to help the book speak to new generations of researchers, we have also striven to honor and retain the perspective, content, and voice that have made The Craft of Research a recognized classic. Those who are familiar with earlier editions will discover that this edition is faithful to the book’s vision and overall structure. At the same time, each chapter has been thoroughly updated to reflect the contemporary landscape of research. Here, concretely, is what we’ve done: • We revised chapters 5 and 6 to incorporate recent developments in library and Internet research and in engaging source materials. Especially, we emphasized new research techniques made possible by online databases and search engines and the value of online sources, balanced by the need to assess these sources’ reliability. • We again revised the chapter on warrants (chapter 11), a matter that has been difficult to explain in previous editions. • We moved the first two sections of chapter 13 into chapter 12, which is now titled “Planning and Drafting,” and switched the order of chapters 13 and 14, now titled “Organizing Your Argument” and “Incorporating Sources,” respectively. • Throughout, as we thought necessary, we clarified concepts and provided fresh examples. • We differentiated the related but distinct activities of research, argument, and writing. • Wherever possible, we standardized terms (e.g., using “paper” rather than “report”) to reflect the range of academic and professional genres that are the products of research. In doing all that, we have tried—as Booth, Colomb, and Williams did in prior editions—to preserve the amiable voice, the sense of directness, and the stance of colleagues working together that so many have found crucial to the book’s success. 13 Our Debts From JB and WF: We wish to thank our editor, David Morrow, and his colleagues at the University of Chicago Press for their insight and guidance and, above all, for the trust they placed in us to revise a text that has no equal in the field. It was a labor of love. We join Booth, Colomb, and Williams in again thanking the many without whose help the previous editions could never have been realized, especially Jane Andrew, Steve Biegel, and Donald Freeman. These many include Jane Block, Don Brenneis, Sara Bryant, Diane Carothers, Sam Cha, Tina Chrzastowski, John Cox, James Donato, Kristine Fowler, Joe Harmon, Clara Lopez, Bill McClellan, Mark Monmonier, Nancy O’Brien, Kim Steele, David Stern, Ellen Sutton, and Leslie Troutman. Joe Bizup thanks his wife, Annmarie Caracansi, and daughters, Grace and Charlotte; and Bill FitzGerald likewise thanks his wife, Emilia Lievano, and daughter, Magdalena. We are both grateful for our respective families’ love, patience, and support. We allow Booth, Colomb, and Williams to once again offer their personal acknowledgments in their own words. From WCB (composed for the second edition): I am amazed as I think back on my more than fifty years of teaching and research by how many students and colleagues could be cited here as having diminished my ignorance. Since that list would be too long, I’ll thank mainly my chief critic, my wife, Phyllis, for her many useful suggestions and careful editing. She and my daughters, Katherine Stevens and Alison Booth, and their children, Robin, Emily, and Aaron, along with all those colleagues, have helped me combat my occasional despair about the future of responsible inquiry. From GGC: I, too, have been blessed with students and colleagues who have taught me much—first among them the hundreds of grad students who shared with me their learning to be teachers. They, above all, have shown me the possibilities in collaborative inquiry. What I lean on most, though, are home and family: Sandra, Robin, Kikki, Karen, and Lauren. Through turbulent times and calm, they gave point and purpose to it all. Before them was another loving family, whose center, Mary, still sets an example to which I can only aspire. From JMW: The family has tripled in size since the first edition, and I am ever more grateful for their love and support: Ol, Michele, and Eleanor; Chris and Ingrid; Dave, Patty, Matilde, and Owen; Megan, Phil, Lily, and Calvin; Joe, Christine, Nicholas, and Katherine. And at beginning and end, Joan, whose patience, love, and good sense flow still more bountifully than I deserve. 14 In Memoriam Wayne C. Booth (1921–2005) Gregory G. Colomb (1951–2011) Joseph M. Williams (1933–2008) 15 Part I Research, Researchers, and Readers 16 Prologue Becoming a Researcher WHO NEEDS RESEARCH? When you think of a researcher, what do you imagine? Someone in a lab coat peering into a microscope? A solitary figure taking notes in a library? That’s what most people imagine. But you might have also pictured MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, HBO’s John Oliver, or anyone who prepares extensively before writing or speaking. Like just about every successful person, they are not only experts in doing research, but in using the research of others. In fact, that’s part of what makes them successful. In an aptly named “age of information,” they have learned not only how to find information, but how to evaluate it, then how to report it clearly and accurately. (Often, they challenge misinformation.) More than ever, those skills are essential for success in any profession. You may not yet be a professional, but learning to do research now will help you today and prepare you for what’s to come. First, it will help you understand what you read as nothing else will. You can accurately judge the research of others only after you’ve done your own and can understand the messy reality behind what is so smoothly and confidently presented in your textbooks or by experts on TV. The Internet and cable TV flood us with “facts” about the government, the economy, the environment, and the products we buy. Some of these facts are sound, though many are not. That’s why, as you learn to do research, you’ll also learn to value reliable research reported clearly and accurately. You’ll discover both how new knowledge depends on what questions you ask and how the way you think about and communicate your research shapes those questions and your answers. Most important, you’ll come to understand how the knowledge we all rely on depends on the quality of the research that supports it and the accuracy of its reporting. Although some might think it idealistic, another reason for doing research is the sheer pleasure of solving a puzzle, of discovering something that no one else knows. But learning to do research is not like learning to ride a bike, the sort of thing you learn once and never forget. Each of us has started projects that forced us to rethink how we do our work. Whenever we’ve addressed a new research community, we’ve had to learn its ways to help us understand what its members think is important. But even then, we could still rely on principles that all researchers follow, principles that we describe in this book. We think you will find them useful as your projects and readers become more demanding, both in school and after. We must be candid, though: doing research carefully and reporting it clearly are hard work, consisting of many tasks, often competing for your attention at the same time. And no matter how carefully you plan, research follows a crooked path, taking unexpected turns, sometimes up blind alleys, even looping back on itself. As 17 complex as that process is, we will work through it step-by-step so that you can see how its parts work together. When you can manage its parts, you can manage the often intimidating whole and look forward to doing more research with greater confidence. 18 STARTING A RESEARCH PROJECT If you are beginning your first project, the task may seem overwhelming: How do I focus on a topic? Where do I find information on it? What do I do when I find it? Even if you’ve done a “research paper” in a writing class, the idea of another may be even more intimidating if this time it’s the real thing. If so, you’re not alone. Even experienced researchers feel anxious when they tackle a new kind of project for a new audience. So whatever anxiety you feel, most researchers have felt it too. The difference is that experienced researchers know what lies ahead—hard work, but also pleasure; some frustration, but more satisfaction; periods of confusion, but confidence that, in the end, it will all come together and that the result is worth the effort. Most of all, experienced researchers know how to get from start to finish not easily, perhaps, but as efficiently as the complexity of their task allows. That’s the aim of this book. 19 WORKING WITH A PLAN You will struggle with your project if you don’t know what readers look for in a paper or how to help them find it. Experienced researchers know that they most often produce a sound paper when they have a plan, no matter how rough, even if only in their heads. In fact, they create two kinds of plans: the first helps them prepare and conduct their research; the second helps them draft their paper. They usually begin with a question and a plan to guide their search for an answer. They may not know exactly what they’ll find, but they know generally what it will look like, even if it surprises them. They also know that once they have an answer, they don’t just start writing, any more than an experienced carpenter just starts sawing. They draw up a second plan, a rough blueprint for a first draft— maybe no more than a sketch of an outline. Shrewd researchers, though, don’t let that plan box them in: they change it if they run into a problem or discover something that leads them in a new direction. But before they start a first draft, they begin with some plan, even when they know they’ll almost certainly change it. That plan for a draft helps researchers write, but it also helps their readers read. In fact, researchers of all kinds use standard forms to anticipate what readers look for: • A newspaper reporter writes her story in traditional “pyramid” form, putting the most important information first, not just to make her job of drafting easier, but also so that her readers can find the gist of the news quickly, then decide whether to read on. • An accountant follows a standard form for her audit report not just to organize her own writing, but so that investors can find the information they need to decide whether the company is another Enron or the next Apple. • A Food and Drug Administration scientist follows the predictable form for a scientific report— introduction, methods and materials, results, discussion, conclusion—not just to order his own thoughts coherently, but to help readers find the specific issues they have to consider before they accept his findings. Within these forms, or genres, writers are free to emphasize different ideas, to put a personal stamp on their work. But they know that a plan helps them write efficiently and, no less important, helps their readers read productively. This book will help you create and execute a plan for doing your research and another for reporting it in ways that not only encourage your best thinking but help your readers see its value. 20 HOW TO USE THIS BOOK The best way to deal with the complexity of research (and its anxieties) is to read this book twice. First skim it to understand what lies ahead (flip past what seems tedious or confusing). But then as you begin your work, carefully read the chapters relevant to your immediate task. If you are new to research, reread from the beginning. If you are in an intermediate course but not yet at home in your field, skim part I, then concentrate on the rest. If you are an experienced researcher, you will find chapter 4 and parts III and IV most useful. In part I, we address what those undertaking their first project must think about deliberately: why readers expect us to write up our research in particular ways (chapter 1), and why you should think of your project not as solitary labor but as a conversation with those whose work you read and with those who will in turn read your work (chapter 2). In part II, we discuss how to frame and develop your project. We explain • how to find a topic in an interest, then how to focus and question it (chapter 3); • how to transform those questions into a research problem (chapter 4); • how to find sources to guide your search for answers (chapter 5); • how to engage sources in ways that encourage your own best thinking (chapter 6). In part III, we discuss how to assemble a sound case in support of your claim. That includes • an overview of a research argument (chapter 7); • how to evaluate your claim for its significance (chapter 8); • how to judge what count as good reasons and sound evidence (chapter 9); • how to acknowledge and respond to questions, objections, and alternative views (chapter 10); • how to make the logic of your argument clear (chapter 11). In part IV, we lay out the steps in producing your paper: • how to plan and execute a first draft (chapter 12); • how to test and revise it (chapter 13); • how to incorporate sources (chapter 14); • how to present complex quantitative evidence clearly and pointedly (chapter 15); • how to write an introduction and conclusion that convince readers your argument is worth their time (chapter 16); • how to edit your style to make it clear, direct, and readable (chapter 17). Between some of the chapters you will find “Quick Tips,” brief sections that complement the chapters with practical advice. In an afterword, “The Ethics of Research,” we reflect on a matter that goes beyond professional competence. Doing and reporting research is a social activity with ethical implications. We often read about the dishonest research of historians, scientists, stock analysts, and others. And we see plagiarism among writers at all levels of achievement, from secondary-school students to leaders of their professions. Such events highlight the importance of doing and using your research ethically. 21 In a concluding essay, we address those who teach research. At the end of the book is a bibliography of sources for beginning researchers and for advanced researchers in particular fields. Research is hard work, but like any challenging job done well, both its process and its results can bring great satisfaction. No small part of that satisfaction comes from knowing that your work sustains the fabric of a community of people who share your interests, especially when you discover something that you believe can improve your readers’ lives by changing what and how they think. 22 1 Thinking in Print The Uses of Research, Public and Private In this chapter, we define research, then discuss how you benefit from learning to do it well, why we value it, and why we hope you will too. Whenever we read about a scientific breakthrough or a crisis in world affairs, we benefit from the research of those who report it, who in turn benefited from the research of countless others. When we walk into a library, we are surrounded by more than twenty-five centuries of research. When we go on the Internet, we can read millions of reports written by researchers who have posed questions beyond number, gathered untold amounts of information from the research of others to answer them, then shared their answers with the rest of us so that we can carry on their work by asking new questions and, we hope, answering them. Teachers at all levels devote their lives to research. Governments spend billions on it, businesses even more. Research goes on in laboratories and libraries, in jungles and ocean depths, in caves and in outer space, in offices and, in the information age, even in our own homes. Research is in fact the world’s biggest industry. Those who cannot do it well or evaluate that of others will find themselves sidelined in a world increasingly dependent on sound ideas based on good information produced by trustworthy inquiry and then presented clearly and accurately. Without trustworthy published research, we all would be locked in the opinions of the moment, prisoners of what we alone experience or dupes to whatever we’re told. Of course, we want to believe that our opinions are sound. Yet mistaken ideas, even dangerous ones, flourish because too many people accept too many opinions based on too little evidence. And as recent events have shown, those who act on unreliable evidence can lead us—indeed have led us—into disaster. That’s why in this book we will urge you to be amiably skeptical of the research you read, to question it even as you realize how much you depend on it. 23 1.1 WHAT IS RESEARCH? In the broadest terms, we do research whenever we gather information to answer a question that solves a problem: PROBLEM : Where do I find a new head gasket for my ’65 Mustang? RESEARCH: Look in the yellow pages for an auto-parts store, then call to see if it has one in stock. PROBLEM : To settle a bet, I need to know when Michael Jordan was born. RESEARCH: You Google “Michael Jordan birthday.” PROBLEM : I’m just curious about a new species of fish. RESEARCH: You search the Internet for articles in newspapers and academic journals. We all do that kind of research every day, and though we rarely write it up, we rely on those who wrote up theirs: Jordan’s biographers, the fish discoverers, the publishers of the yellow pages and the catalogs of the auto-parts suppliers—they all wrote up their research because they knew that one day someone would have a question that they could answer. If you’re preparing to do a research project not because you want to but because it’s been assigned, you might think that it is just make-work and treat it as an empty exercise. We hope you won’t. Done well, your project prepares you to join the oldest and most esteemed of human conversations, one conducted for millennia among philosophers, engineers, biologists, social scientists, historians, literary critics, linguists, theologians, not to mention CEOs, lawyers, marketers, investment managers—the list is endless. Right now, if you are a beginner, you may feel that the conversation is one-sided, that you have to listen more than you can speak because you have little to contribute. If you are a student, you may feel that you have only one reader: your teacher. All that may be true, for the moment. But at some point, you will join a conversation that, at its best, can help you and your community free us from ignorance, prejudice, and the half-baked ideas that so many charlatans try to impose on us. It is no exaggeration to say that, maybe not today or tomorrow but one day, the research you do and the arguments you make using it can improve if not the whole world, then at least your corner of it. 24 1.2 WHY WRITE IT UP? For some of you, though, the invitation to join this conversation may still seem easy to decline. If you accept it, you’ll have to find a good question, search for sound data, formulate and support a good answer, and then write it all up. Even if you turn out a first-rate paper, it may be read not by an eager world but only by your teacher. And, besides, you may think, my teacher knows all about my topic. What do I gain from writing up my research, other than proving I can do it? One answer is that we write not just to share our work, but to improve it before we do. 1.2.1 Write to Remember Experienced researchers first write just to remember what they’ve read. A few talented people can hold in mind masses of information, but most of us get lost when we think about what Smith found in light of Wong’s position, and compare both to the odd data in Brunelli, especially as they are supported by Boskowitz —but what was it that Smith said? When you don’t take notes on what you read, you’re likely to forget or, worse, misremember it. 1.2.2 Write to Understand A second reason for writing is to see larger patterns in what you read. When you arrange and rearrange the results of your research in new ways, you discover new implications, connections, and complications. Even if you could hold it all in mind, you would need help to line up arguments that pull in different directions, plot out complicated relationships, sort out disagreements among experts. I want to use these claims from Wong, but her argument is undercut by Smith’s data. When I put them side by side, I see that Smith ignores this last part of Wong’s argument. Aha! If I introduce it with this part from Brunelli, I can focus on Wong more clearly. That’s why careful researchers never put off writing until they’ve gathered all the data they need: they write from the start of their projects to help them assemble their information in new ways. 1.2.3 Write to Test Your Thinking A third reason to write is to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, where you’ll see what you really can think. Just about all of us, students and professionals alike, believe our ideas are more compelling in the dark of our minds than they turn out to be in the cold light of print. You can’t know how good your ideas are until you separate them from the swift and muddy flow of thought and fix them in an organized form that you—and your readers—can study. In short, we write to remember more accurately, understand better, and evaluate what we think more objectively. (And as you will discover, the more you write, the better you read.) 25 1.3 WHY A FORMAL PAPER? But even when they agree that writing is an important part of learning, thinking, and understanding, some still wonder why they can’t write up their research in their own way, why they have to satisfy demands imposed by a community that they have not joined (or even want to) and conform to conventions they did nothing to create. Why should I adopt language and forms that are not mine? Aren’t you just trying to turn me into an academic like yourself? If I write as you expect me to, I risk losing my identity. Such concerns are legitimate (most teachers wish students would raise them more often). 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. That’s why it is so important to choose carefully what you study and with whom. But it would be a mistake to think that learning to report sound research must threaten your true identity. It will change the way you think, but only by giving you more ways of thinking. You will be different by being freer to choose whom you want to be and what you want to do with your life. But the most important reason for learning to write in ways readers expect is that when you write for others, you demand more of yourself than when you write for yourself alone. By the time you fix your ideas in writing, they are so familiar to you that you need help to see them not for what you want them to be but for what they really are. You will understand your own work better when you try to anticipate your readers’ inevitable and critical questions: How have you evaluated your evidence? Why do you think it’s relevant? What ideas have you considered but rejected? All researchers, including us, can recall moments when in writing to meet their readers’ expectations, they found a flaw or blunder in their thinking or even discovered a new insight that escaped them in a first draft written for themselves. You can do that only once you imagine and then meet the needs and expectations of informed and careful readers. When you do that, you create what we call a rhetorical community of shared values. You might think, OK, I’ll write for readers, but why not in my own way? The traditional forms that readers expect are more than just empty vessels into which you must pour your ideas. They also help writers think and communicate in ways they might not otherwise, and they embody the shared values of a research community. Whatever community you join, you’ll be expected to show that you understand its practices by presenting your research in the standard forms, or genres, that a community uses to represent what it knows and how it knows. The various genres of research-based writing—the research paper, the scholarly article, the research report, the conference paper, the legal brief, and a great many others— have evolved to meet the needs of the communities that use them. Relatively stable, they allow both newcomers and longtime members of a community to come together through shared practices and expectations. Once you know the genres that belong to 26 and define your particular research community, you’ll be better able to answer your community’s predictable questions and understand what its members care about and why. As you learn to write the genres of a field or profession, you become a member of that research community. But as different as research communities are, what counts as good work is the same, whether it’s in the academic world or the world of government, commerce, or technology. If you learn to do research well now, you gain an immense advantage in the kind of research you will do later, no matter where you do it. 27 1.4 WRITING IS THINKING Writing up your research is, finally, thinking with and for your readers. When you write for others, you disentangle your ideas from your memories and wishes, so that you—and others—can explore, expand, combine, and understand them more fully. Thinking for others is more careful, more sustained, more insightful—in short, more thoughtful—than just about any other kind of thinking. You can, of course, take the easy way: do just enough to satisfy your teacher. This book will help you do that, but you’ll shortchange yourself if that’s all you do. If instead you find a topic that you care about, ask a question that you want to answer, then pursue that answer as best you can, your project can have the fascination of a mystery whose solution richly rewards your efforts. Nothing contributes more to successful research than your commitment to it, and nothing teaches you more about how to think than making a successful (or even unsuccessful) argument using it. Some of the world’s most important research has been done by those who persevered in the face of indifference or even hostility, because they never lost faith in their vision. The geneticist Barbara McClintock struggled for years unappreciated because her research community considered her work uninteresting. But she believed in it and pressed on. When her colleagues finally realized that she had already answered questions that they were just starting to ask, she won science’s highest honor, the Nobel Prize. We wish we could tell you how to balance your belief in the worth of your project with the need to accommodate the demands of teachers and colleagues, but we cannot. If you believe in what you’re doing and cannot find anyone else who shares your beliefs, all you can do is put your head down and press on. With our admiration. 28 2 Connecting with Your Reader Creating a Role for Yourself and Your Readers Research counts for little if few read it. Yet even experienced researchers sometimes forget to keep their readers in mind as they plan and draft. In this chapter, we show you how to think about readers even before you begin your project. Most of the important things we do, we do with others. Some students think research is different. They imagine the lone scholar in a hushed library. But no place is more filled with imagined voices than a library or lab. The view of research you see walking by these sites is only part of the story. When you read a book or a scientific paper, you silently converse with its writers—and through them with everyone else they have read. In fact, every time you go to a written source for information, you join a conversation between writers and readers that began more than five thousand years ago. And when you report your own research, you add your voice and can hope that other voices will respond to you, so that you can in turn respond to them. So it goes and, we hope, will continue for a long time to come. 29 2.1 CONVERSING WITH YOUR READERS Conversations are social activities in which we are expected to play our parts. Face-to-face, we can judge how well we and others do that by sensing how a conversation is going. Do we treat each other as equals, speaking and listening civilly, answering each other’s questions directly? Or does one of us seem to be playing the role of expert, assigning others the role of audience? We can judge how well a conversation is going as we have it, and we can adjust our roles and behavior to repair mistakes and misunderstandings as they occur. But writing is an imagined conversation. Once we decide what role to play and what role to assign our readers, those roles are fixed. If as we read we think, Well, Abrams acknowledges Stanik’s evidence, but he’s dogmatic in criticizing it and ignores obvious counterexamples, Abrams can’t change what we read next to recover from our judgment. Of course, judgments go both ways: just as readers judge writers, so writers also judge readers, but they do so before they write. Consider these two sentences: Interruption of REM sleep has been shown not only to inhibit memory consolidation, especially for declarative memories, but also to significantly impair cognitive processes dependent on working memory function. If you don’t get enough sleep, not only will you struggle to retain facts and concepts, but your working memory function will also be impaired, making it difficult for you to hold information in mind and consequently to understand, think, and learn. Both writers make judgments about their readers’ needs and goals. The first addresses herself to knowledgeable colleagues interested in learning about the psychology of sleep and memory. She therefore focuses on abstract concepts and freely uses technical terms. The second presents himself as an expert patiently explaining a complicated matter to readers who know little about it, and so he largely avoids technical vocabulary. He also assumes that his readers want practical advice, and so he addresses them directly as “you” and shows them what his information means to them. The two sentences are very different: the first reads like an excerpt from an advanced textbook; the second, like it comes from a guide on good study habits. But both would be effective if their writers judged their readers correctly. But suppose the writers switched passages. Readers ignorant of cognitive psychology looking for practical advice would think that the writer of the first was indifferent to their needs; readers knowledgeable about sleep and memory would think that the writer of the second was talking down to them. When writers misjudge their readers in this way, they risk losing them. In fact, writers can’t avoid creating some role for themselves and their readers, planned or not. So those roles are worth thinking about from the beginning, before you write a word. If you ignore or miscast your readers, you’ll leave so many traces of that mistake in your early drafts that you won’t easily fix them in the final 30 one. In writing this book, we tried to imagine you—what you’re like, what you know about research, whether you even care about it. We imagined a persona for you, a role we hoped you would adopt: someone who is interested in learning how to do and report research and who shares our belief in its importance (or at least is open to being persuaded). Then we imagined a persona of our own: writers committed to the value of research, interested in sharing how it works, talking not at you like a lecturer or down to you like a pedant, but with the “you” we hoped you want to become. We tried to speak as easily to those of you starting your first project as to those of you doing advanced work. We hoped that new researchers would not be frustrated when we discussed issues they haven’t yet faced and that more experienced readers would be patient as we covered familiar ground. Only you can judge how well we’ve succeeded. 31 2.2 UNDERSTANDING YOUR ROLE Since few people read formal research papers for entertainment, you have to create a relationship that encourages them to see why it’s in their interest to read yours. That’s not easy. Too many beginning researchers offer readers a relationship that caricatures a bad classroom: Teacher, I know less than you. So my role is to show you how many facts I can dig up. Yours is to say whether I’ve found enough to give me a good grade. Do that and you turn your project into a pointless drill that demeans both you and your teacher. Worse, you cast yourself in a role exactly opposite to that of a true researcher. In true research, you must switch the roles of student and teacher. When you do research, you learn something that others don’t know. So when you report it, you must think of your reader as someone who doesn’t know it but needs to and yourself as someone who will give her reason to want to know it. You must imagine a relationship that goes beyond Here are some facts I’ve dug up about fourteenth-century Tibetan weaving. Are they enough of the right ones? There are three better reasons for offering those facts; the third is most common in academic research. 2.2.1 I’ve Found Some New and Interesting Information You take the first step toward true research when you say to your reader, Here are some facts about fourteenth-century Tibetan weaving that you do not know and may find interesting. This offer assumes, of course, that your reader wants to know. But even if not, you must still cast yourself in the role of someone who has found something your reader will find interesting and your reader as someone who wants to know, whether she really will or not. Down the road, you’ll be expected to find (or create) a community of readers who not only share an interest in your topic (or can be convinced to), but also have questions about it that you can answer. But even if you don’t have that audience right now, you must write as if you do. You must present yourself as interested in, even enthusiastic about, wanting to share something new, because the interest you show in your work roughly predicts the interest your reader will take in it. 2.2.2 I’ve Found a Solution to an Important Practical Problem You take a step toward more significant research when you can say to readers not just Here are some facts that should interest you, but These facts will help you do something to solve a problem you care about. That is the kind of research that people do every day in business, government, and the professions. They confront practical problems whose solutions require research into the facts of the matter, first to understand the problem, then to figure out how to solve it—problems ranging from insomnia to falling profits to terrorism. To help new researchers learn that role, teachers sometimes invent “real world” 32 scenarios: an environmental science professor might assign you to write a report for the director of the state Environmental Protection Agency on how to clean up a local lake. In this scenario you are playing the role not of a student delivering data to a teacher, but of a professional giving practical advice to someone who needs it. To make your report credible, however, you must use the right terminology, cite the right sources, find and present the right evidence, all in the right format. But most important, you have to design your report around a specific intention that defines your role: to advise a decision maker on what to do to solve a problem. That kind of research is typical in the world at large but is less common in academic research than the next one. 2.2.3 I’ve Found an Answer to an Important Question Although academic researchers sometimes advise EPA directors on what to do, their more common role is that of scholars who help their research community simply understand something better. Others might use their findings to solve a practical problem—a discovery about the distribution of prime numbers, for example, helped cryptologists design an unbreakable code. But that research itself was aimed at solving not the practical problem of keeping secrets, but the conceptual problem of not entirely understanding prime numbers. Some researchers call this kind of research “pure” as opposed to “applied.” Teachers occasionally invent “real world” scenarios involving conceptual problems: a political science professor asks you to play the role of a senator’s intern researching the voting habits of out-of-state college students. But more typically they expect you to imagine yourself as what you are learning to be: a researcher addressing a community of other researchers interested in issues that they want to understand better. Your report on fourteenth-century Tibetan weaving, for example, could possibly help rug designers sell more rugs, but its main aim is to help scholars better understand something about Tibetan art, such as How did fourteenth-century Tibetan rugs influence the art of modern China? 33 2.3 IMAGINING YOUR READERS’ ROLE 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. In this case, the old advice to “consider your audience” means that you must report your research in a way that motivates your readers to play the role you have imagined for them. For example, suppose you’re an expert on blimps and zeppelins. You’ve been asked to share your research with three different groups with three different reasons for wanting to hear about it. How they receive you will depend on how accurately you imagine the role each intends to play and how well you match your role to theirs. For that, you must understand what they want and what they are in return willing and able to do for you. 2.3.1 Entertain Me Imagine the first group that invited you to speak is the local Zeppelin Club. Its members are not experts, but they know a lot about zeppelins. They read about them, visit historic sites, and collect zeppelin memorabilia. You decide to share some new facts you’ve found in a letter from your Great-Uncle Otto describing his transatlantic zeppelin flight in 1936, along with some photographs and a menu he saved. His letter comments on the grilled oysters he had for dinner and tells a funny story about why he happened to take the trip in the first place. In planning your talk, you judge that what’s at stake is just a diverting hour of zeppelin trivia. You meet your side of the bargain when you share whatever you think might interest them—hunches, speculation, even unsubstantiated rumors. You won’t show PowerPoint slides, present data, or cite scholarly sources to substantiate your claims. Your audience will play its role by listening with interest, asking questions, maybe sharing their own anecdotes. You don’t expect them to challenge the authenticity of the letter from Great-Uncle Otto or question how the photos are relevant to the social history of zeppelins, much less of lighter-than-air travel in general. Your job is to give an engaging talk; theirs is to be amiably engaged. Some beginning researchers imagine their readers belong to a Zeppelin Club, already fascinated by their topic and eager to hear anything new about it. While that sometimes works for experts with the right audience (see the box on page 24), it rarely works for students learning to do and report serious research. Your teachers expect you to report not just what you find, but what you can do with it. 2.3.2 Help Me Solve My Practical Problem 34 Imagine that your next meeting is with True-to-Life Films. They plan to make a movie about a zeppelin flight in 1936 and want you to help them get the historical details right, including a scene in the dining cabin. They want to know how the cabin was furnished, what people ate, what the menus looked like, and so on. They don’t care whether your facts are new, only whether they are right, so that they can make the scene authentic. You show them your photos and the menu and describe the oysters Great-Uncle Otto ate, but you don’t bother with why he took the trip. To succeed in this role, you must help them solve a practical problem whose solution you base not on all the data you can find, no matter how new, but on just those particular facts that are relevant to the problem of authenticity and whose sources you can show are reliable. Your audience will listen intently and critically, because they want to get the details right. That’s the kind of task you’re likely to face if your teacher invents a “real world” assignment—write to an EPA official who needs to do something about a polluted lake. Academic researchers sometimes address practical problems like these, but for them another kind of problem is far more common. So pose a practical problem only if your teacher creates one; otherwise, check with her first. (We’ll discuss practical problems in more detail in chapter 4.) 2.3.3 Help Me Understand Something Better Now imagine that your audience is the faculty of Zeppo University’s Department of Lighter-than-Air Studies. They study all aspects of blimps and zeppelins, do research on their economics and aerodynamics, and participate in a worldwide conversation about their history and social significance. They compete with other lighter-than-air scholars to produce new lighter-than-air knowledge and theories that they publish in lighter-than-air journals and books read by everyone in their lighter-than-air field. These scholars have invited you to talk about your specialty: the social history of zeppelin travel in the 1930s. They don’t want you just to amuse them with new facts (though they’ll be happy if you do) or to help them do something (though they’d be pleased if you got them consulting work with True-to-Life Films). They want you to use whatever new facts you have to help them better understand the social history of zeppelin travel or, better still, of lighter-than-air culture in general. Because these lighter-than-air scholars are intensely committed to finding the Truth about zeppelins, you know they expect you to be objective, rigorously logical, and able to examine every issue from all sides. You also know that if you don’t nail down your facts, they’ll hammer you during the question period and if you don’t have good answers, slice you up afterward over the wine and cheese, not just to be contentious or even nasty (though some will be), but to get as close as they can to the Truth about zeppelins in the 1930s. If you offer new data, like Great-Uncle Otto’s photos, letter, and menu, they’ll be glad to see them, but they’ll want to know why they matter and might even question their authenticity. 35 Above all, they will care about your documents only if you can show how they serve as evidence that helps you answer a question important to understanding something about zeppelins that is more important than your uncle’s trip. They will receive you especially well if you can convince them that they do not understand the social history of zeppelins as well as they thought and that your new data will improve their flawed understanding. If you can’t do that, they’ll respond not with I don’t agree—we all learn to live with that; some of us even thrive on it—but with a response far more devastating: I don’t care. So you begin your talk: We all have been led to believe by a number of studies on the food service on transatlantic zeppelin flights in the 1930s (especially Schmidt 1986 and Kloepfer 1998) that items were never cooked over an open flame because of the danger of explosions. However, I have recently discovered a menu from the July 12, 1936, crossing of the Hindenburg indicating that oysters grilled over charcoal were served. . . . [You then go on to show why that new knowledge matters.] That is the kind of conversation you join when you report research to a community of scholars. You must imagine them imagining this conversation with you: Never mind whether your style is graceful (though I will admire your work more if it is); don’t bother me with amusing anecdotes about your Great-Uncle Otto (though I like hearing them if they help me understand your ideas better); ignore whether what you know will make me rich (though I would be happy if it did). Just tell me something I don’t know so that I can better understand our common interest. Who Cares about That? Academic researchers are often scoffed at for studying esoteric topics that matter to no one but themselves. The charge is usually unfair, but some researchers do become fascinated with matters that seem to have little significance. Williams once attended the dissertation defense of a PhD candidate who had discovered reels and reels of film shot by European anthropologists in Africa and Asia in the early twentieth century. This previously unknown footage fascinated the film scholars on the committee. But when Williams asked the candidate, “How do these new films improve our understanding of movies then or now?” she could answer only that “no one has ever seen this footage before.” Williams put his question in different ways but never got a better answer. The film scholars, on the other hand, were untroubled (and found Williams’s questions naive), because they were already imagining how the footage might change their thinking about early film. And in any event, they all loved old film for its own sake. So sometimes new data alone are enough to interest the right readers. But if that candidate hopes to write anything that interests anyone but a tiny coterie of specialists, she will have to make an offer better than Here’s some new stuff. Your academic readers will almost always adopt this third role. They will think you’ve fulfilled your side of the social contract only when you treat them as who they think they are: scholars interested in greater knowledge and better understanding. To be sure, the faculty over in chemistry or philosophy care little 36 about zeppelins, much less their meal service. (Can you believe the trivia they study over in Helium Hall?) But then you don’t much care about their issues, either. You are concerned with your particular community of readers, with their interests and expectations, with improving their understanding, based on the best evidence you can find. That’s the social contract that all researchers must establish with their readers. Quick Tip: A Checklist for Understanding Your Readers Think about your readers from the start, knowing that you’ll understand them better as you work through your project. Answer these questions early on, then revisit them when you start planning and again when you revise. 1. Who will read my paper? • Professionals who expect me to follow every academic convention and use a standard format? • Well-informed general readers? • General readers who know little about the topic? 2. What do they expect me to do? Should I • entertain them? • provide new factual knowledge? • help them understand something better? • help them do something to solve a practical problem in the world? 3. How much can I expect them to know already? • What do they know about my topic? • Is the problem one that they already recognize? • Is it one that they have but haven’t yet recognized? • Is the problem not theirs, but only mine? • Will they take the problem seriously, or must I convince them that it matters? 4. How will readers respond to the solution/answer in my main claim? • Will it contradict what they already believe? How? • Will they make standard arguments against my solution? • Will they want to see the steps that led me to the solution? 37 PART II Asking Questions, Finding Answers 38 Prologue Planning Your Project—An Overview If you’ve skimmed this book once, you’re ready to begin your project. If you have a research question and know how to look for its answer, review the next two chapters quickly; then read the remaining ones carefully as they become relevant to your task. You may, however, feel bewildered if you’re starting from scratch, without even a topic to guide you. But you can manage if you have a plan and take one step at a time. If you are starting from scratch, your first task is to find a research question worth investigating that will lead to a research problem worth solving. Here are four steps to that end: 1. Find a topic specific enough to let you master a reasonable amount of information on it in the time you have: not, for example, the history of scientific writing but essays in the Proceedings of the Royal Society (1675–1750) as precursors to the modern scientific article; not doctors in seventeenth-century drama but Molière’s mockery of doctors in three early plays. 2. Question that topic until you find questions that catch your interest. For example, How did early Royal Society authors demonstrate that their evidence was reliable? Or, Why did Molière mock doctors? 3. Determine the kinds of evidence your readers will expect you to offer in support of your answer. Will they accept reports of facts from secondary sources, or will they expect you to consult primary sources (see 5.1.1)? Will they expect quantitative data, quotations from authorities, or firsthand observations? 4. Determine whether you can find this evidence. There’s no point researching a topic unless you have a good chance of finding the right kind of evidence. Once you think you have enough data to support at least a plausible answer to your question, you’ll be ready to assemble an argument that makes your case (see part III), then to plan, draft, and revise it (see part IV). You’ll discover, however, that you can’t march through those steps in the neat order we present them. You’ll think of a tentative answer to your research question before you have all the evidence you need to support it. And when you think you have an argument worth making, you may discover that you need more and maybe different evidence from new sources. You may even modify your topic. Doing research is not like strolling along an easy, well-marked path to a familiar destination; it’s more like zigzagging up and down a rocky hill through overgrown woods, sometimes in a fog, searching for something you won’t recognize until you see it. But no matter how indirect your path, you can make progress if at each step of the way you plan for predictable detours (and maybe even avoid some of them). What Is Your Evidence? No matter their field, researchers collect information to use as evidence to support their claims. But researchers in different fields call that information by different names. We call it data. By data we mean not just the numbers that natural and social scientists collect, but anything you find 39 “out there” relevant to answering your research question. The term is used less often by researchers in the humanities, but they, too, gather data in the form of quotations, historical facts, and so on. Data are inert, however, until you use them to support a claim that answers your research question. At that point, your data become evidence. If you don’t have more data than you can use as evidence, you haven’t collected enough. (Incidentally, data is plural; a single bit of data is a datum.) Resolve to do lots of writing along the way. Much of it will be routine notetaking, but you should also write reflectively, to understand: make outlines; explain why you disagree with a source; draw diagrams to connect disparate facts; summarize sources, positions, and schools; record even random thoughts. Many researchers find it useful to keep a journal for hunches, new ideas, random thoughts, problems, and so on. You might not include much of this writing-to-discover-andunderstand in your final draft. But when you write as you go, every day, you encourage your own best critical thinking, understand your sources better, and, when the time comes, draft more productively. Quick Tip: Creating a Writing Group A downside of academic research is its isolation. Except for group projects, you’ll read and write mostly alone. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Look for someone other than your instructor or adviser who will talk with you about your progress, review your drafts, even pester you about how much you’ve written. That might be a generous friend, but even better is another writer so that you can comment on each other’s ideas and drafts. Best of all is a group of four or five people working on their own projects who meet regularly to read and discuss one another’s work. Early on, each meeting should start with a summary of each person’s project in this three-part sentence: I’m working on X because I want to find out Y, so that I (and you) can better understand Z (more about this in 3.4). As your projects advance, develop an opening “elevator story,” a short summary of your project that you could give someone on the way to a meeting. It should include your research question, your best guess at an answer, and the kind of evidence you expect to use to support it. The group can then follow up with questions, responses, and suggestions. Don’t limit your talk to just your story, however. Talk about your readers: Why should they be interested in your question? How might they respond to your argument? Will they trust your evidence? Will they have other evidence in mind? Such questions help you plan an argument that anticipates what your readers expect. Your group can even help you brainstorm when you bog down. Later the group can read one another’s outlines and drafts to imagine how their final readers will respond. If your group has a problem with your draft, so will those readers. But for most writers, a writing group is most valuable for the discipline it imposes. It is 40 easier to meet a schedule when you know you must report to others. Writing groups are common for those writing theses or dissertations. But the rules differ for a class paper. Some teachers think that a group or writing partner provides more help than is appropriate, so be clear what your instructor allows. 41 3 From Topics to Questions In this chapter, we discuss how to find a topic among your interests, refine it to a manageable scope, then question it to find the makings of a problem that can guide your research. If you are an experienced researcher or know the topic you want to pursue, skip to chapter 4. But if you are starting your first project, you will find this chapter useful. If you are new to research, the freedom to pick your own topic can seem daunting. Where do you begin? How do you tell a good topic from a bad one? Inexperienced researchers typically wonder, Will I find enough information on this topic to write about it? To their surprise they often compile too much information, much of it not very useful. They do so because their topic lacks focus. Without that focus, any evidence you assemble risks appearing to your readers as little more than a mound of random facts. As you begin a research project, you will want to distinguish a topic from a subject. A subject is a broad area of knowledge (e.g., climate change), while a topic is a specific interest within that area (e.g., the effect of climate change on migratory birds). However, finding a topic is not simply a matter of narrowing your subject. A topic is an approach to a subject, one that asks a question whose answer solves a problem that your readers care about. In all research communities, some questions are “in the air,” widely debated and researched, such as whether traits like shyness or an attraction to risk are learned or genetically inherited. But other questions may intrigue only the researcher: Why do cats rub their faces against us? Why does a coffee spill dry up in the shape of a ring? That’s how a lot of research begins—not with a big question that attracts everyone in a field, but with a mental itch about a small question that only a single researcher wants to scratch. If you feel that itch, start scratching. But at some point, you must decide whether the answer to your question solves a problem significant to some community of researchers or even to a public whose lives your research could change. Question or Problem? You may have noticed that we’ve been using the words question and problem almost interchangeably. But they are not quite the same. Some questions raise problems; others do not. A question raises a problem if not answering it keeps us from knowing something more important than its answer. For example, if we cannot answer the question Are there ultimate particles?, we cannot know something even more important: the nature of physical existence. On the other hand, a question does not raise a problem if not answering it has no apparent consequences. For example, Was Abraham Lincoln’s right thumb longer than his nose? We cannot think of what we would gain by knowing. At least at the moment. Now, that word problem is itself a problem. Commonly, a problem means trouble, but among researchers it has a meaning so special that we devote the next 42 chapter to it. But before you can frame your research problem, you have to find a topic that might lead to one. So we’ll start there, with finding a topic. 43 3.1 FROM AN INTEREST TO A TOPIC Most of us have more than enough interests, but beginners often find it hard to locate among theirs a topic focused enough to support a substantial research project. They may also believe they lack the expertise for the project. However, a research topic is an interest stated specifically enough for you to imagine becoming a local expert on it. That doesn’t mean you already know a lot about it or that you’ll have to know more about it than others, including your teacher. You just want to know a lot more about it than you do now. If you can work on any topic, we offer only a cliché: start with what most interests you. Nothing contributes to the quality of your work more than your commitment to it. But also ask yourself: What interests me about this topic? What would interest others? 3.1.1 Finding a Topic in a Writing Course Start by listing as many interests as you can that you’d like to explore. Don’t limit yourself to what you think might interest a teacher or make you look like a serious student. Let your ideas flow. Prime the pump by asking friends, classmates, even your teacher about topics that interest them. If no good topics come to mind, consult the Quick Tip at the end of this chapter. Once you have a list of topics, choose the one or two that interest you most and explore their research potential. Do this: • In the library, look up your topic in a general guide such as CQ Researcher and skim the subheadings. In an online database such as Academic Search Premier, you can explore your topic through subject terms. If you have a more narrow focus, you can do the same with specialized guides such as Women’s Studies International. While some libraries will have copies of general and specialized guides on the shelf, most now subscribe to their online equivalents, but not all of them let you skim subject headings. (We discuss these resources in chapter 5 and list several in the appendix.) • On the Internet, Google your topic, but don’t surf indiscriminately. Look first for websites that are roughly like sources you would find in a library, such as online encyclopedias. Read the entry on your general topic, and then copy the list of references at the end for a closer look. Use Wikipedia to find ideas and sources, but always confirm what you find there in a reliable source. Few experienced researchers trust Wikipedia, so under no circumstances cite it as a source of evidence (unless your topic is Wikipedia itself). • Remember, at this point you are exploring a topic to spur your thinking and to see if that topic is viable. With that in mind, you can also find ideas in blogs, which discuss almost every contentious issue. Since most issues are usually too big for a research paper, look for posts that take a position on narrow aspects of larger issues. If you disagree with a view, investigate it. 3.1.2 Finding a Topic for a First Research Project in a Particular Field Start by listing topics relevant to your particular class and that interest you, then narrow them to one or two promising ones. If the topic is general, such as religious masks, you’ll have to do some random reading to narrow it. But read with a plan: • Skim encyclopedia entries in your library or online. Start with standard ones such as the 44 Encyclopaedia Britannica. Then consult specialized ones such as the Encyclopedia of Religion or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. • Skim headings in specialized indexes such as the Philosopher’s Index, Psychological Abstracts, or Women’s Studies Abstracts. Use subheadings for ideas of how others have narrowed your topic. • Google your topic, but not indiscriminately. Use Google Scholar, a search engine that focuses on scholarly journals and books. Skim the articles it turns up, especially their lists of sources. When you know the general outline of your topic and how others have narrowed theirs, try to narrow yours. If you can’t, browse through journals and websites until your topic becomes more clearly defined. That takes time, so start early. 3.1.3 Finding a Topic for an Advanced Project Most advanced students already have interests in topics relevant to their field. Often topics find them as they become immersed in a field. If that is not yet the case, focus on what interests you, but remember that you must eventually show why it should also interest others. • Find what interests other researchers. Look online for recurring issues and debates in the archives of professional discussion lists relevant to your interests. Search online and in journals like the Chronicle of Higher Education for conference announcements, conference programs, calls for papers, anything that reflects what others find interesting. • Skim the latest issues of journals in your field, not just for articles, but also for conference announcements, calls for papers, and reviews. Skim recent articles in your library’s online databases in your field (e.g., the MLA International Bibliography). • Investigate the resources that your library is particularly rich in. If, for example, it (or a library nearby) holds a collection of rare papers on an interesting topic, you have found not only a topic but a way into it. Many unexpected finds await discovery in your library’s archives. 45 3.2 FROM A BROAD TOPIC TO A FOCUSED ONE The most useful way to think about a topic is as a starting place for your research. (The word “topic” comes from topos, which is Greek for “place.”) From this starting place, you can head off in a particular direction and thus narrow an overly broad topic into a productively focused one. At this point, your biggest risk is settling on a topic so broad that it could be a subheading in a library catalog: spaceflight; Shakespeare’s problem plays; natural law. A topic is probably too broad if you can state it in four or five words: Free will in Tolstoy The history of commercial aviation A topic so broad can intimidate you with the task of finding, much less reading, even a fraction of the sources available. So narrow it down: Free will in Tolstoy → The conflict of free will and inevitability in Tolstoy’s description of three battles in War and Peace The history of commercial aviation → The contribution of the military in developing the DC-3 in the early years of commercial aviation We narrowed those topics by adding words and phrases, but of a special kind: conflict, description, contribution, and developing. Those nouns are derived from verbs expressing actions or relationships: to conflict, to describe, to contribute, and to develop. Lacking such “action” words, your topic is a static thing. Note what happens when we restate static topics as full sentences. Topics (1) and (2) change almost not at all: (1) Free will in Tolstoytopic → There is free will in Tolstoy’s novels.claim (2) The history of commercial aviationtopic → Commercial aviation has a history.claim In reality, (1) and (2) are not topics at all because they do not lead anywhere. But when (3) and (4) are revised into full sentences, they are closer to claims that a reader might find interesting. (3) The conflict of free will and inevitability in Tolstoy’s description of three battles in War and Peacetopic → In War and Peace, Tolstoy describes three battles in which free will and inevitability conflict.claim (4) The contribution of the military in developing the DC-3 in the early years of commercial aviationtopic → In the early years of commercial aviation, the military contributed to the way the DC-3 developed.claim Such claims may at first seem thin, but you’ll make them richer as you work through your project. And that’s the point: these topics are actually paths to pursue when 46 devising your project. Caution: Don’t narrow your topic so much that you can’t find information on it. Too much information is available on the history of commercial aviation but too little (at least for beginning researchers) on the decision to lengthen the wingtips on the DC-3 prototype for military use as a cargo carrier. 47 3.3 FROM A FOCUSED TOPIC TO QUESTIONS Once they have a focused topic, many new researchers make a beginner’s mistake: they immediately start plowing through all the sources they can find on the topic, taking notes on everything they read. With a promising topic such as the political origins of legends about the Battle of the Alamo, they mound up endless facts connected with the battle: what led up to it, histories of the Texas Revolution, the floor plan of the mission, even biographies of generals Santa Anna and Sam Houston. They accumulate notes, summaries, descriptions of differences and similarities, ways in which the stories conflict with one another and with what historians think really happened, and so on. Then they dump it all into a paper that concludes, Thus we see many differences and similarities between . . . Many high school teachers would reward such a paper with a good grade, because it shows that the writer can focus on a topic, find information on it, and assemble that information into a report, no small achievement—for a first project. But in any college course, such a report falls short if it is seen as just a pastiche of vaguely related facts. If a writer asks no specific question worth asking, he can offer no specific answer worth supporting. And without an answer to support, he cannot select from all the data he could find on a topic just those relevant to his answer. To be sure, those fascinated by Elvis Presley movie posters or the first generation of video games will read anything new about them, no matter how trivial. Serious researchers, however, do not document information for its own sake, but to support the answer to a question that they (and they hope their readers) think is worth asking. So the best way to begin working on your focused topic is not to find all the information you can on it, but to formulate questions that direct you to just that information you need to answer them. Start with the standard journalistic questions: who, what, when, and where, but focus on how and why. To engage your best critical thinking, systematically ask questions about your topic’s history, composition, and categories. Then ask any other question you can think of or find in your sources. Record all the questions, but don’t stop to answer them even when one or two grab your attention. This inventory of possible questions will help to direct your search activities and enable you to make sense of information you find. (Don’t worry about keeping these categories straight; their only purpose is to stimulate questions and organize your answers.) Let’s take up the example of masks mentioned earlier. 3.3.1 Ask about the History of Your Topic • How does it fit into a larger developmental context? Why did your topic come into being? What came before masks? How were masks invented? Why? What might come after masks? • What is its own internal history? How and why has the topic itself changed through time? How have Native American masks changed? Why? How have Halloween masks changed? How has the role of masks in society changed? How has the booming market for kachina masks influenced traditional design? Why have masks helped make Halloween the biggest American 48 holiday after Christmas? 3.3.2 Ask about Its Structure and Composition • How does your topic fit into the context of a larger structure or function as part of a larger system? How do masks reflect the values of different societies and cultures? What roles do masks play in Hopi dances? In scary movies? In masquerade parties? How are masks used other than for disguise? • How do its parts fit together as a system? What parts of a mask are most significant in Hopi ceremonies? Why? Why do some masks cover only the eyes? Why do few masks cover just the bottom half of the face? How do their colors play a role in their function? 3.3.3 Ask How Your Topic Is Categorized • How can your topic be grouped into kinds? What are the different kinds of masks? Of Halloween masks? Of African masks? How are they categorized by appearance? By use? By geography or society? What are the different qualities of masks? • How does your topic compare to and contrast with others like it? How do Native American ceremonial masks differ from those in Japan? How do Halloween masks compare with Mardi Gras masks? 3.3.4 Turn Positive Questions into Negative Ones • Why have masks not become a part of other holidays, like Presidents’ Day or Memorial Day? How do Native American masks not differ from those in Africa? What parts of masks are typically not significant in religious ceremonies? 3.3.5 Ask What If? and Other Speculative Questions • How would things be different if your topic never existed, disappeared, or were put into a new context? What if no one ever wore masks except for safety? What if everyone wore masks in public? What if it were customary to wear masks on blind dates? In marriage ceremonies? At funerals? Why are masks common in African religions but not in Western ones? Why don’t hunters in camouflage wear masks? How are masks and cosmetic surgery alike? 3.3.6 Ask Questions Suggested by Your Sources You won’t be able to do this until you’ve done some reading on your topic. Ask questions that build on agreement: • If a source makes a claim you think is persuasive, ask questions that might extend its reach. Elias shows that masked balls became popular in eighteenth-century London in response to anxieties about social mobility. Did the same anxieties cause similar developments in Venice? • Ask questions that might support the same claim with new evidence. Elias supports his claim about masked balls with published sources. Is it also supported by letters and diaries? • Ask questions analogous to those that sources have asked about similar topics. Smith analyzes costumes from an economic point of view. What would an economic analysis of masks turn up? Now ask questions that reflect disagreement: • Martinez claims that carnival masks uniquely allow wearers to escape social norms. But could there be a larger pattern of all masks creating a sense of alternative forms of social or 49 spiritual life? (We discuss in more detail how to use disagreements with sources in 6.4.) If you are an experienced researcher, look for questions that other researchers ask but don’t answer. Many journal articles end with a paragraph or two about open questions, ideas for more research, and so on (see 4.3.2 for an example). You might not be able to do all the research they suggest, but you might carve out a piece of it. You can also look for Internet discussions on your topic, then “lurk,” just reading the exchanges to understand the kinds of questions those on the list debate. Record questions that spark your interest. You can also post questions to the list if they are specific and narrowly focused. 3.3.7 Evaluate Your Questions After asking all the questions you can think of, evaluate them, because not all questions are equally good. Look for questions whose answers might make you (and, ideally, your readers) think about your topic in a new way. Avoid questions like these: • Their answers are settled fact that you could just look up. Do the Inuit use masks in their wedding ceremonies? Questions that ask how and why invite deeper thinking than who, what, when, or where, and deeper thinking leads to more interesting answers. • Their answers would be merely speculative. Would church services be as well attended if the congregation all wore masks? If you can’t imagine finding hard data that might settle the question, it’s a question you can’t settle. • Their answers are dead ends. How many black cats slept in the Alamo the night before the battle? It is hard to see how an answer would help us think about any larger issue worth understanding better, so it’s a question that’s probably not worth asking. You might, however, be wrong about that. Some questions that seemed trivial, even silly, have answers more significant than expected. One researcher wondered why a coffee spill dries up in the form of a ring and discovered things about the properties of fluids that others in his field thought important—and that paint manufacturers found valuable. So who knows where a question about cats in the Alamo might take you? You can’t know until you get there. Once you have a few promising questions, try to combine them into larger ones. For example, many questions about the Alamo story ask about the interests of the storytellers and their effects on their stories: How have politicians used the story? How have the storytellers’ motives changed? Whose purposes does each story serve? These can be combined into a single question: How and why have users of the Alamo story given the event a mythic quality? A question like this gives direction to your research (and helps avoid the gathering of endless information). And it begins to imagine readers who will judge whether your question is significant. 50 3.4 THE MOST SIGNIFICANT QUESTION: SO WHAT? Even if you are an experienced researcher, you might not be able to take the next step until you are well into your project, and if you are a beginner, you may find it frustrating. Even so, once you have a question that holds your interest, you must pose a tougher one about it: So what? Beyond your own interest in its answer, why would others think it a question worth asking? You might not be able to answer that So what? question early on, but it’s one you have to start thinking about, because it forces you to look beyond your own interests to consider how your work might strike others. Think of it like this: What will be lost if you don’t answer your question? How will not answering it keep us from understanding something else better than we do? Start by asking So what? at first of yourself: So what if I don’t know or understand how butterflies know where to go in the winter, or how fifteenth-century musicians tuned their instruments, or why the Alamo story has become a myth? So what if I can’t answer my question? What do we lose? Your answer might be Nothing. I just want to know. Good enough to start, but not to finish, because eventually your readers will ask as well, and they will want an answer beyond Just curious. Answering So what? vexes all researchers, beginners and experienced alike, because when you have only a question, it’s hard to predict whether others will think its answer is significant. But you must work toward that answer throughout your project. You can do that in three steps. 3.4.1 Step 1: Name Your Topic If you are beginning a project with only a topic and maybe the glimmerings of a good question or two, start by naming your project: I am trying to learn about/working on/studying ____________. Fill in the blank with your topic, using some of those nouns derived from verbs: I am studying the causes of the disappearance of large North American mammals . . . I am working on Lincoln’s beliefs about predestination and their influence on his reasoning . . . 3.4.2 Step 2: Add an Indirect Question Add an indirect question that indicates what you do not know or understand about your topic: 1. I am studying/working on ____________ 2. because I want to find out who/what/when/where/whether/why/how ____________. 1. I am studying the causes of the disappearance of large North American mammals 2. because I want to find out whether they were hunted to extinction . . . 1. I am working on Lincoln’s beliefs about predestination and its influence on his reasoning 2. because I want to find out how his belief in destiny influenced his understanding of 51 the causes of the Civil War . . . When you add that because I want to find out how/why/whether clause, you state why you are pursuing your topic: to answer a question important to you. If you are a new researcher and get this far, congratulate yourself, because you have moved beyond the aimless collection of data. But now, if you can, take one step more. It’s one that advanced researchers know they must take, because they know their work will be judged not by its significance to them but by its significance to others in their field. They must have an answer to So what? 3.4.3 Step 3: Answer So What? by Motivating Your Question This step tells you whether your question might interest not just you but others. To do that, add a second indirect question that explains why you asked your first question. Introduce this second implied question with in order to help my reader understand how, why, or whether: 1. I am studying the causes of the disappearance of large North American mammals 2. because I want to find out whether the earliest peoples hunted them to extinction, 3. in order to help my reader understand whether native peoples lived in harmony with nature or helped destroy it. 1. I am working on Lincoln’s beliefs about predestination and their influence on his reasoning 2. because I want to find out how his belief in destiny and God’s will influenced his understanding of the causes of the Civil War, 3. in order to help my reader understand how his religious beliefs may have influenced his military decisions. It is the indirect question in step 3 that you hope will seize your readers’ interest. If it touches on issues important to your field, even indirectly, then your readers should care about its answer. Some advanced researchers begin with questions that others in their field already care about: Why did the giant sloth and woolly mammoth disappear from North America? Or: Is risk taking genetically based? But many researchers, including at times the five of us, find that they can’t flesh out the last step in that three-part sentence until they finish a first draft. So you make no mistake beginning your research without a good answer to that third question—Why does this matter?— but you face a problem when you finish your research without having thought through those three steps at all. And if you are doing advanced research, you must take that step, because answering that last question is your ticket into the conversation of your community of researchers. Regularly test your progress by asking a roommate, relative, or friend to force you to flesh out those three steps. Even if you can’t take them all confidently, you’ll know where you are and where you still have to go. To summarize: Your aim is to explain 1. what you are writing about—I am working on the topic of . . . 2. what you don’t know about it—because I want to find out . . . 52 3. why you want your reader to know and care about it—in order to help my reader understand better . . . In the following chapters, we return to those three steps and their implied questions, because they are crucial not just for finding questions but for framing the research problem that you want your readers to value. Quick Tip: Finding Topics If you are a beginner, start with our suggestions about exploring the Internet and skimming bibliographical guides (see 3.1). If you still draw a blank, try these steps. FOR GENERAL INTEREST TOPICS • What special interest do you have—sailing, chess, finches, old comic books? The less common, the better. Investigate something about it you don’t know: its origins, its technology, how it is practiced in another culture, and so on. • Where would you like to travel? Surf the Internet, finding out all you can about your destination. What particular aspect surprises you or makes you want to know more? • Wander through a museum with exhibitions that appeal to you—artworks, dinosaurs, old cars. If you can’t browse in person, browse a “virtual museum” on the Internet. Stop when something catches your interest. What more do you want to know about it? • Wander through a shopping mall or store, asking yourself, How do they make that? Or, I wonder who thought up that product? • Leaf through a Sunday newspaper, especially its features sections. Skim reviews of books or movies, in newspapers or on the Internet. • Browse a large magazine rack. Look for trade magazines or those that cater to specialized interests. Investigate whatever catches your interest. • Tune into talk radio or interview programs on TV until you hear a claim that you disagree with. Or find something to disagree with on the websites connected with well-known talk shows. See whether you can make a case to refute it. • Use an Internet search engine to find websites related to your topic. These include blogs maintained by individuals and organizations. You’ll get hundreds of hits, but look only at the ones that surprise you. • Is there a common belief that you suspect is simplistic or just wrong? A common practice that you find pointless or irritating? Do research to make a case against it. • What courses will you take in the future? What research would help you prepare for them? FOR TOPICS FOCUSED ON A PARTICULAR FIELD If you have experience in your field, review 3.1.2–3. • Browse through a textbook of a course that is one level beyond yours or a course that you know you will have to take. Look especially hard at the study questions. • Attend a lecture for an advanced class in your field, and listen for something you disagree with, don’t understand, or want to know more about. • Ask your instructor about the most contested issues in your field. • Find an Internet discussion list in your field. Browse its archives, looking for matters of controversy or uncertainty. • Surf the websites of departments at major universities, including class sites. Also check websites of museums, national associations, and government agencies, if they seem relevant. 53 4 From Questions to a Problem In this chapter, we explain how to turn a question into a problem that readers think is worth solving. If you are an advanced researcher, you know how essential this step is. If you are new to research, we hope to convince you of its importance, because what you learn here will be essential to all your future projects. In the last chapter, we suggested that you can identify the significance of your research question by fleshing out this three-step formula: 1. Topic: I am studying _________ 2. Question: because I want to find out what/why/how ________, 3. Significance: in order to help my reader understand _________. These steps describe not only the development of your project but your own development as a researcher. • When you move from step 1 to 2, you are no longer a mere data collector but a researcher interested in understanding something better. • When you then move from step 2 to 3, you focus on why that understanding is significant. That significance might at first be just for yourself, but you join a community of researchers when you can state that significance from your readers’ point of view. In so doing, you create a stronger relationship with readers because you promise something in return for their interest in your report—a deeper understanding of something that matters to them. At that point, you have posed a problem that they recognize needs a solution. 54 4.1 UNDERSTANDING RESEARCH PROBLEMS Too many researchers at all levels write as if their task is to answer a question that interests themselves alone. That’s wrong: to make your research matter, you must address a problem that others in your community—your readers—also want to solve. To understand why, you have to understand what research problems look like. And to do that, you have to understand two other...
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Question 1
TRUE/FALSE: The Skill of Critical Thinking in social science research generally refers to the act
of finding correct solutions to well-defined problems.

Question 2
Which item was not discussed as a common feature of social scientific research?

Question 3
FILL-IN: To assist writers in overcoming perfectionism and other obstacles to writing, Booth et
al. suggest that it is helpful to think of a research report as a carefully-planned_________between
author(s) and the future reader(s).
transfer of knowledge

Question 4
Which of the following orders of steps is acceptable when conducting social science research?
Ask the research question --> Formulate Hypothesis --> Data Collection --> Data Analysis -->
Evaluating Hypothesis
Ask the research question --> Data Collection --> Formulate Hypothesis --> Data Analysis --> Reformulate Hypothesis --> Evaluating Hypothesis
Ask the research question --> Analyze Existing Data --> Formulate Hypothesis --> Evaluating
Ask the research question --> Formulate Hypothesis --> Data Collection --> Revise the research
question --> Data Collection --> Data Analysis --> Revise the research question --> Evaluating
Any of the above procedures could generate quality social science research

Question 5
At which of these stages of the research process can technology be helpful or beneficial?
Asking the research question
Formulating the Hypothesis
Data Collection
Data Analysis
Evaluating Hypothesis
All of the Above

Question 6
Which of the following is the most broadly shared element in many different descriptions and
models of the social science research process regardless of field or tradition?
Locating both Theoretical and Methodological source material
Strong Quantitative data as Evidence
The lack of any coherent Theory like that found in physics and biology
The manner of Disseminating Results
Systematization and Documentation

Question 7
TRUE/FALSE: Compressing three MS Word documents into a .zip file would allow a user to send
these three files as a single email attachment or upload them to Canvas as a single file.

Question 8
TRUE/FALSE .PDFZP is one common file extension for compressed file formats.

Question 9
TRUE/FALSE: Zip compression ("zipping") creates smaller files by irreversibly removing some
important information from the zipped file, resulting in a lower-quality file when the file is

Question 10
Bubbl. us is an example of a tool that can produce diagrams like the one shown below. What is the

common name for such a diagram?

Mind Map
Thought Process Diagram
Mental Image
Bubble Chart

Question 11
Below is an excerpt from the notes that Annie took during a recent SS3A lecture. TRUE/FALSE:
From what you can see, these notes contain the basic information needed to constitute "good
research notes" as described in class.


Question 12
A classmate asks on the course message board: "I would like to start taking notes using my laptop
in class rather than by hand. Could anyone recommend a good program to use?" Would the
following program allow them to take quality notes electronically so that they could be shared
easily later? (Notato 5.0)

Question 13
Which of the following were described in class and the notes as potential benefits of taking notes
in an online or electronic format rather than by hand?
Much easier to index and search electronic notes by keywords
Heightened ease of sharing and distributing copies
Considerable time savings when managing bibliographies and citations
All of the above were mentioned as benefits to electronic notes

Question 14
TRUE/FALSE: A major purpose of note-taking described in class was to highlight the most
important ideas from what you are learning.

Question 15
While all of the elements below are helpful, Booth et al. (2008) emphasize that it is especially
difficult to get started writing a research report if you don't have a clear idea of_______________.
Who the intended audience is
How others will respond to your claims
How many other people are writing about the same topic
Where you will go to find your data and methods
How to format citations correctly in APA style

Question 16
TRUE/FALSE: When an individual plagiarizes, even accidentally, the original author of the ideas
or words (or their reputation) may be harmed.


Question 17
TRUE/FALSE: According to the general rules of most major citation systems (e.g. APA, MLA,
Chicago), if a work has been fully cited at the end of a paper, in-text citations are optional.

Question 18
As described in the Belmont Report, Informed Consent consists of which three major elements?
Knowledge, Understanding, and Benefits
Justice, Beneficence, and Respect for Persons
Nature, Scope, and Volume of Risks and Benefits
Descriptions of Population, Intervention, and Anticipated Results
Voluntariness, Comprehension, and Information

Question 19
TRUE/FALSE: The current version of the APA citation style states that a Digital Object Identifier
(DOI) should still be included even if an online publication is also available in a traditional paper

Question 20
TRUE/FALSE: Most researchers and scholars agree that unintentional plagiarism is excusable.

Question 21
TRUE/FALSE: Both Zotero and Evernote allow for notes or references to be organized using
multiple methods including tags, folders, and the filenames themselves.

Question 22
TRUE/FALSE: When seeking information like the unemployment rate in California in 1999 using
a search engine like Google, it is more efficient to use general terms related to many topics (e.g.

jobs United States data) rather than specific terms closely related to the topic (e.g. unemployment
rate, California, 1999).

Question 23
A helpful analogy that is frequently used to describe the system of citations in academic and
research publishing is that it is like a...
Branching Tree

Question 24
Which type of source would this report be considered? (note: no data are published, only analyses)
Sparrow, B., J. Liu, D.M. Wegner. (2011). The Google effect on memory: Cognitive
consequences of information at our fingertips. Science, 333: 776-778. Retrieved
from: /776
Primary Source
Secondary Source
Tertiary Source
None of the above

Question 25
TRUE/FALSE: Google ignores capitalization. So, a search for Tony Soprano (with capitalization)
will produce the same search results as the search query tony soprano (all lowercase).

Question 26
TRUE/FALSE: about ten or twelve factors are considered by Google's algorithms when ranking a
page's relevance and deciding which results to show a user.

Question 27
TRUE/FALSE: a journal article that has been peer reviewed has been shown to be free of any
errors or distortions.


Question 28
TRUE/FALSE: One especially useful feature of The Web of Knowledge (Web of Science) search
engine is its ability to display most or all articles that have cited a particular research report.

Question 29
Answering the question "Are any of the links on this page dead, broken, or no longer working?" is
useful in establishing which characteristic of an online source's overall credibility?
This question is not useful for establishing credibility

Question 30
June wanted to get a quantitative sense of the emergence of Google in the late 90s to supplement
some existing historical summaries that she plans to include in her introduction. Which source did
she use to generate the rather impressive figure below of Google's "emergence" as a popular

Google Trends
Google Graph
Microsoft Bing Trend Mapper
Web of Science
Google NGram Viewer

Question 31
Joanie is investigating the general topic of social media activism, specifically on Twitter. She'd
like to see whether she can find some images of the people involved in a major 2014 story about
the use of the hashtag #bringbackour...

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