Writing Research Papers
A Facebook Age
By Harriet Tramer
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Writing Hints One and Two
Chapter Two: Writing Hints Two, Three and Four
Chapter Three: Writing Hint Five.
Chapter Four: Grammar.
Chapter Five: Research.
Chapter Six: Ending.
Chapter Seven: List of References Cited.
Writing Hints One and Two
Writing Hint One: It is generally advisable to bring opposing viewpoints into your essay.
Following that guideline will make your words livelier and more attention- grabbing as you create tensions. And it will also help ensure that working on your essay will prove to be both an enhancing and thought-provoking experience for you.
An example:You are impressed by the New Urbanism model which is marked by compactness and multi-purpose structures as it replicates the communities where immigrants lived after they first came to this country. Among other things, you find it to be visually appealing and environmentally-sensitive. And you are assigned to write a paper about it.
You could begin your paper by expressing your positive feelings about this model. Then, you could go a step further, adding intrigue (tension) to your paper as you detail some criticisms that have been launched against it. For starters, it has been accused of being too expensive for most people’s relatively modest budgets and of being too hip and trendy to retain its appeal for long.
Also, you might note that skeptics have linked the New Urbanism to gentrification. A process ongoing in many cities, gentrification comes into play when affluent individuals move into a neighborhood that was once depleted but is now for whatever reasons becoming trend.
They pay big dollars for homes in these areas, pricing some long-term residents out of the community. (“Gentrification”) The film maker Spike Lee delivered a rant about gentrification in his hometown of Brooklyn which can be downloaded at https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/feb/26/spike-lee-gentrification-rant-transcript (Michael).
You probably cannot quote Mr. Lee’s exact words in your paper. They are hardly what might be termed politically correct, being deigned to be provocative, not conciliatory. You might, however, gain some valuable insights by listening to his rant, even if it is delivered in a lingo some people might find offensive.
Writing Hint Two: Your writing will definitely benefit if you mesh direct quotes – often, from acknowledged experts - into your essay.
As you follow this practice you will expand your writing as you add another voice to it. You will also make obvious the fact that you conducted research on your own or completed assigned readings, garnering information from them.
And here is still another consideration: Professionals who work within a certain field have their own lingo, a language which they utilize as they communicate with one another. So, interspersing direct quotations that contain this terminology into your paper can help to grant your writing a desired professional sheen.
However, all of this good news does not come without a strong warning. When people post comments to Facebook or to other Social Media, they most typically do not indicate where they got their information. As has been noted, however, you cannot be that lackadaisical about these matters when you write research papers. Rather, if you incorporate a direct quote from a print or electronic source into your essay, you should immediately cite that source.
For example, if you bring a quote from an article by Jameson into your essay you should place “(Jameson)” directly after it. Then, you should provide more complete information about that article in your list of references cited which often must be constructed along certain guidelines.
Creating a Works Cited list using the MLA (Modern Language Association) eighth edition
The Modern Language Association (MLA https://www.mla.org/ ) has adopted a documentation style that is streamlined and can be utilized when compiling a list of references cited. Every citation in your list should contain the following bits of information: author, title of source, title of container, other contributors, version, number, publisher, publication date, location (of publisher).
Here is an example of the most basic format for citing a book.
Said, Edward W. Culture and Imperialism. Knopf, 1994.
Here is an example of the most basic format for citing a source from a website.
Lundman, Susan. "How to Make Vegetarian Chili." ehow, www.ehow.com/how_10727_make-vegetarian-chili.html. Accessed 4 Jan, 2017.
This format should be followed when citing an article in an academic journal.
Bagchi, Alaknanda. “Conflicting Nationalisms: The Voice of the Subaltern in Mahasweta Devi's Bashai Tudu.” Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, vol. 15, no. 1, 1996, pp. 41-50.
More details about MLA (Modern Language Association) guidelines for works cited pages can be downloaded at this link https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/
Details about APA (American Psychological Association) guidelines for work cited pages can be downloaded at this link https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/
Note: No matter what style you are using, it is a good idea to collect all of the information you will need when you compose your List of References Cited page as you are doing your research. Having that information on hand will save you time and energy as you compose that page.
Generally, writers create tensions by drawing contrasts between two things they present as being polar opposite. A liberal stance on a social issue might, for example, be juxtaposed against a more conservative stance. Some extremely gifted writers, however, create tensions by taking what might be termed a bolder approach.
They attempt to demonstrate that two things which appear – at least at first glance - to be polar opposites are actually one and the same. “A Letter From A Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a remarkable case in point.
Behavior that is motivated by moral considerations and behavior which is dictated by practical considerations might be expected to diverge from one another on every conceivable level. But this document astounds and holds readers’ rapt attention by turning that assumption on its head.
It begins by drawing distinctions between moral and immoral laws and then indicates that people have a (moral) obligation to fight against the latter. It, subsequently, goes on to note that this (moral) obligation can best be enacted through practical means – non-violent demonstrations staged to have a strong financial impact.
Making that point, it reads in part:
We decided to set our direct-action program around the Easter season, realizing that, with the exception of Christmas, this was the largest shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic withdrawal program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this was the best time to bring pressure on the merchants for the needed changes.
What an amazing example of writing at its most powerful. Study it and keep it in mind when you are completing class assignments. (King, Martin Luther, Jr.)
Make some revisions to a research paper you are presently completing, interspersing direct quotations into it. Whenever possible, utilize comments from professionals who are “experts” in their field, as their offerings might hold the most significance within an academic context.
Did interspersing direct quotations into your paper grant your words a professional sheen? Did they make your writing flow more easily and swiftly? Did they make your essay more cohesive than it might otherwise have been? Did following this guideline make writing your paper more of an educational experience than would otherwise have been the case as you were exposed to some expert opinions?
Take an essay you are currently composing and intersperse opposing viewpoints into it at places where they will have the strongest impact. For example, if you are arguing in favor of zoning laws being more strictly enforced, you might spice up your writing by infusing it with quotes from people who disagree with this stance.
Then, take a careful look at your paper. Do you think that tweaking it in this manner made it more powerful? Did following this guideline benefit you personally, fostering intellectual growth? Did it open your mind to different viewpoints and make scripting your essay more of an educational experience?
Writing Hints Three and Four
pictrue credit: https://typewriterreview.com/2016/01/22/typing-is-fundamental/
Writing Hint Three: When you write a paper, ask questions instead of always supplying answers.
Messages that flow in one direction – from the person doing the writing/ talking to her audience – are no in vogue. Rather, in today’s world virtually everything has become interactive. Even television shows with literally millions of viewers ask for feedback. ("CBS Audience Services Info & Feedback”) The Facebook pages that flow through people’s daily feeds are interactive in the extreme as they constantly ask – sometimes, even practically beg - for comments and “likes.”
And you have to take your lead from what is happening around you. If you want to hold your readers’ interest your writing has to be interactive in a manner of speaking. You have to bring them into your words, encouraging them to arrive at their own conclusions instead of simply absorbing what you say. And that can often be accomplished by asking questions, ones to which you do not necessarily provide any quick and easy answers because there are none to be provided.
An example: You are assigned to write an essay on the collapse of Detroit, and as you research this subject you begin to ask yourself some hard questions? Was there really much of anything the local business and political power brokers could have done to keep that once proud city from sliding into bankruptcy? Or, was Detroit’s fate sealed by the fact it was on the wrong side of economic and social currents that remained well out of their control?
You might bring these questions into your paper, creating interest as your readers start pondering them. Also, you might expand your essay by providing some historical perspective as you note that in recent years Detroit has enjoyed a major rebirth as an arts center. It is gaining kudos by offering creative individuals affordable rents. And as this picture indicates its downtown has undergone a major facelift.
An example: You are assigned to write paper on the emergence of poverty in suburban communities that were previously middle class. And as you work your way through this assignment, you begin to realize that an influx of low-income students can have a major impact on the schools in these communities. At that point, some intriguing questions, ones that you can easily intermesh into your paper, enter into your consciousness:
Are the teachers in these schools trained or equipped to act as social workers, supporting these new arrivals in a wide variety of different ways? For that matter, do they even want to assume these roles, considering as they are unaccustomed to assuming these duties? You can bring these questions and more into your paper, granting it intellectual heft.
An example: Sometimes it is even advisable to go beyond asking questions and invite your readers to go out into the world and come to their own understandings. So, you might, for example, write words to this effect if you are scripting a paper on the New Urbanism:
Communities that follow the New Urbanism model are often praised for featuring, among other things, vibrant public spaces where a diverse group of people interact on a regular basis. Other observers, however, view these matters through a totally different lens. They maintain that these neighborhoods are crowded and that residents enjoy less privacy/ space than they might elsewhere. A visit to one of these communities might help you formulate your own opinion about them.
Writing Hint Four: You should strive to make your writing as crisp as possible.
Nobody is suggesting that you should submit a research paper that is only 280 characters in length as might be a Twitter post. Going to that extreme would obviously not serve anybody’s best interest. But why not keep your sentences relatively short, under 35 words, so your readers do not end up missing your main points as they get entangled in your verbiage? Why not deliver your message in manageable bites? Here are two examples that demonstrate how long sentences can be broken down into more two more cohesive short ones.
Social scientists who have long studied these matters have engaged in endless debates about whether people’s strongly-held opinions on sensitive issues are changed by the messages they encounter through television, radio news papers and Social Media or if these messages simply serve to reinforce their original opinions.
A Crisper Version
Do the messages people encounter, often inadvertently, through the media alter their strongly-held views on sensitive matters? Or, do they simply reinforce them? Researchers have long attempted to formulate responses to these questions.
Literally thousands of homes in Detroit stand abandoned as the wind whistles through their broken windows and shingles that have come unhinged hang forlornly from their battered roofs and many of these homes are in such poor condition that the authorities are considering simply tearing them down instead of trying to repair them, hoping that the vacant land that is left standing after they are demolished will be put to better use.
A crisper version
Literally thousands of homes in Detroit stand abandoned; the wind whistles through their broken windows and shingles that have come unhinged hang forlornly from their battered doors. The authorities have determined that many of these homes are in such an extreme state of disrepair that they should simply be torn down, with no effort being made to rehabilitate them. They hope that the vacant land which is left behind after these structures are demolished could be turned into a garden or otherwise put to good use.
It is also important to avoid what has been termed the fog factor.
The fog factor is a yardstick a writer can use to measure the readability (approachability) of her written words. You can calculate the fog factory of (a section of) something you have written by using the Gunning Fog Index which can be accessed at http://www.gunning-fog-index.com
Once you have calculated the fog factor for a piece of writing, you can go a step further by using the following guidelines to determine if it is appropriate for your intended audience.
a fog factor of 10 = average 15 year old
a fog factor of 11 - 13 = college student
a fog factor of14 - 16 = university student
a fog factor of over 18 = too difficult for newspapers (Bezant)
Note: The Gunning Fox Index allows you to make edits that could alter the fog index of a piece of writing, making it more or less suitable for a particular demographic of readers.
Tweak a paper you are currently composing by interspersing thought-provoking questions into it at places where they will have the strongest possible impact. Then, carefully review your paper after you have revised it and consider the following.
Did reworking your paper by sprinkling it with questions make it stronger and more thought-proving? Did it invite readers into your words, more strongly involving them in what you have to say? Did it lead you to think more in depth about the topic at hand, gaining some intellectual growth?
You should write a few statements about the topic of an essay you are starting to compose. Then, pick the one which has the most interesting twists and turns and is not something which has become common knowledge. Moving on from that point, write some questions that this statement prompts, ones that will add interest to your paper.
Example: You are writing about suburban poverty, the influx of lower-income individuals into communities that were previously middle-class. And these three statements come to mind as you sit down to start that assignment:
Many people join the ranks of the suburban poor after they lose their manufacturing jobs which had previously afforded them a middle-class income.
The emergence of suburban poverty obliges many communities to provide social services that they never previously made available.
As more low-income students enter suburban school systems, these systems must adapt in many ways to meet their needs.
The first two statements might be true, but if you reiterate them your readers are likely to shrug their shoulders and say, “I already knew that. Tell me something I don’t know.” However, the third statement – the one about the schools - could lead to some intriguing dialogue and questions as it touches upon points that people had never previously pondered.
Select a (section of) a research paper you have already written and then use the Gunning Fox Index to determine if it is too high or low for your intended audience. Then, edit your writing to make it appropriate for your (intended) readers.