Aaahh!!! Real Research! Tips to Make the Research Paper Less Scary During the Scariest Time of the Year

The time has come. The end of the semester is nigh. This means, most likely, it’s time to write THE RESEARCH PAPER (DUN-DUN-DUUNNN!). You finally have a handle on how to create an argument and now, BAM, you have to tackle incorporating what others have said. A research paper can seem scary at first. Not only do you have to come up with an original argument, you also have to locate relevant secondary sources, understand other scholars’ arguments, and figure how out what they are saying relates to what you are saying. I want to give you some tips on how to find sources, how to incorporate them, and how to alleviate the fear of the dreaded RESEARCH PAPER.

Tip #1 – Use Fordham’s Databases and Library to Find Peer-Reviewed, Scholarly, Sources

A peer-reviewed, scholarly, source is a piece of writing (normally an article or a book) that other experts in the field have read and agree is a founded claim. This is different from other sources, say a blog post (see what I did there?), where an author can make claims that may not founded in any evidence. The first step to finding a good source, therefore, is beginning with academic, peer-reviewed, sources.

To find these kinds of sources, it is important to use scholarly search engines and databases. Use tools like One Source, the library (yes, the real physical one, some of the best sources are in print), and scholarly databases like JSTOR and ProjectMuse. Find your school’s list of databases, read the descriptions, and decide which database would be best to use for your topic.

Make sure the source you are using is from a reputable journal, publisher, or author. Newspaper articles are sometimes appropriate as well, but make sure the paper is a reputable one, and keep in mind that many papers have political leanings that can influence the way they report news. You want to make sure that other people think this source is important, too. One way to be sure, is to search the name of an article or book and see if other scholars are citing it.

I think we all know that we shouldn’t use some random Internet blog as a source, but it can be tricky sometimes to figure out what sources are the best to use. Here are two examples to help us tackle this problem.

Let’s say my thesis is that: “While Rosemary’s Baby depicts women in positions of powerlessness, it actually promotes reproductive rights for women.”

Now let’s look at imaginary Source #1: A book on feminist horror, written by a professor and published by a scholarly press. It doesn’t directly address Rosemary’s Baby, but is cited in a lot of the articles you read.

Source #2: A book, written by a professor and published by a scholarly press, on Rosemary’s Baby that discusses primarily depictions of Satan in the movie. It doesn’t directly address feminism, but is cited by one of the articles you read.

So, both of these sources look pretty good. They are scholarly, reputable, and on your subject. Which one, however, would be the BEST one to pick for your specific paper? You guessed it, #1! While #2 is on the film, its thesis is not really related to your specific argument. Also, the fact that it wasn’t widely cited in the articles you read may indicate that is not important in the conversation you are joining (this doesn’t mean that it isn’t important in another conversation, maybe one about depictions of Satan throughout the horror genre). While the first book isn’t about the film, other people writing about the film think it’s important, and therefore you might need to address it. Next let’s talk about HOW to address it.

Tip#2 Figure Out the They Say, I Say

Once you have found some scholarly sources on your topic, read them carefully, and figure out what the author is arguing. Jot down the thesis and some of the main points. Think about how what you want to say is similar or different from what they are saying. Consider if their claims support your argument or if you need to make a counterclaim to this evidence.

Let’s say that Source #1’s thesis was that a horror films can only be feminist if a female character is in a position of power (such as a revenge movie). If you want to prove that Rosemary seems powerless, but that the film still promotes feminist ideas, how would you use this evidence? Does it support your claim or do you have to make a counter-claim? Counter-claim! That’s right! A counterclaim might look like this: “While Source #1 claims that woman must be in an explicit position of power for a film to be feminist, my paper will argue that horror movies can still promote a feminist message even if the female character fails to gain complete control.”

How about another example? Let’s say Source #1’s thesis read something like: “Even if a female character is not in complete control, women can gain agency in a horror film by successfully fighting back against their attacker (such as in The Shining when Shelley takes the situation in her own hands and outwits her maniac husband).” In this case, Source #1 supports our claim but in a slightly different way. Rosemary is not successful in getting away from the people around her and does not gain power in an explicit way. A way we could use this evidence might look like this: “While Source #1 reveals that horror films can support a feminist message through strong female characters that fight back successfully, Source#1 does not consider the ways that strong female characters that are unsuccessful and a film as a whole can support a feminist message. This paper will argue that Rosemary’s Baby supports a feminist message about reproductive rights by depicting a round character whose terror we identify with and by revealing on a larger scale the horrifying ways women’s bodies are treated as incubators for life.”

As you can see, Source#1 supports our argument, but we are not saying the SAME exact thing as Source#1’s author. In this example, Source#1 is saying that women who fight back are feminist. This supports our claim because Rosemary fights back. However, we want to say something different, so we need to show where our claim comes in. Also, did you notice that my thesis had to change to show how what I was saying was different from what Source#1 was saying? Most of the time, research can help you not only make a unique claim but a more complex claim as well. This brings us to our next tip!

Tip #3 Don’t Forget to Make a Unique Claim and be Open to Change

Sometimes when we are doing research, we can get really caught up in all the interesting things other people have said. That can make it really hard to come up with your own unique claim. You might have a thesis in mind and then realize other people have said the same exact thing, which also makes this process tough because now you have to construct a new claim. Your ideas, however, are the MOST important part of this paper and they are valuable! So, you have to make sure that you don’t spend your whole paper agreeing with others instead of making your own claim.

If you find an article that seems like the author has said what you want to say, read it carefully. Most likely, they have made an assumption or overlooked something. For example, in one of Source#1’s arguments, they overlooked the fact that women who are unsuccessful in fighting back can still have agency and reveal something meaningful about the role of women in society. Identifying a place where a critic overlooked something can be a really good place to start making your own, unique, claim. The idea is that you want to build upon and extend someone else’s analysis (or prove them wrong) in order to say something new.

It’s good to have a tentative thesis when you start doing research, but keep yourself open to changing your thesis. Research may convince you to change your thesis completely or to make it more complex. Research should help you make a stronger, nuanced, and unique claim.

I hope these tips helped make research less scary and I’m sure you’ll be incorporating research like an expert in no time. Happy Finals!

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Aaahh!!! Real Research! Tips to Make the Research Paper Less Scary During the Scariest Time of the Year

By Anna Anastasi

The time has come. The end of the semester is nigh. This means, most likely, it’s time to write THE RESEARCH PAPER (DUN-DUN-DUUNNN!). You finally have a handle on how to create an argument and now, BAM, you have to tackle incorporating what others have said. A research paper can seem scary at first. Not only do you have to come up with an original argument, you also have to locate relevant secondary sources, understand other scholars’ arguments, and figure how out what they are saying relates to what you are saying. I want to give you some tips on how to find sources, how to incorporate them, and how to alleviate the fear of the dreaded RESEARCH PAPER.

Tip #1 – Use Fordham’s Databases and Library to Find Peer-Reviewed, Scholarly, Sources

A peer-reviewed, scholarly, source is a piece of writing (normally an article or a book) that other experts in the field have read and agree is a founded claim. This is different from other sources, say a blog post (see what I did there?), where an author can make claims that may not founded in any evidence. The first step to finding a good source, therefore, is beginning with academic, peer-reviewed, sources.

To find these kinds of sources, it is important to use scholarly search engines and databases. Use tools like One Source, the library (yes, the real physical one, some of the best sources are in print), and scholarly databases like JSTOR and ProjectMuse. Find your school’s list of databases, read the descriptions, and decide which database would be best to use for your topic.

Make sure the source you are using is from a reputable journal, publisher, or author. Newspaper articles are sometimes appropriate as well, but make sure the paper is a reputable one, and keep in mind that many papers have political leanings that can influence the way they report news. You want to make sure that other people think this source is important, too. One way to be sure, is to search the name of an article or book and see if other scholars are citing it.

I think we all know that we shouldn’t use some random Internet blog as a source, but it can be tricky sometimes to figure out what sources are the best to use. Here are two examples to help us tackle this problem.

Let’s say my thesis is that: “While Rosemary’s Baby depicts women in positions of powerlessness, it actually promotes reproductive rights for women.”

Now let’s look at imaginary Source #1: A book on feminist horror, written by a professor and published by a scholarly press. It doesn’t directly address Rosemary’s Baby, but is cited in a lot of the articles you read.

Source #2: A book, written by a professor and published by a scholarly press, on Rosemary’s Baby that discusses primarily depictions of Satan in the movie. It doesn’t directly address feminism, but is cited by one of the articles you read.

So, both of these sources look pretty good. They are scholarly, reputable, and on your subject. Which one, however, would be the BEST one to pick for your specific paper? You guessed it, #1! While #2 is on the film, its thesis is not really related to your specific argument. Also, the fact that it wasn’t widely cited in the articles you read may indicate that is not important in the conversation you are joining (this doesn’t mean that it isn’t important in another conversation, maybe one about depictions of Satan throughout the horror genre). While the first book isn’t about the film, other people writing about the film think it’s important, and therefore you might need to address it. Next let’s talk about HOW to address it.

Tip#2 Figure Out the They Say, I Say

Once you have found some scholarly sources on your topic, read them carefully, and figure out what the author is arguing. Jot down the thesis and some of the main points. Think about how what you want to say is similar or different from what they are saying. Consider if their claims support your argument or if you need to make a counterclaim to this evidence.

Let’s say that Source #1’s thesis was that a horror films can only be feminist if a female character is in a position of power (such as a revenge movie). If you want to prove that Rosemary seems powerless, but that the film still promotes feminist ideas, how would you use this evidence? Does it support your claim or do you have to make a counter-claim? Counter-claim! That’s right! A counterclaim might look like this: “While Source #1 claims that woman must be in an explicit position of power for a film to be feminist, my paper will argue that horror movies can still promote a feminist message even if the female character fails to gain complete control.”

How about another example? Let’s say Source #1’s thesis read something like: “Even if a female character is not in complete control, women can gain agency in a horror film by successfully fighting back against their attacker (such as in The Shining when Shelley takes the situation in her own hands and outwits her maniac husband).” In this case, Source #1 supports our claim but in a slightly different way. Rosemary is not successful in getting away from the people around her and does not gain power in an explicit way. A way we could use this evidence might look like this: “While Source #1 reveals that horror films can support a feminist message through strong female characters that fight back successfully, Source#1 does not consider the ways that strong female characters that are unsuccessful and a film as a whole can support a feminist message. This paper will argue that Rosemary’s Baby supports a feminist message about reproductive rights by depicting a round character whose terror we identify with and by revealing on a larger scale the horrifying ways women’s bodies are treated as incubators for life.”

As you can see, Source#1 supports our argument, but we are not saying the SAME exact thing as Source#1’s author. In this example, Source#1 is saying that women who fight back are feminist. This supports our claim because Rosemary fights back. However, we want to say something different, so we need to show where our claim comes in. Also, did you notice that my thesis had to change to show how what I was saying was different from what Source#1 was saying? Most of the time, research can help you not only make a unique claim but a more complex claim as well. This brings us to our next tip!

Tip #3 Don’t Forget to Make a Unique Claim and be Open to Change

Sometimes when we are doing research, we can get really caught up in all the interesting things other people have said. That can make it really hard to come up with your own unique claim. You might have a thesis in mind and then realize other people have said the same exact thing, which also makes this process tough because now you have to construct a new claim. Your ideas, however, are the MOST important part of this paper and they are valuable! So, you have to make sure that you don’t spend your whole paper agreeing with others instead of making your own claim.

If you find an article that seems like the author has said what you want to say, read it carefully. Most likely, they have made an assumption or overlooked something. For example, in one of Source#1’s arguments, they overlooked the fact that women who are unsuccessful in fighting back can still have agency and reveal something meaningful about the role of women in society. Identifying a place where a critic overlooked something can be a really good place to start making your own, unique, claim. The idea is that you want to build upon and extend someone else’s analysis (or prove them wrong) in order to say something new.

It’s good to have a tentative thesis when you start doing research, but keep yourself open to changing your thesis. Research may convince you to change your thesis completely or to make it more complex. Research should help you make a stronger, nuanced, and unique claim.

I hope these tips helped make research less scary and I’m sure you’ll be incorporating research like an expert in no time. Happy Finals!

Common Logical Fallacies in Academic Writing: Argumentative Causality and the Boogieman “Go Deeper

By Patrick Skea

Have you ever put a lot of effort into honing the structure of a paper only to get it back with the comment “Go deeper?” Writers of all stripes and abilities frequently do because they have failed to address some easily fixable rhetorical flaw in their argument. These flaws are often called “Logical Fallacies” and, by being aware of the more common ones in undergraduate writing, you can work to avoid finding the dreaded “Go Deeper” comment on future work.

 

The Either-Or Fallacy: Either human suffering isn’t real or God doesn’t exist.

The Either-Or fallacy suggests that there are only two possible ways to explain a complex intellectual conundrum without considering other valid arguments or the intricacy of the premises themselves. Many times this type of argument will be called “shallow” because the more interesting approach would be to discuss what we should think about if both possibilities are correct. To use the above example, what if both human suffering and God are real? What then? You can often improve the content of your paper by pushing the limitations of the assumptions your thesis is asserting.

 

The Slippery Slope Fallacy: If we don’t quarantine all Ebola patients, the U.S. will become a nation of post-apocalyptic zombies.

The Slippery Slope fallacy presumes that one- often overgeneralized- action will inevitably lead to a consequence not necessarily justified without more extensively examining the facts at hand. In the above example, you would have to overtly state something akin to “un-quarantined Ebola patients will allow the virus to mutate…this mutated virus has demonstrated an ability to revive the dead…the revived dead are zombies…zombies bring on the apocalypse because (give evidentiary reasons)…therefore the U.S. will become….” In other words, stay aware of the causal links you are potentially overlooking within your argument.

The Straw-Man Fallacy: In one of his articles, Dr. X has said that grass is blue. Obviously, Dr. X is an idiot. Therefore, all the ways I disagree with Dr. X on his   theories of photosynthesis are necessarily correct.

The Straw-Man Fallacy usually consists of finding one person’s bad idea (typically by oversimplifying the context of the whole discussion) and using that to negatively validate your own conclusions. The problem is that disproving a single bad idea of a single “authority” does not necessarily imply that your dissent against all his/her ideas is valid. The false premise of an “authority” can only give weight to your own conclusions if the two discussions are directly related. Within the above example, it is not enough that Dr. X called the grass blue; he would also have had to make inaccurate and refutable claims about photosynthesis itself to help your argument.

There are many other logical fallacies that all writers commit far too often, too many to fully describe here. However, if you can avoid the pitfalls described above, you will be that much closer to avoiding the “Go Deeper” comment forever.

The Bare Bones Guide to Revising Your Essay (or Homework, or Report, or Whatever Writing You’re Working On)

By Aaron Pinnix

So you’ve stayed up all night writing your essay─ its 6 am, you’re exhausted and about to email your essay to the professor. BUT HOLD UP! A few simple steps can help turn that unpolished mass of words into something which at least looks like it brushed its teeth and put on a clean shirt.

  1. Actually Take the Time to Revise Your Essay: This might sound crazy, but just because a sentence sounded good in your head doesn’t mean it’s going to look good to your reader! So take that extra step of crafting your paper. It’s not enough to just put the ideas out there. Ask yourself, are there ways in which you can make the essay easier to read? Are there words you could cut to make your paper sleeker? Do you have a sentence with too many ideas that could be separated into two sentences? Does your introduction make claims you don’t actually explore? Don’t fall into the write once/ never revise camp. Rather, take the time to make your ideas more clearly presented and better supported.
  2. Put Your Essay in a Different Font When Reading Over It: The simple act of putting your essay in a different font before reading over it will help distant you from words you’ve been staring at all night. A different font will help you approach your essay with new eyes. Now perhaps you’ll discover those places where your computer auto-corrected “definitely” to “defiantly”!
  3. PRINT YOUR ESSAY!: This is a big one (hence the all caps). Print your essay and read over it with a pencil or pen. Look for misspellings. Does the paper look good on the page? Is your name on it? Do verbs match subjects? Are the tenses correct? Look closely at each sentence. Could you make it clearer? Is there a better word to use than embiggen? Read the essay aloud. Are there places you stumble over as you read? People often write sentences that are more complicated than they need to be. Try to always make sentences clearer and more direct.
  4. Do Reverse Outlining:Underline your thesis. Now circle in each paragraph claims which support your thesis. Are the relationships between thesis and support clear? After each new support do you clearly tell the reader how the support relates to the thesis?
  5. Erase Ambiguity: While writing the essay you were trying to work out ideas as you went along. As such there’s going to be places of ambiguity which don’t clearly relate to the essay’s thesis. Try to take out such ambiguities, as well as any places of ambiguity. This includes words like “it” or “he.” Rather than writing “it,” write explicitly what “it” is referring to. Similarly for “he.” Rather than writing “he,” write the person’s name, even if the person’s name was in the previous sentence. Always try to be as precise as possible.
  6. Put All the Comments You’ve Written on Your Printed-Out Essay Into the Version on Your Computer. Now Print This New Version Off and Read and Revise it Again:Going through this process a second (or even a third or fourth time) will help you strengthen your paper and catch things you may have missed the first (or second time).
  7. Consider the advice on this webpage: Could you improve your introduction and conclusion? Your thesis statement? Fix an overly wordy essay? The advice on this website is super helpful!

3 Quick and Dirty Tips for Dealing with Procrastination

By Robert Byers

Okay, so we all procrastinate. It’s almost become an unofficial requirement for college. That last-minute stress of having a deadline makes us totally manic and crazy, and we bust something out just in time to turn it in the next day. We all do it, and we have this idea that we shouldn’t do it, but we just can’t help ourselves.

But I’m going to suggest something a bit radical—something that may sound a bit crazy. This requires a major shift in perspective, because you’ve been thinking about procrastination all wrong. What I’m suggesting is this:

You’re not procrastinating hard enough.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean you should wait until even closer to the deadline to do your assignments. What I mean is that you, young grasshopper, have not yet reached the highest form of procrastination. Despite all your practice, you have not yet perfected your procrastination technique. You’ll know you have reached the highest form of procrastination when you can say:

“I’ll procrastinate later.”

How can you achieve such splendor? The Procrastination Guru has answers.

To an extent, without any other motivating factor, it can involve tricking yourself. And tricking yourself can be much harder than tricking other people. As George said in the Seinfeld episode where Jerry had to take a lie detector test to see if he was lying about not watching soap operas: “Jerry, just remember… it’s not a lie, if you believe it.”

And “you believing it” is the hard part. So the first trick for this is to force yourself to start early. When your professor gives you the prompt for your final essay, take it back to your room, and as soon as you can follow the below tips:

Tip #1: Save a document to your computer now, that will become the essay later.

Open up your word processor of choice, make your heading (name, course, professor, date), add in a placeholder title (this can be anything, just remember to go back and change it later!), and type a random, throwaway first line. So for example, if you’re writing about economic exploitation in the third world, your first line could be something like: “Hello Mr. Cummerbund, my name is Admiral Trilby and I like turtles.”

Now save that document to your desktop and walk away from the computer. That’s it! In terms of time, half the work is now done, because you’ve started. This brings us to the second trick:

Tip #2: Only write a little bit each day.

Otherwise, you’ll get sick of it. When you do anything for prolonged periods without a break, it starts to wear on you. So to save more time, get better grades, improve your writing so you’ll look better for a job, and just to have an overall pleasanter time each semester, open up that document each day and just write for half an hour or something. The first day you can free-write some stuff. The next day, you can just play around with an outline—put down the major points of your topic/argument and move them around ‘til you’re happy. And so on. And now, the final trick:

Tip #3: Type in single-spaced, not double-spaced. (Only double-space right before you print it off.)

This is the weirdest one, because it’s all mental. If you start typing single-spaced, after a while, you can trick your brain into thinking you only have to write half the length of the assignment. So if you have to write a 10 page paper, you write 5 pages single-spaced, and boom! Double-space that essay and you’re done.

But this isn’t just useful for the mental aspect; there’s also a practical aspect. By single-spacing, you fit twice as much of your essay onto the screen at a time, and you only have to scroll half as much to get to other parts of your essay. This lets you see your paper from a broad, overall perspective more easily, so you can move paragraphs/topics around with more efficiency, thus saving you time and helping you write better.

So there are my tips. As you perfect your procrastination, you’ll come up with more tricks on your own. And once you start following this path, you’ll find that the rewards at the end are sweeter. After all, delayed gratification is a sign of maturity. So save that document to your desktop and come back to it tomorrow—but write something when you do—and you’ll begin to achieve perfection.

On wordiness; or, the use of inflated or unnecessary language in such a way that distracts your reader from your argument 

by Will Fenton

Let me guess: You’re reading this entry in spite of its title because recently your professor, that professor who always likes your writing, wrote “wordy” somewhere on a paper. It’s okay—it happens to the best of us. My intention is to provide you with tools for slimming down your prose.

That said, there are occasions when wordiness isn’t so wordy. For example, if Thomas Jefferson and the gang were declaring their collective independence today, they might replace their opening gambit

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

With something a bit more Tweetable

We need to break up.

Technologies change, as do rhetorical conventions.

In a wild scene of confused identities in Benito Cereno, Herman Melville could have substituted

Babo meant to stab Benito.

for this syntactical knot

Not Captain Delano, but Don Benito, the black, in leaping into the boat, had intended to stab.

Clarity and brevity aren’t always the bottom line. There are historicalrhetorical, and artistic reasons writers write wordily. The point is that you should make thoughtful choices about your prose, and you should have the tools of concision at hand. When it comes to your typical undergraduate essay, you’ll likely use the scalpel more often than not.

In academic writing, wordiness is a problem when it

  • puts on airs: are you trying to sound “academic” or “professional?”
  • distracts from the argument: does the prose make your point more difficult to understand?
  • uses 25 cent words: did you visit thesaurus.com?
Five Tools for Excising Wordiness
  • Swap “to be” verb forms (be, am, is, are, was, were, being, been) for active forms.

Will is writing about wordiness. He is boring.

Will writes about wordiness. He bores me.

  •  Make passive verbs active. Someone should do something.

Mistakes were made.

messed up.

There are instances, certainly, when you might want to use the past exonerative tense. Perhaps you’re a journalist writing about a developing story; it makes sense to use the passive voice. If that’s not the case, and you’re not Nixon, someone commits the crime.

  • Replace prepositional phrases with adjectives or possessive nouns. This is a fancy way of saying don’t use “of” where you can use a possessive apostrophe.

Will offends the coworkers of his friends.

Will offends his friend’s coworkers.

  • Combine your clauses.

Not only does Will need an editor, but Jon, his colleague, would benefit from one as well.

Both Will and Jon need editors.

  • Replace auxiliary verbs with action verbs.

Where I could have used a two-word verb in this section’s title (“Cutting Out”), I used one (“Excising”). You’re welcome.