Research as a genre

  • A time I got interested in research¬†

In answer to this question, I’m tempted to journey back in time to my elementary school experience believe it or not. I remember going on field trips to explore places, plants, animals. That was the time when I actually had the most fun with research. I was doing it and I had no idea that that was research. I remember collecting leaves, plants, drying them and mounting them on pages with tape. Then I would write a short description of what it was and how and where it was used. I remember even nibbling on the leaves. I just wanted to know what they tasted like and I would add my impressions in my hand-written description. It was my pride and joy and I loved showing it to friends and family.

As I got older, research became a chore. I had to follow instructions. It was mostly responding to a prompt that limited my approach. I think it was only when I started taking graduate courses that I felt almost the same attraction to research that I had as a child. There were cases when we were orally told to write a research paper and the only voiced expectation was to use the MLA. I liked those assignments better as they gave me freedom to write what I felt passionate about. So, the discovery process started with the literary text first, and then with outside sources. It was more of a “what do I want to explore here and let’s see what other scholars have said about this.”

  • Expanding the definitions of a research project to more fully contain the curiosity and delight of research

One of my professors at TC used the three blind mice to make the research process more accessible. I thought that was so pertinent as research starts out as a shot in the dark, trying to find the way, exploring, looking for a path, a door that will expand the possibilities, until we latch on to something that piques our curiosity.

I agree with the readings that starting out with a thesis or giving the students the thesis and expecting them to develop it is not productive and it doesn’t build good research skills. My research assignment asks them to come up with a question and explore the how and the what. I like the focus on genre. When students look at sources, I ask them to check for bias. After doing the readings, I will adjust those assignments to ask them to be more aware of the genre of their sources and try to include different genre.

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