It was largely through working with Elva that I began to question more rigorously the nature of the research paper in terms of what counts as “evidence.” The type of data that Elva was collecting and her attempt to write it up should not have been a new endeavor for her. She was in fact focusing in the social sciences and was well into her major. None of what she described as her previous research papers, however, seemed to fall outside of the typical library-go-fetch process. (135)
In the Kynard reading, I kept thinking about how often, when our students go and find “sources” for their research paper (sometimes an artificially determined number, for the sake of “sufficient rigor”), they come back with some of the weirdest things. I recall reading papers and thinking not just “How on earth did you find this source?” but also “Why on earth did you think that this source would be a good context, commentary, or voice to enter into a conversation with as you built your argument?”
And it makes me agree that we should introduce research as early as possible, but also its motivations– relevant research can help writers build credibility, understand the nature of a situation or problem, and insert their own original ideas into that gap between others’ voices. But it takes a lot of gathering and analysis and reading and fact-finding and synthesis of sources to effectively deploy sources as the log cabin-like foundation that we stand atop to make a coherent and interesting new argument. So how can we not only help students consult other texts, voices, and sources whenever they approach writing, but also use them effectively? I also have a feeling that primary research — whether ethnography, interviews, observations, or site visits — can also be very empowering in this way for students, since it puts them more in touch with what the research is for, and they are interpreting their own sensory experiences to find meaning.