Issuu on Google+

19

ORIGINALITY Usbrootis

1

tis Mark Usbroo Mrs. Sippie ory 1H World Hist 2010 at Alesia 7 February mvallation uble-Circu chieftan Caesar’s Do getorix, a ued Vercin rs pu ar es a Julius Ca ed town on In 52 B.C. , a fortifi , to Alesia ul Ga in e e th ited rni trib rix had un of the Arve Vercingeto w France. ng no is at wh oclaimed Ki hilltop in had been pr Romans and e th t ll ns 00 Ga ic es agai my of 80,0 Gallic trib with his ar d te ea tr re . Now he is walled of Gergovia regarded th e hill. He th on rt n where the fo a safe have warriors to ronghold, st le ib nc vi plains on as an in Johnson ex fortificati ach him. uld not re co s on gi the le Ceasar and d torix woul that: , Vercinge rcumstance ci al rm no normal In any nt was no his oppone t bu t, ec corr y laid have been immediatel esar, who Ca us li Ju it was construct commander; legions to dered his or d an ia es ound seige to Al ng wall] ar [surroundi vallation um rc ci e a massiv nson 184) site. (Joh the entire by Roman ia, built ion of Ales at ll va um rc most Caesar’s ci one of the weeks, was o tw in s rs The wall wa and soldie engineers ent world. ci an e th ects in hed more litary proj d it stretc massive mi towers, an le tt ba ty. high, with the hill ci four meters se around ur co s it rs in at in en kilomete esar was th than eighte tegy for Ca ra st e th to cated on, he had What compli fortificati inside the om fr me to s ca ck who atta ic armies addition to tside Gall ou e rg la om attacks fr deal with


20

Find your own idea. Advanced papers are more interesting than beginners’ papers. Good papers are more fun to read—and write—than bad ones. There are many reasons why this is so, but in order to understand these reasons, think again about your reader. Do you want your reader to think your writing is a boring and unpleasant waste of time, or do you want your reader to be surprised and drawn in, and feel that he or she has read something different and exciting? Do you want your reader to be impressed with you and to regard you as a unique thinker who can write? There are many factors that make a paper interesting. The first factor is good English (mistakes are boring); we eliminate distractions and irritations by getting the basic details perfect: grammar, punctuation, MLA format, essay structure, and then we get the four advanced elements that we discussed in the previous section perfect: topic focus without self-reference, a thesis microlanguage, continuous paragraph connection, and tight sentences focusing on the adjacent noun/verb nuclei. All of these factors are important, but they only protect the interesting content; they do not create it. How do you create an interesting idea that you can present using these techniques? Advanced Attitude toward Thinking and Time. You find an interesting idea by thinking, and this usually happens when you are reading. The beginning writer thinks of writing a paper primarily as a writing problem. The advanced writer thinks of writing as a thinking and learning problem. One of the biggest differences between these two views is the attitude toward time. The beginner spends less time thinking and more time writing. The advanced writer takes more total time, and spends much more time thinking (including reading and research), as well as more time writing and proofreading. The beginner unhappily endures the time spent; the advanced writer enjoys the time spent on research and writing. The beginner is frustrated if he or she does not have a thesis after one session of research. The advanced writer feels that one session is only a start and looks forward to finding more scholarly sources in a patient search for a thesis. The beginner imagines that he or she will find the thesis in some book, already expressed by some author. The advanced writer expects to read many sources and then to see a thesis idea emerge in his or her mind as a result of reading/thinking/research.


21

This different attitude toward time pervades the entire process. The beginner rushes to begin writing with little outline or plan. The advanced writer plans the essay thoroughly before beginning to write. The beginner hurries the writing roughly, in order to finish as soon as possible. The advanced writer writes each sentence carefully, in order to communicate as clearly as possible and so as not to have mistakes to correct. A writer’s attitude toward time is based on the writer’s attitude toward knowledge and on the writer’s self-identification as a writer. We are always willing to spend time on things we care about. If you do not really care what you learn, and you would rather be doing something else, and you are only going through the motions because the assignment forces you to, then you will not have your mind on any of the advanced dimensions of the process. If, on the other hand, you love learning in important, major ways, and you love the personal and individual learning that you can do when you write a research paper, and you are excited about becoming truly educated, and you like seeing your mind become more grown-up and intellectual, then you will make the most of the freedom to research and to express your own thesis, and you will enjoy spending time writing, and feel that it is more fun than most of the academic alternatives. So if you do want to be an advanced writer, and you look forward to the experience of real research and true academic writing, then how do you go about developing your own, original ideas to write about? Think about it this way: your idea is not in a book. If it were, it would not be your idea. You develop your idea by reading with high interest and concentration, carefully, and remembering what you read, and noticing connections and conclusions that are not stated. Perhaps you notice that one author, in different words, agrees with another author you have read. Perhaps you notice that two authors almost agree, but they disagree about a specific detail. Perhaps you notice that two authors contradict each other. Perhaps you see a third idea not mentioned by the authors. In all cases your idea can be inspired by the books and journals you read; you might never have thought of it if you had not been reading those books and journals, but you thought of it—after reading. It is a researchgenerated original idea. Let us think more about finding your own idea...


22

Do not argue the obvious. Tell us something we do not know. One mistake beginning writers make is to argue an obvious thesis, i.e., Thomas Jefferson was an important figure in American history. This is boring. There is no point proving what needs no proof, even if it is true, and even if you can find evidence to support it. For the reader, an obvious thesis means that there is no reason to read your paper. Think about conversations you have had when someone argued on and on about something everyone already knew, and your impatience increased with each irritating word. The justification for your paper is your research; on this topic you have read far more than the reader; you now know things your reader does not know. There are many strategies for finding an original thesis, but here are two basic strategies: The content strategy is to give the reader new knowledge that he or she knows nothing about. The conclusion strategy is to attack what that the reader thinks he knows, but argue that he or she is wrong about what it means: a new conclusion. Remember, you are looking for an idea that is original. You are looking for a thesis that is new, that is your own idea. You are looking for a different point of view, an odd angle, an unexamined area, another side, a part no one talks about, something that challenges normal assumptions. Show the reader something unexpected, something different. Again, do not argue what is already obvious to everyone. If you are writing about Albert Einstein, it is no good talking about what a genius he was, and quoting various sources about his genius. We know that. Perhaps, though, you can find information about an Einstein idea that did not hold up, and you can write a paper about his scientific mistake. That would be surprising and interesting. If you are writing about gravitation, there is no point reciting all of the ordinary, wellknown facts about gravity and how fast objects fall on earth. Those facts are in every science book. Instead, you might attack the mysterious side of the phenomenon: we do not know what gravity is. We do not know how this invisible phantom can reach across billions of miles of empty space and move planets, stars, and galaxies. We know gravity exists; we see every object obeying it, but we do not know what it is made of or how it moves things. Find quotes about that.


23 23 Robe 1

Mike Robe Cdr. Adama English 3H

Giant Unschooled ington: An the George Wash ment based ates govern St ed it Un rs of the tensive The founde on their ex y in part ac cr mo de eece and of the ancient Gr principles terature of li d an y or inal of the hist their orig knowledge assics in d Greek cl an a n ti La y shape of ing the volutionar Rome. Read out the re ed rv ca rs . the founde h colonies languages, the Englis monarchy in d en d at ul priv e that wo an immense government cumulated ac y, bl ta oks rson, no the best bo Thomas Jeffe day to read dawn every re ence fo ri be pe g ex d rose ary readin library an extraordin is th ht ug m; he “bro beron 49). known to hi nation” (O g the new in rm fo ng of the in le ro cal learni to his of the typi t gh li in em to rising, osen by th It is surp the man ch at th s, er ng fath thout whom led foundi , a man wi well-schoo ited States Un e th of ely President comparativ be the first ed, was a have surviv t no d in ul , tion wo Washington the new na education. al rm fo ht s, both man of slig lf-brother unschooled his two ha an th en ion ev less educat abroad: fact, had for study have to England nt se re d seems to of whom we at home an d ie ud st y, may have as geograph Washington ects such tical subj ac pr on ed rvey concentrat s . . . su We have hi counting. ac d also an He g, er. Q: Do you surveyin half-broth ned by his ow ld fie p] think that this onal of a [turni d ten pers hundred an introduction st of one li ke us mo fa rs scou e; ma made a dious in di gets to the point “Be not te as ch su , civilities swiftly enough? tom 182) ” (Nickbot gressions. di ny not ma 10 15 March 20

Notice that the introduction to this essay occupies the entire first page.

Unlike many of the foun Robe 2 ders of th e country, never lear George Wash ned to read ington either Lati n or Greek. foreign la He never le nguage. Hi arned a s formal sc hooling en before he ded when he ever attend was fifteen ed a colleg e. Washin his own ed gton himsel ucation as f “describ ‘defective ed ,’ and perh intense fe aps becaus eling he al e of this ways placed a high valu (Lysander e on educat 92). Wash ion” ington beca me a seriou an impressi s reader an ve library d develope at home; in d his will he the foundi “allotted ng of a sc funds for hool” (104 ). Washington ’s lack of formal scho oling did English de not render fective. his His public statements and many ar are models e now rega of clarity, rded as am ong the mo about the st insightf workings of ul comments democracy. In his first given on Th inaugural ursday, Ap address, ril 30, 17 89, Washin accept a sa gton declin lary for hi ed to s service as Presiden as inapplic t: “I must able to my decline self any sh ar e in the pe which may rsonal emol be indispen uments sably incl uded in a the p


24

Use the Wallas model. Let me give you some theoretical background for originality. Finding your original thesis is, in its essence, creative. In 1926 a brilliant researcher name Graham Wallas wrote a masterpiece, a classic book in the field of creative achievement, called The Art of Thought. Wallas wondered whether great creative individuals used the same steps in their creative work, and the conclusion of his study was that they did. The four steps that Wallas always found, no matter what kind of creator he studied, were preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. These are exactly the steps that great academic writers use in producing outstanding papers—whether they use these four words or not—and these steps prepare the way for the discussion we will have about research in the next section, so let us examine the Wallas steps and see how they relate to finding a good thesis for a research paper. Preparation. What Wallas found was that great creative achievers, whether they were painters, sculptors, architects, or writers, began with extensive preparation. This might mean vast reading, or hundreds of sketches, or dozens of small models of possible large sculptures. The preparation stage takes the creator deeper into the options, eliminates bad ideas, and generates masses of ideas in the creator’s imagination. Masses of ideas are crucial; do not settle impatiently for the first idea you find. Linus Pauling, an American scientist who won two Nobel Prizes, once said: “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” So prepare until you have many choices. The preparation (research, in our case) process can be extensive. During this period the creator is not only studying, investigating, and learning, but he or she is also searching for the solution to the creative problem, whether it be a plot, or a melody, or an idea for a sculpture, or a historical thesis. This search is both conscious and unconscious; when you have immersed yourself deeply in the preparation, the back of your mind—the intuition—also begins to work on the problem. Incubation. When your mind internalizes the search—in other words, when the back of your mind starts working on the problem—that is called incubation. It is typical for the preparation and searching process to last a long time, often much longer than the thinker had hoped. You work, and read, and study, and try, but still your idea may not


25

come to you. The front of your mind cannot find the answer, and the back of your mind remains silent. The standard comment that is made about incubation is that “Incubation feels like failure.” You can become frustrated. What always happens though, is that your creative, intuitive mind is working on the problem, way in the background of your thought. Frequently the solution pops into your head when you least expect it, when you are relaxed and thinking of something else. The point is: do not expect to go to the library and find a good thesis on the first day. Give yourself plenty of time for your preparation and incubation stages, which happen simultaneously. One more thing: incubation is a function of care. If you do not care about the assignment, and are only doing it because someone forces you to, and you cannot wait for it to be over, then the incubation never begins at all. Real scholars are independent. Incubation happens when you care; caring is inherently deep, and not caring is inherently shallow. Caring is why you internalize the search for a thesis. If you do not care, it means you do not really understand your material; not to care means not to get it. Illumination. Eventually you will find your thesis idea. It may jump out at you from a research page, or it may hit you when you are at lunch. But it will happen, the ah-ha experience, and this is called the illumination. Then the real work begins. You can continue to prepare, but now you know your thesis, and now you know what you are looking for, and you can begin to search the library in a more deliberate way, zooming in on your topic, taking notes and refining the idea as you go. Verification. The first three steps have led you to a great idea, and you have accumulated knowledge along the way, and now you do the work of writing the paper. This includes planning or outlining your argument, selecting the long and short quotations you will use, making final decisions about which books and journals you will include in your Works Cited listings, typing the essay on your computer, and proofreading it over and over until you are blue in the face. If you are not blue, keep proofing. Overview. After years of seeing panicked student faces after only one session in the library (I don’t have my thesis yet!), I began teaching these four stages to students so that they would understand that this takes time. Preparation takes time; you have to do extensive reading and thinking and searching. Incubation takes time. You have to relax and read, search and re-search. Do not try to write too soon. Read. Learn. Everything comes from you wanting to learn. Do that, and the rest will happen.


26

Find your own idea. Do not argue the obvious. Tell us something we do not know. Use the Wallas model.

This is subject to reasonable expectations. Sometimes we just report research.

Beginning writers sometimes think that the way you make a paper interesting, the way you keep it from being boring, is through breezy or cute style. That always backfires because it corrupts the serious purpose of an academic paper. The reader does not care whether or not you are cute; the reader wants to learn something, to get something smart and valid from your paper, to come away with knowledge he or she did not already know. It is not style that makes a paper worth reading; it is content. And yet... It is easy to say that you should find an original idea or an idea that, if not original, is interesting knowledge. When you first begin to write academic research papers, however, this imperative can seem baffling. “How am I supposed to find an original idea,” one might wonder. “How do I know if an idea is surprising and interesting,” one might ask. Scale. Part of the problem is solved by the dimension of scale. In a three-to-five page paper, you only have time to present a tiny idea. Think about this: a three-page paper only has seven or eight paragraphs with a few long quotes. Two of those eight paragraphs are the introduction and conclusion. These may seem like long papers when you first try to write them, but in reality they are tee-tiny; you have only a small space to make a case for any idea. Once you understand this, you quit looking for grand ideas, and you begin searching the cracks of the research for little ideas that you have time to explain in only five or six paragraphs of the body of your essay. As an example, you will not have time to analyze Caesar’s military genius as seen in four of his major battles. You might, however, have time to discuss one strategy that he used in one battle. Trust your intuition. If you are going to get good at this, you have to learn to trust yourself, to trust your instincts. Your original or interesting idea will come from within you, as a response to the research you read. You will suddenly notice that two books disagree, or you will notice one word that is repeated among several books, or you will suddenly feel that the author(s) missed the point about something important. The research is the material for you to think about. Research is brainstorm food. Now, let us look, more deeply than we have before, at the research process.


27

RESEARCH n asia

Vesp

1

on: Lond . s r Wa s llic Work e Ga h t of n dia es o lope tari c n y e c m : En Com York The s. New s.” 3. uliu n 0 J . o 0 s i 2 , ar vol ficat lia, Caes . 6 orti agal ory. Diss nt F e Omni n i h c e St “An . Jo nsid d I E . l e a Th rs. n, H ia: pero Cyon Ales n Em a . m s o By m R Wer s. 995. egie nnah t, 1 t a n a C e r g nd Ar e St T. a 99. niqu 02. , 19 Dane ’s U , 20 r n , a a s ls P s m t e e t o g a u b n C P b Ha of A ago: ion. y of s: U Chic duct aged gele n ntro A I e Tr h s T o . 07 L l of , 20 ta. , Ca ed. ogy er’s Stra Iopy b dapt n . d i E A thol r n c e A S n 003. o Mal An P, 2 ork: d St Po U cs.” ew Y . an i N C : t e c , Ta x. Rom nth ege tori Laca nn. n Si inge ce I a l Roma Verc l “ Wa ent . Ed. Anci al A The ry. r, S o r t u ” s d . Hi Man esia : ent 3. f Al York Anci 42-6 ap o New r T 09): . 0 l s 2 a . u ( t 4 3 Fa Geni 81-9 ew. “The ous Revi tane n y ger. o l o 005. p r R r, P, 2 r: S arte U a u s Q e e Nine g ory hen s Ca Hist tone uliu n: S 7. . J o 9 m d 9 a n 1 d A Lo ue, ull, ar. d Ro Zapp Caes r an d e n k a r Ha orix nget erci V ---.

R

d Cite


28

Read, Read, Read, then Think between the books. This point is critical, so you and I need to take some time with it. I intend to repeat some ideas in different ways, so that the ideas will stick, so please be patient and read slowly and thoughtfully. It is important that your comprehension is deep because your feelings about research may be negative if you do not understand it, and as long as your feelings are negative, you cannot get good. It is impossible. So we have to look deep enough to see the coolness. We have to reveal the excitement of research. Let me begin with this: in some ways a research paper is more exciting than any other assignment because a research paper gives you a chance to be you, to be an individual, to be brave, to do it your way. In a research paper, you say what your idea is; you say what makes sense; you say what matters; you decide what evidence counts, you choose the books and journals you will read. You pick your research strategies, and you carry them out. You are the lead scholar, the lone ranger. In much of education, the instructor calls the shots, but in a research paper, you can finally—within the academic standards of English, essay, and format—write your own work. This is not one of those mass assignments where everyone obediently scribbles the same answers to the same questions, parroting what it said in the same book. This is solitary adventure. How and what. To write academic papers, you need two things: how and what. The instructor can provide you with details about the how, but you must come up with the what. You must know how to write, but you must know what to write. We have addressed the first part in detail in this series, immersing ourselves in grammar, punctuation, usage, vocabulary, MLA format, and essay structure, but being advanced in writing technique is only half of the challenge. You must be advanced in what you write about and in how you learn it. It is not enough to be advanced in writing technique; you must be advanced in reading technique. Think about that: you must be advanced in reading technique. Advanced writing reports the contents of advanced reading. If you are serious about your education, if you do not want to feel defeated every time you are assigned a paper, if you want to be a confident, advanced, competent academic writer, comfortable writing research papers in all of your subjects—able, in fact, to enjoy writing assignments—then you must be enthusiastic about the research required to write well. It is no exaggeration to say that your paper can never be better than your research.


aaw3pages 19-28