This new edition filters decades of expertise into modern standards. While previous editions incorporated digital forms of research and writing, this edition goes even further to build information literacy, recognizing that most students will be doing their work largely or entirely online and on screens. Chapters include updated advice on finding, evaluating, and citing a wide range of digital sources and also recognize the evolving use of software for citation management, graphics, and paper format and submission. The ninth edition is fully aligned with the recently released Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition, as well as with the latest edition of The Craft of Research.
Teachers and users of the previous editions will recognize the familiar three-part structure. Part 1 covers every step of the research and writing process, including drafting and revising. Part 2 offers a comprehensive guide to Chicago’s two methods of source citation: notes-bibliography and author-date. Part 3 gets into matters of editorial style and the correct way to present quotations and visual material. A Manual for Writers also covers an issue familiar to writers of all levels: how to conquer the fear of tackling a major writing project.
Through eight decades and millions of copies, A Manual for Writers has helped generations shape their ideas into compelling research papers. This new edition will continue to be the gold standard for college and graduate students in virtually all academic disciplines.
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What Research Is and How Researchers Think about It
1.1 What Research Is
1.2 How Researchers Think about Their Aims
1.3 Conversing with Your Readers
Whenever we read about a scientific breakthrough or a crisis in world affairs, we benefit from the research of others, who likewise benefited from the research of countless others before them. When we walk into a library, we are surrounded by more than twenty-five centuries of research. When we go on the internet, we can read the work of millions of researchers who have posed questions beyond number, gathered untold amounts of information from the research of others to answer them, and then shared their answers with the rest of us. We can carry on their work by asking and, we hope, answering new questions in turn. Governments spend billions on research, businesses even more. Research goes on in laboratories and libraries, in jungles and ocean depths, in caves and in outer space, in offices and, in the information age, even in our own homes. Research is in fact the world's biggest industry.
So what, exactly, is it?
1.1 What Research Is
You already have a basic understanding of research: answering a question by obtaining information. In this sense, research can be as simple as choosing a new phone or as complex as discovering the origin of life. In this book we use research in a specific way to mean a process of systematic inquiry to answer a question that not only the researcher but also others want to solve. Research thus includes the steps involved in presenting or reporting it. To be a true researcher, as we are using the term, you must share your findings and conclusions with others.
If you are new to research, you may think that your paper will add little to the world's knowledge. But done well, it will add a lot to your knowledge and to your ability to communicate that knowledge. As you learn to do your own research, you also learn to use and judge that of others. In every profession, researchers must read and evaluate the work of others before they make a decision. This is a job you will do better after you have learned how others judge yours.
This book focuses on research in the academic world, but every day we read or hear about research that affects our lives. Often we get news of research secondhand, and it can be difficult to know what reasoning and evidence support a claim. But research doesn't ask for our blind trust or that we accept something on the basis of authority. It invites readers to think critically about evidence and reasoning.
That is how research-based writing differs from other kinds of persuasive writing: it must rest on shared facts that readers accept as truths independent of your feelings and beliefs. Your readers must be able to follow your reasoning from evidence they accept to the claim you draw from it. Your success as a researcher thus depends not just on how well you gather and analyze data but also on how clearly you report your reasoning so that your readers can test and judge it before making your claims part of their knowledge and understanding.
1.2 How Researchers Think about Their Aims
All researchers collect information, what we're calling data. But researchers do not merely gather facts on a topic — stories about the Battle of the Alamo, for example. They look for specific data to test and support an answer to a question that their topic inspired them to ask, such as Why has the Alamo story become a national legend? In doing so, they also imagine a community of readers who they believe will share their interest and help them test and support an answer to that question.
Experienced researchers, however, know that they must do more than convince us that their answer is sound. They must also show us why their question was worth asking, how its answer helps us understand some bigger issue in a new way. If we can figure out why the Alamo story has become a national legend, we might then answer a larger question: how have regional myths shaped the American character?
You can judge how closely your thinking tracks that of an experienced researcher by describing your project in a sentence like this:
1. 1. Topic: I am working on X (stories about the Battle of the Alamo)
2. Question: because I want to find out Y (why its story became a national legend)
3. Significance: so that I can help others understand Z (how such regional myths have shaped the American character).
That sentence is worth a close look, because it describes not just the progress of your research but your personal growth as a researcher.
1. 1. Topic: "I am working on X ...": Those new to research often begin with a simple topic like the Battle of the Alamo. But too often they stop there, with nothing but a broad topic to guide their work. Beginning this way, they may pile up dozens or hundreds of notes but then can't decide what data to keep or discard. When it comes time to write, their papers become "data dumps" that leave readers wondering what all those data add up to.
2. Question: "... because I want to find out Y ...": More experienced researchers begin not just with a topic but with a research question, such as Why has the story of the Alamo become a national legend? They know that readers will think their data add up to something only when they serve as evidence to support an answer. Indeed, only with a question can a researcher know what information to look for and, once obtained, what to keep — and not just data that support a particular answer but also data that test or discredit it. With sufficient evidence to support an answer, a researcher can respond to data that seem to contradict it. In writing a paper, the researcher tests that answer and invites others to test it too.
3. Significance: "... so that I can help others understand Z": The best researchers understand that readers want to know not only that an answer is sound but also why the question is worth asking: So what? Why should I care why the Alamo story has become a national legend? Think of it this way: what will be lost if you don't answer your question? Your answer might be Nothing. I just want to know. Good enough to start but not to finish, because eventually your readers will want an answer beyond Just curious.
Answering So what? is tough for all researchers, beginning and experienced alike, because when you only have a question stemming from a topic of personal interest, it's hard to predict whether others will find its answer significant. Some researchers therefore work backwards: they begin not by following their own curiosity but by crafting questions with implications for bigger ones that others in their field already care about. But many researchers, including us, find that they cannot address that third step until they finish a first draft. So it's fine to begin your research without being able to answer So what?, and if you are a student, your teacher may even let you skip that last step. But if you are doing advanced research, you must take it, because your answer to So what? is what makes your research matter to others.
In short, not all questions are equally good. We might ask how manycats slept in the Alamo the night before the battle, but so what if we find out? It is hard to see how an answer would help us think about any larger issue worth understanding, so it's a question that's probably not worth asking (though as we'll see, we could be wrong about that).
How good a question is depends on its significance to some community of readers. Exactly what community depends on your field but also on how you frame your research. You can try to expand your potential readership by connecting Z to even broader questions: And if we can understand what has shaped the American character, we might understand better who Americans think they are. And when we know that, we might better understand why others in the world judge them as they do. Now perhaps political scientists will be as interested in this research as historians. On the other hand, if you try to widen your audience too much, you risk losing it altogether. Sometimes it's better to address a smaller community of specialists.
We can't tell you the right choice, but we can tell you two wrong ones: trying to interest everyone (some people just won't care no matter how you frame your research) or not trying to interest anyone at all.
1.3 Conversing with Your Readers
When you can explain the significance of your research, you enter into a kind of conversation with your research community. Some people, when they think of research, imagine a lone scholar or scientist in a hushed library or lab. But no places are more crowded with the presence of others than these. When you read a book or an article or a report, you silently converse with its authors — and through them with everyone else they have read. In fact, every time you go to a written source for information, you join a conversation between writers and readers that began millennia ago. And when you report your own research, you add your voice and hope that other voices will respond to you, so that you can in turn respond to them. And so it goes.
Experienced researchers understand that they are participating in such conversations and that genuine research must matter not only to the researcher but also to others. That is why our formula — I am working on X to find out Y so that others can better understand Z — is so powerful: because it makes informing others the end of research.
But these silent conversations differ from the face-to-face conversations we have every day. We can judge how well everyday conversations are going as we have them, and we can adjust our statements and behavior to repair mistakes and misunderstandings as they occur. But in writing we don't have that opportunity: readers have to imagine writers in conversation with one another, as well as with themselves, and writers have to imagine their readers and their relationship to them. In other words, writers have to offer readers a social contract: I'll play my part if you play yours.
Doing this is one of the toughest tasks for beginning researchers: get that relationship wrong and your readers will think you are naive or, worse, won't read your work at all. Too many beginning researchers offer their readers a relationship that caricatures a bad classroom: Teacher, I know less than you. So my role is to show you how many facts I can dig up. Yours is to say whether I've found enough to give me a good grade. Do that and you turn your project into a pointless drill, casting yourself in a role exactly opposite to that of a true researcher. In true research, you must switch the roles of student and teacher. You must imagine a relationship that goes beyond Here are some facts I've dug up about fourteenth-century Tibetan weaving. Are they enough of the right ones?
There are three better reasons to share what you've found. You could say to your reader, Here is some information that you may find interesting. This offer assumes, of course, that your reader wants to know. You could also say not just Here is something that should interest you but Here is something that will help you remedy a situation that troubles you. People do this kind of research every day in business, government, and the professions when they try to figure out how to address problems ranging from insomnia to falling profits to climate change. In chapter 2 we call such situations and their consequences practical problems. When academic researchers address such practical problems, we say they are doing applied research. Most commonly, though, academic researchers do pure research that addresses what we call conceptual problems — that is, not troubling situations in the world but the limitations of our understanding of it (again see chapter 2). In this case, you say to your readers, Here is something that will help you better understand something you care about. When you make this last sort of appeal, you imagine your readers as a community of receptive but also skeptical colleagues who are open to learning from you and even changing their minds — if you can make the case.
We now understand the goal of research, at least in its pure form: it is not to have the last word but to keep the conversation going. The best questions are those whose answers raise several more. When that happens, everyone in the research community benefits.CHAPTER 2
2 Defining a Project: Topic, Question, Problem, Working Hypothesis
2.1 Find a Question in Your Topic
A research project begins well before you search the internet or head for the library and continues long after you have collected all the data you think you need. Every project involves countless specific tasks, so it is easy to get overwhelmed. But in all research projects, you have just five general aims:
* Ask a question worth answering.
* Find an answer that you can support with good reasons.
* Find good data that you can use as reliable evidence to support your reasons.
* Draft an argument that makes a good case for your answer.
* Revise that draft until readers will think you met the first four goals.
You might even post those five goals in your workspace.
Research projects would be much easier if we could march straight through these steps. But you will discover (if you have not already) that the research process is not so straightforward. Each task overlaps with others, and frequently you must go back to an earlier one. The truth is, research is messy and unpredictable. But that's also what makes it exciting and ultimately rewarding.
2.1 Find a Question in Your Topic
Researchers begin projects in different ways. Many experienced researchers begin with a question that others in their field want to answer: What caused the extinction of most large North American mammals? Others begin with just basic curiosity, a vague intellectual itch that they have to scratch. They might not know what puzzles them about a topic, but they're willing to spend time to find out whether that topic can yield a question worth answering.
They realize, moreover, that the best research question is not one whose answer they want to know just for its own sake; it is one that helps them and others understand some larger issue. For example, if we knew why North American sloths disappeared, we might be able to answer a larger question that puzzles many historical anthropologists: Did early Native Americans live in harmony with nature, as some believe, or did they hunt its largest creatures to extinction? And if we knew that, then we might also understand ... (So what? again. See 1.2.)
Then there are those questions that just pop into a researcher's mind with no hint of where they'll lead, sometimes about matters so seemingly trivial that only the researcher thinks they're worth answering: Why does a coffee spill dry up in the form of a ring? Such a question might lead nowhere, but you can't know that until you see its answer. In fact, the scientist puzzled by coffee rings made discoveries about the behavior of fluids that others in his field thought important — and that paint manufacturers found valuable. If you cultivate the ability to see what's odd in the commonplace, you'll never lack for research projects as either a student or a professional.
If you already have a focused topic, you might skip to 2.1.3 and begin asking questions about it. If you already have some questions, skip to 2.1.4 to test them using the criteria listed there. Otherwise, here's a plan to help you search for a topic.
2.1.1 Search Your Interests
Beginning researchers often find it hard to pick a topic or believe they lack the expertise to research a topic they have. But a research topic is an interest stated specifically enough for you to imagine becoming a local expert on it. That doesn't mean you already know a lot about it or that you'll know more about it than others, including a teacher or advisor. You just want to know more about it than you do now.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations"
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