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Sunday, February 3, 2013

I'm back in school! My mantra is "just get a passing grade...please!"

           Topic-selection for a research paper makes all difference in the success of a paper or its failure. In order for me to create a successful paper, I must have a strong connection with the topic. Many times in my college career as a student, the topics offered up are not really something that draws me in. It usually shows in my papers, which is something I am not proud of. Topic selection for a research paper is like voting for president--choosing the least undesirable topic on the list provided.
Upon choosing a topic, I get started on the brainstorming process. This part fits my personality perfectly, because I often have many ideas pop into my brain. But formulating those thoughts and bringing them into maturity is time-consuming. I have identified one huge character flaw of mine, which is to be focused!  This is where research helps, because I can rely on the experience of others who have already compiled ideas and thoughts, and formed them into article and journal items, books, essays and letters on the topic chosen.
            Last year I wrote a paper about Atlantis, the lost city. It was a good paper, in the fact I provided the information required, and fulfilled the objectives. However, I was not connected to the topic, and I only wrote mechanically. The lack of passion was evidenced in the paper. A much better approach would be to use multiple sources for reference, including interviewing a teacher or professor who is an expert in lost cities. Digging deeper into other lost cities would also add to the quality. Overall, more research and involving many types of sources is really needed to make a connection.
            Selecting an appropriate research topic for an audience involves following a recipe. First, I need to have a good idea of who my audience is. Knowing my audience will help in the delivery and in my credibility. In “Research Matters,” the topic of English As a Second Language showcases a point of view I have never thought of, because I am a native English speaker. The eBook mentions, “When viewed from the perspective of source credibility and evidence, ESL students in public-speaking classes have unique advantages in terms of how to use their second language to enhance their credibility. Because non-native speakers have a wealth of knowledge about their own language as well as the unique customs and rituals associated with their culture, being a non-native speaker can provide valuable support for a speech.” (p. 286) This phenomenon translates into other aspects of life, also. For example, at the call-center where I work, there are a few reps who speak with an accent from their native country. They use this to their advantage, their customers love listening to them, and their productivity results reflect it. I often feel at a slight disadvantage because I don’t have such an accent, and I am not a very good actor!
            Organization of a paper requires shuffling ideas and research around until they fit together like a puzzle. Narrowing the topic and sub-topics helps to get things flowing smoothly. For example, when I write about Music-In-Education (one of my passions), there are many layers to this topic. I could use my own experiences, or those of my children. I could also interview students in the local district, but for contrast it would be good to include other districts, to add color and flavor. Visiting music programs in inner-city schools and incorporating those interviews will widen my audience. Brining in the scientific research about how teaching music to young children also enhances their ability to learn math and science will add interest. Because there are so many layers, this paper will need to be focused, revised and re-written a few times.
            One concept I have found in “Research Matters” is connecting with creativity. The eBook states, “Most instructors welcome initiative and creativity, as long as you find a way to connect
your interest to the goals and focus of the assignment.” (p. 5) Writing about a topic that holds my interest, I have more liberty to be creative. It is a pleasure to read a paper written with passion and creativity.       Another concept I appreciate in “Research Matters” is recognizing my own research, which might look like ordinary curiosity. The eBook states, “While the experience of doing this daily research may feel less structured than your academic research, the best academic research will also come from personal motivation and may draw on a similar range of resources.” (p. 3) Reading the newspaper, searching the internet, or helping at a music event at the high school can easily become research. Almost any daily activity can open the opportunity for research. I can see how daily journaling is a good idea for someone who wants to be a writer. Daily observations and musings over the mundane can be turned into interesting readings for the right audience. I will incorporate these concepts into my future writing.