R1: The Craft of Research, chapters 3-6

The ‘planning your project’ section of The Craft of Research was insightful and calming, providing useful frameworks and suggestions for a research beginner – and did so in a surprisingly readable manner. What was especially useful given our current stage of research (where we all have started thinking about topics and what the appropriate scope of those topics should be for our thesis) was the structure of topic to question, specifically defining the steps in-between. Some of my recent thinking around what I might want to pursue for this thesis has be overwhelming, as I’m considering a number of broad topics that seem interesting but have a lack of refinement that leads me to feeling like I’m ‘drinking from a firehose.’ The structure of finding a topic, refining it, whittling that down to a specific question (and answering the so what about that question), then finally establishing the research problem addressed by that question (with definitions of each of these concepts along the way) feels like a cheat sheet on how to formulate an accurate and meaningful scope for our thesis project.

I particularly enjoyed the framework the authors present for formulating a thesis question: “(1) Topic: I am studying ___ (2) Question: because I want to find out what/why/how ___, (3) Significance: in order to help my reader understand ___”. This provides a formula of sorts to guide refinement of research, helping to direct general interests into reasonably refined research. I also found their tips for active reading particularly helpful – in seeing the examples of notes taken on an index card, I started envisioning and planning how I could replicate this process in Evernote to maintain an organized paper trail of my research and thinking that will help immensely in helping me reach the 10k word threshold of our research paper and keep me on track to formulating and answering a significant question in my research and data collection process.

I would be curious to know if my classmates found this reading as useful as I did, as I envision this chapter being an almost constant reference for me as I go through the initial literature review required for this week and my entire research process. A lot of what I read seemed like intuitive common sense, but I'm not sure I'd have approached my research in such a productively structured way without reading it from an expert first. It helped calm my nerves as I thought about starting my literature review by offering a playbook for this review– the “Evaluating Sources for Relevance and Reliability” section on page 76 was exactly what I needed. Did we all feel the same, or did this feel like common knowledge to the class? Do we all agree on the approaches and perspectives laid out in these chapters?

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