JSTOR is Life.

Everyone hates me when I tell them I love to do research. I don’t know why, but reading about other people’s thoughts and hypothesis is so interesting to me as a student. However, when I write, I never really consider who I am writing for. I think this is because I’m always in the back of my head writing more for myself than for anyone else. I believe the Craft of Research Writing never really addresses how to find your audience. It speaks about understanding your audience and finding a mode of writing that tailors to your audience. However, I am unsure of how to find my audience to begin with.

When it comes to researching, all too often I create a question that I feel so strongly about answering, that confirmation bias crowds my note taking. Confirmation bias is simply finding information that “goes along with” or agrees with your hypothesis. I think everyone does this to a certain extent. For me, the problem is that by the time I’m gathering data I already have a question that I feel strongly about and that (usually) a teacher approves of. So when I go to do research and find that every single articles completely contradicts what I wanted to say, I look for the one article that agrees with my point instead of asking a new question.

confirmation bias

I had never thought about turning major points of an article into a question to be answered. I think this is a great idea because you are able to see that research stems from questions, and tracing back the questions can lead to new questions formed. I always get stuck in this belief that when reading research, the authors were never wrong and had perfect questions and answers from the start. However this is not true, and authors often have to ask new questions or alter their questions based on the data they receive from studies. This becomes obvious many times in articles where the data and the approach to the study doesn’t actually represent or test for the hypothesis at all. In the article, the author states to utilize and keep track of this information, stating that “you learn what counts as write by accumulating representative examples of what goes wrong.”

When it comes to note taking, I’ve never been very good at organizing notes (or my thoughts for that matter). So the idea of grouping together notes based on ideas rather than articles was brilliant to me. Most of the time I “note take” by copying and pasting quotes (sometimes paragraphs long) into word documents and just leaving them to sit. I never actually use any of those quotes, but in my head it just seems like the right thing to do. I loved the idea of keeping track of your four different kinds of quotes, using different font styles and colors to distinguish the data. This point was furthered later in the article when the author states that “As your research progresses, you may experience a moment when everything you have learned seems to run together.” This pretty much describes all of my research ever. Then the author goes on to state “when this happens, you are probably accumulating data faster than you can handle them.” I think many college students can relate to this part of the article. We are constantly told to find more sources or cite more or have more data, but this comes at a cost. The more data and articles we’re told to find, the more notes we have, the less we read for logical arguments, and the more confusing sorting becomes. I’m going to try to stick by the author’s approach of summarizing and organizing data at every opportunity and always coming back to the central question/hypothesis that was created at the beginning of the project.

Lexi Wung

Lexi is a senior at the University of Michigan studying Psychology with minors in Writing and Entrepreneurship. She will be joining the Teach For America Baltimore Corps after graduation to teach High School English. She will also be receiving her masters degree concurrently from Johns Hopkins.

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