Introduction to Research Paper/Narrative Essay

For my third and final experiment I will attempt to do sort of a hybrid combination of a narrative essay and a research paper. My origin piece along with my first two experiments were much more focused in a creative style of writing, so I decided something a bit more research based for this experiment. According to Purdue Online Writing Lab, narrative essays “are often anecdotal, experiential, and personal”. I intend for this experiment to be written about the effects a breakup has on someone, and I believe including some of my personal experience will be essential. The combination of a narrative essay and a research paper will allow my experiment to be informative relating to a relevant topic among college students, yet still true to the personal nature of my origin piece. Since my origin piece is an original song I wrote about my experience with heartbreak/a breakup, I want the essay to maintain the emotion of the song without having to include much creative expression. I’m leaning towards using my second experiment as my final project, and I hope that exploring the emotional effects of a breakup in a research based context will contribute to the success of a creative piece. 

Writing for Literacy Education Online, Judith Kilburn states that narrative essays are typically written in the first person, utilize sensory details that create a unified impression, and are sometimes formatted with the progression of a story. Combining these conventions with academic research will definitely change the way both of my “genres” are typically written. I want it to be a piece that uses research to get a point across with a personal voice. The personal voice will come from anecdotes from my own breakup, and the research will come from academic sources cited in MLA format. 

Though the personal aspects of this experiment are what will make it original, the genre conventions of a personal narrative will not be used for the formatting/organization of the piece. Based on some samples of narrative essays that I’ve read, they are usually always organized as a story with a plot. I intend to format and organize this experiment like a research paper, just with a more free and personal style. Purdue Online Writing Lab discusses research papers being either argumentative or analytical, and I will definitely draw more from the analytical conventions. Instead of centering the writing around an argument one is trying to prove, an analytical approach to research papers focuses more on drawing some sort of conclusion based on research. My intent is not to convince my audience of anything, but to give them insight into the feelings associated with a breakup. Primary and secondary sources will be referenced and analyzed, all with the intention of the reader obtaining more knowledge of the topic informatively and emotionally.

Introduction to Interviews

Interviews, while seemingly self explanatory, are difficult to define as a genre. In Michele Koven’s “Interviewing: Practice, Ideology, Genre, and Intertextuality,” he defines interviewing as “a cluster of communicative practices used to produce and circulate various types of authoritative and consequential knowledge about groups and individuals.” His paper explores the what constitutes an interview and how to define it — a method, an object of analysis, a speech event, a reflection of mental contents, a reflection of authentic selves. Societal interview norms are full of variance, making interviews a more convoluted genre than simply asking and answering questions.

Paata Natsvlishvili’s paper entitled “The Genesis of Interview as a Genre” is slightly less abstract, outlining the pieces of a journalistic interview. She asserts that interviews reflect reality, are presented in the form of questions and answers, in which the interviewee is a source of information while the interviewer is the disseminator of this information. She includes that the “interview-as-genre must pertain to something topical and interesting for general audience… it implies readership, listenership or viewership.”

Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber explains “The Practice of Feminist In-Depth Interviewing” in a piece that includes what she defines as an “unstructured interview” with a fitness trainer. The interview opens with a description of the interviewee and the interviewer’s relationship to her, then takes on a traditional question-answer format. She then explains that the best method of interviewing comes a minimum of control over the interview wherein the interviewer allows the interviewee to explore topics they want to talk about but the interviewer keeps the overall topic in mind. Unstructured interviewing is based in open-ended questions, allowing the interviewee more freedom in their responses. She also includes different methods of “probing” to encourage the interviewee to reveal more.

I think unstructured interviewing will be the perfect final experiment for my project. After exploring researching the “high maintenance” stereotype and unpacking my own experiences, I think collecting the stories of other women (and potentially men) will give me more insight into this issue. Unstructured interviewing seems to be the best course of action because I want to give my interviewees as much freedom as possible to tell their stories and focus on what they deem important. Most of my experience with interviewing is from a strictly journalistic standpoint, so I’m excited to take a more personalized approach to this genre.

Introduction to Genre: Memoir

“A memoir is a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public or private, that took place in the subject’s/person’s life.” I struggled to find an additional genre that allowed me to truly summarize my college living experience. I think that a memoir is a great way of encapsulating my living experiences, especially because I adore my current roommate. It’s the happy resolution that a memoir should have. It is a subgenre of autobiography that does not require one’s entire life story. I’m interested in it because I think the genre encompasses that reminiscent connotation that I am currently feeling. Perhaps this is a product of the changing leaves, my new status as an upperclassman, or my graduate school search. Regardless, a memoir seems like a fitting way to end the semester.

Personally, I always thought memoir had a sad connotation. After looking into the genre, it seems more about an uplifting story. I prefer this happier narrative and I think I can do it. Most of the ones I’m familiar with, such as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, are coming-of-age stories that almost have an expectation of being something the reader needs to be sympathetic. This is one of the most famous memoirs because it tackles trauma and racism, subject matters far more severe than the story I’m telling. In my genre research, I attempted to find reader expectations as opposed to my typical search for writer expectations. In this, I found:

A sympathetic main character

Vividly depicted scenes

Emotional tension

Increasing sense of drama/conflict:

A satisfying ending

My story provides all of these. I think I can add emotion to a lot of the scenes, especially when provided the lack of patience I was experiencing during much of this because I was in such a toxic relationship that I allowed to characterize my living experience for the better part of this.

There is also an expectation for a memoir to have a deeper meaning. I think I can give life to this premise through the coming-of-age aspect of it. The personal growth I experienced because of this, especially with regard to overcoming social anxiety, depression, and abuse during this time will allow me to cultivate this. I would love to explore this route because it is less comical and forces me to reflect on the situation from a different perspective. I’d like to focus more on the positive for a change. It’d be nice in the midst of exams.

Intro to the Photo Essay

Going into this third experiment I was pretty lost as to what I wanted my next genre to be. The previous two came to me pretty easily, but I was really struggling with picking a third because I felt like I had already hit a lot of the ideas I had come into the project with. So in order to gain a fresh perspective I ventured back to the very beginning and tried to figure out what made me passionate about pursuing this topic in the first place, and I realized it was the examples I had seen in my own life of human control of nature that had sparked my interest and passion. So, I figured, if I want to try and get other people to care about this topic like I do, what better method is there than to show them the same things that made me care in the first place?

So before doing my research I was pretty convinced I had the idea of a photo essay down. You get some pictures (photo), and then you put some words with it (essay) and boom you’re done. In many ways my original thought is not wrong, but even just scratching the surface of the topic showed me that there was a lot more I had to consider and how much thought and care really goes into a project like this. 

The basic conventions of a photo essay are as follows

1. Focuses on a specific narrative or theme

2. Has a collection of photographs

3. Captions of varying length (from a few words to full paragraphs)

4. Evokes some sort of emotion in the reader

Now it is that 4thconvention that is going to be a tricky one. I can take pictures and I can write words, but getting people to care about human control over the environment? That’s going to take some creativity and practice. I am really excited to play around with this genre and see what I can create with it and hopefully how I can relate it to the emotions I have been exploring with my previous experiments. 

When doing this research, I decided to look at some photo essay examples, and found one from The Guardian looking at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. It was an interesting array of photographs that outlined not only the sport, but also the cultural interaction and community development that comes with an international sports competition like this. The author used quotes from coaches and players and connected them with groups of photos in a way that made me feel connected to a story I have no outside ties to. This piece gave me a better understanding of how the captions and photos can be used together to generate emotion in the reader. 

An example from The Guardian Photo Essay “Rugby World Cup 2019: the story of the tournament in pictures and quotes”

Introducing Children’s Books

Goodnight Moon! Oh the Places You’ll Go! Good Night Gorilla! Moo, Baa, La La La! Where the Wild things Are!

All of these books played a very important part in my childhood, entertaining me, teaching me, and helping me dream of a big future. Children’s books really are the foundation for my love of reading and writing, but how does one go about making an impactful and entertaining children’s book?! Let’s see!

From Moo, Baa, La La La!… I most definitely screamed moooooo every time I read this as a kid.

The two most important aspect of any children’s book is to include lots of imagination and to have a specific message or theme. The goal of the story should be to create wild and fantastic worlds that expand kid’s minds, but also to make sure that aspects of children’s natural environments are included. With more imaginative stories (like people who can fly, fairies, monsters, talking animals, etc), kids are encouraged to dream big and create their own stories. That being said, children’s books almost always center the protagonist around a kid character so that the kids reading the books are more likely to see themselves in their shoes.

Once they are able to relate to the character or find them entertaining in some way, they also are more likely to learn from the message of the book. Since kids are learning lots of new things every day, books are a great way to teach them morals like ‘good guy’ vs ‘bad guy’ so that they can (hopefully) emulate the good behaviors. Similarly, children’s books purposely almost always end the story with a positive ending. The idea is that if all their stories end with a “happily ever after,” they will be excited about their future. After all, we don’t want little kids to realize that the prince won’t always carry you off into the sunset and that you probably won’t end up surrounded by a pile of gold. Sorry, but that’s life. But kids don’t have to know that, at least not in these kinds of books.

Children’s books also have LOTS of illustrations! Kids love lots of pictures, bright colors, they catch their attention, and it makes it easier for them to understand. Typically, the illustrations take up most of the page because the importance is on the images, and the words are smaller. That being said, it’s a good idea not to include lots of contemplation and abstract ideas since kids have a harder time understanding those kinds of topics- so one has to try to keep it as simple as possible.

I am excited to try and take a new spin on my topic of plastics for this experiment by trying to reach the people who need to know about it the most: kids. From the books that kids read growing up, they learn what different noises animals make, are transported to the new worlds of Dr. Seuss, and reminds us to say goodnight and be grateful for everything they have. So, why shouldn’t kids learn about how plastics are bad through a fun story in an imaginary world?!

Introduction to the genre of Children’s Books.

For my final genre experiment, I have decided to explore the genre of Children’s Books. As I reflect back on my childhood, bedtime books were my favorite part of the day. Every night my parents would read me my three favorite books and I would fall right asleep. These books consisted of “Franny B. Kranny, There’s a Bird in Your Hair,” “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” and “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse.” Not only were these stories a huge part of my childhood experience, but my brother and sister both loved the same three books—we still talk about them at family dinners and parties! The reason I have decided to explore the genre of children’s books is because I feel as if my knowledge of the children’s book culture is unfinished! I started my research in high school when I started to create my own book about being Gluten-Free, but it never took off due to the college application process and my involvement in clubs and organizations throughout my high school years! I never really took the time to learn about the background of the this genre and the different aspects of what goes into creating a children’s book. Through this project, I would love to share some of the work I created as a high school student, and expand on it now as a junior in college…four years later. 

            Children’s Books have many different genres within them. As I learned through this source, all of these different genres can compliment a children’s book in their own unique way. Starting with classic picture books, picture story books, and traditional literature—including folktales, fairy tales, fables, legends, myths. Next is historical fiction, modern fantasy, realistic fiction, non-fiction, informational books, biography, poetry and drama! Something that encouraged me to choose the children book genre is that before this experiment, my previous experiment was about the fairytale genre. I realized at the end of this experiment that the idea of a children’s story excited me, but because my origin piece is about a very serious, life-changing moment in my life—I wanted to be more real when discussing my experience, without incorporating a fairy or a villain in my story. Although a children’s story still has a young voice—real information can be portrayed, as I will not be talking in the fairytale language. The genre within the overall genre of children’s books that I hope to explore is Picture Books, which are Children’s books that provide a “visual experience.” I hope to include digital images and illustrations in making my children’s book an online book, as technology is so important today.

          Lastly, as I approach diving into this genre—I wanted to know some facts on what makes a good children’s book. The Write Practice, which is written by a bestselling children’s book author explains what exactly distinguishes a mediocre children’s book and a great children’s book. The following three things really intrigued me and inspired me to start my writing this book. These include— strong characters who evoke strong emotion, a story that teaches, and mind-expanding illustrations, vocabulary or concepts! I am excited to begin my children’s book journey that I never got to finish, and for all of you to experience my gluten-free journey with me! 🙂

A Personal Essay + Research Paper = Experiment #3

My experiment #3 may sound a little unconventional… but I want to combine two genres (is this allowed?). My Genre X for experiment 3 will look partially like a psychological research paper, but also including some personal experience. Since my origin piece was already a personal narrative, I don’t want to repeat what I’ve already done. Instead, I want to build on my own personal experience with complicated sibling relationships with some backup from the world of Psychology.

As a psych major, I’m already interested in everything about social relationships: how they develop, change, manifest in distinct personality types and distinct situations. So, I’d like to do a little psychoanalysis of my own relationship with my two brothers. I’ve noticed with my last two experiments that I have too many unanswered questions. With this next experiment, I want to actually begin answering the question: why are sibling relationships the way they are?

After experiment 2, it is clear that I can’t answer a question this extensive merely with my own personal stories, I need to do some real content research. I think by combining forces with psychology, I will be able to create a much more well-rounded piece, that will also perfectly combine my interests of psychology and writing.

As far as defining these two genres, I’ve discovered a few things. According to UW Madison’s writing center to begin content research for an essay I should:


  • Try to find a topic that truly interests you
  • Try writing your way to a topic
  • Talk with your course instructor and classmates about your topic
  • Pose your topic as a question to be answered or a problem to be solved


You will need to look at the following types of sources:

  • library catalog, periodical indexes, bibliographies, suggestions from your instructor
  • primary vs. secondary sources
  • journals, books, other documents


The following systems will help keep you organized:

  • a system for noting sources on bibliography cards
  • a system for organizing material according to its relative importance
  • a system for taking notes

Well, step 1 is complete. I have the topic that interests me, but I will definitely be using these pointers to begin content research for my paper.

On the other hand, I looked at some characteristics of personal essays. According to ThoughtCo, there are 6 simple steps to writing the perfect personal essay…

  1. Find Inspiration and Ideas (CHECK!)
  2. Understand the composition of the essay (intro, body, conclusion… yeah, yeah tell me something I don’t know)
  3. Use appropriate voice of essay and verbs (I’m not sure I need a grammar lesson but voice will definitely be important..)
  4. Be consistent with point of view and tense (but how consistent???)
  5. Use your own vocabulary (that’s a given)
  6. Edit, Edit, Edit (yep!)

In order to combine these two different genres, I plan on maintaining my voice in the essay and incorporating personal anecdotes to establish why I’m writing this and why anyone should care. However, I will also be including some outside research, so that the reader can learn something from reading my piece. I can’t tell you why sibling relationships are the way they are, but me, myself, and a little help from psychology can certainly try.

Intro to the short story

Once upon a time, I almost used a short story as my origin piece.

Really! In high school, I took a couple writing classes and learned the art of the short story there, then decided I wanted to be a fiction writer. Sure, those plans have changed a bit now, and I read and write mostly nonfiction, but for my final experiment, I wanted to return to my roots.

Most generally, a short story is fictional and has a beginning, middle and end with characters and dialogue advancing the plot. As opposed to a novel, most short stories have fewer characters and focus on only one plot line. Experts disagree about exactly what length constitutes a short story, but most say they range from 1,000-7,500 words, and some push that up to 10,000.

This is a list of short story tips from one of the craft’s masters, Kurt Vonnegut. Most of the tips involve how to cater a short story to an audience: make sure the reader doesn’t think their time was wasted, create at least one character the reader can root for, give as much information as soon as possible, but at the same time, don’t try to please everyone.

My particular genre will be a young adult short story. I want to further explore the ideas of social media and identity by writing about a high school girl who is cyberbullied and finds mean tweets about herself, but simultaneously anonymously runs one of the most popular Twitter accounts at the school. As a teen, I read several YA short-story anthologies, such as My True Love Gave to Me and Geektastic. While I plan to write a singular short story rather than an anthology, I plan to write my short story in the same style as the ones in these anthologies.

For a young adult short story in particular, it’s important to make sure your characters are people high school-aged teenagers will relate to and is written in a style they will like to read. As someone who read and wrote tons of YA in high school, I’m excited to dive back into the genre. This story will also have a personal connection to me, not just in my experience with mean tweets as it relates to my Jeopardy! appearance but also because my Twitter account is popular, but I don’t have a lot of friends in real life, similar to my main character.

Introduction to Reported Essays

I know what you’re thinking. “But Julia, didn’t you just do an essay for your last experiment? Isn’t this kind of the same thing?” And my answer to that is yes and no.

Yes, I attempted a personal reflective essay for my second experiment. However, as I wrote my sample I was struggling with the level of background story to include. I ended up concerned that what I was creating was more of a narrative than a reflection. I feel that while I generally liked the style and freedom of the reflective essay, if I had continued in that genre for my full project I would have run into some obstacles. Namely, I would have struggled to include deeply personal reflection (something I have always had difficulty with), and more seriously, the narrative I provided would not have been relatable to a wide audience.

Science journalist, Michelle Nihuis defines an essay as something that is “written in a personal voice, involve one or more journeys, and are relevant not just to the writer but to the reader.” I feel that my previous attempt at an essay would have failed in that final and crucial category. For that reason, I am now attempting a reported essay in the hopes that relevant sources and deep research will aid in the relevance of my essay and help me dig deeper into my own reflection.

A reported essay combines the deep research and credibility of journalism with the open and honest experiences and opinions of the writer. According to Chip Scanlan, a faculty member at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, the difference between a news article and the reported essay “lies in the quality of the reporting, the depth and value of the insight, and perhaps most of all, the power of the writer’s voice, which derives from those two characteristics.” I believe that this genre will allow me to tell the story of my own experiences on campus with the support of research and existing articles to tap in to potential universal experiences that are relevant to my reader as well.

Intro to Genre: Fabulous Fables

What’s a fable? I’ll bet we’ve all read one or had one of their many morals preached to us. Does “slow and steady wins the race” ring a bell? Technically, a fable is a fictitious short story that conveys a moral. And just to be clear, a moral is a lesson that differentiates between right and wrong.

I thought of this genre when I recently came across an old copy of Aesop’s Fables, which my mom read to me as a kid. I’m interested in this genre because I think it’s a happy medium between the first two experiments I did. It gives me the creativity of the children’s book, with room for a higher word count like the screenplay.

Fables are centered around the moral of the story, so this should always be the author’s starting point. A moral is not something that should only apply to a specific circumstance like “don’t stick gum in your sister’s hair when she takes the last cookie”. A moral is a lifelong lesson like “treat others as you would like to be treated”, which still applies to the aforementioned gum situation, but is more general.

When picking your characters, keep in mind that they need to be of the talking animal or inanimate object kind, à la Cinderella and her mice or Belle and her candelabra. Having two characters is most common because we want to keep the moral clear and not overwhelm the message of the story with character development. To make life easier, don’t even bother naming the characters; call it like it is: the tortoise and the hare.

Now it’s time to personify your fabled friends. Give them human traits. Many animals are already associated with such traits: the clever fox or the wise owl come to mind. Then, contrast that characteristic with its antonym. Clever fox, meet foolish flamingo (or something of that nature).

Consider what kinds up trouble the fox and flamingo could get into. Perhaps the flamingo, with its beautiful feathers and long legs enters into a beauty contest and aces all the parts except for the category about animal rights. Then the fox, who is small and ordinary comes in and aces the intelligence categories and wins the competition! Bam! Moral: true beauty comes from within.

Before you get too excited to write, you eager beaver (also a potential character), remember that the simpler the better. Keep it short and entertaining, don’t be afraid of rhymes or dialogue, but overall keep it focused so that the reader comes away knowing exactly what to do the next time their sister takes the last cookie.

Now if only I could figure out what the moral of this blog post was…