Compiling sources on sources, writing pages on pages, and annotating like crazy? Sounds like research, right? Yeah, I thought so too. But reading “Craft of Research” has opened my eyes to the whole picture, and not simply what is in my own head, and on my computer screen in front of me. Finding sources and annotating them is an important part of research, and “Craft of Research” supports that claim. Yet what has impacted me most about the book, is the “research relationship” that you must develop in several different places when you are working on a project. By simply putting sources together in a paper, maybe well organized, maybe not, the paper is bound to not go anywhere. There must be a new niche you’re trying to fill, something exciting that’s happening in your mind, but not anyone else’s. And this book outlines both how to fill that niche, and how to get that novel idea in your head that makes your work worthwhile.
One of the great ideas in this book is the notion of forming a “contract” with the reader, and vice versa. You have to hold up your end of the bargain, and they should hold up theirs. But first you have to get them to sign next to that X. So the first thing in your writing should be something to get the reader excited, something that makes them want to “do business” with you. “Craft of Research” touches on the importance of developing an elevator story for your project, where you explain the problem, why the reader should care about this problem, and what kind of evidence you have to support your claim. So, let’s say you’ve got a great business idea, and the work to back it up. Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban is in the elevator, and you need him to sign that contract to get involved in your work (and probably give you a lot of money). Working on my elevator story is going to be crucial in getting people interested in my research, and will be the first step in forming the reader-writer relationship.
Another piece of advice I’d like to take from this reading is in the section regarding inexperience. Most of the writing I’ve ever been exposed to has been academic, simply to impress the teacher, get a good grade, and move on. Beyond that, I’m a novice in pretty much any other field and writing for any other audience. Developing my writing for an outside audience WILL be tough, and it WILL give me anxiety about my inexperience (“Craft of Research” clearly knows their audience– their section on inexperience resonated with me completely). The authors recommend writing about my reading along the way, which is something I’m not used to, beyond taking notes. Writing summaries, critiques, and questions about the pieces I’m reading, and being able to understand them enough to disagree with them will be an enormous help when it comes time to create my own work. Thinking critically about everything I read is a skill I’m going to have to work to acquire. It’s going to be hard to get myself in a critical thinking mindset when I’m reading a funny blog post, or something as simple as a rant on Facebook. But in order to understand and master blogs and social media, critical, skeptical thinking is necessary.
“Craft of Research” does a lot of things well, and gives advice with confidence, authority, and examples that make the reader resonate with their claims. I think emulating how this is written will be a great resource, as my project will likely entail giving out advice. However, there are things that I don’t necessarily agree with. “Craft of Research” recommends taking very detailed notecards for each source. As a lifelong quick, illegible notetaker, I’m not sure that this is time efficient or even useful. But I don’t know, I’ve never tried it, and it might be something worth exploring. Also, why do the authors regard style, anecdotes, and practicality as secondary in academic arguments? I think that the way the argument is presented is of utmost importance, and this passage (pg. 25) contradicts some of what the book touches on earlier.
There’s a lot in here, with tips how to create relationships with many different audiences. And for me, not only will taking advice from this book be important, but also emulating its style, as I plan to write a similar, advice driven piece as part of my project.