Finding Purpose through Research

When I first began brainstorming my Capstone project, I wrestled most with what topic it was that I intended to write about. Once the topic is determined, finding the purpose seems pretty straightforward. When I decided to write about two sports and their similarities and differences across continents, I figured then that my purpose would simply be to generate a thorough comparison.

While that idea seemed reasonable at my project’s outset, it didn’t take me long to discover that the breadth of American football and world football’s significance was too massive to encompass through writing in a lifetime, let alone a semester. Prof. Andrei Markovits—who I sought advice from earlier this semester—had no qualms about letting me know this. Suddenly, I found myself with a collection of research materials and some writing completed, but I lacked a clear purpose. While there is certainly a wide array of issues within my topic that interest me, it has—through my research—become increasingly obvious that all of these cannot be tackled while maintaining a clear, cohesive purpose (the “Why?” of my Capstone project).

This dilemma is something that I’ve rarely run into in writing, because—unlike most writing I’ve done—the Capstone is open ended and asks the writer to determine his or her purpose. As refreshing as this freedom is, it is certainly a challenge for any student accustomed to being told the subject and goal of a given piece of writing. Thus, as I enter the waning weeks of the semester, I’m not having nearly as much difficulty with producing writing as I am with the daunting task of ultimately explaining why I’ve written what I have. Once I surmount this challenge, I am confident that I’ll find myself with a compelling project when it’s all said and done.

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