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The Craft of ResearchOn Writing, Editing, and Publishing jacques barzun Tricks of the Trade howard s. becker Writing for Social Scientists howard s. becker The Craft of Translation john biguenet and rainer schulte, editors The Craft of Research wayne c. booth, gregory g. colomb, and joseph m. williams Glossary of Typesetting Terms richard eckersley, richard angstadt, charles m. ellerston, richard hendel, naomi b. pascal, and anita walker scott Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes robert m. emerson, rachel i. fretz, and linda l. shaw Legal Writing in Plain English bryan a. garner Getting It Published william germano A Poet’s Guide to Poetry mary kinzie Mapping It Out mark monmonier The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science scott l. montgomery Indexing Books nancy c. mulvany Getting into Print walter w. powell AManualforWritersofTermPapers,Theses,andDissertations kate l. turabian Tales of the Field john van maanen Style joseph m. williams A Handbook of Biological Illustration frances w. zweifel Chicago Guide for Preparing Electronic Manuscripts prepared by the staff of the university of chicago pressThe Craft of Research second edition WAYNE C. BOOTH GREGORY G. COLOMB JOSEPH M. WILLIAMS THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS Chicago & Londonwayne c. booth is the George Pullman Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. His many books include The Rhetoric of Fiction and For the Love of It: Amateuring and Its Rivals, both published by the University of Chicago Press. gregory g. colomb is professor of English language and literature at the Univer- sity of Virginia. He is the author of Designs on Truth: The Poetics of the Augustan Mock-Epic. joseph m. williams is professor emeritus in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Style: Toward Clar- ity and Grace. Together Colomb and Williams have written The Craft of Argument, published by the University of Chicago Press. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637 The University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London © 1995, 2003 by The University of Chicago All rights reserved. Published 2003 Printed in the United States of America 12 11 10 09 08 07 06 05 04 03 1 2 3 4 5 ISBN: 0-226-06567-7 (cloth) ISBN: 0-226-06568-5 (paper) Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Booth, Wayne C. The craft of research / Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams.—2nd ed. p. cm. — (Chicago guides to writing, editing, and publishing) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-226-06567-7 (cloth : alk. paper) — ISBN 0-226-06568-5 (paper : alk. paper) 1. Research—Methodology. 2. Technical writing. I. Colomb, Gregory G. II. Williams, Joseph M. III. Title. IV. Series. Q180.55.M4 B66 2003 001.4′2—dc21 2002015184 ∞ The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.Contents Preface xi IRESEARCH,RESEARCHERS,ANDREADERS 1 PROLOGUE: STARTING A RESEARCH PROJECT 3 1 Thinking in Print: The Uses of Research, Public and Private 9 1.1 What Is Research? 10 1.2 Why Write It Up? 12 1.3 Why a Formal Report? 13 1.4 Conclusion 15 2 Connecting with Your Reader: (Re)Creating Your Self and Your Audience 17 2.1 Creating Roles for Writers and Readers 17 2.2 Creating a Relationship with Your Reader: Your Role 19 2.3 Creating the Other Half of the Relationship: The Reader’s Role 22 2.4 Writing in Groups 26 2.5 Managing the Unavoidable Problem of Inexperience 30 ✩ Quick Tip: A Checklist for Understanding Your Readers 32 II ASKING QUESTIONS, FINDING ANSWERS 35 PROLOGUE: PLANNING YOUR PROJECT 37 3 From Topics to Questions 40 3.1 From an Interest to a Topic 41 vvi contents 3.2 From a Broad Topic to a Focused One 43 3.3 From a Focused Topic to Questions 45 3.4 From a Merely Interesting Question to Its Wider Significance 49 ✩ Quick Tip: Finding Topics 53 4 From Questions to Problems 56 4.1 Problems, Problems, Problems 57 4.2 The Common Structure of Problems 60 4.3 Finding a Good Research Problem 68 4.4 Summary: The Problem of the Problem 70 ✩ Quick Tip: Disagreeing with Your Sources 72 5 From Problems to Sources 75 5.1 Screening Sources for Reliability 76 5.2 Locating Printed and Recorded Sources 79 5.3 Finding Sources on the Internet 83 5.4 Gathering Data Directly from People 85 5.5 Bibliographic Trails 88 5.6 What You Find 88 6 Using Sources 90 6.1 Three Uses for Sources 91 6.2 Reading Generously but Critically 95 6.3 Preserving What You Find 96 6.4 Getting Help 104 ✩ Quick Tip: Speedy Reading 106 III MAKING A CLAIM AND SUPPORTING IT 109 PROLOGUE: PULLING TOGETHER YOUR ARGUMENT 111 7 Making Good Arguments: An Overview 114 7.1 Argument and Conversation 114 7.2 Basing Claims on Reasons 116 7.3 Basing Reasons on Evidence 117 7.4 Acknowledging and Responding to Alternatives 118 7.5 Warranting the Relevance of Reasons 119 7.6 Building Complex Arguments Out of Simple Ones 121Contents vii 7.7 Arguments and Your Ethos 122 ✩ Quick Tip: Designing Arguments Not for Yourself but for Your Readers: Two Common Pitfalls 124 8 Claims 127 8.1 What Kind of Claim? 127 8.2 Evaluating Your Claim 129 ✩ Quick Tip: Qualifying Claims to Enhance Your Credibility 135 9 Reasons and Evidence 138 9.1 Using Reasons to Plan Your Argument 138 9.2 The Slippery Distinction between Reasons and Evidence 140 9.3 Evidence vs. Reports of Evidence 142 9.4 Selecting the Right Form for Reporting Evidence 144 9.5 Reliable Evidence 145 ✩ Quick Tip: Showing the Relevance of Evidence 149 10 Acknowledgments and Responses 151 10.1 Questioning Your Argument 152 10.2 Finding Alternatives to Your Argument 154 10.3 Deciding What to Acknowledge 157 10.4 Responses as Subordinate Arguments 159 ✩ Quick Tip: The Vocabulary of Acknowledgment and Response 161 11 Warrants 165 11.1 How Warrants Work 166 11.2 What Warrants Look Like 168 11.3 Knowing When to State a Warrant 168 11.4 Testing Your Warrants 170 11.5 Challenging the Warrants of Others 177 ✩ Quick Tip: Some Strategies for Challenging Warrants 179 IV PREPARING TO DRAFT, DRAFTING, AND REVISING 183 PROLOGUE: PLANNING AGAIN 185 ✩ Quick Tip: Outlining 187 12 Planning and Drafting 189 12.1 Preliminaries to Drafting 189viii contents 12.2 Planning: Four Traps to Avoid 191 12.3 A Plan for Drafting 193 12.4 The Pitfall to Avoid at All Costs: Plagiarism 201 12.5 The Next Step 204 ✩ Quick Tip: Using Quotation and Paraphrase 205 13 Revising Your Organization and Argument 208 13.1 Thinking Like a Reader 209 13.2 Analyzing and Revising Your Overall Organization 209 13.3 Revising Your Argument 216 13.4 The Last Step 218 ✩ Quick Tip: Titles and Abstracts 219 14 Introductions and Conclusions 222 14.1 The Three Elements of an Introduction 222 14.2 Establishing Common Ground 225 14.3 Stating Your Problem 228 14.4 Stating Your Response 232 14.5 Fast or Slow? 234 14.6 Organizing the Whole Introduction 235 14.7 Conclusions 236 ✩ Quick Tip: Opening and Closing Words 238 15 Communicating Evidence Visually 241 15.1 Visual or Verbal? 244 15.2 Tables vs. Figures 244 15.3 Constructing Tables 245 15.4 Constructing Figures 248 15.5 Visual Communication and Ethics 260 15.6 Using Graphics as an Aid to Thinking 261 16 Revising Style: Telling Your Story Clearly 263 16.1 Judging Style 263 16.2 A First Principle: Stories and Grammar 265 16.3 A Second Principle: Old Before New 274 16.4 Choosing between Active and Passive 275 16.5 A Final Principle: Complexity Last 277Contents ix 16.6 Spit and Polish 280 ✩ Quick Tip: The Quickest Revision 281 VSOMELASTCONSIDERATIONS 283 The Ethics of Research 285 A Postscript for Teachers 289 An Appendix on Finding Sources 297 General Sources 298 Special Sources 299 A Note on Some of Our Sources 317 Index 325Preface We intend that, like the first edition of The Craft of Research, this second edition meet the needs of all researchers, not just begin- ners, or advanced graduate students, but even those in business andgovernmentwhoareassignedresearchonanytopic,techno- logical, political, or commercial. Our aim is to • guide you through the complexities of organizing and draft- ing a report that poses a significant problem and offers a convincing solution; • show you how to read your drafts as your readers might so that you can recognize passages they are likely to find unnec- essarily difficult and then revise them effectively. Other handbooks touch on these matters, but this one differs in many ways. Most current guides agree that researchers never move in a straight line from finding a topic to stating a thesis to filling in note cards to drafting and revision. Real research loops back and forth, moving forward a step or two, going back and moving ahead again, anticipating stages not yet begun. But so far as we know, no previous guide has tried to explain how each part of the process influences all the others—how asking ques- tionsaboutatopicpreparestheresearcherfordrafting,howdraft- xixii preface ing reveals problems in an argument, how writing an introduc- tion can send you back to the library. THE COMPLEXITIES OF THE TASK Becauseresearchissocomplex,wehavetriedtobeexplicitabout it,includingmattersthatareusuallyleftimplicitaspartofamys- terious creative process, including these: • how to turn a vague interest into a problem worth posing and solving; • how to build an argument that motivates readers to accept your claim; • how to anticipate the reservations of thoughtful but critical readers and then respond appropriately; • how to create an introduction and conclusion that answer that toughest of questions, So what?; • how to read your own writing as others may, and thereby learn when and how to revise it. Centralineverychapterisouradvicetosidewithyourreaders, to imagine how they judge what you have written. Meeting their expectations is not, however, the only reward for mastering the formal elements of a research report. When you learn those for- mal matters, you are better able to plan, conduct, and evaluate theprocess thatcreatesone.Theelementsofareport—itsstruc- ture, style, and methods of proof—are not empty formulas for convincingreaderstoacceptyourclaims.Theyhelpyoutestyour work and discover new directions in it. As you can guess, we believe that the skills of doing and re- porting research are not just for the elite; they can be learned by all students. Though some aspects of advanced research can be learned only in the context of a specific community of research- ers, the good news is that even if you don’t yet belong to such a community, you can create something like it on your own. ToPreface xiii thatend,inour“PostscriptforTeachers,”weshowyou(andyour teachers) ways that a class can create such a community. We should note what we do not address. We do not discuss how to incorporate narratives and “thick descriptions” into an argument. Nor have we examined how arguments incorporate recordingsandotheraudioformsofevidence.Bothareimportant issues, but too large for us to do justice to them here. There are also advanced techniques for Internet searches and other ways ofgatheringdatathatwedonothavespacetocover.Ourbibliog- raphy suggests a number of sources for guidance in those areas. ON THE SECOND EDITION In revising the first edition, we have naturally been grateful to all those who praised it, but especially to those who used it. We hoped for awide audience, butdidn’texpectitto beas wideas it turnedouttobe,rangingfromfirst-yearstudentsincomposition classes to advanced graduate students to advanced researchers (including more than a few tenured professors, if we can believe our e-mail). We are particularly thankful to all those users who shared their suggestions for improvement. Because the reception of the first edition was so positive, we wereatfirstuneasyaboutdoingasecond.Wedidn’twanttolose whatever it was thatreaders ofthe firstfound useful. Yet wehad learned some things in the last ten years, and we knew the book had places that could be improved. (Besides, the three of us al- ways hope for the chance to do one more draft of everything we write.) We have cleaned things up in every chapter, cut repetitions, and fixed sentences that were less than felicitous. We have ex- panded our comments on how computers have changed re- search. We have extensively revised the chapterson argument to explain a number of issues more clearly. We have also made a crucialdistinctionthatwemissedinthefirstedition—thediffer- encebetweenreasonsandevidence.(Howwelet thatoneget by, we’ll never know; it is small comfort that few if any other books on research arguments make that distinction either.) We havexiv preface modified what we said about qualifi- ATrueStory cations and rebuttals, which we now As we were preparing call acknowledgment and response. We this second edition, Booth got a call from a have also redone the chapter on the former student who, as visual representation of data. Finally, had all of his students, wehaverearrangedtheorderofchap- been directed again and ters a bit. Throughout, we have tried again by Booth to revise to preserve the tone, the voice, the his work. Now a profes- sense of directness that so many of sionalinhismid-forties, he called to tell Booth you thought was important in the about a dream he had first. We have revised to make things had the night before: better, but sometimes revisions make “You were standing be- them worse. We hope we have made fore Saint Peter at the them better. Pearly Gate, hoping for admission.Helookedat you, hesitant and dubi- OUR DEBTS ous, then finally said, We want again to thank the many ‘Sorry, Booth, we need without whose help the first edition another draft.’” could never have been realized, espe- cially Steve Biegel, JaneAndrew, and Donald Freeman. The chapter on the visual presentation of data wasimprovedsignificantlybythecommentsofJoeHarmonand MarkMonmonier.Wewouldalsoliketothankthosewhohelped usselectandeditthe“AppendixonFindingSources”:JaneBlock, Diane Carothers, Tina Chrzastowski, James Donato, Kristine Fowler, Clara Lopez, Bill McClellan, Nancy O’Brien, Kim Steele, David Stern, Ellen Sutton, and Leslie Troutman. We are also in- debtedtothoseattheUniversityofChicagoPresswho,whenwe agreed to undertake this project almost a decade ago, kept after us until we finally delivered. For this second edition, we’d like to thank those whose thoughtful reviews of the first edition and our early revisions of it helped us see opportunities we would otherwise have missed: Don Brenneis, University of California, Santa Cruz; John Cox, Hope College; John Mark Hansen, University of Chicago; Rich- ardHellie,UniversityofChicago;SusannahHeschel,DartmouthPreface xv College; Myron Marty, Drake University; Robert Sampson, Uni- versityofChicago;JoshuaScodel,UniversityofChicago;W.Phil- lips Shively, University of Minnesota; and Tim Spears, Mid- dlebury College. WearealsogratefultoAlecMacDonaldandSamChafortheir invaluable help tracking down details of all sorts, and to Adam Jerniganforhiscarefulreadingofthemanuscript.Allthreewere quick and reliable. We are again indebted to those at the University of Chicago Press who supported the writing of this revision. From WCB: I am amazed as I think back on my more than fifty years of teaching and research by how many students and colleagues could be cited here as having diminished my igno- rance. Since that list would be too long, I’ll thank mainly my chiefcritic,mywife,Phyllis,forhermanyusefulsuggestionsand careful editing. She and my daughters, Katherine Stevens and AlisonBooth,andtheirchildren,Robin,Emily,andAaron,along with all those colleagues, have helped me combat my occasional despair about the future of responsible inquiry. From GGC: I, too, have been blessed with students and col- leagues who have taught me much—first among them the hun- dreds of grad students who shared with me their learning to be teachers. They, above all, have shown me the possibilities in col- laborative inquiry. What I lean on most, though, are home and family: Sandra, Robin, Karen, and Lauren. Through turbulent timesandcalm,theygavepointandpurposetoitall.Beforethem wasanotherlovingfamily,whosecenter,Mary,stillsetsanexam- ple to which I can only aspire. From JMW: The family has grown since the first edition, and I am ever more grateful for their love and support: Ol, Chris, DaveandPatty,MeganandPhil,JoeandChristine,andnowLily and the twins, Nicholas and Katherine. And at beginning and end, Joan, whose patience, love, and good sense flow still more bountifully than I deserve.I Research, Researchers, and ReadersPrologue starting a research project If you are beginning your first research project, the task may seem overwhelming. How do I find a topic? Where do I find infor- mation on it? What do I do with it when I find it? Even if you have written a research paper in a writing class, the idea of another may be even more intimidating if this time it’s supposed to be the real thing. Even experienced researchers feel anxious when they tackle a new project, especially when it’s of a new kind. So whatever anxiety you may feel, most researchers have felt the same. (It’s a feeling that we three know well.) The difference is that experienced researchers know what lies ahead—hard work, but also the pleasure of the hunt; some frustration, but more satisfaction;periodsofconfusion,butconfidencethat,intheend, it will all come together. MAKING PLANS Experienced researchers also know that research most often comes together when they have a plan, no matter how rough. Beforetheystart,theymaynotknowexactlywhattheyarelooking for, but they know in general what they will need, how to find it, and what it should look like when they do. And once they assemble their materials, they don’t just start writing, any more than competent builders just start sawing: they make a plan— maybe no more than a sketch of an outline, not even on paper. 34 research, researchers, and readers But shrewd researchers don’t let their plan box them in. They change it if they run into a problem or discover in some byway something more interesting that leads in a new direction. But they do start with a plan. A newspaper reporter, for example, follows a plan when she writes her story as an inverted pyramid, putting the salient information first. But she doesn’t do that just for her own benefit, to make her job of drafting easier, but so that readers can find the gist of the news quickly, then decide whether to read on. An accountant knows how to plan an audit report, but that plan also lets investors quickly find the information they need to decide whether the company is an Intel or another Enron. Within these forms, of course, writers are free to take different points of view, emphasize different ideas, and put a personal stamp on their work. But they also know that when they follow a standard plan, they make it easier for them- selves to write and their readers to read efficiently and produc- tively. The aim of this book is to help you create, execute, and if nec- essaryreviseaplanthatletsyounotonlydoyourownbest,most original thinking, but draft a report that meets your readers’ needs and their highest expectations. THE VALUE OF RESEARCH But first a candid question: Why do research at all? Aside from a grade, what’s in it for you? For those new to research, there are immediate and practical benefits. Learning to do research will help you understand the material you cover as no other kind of work can match. You can evaluate what you read most thoughtfully only when you have experiencedtheuncertainandoftenmessyprocessofdoingyour own research. Writing a report of your own will help you under- stand the kind of work that lies behind what you find in your textbooks and what experts tell the public. It lets you experience firsthand how new knowledge depends on which questions arePrologue 5 asked and which aren’t; how the standard forms for presenting research shape the kinds of questions you ask and answers you offer. More distantly, the skills you learn now will be crucial when youdoadvancedworkinwhateverfieldyouchoosetostudy.Even more distantly, the skills of research will pay off long after you leave school, especially in a time aptly named the “Age of Infor- mation” (or, too often, of Misinformation). Sound research re- portedclearlyhasimmensevaluenowthattheInternetandcable flood us with more information than we can absorb, much less evaluate, especially when so much of it is based on research that werelyonatourperil.Andthoughsomemightthinkitidealistic, afinalreasonfordoingresearchisthepleasureitoffersinsolving a puzzle, the satisfaction of discovering something that no one else knows and that contributes to the wealth of human knowl- edge and understanding. Research, though, is not the sort of thing you learn once and for all. Each of the three of us has faced research projects that forced us to take a fresh look at how we do our work. Whenever we’ve addressed our research to a new research community, we’vehadtolearnitsprinciplestohelpusfocusonwhatisimpor- tant to its members. But even then, we could still rely on some common principles that all research communities follow, princi- ples that we describe in this book. We think these principles will be useful not only now but through the years as your circum- stanceschangeandyourresearchassignments(andyourreaders) become increasingly demanding. Butwemustbecandid:Doingresearchcarefullyandreporting itclearlyarehardwork.Theyconsistofmanytasks,oftencompet- ing for your attention at the same time. However carefully you plan, research follows a crooked path, taking unexpected turns, evenloopingbackonitself.Ascomplexasthatprocessis,though, we will work through it step-by-step. When you can manage the parts, you can manage the whole and then look forward to more research with greater confidence.6 research, researchers, and readers Floods of Misinformation Since the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, the U.S. govern- ment has been challenged not only to root out terrorism but to counter bizarre claims that have circulated in the Middle East, es- pecially on the Internet: no Muslims were among the hijackers; Jews had advance notice and stayed home; the attacks were the workoftheCIA.Theseclaimshavebeenwidelybelievedtobetrue, even though no evidence backs them up. Beforewefeelsuperior,however,weshouldrecallsomebizarre stories believed by many Americans: the CIA started the AIDS epi- demictokillhomosexualsandAfricanAmericans;thegovernment still hides the bodies of aliens in Area 51; bar codes are a UN con- spiracy to take over the world. Every society succumbs to outland- ish beliefs, but we all can learn to see through them and to make a case for what we believe is true. It won’t convince everyone, but it might convince some, including ourselves. HOW TO USE THIS BOOK The best way to deal with the complexity of research (and its anxiety) is to read this book twice. First skim it to see what lies before you (skip ahead when you feel confused or bored). Then as you begin your work, read carefully the chapters relevant to the task at hand. If you are wholly new to research, startrereadingfromthebeginning.Ifyouareinanintermediate course but not yet at home in your field, skim part I, then concentrate on the rest. If you consider yourself an experienced researcher, you will probably find chapter 4 and parts III and IV most useful. In part I, we address what those of you undertaking your first project have to think about consciously: why readers expect you to write up your research in particular ways (chapter 1), and why you should think of your project not as solitary work but as a conversationwiththosewhoseworkyoureadandthenwiththose who will read yours (chapter 2). In part II, we discuss how to frame and develop your project. We explainPrologue 7 • how to carve out a topic from an interest, then how to focus and question it (chapter 3); • how to transform those questions into a research problem (chapter 4); • how to find sources to guide the search for answers (chapter 5); • how to use those sources and think through what you find (chapter 6). InpartIII,wediscusshowtoassembleasoundcaseinsupport of your claim. That includes • an overview of the elements of a research argument (chapter 7); • what counts as a significant claim (chapter 8); • what count as good reasons and sound evidence (chapter 9); • why and how you must acknowledge questions, objections, and alternatives and respond to them (chapter 10); • how you justify the logic of your argument (chapter 11). In part IV, we lay out the steps in producing your report: • how to plan and write a first draft (chapter 12); • how to test and revise it (chapter 13); • how to write an introduction and conclusion that convince readers that your report is worth their time (chapter 14); • how to present complex quantitative evidence clearly and pointedly (chapter 15); • how to edit your style to make it clear, direct, and readable (chapter 16). Inanafterword,“TheEthicsofResearch,”wereflectonamat- ter that goes beyond professional competence. Doing and re-8 research, researchers, and readers porting research is a social activity with an ethical dimension. We all know of recent scandals about the dishonest research of historians, scientists, stock analysts, and others, and we see pla- giarism spreading among writers at all levels of achievement, fromsecondaryschoolstudentstothoseatthetopoftheirprofes- sions. Such events emphasize the importance of hard thinking about what constitutes ethical research and its reporting. Betweensomeofthechaptersyouwillfind“QuickTips,”brief sections that complement the chapters. Some Quick Tips are checklists; some discuss additional considerations for advanced students; several address matters not raised in the chapters. But all add something new. At the end of this book, there is a brief survey of recent work in the issues we address in this book, an essay aimed at those who teach research, and a bibliography of sources for beginning researchers and for those getting into particular fields. Research is hard work, but like any challenging job done well, both the process and the results can bring real personal satisfac- tion. No small part of that satisfaction comes from knowing that your work supports and sustains the fabric of your community. That sense of contributing to a community is never more re- warding than when you discover something that you believe can improveyourreaders’livesbychangingwhatandhowtheythink.chapter one Thinking in Print the uses of research, public and private In this chapter, we define research, then discuss how you will benefit from learning to do it well, why we value it, and why we hope you will learn to value it too. Whenever you read about a scientific breakthrough or a crisis in worldaffairs,youbenefitfromtheresearchofthosewhoreported it, who themselves benefited from the research of countless oth- ers. When you stand in the reading room of a library to pursue your own work, you are surrounded by centuries of research. When you log on to the Internet, you have access to millions of research reports. All those reports are the product of researchers whohaveposedendlessquestionsandproblems,gathereduntold amounts of information, worked out answers and solutions, and then shared them with the rest of us. Teachers at all levels devote their lives to research. Govern- ments spend billions on it, and businesses even more. Research goesoninlaboratoriesandlibraries,injunglesandoceandepths, in caves and in outer space. It stands behind every new technol- ogy, product, or scientific discovery—and most of the old ones. Research is in fact the world’s biggest industry. Those who can- not reliably do research or evaluate the research of others will find themselves on the sidelines in a world that increasingly de- pends on sound ideas based on good information produced by trustworthy inquiry. In fact, research reported by others, in writing, is the source of most of what we all believe. Of your three authors, only Wil- liams has ever set foot in Australia, but Booth and Colomb are 910 research, researchers, and readers certain that it exists, because for a lifetime they have read about it in reports they trust and seen it on reliable maps (and heard about it from Williams). None of us has been to Venus, but we believethat itishot, dry,andmountainous.Why? Becausethat’s what we’ve read in reports we trust. Whenever we “look some- thing up,” our research depends on the research of others. But we can trust their research only if we can trust that they did it carefully and reported it accurately. 1.1 WHAT IS RESEARCH? In the broadest terms, everyone does research: we all gather in- formation to answer a question that solves a problem. You do it every day. PROBLEM: You need a new head gasket for a ’65 Mustang. RESEARCH: You call auto parts stores or get on the Internet to see who has one in stock. PROBLEM: You want to know where Michael Jordan was born. RESEARCH: You go to the library and look in a biographical dic- tionary. Or you call up and then sort through the 410,000 references to him. PROBLEM: You want to learn more about a discovery of a new species of tropical fish. RESEARCH: You search the Internet for articles in newspapers or magazines. Though we all do that kind of research, we don’t all write it up. But we do rely on those who did: the auto parts suppliers, Jordan’s biographers, and the fish discoverers—all wrote up the results of their research because they anticipated that one day someone would have a question that their data would answer. Infact,withouttrustworthyandtestedpublishedresearchavail- able to all of us, we would be locked in the opinions of the mo- ment, either prisoners of what we alone experience or dupes to everything we hear. Of course, we all want to believe that our opinions are sound; yet mistaken ideas, even dangerous ones,Thinking in Print 11 flourish because too many people accept too many opinions on notvery goodevidence. Andthosewho acton unsoundopinions can lead themselves, and others, to disaster. Just ask the thou- sandswhoinvestedinthefailedenergygiantEnronbecausethey heard so many good opinions of it from analysts and the media. Only after Enron’s deceptive bookkeeping was exposed and ana- lyzedinwritingdidtheyseehowthosehighopinionswerebased on bad, sometimes even faked research. That’s why in this book we will urge you to be amiably skepti- cal of most of the research you read, to question it, even as you realize how thoroughly you depend on it. Are we three authors 100 percent drop-dead certain that reports of Venus being hot, dry, and mountainous are true? No, but we trust the researchers whohavepublishedreportsaboutit,aswellastheeditors,review- ers,andskepticalreaderswhohavetestedthosereportsandpub- lished their own results. So we’ll go on thinking that Venus is hot and dry until other researchers report better evidence, tested by other researchers, that shows us otherwise. If you are reading this book because a teacher has assigned you a research project, you might be tempted to treat it as just a choreor anempty exercise.We hopeyou won’t.Youhave practi- cal reasons to take the work seriously: you will learn skills that pay off in almost any career you choose. Beyond that, your proj- ect invites you to join the oldest and most esteemed of human conversations,onethathasbeenconductedformillenniaamong philosophers, engineers, biologists, social scientists, historians, literary critics, linguists, theologians—the list of researchers is endless. Right now, you may feel that the conversation seems one- sided, that you have to listen more than you can speak, and that in any event you have little to contribute. That may be true for themoment.Butatsomepointyouwillbeaskedtojoinaconver- sation that, at its best, can help you and your community free yourselvesfromignorance,prejudice,misunderstanding,andthe half-baked ideas that so many charlatans try to impose on us. The world changes every day because of research, not always for12 research, researchers, and readers the better. But done well, research is crucial to improving every facet of our lives. It is no exaggeration to say that your research and your reports of it can improve perhaps not the whole world, but at least your corner of it. 1.2 WHY WRITE IT UP? For some of you, though, the invitation to join the conversation of research may still seem easy to decline. If you undertake it, youwillfacedemandingtasksinfindingagoodquestion,search- ing for sound data, finding and supporting a good answer, and then writing it all up. Even if you turn out a first-rate report, it willlikelybereadnotbyaneagerworld,butonlybyyourteacher. And, besides, you may think, my teacher knows all about my topic. If she just told me the answers or pointed me to the right books, I could concentrate on learning what’s in them. What do I gain from writing up my research, other than proving I can do it? Here are some answers. 1.2.1 Write to Remember Researchers write up what they find just to remember it. A few lucky people can retain information without recording it, but most of us get lost when we think about what Smith found in light of Wong’s position, and compare both to the odd data in Brunelli,especiallyastheyaresupportedbyBoskowitz—Butwait aminute.I’veforgottenwhatSmithsaidMostresearcherscanplan andconducttheirprojectonlywiththehelpofwriting—bylisting sources, assembling research summaries, keeping lab notes, making outlines, and so on. What you don’t write down you are likely to forget or, worse, to misremember. That’s why careful researchersdon’twaituntilthey’vegatheredalltheirdatatostart writing: they write from the beginning of their project so that they can hold as much of it in their minds as clearly as they can. 1.2.2 Write to Understand A second reason for writing is to understand. When you arrange and rearrange the results of your research in new ways, you dis-Thinking in Print 13 cover new connections, contrasts, complications, and implica- tions. Even if you could hold in mind everything you found, you wouldneedhelptolineupargumentsthatpullindifferentdirec- tions, plot out complicated relationships, sort out disagreements among experts. I want to use these claims from Wong, but her argu- ment is undercut by Smith’s data. When I compare them, I see that Smith ignores this last part of Wong’s argument. Aha If I introduce it with this part from Brunelli, I can focus on the part of Wong’s argument that lets me question Smith. Writing supports thinking, not just by helping you understand better what you have found, but by helping you find in it larger patterns of meaning. 1.2.3 Write to Gain Perspective The basic reason for writing, though, is to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, where you can see them in the clearer light of print, a light that is always brighter and usually less flattering. Just about all of us, students and professionals alike, think our ideas are more coherent in the dark warmth of our minds than they turn out to be in the cold light of day. You improve your thinking when you encourage it with notes, out- lines, summaries, commentary, and other forms of thinking on paper. But you can’t know what you really can think until you separatespecificideasfromtheswiftandmuddyflowofthought and fix them in an organized, coherent form. In short, you should write so that you can remember more ac- curately, understand better, and see what you think more clearly. (Andasyouwilldiscover,thebetteryouwrite,themorecritically you will read.) 1.3 WHY A FORMAL REPORT? Even if you agree that writing is an important part of learning, thinking, and understanding, some of you may still wonder why you can’t write it your own way, why you must satisfy the formal constraints imposed by a research community, particularly one that you may not yet belong to (or even want to). The constraints imposedbywritingforothersoftenvexstudentswhobelievethey14 research, researchers, and readers havenoreasontoconformtothepracticesofaconversationthey did nothing to create. I don’t see why I should adopt language and formsthatarenotmine.What’swrongwithmyownlanguage?Aren’t you just trying to turn me into an academic like yourself? If I write as my teachers expect me to, I risk losing my own identity. Such concerns are legitimate (students should raise them more often). But it would be a feeble education that did not changeyouatall,andthedeeperyoureducation,themoreitwill change the “you” that you think you are, or want to be. That’s why it is so important to choose carefully what you study and with whom. But it would be a mistake to think that learning to write sound research reports must threaten your true identity. Learning to do research will not turn you into a clone of your teachers.Itwillchangethewayyouthink,butonlybygivingyou more ways of thinking. You may be different, but you will also be freer to choose who you want to be and what you want to do next. Perhaps the most important reason for learning to report re- search in ways readers expect is that you learn more about your ideas and about yourself by testing them against the standards andvaluesofothers.Writingforothersdemandsmorefromyou than writing for yourself. By the time you fix your ideas in writ- ing, they are so familiar to you that you need help to see them not for what you want them to be but for what they really are. You reach that end only by imagining, and then meeting, the needsandexpectationsofothers:youcreateakindoftransaction between you and your readers—what we like to call a rhetorical community. That’s why traditional forms and plans are more than empty vessels into which you pour your findings. Those forms have evolved to help writers see their ideas in the brighter light of their readers’ expectations and understanding. You will under- stand your own work better when you explicitly try to antici- pate your readers’ questions: How have you evaluated your evi- dence? Why do you think it is relevant? How do your claims add up? What ideas have you considered but rejected? How can youThinking in Print 15 respond to your readers’ predictable questions, reservations, and ob- jections? All researchers can recall a moment when writing to meet their readers’ expectations revealed a flaw or a blunder, or even a great opportunity that escaped them in a first draft writ- ten for themselves. Traditional forms embody the shared practices and values of aresearchcommunity,mattersthatcontributetotheidentitynot only of that community but of each of its members. Whatever community you join, you’ll be expected to show that you under- stand its practices by reporting your research in ways that have evolved to communicate it. Once you know the standard forms, you’ll have a better idea about your particular community’s pre- dictable questions and understand better what its members care about, and why. But what counts as good work is the same in all of them, regardless of whether it is in the academic world or the worldofgovernment,commerce,ortechnology.Ifyoulearntodo researchwellnow,yougainanimmenseadvantage,regardlessof the kind of research you will do later. 1.4 CONCLUSION Writing a research report is, finally, thinking in print, but think- ing from the point of view of your readers. When you write with others in mind, you give your ideas the critical attention they need and deserve. You disentangle them from your memories andwishes,sothatyou—andothers—canexplore,expand,com- bine,andunderstandthemmorefully.Thinkinginwrittenform for others can be more careful, more sustained, more attuned to those with different views—more thoughtful—than just about any other kind of thinking. You can, of course, choose the less demanding path: do just enough to satisfy your teacher. This book can help you do that. But you will shortchange yourself if you do. If instead you find atopicthatyoucareabout,askaquestionthatyouwanttoanswer, yourprojectcanhavethefascinationofamysterywhosesolution rewards your efforts in finding it. Nothing contributes more to a successful research project than your commitment to it.16 research, researchers, and readers We wish we could tell you how to balance your belief in the worthofyourprojectwiththeneedtoaccommodatethedemands of teachers and colleagues, but we cannot. If you believe in what you’redoingandcannotfindanyoneelsewhosharesyourbelief, all you can do is put your head down and press on. With our admiration. Some of the world’s most important research has been done by those who persevered in the face of indifference or even hostility, because they never lost faith in their vision. The geneticist Barbara McClintock struggled for years unappreciated because her re- search community considered her work uninteresting. But she be- lieved in it and pressed on. When her colleagues finally realized that she had already answered questions that they were just start- ing to ask, she won science’s highest honor, the Nobel Prize.chapter two Connecting with Your Reader (re)creating your self and your audience Your research counts for little if no one reads it. Yet even experienced researchers sometimes forget to keep their readers in mind as they plan and draft. In this chapter we show you how to think about readers as you begin your research. We also explain one of the best ways to antici- pate how readers will respond—working in collaboration with others. Most of the important things we do, we do with others. Some students think that research is different: they imagine a solitary scholarreadingaloneinahushedlibraryorpeeringintoamicro- scopesurroundedonlybyglasswareandcomputers.Butnoplace is more filled with voices than a library or lab. Even when you work alone, you silently converse with others when you read a bookorcallupawebsite.Everytimeyougotoasourceforinfor- mation, you renew a relationship between writers and readers that may be centuries old. And when you report your own re- search, you can hope that other voices will respond to yours, so that you can in turn respond to them. And so it goes. But conversation is a social activity. Both sides have to under- stand what each expects of the other, what “social role” each is expectedtoplay.Andthat’sespeciallytruewhentheconversation is in writing and among professional colleagues. 2.1 CREATING ROLES FOR WRITERS AND READERS When we talk with others in person, we judge them by how well they play the roles expected of them: do they listen carefully, make claims thoughtfully, answer questions directly? It’s the same when you read: Hmmm, Abrams is modest but not careful aboutthisevidence.Quincyhasgooddatabutovergeneralizes.(Right 1718 research, researchers, and readers now,wethreeexpectthatyouarejudging us.)Butjustasincon- versation, these judgments go both ways: readers judge a writer, but a thoughtful writer has in advance also judged her readers, by imagining who they are, what they are like, what they know, what they need and want. And then she uses that judgment to shape what she writes. Forexample,thewriterofthesenexttwopassagesjudgedthat she was addressing readers with different levels of knowledge about the chemistry of heart muscles. So she imagined herself in very different relationships with them: 1a. The control of cardiac irregularity by calcium blockers can best be explained through an understanding of the calcium acti- vation of muscle groups. The regulatory proteins actin, myosin, tropomyosin, and troponin make up the sarcomere, the basic unit of muscle contraction. 1b. Cardiac irregularity occurs when the heart muscle contracts uncontrollably. When a muscle contracts, it uses calcium, so we can control cardiac irregularity with drugs called calcium block- ers. To understand how they work, it is first necessary to under- stand how calcium influences muscle contraction. The basic unit of muscle contraction is the sarcomere. It consists of four pro- teins that regulate contraction: they are actin, myosin, tropomyo- sin, and troponin. In (1a) the writer seems to cast herself and her readers in the rolesofequallyknowledgeableexpertcolleagues;in(1b)shecasts herreaderassomeonewhoknowsnothingaboutthesubjectand herself as the patient expert, slowly explaining a complicated is- sue. If she judged correctly, her readers will judge her favorably. But when a writer miscasts readers, she can lose their trust and often their willingness to read. Had she switched audiences for those passages, the nonexpert would likely think (1a) indifferent to his needs and her expert colleagues would judge (1b) to be condescendingly simpleminded.Connecting with Your Reader 19 In fact, writers cannot avoid creating a role for their readers. That’s why, in writing this book, we tried to imagine you—what you’relike,whatyouknowaboutresearch,whetheryouevencare about it. We cast you in a role, created a persona for you that we hopedyouwouldcomfortablyadopt.Thenweimaginedourselves in our own persona, talking to the “you” that we imagined you would be willing to be. That was not easy, because there are so many “you’s” out there, all different.We hoped to speak as com- fortablytothoseofyoustartingyourfirstseriousresearchproject as to those well into your careers. Only you can judge how well we’ve managed to talk to and with all of you. Thesepersonasandtherelationshipyoucreatewithyourown readers are so important that they are worth thinking about well beforeyouenvisionafirstdraft.Ifyoumiscastreaders,yourmis- take will leave in your early drafts so many traces that you won’t easily fix them in the final one. 2.2 CREATING A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR READER: YOUR ROLE Few people read research reports just for fun. So you have to know what you can offer readers to create a relationship that makesthem wanttoread yourreport.Beginning researcherstoo often offer a relationship that caricatures a bad classroom ex- change: Teacher, I know so much less than you, who will give me a grade. So my role is to show you how much information I dug up, and yours is to decide whether I’ve found enough. That’s a big mis- take. Not only does it demean both you and your teacher, but it makes your project just one long, pointless drill. Worst of all, it casts you in a role exactly opposite to that of a true researcher. In a research report, you have to reverse the roles of teacher andstudent. Asaresearcher, youhaveto adopttheroleofsome- onewhoknowswhatothersneedtoknowandtocastyourreader as someone who doesn’t know but needs to. That will be easier if you find a research question that you want to answer and your teacher can’t, without your help. (In fact, your teacher is likely to know less than you about your specific question.) But even if20 research, researchers, and readers not, you have to step into the kind of relationship researchers have with their readers, one that goes beyond Here are the facts I’ve dug up about medieval Tibetan weaving. Did I get them right? So your first step in establishing a sound research relationship with readers is to offer them more than a collection of known facts. There are three such offers that experienced researchers typically make; the third is most common in academic research. As you begin, imagine that you will offer and your readers will accept one of the three following relationships, but most likely the third. 2.2.1 I’ve Found Something Really Interesting You take a step beyond mere data-grubbing when you can say to yourreaders,LetmesharesomeinformationaboutmedievalTibetan weaving that I think is really interesting. If you have learned some- thing that interests you and you can demonstrate that interest in your report, that’s the best start you can make in learning to do sound research. In an introductory writing course, the interest you seem to take in your work will roughly predict the interest your teacher will take in it. Ideally, of course, you want her to be as interested in Tibetan weaving as you are, and if you are in a class in Asian art, she may be. But even if not, you still have to cast yourself in the role of someone who has found something interesting, maybe even new and important, at least to yourself, and to cast your reader in the role of someone equally interested. As you become more experienced,you’ll alsoberesponsiblefor actuallyfinding anau- dience who shares those interests. But at the start, you must at least find a role for yourself that shows your own interest, even enthusiasm for what you’ve found. 2.2.2 I’ve Found a Solution to a Practical Problem Important to You You take a bigger step toward focused research when you can imagine saying to readers not just I have information that might interest you, but My information will help you solve a problem you care about. That is the kind of research that people in business,Connecting with Your Reader 21 commerce, and government do every day. They confront prob- lems whose solutions require research, first just to understand them, and then to figure out how to solve them, problems rang- ing from homelessness to falling profits to terrorism. To help you learn that role, teachers sometimes invent “real world” scenarios: an environmental science professor might as- signyoutowriteareportforthedirectorofthestateEnvironmen- tal Protection Agency on what to do about cleaning up toxins in a local lake. In this scenario you are not a student dumping data on a teacher, but someone who must play the role of a scientist giving practical, pragmatic advice to someone who needs it. To make your report credible, you have to play the role of a dispas- sionate expert, able to use the right terminology, cite the right sources, find and present hard evidence, and so on. But most of all,youhavetodesignyourreportaroundaspecificintentionthat shapes your role: to advise a reader about what he must do to solve his problem. That kind of research report is common in the world at large, but is much less common in the academic world than the following one. 2.2.3 I’ve Found an Answer to a Question Important to You Althoughacademicresearcherssometimesofferadvicetopeople likeEPAdirectors,theirmostcommonroleisthatofthescholar, someone who answers questions so that a research community can simply understand its area of special interest better. Others might later use those answers to solve a practical problem—an arcane discovery about the distribution of prime numbers, for example, helped cryptologists design an unbreakable code. But theresearchitselfaimedprimarilyatsolvingnotapracticalprob- lem, but a conceptual one, one defined by incomplete knowledge or flawed understanding. Some researchers call this “pure” as opposed to “applied” research. Teachers occasionally invent “real world” scenarios based on conceptualproblems:apoliticalscienceprofessorasksyoutoplay theroleofasenator’sinternresearchingtheeffectofTVonchil- dren’s intellectual growth. But more typically they expect you to22 research, researchers, and readers imagine yourself as what you are learning to be—a researcher who can address an academic research community interested in a question that its members want to understand better. Your re- port on medieval Tibetan weaving, for example, might help ex- plainsomelargerquestionnotentirelyunderstood,perhapshow medieval Tibetan art influenced modern Chinese art. 2.3 CREATING THE OTHER HALF OF THE RELATIONSHIP: THE READER’S ROLE When you adopt one of those three roles, you create one half of the relationship between you and your readers. You create the other half when you write in a way that casts your readers in a complementary role, one giving them a specific reason to read your report. To do that, you have to imagine them as the kind of readers who expect you to do what you in fact intend to do. In creating those roles, you offer your readers a social contract: I’ll do my part if you do yours. If you cast them in a role that they accept, but then you create one for yourself that doesn’t match, youseemnottobeupholdingyourendofthebargain.Butifyou offer them a role they are unwilling to adopt, you are likely to lose them entirely. For example, suppose you are a researcher who is an expert on blimps and zeppelins. You have been invited to share your researchwiththreedifferentgroupsthathavethreedifferentrea- sons for wanting to know what you know. 2.3.1 Entertain Me with Something Interesting I Didn’t Know Imagine that the first group that has invited you to speak is the local Zeppelin Club. Its members are fascinated with zeppelins, andthoughtheyknowalotaboutthem,theyarenotexperts,just ordinary folk who have made zeppelins their hobby. You decide tosharesomenewfactsyou’vedugupandtotellanentertaining taleortwo.YoureadaletterfromGreat-UncleOttotoyourfather describing a trip on a zeppelin in 1936, and you pass around some photographs and menus he saved. In planning that report, you judge that not much is at stakeConnecting with Your Reader 23 in it other than a diverting hour of zeppelin lore. If so, you fulfill your side of the bargain when you tell them something about zeppelins that is new and interesting to them, even unsubstanti- ated folklore—and you don’t bring along overheads, data tables, or footnotes to substantiate your sources. Your audience fulfills its role by listening with interest, maybe by sharing their own anecdotes. You don’t expect them to challenge the authenticity of the letter or the menu or ask skeptical questions about how the photos andmenus should change their widerunderstanding of the social history of zeppelins. Somebeginningresearchersimaginetheirreadersarelikethe Zeppelin Club—eager to hear any information new to them. While that sometimes works for experts who find the right audi- ence (see the box below), it rarely works for students learning to do and report research. Your teachers assign you research proj- ects to see not just what you can find, but what you can make of it. 2.3.2 Help Me Solve a Practical Problem Now imagine that you have been invited to meet with the public relations department of They suffer from low name recognition and want to use a blimp to get their logo before the public, flying it at sporting events, outdoor concerts, and other large gatherings. But they don’t know whether that’s a practical solution. So they have hired you asa consultant to tellthem how much it will cost, how many days the weather is good enough to fly, and so on. For this group, you won’t mention what Great- UncleOtto hadfordinner onhiszeppelin flightin1936. Tosuc- ceed in this relationship, you mustoffer them a solution to their problem and only those facts that back it up. That is the kind of situation you are likely to face if you have ajoborinternship,orifyourteachercreatesoneofthosescenar- ios for a “real world” writing assignment—you are an environ- mental scientist advising the state EPA about the polluted lake. Academicresearchersdosometimeswriteonpracticalproblems, butconceptualonesarefarmorecommon,eveninapplieddisci-24 research, researchers, and readers plines like engineering. So pose a practical problem only if your teacher has created a specific scenario for one or you have checked with her first. (We’ll discuss practical problems in more detail in the next chapter.) 2.3.3 Help Me Understand Something Better NowimaginethatyouraudienceisthefacultyofZeppoUniversi- ty’sDepartmentofLighter-than-AirStudies(withthesamestand- ing as, say, your departments of English or physics). They study thehistoryofblimpsandzeppelins,doresearchontheireconom- ics and aerodynamics, and participate in a worldwide conversa- tion about their cultural history and social significance. They competewithoneanotherinproducingnewknowledgeandnew lighter-than-airtheoriesthattheypublishinlighter-than-airjour- nals and books read by everyone in their field. These scholars have invited you to talk about your specialty: transatlantic zeppelin flights in the late 1930s. They don’t want you just to amuse them (though they will be happy if you do) or to help them do something (though they would be pleased to learn how to get consulting work with What they most want is for you to tell them something they don’t know about zeppelins, not just for its own sake, but so that they can better understand something new about them. Because these lighter-than-air scholars are interested in the Truthaboutzeppelins,youknowtheywillexpectyoutobeobjec- tive, rigorously logical, faithful to the evidence, able to see every questionfromallsides.Youalsoknowthatifyoudon’tnaildown thefacts,theywillhammeryouduringthequestionperiodafter- ward and during cocktails after that, not just to be contentious or even nasty (though some will be), but to get as close as they can to the Truth about zeppelins. If you offer something new, likeGreat-UncleOtto’smenus,theywillwanttoknowwhereand howyougotthem,andhowthoseitemscontributetotheirunder- standing of the topic. And to be sure they’re the real thing, they willquestionyoucloselyabouthowyouknowtheyareauthentic. Moreimportant,theywilltakeaninterestinthosemenusonlyConnecting with Your Reader 25 ifyoucanshowthemhowtheyhelpansweraquestionimportant to their understanding of zeppelins, especially if you can con- vince them that they do not understand something about zeppe- lins as well as they thought. If you don’t, they will ask you the mostvexingquestionofall,Sowhat?WhyshouldIcareaboutyour menus? So you begin your talk: As we all have been led to believe by a number of studies on the food service on transatlantic zeppelin flights in the 1930s (espe- cially Schmidt 1986 and Kloepfer 1998), shellfish and other highly perishable items were never served because of fears re- garding health. However, I have recently discovered a menu from the July 12, 1936, crossing of the Hindenburg indicating that oysters were served at dinner. . . . That is the kind of conversation you join when you report re- search to a community of scholars, whether lighter-than-air or not. When you enter into this relationship with them, you must imagine them having this conversation with you in their minds: Never mind whether your style is graceful (though I will admire your work more if it is); don’t bother me with amusing anecdotes about your great-uncle Otto (though I like hearing them if they help me understand your ideas better); ignore whether what you know will make me rich (though I would be happy if it did). Just tell me some- thing that I don’t know so that I can better understand the topic of our common interest. Sinceyourparticularreaderswillbestronglyinclinedtoadopt this third role, they will think you have fulfilled your side of the bargain only when you meet their expectations and answer their questions, only when you treat them as who they think they are. To be sure, the faculty over in chemistry or philosophy probably won’t care much about your views on zeppelins, much less their meal service. Who cares about the trivia they study over in the Lighter-than-AirDepartment?Butthenyoudon’thavemuchinter- est in theirissues, either. You are concernedwith your particular communityofreaders,withtheirparticularinterestsandexpecta-26 research, researchers, and readers tions. The trick is to get your research community to recognize and accept not only the role you’ve adopted for yourself, but the roleyouhavecastforthem—whichmeansyoufirsthavetolearn what kinds of roles they are willing to play. Several of the follow- ing chapters show you how to do that. Who Cares about That? Academic researchers are regularly chided for their esoteric inter- ests. That charge is usually unfair, but some researchers do seem to have a blinkered fascination with narrow objects of study. Wil- liams once attended the dissertation defense of a Ph.D. candidate who had discovered reels and reels of silent film shot by European anthropologistsin AfricaandAsiain theearlypart ofthetwentieth century. No one had known that those films existed. These new data fascinated most of the examiners, film scholars who never questioned their worth. But when Williams asked, “But how does this discovery improve or even correct our understanding of mov- ies then or now?” the candidate had no answer. She merely de- scribed again the specific content of the films, concluding, “And noonehaseverseenthisfootagebefore.”Williamsaskedhisques- tionindifferentwaysbutnevergotabetteranswer.Thefilmschol- ars, on the other hand, were untroubled, because they, no doubt, were already thinking about how the footage might change their thinking about early film. Besides, they all love the movies. So sometimesnewdataaloneareenoughtointeresttherightreaders. But if that candidate hopes to write a research report that gets anyone but a small group of specialists to care about her work, she will have to make an offer better than Here’s some new stuff. 2.4 WRITING IN GROUPS One of the best ways to see how the reader-writer relationship works in person is to share your writing in an organized group. Agroupisbetteratanticipatingwhatyourintendedreaderswill expectandatpredictingtheirresponses.Agroupcanalsobemore critical of its collective work than any individual can. Moreover, a groupcanbringmoreresourcestobearonaprojectthansomeone working alone. So if your teacher does not set up writing groups, ask her to consider doing so. Or form a group on your own. AtConnecting with Your Reader 27 the least, recruit some friends to respond to your drafts as surro- gate readers. (If you are trapped into working entirely alone, skip to 2.5, p. 30.) 2.4.1 Three Keys for Working Together Successfully TALK A LOT. Create conditions that get you talking a lot. Set regular meeting times, share e-mail addresses and fax numbers: do what you can to ensure that you talk regularly. At your first meeting, work on telling your “elevator story”—how you would describe your project to a stranger in an elevator as it goes from the first to the twentieth floor. It should describe your question or problem, the kind of claim you expect to offer, and the kind of evidence that supports it. Practice your elevator story at every meeting (even with outside friends), until you can explain your projectinawaythateveryonethinksisclearandinteresting.(You will find the next two chapters particularly useful for this.) You should also talk about your intended readers. What do they know already, what is important to them, what do you want them to do with your report? Use our checklists to share ideas aboutreaders(pp.32–33),toaskquestionssystematically(pp.45– 49),andtoreformulatethemasaproblem(pp.49–52).Themore your group talks together, the better you will write together. You will need to talk less if (like the three of us) you have already worked together and can anticipate how the others think. Yet in writing this book, we three still made scores of phone calls, ex- changed hundreds of e-mail messages, and sat together a dozen times (sometimes traveling hundreds of miles to do so). AGREE TO DISAGREE. Don’t expect to agree 100 percent on every issue. You will differ over particulars, sometimes heatedly. Inresolvingthosedifferences,yourgroupcandoitsbestthinking if everyone is explicit about what each believes and why. On the other hand, nothing impedes progress more than someone’s in- sisting on his wording or on including only her data. If the first rule of writing in a group is to talk a lot, the second is to keep disagreements in perspective. When you disagree over minor is- sues with little impact on the whole, forget it.28 research, researchers, and readers ORGANIZE AND PLAN. The group should appoint a modera- tor, facilitator, coordinator, organizer—the job has different names and can either rotate or be permanently assigned. That person keeps track of the schedule, checks progress, moderates discussions, and when the group seems deadlocked, decides which way to go. Someone else should maintain a common out- linethatisupdatedregularly,firstasatopicoutline(p.187),then as an outline of your argument (p. 139), and finally an outline of your points (p. 188). If your project needs lots of data, someone should maintain a schedule to gather them and a list of sources consultedandstilltobeconsulted,annotatedbyhowusefuleach source has been or might be. Everyone can stay up to speed if your updated outlines, notes on sources, and comments are put up on a website available to all. 2.4.2 Three Strategies for Working in Groups Groupscanorganizetheirworkinthreeways,eachofwhichhas benefits and risks. Most groups combine these strategies. DIVIDE AND DELEGATE. This strategy works best when tasks are parceled out to make best use of the special talents of each member.Agroupworkingonasurvey,forexample,mightdecide thattwopeoplearegoodatgatheringdata,twoothersatanalyzing them and producing graphics, two more at drafting, and all will take a turn at revising. (Working on this revision, for example, oneofus—ofcourse,theyoungest—wasassignedresponsibility for explaining how to use the Internet.) This strategy crucially depends on each member finishing tasks on time. If one fails, all fail. A risky strategy is to assign whole sections of a document to differentmemberstoresearch,draft,andrevise.Thatworksonly when the parts of a report are independent, but even then some- onehastomakethepartshangtogether,andthatcanbedifficult ifmembershavefailedtoconsultalongtheway.And,ifonefails to meet a deadline, all fail. WORK SIDE BY SIDE. Some groups share all the work all the way. This works best with a small, tightly knit group working onConnecting with Your Reader 29 a clearly defined project with ample time, like four engineering studentsdevotingasemestertoonedesignproject.Thedisadvan- tage is that some people are uncomfortable talking about half- formed ideas before they work them out in writing. Others find it even more difficult to share drafts. To follow this strategy, membersmustbetolerantwithoneanother.Toooften,themost confident person ignores the feelings of others, dominates the process, and blocks progress. TAKETURNS. Onceallthedatahavebeengatheredandanout- line agreed on, some groups take turns drafting and revising, so that a text slowly evolves toward a final version. This strategy works when differences among members complement rather thancontradictoneanother.Forexample,inagroupworkingon a history of stories about the Alamo, one person might be inter- ested in the clash of cultures, another in political consequences, and a third in therole ofnarrative in popular culture. After shar- ing what they find, they take turns working on the whole draft. One writer does a rough draft with enough structure so that oth- ers can see the shape of the argument. Each member in turn takesoverthedraft,addingideasthatseemimportant.Thegroup must agree that the person working on the draft “owns” it while she has it and can change it however she wishes, so long as the changes reflect a common understanding of the main point the whole project supports. This approach runs two risks. First, the final draft might zig- zag from one interest to another. A group that works by turns mustagreeonafinalgoalandshapeofthewhole,andeachmem- ber must respect the perspectives of the others. Second, you can lose track of who has revised what version of a draft. To avoid confusion,round-robinthedraftssothatonlyonepersoniswork- ing on any one part of a draft at any one time and it is clear who gets the draft next. Some groups use different strategies at different stages. In early planning, they work side by side until they form a general sense of their problem, then for data-gathering, they divide up thework,thentaketurnsforrevision.That’swhatwedidinwrit-30 research, researchers, and readers ing this book. Early on, we worked side by side until we had an outline,thenassignedourselvesseparatechapters.Whenthepro- cess stalled,we workedside byside againto reviseour plan(that happened three times). Most often, though, each of us drafted individual chapters, then circulated drafts round-robin style. As aresult,allofthechaptersdifferfromtheonesoriginallydrafted, most quite a bit. Whatever your strategy, the greatest risk is lack of coordina- tion, so be clear who is supposed to do what and when. Then write it down and give everyone a copy. Working in groups is hard work, and it can be especially hard on the ego, but it can also reward those willing to listen to the sometimes harsh but usually helpful judgment of others. 2.5 MANAGING THE UNAVOIDABLE PROBLEM OF INEXPERIENCE All researchers start as novices. We all face the uneasiness of tryingto establishourselves in a field whose basicrules we don’t fully understand, much less all the subtle and unspoken rules that go into acting and writing like a member of our research community.Then,muchtooursurprise,wefeelthatnoviceanxi- ety again when we begin a new project on a topic that we don’t know much about. We three authors have felt those anxieties, not just starting out, but long after our hair had grayed. No one can avoid feeling overwhelmed and anxious at times, but there are some things you can do about it: • First, be aware that there are uncertainties and anxieties that you cannot avoid. You can learn something about them from a first quick reading of this book. Get over those you can, but don’t hold it against yourself when you feel anx- ious. It is not a sign of incompetence but of inexperience. • Second, get control over your topic by writing about it along the way. Don’t just retype or photocopy sources: write sum- maries, critiques, questions. The more you write as you go, no matter how sketchily, the more confidently you will face that intimidating first draft.Connecting with Your Reader 31 • Third, understand the whole process by breaking it into manageable steps, but be aware that those steps are mutu- ally supportive. Once you find a topic and formulate a good question, you’ll draft and revise more effectively. Conversely, if you anticipate how you will draft and revise, you can more effectively find a problem now. • Fourth, count on your teacher to understand your struggles. Good teachers want you to succeed, and you can expect their help. (If they don’t help, look for other mentors whom you might consult.) Finally, setrealistic goals.You dosomething significantwhen youwindupyourprojectfeelingthatyouhavechangedwhat you think and that your readersthink you did it soundly, even if they don’t agree. Most important, recognize the struggle for what it is—alearningexperience. Toovercometheproblemsthat allbe- ginners face, do what successful researchers do, especially when discouraged:presson,confidentthatitwillturnoutOK.Perhaps only “OK—considering.” But perhaps even better than OK.A Checklist for Understanding Your Readers Think about your readers from the start, knowing that you’ll un- derstand them better as you work through your project. Answer these questions early on, then revisit them when you start plan- ning and again when revising. 1. Who will read my report? • Professionals? • General readers who are well informed? • General readers who know little about the topic? 2. Do they expect me to do what I intend to do? Should I • entertain them? • provide new factual knowledge? • help them understand something better? • help them do something to solve a practical problem in the world? 3. How much can I expect them to know? • What do they know about my topic? • What special interest do they have in it? • What are they likely to expect me to discuss? • Is the problem one that they already recognize? • Is it one that they have but haven’t yet recognized? • Is the problem not theirs, but only mine? 32Quick Tip: A Checklist 33 • Will they automatically take the problem seriously, or must I labor to convince them that it matters? 4. How will readers respond to the solution/answer in my main claim? • Will it contradict what they already believe? How? • Will they know some standard arguments against my so- lution? • Will they want to see the steps that led me to the solu- tion? • Do they expect my report to follow a standard format? If so, what is it?II Asking Questions, Finding AnswersPrologue planning your project If you’ve skimmed this book once, you’re ready to begin your project. If you already have a question and know how to answer it, review the next two chapters; then before you start drafting, read the remaining chapters carefully. If, on the other hand, you are starting from scratch, with no clear direction, not even an assigned topic, you may feel bewildered. But you can manage if you have a plan to guide you through your project, one step at a time. Unfortunately, no plan can lead you straight to that finished report. Early on you may have to spend time reading randomly just to discover what interests you. You may wander up blind alleys or lose yourself in heaps of data. But if you have a plan, it canguideyouthroughthatconfusion(orevenhelpyouavoidit). Your first four steps in planning are these: 1. Find a topic specific enough to let you master a reasonable amount of information on it: not, for example, the history of scientific writing, but essays in the Proceedings of the Royal Soci- ety (1675–1750) as precursors to the modern scientific article; not doctors in seventeenth-century drama, but Molie`re’s mockery of doctors in his early plays. 2. Ask questions about that topic until you find some that catch your interest. For example, How did early Royal Society 3738 asking questions, finding answers authors guarantee the reliability of their evidence? Or, How do the differences between their procedures and modern ones reflect differences in the social structure of science? Or, Why were doc- ` tors objects of Moliere’s mockery? 3. Determine what kind of evidence that your readers will ex- pect in support of your answer. For example, will they ac- cept data from secondary sources, or will they expect you to consult primary sources as well? Will they expect quantita- tive data or quotations from authorities? 4. Determine whether you can find sources that have those data. Once you see inthe data that you find at leasta plausible answer to your question, you’ll be ready to start shaping your materials intoanargument(thesubjectofpartIII),thentodraftandrevise it (the subjects of part IV). Expect to do lots of writing along the way. Much of it will be routine note-taking, but you should also spend time writing to understand: make preliminary outlines; disagree with what you have read; draw diagrams to connect disparate facts; summarize sources, positions, and schools; record even random thoughts. You never know what will pay off. You probably won’t include much of this preliminary writing in your final draft; you may even discard it all and start over. But if you write as you go, you’ll encourage your own best critical thinking, understand your sources better, and draft more effectively when that time comes. You will discover, however, that you cannot move through thosefourstepsintheneatorderwepresentedthem.You’llprob- ably think of a tentative answer and outline a supporting argu- ment before you have all the evidence you need. And when you think you have an argument worth making, you’ll probably de- cide thatyou needmore andmaybe different evidencefrom new sources. You may even modify your topic. Doing research is not like strolling along a well-marked path to a familiar destination; it’smorelikestrugglingthroughovergrownwoods,searchingforPrologue 39 something you won’t know until you find it. But no matter how indirect your path, you can feel confident that you are steadily getting closer to an answer if you manage each step of the way to anticipate the predictable problems. What Are Your Data? No mattertheir field,researcherscollectinformationtouseasevi- dence insupport of their claims. But researchersin different fields call that information by different names. Here, we use the term data.By data we mean more than the numbers that natural and social scientists collect. We mean anything you find “out there” thatmightsupportyouranswertoaquestionorsolutiontoaprob- lem. The term is rarely used by researchers in the humanities, but they, too, gather data in the form of quotations, historical facts, and so on. Data are inert, however, until you use them as evidence to support a claim. If you have not collected more data than you can use, you haven’t found enough. (Incidentally, remember that data is plural; a single bit of data is a datum).chapter three From Topics to Questions In this chapter we discuss how to explore your interests to find a topic, narrow it to a manageable scope, question it to find the makings of a problem, then turn it into a problem that guides your research. If you are an experienced researcher or already know what topics you want to pursue and why, you might skip to chapter 4. But if you are starting your first project, you will find this chapter useful. If you are free to research any topic that interests you, that free- domcanbefrustrating—somanychoices,solittletime.Atsome point, you have to settle on a topic, but beyond a topic, you also have to find a reason beyond your assignment to devote weeks or months pursuing it and writing up what you find, then to ask readers to spend their time reading your report. As we’ve said, your readers expect you to do more than just mound up and report data; they expect you to report it in a way that continues the ongoing conversation between writers and readers that creates a community of researchers. To do that, you mustselectfromallthedatayoufindjustthosedatathatsupport an answerto aquestion thatsolves aproblem yourreaders think needs solving. In all research communities, some problems are already “in the air,” widely debated and deeply researched, such as whether personality traits like shyness or an attraction to risk are genetically inherited or learned. But other questions may in- trigue only the researcher: Why do cats rub their faces against us? Why do the big nuts end up at the top of the can? That’s how a lot ofresearchbegins—notwitha“big”questionknowntoeveryone in a field, but with a mental itch that only one researcher feels the need to scratch. If you have such an itch, good. But as we’ve said (and will say 40From Topics to Questions 41 again), at some point, you have to decide whether the answer to your private question is also significant to others: to a teacher, colleagues,otherresearchers,oreventoapublicwhoselivesyour research could change. At that point, you aim not just to answer a question, but to pose and solve a problem that others also think is worth solving. Now that word problem is itself a problem: commonly, a prob- lem means trouble, but among researchers it has a meaning so special that we devote all of the next chapter to it. It raises issues that few beginning researchers are able to resolve entirely and that can vex even advanced ones. But before you can address a researchproblem,youhavetofindatopicthatmightleadtoone. We’ll start there, with finding a topic. 3.1 FROM AN INTEREST TO A TOPIC Most of us have more than enough interests to pursue, but beginners often find it hard to locate among theirs a topic fo- cused enough to support a research project. A research topic is an interest defined narrowly enough for you to imagine becom- ing a local expert on it. That doesn’t mean that you already know a lot about it or that you will have to learn more about it than your professor has. You just want to know more than you do now. If your assignment leaves you free to explore any topic within ´ reason, we can offer only a cliche: Start with what interests you most deeply. Nothing contributes to the quality of your work more than your commitment to it. Start by listing two or three interests that you’d like to explore. If you are undertaking a re- search project in a course in a specific field, skim a recent text- book, talk to other students, or consult your teacher. You might try to identify an interest based on work you are doing or will do in a different course. If you are still stuck, you can find help either on the Internet or in your library. The Internet may seem the easier way, but it’s more likely to lead you astray, especially if you are new to re- search. Start with the standard guides:42 asking questions, finding answers • For a project in a general writing course, start in the library. Look at the headings in a general bibliography such as the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. If you already have a general focus, use more specialized guides such as the Amer- ican Humanities Index or the Chicano Index. (We discuss us- ing these resources in chapter 5 and list many of them on pp. 298–315.) Scan headings for topics that catch your interest. They will pro- vide not only possible topics, but up-to-date references on them. If you already have an idea for a topic, you can check out the Internet, but if you have no idea what you are looking for, what you find there may overwhelm you. Some indexes are available online, but most don’t let you skim only subject headings. • For a first research project in a particular field, skim head- ings in specialized indexes, such as the Philosopher’s Index, the Psychological Abstracts, or Women’s Studies Abstracts. Once you identify a general area of interest, use the Internet to find out more about it and to help you narrow your topic. (If you are really stuck, see the Quick Tip at the end of this chapter.) • If you are doing an advanced research project, you might look first for what resources are easily available before you settle on a topic. Ifyoupickatopicandthendiscoverthatsourcesarehardtofind, youmayhavetostartover.Ifyou firstidentifyresourcesavailable in your library or on the Internet, you can plan your research more efficiently, because you will know where to start. At first, you may not know enough about a general interest like the use of masks in religious and social contexts to turn it into a focused topic. Ifso, you have to do some readingto know what to think about it. Don’t read randomly: start with entries in a general encyclopedia, then look at entries in a specialized ency- clopedia or dictionary, then browse through journals and web-From Topics to Questions 43 sites until you have a grip on the general shape of your topic. Only then will you be able to move on to these next steps. 3.2 FROM A BROAD TOPIC TO A FOCUSED ONE At this point, you risk settling on a topic so broad that it could beasubheadinginanencyclopedia: Spaceflight, historyof; Shake- speare, problem plays; Natural kinds, doctrine of. A topic is usually too broad if you can state it in four or five words: Free will in War and Peace The history of commercial aviation With a topic so broad, you may be intimidated by the idea of finding, much less reading, even a fraction of the sources avail- able. So you have to narrow it, like this: Free will in War and Peace The conflict of free will ➞ and historical inevitability in Tolstoy’s description of three battles in War and Peace The history of commercial The crucial contribution ➞ aviation of the military in the de- velopment of the DC-3 in the early years of commer- cial aviation Wenarrowedthosetopicsbyaddingwordsandphrases,butof a special kind: conflict, description, contribution, and development. Those nouns are derived from verbs expressing actions or rela- tionships: to conflict, to describe, tocontribute,and to develop.With- out such words, your topic is a static thing—free will in War and Peace, the history of commercial aviation. But when you use nouns derived from verbs, you move your topic a step closer to a claim that your readers might find significant.44 asking questions, finding answers Note what happens when these topics become statements. Topics (1a) and (2a) change almost not at all: TOPIC CLAIM 1a. Free will and historical There is free will and his- ➞ inevitability in Tolstoy’s torical inevitability in Tol- War and Peace? stoy’s War and Peace. 2a. The history of com- Commercial aviation has ➞ mercial aviation a history. Topics (1b) and (2b), on the other hand, are closer to claims that a reader might find interesting: 1b. The conflict of free will In War and Peace, Tolstoy ➞ and historical inevitability describes three battles in a in Tolstoy’s description of way that makes free will three battles in War and conflictwithhistoricalinev- Peace itability. 2b. The crucial contribu- In the early years of com- ➞ tion of the military in the mercial aviation, the mili- development of the DC-3 tary crucially contributed to in the early years of com- the way the DC-3 devel- mercial aviation oped. Such claims will at first seem weak, but you will develop them into more specific ones as you develop your project. A more specific topic also helps you see gaps, puzzles, and inconsistencies that you can ask about when you turn your topic intoaresearchquestion(moreaboutthatinamoment).Aspecific topic can also serve as your working title, a short answer when someone asks you what you are working on. Caution: Don’t narrow your topic so much that you can’t find enough data on it:From Topics to Questions 45 TOO MANY DATA AVAILABLE TOO FEW DATA AVAILABLE The history of commercial The decision to lengthen the aviation wingtips on the DC-3 proto- type because the military wanted to use the DC-3 as a cargo carrier 3.3 FROM A FOCUSED TOPIC TO QUESTIONS Intakingthisnextstep,researchersoftenmakeabeginner’smis- take: they rush from a topic to a data dump. Once they hit on a topic that feels promising, something like the political origins and uses of legends about the Battle of the Alamo, they go straight to searching out sources—different versions of the story in books andfilms,Mexican andAmerican,nineteenthcentury andtwen- tieth.They accumulateamound ofsummariesofthe stories,de- scriptionsoftheirdifferencesandsimilarities,waysinwhichthey conflictwithwhatmodernhistoriansthinkhappened.Theywrite all that up and conclude, “Thus we see many interesting differ- ences and similarities between . . .” Most high school teachers would give such a report a passing grade, because it shows that the student can focus on a topic, find data on it, and assemble those data into a report—no small achievement for a first project. But in any advanced course, in- cluding a first-year writing course in college, such a report falls short because it offers only random bits of information. If the writer asks no question worth pondering, he can offer no focused answer worth reading. Readers of research reports don’t want just information; they want the answer to a question worth ask- ing. To be sure, those fascinated by a topic often feel that any information about it is worth reading for its own sake: collectors of Japanese coins or Elvis Presley movie posters will read any- thing about them. Serious researchers, however, do not report data for their own sake, but to support the answer to a question that they (and they hope their readers) think is worth asking.46 asking questions, finding answers The best way to find out what you do not know about a topic is to barrage it with questions. First ask the predictable ones of your field. For example, a historian’s first questions about the Alamostorieswouldconcerntheirsources,development,andac- curacy. Also ask the standard journalistic questions who, what, when, and where, but focus on how and why. Finally, you can sys- tematicallyaskfourkindsofanalyticalquestions,aboutthecom- position,history,categorization, andvaluesofyour topic.Record thequestions,butdon’tstopforanswers.(Anddon’tworryabout fitting the questions into the right categories; use the categories onlytostimulateyoutoaskthemandtoorganizetheiranswers.) 3.3.1 Identify the Parts and How They Interrelate • What are the parts of your topic, and how do they relate to one another? In stories about the Alamo, what are the themes, the plot structure, the main characters? How do the characters relate to the plot, the plot to the actual battle, the battle to the char- acters, the characters to one another? • How is your topic part of a larger system? How have politicians used the story? What role does it have in Mexican history? What role does it have in U.S. history? Who told the stories? Who listened? How does their nationality affect the story? 3.3.2 Trace Its Own History and Its Role in a Larger History • How and why has your topic changed through time, as something with its own history? How have the stories developed? How have different stories developed differently? How have audiences changed? How have the storytellers changed? How have their motives to tell the stories changed?From Topics to Questions 47 • How and why is your topic an episode in a larger history? How do the stories fit into a historical sequence of events? What caused them to change? How did they affect national identity in the United States? In Mexico? Why have they en- dured so long? 3.3.3 Identify Its Characteristics and the Categories that Include It • What kind of thing is your topic? What is its range of varia- tion? How are instances of it similar to and different from one another? What is the most typical story? How do others differ? Which is most different? How do the written and oral stories differ from the movie versions? How are Mexican stories different from those told in the States? • To what larger categories can your topic be assigned? How does that help us understand it? What other stories in U.S. history are like the story of the Bat- tle of the Alamo? In Mexican history? How do the stories com- pare to other mythic battle stories? What other societies pro- duce similar stories? 3.3.4 Determine Its Value • What values does your topic reflect? What values does it sup- port? Contradict? What moral lesson does the story teach, if any? Whose pur- poses does each story serve? Who is praised? Who blamed? Why? • How good or bad is your topic? Is it useful? Are some stories better than others? More sophisticated than others? What version is the best one? The worst one? Which parts are most accurate? Which least?48 asking questions, finding answers 3.3.5 Evaluate Your Questions When you run out of questions (or think, Enough), it’s time to evaluatethem.First,setasidequestionswhoseanswersyoucould look up in a reference work. Questions that ask who, what, when, or where are important, but they may ask only about matters of settled fact (though not always). Questions that ask how and why are more likely to invite deeper research and lead to more inter- esting answers. Next, try to combine smaller questions into larger, more sig- nificant ones. For example, several Alamo questions revolve around the issue of the interests of the storytellers and their ef- fects on the stories: How have politicians used the story? What role does it have in U.S. history? How have the storytellers changed? How have their motives to tell the stories changed? How did the stories affect national identity in the United States? How do the stories com- pare to other mythic battle stories? Is its moral lesson worth teaching? Whose purposes does each story serve? Many of these can be combined into a larger, more significant question: How and why have tellers of the Alamo story given a mythic quality to the event? Onceyousettleonaquestionortwo,youhaveaguidetodoing your research more systematically. A question narrows your search to only those data you need for its answer. And once you have an answer you think you can support, you know it’s time to stop hunting. But when you have only a topic, the data you can find on it are, literally, endless; worse, you will never know when you have enough. Through all this, though, the most important goal is to find questions that challenge you or, better, arouse your intense curi- osity. Of course, you can’t be sure where any particular question will lead, but this kind of questioning can send you in directionsFrom Topics to Questions 49 youneverimagined,openingyouuptonewinterests,newworlds of research. Finding good questions is an essential step in any projectthatgoesbeyondfact-grubbing.Withoneortwoinmind, you are ready for the next steps. 3.4 FROM A MERELY INTERESTING QUESTION TO ITS WIDER SIGNIFICANCE Evenif youare anexperienced researcher,you mightnotbe able to take this next step until you are well into your project. If you are a beginner, you may feel that this step is still deeply frustrat- ing even when you’ve finished it. Nevertheless, once you have a question that grabs your interest, you must pose a tougher ques- tion: Why should this question also grab my readers? What makes it worth asking? Start by asking, So what? At first, ask it for yourself: So what if I don’t know or understand how snow geese know where to go in the winter, or how fifteenth-century violin players tuned their instruments, or why the Alamo story has become myth? So what if I can’t answer those questions? Eventually,youwillhavetoanswerthisquestionnotjustforyour- selfbutforyourreaders.Findingitsanswervexesallresearchers, beginners and experienced alike, because it’s so hard to predict what will really interest readers. Instead of trying to answer in- stantly, though, you can work toward an answer in three steps. 3.4.1 Step 1: Name Your Topic If you are just beginning a project, with only a topic and maybe the glimmerings of a few good questions, describe your topic in a sentence as specific as you can make it (glance back at pp. 43– 45): I am trying to learn about (working on, studying) . Fill in the blank with your topic. Be sure to use some of those nouns based on verbs or adjectives:50 asking questions, finding answers I am studying diagnostic processes in the repair of cooling sys- tems. I am working on Lincoln’s beliefs about predestination in his early speeches. 3.4.2 Step 2: Add a Question As soon as you can, add to that sentence an indirect question that specifies something that you do not know or understand about your topic but want to: 1. I am studying X 2. because I want to find out who/what/when/where/whether/ why/how . 1. I am studying diagnostic processesin the repair ofcooling systems 2. because I am trying to find out how expert repairers diagnose failures. 1. I am working on Lincoln’s beliefs about predestination in his early speeches 2. because I want to find out how his belief in destiny influenced his understanding of the causes of the Civil War. Whenyouaddthatbecause-I-want-to-find-out-how/whyclause,you state why you are pursuing your topic: to answer a question im- portant to you. If you are doing one of your first research projects and you get this far, congratulate yourself, because you have framed your project in a way that moves it beyond the kind of aimless collec- tion and reporting of data that afflicts too much research. But now go one step more, if you can. 3.4.3 Step 3: Motivate Your Question This step is a hard one, but it lets you know whether your ques- tion is not just interesting to you but possibly significant to oth- ers.To dothat, addanother indirectquestion, abiggerand more general one that explains why you are asking your first question.From Topics to Questions 51 Introduce this second implied question with in order to help my reader understand how, why, or whether: 1. I am studying diagnostic processes in the repair of cooling sys- tems 2. because I am trying to find out how expert repairers analyze failures, 3. in order to help my reader understand how to design a com- puterized system that can diagnose and prevent failures. 1. I am working on Lincoln’s beliefs about predestination in his early speeches 2. because I want to find out how his belief in destiny and God’s will influenced his understanding of the causes of the Civil War, 3. in order to help my reader understand how his religious be- liefs may have influenced his military decisions. It’s your answer to the third step that will give you a claim on your readers’ interest. If that larger question touches on issues important to your field, even indirectly, then you have reason to think that your readers should care about its answer, and so care about your answer to the smaller, prior question you raise in step 2. Afewresearcherscanfleshoutthiswholepatternevenbefore they start gathering data, because they are working on a well- known question, some widely investigated problem that others intheirfieldarealreadyinterestedin.Infact,advancedresearch- ers often begin their research with questions that others have asked before but not answered thoroughly, or maybe even cor- rectly. But many researchers, including at times the three of us, find that they can’t flesh out these steps until they’re nearly fin- ished. And too many write up their research results without hav- ing thought through these steps at all. At the beginning of your project, you may not be able to get past the first step of naming your topic. But regularly test your progress by asking a roommate, relative, or friend to force you to52 asking questions, finding answers question your topic and to flesh out those three steps. Even if you can’t take them all confidently, you’ll know where you are and where you still have to go. To summarize: Your aim is to explain 1. what you are writing about—your topic: I am studying... 2. what you don’t know about it—your question: because I want to find out... 3. why you want your reader to know about it—your rationale: in order to help my reader understand better... If you are just beginning serious research, don’t be discour- agedifyounevergetpastthatsecondstep.Aslongasyourques- tion is interesting to you, plow ahead. Your teacher should be satisfied, because you have changed the terms of your project from simply gathering data to asking and answering a question. If you are a graduate student doing advanced research, how- ever, you must take that last step, because answering that last question will help you create the relationship you are working to establish with the rest of your research community. It’s your ticket into the conversation. In the following chapters, we will return to those three steps andtheirimpliedquestions,becauseasyou’llsee,theyarecrucial not just for finding good specific questions that you want to an- swer, but for finding and then expressing the problem that you want your readers to recognize and value.Finding Topics If you have experience in your field but are stuck for a topic, you can find one with some quick research. Read recent articles and reviewessaysand,iftheyareavailable,recentdissertations.Look closely at the conclusions: they often suggest further lines of re- search. You can also browse the archives of an Internet discus- sion list in your field: look for points of current controversy. But if you are a beginner and your teacher has not suggested specifictopics,startwithoursuggestionsaboutskimmingbiblio- graphicalguides(pp.298–315).Ifyoustilldrawablank,trythese steps. FOR GENERAL TOPICS 1. What special interest do you have—sailing, chess, finches, old comic books? The less common, the better. Investigate something about it you don’t know: its origins, its technol- ogy, how it is practiced in another culture, and so on. 2. Where would you like to go? Surf the Internet, finding out all you can about it. What particular aspect surprises you or makes you want to know more? 3. Wander through a museum with exhibitions that appeal to you—artworks, dinosaurs, automobiles. If you can’t get there in person, browse a “virtual museum” on the Internet. Stop when something catches your interest. What more do you want to know about it? 4. Wander through a shopping mall or store, asking yourself, How do they make that? or, I wonder who thought up that product? 5. Leaf through a Sunday newspaper, especially its features sec- tions, until something catches your eye. Skim reviews of books or movies, in newspapers or on the Internet. 5354 quick tip: finding topics 6. Browse a large magazine rack. Look for trade magazines or those that cater to specialized interests. Investigate whatever catches your interest. 7. If you can use an Internet newsreader, look through the list of “alt” newsgroups until you find one that sounds interest- ing. Read the posts, looking for something that surprises you or that you disagree with. 8. Tune into talk radio or interview programs on TV until you hear a claim you disagree with. Or find something to dis- agree with on the websites connected with well-known talk shows. See whether you can make a real case to refute it, in- stead of just shouting back. 9. Use an Internet search engine to find websites about some- thing people collect. (Narrow the search to exclude dot-com sites.) You’ll get hundreds of hits, but look only at the ones that surprise you. 10. Is there a common belief that you suspect is much too sim- plistic, or just plain wrong? Or a common practice that you detest? Don’t just pronounce the belief or practice wrong, but instead probe for something you can show about it that might lead others to reconsider. FOR TOPICS FOCUSED ON A PARTICULAR FIELD 1. Browse through a textbook of a course that is one level be- yond yours or a course that you know you will have to take some time in the future. Look especially hard at the study questions. 2. Attend a lecture for an advanced class in your field and lis- ten for something you disagree with, don’t understand, or want to know more about. 3. Ask your instructor about the most contested issue in your field.Quick Tip: Finding Topics 55 4. Find an Internet discussion list in your field. Browse its ar- chives, looking for matters of controversy or uncertainty. 5. Surf the websites of departments at major universities, in- cluding class websites. Also check sites of museums, na- tional associations, and government agencies, if they seem relevant.chapter four From Questions to Problems In this chapter we explain how to frame your project as a problem that readers want to see solved, an essential step for advanced researchers. If you are attempting your first research project, this chapter may prove difficult. (You can find more help on problems in our discussion of introductions in chapter 14.) If you feel lost, you can skip to chapter 5, but we hope that you will stay with it. You’ll learn important steps you can take now, and will certainly need in the future. Inthelastchapter,wedescribedhowtofindatopicinyourinter- ests,howtonarrowit,thentoquestionit.Wesuggestedthatyou identify the significance of your questions by fleshing out this three-step formula: 1. Topic: I am studying 2. Question: because I want to find out what/why/how , 3. Significance: in order to help my reader under- stand . These steps describe not only the development of your project, but your own as a researcher. When you move from step 1 to 2, you stop being a mere data collector,becauseyouarenowmotivatednotbyaimlesscuriosity (by no means a useless impulse), but by a desire to understand something better. That second step also helps you develop an increasingly sophisticated relationship with your readers. When you move from step 2 to 3, you focus your project on the signifi- cance of that understanding, at least for yourself. But you can join a community of researchers only when you can see that sig- nificance from your readers’ point of view. With that last step, you change your intention from merely discovering and under- standing something for yourself to showing and explaining some- 56From Questions to Problems 57 thing to others, a move that makes a stronger claim on readers and so creates a stronger relationship with them. 4.1 PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS That third step is hard for everyone, even experienced research- ers. Too many write as if they do their job by answering a ques- tion that happens to interest them. They fail to understand that their answer must also solve a problem that is significant to their community of readers. But researchers often cannot start their project knowing exactly what problem they will finally solve. Many start with just a hunch, a puzzle, something they want to know more about; it’s not until they are well into their re- search, sometimes even their drafting, that they finally figure out what problem they have solved. So don’t feel uneasy if early in your project you do not yet know exactly the significance of your question. But you can begin planning your research knowing (or at least hoping) that a good one is out there some- where. To understand how to find that good question and then com- municate its significance, though, you first have to know what a research problem really is. 4.1.1 Practical Problems and Research Problems Everyday research usually begins not with dreaming up a topic but with solving a practical problem that has just landed on you, a problem that, left unresolved, means trouble. When the solu- tion is not obvious, you ask questions whose answers you hope will help you solve it. But to answer them, you must pose and solve a problem of another kind, a research problem defined by what you do not know or understand, but feel you must before you can solve your practical problem. This process of addressing practical problems is familiar. It typically looks like this: PRACTICAL PROBLEM: My brakes have started screeching. RESEARCH QUESTION: Where can I get them fixed right away?58 asking questions, finding answers RESEARCH PROBLEM: Find the Yellow Pages and look up clos- est brake shop. RESEARCH ANSWER: The Car Shoppe, 1401 East 55th Street. APPLICATION: Call to see when they can fix them. It’s a pattern common in every part of our lives: The National Rifle Association presses me to oppose gun con- trol. Will I lose my election if I don’t? Take a poll. A majority of my constituents support gun control. Now decide whether to reject the NRA’s request. Costs are up at the Omaha plant. What has changed? Compare personnel before and after. More turnover now. If we improve training and morale, our workers stay with us. OK, let’s see if we can afford to do it. Problems like those rarely require us to write up a solution. We writeonlywhenwehavetoconvinceothersthatwe’vefoundand solved a problem important to them: To manager of Omaha plant: Costs are up in Omaha because we have too much turnover. Employees see no future in their jobs and are quitting after a few months. To retain workers, we must up- grade their skills so they will want to stay. Here is a plan . . . But before anyone could solve the practical problem of rising costs, someone had to pose and solve a research problem defined by not knowing why they were rising. Only then can they decide what to do about it. Graphically, the relationship between practical and research problems looks like this: Practical Problem helps to solve motivates Research Research Answer Question finds defines Research ProblemFrom Questions to Problems 59 4.1.2 Distinguishing Practical Problems and Research Problems Thoughsolvingapracticalproblemusuallyrequiresthatwesolve a research problem as well, it is crucial to distinguish between them, because we solve and write about them in different ways. • A practical problem is caused by some condition in the world, from e-mail spam to terrorism, that makes us un- happy because it costs us time, money, respect, security, pain, even our lives. You solve a practical problem by doing something that changes the world by eliminating the causes that lead to its costs, or by encouraging others to do so. • A research problem is motivated not by palpable unhappi- ness, but by incomplete knowledge or flawed understanding. You solve it not by changing the world but by understand- ing it better. Thougharesearchproblemisoftenmotivatedbyapracticalprob- lem, you don’t solve the practical problem just by solving the re- search one. The manager of the Omaha plant might know the answer to the research question Why are costs rising? but still struggle to solve the practical problem How do we improve training? The term problem thus has a special meaning in the world of research, one that sometimes confuses beginners. In our every- day world, a practical problem is something we try to avoid. But in the academic world, a research problem is something we ea- gerly seek out, even inventing one, if we have to. Indeed, a re- searcherwithoutagoodresearchproblemhasabadpracticalone, because with no research problem to work on, she has nothing to do. There is a second reason inexperienced researchers some- times struggle with this notion of a research problem. Experi- enced researchers often talk about their research problems in shorthand. When asked what they are working on, they respond withwhatsoundslikeoneofthosegeneraltopicswewarnedyou aboutinthelastchapter: adult measles,early Aztec pots, the mating calls of Wyoming elk.60 asking questions, finding answers As a result, some beginners think that having a topic to read about is the same as having a problem to solve. But when they do,theyhaveabigpracticalproblem,becausewithoutaresearch problem,theylackthefocussetbytheneedtoansweraparticular question. So they gather data aimlessly and endlessly, with no way of knowing when they have enough. Then they struggle to decidewhattoincludeintheirreportandwhatnot,finallythrow- ing in everything they have, just to be on the safe side. So it’s notsurprisingthattheyfeelfrustratedwhenareadersays,I don’t see the point; this is just a data dump. To avoid that judgment, you need a problem to focus your attention on those particular data that will help you solve your problem. That means first under- standing how problems work. 4.2 THE COMMON STRUCTURE OF PROBLEMS Practical problems and research problems have the same basic structure. Both have two parts: 1. a situation or condition, and 2. the undesirable consequences of that condition, costs you don’t want to pay. What distinguishes them is the nature of those conditions and costs. 4.2.1 The Nature of Practical Problems A flat tire is a typical practical problem, because it is (1) a condi- tion in the world (the flat) that (2) exacts on you a tangible cost thatyoudon’twanttopay(notgettingtoworkontimeormissing a dinner date). But suppose you were bullied into the date and would rather be anywhere else. In that case, the flat has no sig- nificant cost; in fact, since it turns out to be a benefit, it is not a problem at all, but a solution. No cost, no problem. Forapractical,tangibleproblem,theconditioncanbeliterally anything, even winning the lottery. Suppose you win a million dollars but owe a loan shark two million, and your name gets inFrom Questions to Problems 61 the paper. He finds you, takes your million, and breaks your leg. Winning a million turns out to be a Big Problem. Toposeapracticalproblem,youmustbeabletodescribeboth its parts: • its condition I missed the bus. The hole in the ozone layer is growing. • the costs of that condition that make you (or someone) un- happy I will be late for work and may lose my job. Many will die from skin cancer. But now a crucial caution: Your readers will judge the signifi- cance of a problem not by its cost to you, but by its cost to them. So you must try to frame your problem from their point of view. To do that, imagine that when you pose the condition of your problem, your reader responds, So what? For example, The hole in the ozone layer grew last year. So what? You answer with the cost of the problem: A bigger hole in the ozone means more ultraviolet light hitting the earth. Suppose the other person again says, So what?, and you respond with a further cost: Too much ultraviolet light can give people skin cancer. If, however improbably, he again asks, So what?, you have failed to convince him that the problem is not just yours, but his as well. We acknowledge that a problem exists only when we stop saying, So what?, and instead say, Oh no What do we do about that?62 asking questions, finding answers Practical problems like cancer are easy to grasp because they alwayshavepalpableconsequences.Intheacademicworld,how- ever,youprobablywillworkmorewithresearchproblems,which are harder to grasp because both their conditions and costs are always abstract. 4.2.2 The Nature of Research Problems Practical and research problems have the same structure, but their conditions and costs differ in important ways: • The condition of a practical problem can be any state of af- fairs whose cost makes you (or someone) unhappy. The con- dition of a research problem, on the other hand, is always some version of not knowing or not understanding something. You can identify conditions by working though the formula in chapter3.Thesecondstepstateswhatyoudonotknoworunder- stand: I am studying stories of the Alamo because I want to understand why voters responded to them in ways that served the interests of lo- cal Texas politicians. That’swhyweemphasizedthevalueofquestions.Theyforceyou to consider what you don’t know or understand but want to. • The cost of a practical problem is unhappiness. The con- sequence of a research problem, on the other hand, is something else we or, more important, our readers don’t know or understand, but is more significant, more conse- quential than the ignorance or misunderstanding named by the condition. This, too, we can express as a question. You identify these consequences in step 3 of our formula: I am studying stories of the Alamo because I want to under- stand why voters responded to them in ways that served the in- terests of local Texas politicians, in order to help readers under- stand how regional self-images influence national politics.From Questions to Problems 63 All this may sound confusing, but it’s simpler than it seems. When you move from questions to problems, you only translate thatformulaforworkingoutthesignificanceofaquestion to you into a way to find its significance to your readers. Itworkslikethis:Thefirstpartofaresearchproblemissome- thingyoudon’tknowbutwantto.Youcanphrasethatasadirect question: How many stars are in the sky? How have romantic movies changed in the last fifty years? Now imagine someone asking, So what if you can’t answer that question? What do you say? You answer by stating something else you don’t know until you answer the first question, something that the other person should also want to know. For example, If we can’t answer the question of how romantic movies have changed in the last fifty years, then we can’t an- condition/first question swer a more important question: How have our cultural depic- tions of romantic love changed? consequence/larger, more important question If you think that finding an answer to that second question is important,you’vestatedacostthatmakesyourresearchproblem worth pursuing, and if your reader thinks so too, you’re in busi- ness. But what if your potential readers might again ask, So what? So what if I don’t know whether our cultural depictions of ro- mantic love have changed? You will just have to pose a yet larger question whose answer depends on answering the previous ones, an answer that should be even more significant to your readers: If we can’t answer the question of how our cultural depictions of romantic love have changed in the last fifty years, second question then we can’t answer a more important one yet: How is our cul- ture shaping the expectations of young men and women concern- ing marriage and families? consequence/larger, more important question64 asking questions, finding answers If you imagine that reader again asking, So what?, you might be tempted to think, Wrong audience. But if that’s the audience you’re stuck with, you will have to try again. To those outside an academic field looking in, researchers sometimes seem to pose a question so narrowly that outsiders think it is ridiculously trivial: So what if we don’t know how hop- scotch originated? Yet for those few who care about the way folk games influence the social development of children, the cost of not knowing justifies the research. What do you mean? If we can discover how children’s folk games originate, we can learn something about how they socialize themselves. . . . 4.2.3 Distinguishing “Pure” and “Applied” Research When the solution to a research problem has no apparent ap- plication to any practical problem in the world, but only to the scholarly interests of a community of researchers, we call the re- search pure. When the solution to a research problem does have practical consequences, we call the research applied. You can tell whether a research problem is pure or applied by lookingatthelastofthethreestepsindefiningyourproject.Does it refer to knowing or doing? 1. Topic: I am studying the density of light and other electromagnetic radiation in a small section of the universe 2. Question: because I want to find out how many stars are in the sky, 3. Significance: in order to help readers understand whether the universe will expand forever or contract into a new big bang. That is a pure research problem because step 3 refers only to understanding. In an applied research problem, the second step also refers to knowing, but that third step refers to doing: 1. Topic:IamstudyingthedifferencebetweenreadingsfromtheHub- ble telescope in orbit above the atmosphere and readings for the same stars from earthbound telescopesFrom Questions to Problems 65 2. Question:because Iwant to find outhow muchthe atmosphere distortsmeasurementsoflightandotherelectromagneticradia- tion, 3. Practical Significance: so that astronomers can use data from earthbound telescopes to measure more accurately the density of electromagnetic radiation. Thatisanappliedproblembecauseastronomerscandowhatthey need to—measure light more accurately—only when they know how much atmospheric distortion to account for. 4.2.4 Connecting a Research Problem to Practical Consequences Some less experienced researchers are uncomfortable with pure researchbecauseitscosts—merelynotknowingsomething—are so abstract. Since they are not yetpart of a community that cares aboutthe answersto theirquestions,they feelthat theirfindings aren’t good for much. So they try to cobble a practical cost onto their conceptual researchquestion to make it seemmore signifi- cant: 1. Topic: I am studying the differences among various nineteenth- century versions of the story of the Alamo 2. ConceptualQuestion:becauseIwantto findouthow politicians used stories of great events to shape public opinion, 3. PotentialPracticalSignificance: inorderto helpreaderspro- tect themselves from unscrupulous politicians. Most readers are likely to think that connection is a bit of a stretch. To formulate a useful applied research problem, you have to showthattheanswerinstep2plausiblyleadstostep3.Askyour- self this question: (a) If my readers want to achieve the goal of state your objective from step 3, (b) would they think that a good way to do that would be to find out ? state your question from step 266 asking questions, finding answers Try that test on the applied astronomy problem: (a) If my readers want to use data from earthbound telescopes to measure more accurately the density of electromagnetic radia- tion, (b) would they think that a good way to do so would be to find out how much the atmosphere distorts measurements of it? Sinceastronomershavepilesofdatafromearthboundtelescopes that could be adjusted for atmospheric distortion, the answer would seem to be Yes. Now try the test on the Alamo problem: (a) If my readers want to achieve the goal of helping people pro- tect themselves from unscrupulous politicians, (b) would they think a good way to do that would be to find out how nineteenth-century politicians used stories of great events to shape public opinion? Again, that feels like a stretch. If you really think that the answer to your research problem can apply to a practical one, formulate your problem as the pureresearchproblemitis,thenaddyourapplicationasafourth step: 1. Topic: I am studying the differences among various nineteenth- century versions of the story of the Alamo 2. Question:becauseIwanttofindouthowpoliticiansusedstories of great events to shape public opinion, 3. Conceptual Significance: in order to help readers under- stand how politicians use elements of popular culture to ad- vance their political goals, 4. Potential Practical Application: so that readers can better protect themselves from unscrupulous politicians. When you state your problem in your introduction, it’s usually best to formulate it as a purely conceptual research problem whosesignificanceisbasedonconceptualconsequences.UnlessFrom Questions to Problems 67 your assignment includes the question of practical applications, save them for your conclusion. (For more on introductions and conclusions, see chapter 14.) Mostresearchprojectsinthehumanitiesandmanyinthenat- ural and social sciences have no direct application to daily life. In fact, as the word pure suggests, many researchers value pure research more highly than they do applied. They believe that the pursuitofknowledge“foritsownsake”reflectshumanity’shigh- est calling—to know more and understand better, not for the sake of money or power, but for the good that understanding itself brings. As you may have guessed, the three of us support both the pure and the practical—so long as the research is done well and is not corrupted by dishonest or malign motives. A threat to both pure and practical research today, especially in the biological sciences, is that profits from patents not only determine the choice of research problems, but also color their solutions: Tell us what to look for, and we’ll provide it That raises the kind of ethical question that we touch on later (pp. 285–88). ATypicalBeginner’sMistake Forsomebeginners,especiallyin classesthatstudysignificantpracti- calproblems,researchproblemsneverfeelpracticalenough,noteven whenthey haveobvious applications. So theytry to force theirproject into the practical domain. That’s usually a mistake. No one can solve the world’s great problems in a five- or even a fifty-page paper. But a good researcher might help us understand those problems better, which gets us closer to a solution. So if you care deeply about a prac- tical problem, such as the increasing frequency of highly destruc- tive forest fires in the West, carve out of it a research question that you can answer and that might ultimately contribute to a practical solution: How important are fires to the ecological health of a forest? How do local fire codes affect the susceptibility of buildings to fire damage? Choose one of the smaller questions, knowing that small answers to small questions sometimes lead to great solutions.68 asking questions, finding answers 4.3 FINDING A GOOD RESEARCH PROBLEM What distinguishes great researchers from the rest of us is the brilliance, knack, or just dumb luck of stumbling on a problem whose solution makes the rest of us see the world in a new way. We can all learn to recognize a good problem when we bump into it, or it bumps into us (or when it’s already a live issue). But researchers often begin a project without being entirely clear as to what their problem is. Sometimes they hope only to define it more clearly. Indeed, those who find a new problem or manage to clarify an old one often win more fame and (sometimes) for- tune than those who solve a problem already defined. Some re- searchers have even gotten credit for disproving a plausible hy- pothesis that they had hoped to prove. So don’t be discouraged if you can’t formulate your problem fully at the outset of your research. Few of us can. But thinking about it early will save you hours of work along the way—and perhaps avoid panic toward the end. Here are some ways you can aim at a problem from the start. 4.3.1 Ask for Help Dowhatexperiencedresearchersdo:talktoteachers,classmates, relatives, friends, neighbors—anyone who might be interested in your topic and question. Why would anyone need an answer to your question? What would they do with it? What questions might your answer raise? If you are free to select your own problem, look for a small one that is part of a bigger one. Though you are unlikely to solve the big one, your piece of it will inherit some of its significance. (You will also educate yourself about the problems of your field, nosmalldividend.)Askyourteacherwhatsheisworkingonand whetheryoucanworkonpartofit.Butawarning:Ifyourteacher helps you define your problem and gives you leads on sources, do not let those suggestions define the limits of your research. Nothing discourages a teacher more than a student who does exactly what is suggested, and nothing more. In that situation, the teacher probably wants you to do some research that will helpFrom Questions to Problems 69 her find out something she didn’t know or understand, such as better sources and new data. 4.3.2 Look for Problems as You Read Youcanfindaresearchproblemifyoureadcritically.Asyouread a source, where do you detect contradictions, inconsistencies, incompleteexplanations?Ifyouarenotsatisfiedwithanexplana- tion, if something seems odd, confused, or incomplete, tenta- tively assume that other readers would or should feel the same way. Many research projects begin in an imaginary conversation that a researcher has with another’s report: Wait a minute, he’s ignoring . . . But before you set out to correct a gap, error, or misunder- standing,besureitisreal,notjustyourownmisreading.Reread your source carefully and generously. Countless research papers have aimed to refute a point that no writer ever made. Onceyouthinkyouhavefoundarealpuzzleorerror,domore than just point it out. If a source says X and you think Y, you have a research problem only if you can show that those who go on believing X will misunderstand something even more impor- tant. (For the most common kinds of contradictions, see our Quick Tip, pp. 72–74.) Finally, read the last few pages of your sources closely. That’s where many researchers suggest more questions that need an- swers. The author of the following paragraph had just finished explaining how the daily life of the nineteenth-century Russian peasant influenced his performance in battle: And just as the soldier’s peacetime experience influenced his bat- tlefield performance, so must the experience of the officer corps have influenced theirs. Indeed, a few commentators after the Russo-Japanese War blamed the Russian defeat on habits ac- quired by officers in the course of their economic chores. In any event, to appreciate the service habits of Tsarist officers in peace and war, we need a structural—if you will, an anthropological—analysis of the officer corps like that offered here for enlisted personnel. our emphasis70 asking questions, finding answers That last sentence gives us both the problem that this writer set out to solve and a new one waiting for someone to tackle. 4.3.3 Look for the Problem that Your Claim Solves Critical reading can also help you discover a good research prob- lem inyour own early drafts.Writers almost alwaysdo their best thinking in thelast few pages of adraft. It is oftenonly then that they begin to formulate a final claim that they did not dream of when they started out. If in an early draft you arrive at an unanticipatedclaim,askyourselfwhatquestionsitmightanswer. Paradoxical as it might seem, you may well find a solution to a problem that you have not yet posed. Your task is to figure out what that problem is. Chances are, you can work backward to formulate a better, more interesting problem than the one that got you started. 4.4 SUMMARY: THE PROBLEM OF THE PROBLEM Your teachers will assume that you are not an expert researcher, but they want you to start developing and practicing the mental habits of one. They want you to do more than just accumulate and report facts about a topic that happens to interest you. They wantyoutoformulateaquestionthatyouthinkisworthanswer- ingandposeaproblemthatyouthinkisworthsolving,regardless of who else cares. Eventually, though, as you move to advanced work, you have to share your new knowledge and understanding with others. At thatpoint,youmustunderstandwhatyourreadersthinkareinter- esting questions and problems. As we’ve emphasized, they base that judgment on the costs they pay as a result of not knowing orunderstandingsomething.Andthestepwealldreamofisnot only finding the kind of problem readers want to see solved, but persuading them to think seriously about a problem none of them has ever thought of. No one takes all three steps the first timeout. Justabout allofus getto thefirst one: What am I inter- ested in discovering? Most of us get to the second: What might my readers be interested in? Few of us get to the third: How can I getFrom Questions to Problems 71 them to realize they are asking the wrong questions? But those of us who don’t get there do not necessarily fail, because we can mea- sure our success by how well our readers think we answer ques- tions they already care about. The worst response you can get from a reader is not I don’t agree, but I don’t care. By now, all this airy talk about academic research may seem disconnected from a world in which so many people labor so hardatgettingaheadorkeepingothersdown.Butwhenresearch problems in the world are pursued honestly, they are structured exactly as they are in the academic world. And in business and government, in law and medicine, in politics and international diplomacy,noskillisvaluedmorehighlythantheabilitytorecog- nize a problem that others should take seriously, then to articu- latethatprobleminawaythatconvincesthemtocare.Ifyoucan dothatinaclassinChinesehistory,youcandoitinabusinessor government office down the street or in Hong Kong.Disagreeing with Your Sources You discover the most common kind of research problem when you disagree with a source. We can’t tell you what to disagree with in them, but we can list some standard contradictions. This list will be most useful if you are familiar with research in a field, but if you’re new, they can show you the kind of contra- dictions that experienced researchers look for. In chapter 14 we explain how to use these contradictions to write an introduction that motivates your readers to read on. (This list is not exhaus- tive, and some kinds overlap. You can also try them out on your topic.) CONTRADICTIONS OF KIND You claim that something thought to be one kind of thing is not (or vice versa). Certain religious groups are widely considered to be “cults” be- cause of their strange beliefs, but those beliefs are no different in kind from standard religions. In the following frames, substitute for X and Y terms of your own.Ineachcase,youcanalsoasserttheopposite(thatis,though X seems not to be a Y, it really is). 1. Though X seems to be a Y, it is not. 2. Though X seems to be a necessary characteristic or quality of Y, it is not. 3. Though X seems to be good/significant/useful/beautiful/ moral/interesting/...,itis not. PART-WHOLE CONTRADICTIONS You claim that others mistake the relationship among the parts of something. 72Quick Tip: Disagreeing 73 In recent years some have argued that athletics has no place in education, but in fact athletics is an intrinsic part of a well- rounded educated person. 1. Though X seems not to be a part of Y, it is. 2. Though part X seems to relate to part Y in Z way, it does not. 3. Though it is claimed that all X’s have Y as a part, they do not. DEVELOPMENTAL/HISTORICAL CONTRADICTIONS Youcanclaimthatothershavemistakentheorigin,development, or history of your object of study. Although some have recently argued that the world population is rising, it is not. 1. Though X seems to be stable/rising/falling...,itis not. 2. Though X may seem to have originated in Y, it did not. 3. Though the sequence of development of X seems to be 1, 2, and 3, it is not. 4. Though X seems to be part of a larger historical develop- ment, it is not. EXTERNAL CAUSE-EFFECT CONTRADICTIONS You can claim that assumed causal relationships do not exist (or vice versa). A new way to stop juveniles from becoming criminals is the “boot camp” concept. But evidence suggests that it does little good. 1. Though X seems to cause Y, it does not. 2. Though X seems to cause Y, both X and Y are caused by Z.74 quick tip: disagreeing 3. Though X and Y seem to be causally correlated, they are not. 4. Though X seems to be sufficient to cause Y, it is not. 5. Though X seems to cause only Y, it also causes A, B, and C. CONTRADICTIONS OF PERSPECTIVE These contradictions run deeper. Most contradictions do not change the terms of the discussion. In perspectival contradic- tions, the author suggests that everyone must look at things in a new way. It has been assumed that advertising is best understood as a purely economic function, but in fact it has served as a labora- tory for new art forms and styles. 1. X has been discussed in Y context, but a new context of un- derstanding reveals new truth about X . . . (The new context can be social, political, philosophical, historical, economic, academic, ethical, gender specific, etc.) 2. X has been used to explain Y, but a new theory makes us see it differently. 3. X has been analyzed using theory/value system Y, leading to a rejection of X as inapplicable to Y. But now we see that Y is relevant to X in a new way.chapter five From Problems to Sources If you are a beginning researcher and expect to find most of your data either in your library or on the Internet, use this chapter to develop a plan for your research. If you are more experienced, you may want to skip to the next chapter. If you are very experienced, skip to part III. Ifyou havenot yetformulateda clearresearchquestion, youwill have to spend some time reading around just looking for a topic thatyoucannarrowdownandquestion,aswedescribedinchap- ter 4. But if you have a question and at least one candidate for aplausibleanswer(thephilosopherC.S.Peircehadanaptname for it: a hypothesis on probation), you can start looking for data to test it. That doesn’t mean lining up all the sources you can find and plowing through them to see what turns up. You want to look for reliable sources whose data let you test your hypothesis because they support it or, more importantly, challenge you to alter or abandon it. If, however, you plunge into a search for sources without a plan, you risk losing yourself in a morass of books and articles. Sources can lead anywhere and everywhere, so it is easy to wan- deraimlessly fromone tothenext. Tobesure, aimlessbrowsing can be fun: everyone who loves learning loves to wander from booktobook,ideatoidea.Browsingcanalsobesurprisinglypro- ductive: many important discoveries have been made through a chanceencounterwithanewideathatnoonecouldhavedeliber- ately looked for. So we don’t condemn all aimless reading; the three of us do it a lot. Butifyouareworkingtoadeadline,youdon’thavetimetorely on chance: you have to search deliberately. In this chapter we’ll 7576 asking questions, finding answers talk about theresourcesyou can look for andhowto narrowthem toamanageablelist.In thenext,wewilldiscusshow toworkwith yourresourcesonceyoufind them.Butaswe’vesaid,don’texpect alinearplanthatgetsyoufromstarttofinishwithnodetours. You’ll loop back as often as you move ahead. Just keep in mind thatyouarescreeningsourcesfordata,arguments,andviews that either confirm your hypothesis or give you reason to reject it. Three Kinds of Sources PRIMARYSOURCES:Thesearethematerialsthatyoudirectlywrite about,the “rawdata.”In fieldslike historyandliterature thatstudy writers and documents, primary sources are texts from the period or by the author you are studying. In such fields, you can rarely write a research paper without using primary sources. SECONDARY SOURCES: These are research reports, whether booksorarticles,basedonprimarydataorsources.Youcanquote or cite them to support your own research. If a researcher quoted your research report to support his argument, your report would be his secondary source. If, on the other hand, he were writing your biography, your paper would be a primary source. TERTIARY SOURCES: These are books and articles based on sec- ondary sources. They synthesize and explain research in a field, usually for a popular audience. Generally, they just restate what others have said. Tertiary sources can help in the early stages of research, when you are trying to get a sense of a whole field, but theyareweaksupportfornewclaimsbecausetheyusuallyoversim- plify, are seldom up-to-date, and are consequently mistrusted by most experts. 5.1 SCREENING SOURCES FOR RELIABILITY Yourquestionandhypothesisgiveyouyourmostimportantbasis forscreening sources:theyhelpyou focusonlyonthose thattest yourhypothesis,eithersupportingitorchallengingit.Ifasource isontopicbutirrelevanttoyourhypothesis,itmaybeinteresting but it won’t be immediately useful. As you screen for relevant sources, you should also apply a second test: Is this source reliable? Just as one relevant source is morevaluablethenadozenirrelevantones,soonereliablesourceFrom Problems to Sources 77 is more valuable than a dozen that are unreliable. As you look for sources, focus first on those you can trust. There is no formula for testing the reliability of a source. But unless you are a very advanced student, you can usually rely on afewindicationsofreliability.Advancedresearchersareexpected to check the reliability of sources for themselves, but beginners willsatisfymostreadersiftheirsourceshaveatleastoneofthese characteristics: • The source is published by a reputable press. Most university presses are reliable, especially if it’s a university whose name you recognize. In some fields, commercial presses have a reputation as strong as university presses, presses such as Norton in literature, Ablex in sciences, or Westlaw in law. • The publisher uses peer reviews for everything it publishes. You have no better guarantee of the reliability of a publication than its having been reviewed and approved for publication by independent experts in the field. Most books from reputable presses are peer-reviewed, though many essay collections are re- viewed only by the named editor(s). The best scholarly journals require peer review, but some good ones do not. • The author is a reputable scholar. Books and journals usually tell you something about the creden- tials of the author, and you can easily find out more on the In- ternet. • The source is current. You must use up-to-date sources, but what counts as current de- pendsonthenatureofthesourceandfield.Incomputerscience, articles can be out-of-date in months. In philosophy, primary sources are current for centuries, secondary ones for decades. In general, a source that sets out a major position or theory that most otherresearchers acceptwill staycurrent longerthan those78 asking questions, finding answers thatrespondtoordevelopit.Assumethatmosttextbooksare not current (excepting, of course, this one). Forsecondaryworks,youcangaugethestandardsforcurrency bylookingatjournalarticlesintheworkscited:Whatistheoldest date?Wheredothedatestendtocluster?Forprimaryworks(nov- els,plays,letters,etc.),trytofindoutwhatisconsideredthestan- dard edition; sometimes older editions are trusted more than more recent ones. Theseindicatorsdonotguaranteereliability.Reviewerssome- times recommend that a reputable press publish something weakly argued or with shaky data because other aspects of its researcharetooimportanttomiss—wethreehaveeachdoneso. Sodon’tassumethatyoucanreaduncriticallyeverythingwritten by a reputable researcher and published by a reputable press. In chapter 6 we’ll talk about critical reading and in chapter 9 about evaluating the data you find in a source. But for a start, these indicators recommend a source as worth considering. You can get a quick take on the most reliable sources on your topic by consulting the bibliography at the end of this book or by looking at one of the guides to research in your field (also listed there). Once you have located one reliable academic book orarticle,youhaveatrailheadforfindingmore:itsfootnotesand works cited point to sources you can track down, and their cita- tions will point still farther down the trail. Whom Can You Trust? AccordingtoareviewcommitteeappointedbytheJournaloftheAmeri- can Medical Association, one of the more respected medical journals, “many statistical and methodological errors were common in pub- lished papers,” even though those papers had been reviewed by ex- perts in the field (“When Peer Review Produces Unsound Science,” New York Times, June 11, 2002, p. D6). Some of you might just want to throw up your hands and give up on the idea of reliability: if the hyper-careful review procedures of JAMA don’t guarantee reliable data, what’s a mere student to do? You do what we all do—the best youcan.Readcritically, andwhenyoureportdata,dosoasaccurately as you can. We’ll return to this question in chapter 8.From Problems to Sources 79 5.2 LOCATING PRINTED AND RECORDED SOURCES Unless you are collecting data from experiments or observation, you will probably find your data in books or articles, occasionally inphotosandfilmsorvideoandaudiorecordings.Yourfirststop should be your school library or a public library. You may even find one that specializes in your topic, such as the seventeenth- centurycollectionattheW.A.ClarkLibraryatUCLA;inacause, suchastheNationalRifleAssociationLibraryinFairfax,Virginia; or in a person, such as the Martin Luther King library in Atlanta and the many presidential libraries. If the libraries near you are small and lack books and journals on your topic, start your research early so that you have time to borrow those you need through interlibrary loan. But no matter howsmall,yourlibraryprobablyoffersmorehelpthanyoususpect, including reference works, both general and specialized, research guides, and a variety of catalogs, bibliographies, and databases. A caution: Some Internet-savvy students think that the best way to start their research is to enter their topic into a search engine and see what turns up. That can be a good way to find materialoutofwhichyoucanformulatearesearchquestion,but it is a very bad way to find reliable sources. Begin your search withyourlibrary:itscatalog,bibliographies,anddatabases,which you may be able to access on the Internet. 5.2.1 Librarians If you know your library, look for sources. But if this is your first shot at serious research, you might first talk to a librarian. Librarians are usually eager to help when you don’t know where tostart.Manylibrarieshavespecialreferencelibrarians,andlarge ones even have specialists in particular topics. They can show youhowtousetheonlinecatalog,essentialknowledgethesedays for any researcher. If you feel too shy or proud to ask, find out whether your library has e-mail service for reference questions. Otherwise, just go talk to a librarian. The most important work you can do this early in the process is to plan. If you aren’t ready to be helped, no librarian can help80 asking questions, finding answers you. You will save your time and not waste hers if you prepare questions. Start by describing your project: try using the three- step rubric in chapter 3 to formulate an “elevator story” summa- rizing what you plan to do: I am working on the topic of , so that I can find out , because I want my readers to understand bet- ter . Earlyon,yourquestionsmaybegeneral: Which periodical guides list articles about educational policy in the 1950s? But as you narrow your topic, frame questions so that your librarian can understand exactly what youneed: How do I find court decisions onthe “separate but equal” doctrine in educational policy in the early 1950s? 5.2.2 General Reference Works If you know a lot about your topic, fo- One new graduate stu- cus on the specific sources you’ll dent at the University need. If not, start with general refer- ofChicagoneededthree trips to find where its ence works such as the Encyclopaedia research library keeps Britannica or with specialized ones most of its books. She suchas the Encyclopedia of Philosophy. spent two trips wander- They give a reliable overview of your ingthroughsevenfloors topic, and at the end of the article, of reading rooms, find- they usually provide a list of sources ing only reference works. Only on the third day that constitute the basic texts in a did she get up enough field. If you find nothing under one nerve to ask a librarian heading, look under another one. For where all the books example,the1993BooksinPrintlisted were. She was directed nothingunder gender,thetermthatis to a door that led into nowstandardforresearchersinwom- the main stacks. Moral of the story: Ask en’s studies, but it had many entries under sex. 5.2.3 Specialized Reference Works Most fields provide extensive bibliographical resources, both in print and online. Large libraries offer online access to biblio-From Problems to Sources 81 graphicaldatabasescoveringmostfields,manyofthemincluding abstracts. In some newer or highly specialized fields, you may find bibliographical lists on websites maintained by individual scholars,bydepartments,orbyscholarlyassociations.Thesemay be less reliable than the large databases, but they can get you started. You shouldalso findprint bibliographies coveringyour whole fieldorspecificaspectsofit.Ifyouarelucky,you’llfindananno- tated bibliography that briefly describes current books and arti- cles;itisoneofthebestwaystogetaquickoverviewofwhatother researchersthinkisimportant.Mostfieldspublishajournalthat reviewsnewresearchannually,whichisevenmoreuseful.Ifyou need the most current sources, the Chronicle of Higher Education regularlylistsnewbooks,andmanyjournalslist“booksreceived” (new books that publishers send hoping the journal will review them). 5.2.4 Research Guides Everymajorfieldhasatleastoneguidetotheresourcesthatexpe- rienced researchers commonly use: lists of bibliographies, loca- tions of important primary materials, research methods, and so on. Depending on how much time you have, you may want to look carefully at such guides, particularly if your library holds materialsthattheguidescite.Thefirststepinlearningtheropes ofresearchistofindoutwheretheropesarestored.(We’velisted some of the more popular ones in our “Appendix on Finding Sources.”) 5.2.5 The Library Catalog You can start with a general keyword search in your library cat- alog, but you’ll work more efficiently if you first check bibli- ographies for specific titles. If your library does not have a title you need, request it through interlibrary loan (if you start early enough). Once you locate a few sources you consider reliable, you can expandyoursearchintwoways:keywordsearchesandbrowsing.82 asking questions, finding answers Forakeywordsearch,startbyenteringspecifictermsinthetitles youhavealreadyfound—forexample,Alamo,Texasindependence, James Bowie. To expand your search, look for subject headings in the bibliographical data for each title (they may be on a “de- tails” page online, or if you have the actual book, on the back of itstitlepage).ThoseheadingsaretheLibraryofCongresscatego- ries for all books. A search for them will generate titles related to your question, but also many that are not. A quick way to expand on a small catalog is to consult the onlinecatalogoftheLibraryofCongress( tosearch,andyou’llfindalmostanybook,film,orrecordingyou could want. It also has links to many university library catalogs. Your library may have only a fraction of what you find there, but it can borrow most of what you need. For books too new to be in a library catalog, consult an online bookseller. Those books you’ll probably have to buy. Be aware that if your library is large or you use the Library of Congresscatalog,akeywordsearchcangenerateavastnumberof titles.TheUniversityofChicagolibraryhasalmostthreehundred ´ books on Napoleon, and more than three thousand books with the word environment in their title. If your search turns up too many titles,narrow thelist usingthe techniques wetalked about in chapter 3. On the other hand, if you exhaust the terms you can think of and still find nothing, your topic may be too narrow or too far off the beaten track to yield quick results. Or you could be onto an important question that nobody has thought about before, or at least not for a long time. Centuries ago, for example, “friendship” was an important topic for philosophers, but then was dropped and long ignored by major encyclopedias. Re- cently, though, it has been revived as a serious topic. In either case, chances are you’ll make something of your topic only through your own hard thinking. In the long run, your topic might make you famous, but it is not one for a paper due in a few weeks.From Problems to Sources 83 5.2.6 In the Stacks The second way to expand your list is to do some of the casual browsing we’ve recommended. If you can get into the stacks, skim the titles of books shelved on either side of those on your topic (lookfirst atbooks withthe newestbindings). Manywill be irrelevant, but you are likely to find some that shed surprising newlightonyourquestion.(Allthreeofushavefoundinvaluable sourcesinthisway.)Youmayalsobeabletobrowseonline.Many library catalogs allow users to browse not only by call number or shelf location but also by subject and author. If yours does not, try browsing the Library of Congress catalog. Finally, our advice assumes that your library has an online catalog. If yours does not or if its catalog is only partly online, you can do most of the tasks we’ve outlined with a card catalog, though more slowly. But we recommend that you start not with the cards, but online with the Library of Congress. A few quick searches there will give you an overview of what you might find in your library or borrow through interlibrary loan. 5.2.7 Online Databases If most of your sources are not books but journal articles, skip the catalog and go right to your library’s online databases. Al- thoughtheirsearchcapabilitiesvary,mostletyousearchfortitles andkeywordsinallthewayswe’vedescribed.(Browsingcapabili- ties,however,are rare.)Inadditiontobibliographical data,many databases also include abstracts, which can speed the process of deciding which articles are worth reading carefully. Some data- bases even provide the full text of articles, though often for a fee.Forinformationtoocurrentforthejournals,checkperiodical indexes, or search the online archives of a major newspaper. 5.3 FINDING SOURCES ON THE INTERNET The Internet changes so fast that generalizing is risky. Here is a principle that is true today, but may not be tomorrow: Unless you have good reason not to, prefer a printed source to one on the84 asking questions, finding answers Internet.(Notwantingtowalktothelibraryisnotagoodreason.) Althoughyoushouldnevertrustanysourceblindly,mostofyour readers will be more willing to trust print sources from reliable presses or journals than almost any source on the Internet. Print sources are more highly respected because most of the datayoucanfindontheInternetarenotreliableenoughforseri- ous research. What complicates this generalization is that every day the Internet gains information as reliable as the best print data. You can find rigorously edited online journals, moderated discussion lists whose reviews and other edited contributions offer reliable scholarship, editions of primary texts superior to the best printed ones, and much more that is reliable. But such Internet-based sources stand beside incompetently edited jour- nals, discussion lists full of nonsense, some of the least reliable editionsofprimarytexts,andotherdatathatarebiased,distorted, invented, or simply the ravings of a demented mind. ThestrengthoftheInternetisalsoitsproblem:ithasnogate- keepers. It is like a publishing house without editors or a library without librarians. Consequently, you have access to more than the publishers or librarians provide, but you bear the risk of not knowing what parts of it are worth reading, can be trusted, have been checked for errors, and so on. So avoid using an Internet source unless you know that it is reliable and can persuade your readers to think so too. And never rely on the Internet to have a balancedorcompleteselectionofsources.Forthemostpart,peo- plepostwhattheyarepassionateabout,sonotonlyareindividual postings liable to be biased, the selection is almost certain to be. On the other hand, there are some situations in which you can use the information you find on Internet sources reliably: • It is provided by a reliable journal or online publisher. • It is in precisely the same form you would find in a library. Many government, civic, and business reports are released simultaneously on the Internet and in print. • It supplements print sources. Some journals use the In-From Problems to Sources 85 ternet to archive data not included in articles, to disseminate illustrations too expensive to print, or to host discussions be- tween authors and readers. • It is too recent to be found in libraries. • It is available only on the Internet. Many government and ac- ademic databases are now available only online. • It is your primary source. What is posted on the Internet is primary data about what people are thinking, the views of specific groups, and so on. But remember: Before you treat a Caution: You can find posting as reliable, evaluate the cre- many printed texts dentials of the poster and those who posted on the Internet in violation of the au- own, maintain, and sponsor the site. thor’s copyright. Careful To locate Internet sources, use the readers mistrust unau- same techniques described for library thorized copies because catalogs,thistimeonasearchengine. theyaresoofteninaccu- You won’t find lists of subject head- rately reproduced. Ethi- ings, but you can use the same ones cal readers dislike seeing them cited because they youusedthere.Beprepared,however, violatethelaw.Sounless to pick through a lot of dross. (In our a text is clearly posted “ANoteonSomeofOurSources,”we with the author’s per- cite some guides to research on the mission (as in a data- Internet. They offer more detailed ad- base), use the printed vice about Internet-based research rather than the Internet version of the text. than we can offer here.) 5.4 GATHERING DATA DIRECTLY FROM PEOPLE Mostprojectscanbedonefrombooks,journals,andtheInternet alone, but you may also need data available only from talking with people. And again, the most important work you can do before you consult them is to plan. You will save time if you pre- pare specific questions. Help your source understand what you are up to by turning the three-step rubric in chapter 3 into an86 asking questions, finding answers elevator story, ending with how you hope the person can help you: I am working on the topic of , so that I can find out , because I want my readers to understand bet- ter . What I am hoping to learn from you is . . . 5.4.1 Experts as Sources of Bibliography Ateverystageofresearch,youcanusuallyfindsomeonetoguide you. At first, your teachers will help you focus your question and find sources. Here, too, the quality of the help you get depends on the quality of the questions you ask. The more you prepare before you talk to your teachers, the better you can explain what youaredoingandthemoretheycan help.Yourteacherswillnot have all the answers, so you may have to look for help from oth- ers. (You might even hope that your teachers don’t have all the answers, because then you will have something to teach them, and they will read your report with interest.) You can never predict how much help you will need. At one extreme, we know a graduate student who met with his adviser every day for breakfast, reporting what he had found the day be- foreandreceivingguidanceforthedayaheadofhim.(It’sproba- blyagoodthingstudentsrarelygetthatmuchhelp.)Attheother extreme are those independent scholars who disappear into the library and never talk with anyone until they emerge with their projectcompleted,sometimesyearslater.(Wedon’tactuallyknow any, but we hear they exist.) Most researchers choose a middle way,relyingoncasualconversationstoguidetheirreading,which stimulates more questions and hunches to try out on others. 5.4.2 People as Primary Sources Insomeareas,youhavetocollectprimarydatafrompeople.Even if your research is not directly about individuals, you may still find people willing to provide information, if you can help them understandyourinterestinwhattheyknow.Don’tignorepeople in local industrial, governmental, or civic organizations. For in-From Problems to Sources 87 stance, if you were researching school desegregation in your town, you might read court cases concerning the “separate but equal” doctrine that your reference librarian helped you locate, but you might also ask the local school district whether anyone there has memories she or he would share. We cannot explain the complexities of interviewing, but re- member that the more you sort out what you know from what youwanttoknow,themoreefficientlyyouwillgetwhatyouneed. Inshort,plan. Youdon’tneedto scriptaninterviewaround aset list of questions—in fact, that’s a bad idea because it tends to freeze the interviewee. But prepare so that you don’t talk to your source aimlessly. You can always go back to a book you have misunderstood, but people are usually not sources that you can returntorepeatedlyjustbecauseyoudidnotpreparewellenough to get what you needed the first time. The Ethics of Using People as Sources of Data In recent years our society has become increasingly aware that when researchers study people, they may inadvertently harm them—not just physically but emotionally, by embarrassing them or violating theirprivacy.SoeverycollegeoruniversitynowhasaHumanSubjects Committee that reviews all research directly or indirectly involving people, when done by students or professional researchers. Its aim is to ensure that researchers follow the maxim that should govern research as much as it does medicine: First, do no harm. So consult with that committee if you use people as sources of data—by inter- viewingthem,surveyingthem,perhapsevenjustobservingthem.You don’t need clearance if you informally talk with a few dorm mates for a paper in a first-year writing class (as a courtesy, you should still tell them what you intend to do with the information they give you). You will likely need clearance if you are an advanced undergraduate and want to circulate a survey in your dorm that collects personal data of any kind. But if you are an advanced researcher, you must without fail get clearance before you do any kind of research that involves people. Jumping through these hoops may feel like bureaucratic make-work, but if you don’t, you could harm those who help you in ways you don’t anticipate and your institution could pay a price.88 asking questions, finding answers 5.5 BIBLIOGRAPHICAL TRAILS Whenyoufindabookthatseemsuseful,skimitspreface.Itmay listtheauthor’sfriendsandfamily,butalsothosewhotheauthor thinks have done good work. Next, skim the works cited and in- dex. The works cited section lists books and articles on the same or related topics, and the index will show which were used most often (generally, the more pages devoted to an author or book, the more important it is). Articles usually begin with a review of previous research, and most supply references. Now comes the second round. If your list is short, read it all. If it is long and you need to shorten it, start with sources men- tionedmostoftenbytheworksyoureadinthefirstround.Focus onworksmostrelevanttoyourproblem,butdon’tignoreawork that is not mentioned but is on your topic—you will get credit for originality if you turn up a good source that few others have found.Byfollowingthisbibliographictrail,youcanfindyourway through even the most difficult research territory, because one source always leads to others. 5.6 WHAT YOU FIND Among these resources, you may find some titles right on your topic. You may even feel a flash of panic when you discover an article whose title could have been yours: “Transforming the Alamo Legend: History in the Service of Politics.” At that mo- ment you might think, There goes my project, nothing new to say. You could be right, but probably not. Study the source to see if it settles your question. If it does, you have to formulate a new one. But when you see how your topic has already been treated, you will probably find something to say about that treatment. In fact, once you see how someone else has addressed your topic, you can usually do it better. If the author has failed to get things quite right, you have found unwitting help in formulating your problem and the gist of the introductory paragraphs of your re- port (see pp. 72–74). The most important thing you can do at this stage of your research is to keep your research question at the front of yourFrom Problems to Sources 89 mind. You must screen sources for reliability, but you must also screen them for relevance: Do they look as though they will help you answer your question? Or even clarify it? If you have time, skim sources that are just “about” your topic, because you will surelyfindsomeofthemuseful.Thetrickistoreadwithanopen mind,asomnivorously asyourtimeallows,butwith amindthat alsocanweedoutthosesourcesthatdonotspeaktoyourspecific question and its possible answers.chapter six Using Sources To make your research as reliable as you expect your sources to be, you have to use them fairly and accurately. In this chapter we explain how to read and take notes so that readers can trust you when you cite, rely on, or critique a source. How you use the sources you find depends on where you stand in your search for a problem and its solution. If you have only a topic, you may have to do a lot of unfocused reading to find a question to pursue. Be alert for matters that spark some special interest, for things that surprise you, especially for claims that you find odd, puzzling, dubious, even wrong. If you can find something that you find worth pursuing, you are more likely to sustainaninterestinyourprojectandcommunicatethatinterest in your report. If you intend to use the sources you have found to answer a question you have, then you can use your sources to test and support your answer.At this point, you have toanalyze theargu- mentsofyoursourcescriticallyyetfairlyandtoidentifydatathat you might use. At the same time, you have to record not only yourownthoughts,responses,andanalyses,butdetailsfromthe sourceitself,allinwaysthatareaccurateandeasytorecoverlater. Those are skills highly valued not just in the classroom, but in every workplace as well. Theproblemis,humannatureworksagainstyou,intwoways. First,takinggoodnotesrequiresdiscipline.Whenyouhuntdown supportforyourclaim,youfocusonfinding,notrecordinginfor- mation. So taking notes feels like a distraction from the main goal. In that circumstance, too many of us take notes in a short- 90Using Sources 91 hand that seems good enough at the time, but is not much use later—justaskDorisKearnsGoodwin,aprominenthistorianand TVpunditwhosereputationwasdamagedbymistakessheattrib- uted to not taking careful notes. More important, once we come up with a hypothesis to test, most of us embrace it too strongly. As a result, we don’t read sources as objectively as we should. When you seek to support a particular answer, you quickly spot data and arguments that confirm it, but you’ll be tempted to overlook or reinterpret data that contradict or even just qualify it. And when the data are am- biguous, you’ll be tempted to resolve ambiguities in your favor. Youhavetoguardagainstthosebiases,bothinyourownwork and in your sources. In this chapter we show you how to ensure that you use secondary sources as accurately, critically, and fairly as time—and human nature—allow. 6.1 THREE USES FOR SOURCES Most researchersthink ofsecondarysourcesonly asproviders of evidence. But you can also use them in another way: as models of argument, forms of analysis, and rhetorical moves used by thoseinyourfield.Youcanevenusesourcestofindagoodques- tion to ask. 6.1.1 Read for a Problem If you are having trouble formulating a problem or question, fo- cus your reading to find one. Look for claims that puzzle you, that seem inaccurate or simplistic, or for data that others have ignored or not pursued. You can even borrow the general form of their questions. If a source you like asks a question about one historicalfigure,youmightaskthesamequestionaboutarelated one.Skimconclusionstojournalarticles;researchersoftenpoint out at the end issues they have left unresolved or new lines of possible research. This should bequick, serendipitous reading, sensitiveto what sparks your interest and gets you thinking. Write as you read, but record only your general responses and ideas. If you come92 asking questions, finding answers across data that you think might be important, just note where you found them without recording them in detail. You can’t be sure what data you need until you know the question you’ll ad- dress. But record bibliographical data exactly so that you can get back to the source easily. 6.1.2 Read for an Argument In research, originality counts. Your teachers won’tdemand that you be entirely original, but they will reward you to the degree that youare. There is,however, oneareawhere a researchreport is rarely original: in its logic. So one way to use a source is to borrow not its specific substance (that would be plagiarism), but the logic of its argument. (Academic argument is an issue we address in part III.) Suppose you want to argue that the Alamo legend grew be- cause it served the political interests of those who created it and satisfied the emotional needs of those who read or heard and repeatedit.Youwillneedreasonsandevidenceuniquelyrelevant to your claim, but readers will expect you to address the same kindsofpointstheylookforinsimilarargumentsabouthistorical legends, real or fictional. They willexpect you to say who created thelegendandwhy;howthestorywasmanipulated;whetherthe manipulationwasdeliberate;andsoon.Whenyouseehowother researchers address similar problems, you can learn how to ad- dress yours in particular. Soifyouhavenevermadeanargumentliketheoneyouthink you may have to, find similar ones to use as models. When you take notes, record not the particular evidence but the larger claims; create an outline of the argument and note the kind of evidence used as support. It is likely to be the kind your readers will expect from you. In your notes, turn each major point made by a source into a question to answer. If, for example, a source shows that creators of another legend benefited from responses to it, note that point andaskacorrespondingquestion:HowdidtheAlamolegendbene- fit its creators? Those questions can help you plan your outline.Using Sources 93 You will probably not be able to touch on all the points in your sources, but they at least show you which ones readers are likely to look for. Borrowing the logic of a source is not plagiarism. So long as yourelyonasourceonlyasachecklistofkindsofpointstocover, you are not obliged to cite it in your text or workscited. You can, however, cite it (and gain some credibility) by observing that it makes an argument similar to yours: As Weiman (1998) has shown with regard to the Arthurian legends, those most responsible for the Alamo legend also gained the most from its depiction of Texas as an outpost civil- ization. . . . In contrast to speedy reading that you do when looking for a question, reading for argument—or evidence—must be more careful. You must read slowly to get a sense of the whole argu- ment in its complete context. A common cause of misunder- standing and misquoting is piecemeal reading—what is more aptly called “raiding.” If you expect to use an argument or an idea, especially if you intend to quote it, read everything around itandanythingelsethatyouneedtounderstandwhatyouexpect to use. 6.1.3 Read for Evidence This is the most common reason for consulting sources: to find data useful as evidence to support a claim. When you find evi- dence, report it as completely and accurately as possible and cite the source fully, not only to give credit but to help readers find yoursourcesothattheycancheckthedataforthemselves.Ifyou comeacrosssecondhanddata(datathatyoursourcereportsfrom another source), do everything you can to locate the original source. Not only can you then be sure your report is accurate (you may be surprised to see how often secondhand sources are not),butyoumayfindotherdataequallyuseful.Itisintellectually lazy and usually risky not to look up an important quotation in94 asking questions, finding answers its original form and context, if that Use statistical data only source is obtainable. (We’ll return to if you understand how reports of evidence in chapter 9.) toreportthemfairlyand can also judge for your- You don’t have to agree with the self whether they were conclusionsinasourcetouseitsdata; collected and analyzed in fact, its argument does not even appropriately. You will have to be relevant to your question, serveyourselfwell ifyou so long as its data are. If you do find take courses in quanti- a source that makes a claim useful to tative analysis, an area of knowledge of which you, you can cite it to support your most Americans are own.Butdon’tthinkthattheclaimisa shamefully ignorant. factyoucanuseasdata.Allthatclaim shows is that another researcher agreeswithyou;touseit,youhavetoreportnotonlythatconclu- sionbutitssupportingdataaswell.(Ofcourse,ifasourcemakes exactlyyourclaim,youmusteitherfindanewdirectionorframe your report as “further confirmation of Smith’s claim.”) Don’ttrytocollectallthedatarelevanttoyourquestion;thatis usuallyimpossible.Butyoudoneedsufficientandrepresentative evidence.Thatcanbehardtojudgebecausedifferentfieldsjudge what is sufficient and what is representative differently. For ex- ample,to have sufficient evidence for a claim about a correlation between baldness and personality, a psychologist might need re- sultsfromhundredsofsubjectsinmanyexperiments.Butbefore accepting a new cancer drug, the FDA might demand data from thousands of subjects through years of trials. The more at stake, the higher the threshold of sufficiency. What counts as representative depends on the nature of the data. Anthropologists might interpret a whole culture in New Guinea on the basis of a deep acquaintance with a few individu- als, but no sociologist would make a claim about American reli- gious practices based on data from a single Baptist church in Oregon. If you cannot tell from your reading what your field judges to be sufficient and representative, consult your teacher or another expert. In particular, ask for examples of argumentsUsing Sources 95 thatfailedbecausetheirevidencewasinsufficientorunrepresen- tative. You learn what counts as right by accumulating represen- tative examples of what goes wrong. 6.2 READING GENEROUSLY BUT CRITICALLY When you read, be generous. Read first to understand fully. Go slowly;reread passagesthatpuzzle orconfuseyou.If youcannot summarize a passage in your mind, assume you don’t under- stand it well enough to use it in an argument. Don’t start by assuming that you have to disagree with everything you find. In this first reading, resolve ambiguities in favor of the source. Pre- fer interpretations that help the source make sense, that make it more rather than less coherent. When a source presents an argument that may rival yours, you’ll be especially tempted to readitinawaythatemphasizesitsweaknesses.Resistthattemp- tation, at least at first. But once you understand a source, you are free to disagree. Don’t accept a claim just because an authority asserts it, espe- ciallywhenthatassertionisnotwellsupported.Fordecadespeo- ple cited the “fact” that the Inuit peoples of the Arctic had lots of terms for types of snow. But when a researcher checked, she found that they have just three. (Or so she claims.) Be especially wary of dueling experts. If Expert A says one thing, B will assert the opposite, and C will claim to be an expert but is no expert at all.Whensomebeginningresearchershearexpertsdisagree,they become cynical and dismiss expert knowledge as mere opinion. Don’t confuse uninformed opinion with informed and thought- ful debate. Anotheraspectofcriticalreadingistocheckeverythingimpor- tant for its accuracy (that’s why we encourage you to chase down original data reported secondhand). Those who publish in re- spectedjournalsrarelymisrepresenttheirresultsdeliberately.Yet if you ask almost any scholar whose work has been used by oth- ers, he will tell you that, as often as not, it has been reported inaccurately, summarized carelessly, or criticized ignorantly.96 asking questions, finding answers Publicationslike theBook Review of the SundayNew York Times ortheNewYorkReviewofBooksregularlyprintlettersfromangry authors responding to reviewers who, they claim, have misread or made factual errors in reviews of their books. Ifyouareunfamiliarwithorcan’tfindauthoritativesecondary sources—scholarly journals and books—you may have to resort to tertiary sources: textbooks, articles in encyclopedias, mass- circulationpublicationslikePsychologyToday,searchengineslike If those are the only sources available, so be it, but never assume they are authoritative. Be especially wary of books and articles on complex issues aimed at mass audiences. It’s not that journalists who write for ordinary readers about brains or black holes are necessarily incompetent; sometimes even distin- guishedresearcherslikethelateStephenJayGouldwriteforpop- ular audiences. But when they do, they always simplify, some- times oversimplify, and their work usually dates quickly. So if you start your research with a popular book, look at the dates of the journals cited in its bibliography, then go to those journals, if you can, for the most current research. Whom Do You Trust? One of Booth’s students got a summer job doing “scientific re- search”foradrugcompany.Hewasassignedtogothroughstacks of doctors’ answersto questionnaires and shredcertain ones until nine out of ten of those left did indeed endorse the company’s product. The bogus files would then be used to “prove” that the product worked. The student quit in disgust and was, no doubt, quickly replaced by someone less ethically careful. 6.3 PRESERVING WHAT YOU FIND Onceyoufindsourcesthatlookpromising,youhavetoreadthem purposefully and carefully, of course. In particular, you must re- cordyoursourcesinyourbibliographyaccurately,andthenwhen youtakenotesonthem,youmustrecordwhatyoufindaccurately and fully.Using Sources 97 6.3.1 Record Complete Bibliographical Data Before you start taking notes, record all bibliographical data. We promise that no habit will serve you better for the rest of your career. For printed texts, record • author, • title (including subtitle), • editor(s) (if any), • edition, • volume, • place published, • publisher, • date published, • page numbers of articles or chapters. For online sources, record as much of the above information as applies: if you access a printed text online, you still have to cite the bibliographical information from the original printing. Also record • URL, • date of access, • Webmaster (if identified), • database (if any). If you photocopy from a book, copy its title page; then write on it the publication date from its reverse side. Finally, record thelibrarycallnumberofthebookorjournal.Youwon’tinclude callnumbersinyourworkscited,butwecantellyouhowfrustrat- ing it is to find in your notes the perfect quote or the essential bitofdata,whose sourceyou incompletelydocumented. Thecall98 asking questions, finding answers numberwillsaveyoutimewhenyouhavetogobacktothelibrary to recheck a source. A few years ago, Williams had to withhold publication of some research on Elizabethan social structure for quite a while because he had failed to document a source fully. He had come across data that no one else had thought to apply to the problem he was addressing, but he could not use the data because he had failed to record complete information on the source. He searched the library at the University of Chicago for hours, until one night he woke up in bed, recalling that the source was in a different library 6.3.2 Take Full Notes When you are hunting down data, it can feel tedious to record themall accurately,but youcanlose whatyougain fromreading carefully if your notes do not reflect the quality of your thinking. Some still believe that the best notes are written longhand on cards like this: Sharman, Swearing, p. 133. HISTORY/ECONOMICS (GENDER?) Saysswearingbecameeconomicissuein18thc.CitesGentleman’s Magazine, July 1751 (no page reference): woman sentenced to ten days’ hard labor because couldn’t pay one-shilling fine for pro- fanity. “. . . one rigid economist practically entertained the notion of add- ing to the national resources by preaching a crusade against the opulent class of swearers.” (Way to think about swearing today as economic issue? Comedi- ansmorepopulariftheyusebadlanguage?Moviesmorerealistic? A gender issue here? Were 18th-c. men fined as often as women?) GT3080/S6 • At the top left of the card is the author, title, and page number. • At the top right are keywords that help the researcher sort and re-sort cards into different categories and orders.Using Sources 99 • The body of the card summarizes the source, records a di- rect quotation, and includes a thought about further re- search. • At the bottom is the library call number for the book. Thisformatencouragessystematicnote-taking,buttobehonest, we three no longer use cards (though we did a long time ago). We use a computer or a lined pad, because a note card is usually too small for what we want to write. But we still follow these general principles: • Put notes about different topics on different pages; don’t jumble together on one page all your notes on different top- ics from a single source. • On each sheet of notes record at the top the author, title, pages, and keywords. If you take notes on a computer, make them easier to search by using consistent keywords and shorthand titles. • Perhaps most important: Clearly and unambiguously distin- guish four kinds of references: what you quote directly, what you paraphrase, what you summarize, and what you write as your own thoughts. On a computer, use different fonts or styles; on paper use headings or different-colored sheets or ink. However you take notes, be certain to record all the information you need to recover your critical reading and to let your readers know exactly how to find that same information. 6.3.3 Get Attributions Right Here is why we stress distinguishing the words of your sources from your own. In recent yearssome eminent scholars have had their reputations shredded because they printed, as their own, thewordsofothersthattheyhadcopiedintotheirnotes,butthat they had “inadvertently” (they later claimed) failed to note were from the source. And we cannot emphasize too much that when100 asking questions, finding answers you take notes, not only distinguish your own thoughts from those of the source, but also clearly and consistently distinguish summary, paraphrase, and direct quotes. Indicate direct quota- tionsinawayyoucannotmistake—largequotationmarks,head- ings,aboxaroundthem,whateveryoucannotoverlook.Thebest way to distinguish the language of your source from your own and to ensure that your quotations are correct is to photocopy quotationslongerthanafewlines.Alwaysrecordpagenumbers, not only of quotations and data, but of anything you paraphrase or summarize. 6.3.4 Get the Context Right To support their claims, researchers build complex arguments out of several elements (we discuss them in detail in part III). As you assemble material from the arguments of your sources that you intend to use in yours, be aware of how they use their material. 1. When you quote or summarize, be careful about context. You cannotcompletelyavoidquotingoutofcontext,becauseyoucan- not quote all of an original. But if you read carefully and reread everything crucial to your own conclusions, you will draft sum- mariesandcopyquotationswithinthecontextthatmattersmost, the context of your own grasp of the original.When you use a claim or argument, look for the line of reasoning that the author was pursuing and note it: NOT: Bartolli (p. 123): The war was caused by Z. NOT: Bartolli (p. 123): The war was caused by X, Y, and Z. BUT: Bartolli: The war was caused by X, Y, and Z (p. 123). But the most important cause was Z (p. 123), for three reasons: rea- son 1 (pp. 124–26); reason 2 (p. 126); reason 3 (pp. 127–28). Sometimes you will care only about the conclusion, but experi- encedresearchersneverjustaddupvotes—Fouroutoffivesources said X, so I do, too. Readers want to see how your conclusionsUsing Sources 101 result from arguments, whether from your sources or your own. Sowhenyoutakenotes,recordnotonlyconclusionsbutalsothe arguments that support them. That way, you’ll work in the con- text of argued and related points. Some misreporting happens because a researcher lazily relies on hearsay. Colomb heard a prominent researcher confess after her talk that she had never read an author whose work she had just discussed. One of Booth’s books was “refuted” by a critic who apparently had read only the title of a section, “Novels Must Be Realistic.” Failing to read beyond it, he didn’t know that Booth himself was attacking the title, along with other misconceptions aboutfiction.OnereviewermisquotedWilliamsandthen,thinking he was disagreeing with him, used the misquoted evidence to ar- gue for the point Williams originally made 2. When you record the claim of a source, note the rhetorical importance of that claim in the original. Is it a main point? A minorpointofsupport?Aqualificationorconcession?Aframing suggestion that is not a part of the main argument? By noting these distinctions you avoid this kind of mistake: ORIGINAL BY JONES: “We cannot conclude that one event causes another just because the second follows the first. Nor can statistical correlation prove causation. But no one who has studied the data doubts that smoking is a causal factor in lung cancer.” MISLEADING REPORT ABOUT JONES: Jones claims that “we cannot conclude that one event causes another just because the second follows the first. Nor can statistical correlation prove cau- sation.” No wonder responsible researchers distrust statistical ev- idence of health risks. Jones did not make that point at all. He conceded a point that he stated was relatively trivial compared to what he said in the final sentence, which is the point he really wanted to make. Anyone who deliberately misreports in this way violates basic standards of truth in research. But a researcher can make such a mistake102 asking questions, finding answers inadvertently if he notes only the words and not their role in an argument. Distinguish statements that are central to an argument from qualificationsorconcessionstheauthoracknowledgesbutdown- plays. Unless you are reading a source “against the grain” of the writer’s intention—for example, you want to expose hidden ten- dencies—do not report minor aspects of a research report as thoughtheyweremajoronesor,worse,asiftheywerethewhole of the report. Be especially attentive to “framing” statements at the begin- ning and end of an argument. Careful scholars usually frame their discussions with contextualizing statements. Sometimes those are their most interesting claims, but while they may be- lieve them, they do not always support them. 3. Be sure of the scope and confidence an author expresses in making a claim. These are not the same: Chemicals in French fries cause cancer. Chemicals in French fries seem to be a factor in causing cancer. Chemicals in French fries correlate with a higher incidence of cancer. 4.Don’tmistakethesummaryofanotherwriter’sviewsforthose of the author summarizing them. Many writers do not clearly indicate when they are summarizing another’s arguments, so it iseasytoquotethoseauthorsassayingtheoppositeofwhatthey in fact believe and are actually setting out to disprove. 5. When dealing with sources that agree on a major claim, deter- mine whether they also agree on how they interpret and support it. For example, two social scientists might claim that a social problem is caused not by environmental forces but by personal factors, butonemightsupport thatclaim with evidencefrom ge- netic inheritance while theother points to religious beliefs. How and why sources agree is as important as the fact that they do.Using Sources 103 6. Identify the cause of disagreement. Do sources disagree be- cause they cite different evidence, because they interpret the sameevidencedifferently,orbecausetheyapproachtheproblem differently? It is risky to attach yourself to what any one researcher says aboutanissue.Itisnot“research”ifyoujustuncriticallysumma- rize another’s work. Even if your source is a scholar who is uni- versally trusted, be careful. If you rely on at least two sources, you will almost always find that they do not agree entirely, and that’s where your own research can begin. Which has the better argument? Which better respects the evidence? In fact, there is a research problem right there—whom should we believe? Finally,rememberthatyourreportwillbeaccurateonlyifyou double-check your notes against your sources. After your first draft, check your quotations against your notes. If you use one source extensively,skim its relevant parts. By this time, you may be seized by the enthusiasm we mentioned earlier. You’ll believe in your claim so strongly that you will see all your evidence in its favor. Despite our best intentions, that temptation afflicts us all. There is no cure, save for checking and rechecking. And re- checking again. Forbothbeginnersandexperts,mistakesarepartofthegame.Allthree of us have discovered them in our published work (and desperately hoped no one else would). Mistakes are most likely when you copy a long quotation. When Booth was in graduate school, his bibliography class was told to copy a poem exactly as written. Not one student in the class of twenty turned in a perfect copy. His professor said he had giventhat assignmentto hundredsofstudents,andperfect copieshad been done by just three. But even when you make an especially foolish mistake, don’t think you are the only one who ever has. Booth still winceswhenheremembers thegraduate paperhe turnedinonShake- speare’s McBeth, and Williams would like to forget the report he was supposedtogiveinclass,butneverdid,becausehecouldfindnothing on his assigned topic, that great Norwegian playwright Henry Gibson (it’s Macbeth, of course, and Henrik Ibsen). In fact, until our very last proofreading, the story about Booth on page xiv had him standing be- fore heaven’s “Golden Gate.”104 asking questions, finding answers 6.3.5 Use Comments and Keywords to Organize Your Thoughts Your notes should be faithful to your sources, but they should also reflect your own growing understanding of how you will ex- plain and support your answer to an important question. So, as youtake notes,start writingcomments thatreflect yourthinking about how your data might fit into your argument. Regularly re- view them to take stock of where your argument is and how far it has to go. You can make that process easier if you use keywords. Keywordsnamecentralconceptsinyourproblemanditssolu- tion. Use some general keywords, such as Alamo, politics, myth, history, but concentrate on those that are specific to your particu- lar argument: outpost civilization, Mexican response, borderlands culture. Select them carefully, especially if your project requires extensive research and you take notes on a computer. When you organize around thoughtful, specific keywords, you can search your computerized notes to combine and recombine them in novelways.(Ifyoutypekeywordswithanasterisk—outpostcivi- lizations—you can target your search more easily.) 6.4 GETTING HELP As your research progresses, you may experience a moment when everything you have learned seems to run together. When thathappens,youareprobablyaccumulatingdatafasterthanyou can handle them. You know a lot but can’t be sure what’s useful or relevant. You can’t expect to avoid all such moments, but you canminimize theanxietythey createbytaking everyopportunity to organize and summarize what you have gathered in writing and as you go, and to keep returning to the central questions: What problem am I posing here? What question am I asking? How are my data relevant to either? Keep coming back to that formula, I am working on X to learn more about Y, so that my readers can better understand Z. At moments of utter confusion, turn to friends, classmates, teachers—anyonewhowillserveasasympatheticbutcriticalau- dience. Explain how what you have learned bears on your ques-Using Sources 105 tion and moves you toward a resolution of your problem. Give your friends progress reports, asking: Does this make sense? Am I missing an important aspect or question? Given what I have said, what else would you like to know? You will profit from their reac- tions, but even more from the mere act of explaining your ideas to nonspecialists.Speedy Reading You owe readers a careful reading of an important source, but early on you may have to do some speed-reading to weed out useless ones. Successful speed-reading, however, requires more than just running your eyes down a page. To identify the main elements of an argument, you must have an idea of both the structure of theargument (see part III)and the geography of the book or article that reports it (see part IV). 1. Become familiar with the geography of the source. Before you skim, get a sense of the whole structure. A. If your source is a book, • read the first few sentences of each paragraph in the preface; • look in its table of contents for prologues, introductions, summary chapters, and so on; • skim the index for topics with the most page references; • skim the bibliography, noting sources cited most often; • flip through chapters to see if and how they are divided into sections with headings and if they have summaries at the end. B. If your source is an article, • read the abstract, if it has one; • flip through to see if there are section headings; • skim the bibliography. 106Quick Tip: Speedy Reading 107 2. Locate the problem/question and the solution/main claim. A. If your source is a book, • read introductions, summaries, and the first and last chap- ters. B. If your source is an article, • read the introduction, with special attention to its last two paragraphs, and the conclusion. At this point, you may be able to rule out irrelevant sources. If not, do the following: 3. Identify key subclaims. A. If your source is a book, • read the first and last few paragraphs of each chapter; • then read each chapter as if it were an article (see below). B. If your source is an article, • locate its sections; • read the first and last paragraph of each section. 4. Scan for key themes. Start by scanning for key concepts. If youadd thoseconceptsto yournotesonthe bibliographicaldata, you can use them to help see connections among sources worth acloserlook. Ifthesestepspoint toasourcethat seemsrelevant, go back and read it carefully, a process that will be easier because you already have a sense of its important elements. Asyouwillseewhenweturntoplanninganddrafting,practice inthiskindofspeedyreadingcanhelpguideyourownstrategies of writing and revision. If your readers cannot skim your reports and discover the outlines of your argument, the organization of your own report will not have served them well.III Making a Claim and Supporting ItPrologue pulling together your argument Ifyouhaveaccumulatedabushelofnotes,photocopies,andsum- maries, all spilling off your desk or filling up your hard drive, it’s time to think about imposing some shape on all that stuff, especially if you can see even the dim outline of an answer to your research question. The risk, however, is that you may be tempted like too many researchers to sort your data under the mostobvioustopics, arrangethemintosomearbitrarysequence, and start writing. Unfortunately, the obvious topics are usually the least useful, because they will likely reflect only what your sources suggest. Even if those suggestedtopics do go beyond the obvious,theyarelikelytofitonlyalinearsequence(ABC ...),astructureusuallytooweaktosupportacomplexargument. Andalmostsurelytheywillnotbeorganizedinawaythatclearly supports the claim that answers your question. To impose a useful order on all that information, you need a principleoforganizationthatcomesnotfromthecategoriesofyour databutfrom thelogicofyouransweranditssupport.You haveto organize yourreport tosupport aclaim that answersyour research question and justifies both the time you spent answering it and the time you ask readers to spend reading about it. The support for that answer and claim takes the form of a research argument. Thoughyoushouldatfirstorganizeyourmaterialsaroundthe elementsofyourargument,yourfinal draftmustreflect notonly 111112 making a claim and supporting it thestructureofyourargumentbutalsothestructureofyourread- ers’ understanding. We will discuss these two steps as though you could take them separately: first assemble the elements of your argument and then arrange them to meet you readers’ knowledge and needs. But the process of creating an effective report is cyclical, so as you focus on assembling your argument in part III, keep in the back of your mind our advice about plan- ningadraftinpartIV.Asyoubecomeamoreexperiencedwriter, assembling your argument and planning your first draft will be- come a single action. RESEARCH ARGUMENTS In chapter 4 we distinguished everyday, troublesome problems from the kind that motivate research projects. In the same way, wenowhavetodistinguishbetweeneverydayargumentsandthe kindthatorganizeresearchreports.Peopleusuallythinkofargu- mentsasdisputes:childrenargueoveratoy;roommatesoverthe stereo; drivers about who had the right-of-way. Such arguments canbepoliteorheated,buttheyallinvolveconflict,withwinners and losers. To be sure, researchers sometimes wrangle over evi- denceandoccasionallyeruptintochargesofcarelessness,incom- petence, and even fraud. But that is not the kind of argument that made them researchers in the first place. In the next five chapters, we examine a kind of argument that is less like a prickly dispute with winners and losers and more like a thoughtful conversation with amiable colleagues, a conver- sation inwhich you cooperativelyexplore a contestableissue that youallthinkisimportanttoresolve,aconversationthataimsnot at coercing each other into agreement, but at cooperatively find- ing and agreeing on the best answer to a hard question. In that conversation, though, you do more than just politely exchangeopinions.Weareallentitledtoouropinions,andnolaw requires us to explain or defend them. But in a research commu- nity, we are expected both to make claims new and important enoughtointerestourreadersandtoexplainthem, asifourread- ers were asking us, quite reasonably, Why should I believe that?Prologue 113 In a research report, your goal is not to stuff your claim down your readers’ throats, but to start where they do, with what they know and don’t know, what they accept and what they question. Then you answer those questions in a way that lets readers see how your claim solves their problem, and so furthers their best interests. To do that, you must anticipate their questioning each element of your argument, not to knock it down, but to help you both find and understand a truth you can share. Of course, when you write an argument, they are usually not there to question you, so you must learn to imagine their questions so that your arguments truly are a conversation with readers. Getting to Know You Nothing is harder than imagining questions from someone you don’t know. Experienced researchers have the advantage of knowing many oftheirreaderspersonally.Theytalkwiththem,tryingoutideasbefore writing them up. And when they don’t know their readers, they try to find out about them. A group of physicists who wanted biologists to notice their re- search were unhappy when the first manuscript they sent to a biology journal was rejected. So they started attending biology conferences, reading biology journals, even hanging around the lounge in the biol- ogy department. After they got to know how biologists think, they did some rewriting and were able to publish papers that influenced the field. Studentsseldomhavethetimeoropportunitytohangaroundtheir readers, especially before they start to specialize in a field. But you can do some homework on questions your readers might ask: • Read journals that publish research like yours. Notice the kinds of questions the articles acknowledge and respond to. • Rehearse your argument with your teacher. After you have a plan but beforeyou draft, talk over yourideas, asking whether anyseem confusing or doubtful to her. • Ask someone to read your drafts and indicate where they have questions or see alternatives. Find someone as much like your in- tended readers as possible You’ve been told a thousand times to think about your readers. To do that, you have to get to know them.chapter seven Making Good Arguments an overview In this chapter we discuss the five elements of research arguments, showing how they respond to readers’ predictable questions and how you can organize them into a genuinely coherent argument. When you know enough to start planning your research report, youshouldhaveatentativebutclearunderstandingofyourques- tion and why it might matter to your readers, and a tentative but reasonablyspecificanswer.Youshouldhavealistofreasonsthat support your claim and evidence to support those reasons, and someideaaboutthekindsofquestionsandobjectionsyourread- ers would be likely to raise, were they there in front of you. You won’tbeabletoimaginealloftheirquestions,norwilltheyexpect you to. But you must anticipate at least the questions that gener- ate the five elements of an argument and answer them before they’re asked. 7.1 ARGUMENT AND CONVERSATION Inaresearchreport,youmakeaclaim,backitwithreasonsbased onevidence,acknowledgeandrespondtootherviews,andsome- times explain your principles of reasoning. There’s nothing ar- caneinany of this,because you usethose elements inevery con- versation that inquires thoughtfully into an unsettled issue: A: I hear you had a rocky time last semester. How do you think this term will go? A poses a problem that interests her, put in the form of a question. B: Better, I hope. B makes a claim that answers the question. 114Making Good Arguments 115 A: Why is that? A asks for a reason to believe B’s claim. B: I’ll finally be taking courses in my major. B offers a reason. A: Why do you think that’ll make a difference? A doesn’t see how B’s reason is relevant to his claim that he will do better. B: When I take courses I’m interested in, I work harder. B offers a gen- eral principle that relates his reason to his claim. A: What courses? A asks for evidence to back up B’s reason. B: History of architecture, introduction to design. A: But what about that calculus course you have to take again? A of- fers a point that contradicts B’s reason. B: I know I had to drop it last time, but I found a really good tutor. B acknowledges A’s objection and responds to it. A: But won’t you be taking five courses? A raises another reservation. B: I know. It won’t be easy. B concedes a point he cannot refute. A: Will you pull up your GPA? A asks about the limits of B’s claim. B: I should. I’m shooting for at least a 3.0, as long as I don’t have to get a part-time job. B limits the scope of his claim and adds a condi- tion. If you can imagine playing the roles of both A and B, you will findnothingstrangeaboutassemblingaresearchreport,because every written argument, research or not, is built out of the an- swers to those same five questions that you must ask on your readers’ behalf: 1. What do you claim? 2. What reasons support that claim? 3. What evidence supports those reasons? 4. Do you acknowledge this alternative/complication/objection, and how do you respond? 5. What principle (warrant) justifies connecting your reasons to your claim?116 making a claim and supporting it 7.2 BASING CLAIMS ON REASONS At the core of every research report is your claim, the answer to your research question, along with two kinds of support for it. The first support is at least one reason, a sentence or two ex- plainingwhyyourreadersshouldacceptyourclaim.Wecanusu- ally join a claim and a reason with because: The emancipation of Russian peasants was an empty ges- ture because it did not improve the material quality of their claim daily lives. reason TV violence can have harmful psychological effects on chil- dren because those exposed to lots of it tend to adopt the claim values of what they see. reason At this point, we have to pause to clarify some terms. We must distinguish claims in general from main claims, and both from reasons: • As we will use the term, a claim is any sentence that asserts something that may be true or false and so needs support: The world’s temperature is rising. • A main claim is the sentence (or more) that your whole re- port supports (some call this its thesis). If you wrote a report to prove that the world’s temperature is rising, the sentence stating that would be its main claim. • A reason is a sentence supporting a claim, main or not. These terms can get confusing, because a reason is often sup- ported by more reasons, which makes that first reason a claim in its own right. In fact, a sentence can be both a reason and a claim at the same time, if what it states (1) supports a claim and (2) is in turn supported by another reason: For example, TV violence can have harmful psychological effects on chil- dren because those exposed to large amounts of it tend to claim 1 adopt the values of what they see reason 1 supporting claim 1/claim 2 sup- Their constant exposure to violent images makes ported by reason 2Making Good Arguments 117 them unable to distinguish fantasy from reality. reason 2 supporting rea- son 1/claim 2 Reasons can be based on reasons, but ultimately a reason has to be grounded on evidence. 7.3 BASING REASONS ON EVIDENCE In casual conversation, we usually support a claim with just a reason: We should leave because it looks like rain. claim reason We don’t ask, What evidence do you have that it looks like rain? (unless someone thinks he’s a meteorologist: Those aren’t rain clouds; they’re just . . .). Whenyouaddressseriousissuesinwriting,though,youcan’t expect readers to accept all your reasons at face value. Careful readers behave more like that would-be weatherman, asking for theevidence,thedata,thefactsonwhichyoubasethosereasons: TV violence can have harmful psychological effects on chil- dren because those exposed to large amounts of it tend to claim 1 adopt the values of what they see. reason 1 supporting claim 1/claim 2 sup- Their constant exposure to violent images makes ported by reason 2 them unable to distinguish fantasy from reality. reason 2 supporting rea- Smith (1997) found that children ages 5–9 who son 1/claim 2 watched more than three hours of violent television a day were 25 percent more likely to say that most of what they saw on tele- vision was “really happening.” evidence supporting reason 2 At least in principle, evidence is something you and your readers can see, touch, taste, smell, or hear (or is accepted by everyone as just plain fact—the sun came up yesterday morning). It makes no senseto ask, Where could I go to seeyour reasons?Itdoes make sense to ask, Where could I go to see your evidence? For example, we can’t see children adopting values, but we could see a child answer the question Do you think that what you see on TV is real? That somewhat oversimplifies the idea of “evi-118 making a claim and supporting it dence from out there,” but it illustrates the principle. (We’ll dis- cussthisdistinctionbetweenreasonsandevidenceinmoredetail in chapter 9.) We now have the core of a research argument: Claim Reason Evidence because of based on 7.4 ACKNOWLEDGING AND RESPONDING TO ALTERNATIVES Aresponsibleresearcher supports aclaimwith reasonsbased on evidence. But thoughtful readers don’t accept a claim just be- causeyoubackitupwith yourreasonsand yourevidence.Unless they think exactly as you do (unlikely, given the fact that you are making an argument), they will probably think of evidence you haven’t, interpret your evidence differently, or, from the same evidence, draw a different conclusion. They may reject the truth of your reasons, or accept them as true but deny that they are relevant to your claim and so cannot support it. They may think of alternative claims you did not consider. In other words, your readers are likely to question any part of your argument. So you have to anticipate as many of their ques- tionsas you can, and thenacknowledge and respond to the most important ones. For example, as readers consider the claim that childrenexposedtoviolentTVadoptitsvalues,somemightwon- der whether children are drawn to TV violence because they al- ready are inclined to violence of all kinds. If you think readers might ask that question, you would be wise to acknowledge and respond to it: TV violence can have harmful psychological effects on chil- dren because those exposed to large amounts of it tend to claim 1 adopt the values of what they see. reason 1 supporting claim 1/claim 2 sup- Their constant exposure to violent images makes ported by reason 2 them unable to distinguish fantasy from reality. reason 2 supporting rea- Smith (1997) found that children ages 5–9 who son 1/claim 2 watched more than three hours of violent television a day wereMaking Good Arguments 119 25 percent more likely to say that most of what they saw on tele- vision was “really happening.” It is conceiv- evidence supporting reason 2 able, of course, that children who tend to watch greater amounts of violent entertainment already have violent values, acknowledgment but Jones (1989) found that children with no predisposition to vi- olence were just as attracted to violent entertainment as those with a history of violence. response The problem all researchers face is not just responding to read- ers’ questions, alternatives, and objections, but imagining them. (In chapter 10 we’ll review questions and objections you should expect.) Sincenoresearchargumentiscompletewithoutthem,weadd acknowledgment/responses to our diagram to show that they re- late to all the other parts of an argument: 7.5 WARRANTING THE RELEVANCE OF REASONS Even ifreaders agreethat areasoniswellsupported byevidence, they may not see why it should lead them to accept your claim. They will ask why that reason, though factually true, is relevant to the claim. For example, suppose you offer this claim and its supporting reason (assume the evidence is there): Children who are exposed to large amounts of violent entertain- ment tend to become adults who think violence is a legitimate component of daily life because as children they tend to claim adopt the violent values in what they see. reason Readers might question not the truth of that reason, but its rele- vance to the claim:120 making a claim and supporting it Why should children who adopt violent values necessarily be- come adults who tend to accept violence as a legitimate compo- nent of everyday life? I don’t see how your claim follows from your reason. To answer, you must offer a general principle that shows why you believe your particular reason is relevant to your particular claim so that you are justified in connecting them: Whenever children adopt particular values, as adults they tend to accept as “normal” any behavior that reflects those values. That statement—sometimes called a warrant—expresses a gen- eral principle of reasoning that covers more than violent TV. It covers all values acquired as a child and all adult behaviors. Think of a warrant as a principle claiming that a general set of circumstances predictably allows us to draw a general conse- quence. You can then use that warrant to justify concluding that a specific instance of that general consequence (your claim) fol- lows from a specific instance of that general circumstance (your reason). But for that warrant to apply, readers must first agree that the specific circumstance (or reason) qualifies as a sound instance of the general circumstance in the warrant and that the specific consequence (or claim) qualifies as a sound instance of the general consequence. As you’ll see, it is not easy to decide where to put warrants in the sequence of an argument, or even whether you need them at all. In fact, writers state warrants rarely, only when they think readers might question the relevance of a reason to their claim. For example, suppose you said: Watch out going down the stairs, because the light is out. You wouldn’t need to add the warrant When it’s dark, you have to be careful not to misstep. So warrant watch out going down the stairs, because the light is out. claim reason That would seem condescending.Making Good Arguments 121 But if you think readers won’t immediately see how a reason is relevant to your claim, then you have to justify the connection with a warrant, usually before you make it: Violence on television and in video games can have harmful psy- chological effects. Few of us question that when chil- main claim dren are repeatedly exposed to particular values in graphic and attractive form, they use those values to structure their under- standing of their world. In the same way, children con- warrant stantly exposed to violent entertainment tend to adopt the val- ues of what they see. . . . (Asyoucansee,noaspectofargumentisasabstractanddifficult to grasp as warrants.) We add warrants to our diagram to show that they connect a claim and its supporting reason: Those five elements constitute a “basic” argument. But many also include explanations of issues that readers might not under- stand. If, for example, you were making an argument about the relationship between inflation and various forms of money sup- plytoreaders notfamiliarwitheconomic theory,youwouldhave to explain the different ways that economists define “money.” 7.6 BUILDING COMPLEX ARGUMENTS OUT OF SIMPLE ONES The arguments in research reports are, of course, more complex than these simple ones. First, researchers almost always support122 making a claim and supporting it a claim with more than one reason, each of which is supported byitsownevidence andmay bejustified byitsownwarrant. Sec- ond, since readers can be expected to see many alternatives to any complex argument, careful researchers typically respond to a number of them. But most important, each element of a substantial argument is itself likely to be treated as a claim, supported by its own argu- ment. Each reason will typically be treated as a claim supported by other reasons, often reasons that are themselves claims. A warrant may be supported by its own argument, with reasons and evidence, perhaps even with its own warrant and acknowl- edgments and responses. Each response might itself be a mini- argument, sometimes a full one. Only the evidence “stands alone,” but you may have to explain where you got it and why you think it’s sound. 7.7 ARGUMENTS AND YOUR ETHOS This process of “thickening” an argument with other arguments is one way that writers gain the confidence of readers. Readers will judge you by how well you manage the elements of an argu- ment so that you anticipate their concerns. In so doing, they are in effect judging the quality of your mind, even of your implied character—an image of yourself that you project through your argument, traditionally called your ethos. When you seem to be thesortofperson whosupports yourclaimsthoroughlyand who thoughtfullyconsiders other pointsof view, you give readers rea- son to trust what you say and not to question what you don’t. By acknowledgingtheirviewsanddifferences,youfostertheirdesire to work with you in developing and testing new ideas. Inthe longrun, theethosyou projectinindividual arguments settles into your reputation, something every researcher must care deeply about, because your reputation will be an invisible sixth element in every argument you write. It answers the un- spoken question Can I trust this person? If your readers don’t know you, you have to earn that trust in each argument. But ifMaking Good Arguments 123 they do know you, you want the answer to their question to be Yes. In the next four chapters, we look at each element of an argu- ment, to show you both how to assemble them into a complete argument and how to think about them critically. In part IV we take up the matter of arranging those elements into a coherent report.Designing Arguments Not for Yourself but for Your Readers: Two Common Pitfalls Arguments fail for many reasons, but inexperienced researchers stumblemostoftenwhentheyrelytoomuchonwhatfeelsfamil- iar and comfortable and too little on what their readers need. Here are two common problems to avoid. INAPPROPRIATE EVIDENCE If you are working in a new field and unfamiliar with its charac- teristic modes of argument, you’ll be tempted to fall back on formsofargumentyoualreadyknow.Everytimeyouenteranew research community, though, you must find out what’s new aboutthekindsofargumentthoseinthatcommunityexpectyou to make. If you learned in a first-year writing class to search for evidence in your own experience or take a personal stand on is- sues of social concern, do not assume that you can do the same in fields that emphasize “objective data,” such as experimental psychology. On the other hand, if as a psychology or biology ma- jor you learned to gather data, subject it to statistical analysis, and avoid attributing to it your own feelings, do not assume that you can do the same in art history. This does notmean that what you learn inone class isuseless inanother.Allfieldssharetheelementsofargumentwedescribe here. But you do have to watch for what’s distinctive in how a field handles those elements and be flexible enough to adapt— trusting, at the same time, the skills you already command. You can anticipate this problem as you read by noting the kinds of evidence used by the sources you consult. Here are just a few of the different kinds of evidence to watch for in different fields: • personal beliefs and anecdotes from writers’ own lives, as in a first-year writing course; 124Quick Tip: Designing Arguments 125 • direct quotations, as in most of the humanities; • citations and borrowings from previous writers, as in the law; • fine-grained descriptions of behavior, as in anthropology; • statistical summaries of behavior, as in sociology; • quantitative data gathered in laboratory experiments, as in natural sciences; • photographs, sound recordings, videotapes, and films, as in art, music, history, and anthropology; • detailed documentary data assembled into a coherent story, as in some kinds of history or anthropology; • networks of principles, implications, inferences, and conclu- sions independent of factual data, as in philosophy. Just as important, note the kinds of evidence that are never used in your field. Anecdotes enliven literary history but rarely count as good evidence in sociological explanations; fine-grained narratives are crucial in many anthropological reports but are ir- relevant in an argument about subatomic physics. COMFORTABLE SIMPLICITY When you are new to a field, everything you read may seem con- fusing. Like everyone else in those circumstances, you will look for a familiar method or an unambiguous answer, any simplifi- cation that helps you manage the complexity. Once you find it, youareindangerofoversimplifyingyourargument.Butnocom- plex effect has a single unambiguous cause; no serious question has a single unqualified answer; no interesting problem has a single methodology to solve it. So when you are new to a field, seekoutqualifications;formulateatleastonealternativesolution to your problem; ask whether someone else in the field ap- proaches your problem differently. As you learn the typical problems of a field, its methods,126 quick tip: designing arguments schools of thought, and so on, you will begin to be comfortable withitsstandard formsofargument.Itisat thispointthatnewly experiencedresearcherssuccumbtoanotherkindofovergeneral- ization: once you learn how to construct one kind of argument, youtrytomakethatsameargumentoverandover.Beawarethat everyfieldexhibitsasecondkindofcomplexity,thecomplexityof competingsolutions,competingmethodologies,competinggoals and objectives—all marks of a lively field of inquiry. The more you learn, the more you recognize that while things are not as blindingly complex as you first thought, neither are they as sim- ple as you then hoped they would be. Cognitive Overload: Some Reassuring Words At this point, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. Take comfort in the fact that your anxieties have less to do with age or intelligence than with sheer lack of experience in a particular field. One of us was explaining to teachers of legal writing how being a novice makes new lawstudentsfeelinsecure.Attheendofthetalk,onewomanreported that she had been a professor of anthropology whose published work had been praised for the clarity and force of her writing. Then she switched careers and went to law school. She said that during her first six months, she wrote so incoherently that she feared she was suffering from a degenerative brain disease. Of course, she was not: she was experiencing a kind of temporary aphasia that afflicts most ofuswhenwetrytowriteaboutmatterswedonotentirelyunderstand for an audience we understand even less. She was relieved to find that the more she understood law, the better she wrote about it.chapter eight Claims In this chapter we discuss the point of your argument, the claim that answers your research question and serves as the main point of your report. As we have emphasized, you need a tentative answer to your re- search question well before you can know exactly what the final one will be. Even if you expect to replace your working answer, you need one from the start to help you know what to look for andtosiftoutfromwhatyoufindjustthosedatathatarerelevant. You also need that tentative claim to help you assemble the kind of argument you will need to support it. So from the first, try to articulatethebest,mostcompleteclaimyourcurrentunderstand- ing allows. You can test your claim with three questions: • What kind of claim will you make? • Can you state it specifically? • Will your readers think it is significant? When you can answer those three questions, you’re ready to as- semble other elements of your argument to see whether you in fact can make a good case for your claim. 8.1 WHAT KIND OF CLAIM? The kind of problem you pose determines the kind of claim you make and the kind of argument you need to support it. As we 127128 making a claim and supporting it saw in chapter 4, researchers in academic settings usually pose not a practical problem but a conceptual one, the kind whose solution asks readers not to do something but to believe some- thing: The recession of 2001–2002 was caused partly by excessive in- vestment in information systems that failed to improve produc- tivity as much as had been promised. Some conceptual claims might imply an action: Businesses that invest in information systems benefit only when they understand how to use them to improve productivity. But if you want readers to act, it is wise to be explicit about what they should do: writers too often assume that readers can infer your intentions better than they actually do. Some researchers think that by posing and answering a con- ceptualquestion,theycancontributetothesolutionofapractical problem: If we could simply understand what turns cancer cells on,wemightfigureouthowtoturnthemoff.Butifreadersthink yourargumentisintendedtosupport bothabeliefandanaction, you risk confusing them if you in fact support only one, because conceptual and practical claims need different arguments with different kinds of support. Before readers believe that your answer is relevant to solving a practical problem, they are likely to expect you to support two con- ceptual claims: one claim explains what causes the problem; the otherexplainshowdoingsomethingwill fixit.But in addition,they may also expect you to show the following about your solution: • It is feasible; it can be implemented in a reasonable time. • It will cost less to implement than the cost of the problem it solves. • It will not create a bigger problem than the one it solves. • It is cheaper or faster than alternative ones—a claim that can be extremely difficult to support.Claims 129 Ifreadersmistakenlythinkthatyouaretacitlyproposingapracti- cal claim, they may expect to see those four arguments at least acknowledged. So as you assemble the elements of your argu- ment, be clear about the kind of claim you intend to support: conceptual or practical. If you answer a conceptual question but want to point out its practical applications, build your argument around the answer to the conceptual question and hold off dis- cussingitsapplicationuntilyourconclusion,whereyoucanoffer it as something worth further consideration (we’ll return to this point in chapter 14). 8.2 EVALUATING YOUR CLAIM We can’t tell you how to find your claim or test its truth (other than by testing the argument that supports it). But we can help you roughly evaluate it from the point of view of your readers. Theywillexpectyourclaimtobebothspecificandatleastpoten- tially significant. 8.2.1 Is Your Claim Specific? Vague claims lead to vague arguments. The more detailed your claim, themore likely readerswill judge it to be substantive, and the more it can help you plan a substantive argument in its sup- port. There are two ways to make it more specific. SPECIFIC LANGUAGE. Compare these claims: TV inflates estimates of crime rates. The graphic reports of violence on local TV lead regular viewers to overestimate by as much as 150 percent both the rate of crime in their neighborhood and the personal danger to them- selves and their families. The first claim uses only general terms. The second consists of richer, more specific concepts that not only give readers a more specific idea of the claim, but also give the writer a fuller set of concepts to develop in his argument. Now, we are not recommending long, wordy claims for their130 making a claim and supporting it ownsake.Youwillbenefitifearlydraftsofyourclaimhavemore terms than you ultimately use, but your final claim should be only as specific as your readers need and should include only thoseconceptsthatyoudevelopasthemesinyourargument.But as you assemble the elements of your argument, your first task is to articulate your claim, so at this point, make it as richly ex- plicit as you can. You can fix it later. SPECIFIC LOGIC. Asecondkindofspecificitydependsonhow manylogicalelementsyourclaimincludes.Evenwithitsspecific language, this claim offers only a single unelaborated proposi- tion: Regular TV viewers overestimate by as much as 150 percent both the rate of crime in their neighborhood and the personal danger to themselves and their families. In the natural and social sciences, claims like this are common, even preferred. But in the humanities, such a claim might seem to be not particularly rich in ideas. For purposes of assembling your argument, try elaborating its logic in two ways: • Introduce it with a clause beginning with although or even though. • Conclude it with a reason-clause beginning with because. For example, Although violent crime is actually decreasing, regular TV viewers overestimate by as much as 150 percent both the rate of crime in their neighborhood and the personal danger to themselves and their families, because local TV evening news regularly opens with graphic reports of mayhem and murder in familiar lo- cations, making many believe that crime happens nightly outside their front door. While that claim may seem overwritten, it is substantively more explicit. More importantly, it foreshadows three of the five ele-Claims 131 ments that you need for a full argument: Although I acknowledge X, I claim Y, because of reason Z. An introductory although-clause can acknowledge alternative views in one of three ways: • It acknowledges a point of view that conflicts with yours: Although most people think they are good judges of the security of their neighborhoods, regular TV viewers overestimate . . . • It acknowledges a fact that your readers might believe but that your claim qualifies: Although violent crime is actually decreasing overall, regular TV viewers overestimate . . . • It acknowledges a condition that limits the scope or confi- dence of your claim: Although it is difficult to gauge the real feelings about their per- sonal security, regular TV viewers overestimate . . . If those qualifications are ones that might occur to your readers when they read your claim, then by acknowledging them first, you not only imply that you understand their views, but commit yourself to responding to them in the course of your argument. On the other hand, a final because-clause forecasts reasons for believingtheclaim—eitherthemostimportantonesorageneral one that encompasses several: Although many believe that school uniforms help lower the inci- dence of violence in public schools, the evidence is at best weak, because no researchers have controlled for other measures that have been instituted at the same time as uniforms and be- reason 1 cause the data reported are statistically suspect. reason 2 Again, we do not suggest that in your final draft you offer claims as bloated as our examples. But as you assemble the ele- ments of your argument, the more richly you can articulate a claim, the more comprehensive your argument is likely to be.132 making a claim and supporting it 8.2.2 Is Your Claim Significant? Afteritsaccuracy,readerswill valuemosthighlythesignificance of your claim, a quality they measure by the degree to which it asks them to change what they think. While you can’t precisely quantify it, you can gauge significance by this rough measure: If readersacceptaclaim,howmanyotherbeliefsmusttheychange?The most significant claims require an entire research community to change its deepest belief (and that community will resist it accordingly). Although it is the weakest kind of claim, some research com- munities will consider a claim significant that asks readers only to accept new information about a subject already studied: In what follows, I describe six thirteenth-century grammars of the Welsh language. These grammars have only recently been found and are the only examples of their kind. They help us bet- ter appreciate the range of grammars written in the medieval period. (Recall those reels of newly discovered film, p. 26.) Readersvalueresearchmorehighlywhenitoffersnewknowl- edge but alsousesthatknowledge tosettlewhathas seemedpuz- zling, uncertain, inconsistent, or otherwise problematical: The relationship between consumer confidence and the stock market has long been debated, but new statistical tools devel- oped in the last few years have shown that there is virtually no relationship whatsoever. . . . But they value most highly new knowledge that upsets what seemed long settled: It has long been assumed that the speed of light is constant ev- erywhere at all times, under all conditions, but there is now ex- perimental data suggesting it might not be. A claim like that will be hotly contested by legions of physicists, because if it is true, they will have to change their minds about lots of things other than the speed of light.Claims 133 Early in your career, you won’t be expected to know what re- searchersinafieldthinkshouldbecorrected,oratleastmodified. But you can still estimate the significance of your claim by de- termining whether readers think it might be worth contesting. You can gauge that by judging the apparent significance of its opposite claim. For example, consider these two claims: Shakespeare is a great playwright. This report summarizes recent research on the disappearance of frogs. To assess whether either claim is worth contesting, revise it into its opposite: change an affirmative claim into a negative or vice versa: Shakespeare is not a great playwright. This report does not summarize recent research on the disap- pearance of frogs. If the reverse of a claim seems self-evidently false (like the first one) or trivial (like the second), then most readers are unlikely to consider the original worth an argument. (It is true, however, that some great thinkers like Copernicus have successfully con- tradicted apparently self-evident claims such as Obviously the sun goes around the earth.) Especiallyifyouareanadvancedresearcher,youwillmeasure the significance ofyour claim by how much it will roil the think- ingofyourresearchcommunity.Forexample,bigmammalslike thecamelandwoollymammothdiedoutinNorthAmericaabout twelve thousand years ago, either because of disease or because indigenous peoples hunted them to extinction. If you claim they were hunted to death, the many researchers who believe that the earliestNativeAmericanslivedinharmonywithnaturewillhave to change their minds about something important to them (and so to that degree, they will resist your claim). But that can be known only by someone in the field aware of those beliefs. Ifyou aretoo newtoa fieldto makethat assessment,imagine134 making a claim and supporting it readers like yourself. What did you think before you began your own research? How much has your claim changed the way you nowthink?Whatdo youunderstandnowthatyoudidnotunder- stand before? That’s the best way to prepare for reporting re- search to readers who will ask the same questions. They will put thatquestionmostpointedlywhentheyaskthemostdevastating question any researcher can face: not Why should I believe that? but Why should I care?Qualifying Claims to Enhance Your Credibility Some inexperienced researchers think they are most credible when they are most certain. But flatfooted certainty more often undermines yourethos, andthus your argument.As paradoxical as it may seem, you make a research argument more credible whenyouacknowledgeitslimitations.Youhavealreadyseenthat readers expect writers to acknowledge and respond to objections and alternatives (also see chapter 10). When you do, you show that you have dealt with readers openly and honestly; by re- sponding, you show readers why you think their objections do notundermineyourargument.Butreaderslookforanotherkind of limitation as well: you should qualify any claim that is less than entirely certain for all time and in all circumstances. ACKNOWLEDGE LIMITING CONDITIONS No claim is free of limiting conditions: We can conclude that the epicenter of the earthquake was fifty miles south-southwest of Tokyo, assuming the instrumentation was accurately calibrated. We believe that aviation manufacturing will not soon match its late-twentieth-century levels, unless new global conflicts lead to a significant increase in military spending. Every claim is subject to countless conditions, so ordinarily you should mention only the ones you expect readers to bring up. Scientistsrarelyacknowledge thattheirclaimsdependon theac- curacy of their instruments, because everyone expects them to ensure that they are. But economists often acknowledge limita- tions on their predictions, both because they depend on circum- stances that do change and because readers want to know what conditions to watch for. 135136 quick tip: qualifying claims Consider mentioning important limiting conditions on your claimevenifyouthinkreaderswouldneverthinkofthem.(Don’t mention more than one or two, and avoid obvious or unlikely conditions.) For example, in this case, not only does the writer show that she was careful, but she also gives a fuller and more accurate picture of the claim: Today Franklin D. Roosevelt is revered as one of our most ad- mired historical figures, but toward the end of his second term, he was not popular. Newspapers, for example, attacked him claim for promoting socialism, a sign that a modern administration is in trouble. In 1938, 70 percent of Midwest newspapers accused him of wanting the government to manage the banking system. . . . Some have argued otherwise, including Nicholson (1983, 1992) and Wiggins (1973), both of whom offer anecdotal reports that Roosevelt was always in high regard, but these acknowledgment reports are supported only by the memories of those who had an interest in deifying FDR. Unless it can be shown that response the newspapers critical of Roosevelt were controlled by special in- terests, their attacks demonstrate significant dis- limitation on claim satisfaction with Roosevelt’s presidency. restatement of claim USE HEDGES TO LIMIT CERTAINTY Only rarely can you assert in good conscience that you are 100 percent certain that your evidence is 100 percent reliable and your claims are unqualifiedly true. Careful writers acknowledge these limitations by using modifying words and phrases known ashedges.Forexample,ifanyonewaseverentitledtobeassertive, it was Crick and Watson, the discoverers of the helical structure ofDNA.Butintheopeningoftheirannouncement(condensed), they chose diffidence (the hedges are boldfaced): We wish to suggest a note: not the structure for the salt of de- oxyribose nucleic acid (D.N.A.). . . . A structure for nucleic acid has already been proposed by Pauling and Corey. . . . In our opinion, this structure is unsatisfactory for two reasons:Quick Tip: Qualifying Claims 137 (1) We believe that the material which gives the X-ray diagrams is the salt, not the free acid. . . . (2) Some of the van der Waals distances appear to be too small. —J. D. Watson and F. H. C. Crick, “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids” Without the hedges,their claim would be more concise, but also more aggressive. Compare that cautious passage with this more unqualifiedversionofit(mostofthemoreaggressivetonecomes from the absence of hedges, from the flatfooted lack of any quali- fication): We announce here the structure for the salt of deoxyribose nu- cleic acid (D.N.A.). . . . A structure for nucleic acid has already been proposed by Pauling and Corey. . . . Their structure is un- satisfactory for two reasons: (1) The material which gives their X-ray diagrams is the salt, not the free acid. . . . (2) Their van der Waals distances are too small. Whenyouhedgeyourlanguage,yougiveyourargumentnuance. Of course, if you hedge too much, you will seem timid or un- certain.Butinmostfields,readersarenotimpressedbyflatfooted certainty expressed in words like all, no one, every, always, never, andsoon.Someteacherssaytheyobjecttoallhedging,butwhat mostofthemcondemnarehedgesthatqualifyeverytrivialclaim. And some fields do tend to use fewer hedges than others. But most careful researchers in most fields know that to seem thoughtfully confident, they must express the limits of that con- fidence. Fewaspectsofyourargumentaffectyourethosmorethanhow youhandleitsuncertaintiesandlimitations.Ittakesadefttouch. Hedge too much and you seem mealymouthed; too little, smug. Unfortunately, the line between hedging and fudging is thin. As usual, watch how those in your field manage uncertainty, then do likewise.chapter nine Reasons and Evidence In this chapter we discuss the two forms of support for a claim: reasons and evidence. We show you how to distinguish between the two, how to use reasons to organize your argument, and how to evaluate the qual- ity of your evidence. Readers look first for the core of an argument, for its claim and two kinds of support: reasons and evidence. In the sequence of reasons,theyseetheoutlineofthelogicalstructureofitssupport. If they do not see that structure, they are likely to judge your argument shapeless, even incoherent. Evidence, on the other hand, is the bedrock of your argument, the established body of facts that readers need to see before they accept your reasons. If they don’t accept your evidence, they are likely to reject your rea- sons, and with them your claim. So once you know your claim, your next task is to assemble the reasons that support it, and the evidence on which those reasons rest. 9.1 USING REASONS TO PLAN YOUR ARGUMENT Readers use reasons to decidewhether to believe your claim, but they also use them to understand the structure of your report. Reasons outline the logic of your argument, and if each major reason is the point of a section, they outline the report as well. For a complex argument, each reason will be supported with subreasons that serve as the points of subsections of the report. Soasyoucollectevidence,youcanuseyourreasons(andsub- reasons) to organize that evidence in a form that anticipates the structure of your report. You can do this as a traditional outline, 138Reasons and Evidence 139 but at this stage you’ll probably find it more helpful to create a chartlike outline known as a “storyboard.” Put your main claim and each reason or subreason on its own card (or page). Then put all the evidence that supports an individual reason or sub- reason on its own card (or page). Finally arrange the cards on a table or wall to make their logical relationships visible, as in the figure below. SECTION Subreason Evidence Reason Subreason Evidence Subreason Evidence Main Claim Reason Reason Reason Try out different orders and groupings until you find one that best reflects your current understanding. As your research pro- gresses,trynewarrangements.Don’tworryaboutorganizingthe details; at this point, you want to work with middle-sized chunks that you can arrange in various ways. If this chart makes your argument look too predictable, don’t worry about it. It outlines not your paper but your argument. When you begin to work on a first draft (see chapter 12), you’ll have to plan in light of your readers’ point of view: how to intro- duce your problem to make it seem significant to them; how much background to present; and how to order your subclaims; and so on. These are important matters for later, but not now,140 making a claim and supporting it whenyou arestill discoveringwhatyou canmakeof thatmound of notes, summaries, and photocopies. 9.2 THE SLIPPERY DISTINCTION BETWEEN REASONS AND EVIDENCE Onpp.117–18,wedistinguishedreasonsfromevidence.Insome contexts the words seem interchangeable: You have to base your claim on good reasons. You have to base your claim on good evidence. But they are not synonyms. Compare these two sentences: I want to see the evidence that you base your reason on. I want to see the reason that you base your evidence on. That secondsentence seemsa bitodd becausewe don’tbase evi- dence on reasons; we base reasons on evidence. • Reasons state why readers should accept a claim. Research- ers can think up reasons; they don’t think up evidence (or at least they do so at their own risk). • Evidence is what readers accept as fact, at least for the mo- ment. They think of evidence as “hard” reality, evident to anyone able to observe it. Sowhenyouassembletheelementsofyourargument,youmust start with one or more reasons, but you must base each reason on its own foundation of fact. The problem is, you don’t get to decide whether a statement counts as describing evidence or as just offering another rea- son—your readers do. If they ask for support for what you offer asevidence,thenyouhavetotreatwhatyouthoughtwasevidence asjustareasoninstead,areasonthatyoumustsupportwithstill “harder” evidence. For example, consider this little argument:Reasons and Evidence 141 American higher education should review its “hands-off” policy toward student drinking off-campus, because high-risk binge claim drinking has become a common and dangerous form of behav- ior. Injuries and death from it have increased in frequency reason and intensity, not only at the big “party” schools but among first-year students at small colleges. evidence Inthatlastsentence,thewriterofferswhatshebelievesisa“fact” hard enough to treat as evidence. But a skeptical reader might ask, Are you sure about that? What do you base that on? In that case, the reader treats that statement not as evidence but as a reasonstillinneedofitsownbasisinevidence.Thewritercould add: Episodes of binge drinking resulting in death or injury by first- year students at colleges with fewer than two thousand students have increased by 19 percent in the last five years. Of course a really skeptical reader could again ask, Well, how do you know that’s true? If so, the writer would have to provide more. If she did her own research, she could produce her raw data and the questionnaires she used to gather them (which themselvesaresubjecttostillmoreskepticalquestioning).Ifshe found her data in a source, she could cite it, but then she might be asked to give good reason for accepting it as reliable. If you can imagine readers asking, How do you know that? Why should I accept it as a fact?, then you have not yet hit the bedrock of evidence readers are seeking. And at a time when so-called experts are quick to tell us what to do based on studies we never get to see, experienced readers have learned to view most evidence skeptically. So when you report evidence, be clear about how it was collected and by whom. If it was collected by others, find and cite a source as close to the evidence as you can get.142 making a claim and supporting it Our Foundational Conception of Evidence Whenpeopletalkaboutevidence,theytypicallyusefoundationalmet- aphors (as have we): evidence is hard reality, solid proof, something we can see for ourselves. It’s the bedrock, the solid foundation on which we build arguments. Language like that encourages readers to think of evidence as something independent of their own interpretations and judgments. But data are always constructed and so to some de- gree shaped by those who collect them—when they decide what to look for, how to record what they see, and how to present what they find. So as you build your argument, try to build it on an unshakable foundation of evidence, but keep in mind that what makes your evi- dence count as evidence is your readers’ willingness toaccept it with- outquestion,atleastforthemoment.Thatway,youmayalsoremem- ber to report it in ways that encourage readers to agree that what you offer is “just the facts.” 9.3 EVIDENCE VS. REPORTS OF EVIDENCE Now a complication: researchers rarely include in any report the actualevidence itself.Evenifyoucollectevidenceyourself,count- ing the number of rabbits in a field, in your report you can only represent those rabbits in words, numbers, tables, graphs, pic- tures,recordings,andsoon.Forexample,whenaprosecutorsays in court, Jones was dealing drugs, and here is the evidence to prove it, he can hold up the bag of cocaine, even hand it to jurors so that they can hold in their own hands the “evidence itself.” (Of course, both he and the jurors must believe a chemist who says that the white stuff is really cocaine.) But when he writes about the case in a law journal, he cannot attach that bag to his article; he can only refer to or describe it. Unlike prosecutors speaking in a courtroom, researchers al- most never share the evidence itself with their readers in their report. The same holds for a researcher who argues this: Emotions play a larger role in rational decision-making than most of us think, because without the help of the emotional claim centers of the brain, we cannot make rational decisions. reasonReasons and Evidence 143 Persons whose brains have suffered physical damage to their emotional centers cannot make even simple, everyday deci- sions. evidence That argument doesn’t offer as evidence real people with dam- aged brains unable to make decisions; it can only report ob- servations of their behavior, offer pictures of their brain scans or tables of their reaction times, and so on. (In fact, we much prefer to have researchers report their evidence fairly than for us to have to test brains, read scans, and observe people for ourselves.) We know the distinction between evidence and reports of evi- dence may seem like hairsplitting, but it emphasizes two impor- tant problems. First, every time you report your own evidence, youchangeit,usuallybycleaningitupandmakingitmorecoher- ent than what you actually saw or counted. Even when you offer seemingly objective quantitative data, you cannot avoid “spin- ning” them: you must decide what to count, how to categorize the numbers, how to order them. Even photographs and record- ings can only represent evidence in a particular way, giving it a slant or shape. Thesecond problemis thatyou haveto dependonthe reports of others, who have already shaped their evidence. It is rare for anyresearchertorelyonlyonevidencehecollectedhimself,even rarer if he faces a deadline next week. For example, suppose you wanted to back up a claim that the cult of celebrity has distorted rational economic decision-making with evidence of how much more athletes and entertainers earn than do top government of- ficials. You could obtain official reports of government salaries, but those athletes and entertainers would be unlikely to share their check stubs or tax returns (which are themselves reports of reports). So you would have to rely on reports of those re- ports of salaries. And unless you can talk to the people who did the counting, you’ll be four or five reports away from the evidence itself. So as you collect and report evidence, most of it144 making a claim and supporting it already at least thirdhand, you have to remember that all the reporters in the chain did their own selecting, arranging, and tidying up. The often dubious quality of reports of reports is why people who read lots of research are so demanding about “proof.” If youcollectedevidenceyourself,theywanttoknowwhatmethods you used. If you used sources, they expect you to find primary sources, or if not, sources as close to the evidence itself as you can get. And they want complete citations and a bibliography so thattheycan golookforthemselves.Inshort, theywanttoknow the complete chain of reports between themselves and the evi- dence itself. In an age when we are all subjected to research re- ports and opinion surveys that are at best dubious and at worst faked,youhavetogiveyourreadersgoodreasontosuspendtheir justifiedskepticism,becausethelastlinkinthatchainofaccount- ability is you. Why Trust Reports of Evidence? In the early days of experimental science, researchers conducted experiments before witnesses, reputable scientists who could ob- serve the experiments firsthand and attest to the accuracy of the reported evidence. Contemporary researchers can’t rely on wit- nesses anymore. Instead, each area of study has standardized methodologies for collecting and reporting evidence. Today it is those methodologies that will guarantee that your evidence is reli- able. If you follow the procedures for collecting and reporting evi- dence that have become standard in your field, you encourage readers to accept your evidence at your word, without wanting to see it for themselves or to hear about it from witnesses. 9.4 SELECTING THE RIGHT FORM FOR REPORTING EVIDENCE You can report evidence in many ways: • with direct quotations from letters, diaries, books, poems, and so on; • with words representing objects, images, and events in the form of anecdotes, narratives, and descriptions;Reasons and Evidence 145 • with photographs, videotapes, films, drawings, and record- ings that represent objects and events visually and aurally; • with tables, graphs, charts, and words representing quantita- tive data (see chapter 15); • with summaries and paraphrases of any of the above. The problem is that different communities of research expect different forms of evidence. Sociologists and economists, for ex- ample, prefer data in the form of tables, graphs, and charts. Lit- erary critics rely on quotations from literary texts. Anthropolo- gistsandarthistorianstendtorelynotonlyonverbaldescriptions of particular images and events, but also on photographs, video- tapes, and sound recordings. Each group accepts other kinds of data, if presented properly, but each is likely to disfavor certain kinds. Literary critics do not expect bar charts to represent the development of an author; most psychologists will be suspicious of mere anecdotes about mental processes. 9.5 RELIABLE EVIDENCE Once you know the kind of evidence your readers expect, you must test the evidence you have collected by the same criteria that you used to judge your sources (review pp. 76–78): is it suf- ficientandrepresentative,reportedaccuratelyandpreciselyfrom anauthoritativesource?Thesearenotexoticcriteria.Weallapply them in our most ordinary conversations, even with children. In the following, “P” faults “C” on all those criteria: C: I need new sneakers. Look. These seem small. claim evidence P: Your feet haven’t grown that much in a month, and they don’t seem to hurt you much i.e., I accept that what you offer as evidence could be relevant, but I reject it first because it is not accurate and sec- ond because even if it were accurate, “seem small” is not sufficiently precise. C: But they’re grungy. Look at this dirt and those raggedy reason laces. evidence146 making a claim and supporting it P: Raggedy laces and dirt aren’t reason enough to buy new sneakers i.e., Your assertion may be factually correct and might be worth consid- ering, but dirt and shoelaces alone are not enough evidence. C: Everybody thinks I should get new sneakers. Harry said reason so. evidence P: Harry’s opinion doesn’t matter i.e., Even if it’s true, other people’s opinions are to me not authoritative. C: They’re hurting me. Look at how I limp. reason evidence P: You were walking fine a minute ago i.e., Your evidence is not representative. If you can imagine yourself as P (or C), you can test the quality of evidence in any research argument, including your own. Readers judge reports of evidence by P’s criteria. They want your evidence to be accurate, sufficient and representative, and precise. And if you didn’t gather it, they want it to be from an authoritative source. (Readers may also reject evidence because it is irrelevant or inappropriate, but to apply those criteria, you have to know about warrants, which we discuss again in chapter 11.) So as you assemble the evidence in support of your reasons, screen it before you enter it into your plan. 9.5.1 Report Evidence Accurately Readers predisposed to be skeptical seize on the smallest flaw in your data, on the most trivial mistake in a quotation or citation, as a sign of your irredeemable unreliability in everything else. If your paper depends on data collected in a lab or in the field, re- cord them completely and clearly, then double-check before, as, and after youwrite them up. Getting the easythings right shows respect for your readers and is the best training for dealing with the hard things. You can sometimes use even questionable evi- dence, if you acknowledge its shaky quality. In fact, if you point to evidence that seems to support your claim but then reject it as unreliable, you show yourself to be cautious and self-critical— and thus trustworthy.Reasons and Evidence 147 9.5.2 Provide Sufficient, Representative Evidence Beginnerstypicallypresentinsufficientevidence.Theythinkthey prove a claim when they find support in one quotation, one bit ofdata, onepersonalexperience (thoughsometimesonly onebit of evidence is sufficient to reject a claim). Shakespeare must have hated women because those in Macbeth are either evil or weak. Readersusuallyneedmorethanonebitofdatatoacceptaclaim. If your claim is even mildly contestable, find your best evidence, butknowthatmoreisalwaysavailable,andthatsomeofitmight be fatal to your claim. Even if you offer lots of evidence, your readersstillexpectittoberepresentativeofthefullrangeofvaria- tionintheavailableevidence.OneShakespeareanplayisnotrep- resentative of all his works, much less of all Elizabethan drama. 9.5.3 Be Appropriately Precise Yourreadersalsowantyoutostateyourevidenceprecisely.They hearwarningbellsincertainwordsthatsohedgeyourclaimthat they cannot assess its substance: The Forest Service has spent a great deal of money to prevent forest fires, but there is still a high probability of large, costly ones. Howmuchmoneyisagreatdeal?Howhighisahighprobability— 30 percent? 50 percent? 80 percent? How many acres are de- stroyed in a large fire? Watch for words like some, most, many, almost, often, usually, frequently, generally, and so on. Such words can set appropriate limits of certainty on a claim (see pp. 135– 37), but they can also fudge it. What counts as precise, however, differs from field to field. A physicist measures thelife of quarks in infinitesimalfractions of a second, so the tolerable margin of error is vanishingly small. AhistoriangaugingwhentheSovietUnionwasreadytocollapse would estimate it in weeks or months. A paleontologist dating a new species might give or take hundreds of thousands of years.148 making a claim and supporting it According to the standards of their fields, all three are appropri- atelyprecise.(Evidencecanalsobetooprecise.Ahistorianwould seem foolhardy if she asserted that the Soviet Union reached its point of collapse at 2 p.m. on August 18, 1987.) Different fields define the criteria for evaluating evidence dif- ferently,but eachdemands thatyourevidence meetthem. Ifyou are a beginner, you will need experience to learn the kinds of evidence readers in your field accept and reject. The painful way to gain that experience is to be the object of their criticism. Less painfulistoseekexamplesofargumentsthathavefailedbecause theirevidencewasjudgedto beunreliable.Listentolecturesand classdiscussionsforthekindsofargumentsthatyourinstructors criticize because they think the evidence is weak. Ask for exam- ples of bad arguments. You will better understand what counts as reliable after you see examples of what does not.Showing the Relevance of Evidence Your evidence may be accurate, precise, sufficient, representa- tive, and authoritative, but if readers cannot interpret it quickly, you might as well offer none at all. They will interpret evidence moreeasilyiftheyunderstanditsrelevancetoyourclaimbecause youaddedareasonthatbothsupportstheclaim andexplainsthe evidence. Graphically, it looks like this: For example, what exactly in this table should we see as rele- vant to the claim in the sentence introducing it? American consumption of gasoline has contradicted some pessi- mistic predictions: 1970 1980 1990 1996 Miles (thousands) 10.3 9.1 10.5 11.3 Consumption (gallons) 830 712 677 698 We need help to interpret the data, to see what we should see, and to know which data are most relevant to the claim. Adding a sentence such as this would help: 149150 quick tip: evidence American consumption of gasoline has contradicted some pessi- mistic predictions. In 2000 we drove about 23 percent more claim than we did in 1970, but used 30 percent less fuel. reason 1970 1980 1990 1996 Miles (thousands) 10.3 9.1 10.5 11.3 Consumption (gallons) 830 712 677 698 Theaddedsentencetellsuswhattolookforinthetableandhow to interpret it. In fact, that sentence does double duty: it not only explainsthedata,butalsooffersareasonthatsupportstheclaim. Readers look for the same help when they read a long quota- tion. Here is a passage that bases a claim about Hamlet directly on the evidence of a quoted passage: When Hamlet comes upon his stepfather, Claudius, at prayer, he demonstrates his cool rationality. claim Now might I do it kill him pat, now he is praying: And now I’ll do’t; and so he goes to heaven; And so am I reveng’d. . . . Hamlet pauses to think But this villain kills my father; and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven? Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge. evidence That argument is not clear. Nothing in the quotation refers to Hamlet’s cool reason. In contrast, compare this version: When Hamlet comes upon his stepfather, Claudius, at prayer, he demonstrates his cool rationality. He impulsively wants to claim kill Claudius but pauses to reflect. If he kills Claudius while pray- ing, he will send his soul to heaven, but Hamlet wants Claudius damned to hell, so he coldly decides to kill him later: reason Now might I do it kill him pat, now he is praying: And now I’ll do’t; and so . . . report of evidence You can’t depend on detailed data or quotations to speak for themselves. Lacking areason that explains the evidenceto them, readers may have to struggle to understand what it means. So always introduce complex evidence with a reason explaining it.chapter ten Acknowledgments and Responses This chapter discusses matters that can help all researchers, whether be- ginning or advanced, to convince readers that they are thoughtful and judicious. Asyouknowbynow,thecoreofyourargumentisaclaimbacked by a reason based on evidence. You thicken that core by assem- bling more reasons, perhaps supporting each with yet more rea- sons, then laying down a base of evidence on which all those reasons rest. But if you plan your argument only around claims, reasons, and evidence, your readers may think that your argu- mentisflatfooted,evennaive.Youwillseemlesslikeaninquirer amiablyengagingintelligentbutfeistycolleaguesinconversation than like a lecturer droning at an empty room. Sinceyourreaderswon’tbethereasyoudraftyourreport,you have to imagine them asking questions, not just the predictable ones that readers ask about any argument, but ones about yours inparticular.It’swhenyoucanacknowledgeandrespondtothat imagined questioning, to suggested alternatives and to outright objections, that your report not only speaks in your voice but brings in the voice of others. That’s how you most effectively es- tablish a working relationship with readers. In this chapter we show you how to anticipate two kinds of questions that readers may ask about your argument: • They may question its intrinsic soundness: the clarity of your claim, the relevance of your reasons, the quality of your evidence. 151152 making a claim and supporting it • They may ask you to consider alternatives—a different way of framing the problem, evidence you haven’t considered, warrants that you might not have thought of. When you acknowledge and respond to both kinds of questions, you construct a written argument that feels like a thoughtful e