14 Jan 2010 [ Prev | Next ]

Daily Update: Jan 14

I've been enjoying my e-mail exchanges with students who are exploring ways to turn their curiosities and interests into an academic thesis.

  • As with Portfolio 1, please post a link to Porftolio 2 by 4pm, even if your portfolio isn't quite finished.
  • For all the presubmissions that are in on time tomorrow, I aim to provide quick feedback (within a few hours, I hope).
  • There is no homework assigned for Monday, due to the holiday.  I will, however, be checking in over the weekend, to guide you as you continue to develop your ideas for the research project.
Gearing up for the Term Paper Quest

Every time I introduce a research paper assignment, some students attempt to fall back on a strategy that worked for them in high school. They write up the whole paper based on what they already think about their chosen topic, and then they "look for quotes" from sources that agree with them.

But that's not research -- that's just seeking conformation of your own biases.  If you've invested time in writing up a paper based on what you already think, human nature will lead to ignore the very sources you can learn the most from -- the sources that challenge what you think you know.

Equipping the Right Thesis

Although the subject of the course is "games" and a central question is "what is fun?", there's no avoiding the fact that writing a college research paper on any subject is an intellectually demanding task. 

In high school, you probably never had to struggle to find a thesis, possibly because you were given a statement and told to agree or disagree, or you were given a list of thesis statements to choose from.  If that's the case, you might be worried that you're doing something wrong.  You might feel that if only you were a little smarter or the course weren't so intense, you would know what you were supposed to be writing about.

You might be a little frustrated by the research task you face. You might be tempted to fall back on that strategy that worked in high school -- write the paper first, based on your own opinions, and then "look for quotes" later.

What makes the research process in our class especially difficult is the abundance of online information written in a snappy, appealing manner. It's hard to turn your attention away from the low-hanging fruit -- the popular articles and fansites (that are designed to be almost as "fun" as the games they cover) -- and turn your attention towards academic research (which still makes my head hurt from time to time -- especially after a satisfying session of Onslaught 2).

The Research Process in a Nutshell

  1. Choose a general topic.
  2. Look for credible sources.
  3. Keep looking, until you
    1. come up with a thesis based on the materials you've found, or
    2. change your topic to better match the kinds of information you can actually find.
This time next week, you will very likely look back with pride and wonder at your accomplishments.

Please let me know how you feel, and how I can help you on this journey.


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