As difficult as it may be for some to come up with an idea that they can twist and turn through the corners of the research process, the real task is finding adequate research to support your idea and help you to create an argument.
I use the word adequate, but that does not necessarily mean that all research is non-beneficial. Everything you read on a topic of interest can only help you further decide on how you want to approach your paper, your theory, or in this case, your podcast. No information is bad information, just as they say no question is a stupid one. And this is ideally what you are doing when you conduct your research: you are asking a question, or you have a question in the back of your mind that you will be uncovering an answer for in your work. These types of questions are similar to the ones I asked at the end of my blog post, “To Research or Not to Research: The Birth of an Idea.”
As R.S. Wurman once said, “What we need to know is how to ask the questions. Most of us are surrounded by answers and solutions in our lives. Our adeptness at asking questions will determine how we reach the solutions” (Wurman, 152). Formulating questions helps you to narrow down the endless information that you are most likely to find. Before I move on, I would like to mention that if you are unable to find a lot of information on your topic, or if it hasn’t been talked about recently, unless you are writing a research paper on Canadian (or other) history, you may want to reconsider your topic. Now this does not necessarily mean you have to change the idea completely, it could be a matter of narrowing it down and refining it to a specific point of interest. Broader topics will get you lots of information, but it is coming down to the nitty-gritty that will spark your audience’s interest.
Topic refinement does not have to be done at the beginning of your research process, in fact, as I found while researching materialfor my podcast, “You Are Who You Eat,” that it was only after I conducted some wide searches on my interests, that I was able to formulate a plan and narrow down my topic.
This is called finding your angle. Research helps immensely to find your angle because you are able to see what other people in the world are saying about the very thing that caught your attention. In a way, research is allowing you to enter into a conversation with the rest of the world on this topic. While at the same time it will provide you with the ability to formulate a response educated and stimulating enough, so that you may then bring others into that conversation with your own work.
This is ultimately your goal whenconducting a research paper (or other) – you do not want to reiterate the ideas discussed by professors, or news reporters, or the person on your timeline who posts highly opinionated Facebook statuses – no what you want to do is blend their ideas in with your own, uncovering a truth for yourself which you may then present to others in the form of a question. Your research work will guide them to the answer that you’ve reached, while at the same time leave room for them to come to their own conclusion based off of the information you’ve presented them with.
In my very first professional writing course I learned the word* intertextuality*, and this generally means that everything written is intertext. This doesn’t mean that no ideas are original, but it does mean that texts are constantly in conversation with one anotherand whether we notice it or not, everything we read, everything we see on T.V., or read on Facebook and Twitter, is research. Wernher von Braun once said, “Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.”It may not be us actively seeking out information, as the definition of research suggests, but we are attaining new information that influences our opinions and ideas. J.L. Lemke writes, “Every text, the discourse of every occasion, makes its social meanings against the background of other texts, and the discourses of other occasions. This is the principle I have called *general intertextuality*” (Lemke, 257).
He then goes on to say, “In much of educational research today, the data record is in the form of texts... Many research agendas require that we construct patterns of relationships among texts... [And] The identification, classification, and interpretation of intertextual relationships is at the heart of much of the best educational research being done today” (Lemke, 258). He upholds the idea that intertextuality is the basis of educational research, and that the discourses we conduct with one another in everyday situations all enhance the research process.
An idea like this helps one immensely whileresearching a topic such as an information and communications technology. This is interface technology: we are communicating with it as it is in use. What better way to research communication technology than to see how the research itself communicates with the surrounding world and us? The goal of our podcasts is to see how this technology is affecting the world on a grander scale. My podcast specifically, as I can only speak for myself, looks at the way it is altering human nature as I touch upon the psychology behind how these ICT’s are affecting the ways in which we make choices.
Seeing as I’ve fast tracked a little, let us go back to the actual part of the research process, where you... actually do the research. Scholarly works will benefit your work, and often are a requirement. Google Scholar is my preferred choice as it offers a large variety of scholarly works that mention (either briefly or whole-heartedly) your topic. Universities also offer online databases of scholarly works and of course, let us not forget the good ol’ fashioned library.
Although they are helpful, you do not want to dull your work and drown your audience with scholarly information (as fascinating as you yourself may find it to be). Magazine articles – from the New Yorker to Buzzfeed.com – have copious amounts of information on a wide range of topics, and you will be sure to find something both entertaining and educational. Primary data will also help to liven up your work. Your audience will appreciate the researcher who took their topic to the field, asking hard-hitting questions in an interview, or collecting statistics through a survey. As I had used both methods for my podcast, I will share that I found the survey to be more helpful, as sometimes it is hard to get a life-altering response out of an interview. Although someone’s first-hand experience can be an eye-opener.
The fun part about research is that Aha! moment. The moment where you come across a paper that discusses exactly what you were looking for, and this time, the conveyor belt of ideas is running, on high speed. Piecing together information from different scholarly texts, creating a puzzle – or a map (depending on how your mind works) – is, for myself, the most interesting part of the research process. This can be done while looking each piece over individually, but I find that the picture gains clarity by setting up headings of interest and jotting down pieces of information from each work that falls under these headings. This part of the process is how I was able to subset my podcast into three categories: Yelp as the consumer, Yelp as the business owner and Yelp as the reviewer.
The research process may appear gruelling and intense, and I too fall victim to the belief that it will be difficult and boring. That is until I have 12+ windows open on my Safari page, all of which hold key information that I will be using for my final product. In the end, you’ll find that cuts have to be made, for the sake of the work, but that is knowledge you have now gained and taken away from an assignment, and a topic, that you dedicated an entire semester to researching.
Here is a link to a site that shares many resources designed to assist a student in the research and writing process: https://faculty.washington.edu/krumme/readings/res+writ.html
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Anamwong, Sira. Human Head with Gear. 25 September 2015. Freedigitalphotos.net. Web. 8 Jan. 2016.
"Jamais Cascio." *BrainyQuote.com. *Xplore Inc, 2016. 8 January 2016.
J.L. Lemke, “Intertextuality and Educational Research.” *Linguistics and Education*. Volume 4. Issues 3–4. 1992. 257-58. Web. 8 Jan. 2016.
Miles, Stuart. Interface Definition Magnifier. 27 June 2012. Freedigitalphotos.net. Web. 8 Jan. 2016.
"S." Student Research & Writing Guide. Washington Edu., n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2016.
"Wernher von Braun." BrainyQuote.com. Xplore Inc, 2016. 8 January 2016.
Wurman, Richard Saul. Information Anxiety. New York: Doubleday, 1989. 152. Web. 8 Jan. 2016.