The Curious Researcher




.. J··Y ION

The Curious Researcher

A Guide to Writing Research Papers

Bruce Ballenger Boise State University


New York San Francisco Boston London Toronto Sydney Tokyo Singapore Madrid

Mexico City Munich Paris Cape Town Hong Kong Montreal



For Rebecca, who reminds me to ask, Why?

Publisher: Joseph Opiela Executive Editor: Suzanne Phelps Chambers Editorial Assistant: Erica Schweitzer Senior Supplements Editor: Donna Campion Senior Marketing Manager: Susan Stoudt Production ]Ilanager: Eric Jorgensen Project Coordination, Text Design. and Electronic Page Makeup:

Elm Street Publishing Services Cover Design Manager: John Callahan Cover Designer: N aney Saks Cover Image: Michael Saul/Band X Pictures/Jupiter Images Visual Researcher: Rona Tuccillo Senior Manufacturing Buyer: Dennis J. Para Printer and Binder: Edwards Brothers, Inc. Cover Printer: Coral Graphic Services

The author and publisher are grateful to the many students who allowed their work to be reprinted here. We would also like to acknowledge the following copyright holders for permission to use their materials in this book:

p.63-Gabe Palmer/Corbis p.145-Oliver Lassen/Zefa/Corbis p.169-Jim Cornfield/Corbis

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Ballenger, Bruce P.

The curious researcher: a guide to writing research papers/ Bruce Ballenger.–6th ed.

p. em. Includes index. ISBN 978-0-205-74526-5

1. Report writing-Handbooks, manuals, etc. manuals, etc. I. Title. LB2369.B246 2009 808′.02-dc22

2. Research-Handbooks,


This book includes 2009 MLA guidelines.

Copyright © 2009 by Pearson Education, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Printed in the United States.


Longman is an imprint of

PEARSON ISBN 13: 978-0-205-74526-5 www.pearsonhighered.comISBN 10: 0-205-74526-1





Preface xx

Introduction: Rethinking the Research Paper 1

E X ERe I S E 1 Collecting Golf Balls on Driving Ranges and Other Reflections 1

Learning and Unlearning 4

Using This Book 4

The Exercises 4

The Five-Week Plan 5

Alternatives to the Five-Week Plan 6

The Research Paper and the Research Report 7

Discovering Your Purpose 7

How Formal Should It Be? 9

When “Bad” Writing Is Good 10 :1:

Thinking Like an Academic Writer 10

“Essaying” or Arguing? 11

The Research Essay and Academic Writing 13

Becoming an Authority by Using Authorities 15

“It’s Just My Opinion” 15

Facts Don’t Kill 16

E X ERe I S E 2 Reflecting on “The Bothersome Beauty of Pigeons” by Bruce Ballenger 17

The Question Habit 25




vi Contents

Chapter 1 The First Week 27

The Importance of Getting Curious 27

Learning to Wonder Again 27

Getting the Pot Boiling 28

E X ERe I S E 1. 1 Building an Interest Inventory 29

Other Ways to Find a Topic 33

What Is a Good Topic? 35

Checking Out Your Tentative Topic 35

Making the Most of an Assigned Topic 36

EX ERe I S E 1.2 The Myth of the Boring Topic 37

Developing a Working Knowledge 39

Research Strategies 40

E X ERe I S E 1. 3 Seeing the Broad View 40

The Reference Librarian: A Living Source 46

Narrowing the Subject 47

Circling the Lighthouse 47

From Landscape Shots to Close-Ups 48

E X ERe I S E 1. 4 Finding the Questions 48

E X ERe I S E 1. 5 Finding the Focusing Question 50

EX ERe I S E 1.6 Finding the Relationship 51

Possible Purposes for a Research Assignment 52

E X ERe I S E 1. 7 Research Proposal 53

Reading for Research 55

EX ERe I S E 1.8 Ways of Reading to Write 55

Reading Rhetorically 57

Reading Like an Outsider 58



Contents vii

Chapter 2 The Second Week 61 Developing a Research Strategy 61

Google VB. the Library 62

A Complementary Research Strategy 64

Find Sufficient Information by Using the Best Search Terms 65

Controlled Language Searches Using Library of Subject Headings 65

Boolean Searching 67

Magic Words on the World Wide Web 68

Find Varied Sources 70

Primary vs. Secondary Sources 72

Objective vs. Subjective 72

Stable or Unstable? 73

Find Quality Sources 73

When Was It Published? 73

Why Journal Articles Are Better Than Magazine Articles 74

Look for Often-Cited Authors 75

Not All Books Are Alike 75

Evaluating Online Sources 76

A Key to Evaluating Internet Sources 77

Developing Focused Knowledge 81

What About a Thesis? 82

Suspending Judgment? 82

What Do You Presume? 82

What Are You Arguing? 83

Library Research Techniques 85

Finding Books 85

Understanding Call Numbers 86



viii Contents

E X ERe I S E 2. 1 Library Investigations 87

Coming Up Empty-Handed? 89

Checking Bibliographies 89

Interlibrary Loan 89

Finding Magazine and Journal Articles Using Online Databases 90

Finding Newspaper Articles with Online Databases 93

Advanced Internet Research Techniques 94

Types of Search Engines 95

E X ERe I S E 2. 2 Research on the Internet 96

Living Sources: Interviews and Surveys 99

Arranging Interviews 99

Finding Experts 99

Finding Nonexperts Affected by Your Topic 101

Making Contact 101

Conducting Interviews 102

Whom to Interview? 102

What Questions to Ask? 102

During the Interview 104

Notetaking 104

The E-Mail Interview 105

Finding People on the Internet 105

Making Contact by E-Mail 106

The Discussion Board Interview 106

Deciding What to Ask 107

Planning Informal Surveys 107

Defining Goals and Audience 107

Types of Questions 108

Survey Design 110

Avoid Loaded Questions 110

Ayoid Vague Questions 110



— Contents ix

Drawbacks of Open-Ended Questions 110

Designing Your Multiple-Choice Questions 111

Continuum Questions 111

Planning for Distribution 112

Conducting Surveys 112

Distribution 112

The Internet Survey 113

Chapter 3 The Third Week 115 Writing in the Middle 115

Becoming an Activist Notetaker 116

EX ERe IS E 3.1 Getting a Word in Edgewise 118

EX ERe I S E 3.2 “Say Back” to a Source 121

Recognizing Plagiarism 121

I Read What You Said and Borrowed It, Okay? 122

Why Plagiarism Matters 124

Sources Are from Mars, Notetakers Are from Venus 125

Paraphrasing 126

E X ERe I S E 3. 3 Paraphrase Practice 126

Summarizing 127

E X ERe I S E 3. 4 Summary Practice 128

Quoting 129

When to Quote 129

Quoting Fairly 131

E X ERe I S E 3. 5 Dialogic N otetaking: Listening In, Speaking Up 131

“Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism” by Christine Rosen 134

Notetaking Techniques 143

The Double-Entry Journal 144



x Contents

Other Notetaking Techniques 153

The Research Log: A Jay Leno Approach 153

Narrative Notetaking 157

First Layer: Story the Source 160

Second Layer: Rapid Summary 160

Third Layer: Narrative of Thought 160

Online Research Notebooks 161

When You’re Coming Up Short: More Advanced Searching Techniques 162

Advanced Library Searching Techniques 163

Advanced Internet Search Techniques 164

Thinking Outside the Box: Alternative Sources 166

Chapter 4 The Fourth Week 169

Getting to the Draft 169

When the Experts Disagree 170

Evaluating Conflicting Claims 170

EX ERe I S E 4. 1 Do Concealed Guns Reduce Crime? 171

E X ERe I S E 4. 2 Reclaiming Your Topic 174

An Application Example 176

Deciding Whether to Say 1 181

Getting Personal Without Being Personal 182

Beginning at the Beginning 182

Flashlights or Floodlights? 183

Writing Multiple Leads 185

E X ERe I S E 4. 3 Three Ways In 187

Deciding on a Voice 189

Considering Purpose, Audience, Subject, and Who You Are 190



Contents xi

The Differing Voices of Research 192

Writing for Reader Interest 193

Working the Common Ground 194

Topics for Which Common Ground Is Hard to Find 195

Putting People on the Page 196

Using Case Studies 197

Using Interviews 197

Writing a Strong Ending 198

Endings to Avoid 198

Using Surprise 200

Organizing the Draft 201

Delayed Thesis Structure 202

Question-Claim Structure 204

Essaying or Arguing: An Example 206

Writing with Sources 207

Blending Kinds ofWriting and Sources 207

Handling Quotes 208

Quick Tips for Controlling Quotations 211

Grafting Quotes 211

Sandwiching Quotes 211

Billboarding Quotes 212

Splicing Quotes 213

Handling Interview Material 214

Trusting Your Memory 215

Citing Sources 215

An Alternative to Colliding Footnotes 215

I Hate These Theses to Pieces 216

Driving Through the First Draft 218

A Draft Is Something the Wind Blows Through 218



xii Contents

Chapter 5 The Fifth Week 221 Revising for Purpose 221

EX ERe I S E 5. 1 Wrestling with the Draft 223

The Thesis as a ‘fool for Revision 226

E X ERe I S E 5. 2 Dissecting the Fish 227

Using a Reader 229

What You Need from a Reader 229

E X ERe I S E 5. 3 Directing the Reader’s Response 229

Attacking the Draft 230

EX ERe I S E 5.4 Cut-and-Paste Revision 231

Examining the Wreckage 232

Revising for Information 234

Finding Quick Facts 234

Revising for Language 235

Listening to the Voice 237

Avoid Sounding Glib 237

How to Control Information 238

Verbal Gestures 240

Scrutinizing Paragraphs 242

How Well Do You Integrate Sources? 242

Is Each Paragraph Unified? 242

Scrutinizing Sentences 242

Using Active Voice 242

Using Strong Verbs 244

Varying Sentence Length 244

Editing for Simplicity 247

EX ERe I S E 5.5 Cutting Clutter 247

Stock Phrases in Research Papers 247



— Contents xiii

Preparing the Final Manuscript 248

Considering “Reader-Friendly” Design 249

Following MLA Conventions 250

Proofreading Your Paper 250

Proofreading on a Computer 250

Looking Closely 251

EX ERe I S E 5.6 Picking Off the Lint 251

Ten Common Mistakes 252

Using the “Find” or “Search” Function 254

Avoiding Sexist Language 255

Looking Back and Moving On 256

Appendix A Guide to MLA Style 257 Part One: Citing Sources in Your Essay 259

1.1 When to Cite 259

The Common Knowledge Exception 259

1.2 The MLA AuthorlPage System 260

The Basics of Using Parenthetical Citation 260

1.2.1 Placement of Citations 262

1.2.2 When You Mention the Author’s Name 264

1.2.3 When There Is No Author 264

1.2.4 Works by the Same Author 265

1.2.5 Indirect Sources 266

1.2.6 Personal Interviews 267

1.2.7 Several Sources in a Single Citation 267

Sample Parenthetical References for Other Sources 268

1.2.8 An Entire Work 268

1.2.9 A Volume of a Multivolume Work 268

1.2.10 Several Sources for a Single Passage 268



xiv Contents

1.2.11 A Literary Work 269

1.2.12 An Online Source 269

Part Two: Format 270

2.1 The Layout 270

2.1.1 Printing 270

2.1.2 Margins and Spacing 270

2.1.3 Title Page 270

2.1.4 Pagination 272

2.1.5 Placement of Tables, Charts, and illustrations 272

2.1.6 Handling Titles 272

2.1.7 Italics and Underlinings 273

2.1.8 Language and Style 273

Names 273

Ellipsis Points 274

Quotations 274

Part Three: Preparing the “Works Cited” Page 275

3.1 Format 276

Alphabetizing the List 276

Indenting and Spacing 276

3.2 Citing Books 277

Title 277

Edition 278

Publication Place, Publisher, and Date 278

Page Numbers 278

Sample Book Citations 279

3.2.1 A Book by One Author 279

3.2.2 A Book by Two Authors 279

3.2.3 A Book with More Than Three Authors 279

3.2.4 Several Books by the Same Author 279

3.2.5 An Entire Collection or Anthology 279

3.2.6 A Work in a Collection or Anthology 280



Contents xv

3.2.7 An Introduction, Preface, Foreword, or Prologue 280

3.2.8 A Book with No Author 280

3.2.9 An Encyclopedia 281

3.2.10 A Book with an Institutional Author 281

3.2.11 A Book with Multiple Volumes 281

3.2.12 A Book That Is Not a First Edition 282

3.2.13 A Book Published Before 1900 282

3.2.14 A Translation 283

3.2.15 Government Documents 283

3.2.16 A Book That Was Republished 283

3.2.17 An Online Book 284

3.3 Citing Periodicals 284

Author’s Name 284

Article Title 284

Periodical Title 284

Volume Number 285

Date 285

Page Numbers 285

Sample Periodical Citations 286

3.3.1 A Magazine Article 286

3.3.2 A Journal Article 286

3.3.3 A Newspaper Article 287

3.3.4 An Article with No Author 288

3.3.5 An Editorial 288

3.3.6 A Letter to the Editor 289

3.3.7 A Review 289

3.3.8 An Abstract 289

3.4 Citing Nonprint and Other Sources 290

3.4.1 An Interview 290

3.4.2 Surveys, Questionnaires, and Case Studies 291



xvi Contents

3.4.3 Recordings 291

3.4.4 Television and Radio Programs 292

3.4.5 Films, Videotapes, and DVDs 292

3.4.6 Artwork 293

3.4.7 An Advertisement 293

3.4.8 Lectures and Speeches 293

3.4.9 Pamphlets 294

3.5 Citing CD-ROMs and Other “Portable” Databases 294

3.5.1 A Nonperiodical Database 294

3.5.2 A Periodical Database 295

3.6 Citing Online Databases 296

Other Recent Changes by the MLA 296

Is It Also in Print? 297

Long and Ugly URLs 298

Sample Online Citations 299

3.6.1 An Article 299

3.6.2 An Article or Abstract in a Library Database 299

3.6.3 An Online Book 302

3.6.4 A Web Site or Page from a Web Site 303

3.6.5 An Online Posting 303

3.6.6 An E-Mail Message 304

3.6.7 A Sound Clip or Podcast 304

3.6.8 An Online Video 304

3.6.9 An Interview 305

3.6.10 A Blog Entry or Blog Comment 305

3.6.11 An Online Image 306

3.6.12 Synchronous Communication (MOOS, MUDS, IRCS) 306

Part Four: Student Essay in MLA Style 307

“In Search of the Great White” by Amanda Stewart 308



Contents xvii

Appendix B Guide to APA Style 319

Part One: How the Essay Should Look 322

1.1 The Layout 322

1.1.1 Page Format 322

1.1.2 Title Page 322

1.1.3 Abstract 322

1.1.4 Body of the Paper 324

1.1.5 Handling Quoted Material 325

1.1.6 References Page 326

1.1.7 Appendix 327

1.1.8 Notes 327

1.1.9 Tables and Figures 327

1.1.10 Language and Style 328

Part Two: Citing Sources in Your Essay 328

2.1 The APA AuthorlPage System 328

2.1.1 When the Author Is Mentioned in the Text 328

2.1.2 When the Author Isn’t Mentioned in the Text 328

2.1.3 When to Cite Page Numbers 329

2.1.4 A Single Work by Two or More Authors 329

2.1.5 A Work with No Author 330

2.1.6 Two or More Works by the Same Author 330

2.1.7 An Institutional Author 330

2.1.8 Multiple Works in the Same Parentheses 331

2.1.9 Interviews, E-Mail, and Letters 331

2.1.10 New Editions of Old Works 332

2.1.11 A Web Site 332

Part Three: Preparing the “References” List 332

3.1 Order of Sources 332

3.2 Order of Information 333



xviii Contents

Author 333

Date 333

Article or Book Title 333

Periodical Title and Publication Information 333

3.3 Sample References 334

3.3.1 A Journal Article 334

3.3.2 A Journal Article Not Paginated Continuously 335

3.3.3 A Magazine Article 335

3.3.4 A Newspaper Article 335

3.3.5 A Book 336

3.3.6 A Book or Article with More Than One Author 336

3.3.7 A Book or Article with an Unknown Author 336

3.3.8 An Encyclopedia Entry 337

3.3.9 A Dictionary 337

3.3.10 A Book with an Institutional Author 338

3.3.11 A Book with an Editor 338

3.3.12 A Selection in a Book with an Editor 338

3.3.13 A Republished Work 338

3.3.14 AnAbstract 339

3.3.15 A Source Mentioned by Another Source 339

3.3.16 A Book Review 340

3.3.17 A Government Document 340

3.3.18 A Letter to the Editor 340

3.3.19 A Published Interview 341

3.3.20 A Film, Videotape, or Online Video 341

3.3.21 A Television Program 341

3.3.22 A Musical Recording 342

3.3.23 A Computer Program 342

3.4 Citing Electronic Sources 342

3.4.1 An Electronic Version of an Article Also in Print 343



Contents xix

3.4.2 An Article Only on the Internet 343

3.4.3 An Electronic Text 344

3.4.4 An Article or Abstract from a Library Database 344

3.4.5 A Part of a Work 345

3.4.6 An Online Journal 345

3.4.7 A Newspaper Article 345

3.4.8 An Entire Web Page 346

3.4.9 An Article on a Web Site 346

3.4.10 An Audio Podcast 346

3.4.11 A Blog 347

3.4;12 A Wiki 347

3.4.13 Discussion Lists 347

3.4.14 E-Mail 348

Part Four: Sample Paper in APA Style 348

“What’s Love Got to Do with It? Compatability and Marital Success” by Jennifer Suittor 349

Appendix C Understanding Research Assignments 359 Analyzing the Purpose of the Assignment 360

Argumentative Research: Open or Closed? 361

Audience 362

Emphasis on Formal Qualities 363

Types of Evidence: Primary or Secondary 365

Index 367



Preface Placing Inquiry at the Heart of the Course

Several years ago, the Boyer Commission offered a national report on the state of undergraduate education in America’s research universities. The report was sobering. Among other things, the com­ mission complained that undergraduates, particularly first- and second-year students, experience a curriculum dominated by knowl­ edge transmission-large lectures rather than seminars-and rarely get the chance to “enter a world of discovery in which they are active participants, not passive receivers.” Commission members called for a “radical reconstruction” of undergraduate education. “The ecology of the university,” they wrote, “depends on a deep and abiding under­ standing that inquiry, investigation, and discovery are the heart of the enterprise…. Everyone at a university should be a discoverer, a learner.” The freshman year, in particular, should provide “new stimulation for intellectual growth and a firm grounding in inquiry­ based learning.”

The Curious Researcher answers that call. It is a sad fact that most students misunderstand formal academic research. Because it often reports conclusions-the results of the process of inquiry­ students naturally assume that the research writer didn’t engage in an act of inquiry in the first place. They assume that the aca­ demic writer always sets out to prove rather than to find out, that she scrupulously avoids ambiguity and is more concerned with answers than questions. The conventional research paper in the composition course-often students’ first introduction to academic research-reinforces all of these mistaken assumptions about the nature of inquiry.

Teaching the Spirit of Inquiry

While The Curious Researcher features plenty of material on the conventions of research writing-citation methods, approaches to organization, evaluating sources, how to avoid plagiarism, and so on-a major emphasis of the book is introducing students to the




Preface xxi

spirit of inquiry. The habits of mind that good research writers develop is something we can teach that is truly multidisciplinary. That spirit is charged with curiosity, of course-the itch to know and learn and discover. But it also involves the ability to ask researchable questions, the instinct to look in the right places for answers, a willingness to suspend judgment, and an openness to changing one’s mind. Embracing the spirit of inquiry must begin with the belief that one can be an inquirer, a knower, an active agent in making knowledge.

I think this affective dimension of critical thinking is under­ rated, especially when it comes to writing research papers. That’s why this book promotes the research essay, a potentially more sub­ jective, less formal, often more exploratory mode than the formal argumentative research paper. The research essay is, I think, a much better introduction to research and research writing and excellent preparation for more conventional academic research because it places the writer in the center of the discourse. As a result, he cannot avoid his role as the main agent of the inquiry nor can he escape the question of his own authority in the conversation about what might be true. When it’s a good experience, the writer of the research essay often adopts a new identity as a knower.

I am often amazed at what students do with this new freedom. I believe little is lost in not prescribing a formal research paper, particularly in an introductory composition course. As students move on from here to their declared majors, they will learn the scholarly conventions of their disciplines from those best equipped to teach them. In the meantime, students will master valuable library skills and learn many of the technical elements of the research paper, such as citation methods and evaluating sources. But most important, students will discover, often for the first time, what college research is really about: using the ideas of others to shape ideas of their own.

Ways of Using This Book

Since procrastination ails many student researchers, this book is uniquely designed to move them through the research pro­ cess, step-by-step and week-by-week, for five weeks, the typical period allotted for the assignment. The structure of the book is flexible, however; students should be encouraged to compress the sequence if their research assignment will take less time or ignore it altogether and use the book to help them solve specific problems as they arise.



xxii Preface

Students who follow the five-week sequence usually find that they like the way The Curious Researcher doesn’t deluge them with information, as do so many other research paper texts. Instead, The Curious Researcher doles information out week-by-week, when it is most needed.

The Introduction, “Rethinking the Research Paper,” chal­ lenges students to reconceive the research paper assignment. For many of them, this will amount to a “declaration of independence.” During “The First Week,” students are encouraged to discover topics they’re genuinely curious about and to learn to develop a “working knowledge” of their topics through library and Web research. This working knowledge will guide them as they decide on a tentative focus for their investigations. In “The Second Week,” students develop a research strategy, hone their skills in evaluat­ ing sources, and then begin working to develop a “focused knowl­ edge” of their topics by systematically searching for information in the library and on the Web. In “The Third Week,” students learn notetaking techniques, the dangers of plagiarism, and tips on how to conduct a search that challenges them to dig more deeply for information. During “The Fourth Week,” students begin writing their drafts; this chapter also gives tips on integrating sources, structure, voice, and beginnings. In “The Fifth Week,” students are guided through the final revision.

In this edition of The Curious Researcher, the details about citation conventions and formats for both the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) are in Appendixes A and B, respectively. This organization makes the information easier for students to find and use. Sample student papers-one in MLA format and one in AP A format-are included as well.

Unlike other textbooks, which relegate exercises to the ends of chapters, The Curious Researcher makes them integral to the process of researching and writing the paper. Though techniques such as fastwriting and brainstorming-featured in some of the writing exercises-are now commonplace in many composition classes, they have rarely been applied to research writing and certainly not as extensively as they have been here. Fastwriting is an especially useful tool, not just for prewriting but for open-ended thinking throughout the process of researching and writing the paper. The exercises are also another antidote to procrastina­ tion, challenging students to stay involved in the process as well as providing instructors with a number of short assign­ ments throughout the five weeks that will help them monitor students’ progress.



Preface xxiii

Features of the New Edition

Writing a textbook is like discovering an aunt you never knew you had. She arrives unexpectedly one summer and stands at your door beaming and expectant. Naturally, you welcome her in. How charming she is, and as you get to know your aunt you get to know yourself. This is her gift to you. At some point, many months later, you see her luggage by the door, and with a certain sadness you send her off. “Come again,” you yell as she ambles off. “Come again any­ time. I’ll miss you!” And you do. Your fondness for this newly discov­ ered relative grows as you learn that others, people who aren’t even blood related, like her too.

Two years later, your aunt appears at your door again, and of course you’re glad to see her. She inhabits your house for the sum­ mer, and, while she does get a bit demanding, that doesn’t diminish your fondness for the old girl, at least not much. You’ve grown to know her well, and while familiarity doesn’t breed contempt you do develop a slight weariness. You’ve heard all the same stories a few times, and her voice, well, her voice can get a bit irritating at times. This time when she leaves you confess that you’re just a little bit relieved, happy to move on to other things.

But, bless her heart, your aunt has got something of a following and this has given her a new lease on life. It also seems she got a lease on your life, and once more she appears one summer day at the door expecting to stay until September or October. You do love her, but you wish she wouldn’t visit so often, and though her stay is often pleasant, you feel compelled to remind her that she’s getting older and maybe a bit out of fashion. You do what you can to remake her into someone you don’t mind spending the summer with.

This sixth time around, I think I’ve made substantial improve­ ments in The Curious Researcher that make it current with the lat­ est advances in information literacy, more streamlined, and more relevant to the actual practices of student writers. Here are a few of the highlights of the sixth edition:

• Google us. the library. Not so long ago, students really needed to walk through the doors of the university library to write academic papers. Now, with the explosion of online databases, full-text documents, Google Scholar, and digital texts, most students are quite confident that they don’t have to leave their rooms to get the work done. Is the library irrelevant? Hardly. But in this edition of The Curious Researcher I take time to explore the practical advantages and disadvantages of online research and research at the library. More than ever, a



xxiv Preface

complementary research strategy, one that combines the best of both, will strengthen student work.

• New sources for information. One of the exciting developments since the last edition is the growth of Web blogs, podcasts, streaming video, and other sources of information that, until recently, were rarely mined for academic research. The sixth edition provides a fresh look at what new sources are available online.

• Expanded treatment of citations. Along with discussion of new electronic sources is more guidance on how to cite them using both MLA and APA formats. I’ve also increased the number of sample citations to provide more comprehensive coverage.

• The story of a research essay. For the first time, The Curious Researcher follows the progress of a single student researcher, Amanda Stewart, from the beginning of her project to the end. In each chapter, she shares the results of her own experience with many of the exercises, a process that culminates with her final essay, the featured MLA student paper in Appendix A

• What about Wikipedia? Viewed with scorn by some academics, the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia is a student favorite. The sixth edition tackles questions about the virtues and draw­ backs of the popular site.

• The NEW MyCompLab website. The new MyCompLab integrates the market-leading instruction, multimedia tutorials, and exer­ cises for writing, grammar and research that users have come to identifY with the program with a new online composing space and new assessment tools. The result is a revolutionary application that offers a seamless and flexible teaching and learning environ­ ment built specifically for writers. Created after years of extensive research and in partnership with composition faculty and stu­ dents across the country, the new MyCompLab provides help for writers in the context of their writing, with instructor and peer commenting functionality, proven tutorials and exercises for writ­ ing, grammar and research, an e-portfolio, an assignmentbuilder, a bibliography tool, tutoring services, and a gradebook and course management organization created specifically for writing classes. Visit for more information.

A few weeks ago, I fell off of a ladder and broke my wrist. This was the second time in three years I’ve done this. This time, when I hit the concrete and noticed that my right wrist was contorted, my first thought was that I wouldn’t play the guitar again. My second




Preface xxv

thought was that I wouldn’t be able to type and meet the deadline for this revision of The Curious Researcher. My third thought was ouch. That thought pretty much stayed with me for the next few days.

Finally, it settled in that I was a very lucky man. I hadn’t fallen on my head, my wife Karen was a tremendous comfort, my friends ral­ lied, and somehow I would find a way to get the writing done. I was lucky, too, that before that ladder collapsed beneath me I had asked one of my former students, Amanda Stewart, to help me with this new edition. This bright young woman was a huge help, offering feedback on the manuscript from a student’s perspective, doing the exercises in the book and sharing her journal work, researching new online infor­ mation sources, and writing an essay that is featured in the back of the book as a memorable example of what a curious researcher can do.

lt also helped that I had an understanding editor at Pearson/Longman, Suzanne Phelps Chambers, who never asked me after I took that spill when I’d be able to send more manuscript, though that must have been on her mind. Her subsequent attention to this book, and the attention of her assistant Erica Schweitzer, made things go much more smoothly as I began typing first with one hand, and then, awkwardly, with both. Suzanne is a new editor for me, and I look forward to working with her on other projects without the handicap of broken bones. Suzanne’s colleague and my former editor, Joseph Opiela, is a lion in the field of educational publishing, and I’m grateful that he took a chance on a young writer who wanted to write a different kind of composition textbook.

The Curious Researcher began in 1991 when I began to feel that the conventional research paper, a fixture in most composition courses, was largely a failed assignment. Students hated it, and while instructors thought that teaching research was an important obligation, many dreaded the assignment, too. Professor Thomas Newkirk, a colleague at the University of New Hampshire, encour­ aged me to re-imagine instruction in college research, and it was largely his encouragement that led to this text’s first edition. Since then, I’ve collaborated with legions of colleagues and students on how this book evolved, and they have helped me make it better. I’d like to mention a few.

Dr. Michelle Payne is a colleague who has been an inspiration and help to me for decades on this book and others. She has had a tremendous impact on helping me understand rhetoric, argument, and writing pedagogy. Barry Lane, now an internationally known consultant and teacher to teachers, was once my office mate at University of New Hampshire, and over the years his enthusiastic support of my approach in The Curious Researcher motivated me to return to the book again and again. Dr. Brock Dethier, Utah State University, is also a long-time friend and intellectual companion



xxvi Preface

who has always challenged me to think more deeply even as my lungs burn while trying to keep up with him on hikes up Northern Rockies peaks. Finally, Dr. Deborah Coxwell-Teague, Florida State University, has been an unflagging supporter of the book and offered advice from her experience using the text with the hundred or so teaching assistants she leads in their program every year.

My students are always the most important reason I keep returning to The Curious Researcher. Since the book first appeared in 1994, I’ve benefited from the writing, experience, advice, and enthusiasm of students who have been willing to this approach a try. I still see their faces when I rewrite this text, including those who were in my classes 25 years ago. The success of this book has much to do with them. When I open any page of The Curi­ ous Researcher these students flutter out, like feathers pressed between its pages that were left there long ago, as reminders of my debt to them.

I would like to thank those individuals who have reviewed my book. Reviewers for the fifth edition included the following: Patricia P. Buckler-Purdue University North Central; Deborah Coxwell Teague-Florida State University; Chris Frick-Colorado College; Don Jones-University of Hartford; Nadene Keene-Indiana Univer­ sity Kokomo; Jennifer Morrison-Niagara University; and Lois Sampson-Cowley College. I would also like to extend my thanks to the reviewers of this edition: Marilyn Annucci-University of Wisconsin-Whitewater; Garnet Branch-University of Louisiana at Lafayette; George Clark-University of Southern Mississippi; Denise Coulter-Atlantic Cape Community College; Deborah Coxwell Teague-Florida State University; Tamara Harvey-George Mason University; Lisa R. Neilson-Marist College; Paula Priamos­ California State University, San Bernardino; and Amy Randolph­ Waynesburg University.

And finally, I am most indebted to my wife, Karen Kelley, who in the beginning helped me see this pr~ject through during a difficult time in our lives.





Rethinking the Research Paper

Unlike most textbooks, this one begins with your writing, not mine. Find a fresh page in your notebook, grab a pen, and spend ten minutes doing the following exercise.


Collecting Golf Balls on Driving Ranges and Other Reflections

Most of us were taught to think before we write, to have it all fig­ ured out in our heads before we pick up our pens. This exercise asks you to think through writing rather than before, letting the words on the page lead you to what you want to say. With practice, that’s sur­ prisingly easy using a technique called fastwriting. Basically, you just write down whatever comes into your head, not worrying about whether you’re being eloquent, grammatical, or even very smart. It’s remarkably like talking to a good friend, not trying to be brilliant and even blithering a bit, but along the way discovering what you think. If the writing stalls, write about that, or write about what you’ve already written until you find a new trail to follow. Just keep your pen moving.

STEP 1: Following is a series of sixteen statements about the research paper assignment. Check the five statements you think most students believe about the assignment. Then, in your notebook, write fast for five minutes about whether you think the statements you checked are true. Speculate about where these ideas about research papers come from and why they might make sense. If you disagree with any of the statements you checked, explore why wrongheaded ideas




2 Introduction I Rethinking the Research Paper

about the assignment have endured. Whenever you feel moved to do so, tell a story.

• It’s okay to say things the instructor might disagree with. • You need to follow a formal structure. • You have to know your thesis before you start. • You have to be objective. • You can’t use the pronoun 1. • You can use your own experiences and observations as evidence. • The information should come mostly from books. • You have to say something original. • You’re always supposed to make an argument. • You can use your own writing voice. • Summarizing what’s known about the topic is most important. • You’re writing mostly for the instructor. • You’re supposed to use your own opinions. • The paper won’t be revised substantially. • Form matters more than content.

STEP 2: Now, consider the truth of some other statements, listed below. These statements have less to do with research papers than with how you see facts, information, and knowledge and how they’re created. Choose one of these statements* to launch a five-minute fastwrite. Don’t worry if you end up thinking about more than one statement in your writing. Start by writing about whether you agree or disagree with the statement, and then explore Why. Continually look for concrete connections between what you think about these statements and what you’ve seen or experienced in your own life.

There is a big difference between facts and opinions.

Pretty much everything you read in textbooks is true.

People are entitled to their own opinions, and no one opinion is better than another.

There’s a big difference between a fact in the sciences and a fact in the humanities.

When two experts disagree, one ofthem has to be wrong.

No matter how difficult they are, most problems have one solu­ tion that is better than the others.

*Source for part of this list is Marlene Schommer, “Effects of Beliefs about the Nature of Knowledge,” J oumal ofEducational Psychology 82 (1990): 498-504.




…. Rethinking the Research Paper

Very few of us recall the research papers we wrote in high school, and if we do, what we remember is not what we learned about our topics but what a bad experience writing them was. Joe was an exception. “1 remember one assignment was to write a research paper on a problem in the world, such as acid rain, and then come up with your own solutions and discuss moral and ethical aspects of your solution, as well. It involved not just research but creativity and problem solving and other stuff.”

For the life of me, 1 can’t recall a single research paper I wrote in high school, but like Joe, 1 remember the one that I finally enjoyed doing a few years later in college. It was a paper on the whaling industry, and what 1 remember best was the introduction. I spent a lot of time on it, describing in great detail exactly what it was like to stand at the bow of a Japanese whaler, straddling an explosive harpoon gun, taking aim, and blowing a bloody hole in a humpback whale.

I obviously felt pretty strongly about the topic. Unfortunately, many students feel most strongly about getting

their research papers over with. So it’s not surprising that when I tell my Freshman English students that one of their writing assignments will be an eight- to ten-page research paper, there is a collective sigh. They knew it was coming. For years, their high school teachers prepared them for the College Research Paper, and it loomed ahead of them as one of the torturous things you must do, a five-week sentence of hard labor in the library, or countless hours adrift in the Internet. Not surprisingly, students’ eyes roll in disbe­ lief when 1 add that many of them will end up liking their research papers better than anything they’ve written before.

1can understand why Joe was among the few in the class inclined to believe me. For many students, the library is an alien place, a wilderness to get lost in, a place to go only when forced. Others carry memories of research paper assignments that mostly involved taking copious notes on index cards, only to transfer pieces of information into the paper, sewn together like patches of a quilt. There seemed little purpose to it. ”You weren’t expected to learn anything about yourself with the high school research paper,” wrote Jenn, now a college fresh­ man. ”The best ones seemed to be those with the most information. 1 always tried to find the most sources, as if somehow that would auto­ matically make my paper better than the rest.” For Jenn and others like her, research was a mechanical process and the researcher a lot like those machines that collect golf balls at driving ranges. You venture out to pick up information here and there, and then deposit it between the title page and the bibliography for your teacher to take a whack at.



4 Introduction I Rethinking the Research Paper

Learning and Unlearning

I have been playing the guitar ever since the Beatles’ 1964 American tour. In those days, everyone had a guitar and played in a group. Unfortunately, I never took guitar lessons and have learned in recent years that I have much “unlearning” to do. Not long ago, I finally unlearned how to do something as simple as tying my strings to the tuning keys. I’d been doing it wrong (thinking I was doing it right) for about forty years.

Recent theories suggest that people who have developed a great deal of prior knowledge about a subject learn more about it when they reexamine the truth of those beliefs, many of which may no longer be valid or may simply be misconceptions. The research paper, perhaps more than any other school assignment, is laden with largely unexam­ ined assumptions and beliefs. Perhaps some of the statements in the first part of Exercise 1 got you thinking about any assumptions you might have about writing academic research papers. Maybe you had a discussion in class about it. You may be interested to know that I pre­ sented that same list of statements to 250 first-year writing students, and the statements are listed in the order they were most often checked by students. In that case, however, students checked the statements they agreed with. For example, 85 percent of the students surveyed agreed that “it’s okay to say things the instructor might dis­ agree with,” something I find encouraging. However, 60 percent believed that they had to know their thesis before they began their papers, an attitude that implies discovery is not the point of research.

The second part of Exercise 1 might have got you thinking about some beliefs and attitudes you haven’t thought much about­ what a “fact” is, the nature and value of “opinions;” and how you view experts and authorities.

I hope that these beliefs about the assignment you are about to undertake and your perspectives on how knowledge is made and evaluated are views that you return to again and again as you work through this book. You may find that some of your existing beliefs are further reinforced, but I’d wager that you might find you have some unlearning to do, too.

Using This Book

The Exercises Throughout The Curious Researcher, you’ll be asked to do exer­

cises that either help you prepare your research paper or actually





… Using This Book

help you write it. You’ll need a research notebook in which you’ll do the exercises and perhaps compile your notes for the paper. Any notebook will do, as long as there are sufficient pages and left mar­ gins. Your instructor may ask you to hand in the work you do in response to the exercises, so it might be useful to use a notebook with detachable pages.

Several of the exercises in this book ask that you use tech­ niques such as fastwriting and brainstorming. This chapter began with one, so you’ve already had a little practice with the two meth­ ods. Both fastwriting and brainstorming ask that you suspend judg­ ment until you see what you come up with. That’s pretty hard for most of us because we are so quick to criticize ourselves, particularly about writing. But if you can learn to get comfortable with the slop­ piness that comes with writing almost as fast as you think, not both­ ering about grammar or punctuation, then you will be rewarded with a new way to think, letting your own words lead you in sometimes surprising directions. Though these so-called creative techniques seem to have little to do with the serious business of research writ­ ing, they can actually be an enormous help throughout the process. Try to ignore that voice in your head that wants to convince you that you’re wasting your time using fastwriting or brainstorming. When you do, they’ll start to work for you.

The Five-Week Plan

But more about creative techniques later. You have a research paper assignment to do. If you’re excited about writing a research paper, that’s great. You probably already know that it can be inter­ esting work. But if you’re dreading the work ahead of you, then your instinct might be to procrastinate, to put it off until the week it’s due. That would be a mistake, of course. If you try to rush through the research and the writing, you’re absolutely guaranteed to hate the experience and add this assignment to the many research papers in the garbage dump of your memory. It’s also much more likely that the paper won’t be very good. Because procrastination is the enemy, this book was designed to help you budget your time and move through the research and writing process in five weeks. (See the box, “Steps to Writing Your Research Essay.”) It may take you a little longer, or you may be able to finish your paper a little more quickly. But at least initially, use the book sequentially, unless your instruc­ tor gives you other advice.

This book can also be used as a reference to solve problems as they arise. For example, suppose you’re having a hard time finding enough information on your topic or you want to know how to plan for an interview. Use the Table of Contents by Subject



6 Introduction / Rethinking the Research Paper

Steps to Writing Your Research Essay

Week One

• Discover your subject • Develop “working know ledge” of your subject • Narrow your subject by finding your focusing question

Week Two

• Plan a research strategy that balances library and Inter­ net sources

• Fine-tune search terms • Begin developing “focused knowledge” of your subject • Plan interviews or surveys

Week Three

• Write about your find • Try advanced searching techniques • Conduct interviews and surveys

Week Four

• Write the first draft

Week Five

• Clarify your purpose, and hone your thesis • Revise draft • Edit, proofread, and finalize citations

as a key to typical problems and where in the book you can find some practical help with them.

Alternatives to the Five-Week Plan

Though The Curious Researcher is structured by weeks, you can easily ignore that plan and use the book to solve problems as they arise. The Contents by Subject in the front of the text is keyed to a range of typical problems that arise for researchers: how to find a topic, how to focus a paper, how to handle a thesis, how to search the Internet, how to organize the material, how to take use­ ful notes, and so on. The overviews of Modern Language Associa­ tion (MLA) and American Psychological Association (AP A) research





… The Research Paper and the Research Report

paper conventions in Appendixes A and E, respectively, provide complete guides to both formats and make it easier to find answers to your specific technical questions at any point in the process of writing your paper.

The Research Paper and the Research Report

In high school, I wrote a research “paper” on existentialism for my philosophy class. I understood the task as skimming a book or two on the topic, reading the entry on “existentialism” in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, making some note cards, and writing down everything I learned. That took about six pages. Was I expressing an opinion of some kind about existentialism? Not really. Did I organize the information with some idea about exis­ tentialism I wanted to relay to readers? Nope. Was I motivated by a question about that philosophy I hoped to explore? Certainly not. What I wrote was a research report, and that is a quite different assignment than most any research paper you’ll be asked to write in college.

Discovering Your Purpose For the paper you’re about to write, the information you collect

must be used much more purposefully than simply reporting what’s known about a particular topic. Most likely, you will define what that purpose is. For example, you may end up writing a paper whose purpose is to argue a point-say, eating meat is morally suspect because of the way stock animals are treated at slaughterhouses. Or your paper’s purpose may be to reveal some less-known or surprising aspect of a topic-say, how the common housefly’s eating habits are not unlike our own. Or your paper may set out to explore a thesis, or idea, that you have about your topic-for example, your topic is the cultural differences between men and women, and you suspect the way girls and boys playas children reflects the social differences evi­ dent between the genders in adults.

Whatever the purpose of your paper turns out to be, the process usually begins with something you’ve wondered about, some itchy question about an aspect of the world you’d love to know the answer to. It’s the writer’s curiosity-not the teacher’s-that is at the heart of the college research paper.




8 Introduction I Rethinking the Research Paper

In some ways, frankly, research reports are easier. You just go out and collect as much stuff as you can, write it down, organize it, and write it down again in the paper. Your jobis largely mechani­ cal and often deadening. In the research paper, you take a much more active role in shaping and being shaped by the information you encounter. That’s harder because you must evaluate, judge, interpret, and analyze. But it’s also much more satisfying because what you end up with says something about who you are and how you see things.

Where Did the Research paper Come From? .

Do you want to know whom to blame or Whom to thank? The undergraduate assignment fIrst arose in the fIrst decade of the 20th century, a development related to two things: the rapid growth of the size of university library collections and the trans­ formation of American colleges into places that privileged research rather than cultivating character and eloquence.

It’s hard to underestimate this revolution in the goal of American universities. Until after the Civil War, going to college meant preparing for a “gentlemanly” profession like religion or law, and the purpose of college was to make sure that graduates were well-spoken, well-read, and virtuous. In just a few decades, this goal was abandoned in favor of the idea that universities should advance human knowledge.

Documented research papers were the method fot accom­ plishing this new mission. Professors wrote research papers, and then, naturally, they assigned them to their graduate stu­ dents. As graduate students assumed undergraduate teaching roles, they started to assign research papers to their students.

The very first research papers were often called “source themes,” expository essays that were casually written rather than formaL By the 1920s, however, the research paper hardened into. a relatively rigid form-one that owed its existence less to gen­ uine inquiry than to the worship of the qualities of scientifIc method: objectivity, impersonality, originality, and documenta­ tion. Most research paper assignments today are still captive to this history. They seem to focus more on formal requirements than to the larger purpose of the endeavor: discovery .

._-_._-_. —~-



9 How Formal Should It Be?

How Formal Should It Be?

When I got a research paper assignment, it often felt as if I were being asked to change out of blue jeans and a wrinkled Oxford shirt and get into a stiff tuxedo. Tuxedos have their place, such as at the junior prom or the Grammy Awards, but they’re just not me. When I first started writing research papers, I used to think that I had to be formal, that I needed to use big words like myriad and ameliorate and to use the pronoun one instead of 1. I thought the paper absolutely needed to have an introduction, body, and conclusion-say what I was going to say, say it, and say what I said. It’s no wonder that the first college research paper I had to write­ on Plato’s Republic for another philosophy class-seemed to me as though it were written by someone else. I felt at arm’s length from the topic I was writing about.

You may be relieved to know that not all research papers are necessarily rigidly formal or dispassionate. Some are. Research papers in the sciences, for example, often have very formal struc­ tures, and the writer seems more a reporter of results than someone who is passionately engaged in making sense of them. This formal stance puts the emphasis where it belongs: on the validity of the data in proving or disproving something, rather than on the writer’s indi­ vidual way of seeing something. Some papers in the social sciences, particularly scholarly papers, take a similarly formal stance, where the writer not only seems invisible but also seems to have little rela­ tion to the subject. There are many reasons for this approach. One is that objectivity-or as one philosopher put it, “the separation of the perceiver from the thing perceived”-is traditionally a highly valued principle among some scholars and researchers. For example, if I’m writing a paper on the effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and I confess that my father-who attended AA-drank himself to death, can I be trusted to see things clearly?

Yes, if my investigation of the topic seems thorough, balanced, and informative. And I think it

"Is this question part of your assignment? We can help"