Writing Log Entries

| WLE #1: What Do You Care About? (prewriting) | WLE #2: Turning an Interest into a Topic (Prewriting) | WLE #3: Focusing your Topic and Developing a (Working) Claim | WLE#4:From a Focused Topic to Questions | WLE #5: Getting Feedback on your Research Questions | WLE#6: Researching: Phase 1 | WLE #7: Creating a Working Outline

WLE #1: What Do You Care About? (prewriting)

To prepare you for choosing a topic for your great big research paper, I'd like you to spend some time this weekend thinking about who you are and what interests you in the world. Remember, you will eventually need to choose a research topic so keep that in mind as you prepare answers to the following questions. Please write a paragraph in response to each or create some sort of list if multiple items fit the bill. I need to see multiple ideas here, so please do not respond to each question with the same idea. These questions should help you generate ideas for your paper.

Also, think BIG, not small. Your mom or your big brother or your neighbor are not good answers. Remember the purposae of this assignment.

What do you care about? Why?
What are you passionate about? Why?
What do you find distressing? Why?
What do you find confusing? Why?
What do you want to know more about? Why?
What have you always been curious about? Why?

What pisses you off? Why?
Have you read anything or watched anything recently that you couldn't stop thinking about? Why do you think that is?

How many of these things do you think might make a viable research project?

WLE #2: Turning an Interest into a Topic (Prewriting)

Once you have a list of topics, choose the one or two that interest you the most. Then do this:

· In the library, look up your topic in a general bibliography such as the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature and skim the subheadings. If you have a more narrow focus, look into specialized guides such as the American Humanities Index. Most libraries have copies on the shelf; many subscribe to their online equivalents, but not all of them let you skim subject headings.

· On the Internet, Google [or bing, or whatever] your topic, but don’t surf indiscriminately. Look first for websites that are roughly like sources you would find in a library, such as online encyclopedias. Read the entry on your general topic, and then copy the list of references at the end for a closer look. Use Wikipedia to find ideas and sources, but always confirm what you find in a reliable source. Few experienced researchers trust Wikipedia, so under no circumstances cite it as a source of evidence (unless your topic is the Wikipedia itself).

· You can also find ideas in blogs, which discuss almost every contentious issue, usually ones too big for a research paper. But look for posts that take a position on narrow aspects of the larger issues: if you disagree with a view, investigate it.

Record your journey, your actual, specific steps through this process, in your writers log as WLE #2. What do you think of the viability of your term?

WLE #3: Focusing your Topic and Developing a (Working) Claim

Your task for the weekend is to significantly focus your topic into something that would make a manageable research topic and that you are willing to commit to, at least for the time being). Remember our discussion of how to narrow your topics.

After you have done this, complete the following

What was your original (Too Broad) Topic? (Example of a Too Broad topic: Free Will in Tolstoy)

What was the next step in refining that topic?
(Example of a narrowed, but still too broad topic: The importance of Free Will in War and Peace)

How have you further Refined that Topic into a manageable research topic?
(Example of a refined and approprriate research topic: The conflict of free will and inevitability in Tolstoy’s description of three battles in War and Peace.)

List three possible Claims you could pursue:
(Example of a manageable claim: In War and Peace , Tolstoy describes three battles in which free will and inevitability conflict.)

Then write a paragraph or two to explain what about this topic interest you. Why, in other words, are you choosing this topic?

Caution: Don’t narrow your topic so much that you can’t find data on it. Too many data are available in the history of commercial aviation but too few (at least for beginning researchers) on the decision to lengthen the wingtips in the DC-3 prototype for military use as a cargo carrier.

I will collect WLEs 1-3 on Monday.

WLE#4:From a Focused Topic to Questions

So the best way to begin working on your specific topic is not to find all the data you can on your general topic, but to formulate questions that point you to just those data that you need to answer them.
You can start with the standard journalistic questions: who, what, when and where, but focus on how and why. To engage your best critical thinking, systematically ask questions about your topic’s history, composition, and categories. Then ask other questions you can think of or find in your sources. Record all the questions, but don’t stop to answer them even when one or two grab your attention. (And don’t worry about keeping these categories straight; their only purpose is to stimulate questions and organize your answers.) Let’s take up the example of masks mentioned earlier.

Ask about the History of Your Topic

· How does it fit into a larger developmental context? Why did your topic come into being? What came before masks? How were masks invented? Why? What might come after masks?

· What is its own internal history? How and why has the topic itself changed through time? How have Native American masks changed? Why? How have Halloween masks changed? Why? How has the role of masks in society changed? How has the booming market for kachina masks influenced traditional design? Why have masks helped make Halloween the biggest American holiday after Christmas?

Ask about its Structure and Composition

· How does your topic fit into the context of a larger structure or function as part of a larger system? How do masks reflect the values of different societies and cultures? What roles do masks play in Hopi dances? In scary movies? In masquerade parties? How are masks used other than for disguise?

· How do its parts fit together as a system? What parts of a mask are most significant in Hopi ceremonies? Why? Why do some masks cover only the eyes? Why do few masks cover just the bottom half of the face? How do their colors play a role in their function?

Ask How Your Topic Is Categorized

· How can your topic be grouped into kinds? What are the different kinds of masks? Of Halloween masks? Of African masks? How are they categorized by appearance? By use? By geography or society? What are the different qualities of masks?

· How does your topic compare to and contrast with others like it? How do Native American ceremonial masks differ from those in Japan? How do Halloween masks compare with Mardi Gras masks?

Turn Positive Questions into Negative Ones

· Why have masks not become a part of other holidays, like President’s Day or Memorial Day? How do Native American masks not differ from those in Africa? What parts of masks are typically not significant in religious ceremonies?

Ask What If? and Other Speculative Questions

· How would things be different if your topic never existed, disappeared, or were put into a new context? What if no one ever wore masks except for safety? What if everyone wore masks in public? What if it were customary to wear masks on blind dates? In marriage ceremonies? At funerals? Why are masks common in African religions but not in Western ones? Why don’t hunters in camouflage wear masks? How are masks and cosmetic surgery alike?

WLE #5: Getting Feedback on your Research Questions

In Class

Take out your Writing Log Entry #4 with the research questions you have posed for yourself. Get into groups ofour and get as much feedback as you can on your questions (I expect that, as a group, you will spend ten minutes giving feedback on each writer's questions.) Each student will take out three pieces of paper, and write on each of those papers, in the top left corner:

Your name
Professor Corbett Treece
7 April 2009
WLE #5

(BTW, all of the WLEs and essays you hand me should have a header that looks like this).

Then, in the center of the page write "Feedback on Research Qustions for _". (Each page should contain the name of one of your three group members.

Once you have completed this, each student will 1) briefly explain their research paper topic and then 2) read their research questions from WLE #4 to the group. As each author reads, record their research questions on the paper that has their name in the center. Rocord, on the paper for the student reading, your evaluations of their research questions.

What do you think of the questions? Do they make sense to you? Why or why not? How successful do you think they will be in finding research? Are they specific enough? If so, what makes them specific enough? If not, what specific suggestions can you make to improve them? Can additional terms be added? Give suggestions.

What kind of search terms can the author employ to help find sources that answer each question?

Also give suggestions for where the author might start looking for sources. In what kind of sources would you suggest the author look? If a magazine, what kind of magazine or what specific magazines? If an academic journal, what kind of academic journal? If the internet, what sorts of sites will offer the most reliable and accurate and helpful information?

Any other help or advice you can give will be helpful at this time as you are all about to jump in to the big bad world of research.

When you have completed this, give each paper to the student whose work is discussed. You will be turning in another person's work when you next hand in WLEs, so make sure you keep these attached to your own WLE#4. If you lose these sheets, it is other people's grades that will suffer, so DO NOT LOSE THEM.

WLE#6: Researching: Phase 1

The first thing that you want to do is to start with a general overview of your topic. The best bet for places to start with this are through the library, especially through Encyclopedias and other reference sources.

Look your topic up in general or specialized encyclopedias, then in reference works that summarize research in different areas, as well as in bibliographies that list research by area.

It is a good idea to talk to or email a reference librarian for help finding these sources. Make sure you provide a clear explanation of your topic and have several of your research questions ready to help save time and avoid frustration and confusion.

For example:
I am working on a research project about educational policy in the 1950s...
to find out how school boards in the Midwest dealt with desegregation,
because I want to understand regional differences in race relations.

Can you help me find periodical guides that list articles on that topic?

Your questions may get much more specific than this, but they should be at least this focused.

For Monday, write a log in which you record all of the steps you took to begin finding materials. Where did you look and what did you search and what did you find? What was the most productive? What was the least productive?

For Monday, you should have four basic sources providing general information on your topic -- reference works, books, articles in periodicals. Be sure to print or copy all your sources and record ALL necessary information about them and about how you found them, such as databases accessed and dates accessed.

You should from here on out be reading, actively evaluating, annotating and taking notes on all your sources.

WLE #7: Creating a Working Outline

After reading the section of the MLA Handbook entitled “Outlining,” create a Working Outline for your paper. You may also want to check out the following sources:

· The OWL at Purdue University has an excellent resource on Outlining. http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/544/1/

· A similar tutorial can be found at the Indiana State University’s Writing Center: http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/outlines.shtml

· An Excellent example of a Sample Student Outline on a paper about my homeboy Kurt Cobain can be found here: http://jmbeach.com/files/Cobain_Text_Outline_-_Sample_from_Student.pdf

· And an example of a different kind of out line known as a Point-Form outline can be found here (though the paper outlined here does not seem to be using much in the way of outside sources): http://services.niagaracollege.ca/english/_outline_sample.htm

· And here are a few Spartan outlines, all for papers about Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (Also lacking data):

There is a lot of additional help on the web that will help you form an outline. And it is not important to me what form your outline takes. You need to find a way to organize your essay in some sort of way ahead of time, so if you use numerals and stacking references, or a looser form, such as an essay map, that is fine. It needs to make sense to you first and foremost, but I need also to be able to follow the flow of your essay. What you cannot do is just turn in a text draft of the essay. There needs to be some apparent system of stacking ideas. So find a type of outline you like (a good explanation of different types of outlines can be found on the OWL site above), and start putting your ideas and claims and data in working order.

This outline will change, and I will collect new drafts of it along with your essay drafts and annotated bibliographies throughout the rest of the term.

Include in your working outline specific quotes and data you intend to use from outside sources and include with them what is called a Parenthetical Citation that has the last name of the author (or other appropriate indicator that correlates to how the source will be organized in your works cited page) placed in parentheses following the reference.

So, while in your annotated bibliography you include 1) the Full Citation information (which will later appear alphabetized in your Works Cited Page) and 2) a 1-2 paragraph description of each source, in the outline you will simply quote and attribute the outside data, ideas, and opinion you use, and place after it a reference marker. Below is an example of a portion of an outline, paired with the works cited page that goes to the paper the outline accompanies to show how the references work.

Sample Fragment Working Outline (With evidence incorporated)

D) (BP4) My Claim: Taboos are created to keep members of a culture in check -- obedient to cultural norms.
  1. Evidence: Mary Douglas has analyzed the many facets and interpretations of taboos across various cultures. In her view, taboos could be considered a kind of "brain-washing" (2549) as they are transmitted to individuals along with an entire cultural system made up of a pattern of values and norms. 

  2. My Subclaim: Taboos are often enforced by parental figures to keep children obedient.
    1. Evidence: In traditional British East Africa, between the time of puberty and marriage, a young Akamba girl must maintain an avoidance relationship with her own father (Freud 17).

E) (BP5) My Claim: Going against these cultural norms causes you to be an outcast in society.

  1. Evidence: In reference to Freak Shows at circuses, an interesting observation is made that people who possess uncommon features and who willingly go out in public to display such oddities to onlookers are acting as "modern-day taboo breakers" by crossing the "final boundary between societal acceptance and ostracism" (Rothenberg). 


In your Bibliography, Works Cited, or References page, you must include all of the above parenthetical citations. See sample below. Note the formatting: Title is centered, works are alphabetized, hanging indent, double spaced, etc. (Note webusers: formatting may not translate correctly on website, especially the hanging indent).

Sample Accompanying Works Cited Page
Works Cited
Douglas, Mary. "Taboo." Man, Myth & Magic. Ed. Richard Cavendish. 4th ed. New York: Cavendish, 1994. 2546-2549. Print.
Dundes, Alan. "Taboo."
The World Book Encyclopedia Online. The World Book Encyclopedia, 2009. Web. 8 April 2010.
Freud, Sigmund.
Totem and Taboo. New York: Random, 1918. Print.
Rothenberg, Kelly. "Tattooed People as Taboo Figures in Modern Society.”
Reconstruction 7.4 (2007): n. pag. Web. 5 June 2008.
Occultopedia: Encyclopedia of Occult Sciences and Knowledge. Ed. Marcus V. Gay et al. U of North Carolina, 8 march 2005. Web. 23 April 2010.

Note that in the outline the author's name and page number (when available) is placed in parentheses following the information supplied by that author. If the author's name is mentioned in the text, you need not repeat it in the parentheses. If there is, however, any possibility that your reader could become confused about the source of the info, you should repeat it in the parentheses. For any source that has available page numbers (most non--web-specific sources) that should also be included in the parentheses. The info that appears in the parentheses should correspond to the info that the source is alphabetized under. In other words, whatever appears first in the works cited listing for the source (usually the last name of the author) will also appear in the Parenthetical Citation.