Why Research?

Opening Freewrite: What is research?  Why “the research paper” class?  Why is English 102 required (high school/running start requirement, AA requirement, transfer requirement) by the high school, Clark College, the state?  So what?  Who cares?  What role will research play in your academic life here at Clark?  Your academic life when you transfer?  Your “real” life?

Rules for Freewriting:

  1. There is only one rule: Keep your pen moving.
  • First thought, Best Thought (so whatever comes to your head right away is “right”).
  • Go off on tangents (as thoughts occur to you, explore them, even if they are “off topic”
  • Write the “wrong” thing
  • Switch topics
  • Swear
  • Ramble
  • Improvise your spelling
  • Use grammar creatively
  • Repeat words or phrases if you get stuck
  • Write, “I don’t know” over and over again until something better occurs to you

Metaphors for Freewriting

1) Sitting in Full Lotus for 24 hours while mosquitoes bite you

2) Message in a Bottle

Text for Grounding and Discussion: Ted Talk by Malcolm Gladwell called “Choice, Happiness, and Spaghetti Sauce”

As you watch this video, keep in mind the following point:

  1. The Ted Talk is delivered at a national conference (Technology, Entertainment, Design) and they are generally twenty minutes (so ten pages, double spaced).
  2. In the context of this class, this Ted Talk becomes meta cognitive– it is a type of research essay (a profile that makes an argument) about research.
  • Questions
  1.  How does this Ted Talk DEFINE research?

Answers: Research is about asking the right question.  When you have the right question, you can make sense of the data.

a) Keeps you OPEN MINDED

b) You actually DISCOVER something as you write

c) Keeps you open to topics you never thought of

  1. What does this Ted Talk show you/embody/illustrate about the nature of research?

BOUNDLESS.  NEVER STOPS.  Not linear.  Learning actually occurs in SPIRALS.  It’s about READING and discovering your interpretation of that reading?  How to INTERPRET data.  Make sense.  Understand.  Translate.

  1. What does this Ted Talk show us about the importance of research in the “real world”?
  2. What does this Ted Talk show you you can DO with the academic research paper in this class?

Doing away with the Platonic ideal of the research paper and embracing that there is no perfect research paper, and instead there are MANY perfect research papers.  Embracing diversity– not just in terms of multiple GENRES of research papers, but also in terms of topics.  The more specific you are– the more nuanced you are– the better your paper will be.

  • Individual Freewrite.  Small Group Discussion.  Large Group Discussion.


Freewrite1) What questions have you always wanted to know the answer to?

Jen’s example about marriage– how the question, “What makes a happy marriage?” has always fascinated her.  Other questions . . . “what methods work best for healing a marriage after infidelity?”  “Is a marriage a success if it lasts?”  “What other factors might we look at when we talk about a “successful” or “happy” marriage?”   “Can a marriage that ends in divorce still be considered ‘successful’?” “What happens if we read our divorce rate (50%) in terms of 50% of marriages are successful?”  “What happens if we read the divorce rate of 50% as a SUCCESS?  As in perhaps it is a GOOD thing that we have a 50/50 divorce rate?” “What is the relationship between love and equality and how does that influence our understanding of marriage in the US?”  “Can the institution of marriage as we currently understand it in the U.S. survive?”


Please read the syllabus.  Begin reading the INTRODUCTION to The Curious Researcher.  Bring your textbook to class on Wednesday.


4 thoughts on “Why Research?

  1. Notes from Night Class: What does this Ted Talk show us about research? How does this Ted Talk define RESEARCH?
    REsearch starts with questions– ask the wrong questions– then you discover the right question. Research is asking the right question.

    ANSWERS. Diversity– many different mustards–

    Platonic IDEAL– cooking universals– we also hold the research paper to a Platonic ideal.

    Assumptions– like if you ask people what they want, they tell you what they think they want . . . but the research proves otherwise. Research is a way to unpack and explore assumptions and expose them as untruths.


  2. Participation Points– Closing Memo to Jen
    1) What idea or image stuck with you from the Malcolm Gladwell Ted Talk?
    2) What on the syllabus scares you?
    3) What on the syllabus excites you or makes you feel motivated/hopeful?
    4) What potential inquiry questions occur to you as you think about your ten page research paper?
    5) Any other comments/questions for Jen.

  3. Pingback: Writing Your First Blog | Jennifer Whetham's Summer Courses at Clark 2013

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