Saturday, April 26, 2014

Research and Writing

Research and writing are important tools in education, work, and other life-long pursuits people have in their lives. Research is an active, diligent, and systematic process of inquiry in order to discover, interpret or revise facts, events, behaviours, or theories, or to make practical applications with the help of facts, laws, theories, or examples, sometimes referred to as supportive evidence.

The term "research" is also used to describe the collection of information about a particular subject. Research is also a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to general knowledge.

According to Roberta H. Markham, Peter T. Markham, and Marie L. Waddell in their 10 Steps in Writing the Research Paper (1989), research is described as “the disciplined process of investigating and seeking facts which will lead one to discover the truth about something. This truth, stated as one’s thesis is a result of the facts one discovers, and it must be proved conclusively to the reader by the facts selected. The thesis may not be a statement of preconceived opinion or prejudice, nor may the paper be a stringing together of related quotations and a collection of footnotes.”

The 10 Steps in Writing the Research Paper is useful to students in various education institutions.  

According to the authors: “The research paper, a formal presentation of these discovered facts, provides the evidence one needs to defend the opinion expressed as the thesis. Consequently, one must state how and where these facts were found. If they were discovered from what other people have said or written, the student must tell who said them and where they were discovered by direct observation, the student must describe this experience so that the reader could repeat it and observe the same phenomena or facts. The opinion, which is the thesis, the analysis of the material on which it is based, and the conclusions one draws from the material are the most important parts of the final paper. These are subjectively presented while the facts, which provide supporting points, are objectively presented and carefully documented” (1989: 1).

Research provides evidence and data for writing a paper that is convincing, persuasive, and argumentative. Research is a critical process a student needs to master in their lives as a student. Knowing what to include in the essay is as important as raising issues about a topic set as a question for writing.

“During the process of research, the student learn to select, evaluate, and analyze facts; to discipline habits of thought and work; and, most important, to think—to create a new angle of vision. In this sense only, the research paper is original; but it is important enough in itself to justify the word involved in its creation. Because nothing else clearly reveals the truth quality and merit of the writer’s mind, the research paper becomes a valid criterion for judging the disciplined work habits and the intellectual maturity of the student” (Markham, Peter T. Markham, and Marie L. Waddell, 1989: 1).

The skills of research are important skills that students develop in their lives. The intuitive student is someone who searches for truth and discovers them through research. In study of law, for example, students are expected to research their papers as the basis for their arguments, but which must state the facts, identify the issue or issues, link that to an applicable law, through demonstrative arguments before arriving at any conclusions.

“Legal research means you search for, discover, inquire into, interpret, understand and learn the meaning of the law and how it can be applied,” is the mantra Claire Macken promotes in her book, Law Student Survival Guide: 9 Steps to Law Study Success (2010: 152).

Macken elaborates further: “Legal research and writing is an essential skills and will be used throughout your professional life, whether you practice as a lawyer or in a different field. The ability to find an answer to a question, examine and scrutinize other views and write well will always be valuable to you. Legal research is important because it requires the skill of high-level analysis. At times, this skill will require you to comprehend difficult and complicated written legal sentences, which requires an excellent knowledge of the English language….Other times, the skill of legal analysis may require you to listen to a simple and unsophisticated explanation of facts (for example, from a client) and be able to translate that into legal issues that may span several areas of the law” (2010: 152).

In many law essays research is the necessary foundation for essays of excellence. Legal evidence is necessary for research papers of excellent quality. Evidence is gathered from various primary and secondary sources of law. Using evidence from these sources of law allows a researcher to make sound, persuasive, and make convincing arguments.

The advice I give to my students are UPNG, which I do at the beginning of every semester is: “Avoid leaving your essay assignments until the last minute. It is critical that you think about the essay question that you want to write about. Thinking about the question allows you to do a mental frame of the arguments or discussions you can make about the topic you choose to write about. Mental frames also help you develop a road map of both the discussions you will make and also on how you will proceed with the assignment. Making early mental frames on the essay topic helps you to begin work on your essay the moment the ideas are fresh. Often the result of this approach is that you are prepared to work on your assignment without too much anxieties about what to write and how to start.

Writing good research based essays are the building blocks for success at university level courses. Even in the work environment one has to write reports based on research of the subject and context for which the reporting is concerned about.

A simple advice to the novice writer: ‘Research before you write’.


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