Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Research and Writing Assignment 1

Honors English 298
Washington State University
Delahoyde — Fall 2014

Personal Essay:
You, the Researcher and Writer

I am skeptical of the notion of writing as a “talent.” It seems too easy to me for someone to declare that he or she simply wasn’t born with the talent and is therefore supposed to be considered off the hook when it comes to being held responsible for producing a bit of text. One can also blame an absent Muse, or being stood up by the Holy Spirit who was supposed to inspire supernatural eloquence at a recent visitation. And experts on “genius” and “talent” recently are saying that it’s essentially a matter of putting in about 10,000 focused hours that makes you excel in a field (as a poet, or bassoonist, or figure skater) rather than some mysterious innate proclivity.

The perhaps troubling news is that writing is a craft, like archery or auto repair, and that no one pops out of the womb with compelling thesis statements and a snappy vocabulary ready to go. As a craft, writing is the sum of a set of skills that must be developed and honed. It is a process of shaping to create and convey meaning.

With this in mind, and after some reflection, plan out and write a short essay (about 3 pages, double-spaced) describing yourself as a researcher and writer.

You might first reflect on your process of writing. How do you get started? Do you wait until the last moment and then write in a frenzy? Do you have any rituals that must occur before or while you write? (For example, do you need music in the background? A Diet Pepsi at your desk?) Identify for yourself what steps you take, but realize that this may or may not end up of interest to your readers.

What other aspects of the process might be your own quirks? Consider for example your revision practices. (Do you look at revision as only proofreading activities? Do only items such as spelling, grammar, and mechanics come to mind? If so, should you reconsider your concept of revision?)

Perhaps you would like to focus on a particular experience as a writer and researcher. This might be engaging to readers because of its vividness and specificity. What have you researched and written about in past assignments for school? Do you consider the process to have been successful? Interesting? What have you researched on your own outside of school? Information about a particular hobby or interest? Information on a car, computer, concert tickets, or something else that you were considering for purchase? What drove you forward in these past research projects?

Reflect on all these aspects of yourself as a researcher and writer for a while before you start this essay. Then, especially, consider what will be engaging and of interest to anyone reading this essay. Make sure the essay is unified finally — not just a sequence of personal nonintegrated observations. Then clean up that sucker and turn it in:

Friday, 29 August 2014 — 10:10 am.

Questions for Consideration

1. Think about your ability to navigate your way through a research project. What tools most consistently provide you with usable information? What part of the process is easiest for you? The most difficult?

2. Evaluate your ability as a researcher. Do you write based on the information you find, or do you formulate ideas and search until you find resources to support them?
Do you trust yourself as a researcher? Why or why not?

3. Consider your skills and weakness in making use of sources you have collected: evaluating them (for credibility, reliability, bias, etc.); analyzing them, incorporating them (in terms of applicability to your topic, knowing which to cut, etc.).

4. Recollect an assignment that required you to reach far outside your sphere of knowledge. Recall the steps you took to begin your research process.
What do you wish you could go back and do differently?
What was the single most successful part of that experience?

5. With regard to the assignment you discussed above, how did you analyze the quality of the finished assignment? How was it different from what you first envisioned?

6. What is the most important piece of advice you have to offer a new college student who is just learning to do academic research?

[Suggested Reading: The Curious Researcher, Introduction.]