07 November 2009

On Researching...

I love research. I spend hours online chasing information and moving through the web of connected facts (no pun intended). When I get a book from the library or a bookstore, I always check out the shelf around it to see what interesting information might be waiting for me nearby. Reading news articles sparks journeys into weather patterns, cultural histories, imports and exports of foreign nations, languages spoken, religions practiced, and - of course - what is eaten.

No, my writing problem is not in the research. It is in the argument. I struggle to get from "hey, look at this cool stuff I found" to some sort of meaning. It is not that I don't make connections and synthesize the information that I love to gather, I do. But articulating the connections I see, and the kicker - proving them textually, that is hard for me. Maybe it is because I am such a non-linear thinker, so research webs work for me, but an organized argument cuts off all these really cool possibilities. Or maybe it is my lamentable tendency to feel that if I can see it, every one can see, and why should I have to prove the obvious?

Sometime I think it might be easier if I wrote fiction instead, but I don't really think it would be. In fiction, there still needs to be a narrative arch. So much of the cool information that leads to building real and believable characters never makes it in to the story. At least with academic writing you get the footnotes for tangents. Either way I am still left with the problem of turning a fascinating matrix of thoughts and information into a clear, progressive argument or narrative.


  1. Some in the so-called "hard" sciences might argue that what we do in the liberal arts IS fiction... ;)

    I try to have faith in the process. While I assemble all of my random research crap and report on it, I assume that some kind of meaning will coalesce. It better - my thesis is due in a few months.

  2. I like to think that what we do is fond and speak truth about the human condition, particularly the intangible aspects that can't be chased down through science - although your work with scocio-biology appears to be doing some of that chasing.

    I have to have faith in the process, as well. And I do tend to write my way into answers and arguments - it just frustrates me when they are not already smoothly there.

    And your thesis will be fabulous!