A Spanglish blog dedicated to the works, ruminations, and mongrel pyrotechnics of Yago S. Cura, an Argentine-American poet, translator, publisher & futbol cretin. Yago publishes Hinchas de Poesia, an online literary journal, & is the sole proprietor of Hinchas Press.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


To begin with, research is a very abstract concept. When we say research, what we mean is investigation that moves through stages. Reading an article in the Post or Daily News or Wikipedia article is not research as you don't really do anything with the information given. For it to be research it has to have steps; once those steps are learned, you can replicate, or repeat, them every time you sit down to do research. Learn them well as they will serve you as you progress at BCC and hopefully transfer to a four year school and a master's program. Regardless of what you study and where you study it, you are going to have to know how to conduct research and then write research papers.

Before we start, I would like to place an idea in your head. The hard part about doing a research paper is that you have to be able to look at something through a telescope and a microscope simultaneously. I mean that, the work of research is being able to look at look at the same object with a telescope as with a microscope.

The first thing I tell students to do is find a topic you have always been curious about. This is the stage where you should consult encyclopedias, almanacs, dictionaries, and handbooks. During this first stage, you will have to ingest large amounts of information which means that you will have to read quite a bit. This is the most time consuming part of research, but it has to be done; during this time, you should be reading with your pen and using a pen and a higlighter; you must really pick out the more interesting parts of the information you read and stick to reference books.

From the information that you have read, you should be able to form questions, you should ask yourself what sticks out the most to you. In reality, you should try to move from what/who questions into how/why questions. For example, once you know what the Renaissance is and who brought to life, inevitably you must ask yourself, how "they" brought about the Renaissance?, and why was the Renaissance even started? In other words, you will know you are ready for step three once you have answered the what/who questions about any topic and you are moving in for further details about the how and the why. Remember, research is about being able to move between the telescope (what/who) and the microscope (how/why).

Before we move to step three I just want to ask you whether you would give your car to a mechanic that didn't know the name of that thingee that gives electricity to like the whole car. In other words, how important is vocabulary in the day to day life of an expert. Do you think experts at anything use the wrong vocabular, or do they know exactly what stuff is called. They know what an alternator is and how many amperes of electricity go through a car's batter. Using the right vocabulary will also help you to be a better researcher. Please pay attention to the words that you are using to look for articles and books and journals, because unless you are using the right words, or subject terms and descriptors, then it will appear as if nothing has been written about your topic.

The third step is look for and locate primary and secondary sources. Primary sources are objects created during the time under study or consideration. A memoir written in 1961 by a Dominican man or woman about the assassination of Trujillo is a primary source of contemporary Dominican history. The memoir of a Katrina survivor written during the devastation of New Orleans is a primary source of Hurricane Katrina
According to Princeton University Libraries, "Primary sources are diaries, speeches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records, creative works like plays, poetry, television programs, etc." One could make the argument that Scarface is a primary source of the illicit Miami cocaine industry of the early 80's.

Secondary sources respond to and talk about primary sources. So a book written by another author criticizing or explaining Ernest Hemingway's fiction is a secondary source. An editorial about how rude Kanye was to poor Taylor Swift would be a secondary source because it is commenting or explaining the video of Kanye dissing Taylor which is the primary source. A history textbook is a secondary source, as are textbooks, encyclopedias, and magazine articles.

Step four is make an argument.
Step five is disagree or agree with what the experts you have found are saying.

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