Student's Guide to Writing College Papers: Fourth Edition

Overview

High school students, two-year college students, and university students all need to know how to write a well-reasoned, coherent research paper—and for decades Kate Turabian’s Student’s Guide to Writing College Papers has helped them to develop this critical skill. In the new fourth edition of Turabian’s popular guide, the team behind Chicago’s widely respected The Craft of Research has reconceived and renewed this classic for today’s generation. Designed for less advanced writers than Turabian’s Manual of ...

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Overview

High school students, two-year college students, and university students all need to know how to write a well-reasoned, coherent research paper—and for decades Kate Turabian’s Student’s Guide to Writing College Papers has helped them to develop this critical skill. In the new fourth edition of Turabian’s popular guide, the team behind Chicago’s widely respected The Craft of Research has reconceived and renewed this classic for today’s generation. Designed for less advanced writers than Turabian’s Manual of Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Seventh Edition, Gregory G. Colomb and Joseph M. Williams here introduce students to the art of defining a topic, doing high-quality research with limited resources, and writing an engaging and solid college paper.

The Student’s Guide is organized into three sections that lead students through the process of developing and revising a paper. Part 1, "Writing Your Paper," guides students through the research process with discussions of choosing and developing a topic, validating sources, planning arguments, writing drafts, avoiding plagiarism, and presenting evidence in tables and figures. Part 2, "Citing Sources," begins with a succinct introduction to why citation is important and includes sections on the three major styles students might encounter in their work—Chicago, MLA, and APA—all with full coverage of electronic source citation. Part 3, "Style," covers all matters of style important to writers of college papers, from punctuation to spelling to presenting titles, names, and numbers.

With the authority and clarity long associated with the name Turabian, the fourth edition of Student’s Guide to Writing College Papers is both a solid introduction to the research process and a convenient handbook to the best practices of writing college papers. Classroom tested and filled with relevant examples and tips, this is a reference that students, and their teachers, will turn to again and again.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Gregory G. Colomb is professor of English at the University of Virginia and the author of Designs on Truth: The Poetics of the Augustan Mock-Epic. Joseph M. Williams (1933–2008) was professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago and the author of Style: Toward Clarity and Grace. Together Colomb and Williams are the authors (with Wayne C. Booth) of the best-selling guide The Craft of Research, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Read an Excerpt

Student's Guide to Writing College Papers


By Kate L. Turabian

The University of Chicago Press

Copyright © 2010 The University of Chicago
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-81631-9


Chapter One

What Researchers Do and How They Think about It

1.1 How Experienced Researchers Think about Their Questions

1.1.1 Topic: "I am working on the topic of ..." 1.1.2 Question: "... because I want to find out how or why ..." 1.1.3 Significance/So What: "... so that I can help others understand how or why ..."

1.2 Two Kinds of Research Questions

1.2.1 Practical Questions: What Should We Do? 1.2.2 Conceptual Questions: What Should We Think? 1.2.3 The Challenge of Answering So What? for Conceptual Questions

1.3 How Researchers Think about Their Answers/Arguments

1.3.1 Think of Your Readers as Allies, Not Opponents 1.3.2 Think of Your Argument as Answers to Readers' Questions 1.3.3 Use the Parts of Argument to Guide Your Research

1.4 How You Can Best Think about Your Project

1.4.1 Focus on Convincing Readers, Not on Filling Pages 1.4.2 Picture Yourself in Conversation with Your Readers

1.5 How to Plan Your Time (No One-Draft Wonders Allowed)

Every successful researcher does at least two things in a research report: she raises a question that readers want an answer to, and then she answers it. In this chapter, we show you how to get started by finding or inventing a research question interesting enough for readers to care about and challenging enough that you have to research its answer. Then we show you how to plan your project by mapping out the parts of the argument you will need to support that answer.

1.1 How Experienced Researchers Think about Their Questions

All researchers gather facts: we'll call them data. But they use those data in different ways. Some people gather data on a topic just to satisfy their curiosity: for example, there are history buff s who collect stories about the Battle of the Alamo because the history of the Alamo is their hobby. In that case, they don't have to care whether others are interested: they can research in whatever way they want and needn't bother to write up what they find.

Most researchers, however, do their research in order to share it—because their colleagues or clients need it, because they think their question and its answer are important to others, or just because they want others to know something interesting. But when researchers share their results, they have to offer more than just random data they happened to dig up on their topic. They look for and report only certain kinds of data—those that they can use to show that they have found a sound, reliable answer to a research question, such as Why has the Alamo story become a national legend? In other words, they look for and report data that they can use as evidence to support a claim that answers a question.

The best researchers, however, try to do more than just convince others that their answer is sound. They also show why that answer is worth knowing by showing why their question was worth asking in the first place. In a business setting, researchers usually show why their research helps someone decide what to do:

If we can understand why our customers are moving to the competition, we can know what we have to change to keep them.

But in an academic setting, researchers usually show how the answer to their research question helps others understand some bigger, more important issue:

Historians have long been concerned with how we Americans developed our sense of national identity. If we can figure out why the Alamo story has become a national legend, then we might better understand how regional myths like the Battle of the Alamo have shaped that national identity.

But even if you cannot imagine yourself appealing to historians, you can locate that larger issue in the context of your class:

A major issue in this class has been how we Americans developed our sense of national identity. If we can figure out why the Alamo story has become a national legend, then we might better understand how regional myths like the Battle of the Alamo have shaped that national identity.

You can find out whether your question is a worthy one by describing your project in a sentence like this one:

1. I am working on the topic of stories about the Battle of the Alamo, 2. because I want to find out why its story became a national legend, 3. so that I can help my classmates understand how such regional myths have shaped America's sense of a national identity.

In its second and third parts, this sentence takes you beyond a mere topic to state a question and its importance to readers.

When you state why your research question is important to your readers, you turn it into a research problem. A research problem is simply a question whose answer is needed by specific readers because without it they will suffer a cost. That cost is what transforms a question that is merely interesting to you into one that you expect others to care about.

That three-step TQS sentence is worth a closer look because the success of your project will depend on your ability to discover or invent a good research question.

1.1.1 Topic: "I am working on the topic of ..."

Researchers often begin with just a topic, something that sparks their curiosity, such as the Battle of the Alamo. But if you stop there, you've got problems. Even a focused topic is a poor guide to your work. You can only mound up notes on the facts you happen to find on your topic. You will have no principled way to decide which facts to look for, which ones to use in your paper, and which to discard. When that happens, students typically run into trouble, in the form of a data dump. They dump everything into a report that reads like a grab bag of barely connected facts. Most readers quickly become bored, asking, Why are you telling me this? They might read on, but only if they are already interested in the topic. But even readers fascinated with your topic will want to know: What do these facts add up to?

1.1.2 Question: "... because I want to find out how or why ..."

Experienced researchers don't start their research until they have not just a topic but a question about it, such as Why has the regional story of the Alamo become a national legend?

Researchers know that readers want the facts they read about to add up to something. Specifically, they want those facts to back up some main finding—a claim that adds to their knowledge or understanding. But they will think that claim is worth reading about only if it answers some research question. Without such a question to guide their reading, your readers will struggle to see what, if anything, your research adds up to.

At the same time, you need such a question to guide the research leading up to your paper: without one you will struggle to know what information you need. All you can do is discover everything you can about your topic and hope you can pull it together at the end. But with a research question, you can know what facts to look for and, when you find them, which ones to use in your paper—those facts that are relevant to your question. (As we'll see later, you'll need not only the facts that support your answer but also any ones that might seem to discredit it.)

You may have to do some preliminary reading about your topic to come up with a question, but in every research project, formulating that question is the crucial first step.

1.1.3 Significance/So What: "... so that I can help others understand how or why ..."

Experienced researchers also know, however, that readers won't be interested in just any research question. They want to know why the answer you have found is worth knowing. So once you find a question that you like, expect that readers will ask you a question of their own: So what?

You could ask the question How many cats slept in the Alamo the night before the battle? but who would care about its answer? All but the most fanatical cat-lovers would want to know: So what? Why should I care about those cats? Readers ask So what? about all research questions, not just the off-the-wall ones. If you tell readers that you want to research the question Why has the regional story of the Alamo become a national legend?, you should expect them to ask in turn: So what? Why should I care that you can explain that? Your answer must point them to the significance of its answer: If we can find that out, we might better understand the bigger issue of how regional stories shape our national identity. Experienced researchers know that readers care about a question only when its answer might make them say not So what? but That's worth knowing!

Of course, professional researchers have a big advantage: they already know what issues their readers care about. Students, especially beginners, have less to go on. So don't worry if at first you cannot find some great significance to your research question. Keep hunting for a good So what?, but all won't be lost if you don't find one. As long as you find a question in any way relevant to your class, you can always explain its significance in terms of the class (for more on this, see 13.1.3):

... so that I can help my classmates understand how such regional myths have shaped America's sense of a unified national identity, which has been an important issue in our study of American diversity.

1.2 Two Kinds of Research Questions

Research questions come in two varieties. One kind of question concerns what we should do to address a tangible problem. We call such questions practical. Practical questions are common in the professions, business, and government. The other kind of question concerns what we should think. We call such questions conceptual. Conceptual questions are also common in the professions, business, and government, when their answers help us understand what causes a practical problem. But conceptual questions are most common in the academic world. You will need to distinguish the two kinds of research questions because your teachers usually expect you to address conceptual questions rather than practical ones.

1.2.1 Practical Questions: What Should We Do?

The answer to a practical question tells us what to do to change or fix some troublesome or at least improvable situation. You can recognize a practical question by looking at the third step in the TQS formula: that step states both the practical problem and something we should do to change it.

T: I am working on the topic of A, (What's interesting about that?)

Q: because I want to find out B, (So what if you do?)

S: so that I can help others know what to do to fix C.

Suppose, for example, someone asked about your research as an intern in the Dean of Students' office:

T

Q: What are you doing for your internship?

A: As part of our binge-drinking project, I'm researching incoming students' assumptions about how much their colleagues drink.

Q

Q: What do you want to know about that?

A: We know that first-year students assume that college students drink more than they really do, but we don't know whether they develop that false assumption before they arrive on campus or after they begin to hear drinking stories from their upper-class colleagues.

S

Q: So what if you know that?

A: Then our office can know how to give students a more realistic picture in our safe-drinking orientation.

What makes this practical research is that you are interested in the question chiefly because you want to use the answer to decide what to do about a troublesome practical problem, in this case binge drinking by students.

1.2.2 Conceptual Questions: What Should We Think?

Academic researchers ask a different kind of question. Its answer doesn't tell us what to do to change the world, but only how to understand it better: How does the irreverent sitcom The Simpsons reinforce traditional, conservative values? Why do unwed teen mothers keep their babies? When does a cult become a religion?

You can recognize a conceptual question because its significance in the third step concerns not what we do but what we understand:

T: I am working on the topic of A, (What's interesting about that?)

Q: because I want to find out B, (So what if you do?)

S: so that I can help others understand how/why/whether C.

Suppose, for example, that you had to ask your teacher's approval for the topic of your research paper:

T

Q: What are doing for your paper?

A: I want to write on the early years of Motown Records.

Q

Q: What do you want to know about that?

A: I want to find out how and why Motown "smoothed out" African American roots music for white audiences.

S

Q: So what if you know that? What does that tell us?

A: If we can explain how Motown was able to appeal to those audiences, we can better understand how the so-called "mainstream" culture was really a composite of ethnic cultures.

Q: Now that would be interesting.

1.2.3 The Challenge of Answering So What? for Conceptual Questions

Students can be impatient with conceptual questions because they seem irrelevant to the genuinely serious problems in the "real" world. Many can't even imagine an answer to a So what? question like this one: So what if we don't understand why Shakespeare had Lady Macbeth die off stage? (No one asks So what? of a researcher trying to understand how to cure Alzheimer's.) Even if you share that impatience, do not try to build your project around a major practical problem. You can't expect to solve the world's problems in the classroom. For now, keep in mind that you are just getting started in your career as a researcher and that the modest questions you can answer in a few pages are likely to have modest consequences.

You can also look forward to a day when you can answer conceptual questions relevant to the practical problems that beset us. Before we can solve an important practical problem, we almost always have to do conceptual research to understand its causes and effects. We often use the answer to a conceptual question to solve an unanticipated practical problem, as when the Pentagon recently used historical research on the fall of empires to create a plan for the future of the U.S. military.

Try to be patient if at the start of your project you cannot think of any good answers to So what?—even the most experienced researchers sometimes have to find their results before they can say why they are worth knowing. Remember that you'll need some answer by the end, and keep your eye out for larger issues as you do your reading. (We'll show you what to look for in chapter 4.) The more often you imagine others asking So what? and the more often you practice answering it, even if only to your own satisfaction, the more confident you can be that you can succeed at every researcher's toughest task—convincing others that your work is worth their time.

1.3 How Researchers Think about Their Answers/Arguments

Students are often surprised to realize that what they had thought was the main job of research—looking up information on a topic—is a small part of a successful research project. Before you start looking things up, you have to find a good research question to guide your reading and note taking: what you look for is information that will support and/or test an answer to that question. But once you think you have found an answer, your work has just begun. Readers won't accept that answer just because you believe it: you have to give them good reasons to believe it too. And they won't just take your word that your reasons are good ones: you have to support each reason with reliable evidence. In short, readers expect you to offer a complete and convincing argument that uses the information you have found to explain and support your answer.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Student's Guide to Writing College Papers by Kate L. Turabian Copyright © 2010 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of The University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Preface for Teachers
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Why Research?

PART 1: WRITING YOUR PAPER

1 What Researchers Do and How They Think about It
2 Finding a Research Question
3 Planning for an Answer
4 Finding Useful Sources
5 Engaging Sources
6 Planning Your Argument
7 Planning a First Draft
8 Drafting Your Paper
9 Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing Sources
10 Preventing Plagiarism
11 Presenting Evidence in Tables and Figures
12 Revising Your Draft
13 Writing Your Final Introduction and Conclusion
14 Revising Sentences
15 Learning from Your Returned Paper
16 On the Spirit of Research

PART 2: CITING SOURCES

17 Citations
18 Chicago Style
19 MLA Style
20 APA Style

PART 3: STYLE

21 Spelling: Plurals, Possessives, and Hyphenation
22 Punctuation
23 Titles, Names, and Numbers

Appendix A: Formatting Your Paper
Appendix B: Glossary of Grammatical Terms
Appendix C: Resources for Research and Writing
Index

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