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Since 1995, more than 150,000 students and researchers have turned to The Craft of Research for clear and helpful guidance on how to conduct research and report it effectively . Now, master teachers Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams present a completely revised and updated version of their classic handbook.

Like its predecessor, this new edition reflects the way researchers actually work: in a complex circuit of thinking, writing, revising, and rethinking. It shows how each part of this process influences the others and how a successful research report is an orchestrated conversation between a researcher and a reader. Along with many other topics, The Craft of Research explains how to build an argument that motivates readers to accept a claim; how to anticipate the reservations of thoughtful yet critical readers and to respond to them appropriately; and how to create introductions and conclusions that answer that most demanding question, "So what?"

Celebrated by reviewers for its logic and clarity, this popular book retains its five-part structure. Part 1 provides an orientation to the research process and begins the discussion of what motivates researchers and their readers. Part 2 focuses on finding a topic, planning the project, and locating appropriate sources. This section is brought up to date with new information on the role of the Internet in research, including how to find and evaluate sources, avoid their misuse, and test their reliability.

Part 3 explains the art of making an argument and supporting it. The authors have extensively revised this section to present the structure of an argument in clearer and more accessible terms than in the first edition. New distinctions are made among reasons, evidence, and reports of evidence. The concepts of qualifications and rebuttals are recast as acknowledgment and response. Part 4 covers drafting and revising, and offers new information on the visual representation of data. Part 5 concludes the book with an updated discussion of the ethics of research, as well as an expanded bibliography that includes many electronic sources.

The new edition retains the accessibility, insights, and directness that have made The Craft of Research an indispensable guide for anyone doing research, from students in high school through advanced graduate study to businesspeople and government employees. The authors demonstrate convincingly that researching and reporting skills can be learned and used by all who undertake research projects.

New to this edition:

Extensive coverage of how to do research on the internet, including how to evaluate and test the reliability of sources

New information on the visual representation of data

Expanded bibliography with many electronic sources

Shows how to select a topic/creating a research agenda/ the essentials of argument/how to outline the final report.

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Editorial Reviews

Times Supplement
A well constructed, articulate reminder of how important fundamental questions of style and approach, such as clarity and precision, are to all research.
Paul Signorelli
"An easy-to-read guide with helpful hints for almost anyone who puts words on paper. It reflects the authors' love of writing and their respect for readers." -- San Francisco Bay Guardian
Times Literary Supplement
"A well constructed, articulate reminder of how important fundamental questiions of style and approach, such as clarity and precision, are all research."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226065687
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2003
  • Series: Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.38 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Wayne C. Booth is the George Pullman Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. His many books include The Rhetoric of Fiction and For the Love of It: Amateuring and its Rivals, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

Gregory G. Colomb is a professor of the English language and literature at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Designs on Truth: The Poetics of the Augustan Mock-Epic.

Joseph M. Williams is a professor emeritus in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Style: Toward Clarity and Grace. Together Colomb and Williams have written The Craft of Argument.

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Read an Excerpt

The Craft of Research

By Joseph M. Williams

University of Chicago Press

Copyright © 2003 Joseph M. Williams
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0226065685

In this chapter, we define research, then discuss how you will benefit from learning to do it well, why we value it, and why we hope you will learn to value it too.
Whenever you read about a scientific breakthrough or a crisis in world affairs, you benefit from the research of those who reported it, who themselves benefited from the research of countless others. When you stand in the reading room of a library to pursue your own work, you are surrounded by centuries of research. When you log on to the Internet, you have access to millions of research reports. All those reports are the product of researchers who have posed endless questions and problems, gathered untold amounts of information, worked out answers and solutions, and then shared them with the rest of us.
Teachers at all levels devote their lives to research. Governments spend billions on it, and businesses even more. Research goes on in laboratories and libraries, in jungles and ocean depths, in caves and in outer space. It stands behind every new technology, product, or scientific discovery--and most of the old ones. Research is in fact the world's biggest industry. Those who cannot reliably do research or evaluate theresearch of others will find themselves on the sidelines in a world that increasingly depends on sound ideas based on good information produced by trustworthy inquiry.
In fact, research reported by others, in writing, is the source of most of what we all believe. Of your three authors, only Williams has ever set foot in Australia, but Booth and Colomb are certain that it exists, because for a lifetime they have read about it in reports they trust and seen it on reliable maps (and heard about it from Williams). None of us has been to Venus, but we believe that it is hot, dry, and mountainous. Why? Because that's what we've read in reports we trust. Whenever we "look something up," our research depends on the research of others. But we can trust their research only if we can trust that they did it carefully and reported it accurately.
In the broadest terms, everyone does research: we all gather information to answer a question that solves a problem. You do it every day.
PROBLEM: You need a new head gasket for a '65 Mustang.
RESEARCH: You call auto parts stores or get on the Internet to see who has one in stock.
PROBLEM: You want to know where Michael Jordan was born.
RESEARCH: You go to the library and look in a biographical dictionary. Or you call up and then sort through the 410,000+ references to him.
PROBLEM: You want to learn more about a discovery of a new species of tropical fish.
RESEARCH: You search the Internet for articles in newspapers or magazines.
Though we all do that kind of research, we don't all write it up. But we do rely on those who did: the auto parts suppliers, Jordan's biographers, and the fish discoverers--all wrote up the results of their research because they anticipated that one day someone would have a question that their data would answer.
In fact, without trustworthy and tested published research available to all of us, we would be locked in the opinions of the moment, either prisoners of what we alone experience or dupes to everything we hear. Of course, we all want to believe that our opinions are sound; yet mistaken ideas, even dangerous ones, flourish because too many people accept too many opinions on not very good evidence. And those who act on unsound opinions can lead themselves, and others, to disaster. Just ask the thousands who invested in the failed energy giant Enron because they heard so many good opinions of it from analysts and the media. Only after Enron's deceptive bookkeeping was exposed and analyzed in writing did they see how those high opinions were based on bad, sometimes even faked research.
That's why in this book we will urge you to be amiably skeptical of most of the research you read, to question it, even as you realize how thoroughly you depend on it. Are we three authors 100 percent drop-dead certain that reports of Venus being hot, dry, and mountainous are true? No, but we trust the researchers who have published reports about it, as well as the editors, reviewers, and skeptical readers who have tested those reports and published their own results. So we'll go on thinking that Venus is hot and dry until other researchers report better evidence, tested by other researchers, that shows us otherwise.
If you are reading this book because a teacher has assigned you a research project, you might be tempted to treat it as just a chore or an empty exercise. We hope you won't. You have practical reasons to take the work seriously: you will learn skills that pay off in almost any career you choose. Beyond that, your project invites you to join the oldest and most esteemed of human conversations, one that has been conducted for millennia among philosophers, engineers, biologists, social scientists, historians, literary critics, linguists, theologians--the list of researchers is endless.
Right now, you may feel that the conversation seems one-sided, that you have to listen more than you can speak, and that in any event you have little to contribute. That may be true for the moment. But at some point you will be asked to join a conversation that, at its best, can help you and your community free yourselves from ignorance, prejudice, misunderstanding, and the half-baked ideas that so many charlatans try to impose on us. The world changes every day because of research, not always for the better. But done well, research is crucial to improving every facet of our lives. It is no exaggeration to say that your research and your reports of it can improve perhaps not the whole world, but at least your corner of it.
For some of you, though, the invitation to join the conversation of research may still seem easy to decline. If you undertake it, you will face demanding tasks in finding a good question, searching for sound data, finding and supporting a good answer, and then writing it all up. Even if you turn out a first-rate report, it will likely be read not by an eager world, but only by your teacher. And, besides, you may think, my teacher knows all about my topic. If she just told me the answers or pointed me to the right books, I could concentrate on learning what's in them. What do I gain from writing up my research, other than proving I can do it?
Here are some answers.
1.2.1 Write to Remember
Researchers write up what they find just to remember it. A few lucky people can retain information without recording it, but most of us get lost when we think about what Smith found in light of Wong's position, and compare both to the odd data in Brunelli, especially as they are supported by Boskowitz--But wait a minute. I've forgotten what Smith said! Most researchers can plan and conduct their project only with the help of writing--by listing sources, assembling research summaries, keeping lab notes, making outlines, and so on. What you don't write down you are likely to forget or, worse, to misremember. That's why careful researchers don't wait until they've gathered all their data to start writing: they write from the beginning of their project so that they can hold as much of it in their minds as clearly as they can.
1.2.2 Write to Understand
A second reason for writing is to understand. When you arrange and rearrange the results of your research in new ways, you discover new connections, contrasts, complications, and implications. Even if you could hold in mind everything you found, you would need help to line up arguments that pull in different directions, plot out complicated relationships, sort out disagreements among experts. I want to use these claims from Wong, but her argument is undercut by Smith's data. When I compare them, I see that Smith ignores this last part of Wong's argument. Aha! If I introduce it with this part from Brunelli, I can focus on the part of Wong's argument that lets me question Smith. Writing supports thinking, not just by helping you understand better what you have found, but by helping you find in it larger patterns of meaning.
1.2.3 Write to Gain Perspective
The basic reason for writing, though, is to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, where you can see them in the clearer light of print, a light that is always brighter and usually less flattering. Just about all of us, students and professionals alike, think our ideas are more coherent in the dark warmth of our minds than they turn out to be in the cold light of day. You improve your thinking when you encourage it with notes, outlines, summaries, commentary, and other forms of thinking on paper. But you can't know what you really can think until you separate specific ideas from the swift and muddy flow of thought and fix them in an organized, coherent form.
In short, you should write so that you can remember more accurately, understand better, and see what you think more clearly. (And as you will discover, the better you write, the more critically you will read.)
Even if you agree that writing is an important part of learning, thinking, and understanding, some of you may still wonder why you can't write it your own way, why you must satisfy the formal constraints imposed by a research community, particularly one that you may not yet belong to (or even want to). The constraints imposed by writing for others often vex students who believe they
have no reason to conform to the practices of a conversation they did nothing to create. I don't see why I should adopt language and forms that are not mine. What's wrong with my own language? Aren't you just trying to turn me into an academic like yourself? If I write as my teachers expect me to, I risk losing my own identity.
Such concerns are legitimate (students should raise them more often). But it would be a feeble education that did not change you at all, and the deeper your education, the more it will change the "you" that you think you are, or want to be. That's why it is so important to choose carefully what you study and with whom. But it would be a mistake to think that learning to write sound research reports must threaten your true identity. Learning to do research will not turn you into a clone of your teachers. It will change the way you think, but only by giving you more ways of thinking. You may be different, but you will also be freer to choose who you want to be and what you want to do next.
Perhaps the most important reason for learning to report research in ways readers expect is that you learn more about your ideas and about yourself by testing them against the standards and values of others. Writing for others demands more from you than writing for yourself. By the time you fix your ideas in writing, they are so familiar to you that you need help to see them not for what you want them to be but for what they really are. You reach that end only by imagining, and then meeting, the needs and expectations of others: you create a kind of transaction between you and your readers--what we like to call a rhetorical community.
That's why traditional forms and plans are more than empty vessels into which you pour your findings. Those forms have evolved to help writers see their ideas in the brighter light of their readers' expectations and understanding. You will understand your own work better when you explicitly try to anticipate your readers' questions: How have you evaluated your evidence? Why do you think it is relevant? How do your claims add up? What ideas have you considered but rejected? How can you respond to your readers' predictable questions, reservations, and objections? All researchers can recall a moment when writing to meet their readers' expectations revealed a flaw or a blunder, or even a great opportunity that escaped them in a first draft written for themselves.
Traditional forms embody the shared practices and values of a research community, matters that contribute to the identity not only of that community but of each of its members. Whatever community you join, you'll be expected to show that you understand its practices by reporting your research in ways that have evolved to communicate it. Once you know the standard forms, you'll have a better idea about your particular community's predictable questions and understand better what its members care about, and why. But what counts as good work is the same in all of them, regardless of whether it is in the academic world or the world of government, commerce, or technology. If you learn to do research well now, you gain an immense advantage, regardless of the kind of research you will do later.
Writing a research report is, finally, thinking in print, but thinking from the point of view of your readers. When you write with others in mind, you give your ideas the critical attention they need and deserve. You disentangle them from your memories and wishes, so that you--and others--can explore, expand, combine, and understand them more fully. Thinking in written form for others can be more careful, more sustained, more attuned to those with different views--more thoughtful--than just about any other kind of thinking.
You can, of course, choose the less demanding path: do just enough to satisfy your teacher. This book can help you do that. But you will shortchange yourself if you do. If instead you find a topic that you care about, ask a question that you want to answer, your project can have the fascination of a mystery whose solution rewards your efforts in finding it. Nothing contributes more to a successful research project than your commitment to it.
We wish we could tell you how to balance your belief in the worth of your project with the need to accommodate the demands of teachers and colleagues, but we cannot. If you believe in what you're doing and cannot find anyone else who shares your belief, all you can do is put your head down and press on. With our admiration.
Some of the world's most important research has been done by those who persevered in the face of indifference or even hostility, because they never lost faith in their vision. The geneticist Barbara McClintock struggled for years unappreciated because her research community considered her work uninteresting. But she believed in it and pressed on. When her colleagues finally realized that she had already answered questions that they were just starting to ask, she won science's highest honor, the Nobel Prize.


Excerpted from The Craft of Research by Joseph M. Williams Copyright © 2003 by Joseph M. Williams. Excerpted by permission.
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


1 Thinking in Print: The Uses of Research, Public and Private
1.1 What Is Research?
1.2 Why Write It Up?
1.3 Why a Formal Report?
1.4 Conclusion
2 Connecting with Your Reader: (Re)Creating Your Self and
Your Audience
2.1 Creating Roles for Writers and Readers
2.2 Creating a Relationship with Your Reader: Your Role
2.3 Creating the Other Half of the Relationship: The Reader’s Role
2.4 Writing in Groups
2.5 Managing the Unavoidable Problem of Inexperience
Quick Tip: A Checklist for Understanding Your Readers

3 From Topics to Questions
3.1 From an Interest to a Topic
3.2 From a Broad Topic to a Focused One
3.3 From a Focused Topic to Questions
3.4 From a Merely Interesting Question to Its Wider Significance
Quick Tip: Finding Topics
4 From Questions to Problems
4.1 Problems, Problems, Problems
4.2 The Common Structure of Problems
4.3 Finding a Good Research Problem
4.4 Summary: The Problem of the Problem
Quick Tip: Disagreeing with Your Sources
5 From Problems to Sources
5.1 Screening Sources for Reliability
5.2 Locating Printed and Recorded Sources
5.3 Finding Sources on the Internet
5.4 Gathering Data Directly from People
5.5 Bibliographic Trails
5.6 What You Find
6 Using Sources
6.1 Three Uses for Sources
6.2 Read Generously but Critically
6.3 Preserving What You Find
6.4 Get Help
Quick Tip: Speedy Reading

7 Making Good Arguments: An Overview
7.1 Argument and Conversation
7.2 Basing Claims on Reasons
7.3 Basing Reasons on Evidence
7.4 Acknowledging and Responding to Alternatives
7.5 Warranting the Relevance of Reasons
7.6 Building Complex Arguments Out of Simple Ones
7.7 Arguments and Your Ethos
Quick Tip: Designing Arguments Not for Yourself but for Your
Readers: Two Common Pitfalls
8 Claims
8.1 What Kind of Claim?
8.2 Evaluating Your Claim
Quick Tip: Qualifying Claims to Enhance Your Credibility
9 Reasons and Evidence
9.1 Using Reasons to Plan Your Argument
9.2 The Slippery Distinction between Reasons and Evidence
9.3 Evidence vs. Reports of Evidence
9.4 Select the Right Form for Reporting Evidence
9.5 Reliable Evidence
Quick Tip: Showing the Relevance of Evidence
10 Acknowledgments and Responses
10.1 Questioning Your Argument
10.2 Finding Alternatives to Your Argument
10.3 Deciding What to Acknowledge
10.4 Responses as Subordinate Arguments
Quick Tip: The Vocabulary of Acknowledgment and Response
11 Warrants
11.1 How Warrants Work
11.2 What Warrants Look Like
11.3 Knowing When to State a Warrant
11.4 Testing Your Warrants
Quick Tip: Some Strategies for Challenging Warrants

Quick Tip: Outlining
12 Planning and Drafting
12.1 Preliminaries to Drafting
12.2 Planning: Four Traps to Avoid
12.3 A Plan for Drafting
12.4 The Pitfall to Avoid at All Costs: Plagiarism
12.5 The Next Step
Quick Tip: Using Quotation and Paraphrase
13 Revising Your Organization and Argument
13.1 Thinking Like a Reader
13.2 Analyzing and Revising Your Overall Organization
13.3 Revising Your Argument
13.4 The Last Step
Quick Tip: Titles and Abstracts
14 Introductions and Conclusions
14.1 The Three Elements of an Introduction
14.2 Establish Common Ground
14.3 State Your Problem
14.4 State Your Response
14.5 Fast or Slow?
14.6 Organizing the Whole Introduction
14.7 Conclusions
Quick Tip: Opening and Closing Words
15 Communicating Evidence Visually
15.1 Visual or Verbal?
15.2 Tables vs. Figures
15.3 Constructing Tables
15.4 Constructing Figures
15.5 Visual Communication and Ethics
15.6 Using Graphics as an Aid to Thinking
16 Revising Style: Telling Your Story Clearly
16.1 Judging Style
16.2 A First Principle: Stories and Grammar
16.3 A Second Principle: Old Before New
16.4 Choosing between Active and Passive
16.5 A Final Principle: Complexity Last
16.6 Spit and Polish
Quick Tip: The Quickest Revision


The Ethics of Research
A Postscript for Teachers
An Appendix on Finding Sources
General Sources
Special Sources
A Note on Some of Our Sources

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2005

    Wonderfully useful and readable

    My comments match those of the publisher's. I'd give it more stars if it had specific exercises on which to practice dissecting arguments and critiquing them. This would help me learn more thoroughly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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