So…How ’bout that Research Project?

By Hannah Schmitt - Friday, April 13, 2012, 9:26pm

Okay, I’ll admit it: I am not very familiar with research projects. In fact (actually, factually), I haven’t written a full research project report since Honors Chem II in high school. And those were lab reports. If I have done a research project since those chemistry days, I can honestly say I don’t remember it. Truth be told, I don’t remember much of my chem lab reports either. I did once make a stuffed animal mole that screamed when you hit it, though.

Anywho, having to sit down and write this research report has got me thinking about how we tutor students in specialized areas. In the first semester of our course, we discussed the pros and cons of having generalized tutors. At the time, I was a little skeptical of the whole idea of generalized tutors. I mean, I am a generalized tutor, so I know I shouldn’t be that skeptical of the effectiveness of such folks, but I still couldn’t help feeling that if I had to write something for a class outside of the humanities in non-essay form, I’d probably go to the TAs or the professor, not the Writing Center. And then I sat down to write this paper.

First though: “I have no idea how to write an effective research project.” In fact, I held off starting my paper for longer than I really should have because I had no idea how to effectively organize the beast. I recorded the facts, made some notes, and sketched a (very) rough outline, but I didn’t feel as confident in my writing as I would have if I’d been writing an essay. Starting, then, became a huge problem.

Once I finally did start, though, I encountered new problems. Which are really exactly like my old problems. I have no idea if my paper makes any sense. Sure, part of the problem is my own very loose grasp on holistic visualization and my inability to follow outlines (I have wars with organization). Part of my problem, though, is that my sentences are getting all twisty. They’re curling up on themselves, like those strange red fortune-telling fish you put in the palm of your hand. They’re acting all loopy. They’re not sitting still, darn them! And I have never used so much passive voice in my life. Is this the way my research words are supposed to align themselves?

All of this thinking about writing, and unfamiliar styles, and trying to effectively communicate a point in a different form of writing has brought generalized tutors back to the front of my mind. Would I go to a generalized tutor for this paper? Honestly, I haven’t decided yet. I do think, though, that writing this paper is giving me a chance to gain more perspective on how generalized tutors work with students. And who knows? I might just have to change some of my generalizations about generalized tutoring.

3 Responses to “So…How ’bout that Research Project?”

  1. Rachel Gintner says:

    Hannah, I was so relieved to read this blog post. I feel exactly the same way. I was second-guessing myself the entire time about how to organize this beast and write it clearly. I felt like I was making up all of these unnecessary sections…intros and aims and goals and methods and approaches and expectations and results and claims and limits and I’m still at a loss for how exactly to present everything I want to. I enjoyed what you wrote immensely. I am in your shoes.. aaaand I’m not sure how I feel either about generalized tutors. I think the main goal of clarity and flow and getting your point across still applies, but I think a scientific-background could be beneficial at this point.

  2. Miles Lamensky says:

    Does the problem lay more in your sifting through the data and deciding how to categorize it then it does in actually writing the paper? In my own I feel like writing and relaying my findings isn’t all that difficult; the difficulty instead results from the fact that I’M the one coming up with how to rate each new piece of data. There’s no teacher rubric or grading table, it’s lil ol’ me coming up with the values for assessment. I’m just wondering if I’m correctly interpreting your problem ma’am.

    • Hannah Schmitt says:

      Actually, I really enjoy the data-crunching part of my project–I wish I were better informed about the sorts of tools available to synthesize data, but I oddly enjoy sifting through and sorting mounds of information. No, for me the problem is that I don’t know exactly how to present the data I’ve gathered in a clear, concise, and conventionally accepted manner.

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