On Monday, February 25th, 2019 I attended an event at Thompson Library, where I had the opportunity to talk to the author (Cheryl Lowry) of the Choosing & Using Sources E-Book, which is a guide on how to conduct research. But before I write about my experiences with this event, I would like to mention a few things about the book.
I have never had to write a research paper, so this guide will definitely come in handy in the future. Although I already knew about most of the things listed in this guide, I learned about a lot of new rules when it comes to writing an essay. I found that I learned from two chapters the most; Chapter 2: Types of Sources, and Chapter 9: Making an Argument.
First, I would like to write about Chapter 2. Sources can be categorized by quantitative or qualitative information; objective or persuasive (and may be biased); scholarly, professional, popular publication; primary, secondary or tertiary source; and what format the source is in. Popular sources are mostly newspapers or magazines which are not very reliable sources (biased), professional articles are professional magazine articles which are meant for specific professions, and scholarly articles are for people who want to have a deeper understanding of a certain problem. People can also be used as sources, and it doesn’t mean that they have to have Ph.D.’s. For example, if you are researching homelessness, one of the experts could be a homeless person.
From these sources, you can get two types of information: Quantitative and Qualitative. Quantitative information is a measurable quantity, also called data. On the other hand, qualitative information involves a descriptive judgment instead of pure data. Although these statements are all useful, I believe the most important lessons to remember from this chapter, are that facts are not the same as opinions, and being objective. Opinions could be useful when convincing other people, but to stay objective and to avoid bias, opinions also need facts to back them up to make a solid argument, which brings me to my next point.
If you are making an argument, your goal is trying to convince others, which is a necessary skill for every professional job after college. One of the most important steps to make a quality argument is how you build up your essay. First, you should have reasons that your thesis is correct, or at least it is reasonable. Next, the evidence that supports each reason often occurs right after the reason the evidence supports. You should also acknowledge that some people have objections, reservations, counterarguments, or alternative solutions to your argument and a statement of each. Finally, having a response to each acknowledgment that explains why that criticism is incorrect is necessary. Sometimes you also have to concede a point you think is unimportant, if you cannot refute it.
With these thoughts in mind, I did not know what to expect before I stepped into the room, but I left only with positive experiences. First, I filled out a survey about the research guide, then I was given a riddle, which sadly I could not figure it out on time, but I was close to the solution. After that, we discussed what I thought of the book, and how the book could be improved.
Cheryl ended the event using the riddle she gave us as a metaphor of research: While doing research, you might find something new that has always been there, you just did not know about it. This is the most important thing that I have learned during the event.