Monday, December 08, 2008

research papers for dummies

And by 'dummies' I mean ME.

My oldest son has 3 projects due within a week of each other...and then finals. This will be a busy week. (Of course, if he had started working on these projects when they were assigned instead of the week before they were due, this would be a whole different blog.)

I love to write. I do. I get to imagine things, then bring them to life on paper. Unfortunately, research papers are a different beast. And since my son's 8th grade teacher failed to teach him how to properly write a research paper last year, I'm doing it. (Of course, this entails that I must re-learn the process myself.)

BTW, it sux. Not the paper itself--he's actually done a pretty good job with that (although his spelling is atrocious!) What sux is the actual research and the dry delivery. No voice allowed.

Do you know how hard it is for me to watch my son write a voice-free paper? UGH! Especially when his written voice is so strong. But the guidelines were very specific. "Formal tone only."

"Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?"

In college, we were encouraged to write with personality. Even when writing dry term papers, my professors always encouraged us to develop our voice. It made reading and grading the boring texts a lot easier.

So this 'formal tone' thing goes against my grain, but my son managed to do a good job of keeping is voice strictly monotone. I'm proofreading it for him today. I have a feeling that when I'm done, I'm going to need to write something colorful, lively, and full of me.


  1. I know what you mean. When I started nursing school, I died inside every time I started writing a paper. The first six words I had to type were "The purpose of this paper is..." WTF.

    I had written tons of paper before that, including one of the highlights of my romance loving life. I received an A on a paper defending the validity of "bodice-rippers" (feminist prof's wording, not mine) as literature. I even quoted a Harlequin.

    I just ended up writing with the formula to get through, but in the end, I may have gotten a 100 on one of those nursing school papers. It might have been technically perfect, I will never be proud of one of them.

  2. HAH--yes, the scholarly academic voice is quite constraining. I feel your pain... :D

  3. When I went back to school a few years ago, I found that I ROCKED the scholarly essay. So, when I decided to start writing fiction in 2007, I had a hard time finding my voice. The mechanics were there, the ability to put to paper interesting and varied sentences to convey the meaning in my head was there. But my voice had to be coaxed.

    Now, I don't know if I could go back to the essay.

    Yeah, I could. I loved seeing 4.0 in the gradebook. I could look at that all day. All my instructors really encouraged me to keep going to get my BA, and maybe someday I will. Right now, I'm not willing to give up my writing time for it though.

  4. We used to call it "toady prose." I actually loved writing research papers because I love organizing ideas... but it's been a while.

    It's VERY hard to write dry when you are a creative soul.

  5. Amanda Brice1:16 PM

    I actually rock the scholarly paper...