Research Writer Interview With Candice
A Long Journey Towards Self-Development as an Academic Researcher
My name is Candice and I live in the state of Oklahoma where I recently attended the University of Oklahoma. I majored in English Literary and Cultural studies, and ended with an overall GPA of 3.39. My dad majored in English and Mastered in Letter, holding a position at the University of Tulsa for several years. As such, reading and writing were greatly encouraged in my family. I grew up devouring novels of all sorts, and found a deep passion for writing in middle school. I took several classes that were focused on creative and academic writing in high school. Upon beginning my college career in 2009, I initially wanted to teach. I still think that I may do teach at some point but I am taking a break after finishing up my degree in December and I am looking for employment opportunities.
My favorite areas of study were cultural criticism and 20th Century Literature, British in particular. T.S. Eliot, Virginia Wolf, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound all were writers who captivated me, and I found modernism as a literary movement extremely enlightening. Most my upper-division electives were geared towards writing, cultural studies, philosophy, religious studies, and art appreciation. I received top marks in the English department and in most all my electives, especially ones where writing essays was a large portion of the courseload.
In the Fall of 2012, I took 12 credit hours of upper-division English classes and wrote a total of 212 pages in essay form. I chose to schedule out that semester in order to challenge myself to see how much I content I could write, with limited time and what sort of grades I could get. That semester I scored a 3.75, with only one of my classes just shy of an A grade mark. Although having so much writing assignments on my desk during those months was grueling at times, it also taught me several things about academic writing and about myself.
First, I learned that academic writing is as much about voice as it is about content. One without the other will culminate in lower grade marks. Proper research is paramount, which I will touch on in a second, and so is developing a clear tone of writing. In academic environments it is often easy to dilute paragraphs with unnecessary words, culminating in complex sentences that attempt to achieve too much. Clear and effective communication is crucial to persuasive arguments. It is helpful to have a large vocabulary, but not at the expense of losing your major points.
Second, I learned to research well. A common misconception for academic research is that a student can find the body of their research in Wikipedia or Google search engines. While Wikipedia and Google is helpful in providing generic outlines of information and biographical information over individuals, the type of research that an academic paper warrants is found in academic search engines and libraries. Using university search engines (such as Ebscohost) and the library provided a different breed of information—evaluative, critical and illuminating. I learned that abstracts are a researchers best friend, providing the basic outline and information provides in the article you are reviewing. I learned how to find books quickly by learning the system that the OU Library functions under, and gained a working knowledge of sections that correlated with bodies of knowledge. Having prolific authors and researchers information at your finger tips is one of the best ways to prepare for a well-rounded paper.
Third, and most importantly for my own development as a writer, was to unlearn this high school wisdom: 'say what you’re going to say, say it, and say what just said.' Academic writing is a journey; it is not a three to five point argument that needs to be repeated until the reader memorizes your main points. Rather, good academic writing introduces the topic or issue at hand, and provides argumentative claims that build upon one another unto a final conclusion. Even research papers, though less argumentative, still makes informed claims that are supported by evidence provided in the body of the essay. The important lesson for me as a writer was that academic writing is about taking my reader from one perspective and introducing them to another.
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