Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Paper

From an assignment of one of my classes at The Magical Circle School:

My Research Paper

(An Irreverent Look at Research Papers)

Wow.  Any topic.  But one of the resources has to be an actual, physical, book.  I decided that would be the limiting parameter.  After all, the web is wide open.  You can find at least a little information on almost anything on it. (For example, look up mule roping sometime.[1])  But I do not own an infinite supply of books.  (Nor would I want one, truth be told.  The ones I do have cost enough to move, thank you very much.  :)  )

I also thought I should brush up on what a research paper actually is.  I’d written countless numbers of them at university, but that was more than twenty years ago.  What if they’d changed?  What if I didn’t remember!  What if I’d gotten them wrong all along?!  My first stop was a Rice University page titled “How to Write a Research Paper.[2]”  It talked about general forms and styles, mistakes to avoid, descriptions of all the different sections, and so on.  After that, I found “A Research Guide for Students,” which explained “How to Write an A+ Research Paper.” [3]   Wow, I thought, I really need that!  It turned out to be a much more basic source, with a step-by-step guide.  Then, just to be thorough, I took a look at “Writing a Research Paper” from the University of Alberta Libraries.[4]  No surprises there—kind of a middle road between my first and second sources.

Alright.  I had now re-familiarized myself with research papers.  Now I needed to find a book, preferably without visiting the closest library.  I looked at my twenty or so linear feet of cookbooks, and decided that would be too easy.  The art books, computer books, and research books in the study sounded too boring. (Although I did find a book to use for my footnotes.[5]  Once upon a time I had those rules memorized, but alas, no longer.)   I then journeyed downstairs to our actual library.  I found books on dogs, on camping, on birding.  I found biographies and photography books and books on Wicca.  I found books I hadn’t looked at in years, books which I’d all but forgotten I owned.  And, of course, lots and lots of fiction and literature.  None of the non-fiction really caught my fancy, and the fiction certainly wouldn’t do!  But my eye fell on a narrative that is the basis for my favorite, favorite, favorite stage play, Wicked.[6]  I picked it up on a whim, more to glance through it than to actually consider it.  And there, though I hadn’t planned to write a paper on Wicca, was the most appropriate line, coming from this fictional witch:

“I can make no comment on the souls of others," said the Witch.[7]

[5] Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 6th ed., rev. John Grossman and Alice Bennet (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996).
[6] Gregory Maguire, Wicked:  The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, A Novel.  Illus. Douglas Smith (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, ReganBooks, 2004).
[7] Ibid., 344.

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