Starting a research paper sort of feels like moving into a dorm room. First, you don’t even know where you’re going to live. Once you know what building and room you’re going to be in, it is similar to knowing a very very broad idea of a topic. Then, you begin to encounter lots of stuff (boxes/sources) and you have to decide where everything goes. Sometimes organizing a room or research paper is so exciting and filled with possibilities! And sometimes it is an incredibly daunting task that seems to only be getting messier and more challenging. What I’ve found to be helpful in both of these instances is to move from big pieces to small pieces. Every source (or box to continue with this analogy) gets put in a pile with other things like it. Then, I tackle one pile at a time.
Suddenly, it begins to take shape and look like a habitable room, or a passable research paper. However, I need to take a trip to Target to pick up a few more items I forgot, or to help organize. This is similar to another trip (or five) to the library and a visit to the writing help desk.
Lastly, decorations go up on the wall. I don’t want the space to feel cluttered, but I want it to feel like mine, like home, and something I’m proud of. The final edits to my paper will create a cohesive whole that has consistent style and proper grammar, transitions, and organization.
There comes a point in the research process when I always wonder if my topic or sources are any good at all. Do I even have a point here? What am I trying to say? This is the worst moment of “it-gets-messy-before-it-gets-better” but almost always there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In my research so far I have already had many of these cycles. One of my greatest frustrations with the sources I’ve found is the focus on the Song of Songs and not so much on the Palestrina setting of the text. What I did find very helpful was the liner notes from a CD recording of the Palestrina motets, but I’m fairly sure that is not a credible resource to be using in my podcast.
Onward to more organizing and research….