Monday, July 11, 2011

Back to the Basics

It occurred to me in my meeting with Mrs. L and within my personal reflection this afternoon that I had been neglecting my duty to this blog and to the readers a little bit--let's go back to the basics.

The purpose of this program is to grant students with an academic and personal experience unlike any other they have experienced thus far, and would most likely experience in the future. Striking a parallel, the purpose of this blog is to reflect on that experience. I'd like to return to the I.L.C. roots and give you guys the inside-scoop on the local gossip around the classroom.

I got my research paper back today--draft two. And, I was much, much more satisfied with it that I could say I was with the previous draft last week. I only moved up one number (grade), from 4 to 3, but that one number spoke volumes in that I had completely scrapped my 7 page original draft and started clean with the 12 page second draft. Technically, I had written the majority of raw pages in comparison to other students. That's not to say I am a front runner in terms of the research paper. Actually, my score is average, but for me to progress in spite of that allowed me some mental cushion. I relaxed knowing that no matter how unexpected a wrong turn is on the academic highway, there was always time to back-track and advance ahead.

Basically, I'm glad I pulled through and my head is above water right now. And I feel like I can gather enough oxygen to survive the next head-dunk, so-to-speak, by being on-par with my classmates.

The only reason I had to scrap my original draft was because I changed my thesis, very slightly might I add. But, that serves as prime evidence that college is as narrow as a straw when it comes to research. Specifically, in this class, when you choose your topic, it's not as open-ended as most people think. I can't claim a paper to Richard Nixon. Rather, I can claim a paper to Richard Nixon's relationship to Henry Kissinger regarding foreign policy during his first term. And, even that would be considered a little broad.

So, when I initially chose to do my paper on Obama. I had to dwell deeper. I, then, wanted to do Obama and his control of speech. I had to refine once more. I concluded with Obama's presidential rhetoric and the effect of his oratory on the public and press.

Dr. Z. let it slide. But, I think she knew I would eventually have to refine it even more. And, I did, after the first draft. I decided that, not only was my topic to broad, but it wasn't as interesting because of its vagueness.

I changed it once more. As it stands today, my research paper is in regards to "Senator Barack Obama's rhetorical candidacy and How His Speech Shaped His Presidential Victory." That's a mouthful for a title, but it is an appropriate one at that.

That lesson is actually one of the more pervading messages of the many learned here at Columbia. The ability to refine a topic, to narrowly attack something, to be specific in detail and avoid unnecessary vagueness will surely prove immensely helpful during my college years and even during my upcoming senior year.

I'd like to close on a note from a student in my cohort and class. Another lesson that seems to surface abound all of the library time is a lesson that Milani brought up in her recent post: "I've [Milani] learned that your research is never completely done. There's always more you can find on the topic you're doing." It's intimately true. There's always another document, or book, or newspaper, or scholarly journal, or magazine, or wire feed, or audio clip, or video, or essay, or memoir, or editorial, or statement, or conversation, or speech to check--to analyze. There's always another source to use. There's always something else to be said about your topic.

And, that's the essence of a good topic. That extra room, to me, is necessary for additional perspective. This is precisely why there is not one book on Abraham Lincoln, for instance. There are countless books--thousands of books on him. And from each, something new lurks. It's a literary and historical phenomenon that seems to put me at ease within my research, knowing that I'll never run out of material, just out of time to look for it.

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