Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Gap in the Literature

So you’ve compiled your list of sources, read them, and created an annotated bibliography.

Nothing left to do now but write the actual research paper.

How do we do that?

Well, what are your ideas?


Yeah, speak English, Chuck … No hablo espanol.

No, like, where has your research pointed you? How has considering others’ arguments developed your thoughts on the subject?

We appreciate the Socratic method and all, Chuck—really. But can’t you just give us a worksheet or something with step-by-step instructions for doing a research paper?

Yeah, come on … that thinking crap is played out like CDs!

This isn’t paint-by-numbers, folks … you can’t just plug all your research into a formula that magically produces academic scholarship.

Pssht! You trippin, Chuck. I’m sure there is. Let me Google that right quick.

Hate to disappoint folks, but for all the tangible, checklist-oriented scaffolding the academy often constructs around it, the heart of scholarly work is really and truly based in impressions and in analyzing how and why we react and respond to the world around us.

But wouldn’t that be … subjective???

Yeah! Our profs taught us that for the sake of maintaining analytical objectivity, forming our own opinions on topics should be considered bad.

And yet those very professors make their livings by forming opinions on issues in their respective fields of study.

I thought they made their livings by scheming ways to assign us homework over the weekends and reading from PowerPoint slides in a classroom.

Not entirely.

But daring to be subjective for a moment, what are your initial impressions of the background readings?

I … I kind of thought some of the authors were full of crap.

… Am I allowed to say that out loud?

Of course!!

Yeah, a lot of the authors went on and on about the poor health conditions of African Americans and then went on to cite a bunch of generic reasons for the disparity in health conditions between them and their Caucasian counterparts.

But nowhere, not even once, did any of these reasons account for the stressful and debilitating effects of dealing with daily acts of institutional racism.

Excellent! You’ve located a gap in the existing literature! Congrats … you’ve discovered your idea!

… Uh, Richie, can you Google this “idea” word for us?

Yeah, not understanding this noise Chuck keeps screaming at us is really starting to bug me.

… Now to outline a rough draft!


Anonymous said...

Drive carefully. It is not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker.............................................

macon d said...

I like it! And, sadly, I remember it too.

Jackson Brown said...

Thanks. :) Yep, those were the days.

krystal*lyte said...

"But nowhere, not even once, did any of these reasons account for the stressful and debilitating effects of dealing with daily acts of institutional racism."

(exhales)how refreshing. Thats the revelation I've waited this whole administration to hear.

Jackson Brown said...

Yeah, I haven't read a lot of medical research, but literature in the social sciences seems now to be getting to the point where academics and practitioners are willing to recognize racism prevalent in their own practices, but not quite its health effects.

In the literary realm, though, the link between racism and personal health has been around at least since the 19th century. (PLD's The Sport of the Gods, HJ's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, HBS's Uncle Tom's Cabin.)

The question is whether any of the rhetoric will (or has?) lead to a substantive medical investigation into how racism affects one's (whether white or a POC) health.

I guess I should look into that. :)

Mark McLawhorn said...

If that's a modern college classroom, I'd be amazed if that many kids did the reading.

Jackson Brown said...

Lol, yeah, it's supposed to be a writing center.

Most students who put in the effort to seek out extra help will usually give the readings at least a cursory look-through. :)