This series of blog posts are compiled from my notes taken in Written Expression (EDEB 405) course in Bilkent University given by my distinguished teacher Zeynep Seviner. I also tried to explain Eric Hayot’s the Uneven U practice which I learned in this course. Since all these are my implications and explanations, neither Zeynep Seviner nor Eric Hayot is responsible for what is written here.
Improving written expression skills is necessary not only for academicians and men-women of letters but also for those who have an idea, an opinion or an emotion which they want to share in one way or another. Even if these aren’t going to be shared written, the practice of writing is essential for developing the ideas. Writing is not for just sharing what you have learned but also for learning itself. Thus, although I focused on writing for Humanities, anyone can make use of these principles to develop his/her opinions and emotions. However, no one should regard these as certain rules. All the principles that I shared are good for starting as a framework, you can break or alter these principles as more and more you get used to them.
Four Essential Questions
First of all, I want to highlight four essential questions that anyone should seek answers for before starting. These answers will provide information about the nature and the identity of our study.
First: What is the problematic or the research question of our study? A research question seeking an answer of information leads us to a descriptive study. What is …? Which are …? Where is …? Then, our study will provide answers which define, describe or explain. In contrast with a descriptive study, an argumentative one needs analytical questions. Why it is so? What is the relationship between …? How … can be understood? The answers of these questions are not certain but argumentative. So, in order to understand the nature of our study, first we have to well design our research question.
Görsel: Josh Tasman
Second: What sort of an answer or answers we are expecting to find? In the first place when we design our research question, some probable answers flash to our minds. It is important to note down that answers, even though we didn’t conclude our investigation. Those probable answers are going to function as our hypotheses. Sometimes, we are not able to find the right answers, but it is ok if we find the wrong answers by testing our hypotheses. Let me give an example. Suppose your research question is “What are the texts that influenced the author of novel C?” and your hypothesis is that the author A was influenced by author B, when writing the novel C. During your investigation, you may end up with no good answers to your research question. However, you can still write a good paper with this thesis statement: “There is a common belief that when author A was writing the novel C, he was influenced by author B. However, there are no enough evidence showing the relationship between them.” Long story short, the hundreds of Edison’s trials were also successful as they showed how a lightbulb doesn’t work.
Third: What sort of theoretical and methodological sources/tools are we going to use? Answers to this question will define the infrastructure of our study. Suppose that you are going to go to a trip with your own vehicle, but you have an off-road car, a sports car and a regular automobile. Of course, you want to pick the vehicle according to the condition of the road you want to pass over. The destination that you want to reach in this example represents the answer that you want to find. So, you must pick your theoretical and methodological sources/tools according to the operation and investigation you are going to handle.
Four: What are the expected contributions of our study to the literature? If our question has been asked and our answers have been found already, why would we bother to go over the same processes again? Yet we shouldn’t forget that to ask a unique question and find answers that nobody has found yet are not enough to say that our study will contribute to the literature. Natural sciences try to understand how nature works, and social sciences/humanities try to reveal the mechanisms and products of human societies and cultures. In that context, we should ask ourselves whether our study is going to assist these efforts and create a new understanding or not.
After you ask these questions and find satisfying answers, you are ready to go. May it be fun!
This was translated into English, in Jul 2018.
Source: Eric Hayot, the Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities.
Featured Image: Liralen Li