Customer Reviews: The Craft of Research, Third Edition (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing)
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on July 17, 2008
Although there are many books on writing research or term papers, I have not found anything else which brings together material on planning, reasoning and writing the research paper as well as this book. Ignore any reviewers who make this book out to be a simplistic text. It is an excellent work on well reasoned writing that even most graduate students can benefit greatly from reading. As a professor of a graduate class on Research and Writing, I have recommended and required this book for several years. The book guides the reader from an idea of a topic, to defining a question, to formulating the conceptually signifcant research problem. It briefly covers finding, evaluating and using primary, secondary, and tertiary sources. Then a major portion of the book is devoted to understanding effective reasoning in the writing process. This is based quite a bit on professor Stephen Toulmin's practical approach to effective reasoning and argumentation. The Craft of Research diagrams and explains claims, reasons, evidence and warrants. It has detailed illustrations of warrants and when to use them, as well as how to challenge them. The book has other sections on organizing, drafting,and revising a paper. It also has a chapter on communicating information visually using tables, graphs and charts. Rather than focusing on the simple mechanics or obvious steps in writing a serious research paper, this book concentrates on the more difficult tasks of clearly defining the conceptual problem and addressing it with in depth, effective reasoning.
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on December 8, 2008
The third edition of this classic text pales when compared to the second edition. Many of the changes are cosmetic in nature and often blur what was clearly and succinctly stated in the second edition. For example, rearranging paragraphs within chapters often detract from what were logical sequences of ideas and information found in the second edition. Unfortunately, the authors, sans Booth, appear to abandon their own advice in order to create a new edition that will bolster sales. I hope the fourth edition, if there is a fourth edition, returns to the high standards one comes to expect from the University of Chicago and its press.
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on July 24, 2008
I read this book about a month before I submitted my dissertation (in U.S. history) and it convinced me to completely rewrite my introduction. That experience left me kicking myself for thinking I was too advanced for these sorts of guides and for not consulting this book earlier. The sections on formulating a topic (how to turn a general interest into a question/problem to be researched) and warrants (how to match claims to evidence) are especially helpful. Make no mistake about it, this book can help researchers at all levels, and I have had many students, both undergraduate and graduate, tell me how happy they were that they took my advice to read this book.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon September 20, 2008
We all respect scientists--even budding science students--for their commitment to accuracy and objectivity. Sometimes our strengths are also our weaknesses. Beginning scientists can naively believe that their writing only needs to report the facts, that anything further is bias, sophistry or even dishonesty. This book lays out the path to a better writing style. Readers will learn how to arrange and present their facts and evidence as coherent arguments. As a result, they will better serve their own readers.

The table of contents, outlined below, shows that the authors cover more than putting fingers to keyboard. Introductory chapters discuss the perspective and information needs of readers and how to connect with them. The authors address development of one's own authentic authorial "voice"--a topic often neglected in books about research writing. The next four chapters teach us how to conceptualize a research question, then find relevant and credible sources of information to answer it. The third edition contains a needed revision of the authors' earlier avoidant stance on the credibility of web-based information, containing good guidance for weeding flakey from factual online sources.

Chapter 7, "Making Good Arguments: An Overview," is the keystone chapter and a relatively quick read at eleven pages. It's where to focus when deciding whether to read the rest of the book. The authors define their working vocabulary of arguments, reasons, evidence, claims and warrants. In this and the following four chapters they show us how to use these concepts to present our points and how to acknowledge and respond to positions with which we disagree. They demonstrate how to do this with integrity as well as skill.

The final six chapters address the actual writing of a research report. Much of the advice on planning, drafting and revising is standard and consistent with other writing guides. Some, such as advice on graphical presentation of data, is an overview of information covered more thoroughly in other books (e.g., Tufte's Envisioning Information). But there is also a great deal of guidance on revising and fine-tuning arguments that is unique to these authors and their framework of written arguments. The closing chapter on style will help writers create clear and understandable structure while following their own authorial style. Recognizing they have presented only an introductory measure of what good writers need to know, the authors close with a comprehensive bibliography of readings, both online and in print.

This book, thoughtfully read and put into practice, is as good as a course in professional writing. Read it, underline in it, bend back the page corners, and keep it nearby when you write your next report.


Brief Table of Contents

I. Research, Researchers and Readers
- 1. Thinking in Print: The uses of Research, Public and Private
- 2. Connecting with Your Reader: (Re-)Creating Yourself
II. Asking Questions, Finding Answers
- 3. From Topics to Questions
- 4. From Questions to a Problem
- 5. From Problems to Sources
- 6. Engaging Sources
III. Making a Claim and Supporting It
- 7. Making Good Arguments: An Overview
- 8. Making Claims
- 9. Assembling Reasons and Evidence
- 10. Acknowledgements and Responses
- 11. Warrants
IV. Planning, Drafting and Revising
- 12. Planning
- 13. Drafting Your Report
- 14. Revising Your Organization and Argument
- 15. Communicating Evidence Visually
- 16. Introductions and Conclusions
- 17. Revising Style: Telling Your Story Clearly
V. Some Last Considerations
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on August 21, 2008
Have you ever faced a blank computer screen and were at a complete loss of what you should write about for a 10-page research paper due the next week? Or maybe you knew what you wanted to write about but didn't know how to start? Or maybe you had all your sources, wrote out a draft and realized that no one cares if The Great Gatsby illustrates the three Aristotelian elements of a tragedy?

The Craft of Research helps students and researchers solve dilemmas like these and more. The authors dissect the anatomy of a research paper and create step-by-step stages that guide you all the way from choosing a topic to polishing your final product.

The major sections of this book address how to form a good research claim that your readers will care about; how to find and evaluate sources; how to support your claim with evidence, reasons and warrants; and how to prepare, draft and revise your paper. The authors use simple and clear language, and if that's not enough, they provide easy-to-understand visuals and diagrams to help make their point.

The authors also cover useful areas such as ethics (why you must always cite even when just discussing an idea of another writer's), the Internet (when it's acceptable to use web-based sources), and visuals (why 3-D graphs are a bad idea).

Sure, some of the advice they provide you may already know, but as the authors cover nearly everything to do with research papers (albeit in a generalized way), there's something for everyone. It's also nice to have a guide that will remind you of everything you learned in your freshman English classes. Clear, concise, and accessible, the Craft of Research is one of the best books on research.
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on July 30, 2012
This book describes at a fundamental level what is a research problem, breaking it down into parts
such as Topic, Question + Relevance, etc.

The authors have captures many essential but non-obvious aspects of real research, such as
(I totally agree with these, after only a few years of research myself):

* The core of a research paper is to make a CLAIM, back it with REASONS, support them
with EVIDENCE, ACKNOWLEDGE AND RESPOND to other views, and sometimes explain
your PRINCIPLES (WARRANTS) of reasoning. Finally, the SIGNIFICANCE of the claim must
be explained.

* Most researchers will tell you that as often as not, their papers are cited inaccurately,
summarized carelessly, or critized ignorantly.

* A good research paper must anticipate and respond to reader's predictable questions
and objections. Doing this, rather than trying to sell your point by playing down all
other views or contradiction evidence, will easily be sensed and hurt your ethos,
which over times hardens into your reputations, your most important asset as
a researcher, and something delicate : if you lose it, you will probably never regain it
no matter how many better papers you write.

* The meeting of other views, discussion of weaknesses in your arguments,
and hedging (specifying the limiting assumptions of your claim) have to be done
in a well-balanced way : too little and too much attention is drawn away from your
main arguments and you seem timid and your conclusions unreliable, too much and you seem
arrogant and even unethical, losing the trust of the readers.

* Discuss all available evidence, also weak or ambiguous. Explain why you think that
evidence has low reliability. Both if it supports your claim or goes against it.
Confiding low reliability for evidence supporting your claim increases the trust
from the reader.

* There is no cure [for accurate reporting] than checking, rechecking, and rechecking again.

* When you want to criticize a source for being unclear, it looks nice to formulate it like
"We do not clearly see", "We do not understand", etc,i.e. formulate it like YOU have failed
to understand rather than bluntly state that its badly written.

* Another nice way to lay out critique is to first give a plus : "Although the treatment of X
is exemplary, the simple approximation used for Y might lead to serious errors". Or,
"Smiths evidence is important, but we must look at all the available evidence."

* Introductions should start with a brief summary of sources relevant for your claim. Avoid a long
account of marginally relevant sources. Then, come to open questions still lacking in the field,
or gaps in previous sources. After that, explain the value of being able to answer those questions.
Finally, either state your answer already here, or "promise" an answer at the end of the paper.

* Their quotation from Hemingway is really good when it comes to revising : "You know you're
writing well when your discarding stuff that you know is good, but not as good as what you keep."
I often found myself being a bit paralyzed with a draft containing many half-good paragraphs,
all not fitting so well together. One has to overcome to barrier to delete half-good stuff : once you
start doing that and don't is as 'sacred' because its been there for so
long, you get into a flow in writing and the manuscript improves quickly. Yes you may end up
rewriting a whole section, but you'll be surprised at how quick it goes and how much it often
improves! The authors here suggest to keep sections-paragraphs only if they either directly
add to the ARGUMENT you are making in the paper, or that they provide CONTEXT/BACKGROUND
for the analysis. Just stating facts or some numbers you have calculated are not of interest to
the reader unless they relate to your point. And the key here is not to be afraid to discard
stuff that only has MARGINAL relevance : keeping all such material makes for a bloated, long
and boring paper where the main points get lost. If anyone actually needs some particular number
of your calculation, they will ask for it and cite you anyway.

* The point of each paragraph should be summarized in the first or last sentence(s).
Avoid too short paragraphs (less than 5 sentences), except for transitions and

* Drafts have to be given time to "cool". What looks good one day often looks completely
different upon a fresh look a few days later. Therefore, it is of no use to make
last-minute changes just before submission : chances are you write something bad.

* You think your graphics and plots speak for themselves, but your readers won't. You have
to highlight what you want them to notice in them, and choose what to plot to emphasize
your point. For example, you can make the most important line bold, but a box around the most important
points, or add a line showing that a difference between two lines has increased, if this is your point.

* Graphs should be kept as simple as possible : consider skipping marginally relevant data in them,
for the same reason as one should cut marginally relevant paragraphs. Keep only data relevant
to your point.

* For readability, label lines inside the plot, rather than in a legend (forces the eye to go back and forth)

* In the legend you should NOT explain that the data imply : this should be in the text.

* No matter what you write, it will never be perfect. Still, you build an illusion that if you have just
one more month, week, or day, you can actually finish it. Its not so! You will NEVER be satisfied
with it. So one should set deadlines and make the best possible product within that time.
Strange as it sounds, after working 2-3 YEARS on a short paper, one is still feeling there are dozens
of places which are not quite good enough. But it has to go. Otherwise insanity will catch up
with you for sure.

* A generally successful work flow is to draft quickly, revise carefully, and toss irrelevant stuff.
Drafting quickly means writing with a flow, not pausing to get details, references and exact
number right, but rather the general structure and logic of the section.

* Make sure the numbers you present are rounded to a reasonably accuracy.

Kindle version is not great : one cannot scroll between chapters for whatever reason, and there are
quite a few "special text boxes" where the font is very small.
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on January 17, 2009
This is a well-written book primarily intended for researchers in the humanities. However, as someone who conducts research both in humanities and basic science, I found the book provided a useful perspective on scientific research. While the methods and method-specific questions are usually idiosyncratic to a field, the timeless question that the book poses: "What additional insight into [insert field here] does [insert novel work here] give me?" and the authors' meditations on how to approach it are well-worth the price of the book.
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This book is literally a classic because it thoroughly covers the challenges involved in basic academic research. It is intended as a course between covers on academic researchers. It covers formulation of issues and questions, determining and finding stories, making your claims and how to write and support them. Overall, it will be of use to anyone who is new to academic research and writing.

It is not a guide to sources nor a treatise on using particular resources. Rather it is more along the line of teaching principles of effective research and academic writing.

It serves students well, but is lacking for those with real-world research needs, such as in business and law.

Overall, like so many academic style guides, a nice book to keep on the shelf if you are outside of academia, but not a necessary one.

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on October 6, 2011
Is there a need to do research anymore? What is the point of research? How should one go about researching a topic? The Craft of Research was written in response to questions like these. Combining years of experience and learning, Booth (posthumously), Colomb and Williams evaluate the art of research and those who master it.

The Craft of Research has many valuable principles, ideas, and examples to offer the reader. Through clear writing, helpful examples, and a usable format, the authors provide a manual to encourage and guide the reader in his research.

It would be worth another read and was very helpful.
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This book was an essential element during my five years of doctoral study and the dissertation process. I found it to be one of the "must haves" for my reference library and would strongly recommend it to any grad student, but especially for doctoral students.
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