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.
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.
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
* 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.
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.
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.