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As a university or college student in the arts and humanities, you get used to having to write a lot of freakin’ papers. But no matter how many promises we make, we always seem to be writing them at the last minute and often, poorly. This guide is meant to help you start (and stick to) a plan that will do something much more important than finishing your paper on time- even better than just getting a good grade: it will help maintain balance in your life and not be cramming at the last minute.
Here’s what to do:
1. Find a topic, any topic. Talk to your prof about it.
2. Start with what you know already. This is always the place to start. It’s okay to know nothing.
3. What sorts of things does this topic make you think about? (ie. If your topic is the Zapatistas, it might make you think about indigenous struggles, rebellions, the North America Free Trade Agreement… what you’re trying to do here is find a way in to the topic
4. How do these themes connect or disconnect from your topic?
5. Think of some possible sources to look into. Primary sources are usually the best. READ them.
6. What did you find out? How have your ideas changed?
7. What sorts of questions do you have now?
8. Pick one of these questions. Pick the juiciest question, write it down… that’s your research question. Take it to your prof and see what she thinks. Now you have to go answer that question. When you can answer it, you have your thesis statement.
Print off this fancy first attempt at Illustrator by Nick and fill it in:
Things to keep in mind:
1. How is this similar to other things you’ve read/heard about?
2. Does this connect with any themes that have come up in class?
3. Who wrote this piece and why?
4. Who isn’t represented in the texts?
5. Does what you’re reading tell the whole story?
6. Is there anyone who has written something that disagrees with what you read?