Wait, all Research Papers Aren’t the Same?

Being a student in the course “Writing and Research” requires one to research information and then write about it as part of a disciplinary approach to academic writing commonplace in college-level courses and an integral part of select professions. As a student who has experienced many English Language Arts classes as well as a few college courses, I have an elementary understanding of the process of research and how to use it in one’s writing. However, upon reading the chapter on the fields of study in my textbook, The Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings and Handbook, I was surprised to learn that the different academic fields practice research and writing in uniquely different ways from each other. I came to find that there is no one way to conduct research to encompass all fields, but many, each specialized depending on the unique discipline. 

My experience with conducting research and then writing about it is rather limited as I have found the topic to be rather uncommon in the realms of English Language Arts of middle and high school. More often than not, I have found myself simply writing about a particular piece of one individuals’ writing rather than compiling and incorporating different sources to cite as scholarly research. Naturally, I was rather confused and frustrated when I was asked to write a research paper on the fashion industry of the world in my English I class of ninth grade. We were instructed to find our own sources and make our own claims based on a documentary we had watched prior to researching. The teacher provided several sites packed with thousands of scholarly articles to pick from to aid us in making our claims. I remember being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of articles to choose from as I found it near impossible to find just the right scholarly source to support my claim that the media has a profound influence on consumerism. Additionally, the highly sophisticated language used in these articles made it very difficult to read and understand when applying it to my own writing. After typing in a few keywords into the search engine, I ended up settling on a few select scholarly articles that may have remotely supported my claim in the long run. 

My second experience with writing and research comes from my first semester of sophomore year in Psychology 101. For our final project, we were divided into groups and given a movie and instructed to diagnose a character from the movie with a mental illness. We then had to develop a presentation, case study, and research paper for our client by citing scholarly sources. My group ended up getting the movie Benny & Joon which follows the story of Joon, the mentally disturbed sister of her brother and caretaker Benny. After watching the movie, my group and I diagnosed Joon with schizophrenia, a mental disorder that affects an individual’s ability to think, feel, and behave. In contrast to my experience with writing and research about the fashion industry the previous year, I found the process of researching schizophrenia and developing a paper on it with my peers to be unexpectedly fun and interesting. By working together, we managed to incorporate information to support why we thought Joon had schizophrenia and outline treatments for her in our paper. A task that proved to be far less daunting than my first experience with research and frankly an interesting and engaging experience at that. 

After receiving a writing prompt encouraging me to look back on my academic writing experiences, I am reminded of these two research papers and how I felt contrasting feelings about them. I figured that since both papers were classified under the word “research”, that I should feel generally the same about both. Whether that be feelings of dread and annoyance, or enthusiasm and interest. So I began to think of some differences between the two papers that may explain why I favored the psychology paper over the English paper. One difference that comes to mind, is the formatting. My psychology paper about schizophrenia was written in APA format while my English paper about the fashion industry was written in MLA. I didn’t think very much about these differences until I read in my textbook about the fields of study and their writing styles. For instance “the purpose of writing [in the humanities] is to explore and analyze aspects of the human experience across time … [it] is usually [written] in MLA or Chicago style]” (Bullock et al. 307), while “[the social sciences] explore human behavior and society … usually done in APA or Chicago style” (Bullock et al. 311). As it turns out, psychology and English belong to different fields of study and therefore contain different researching and writing styles. 

As someone who finds the inner workings of people, relationships, and the mind to be very interesting, it is of no surprise that I would have enjoyed writing about schizophrenia as part of my psychology research paper. By reflecting on my personal research experiences throughout my disciplined classes in general education, I have inadvertently discovered my interest in the social sciences, a field that characterizes the study and research of human behavior. This marks an important step in the process of determining my career and what direction I would like to go in life as I continue my transition into adulthood. 

My responses to some writing prompts for the research reflection taken from my journal.

Works Cited

Benny & Joon. Directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik, MGM Home Entertainment, 23 Apr. 1993.

Bullock, Richard et al. Chapter 26: “Writing in Academic Fields of Study.” The Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings and Handbook. 5th ed. Norton, 2019. pp. 305-320. 


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