In a previous post, I addressed some research techniques and questions to ask while researching. Today, I want to talk about writing up what you found.
I strongly recommend you use an outline. That’s the best way to ensure that your flow makes sense, that your sections are organized, and that you don’t leave out anything important. An outline is simply a plan. Here’s one example of an outline for a typical SCA object entry:
2) Overview of historic/social context
3) Overview of the particular craft at that place and time (methods and materials)
4) Picture and explanation of extant examples / period writing / archeological evidence.
5) Your recreation, including a discussion of any differences in methods and materials.
6) (If your object is useful) how it performs. How it compares to the original.
7) Summary. What you learned. What you would do differently. What you will do in your next project on this topic.
8) Bibliography and sources
You may use a different outline, especially if you’re doing a pure research paper. That’s perfectly fine. Just make sure it follows in a logical manner. If your paper is long (over 10 pages) you’ll probably want a summary at the beginning, for those readers without the time or patience to absorb it all.
Outlines also make writing easier when you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. Pick an easy section and start filling it in. Pretty soon the rest will come.
Use footnotes or endnotes to cite your sources. Instead of saying “everyone knows,” prove it. Best not to emulate this particular example:
Be careful about running off on tangents. For us research junkies, it’s easy to go down rabbitholes, but a line or two (and maybe a suggestion about good sources) is enough. The more you stay focused on your actual topic, the better. One way to deal with irresistible topics is to include an appendix.
When you’ve been working on it for a while, take a break. Come back to it with fresh eyes.
Run a spell/grammar checker.
Ask your friends to proof-read it for you. It’s amazing the things you’ll miss… your brain fills in what you THINK should be there.
When you’ve got it polished up, share it! Compete, display, or just post it on your blog. We want to see what you’re excited about!
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