In this my first year as Arts and Sciences officer of Tir Righ, I have had the opportunity to speak with many people about their A&S interests. In doing so, I ofttimes suggest that they enter the cool stuff they are doing in an A&S competition at some level.
Entering is one of the best ways to reach a broad group of people in order to share what you have learned and take advantage of an opportunity for unparalleled feedback.
It is also a lot of fun!
A common response I get to that suggestion is…I don’t want to do the documentation. This has often made me wonder why just uttering the word documentation seems to stir up such feelings of reluctance for some people.
Documentation is nothing more than recording the research (sources) and experimentation (Trial/error and method of working) that goes into almost every A&S project.
Documentation is purely the straightforward act of writing it down as you go along.
It is when I mention this last bit that the real objection comes to light.
Many of us, especially when we are just starting out, are eager and enthusiastic if not downright passionate about whatever the thing is that we are geeking over. We (myself included in the beginning) jump into the creating part with just a bit of light research. What this method of working leads to, is having to backtrack and try to fit the sources to what we have done. And, therein usually lies the reluctance.
I count myself to have been among the worst of the perpetrators of this method. Truthfully, it took me a bit to get the hang of it. I literally had to devise a way of working to stop myself from jumping into the creating part too soon and in doing so I learned to love the research and documentation process.
So, today’s post is all about sharing some of the resources that have made Research and Documentation feel a little less like being stretched on the rack and a good deal more enjoyable and rewarding.
Two Crucial Steps
Step One – locate sources
Before you begin, before you touch a single tool or piece of fabric, first find and write your list of sources from which you will later create your bibliography . Look for any books, papers, journals or websites that may have information on your topic. You want to be as thorough as possible when you are doing this so try searching in other languages as well as English. If , for example, your subject is Norse related try searching in Norwegian, Icelandic and Swedish etc. You can use Google Translate to help with this.
When you find those sources ( they may not be in English) look at the bibliography and try a second search for the books/papers and authors listed.
Using this type of search strategy led me to these two totally obscure but amazing sources:
Another great source for your research are sites like academia.edu. Not only are they a good source of searchable research, you can contact the authors who are often the leading experts in your field of study for additional information.
A bonus of sites like academia.edu is that you can add your own research:
Blogs that contain a list of sources are another great jumping off point. A brilliant example of this is Early Sweden by Disa i Birkilundi.
After you have tracked down a list of sources you want to use (which you can add to or delete as you go) the next step is to narrow your focus.
Step Two – narrow your focus
Scope-creep is a dirty word when you are in the middle of a research project. It can begin to make the whole project feel overwhelming. The best method I have found to avoid this is to draft my introduction as soon as I have a good start to my list of sources. This helps to focus your thoughts on what it is you really want to do. It will allow you to narrow down an entire field of study into your specific theme. Limiting the sources to what you actually need and allowing you to get on with the creating part sooner.
It will also help you to determine which of your sources are most useful in offering supporting evidence. For example, you may want to back-up the thing you are making with evidence of the tools used. So if while you are researching you find a great source for the tools, include it in your list. It will make the work a lot easier later and start you thinking about this early on in the process.
One last thing I want to share that has helped me with research and documentation is: Developing Your Research Project a free online course from Futurelearn. It is offered fairly frequently, requires a minimal time commitment. I found this course incredibly fun as well as helpful.
If you have any tips that have helped make research and documentation easier for you: please leave a comment and feel free to share a link.
Thanks for reading