It’s only science if you write it down

Does that also apply to humanities?

Regardless, I have to write a paper, which I always think will be easy, until I’m doing it, and I find that surprisingly, good papers are HARD. This happens to me frequently, because usually (especially in my college career) I’m writing to an audience that has little familiarity with my subject. I am interested in rather obscure topics, particularly for this summer, so I have to explain things that I have become familiar with. It turns out that not many people know about the Etruscans, which means that I have to introduce the topic to people!

Obviously, you say. Obviously you have to do this for your project, which is a research paper. And that’s the thing. As a humanities major, doing original research of this kind (rather than the kind where I read a lot of books and have an argument and cite a lot of sources) is still pretty unfamiliar to me and the styles, forms, and practices don’t make sense yet. As I write, my mother, who conducts public health research, explains to me why you should put the tables at the end of the paper (so people can look at the table and at the discussion at the same time) and what is “discussion” and what is “results.”

But aside from the general process, I have some thoughts about my research, especially the linguistics part of it. I originally thought it would include much more sociolinguistics, but as I’ve worked, I think I could add that aspect, but I’d need a lot more time to have enough research to adequately tie it in. As it stands now, my project is more linguistics-inspired, but very classics-performed. Therefore, my conclusions are more about trying to extrapolate from specific instances. However, since I know that scholarship tends to frown on hypotheses built on single instances, I’m also trying to walk the tightrope of making new suggestions that are still supported by my evidence. This feels harder than other types of research because I usually have a clearer idea at the beginning of what I’m going to argue, whereas in this project I feel like I am only figuring out what I’m saying at the very end.

The whole point of this post is really just for me to reflect on how this particular kind of research has been different from the writing and research I’ve done before, so I can understand the meta-knowledge I have gained. Maybe for other students this kind of research is standard, but I’m really glad that I’ve had experience with different types of scholarly research because I can be better prepared for later research.