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1.2: What’s Different about Academic Research?

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    The reasons academics and scholars conduct research are essentially the same as the reasons someone does research on the right computer to buy:  to find information and answers to questions with a method that has a greater chance of being accurate than a guess or a  “gut feeling.”  College professors in a history department, physicians at a medical school, graduate students studying physics, college juniors in a literature class, students in an introductory research writing class—all of these people are members of the academic community, and they all use research to find answers to their questions that have a greater chance of being “right” than making guesses or betting on feelings.

    Students in an introductory research writing course are “academics,” the same as college professors?  Generally speaking, yes. You might not think of yourself as being a part of the same group as college professors or graduate students, but when you enter a college classroom, you are joining the academic community in the sense that you are expected to use your research to support your ideas and you are agreeing to the conventions of research within your discipline.  Another way of looking at it:  first-year college students and college professors more or less follow the same “rules” when it comes to making points supported by research and evidence.

    A Student Profile: Daniel Marvins, New to Academic Research

    Daniel Marvins is a first year college student at a large public university in the Midwest.  While he certainly wrote plenty of essays when he was in high school, Marvins thought that the kind of research writing his teacher was asking him to do for his writing class was different.  

    “In high school, we wrote more about stories and poems and newspaper articles we read,” Marvins said.  “We didn’t do a lot of research, other than looking things up on the web.”

    Marvins was ready for the challenge of tackling the thinking and research that would be expected of him in college.  But he still wasn’t sure about being “an academic.”  “I never thought of it that way, because I didn’t really see how the stuff I had to write for school made me anything like my teachers.  But I guess I’m starting to see the connection.”

    Read Marvins’ “Working Thesis Essay” in Chapter 5.

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