To be completely honest, this is not as easy as I initially expected it to be. I thought that I could just choose a topic that I would be interested in, find the sources that I needed, and craft a compelling argument that I would present to a group of people. I was completely wrong. So far, I have been tasked of breaking down my broad, initial idea, and making it more specific, more specialized. This is especially difficult for me because I have a tendency to think large and far about the world and what I’m learning about, but this is the exact opposite. While in the process of trying to flesh out this idea, I am starting to change it. I am unsure as to how my initial idea of Catholic education being impacted by the Scopes Monkey Trial can be broken down into something more specific that could be generated into a research project. As a result, I have started to shift my focus onto a different idea involving the same players. My notes, while messy like my thoughts, are below, and can hopefully shed some light on my present thought process:
As you can see, I am starting to transition my topic into one that looks not just strictly at the educational effects of the Scopes Monkey Trial, but a comparison between education in Catholic schools in the northern and southern states before and after the trial. My goal is to not only evaluate the state of education then and now, but to also make some commentary on the structure of northern and southern societies at the time and find any cultural markers that could have led to the way that the trial unfolding. Note: this is a work in progress!
A big part of this new topic that I am developing is looking at the character of the players in the trial. The attorneys, the judge, the man on trial, all of them. By diving into their characters, I am able to see that they are a rather stark reflection of where they are from. By this I mean that the views and ideas and arguments that the men presented were reflections of what their home states had collectively believed. One such example is the idea of Southern Fundamentalism. This idea, of which I will further research and explore, can be seen in the personality of William Jennings Bryan, the Nebraskan prosecutor in the Scopes Trial. Above is a sample of a newspaper featuring an article based on this very idea.
Another part of this project is meeting with others who are experts in this area. While I have yet to do so, I am trying to finish crafting a structure of my idea to present to department heads and the sorts to assist me in further fleshing out this idea and looking for sources to back it up.
In preparation for the research paper that I need to write for this project, I have been looking deeper into the structure of scholarly articles and how they are typically structured. As a scientist, I am coming into this project with a certain preconception as to how research articles are supposed to be written. And to my surprise, social science articles are really not that different.
The first section of a scholarly article is the abstract, which is just a summary of the article that is being written. It comes at the beginning of the article and creates a basic outline for how the rest of the article will be presented. Next is a thesis statement. The thesis describes the problem or situation that the author is seeking to evaluate. The next is the research methods section, which is where the author describes how the study was conducted and who and/or what was involved. The results and discussion section follows where the outcomes of the study are presented, and the author compares their findings to previous research, discusses the limitations of the study, and suggests related areas to be studied. Finally, the author typically caps off the article with some sort of conclusion to wrap the narrative together and present the reader with an overarching idea to think about that typically applies to concepts outside of the article.
While typical scientific research articles are laid out in this very strict structure, social science articles have a tendency to be more fluid, with the sections blending into one another into a cohesive piece of writing. In the article, “‘How About Some Meat?’: The Office of Price Administration, Consumption Politics, and State Building from the Bottom Up, 1941-1946”, we can see just that.
This article that we read this week followed the general outline that I laid out above, but is more specific below:
Title: How About Some Meat?”: The Office of Price Administration, Consumption Politics, and State Building from the Bottom Up, 1941-1946.
Topic: The OPA, politics of meat consumption, and the power that flows through the political and economic machines.
Thesis: “the very way OPA legitimated and constituted its authority contributed to its eventual postwar defeat”.
Methods (or in this case the presentation of facts): Information on the growth of the OPA and its authority over time, the politics and strategies used to appeal to consumption, and the difficulties the organization faced while building itself up.
Results/Discussion: the impacts of the author’s narrative (i.e. so what?), and the restatement of the original argument to further prove it after the presentation of facts.
Like I mentioned, this structure is quite common across academic articles in the social science space, but it differs from the structures of all of the other papers that I have written in my academic career. The majority of academic papers that I have written were in the hard sciences structure of articles, meaning that it is merely the presentation of the methodology and results and a discussion to explain the results observed. The structure of this article is quite different in that it is much longer, more in-depth, and structured more like a story/narrative than a presentation of facts and research methods. What I have learned is that if I want to create an article that is as in depth as this one was, I need to be rather well-versed on my topic so that I am able to expound upon it to craft a narrative that is nearly as long. This form of a research article requires more specific and in-depth knowledge of a topic and a strong ability to craft a fluid, yet non-repetitive narrative to present the idea in a compelling and persuasive way.