Students got inside advice on how to form a thesis and conduct research as led by the Reading and Writing Center tutors in the Organizing and Researching Workshop on Nov. 27.
“A good thesis stimulates thought. The word tantalizing means it’s interesting instead of generic and general statements inside of your paper. It must be arguable and interesting. Your paper needs to explain the how and the why,” stated Selu Ita, from Nevada, a senior majoring in English.
Kai Phung, a sophomore from Oahu majoring in history, asked, “Where is the balance in terms of specificity? If I’m writing about BYU–Hawaii how specific do I go?”
“We could focus on issues and a portion of the school instead, such as Honor Code,” Ita responded. “You could talk about cultural differences on what honor means. You could go even more on specific issues with even deeper which makes an interesting paper.”
She continued, “One thing that you can do is to read the thesis and match each topic sentence in the paragraph. If you have holes in your thesis then your paper falls through. You want it to be sturdy.”
Phung included personal experience is essential and added, “To choose experience, I then have a drive and emotion as long as you are not biased. One of the passions I have is Taiwan because I served my mission there.”
Phung asked, “Where is the place to start research?” As an example, Phung searched ‘sugar cane in Hawaii’ and clicked on Wikipedia. He explained Wikipedia is a good place to start to search for the sources cited, but not for primary use in a paper.
“What you can do is click on the references and then search those references and it will show the actual source. Just to build your general knowledge and find sources.”
“Look at recent research, which will strengthen your argument. You can look at dissertations,” encouraged Phung. He welcomed students to visit databases offered by BYUH Library services for free, as there is a lot of groundbreaking research being published.
Anna Marshall, a freshman from Oahu majoring in computer science, noted the most important thing she learned during the workshop was determining if a source is credible to use in research.
Ita said, “The way I like to think of it is how do you read a book without reading chapter one?” She suggested looking at the table of contents, the publishing company, and the author.
In continued advice, Ita said, “These are ways to weed out the good from the bad references. You can go to our library and look up books they have on your topic. If it’s a critical review of a book it will be cut into the different critiques. You don’t have to read the whole book. Just find the chapter that is important to you or look at the back of the index.”
Phung noted scholarly articles and books are all secondary sources, meaning someone else wrote it about something that happened, versus primary sources. He said the archives in the Library are primary sources, as they have artifacts.
“There are news articles from that time period, a book that records all the things that were bought for the first temple in Laie and those are primary sources you can use for your paper,” Phung suggested.
In conclusion, Ita said, “My advice would be don’t panic. Find a topic that is interesting. You can do it, and just keep swimming.”