Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The One Where I Try To Do Research #slice2013


Every Tuesday, Ruth and Stacey, host Slice of Life at their blog, Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post on Tuesdays or you can just head on over there to check out other people's stories. For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here

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I'm not sure exactly when my little seed idea for a non-fiction picture book took root inside my little head, I think it was at the beginning of the summer. Ever since, I have been really excited every time I return to it. I checked out a bunch of books from the library to do some research but briefly skimmed them before it was time to return them. Tomorrow I'll be sharing this little idea with a group of 8th graders and wanted to show the research I have done so far to be able to learn more about the subject before I draft my story. Last night, I zipped over to the library to pick up a stack of books that were waiting for me on hold. (Oh, how I love being able to order books online through my library system!) 

I came home and looked at my pile of books...my so-called "research". And then I realized I don't really know how to research information that isn't articles in journals, I'm actually researching history and it's going to take a lot more work than simply requesting books by keyword search from my library. 

Here are the books in my bookstack:

One collection of "dramatic fictions" 
40 stories about Chicago - bummed that they aren't actually true stories

Two middle grade novels - historical fiction 
one actually is set during the time period I am researching and the other has absolutely nothing to do with my topic...except for the misleading title (Oops!)

One adult non-fiction narrative - historical fiction
this book is where I initially learned about this famous individual and his story

One collection of biographies of famous Illinoisans 
27 total and all but three are people born in Illinois - this has no Library of Congress information or references listed at all...I'm actually not sure how it even qualifies as a book. It looks like it was typed on a typewriter... (?)

Two juvenile informational texts - non-fiction expository
both share information about the topic and its' inventor

I quickly realized that I'm sure I'm only touching the surface of information that's out there to read in order to be best prepared to write my book. I did some online research and there is a historical society near Chicago that looks like it has more information. I feel great about at least having a start but am starting to make plans for next steps in my research. 

Next steps:
  • See what information my local librarian can help me pull.
  • Spend time locating and printing online resources.
  • Call the historical society to see what resources they have.
  • Search the Library of Congress to see what information they have.
  • Look up and request references listed in the books I have.


I feel like I'm trying to uncover some kind of buried treasure. I know the information is out there but I have to figure out how to find it. There are helpers and clues along the way but I know I'm going to have to get creative and persevere to be able to find the information I need. 

Thinking back through all the writing I have done, there are a few instances that stand out when I had to do research and truly enjoyed it. In 8th grade, we had to do a big research project and I know I researched Susan B. Anthony, took notes and organized all my ideas on notecards. I remember studying Deaf culture my junior year in high school for American History. When I was in college, I did an independent study - my Capstone for the honors program - where I chose to research teambuilding and social development and to make connections with supporting students who are deaf and hard of hearing with their social development. I loved that research the most. I worked at the university library when I was in college so I had lots of information and databases and journals galore right at my fingertips. I have barely had access to a university library since then and this kind of research isn't really the type that would lead me towards scholarly journals...at least I don't think. 

I've research lots of things without the intention of writing a paper or doing a project - namely on what kind of car to buy and countless baby-related topics. Research like this I was extremely motivated to partake in but it is definitely a different kind of research compared to what I feel I need to do in order to be prepared to write a non-fiction narrative picture book. 

The antsy-ness I felt when I came home from the library lingers. I'm excited to dive into these books and to embrace the adventure of finding out what else is out there. I didn't realize how much more time I would need to invest but I feel like if I want to do it right (and I do!), then I'll need to put more time and energy into my research. The realization that this is a different kind of research was eye-opening and exciting. I can't wait to share this with students and to hopefully spread my excitement to them as they work towards finding their own topics to research and delve into their own adventures.

What I have learned from Teachers Write just continues to amaze me. I don't know if I would have really, truly thought about and realized how different this kind of research is if I hadn't come up with this idea for a book and actually pursued it. This research is leading towards a different kind of writing compared to my girly fiction novel. I never thought I would want to write a non-fiction narrative picture book but here I am. I'm really looking forward to experiencing this process and sharing it!

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