Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Just Finished My Essay

And I didn't know anything about my topic. Well, the topics were left pretty open, actually. We could write about just about anything so long as it related to the course. The main restriction that we had was that we had to use at least 3 sources from the course. So, in essence, it can get pretty restrictive. First, you gotta figure out what topics you discussed, and then you gotta figure out which of those topics has enough materials, and if you get that far, you've gotta figure out which one of the remaining categories you know enough about!

Well, none! I went through most of the semester without the books I needed, and even after I got the books, I didn't read any of them. I was too busy keeping caught up. So here I am, and I've gotta write a 5 page paper on something.

No clue what I'm writing about!

So I remembered we spent a lot of time on a book called "Bowling Alone," which constantly makes me think of Bowling For Soup, btw... seriously, that doesn't help, especially when you consider that I was at school early today, drove home, stuck around my house for a bit (procrastinating), went back to school, and then went to the gym for an hour. By this point, I was launching 2 Stacker 2s down my throat like candy.... Come to think of it, if I had 2 Stacker 2s, does that mean I had a Stacker 4? =D

You can't imagine how much that took out of me. For starters, my school is really far away: see this post. For another thing, I have had so much on my hands already. But it is due... well, today now, and I couldn't risk messing this up!

Here's how I did it:

Writing An Essay On A Topic I Don't Understand

The concept was simple enough: social capital. It's basically the idea that community strength and social networking have value to an individual. It's not really all too quantitative, which made it a lot easier, but I assumed a lot of things that made it more difficult, like that writing about the internet and social capital would be easy. Well, it's not! You'd think it would be with facebook and myspace and all that, but the material on it was talking about all kinds of crazy things.

So after struggling with an actual topic for a while, I finally came to a realization! That realization is that I should look in the book. Yea, I know, right? That's like the most obvious place to look. But I'm so hella tired right now that my mind only works backwards.

I searched through the index for a bit and accidentally noticed that there was quite a few listings for Alexis de Tocqueville, which is some French dude who wrote books about American society back in the early 1800s. I recognized him right away because he comes up in a lot of my classes. Score! Something to work from.

It turns out that almost the entire book revolves around this guy, and it approaches social capital from various angles using Tocqueville's writing as a reference.

So Now I've Got A Topic!

I went through every page it listed for Tocqueville and read a few paragraphs in, marking important parts for quotations. Then I systematically wrote on a piece of paper what each section talked about (the broad idea). When I was done, I picked apart the basic framework of his argument, made his points into categories and BOOM! I was off like a girl's dress at prom night!
off like a prom dress
Take off that prom dress!

I wrote my arguments along side his, adding various other arguments I could think of and mixing up the order a bit (according to what was logical). I set in a few quotes from other sources, and just like that, I had a paper.

What did I learn from all this?
-Index: look for topics with lots of references
-Outline the authors main argument for above-said references
-Use authors argument as a diving board and jump right in!

Damn I'm good!


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