This is really a question. I’ve had a couple of independent studies/capstone projects to supervise this fall, and will have a couple more in the spring. It has occurred to me that I would like to assign a book that would help guide students through the research process. The books I’m most familiar with focus more on writing literary essays; I’d like something geared to the humanities a little more generally, and to the “research paper” of 15-20 pages, that might include elements of literature, history, and art history. How to read around a topic and then focus the reading, how to develop research questions, these are more important than details like citation style. Any suggestions?

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8 thoughts on “Guiding independent research

  1. The Craft of Research by Booth, Colomb, and Williams. Very accessible to students at different levels and aimed at the humanities in general with a lot of focus on the process of research. I have used it in a graduate research methods class (English) for 5 years now, and I get very good feedback from the students on the usefulness of this book.Travellia

  2. Perhaps the chapter on the seminar paper from Greg Semenza's book Graduate Study for the 21st Century? It's aimed at graduate students, of course, but depending on the level you're talking about, might be useful for undergrads as well.

  3. I second Travellia's suggest — I assign it regularly. Also helpful to students is Howard Becker's *Tricks of the Trade: How To Think About Your Research While You're Doing it* (although Becker is a social scientist).

  4. The most recent edition (2007) of Turabian' Manual for Writers has a great long section called "Research and Writing: From Planning to Production" by, guess who! Booth, Colomb, and Williams. I have several faculty who've found it really useful. I like it because it also includes discussion of *how* to read, which I personally think is a skill that can't be stressed enough…

  5. I always recommend Howard Becker's book ("How to Finish your Term Paper, Dissertation, or something something"). It's just a great overall guide to writing an academic-type document.

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