Tuesday, October 2, 2018

What's a Research Narrative?

Research should be a quest to find the best evidenceA research narrative tells
the story of that quest, and all of its inevitable twists and turns.

A research narrative is a chronological account of your research activities. 

In the narrative you recount the story of your research, what happened when it happened, the sources you found and read, and your realizations or insights about the topic or process. This type of narrative is wonderfully suited for keeping track of your progress while you complete a long-term research project. It's less formal than an annotated bibliography, but it's more complete than just pages of notes.

Take Chronological Notes in a Research Journal

In order to recreate your process and realizations accurately, you should take careful notes while you work, reflecting on what you've already completed and what you're about to complete. Bullet points or numbered points work great for these kinds of notes. Always take a moment to record any realizations about the topic or process you have as you have them. Record quotations and citations as you read your sources. Once you've completed your research project and are no longer  actively working on gathering or reviewing sources, you can stop taking notes for your narrative and begin choosing the "important" parts of the story. Which bits of research lead you to a conclusion about your topic? Which realizations or insights added momentum to your process? What were the moments that meant the most to you or changed the direction of your research? You may want to highlight or circle or rewrite the important notes as a way to organize your thoughts or create an outline. After you organize your notes and make decisions about which notes to weave into a story, you can begin drafting the body of your narrative.

Drafting the Body of the Narrative

The body of the narrative will be your telling of the research story. Look closely at your notes and your decisions about which details were the most important. Let those important notes be your guiding principle. Following any outline or organizational principle you've created, include any and all details that emphasize or inform the importance of those moments and realizations you've identified as important. For example, you might not normally include going to the restroom as an important part of a story. However, if you met a friend in the restroom, discussed your research with her, and had an epiphany about the topic because of that discussion, you may want to include details about that trip to the restroom in the narrative.  Create the scene with dialogue. Likewise, you may not normally want to detail three hours of fruitless searching in the library databases. However, if the fruitlessness of your search informs your conclusions about the topic, those hours should be part of the story. Again, create the scene. Explain how your five senses played a part in those three hours. Let the scene show the reader your frustrations instead of just telling the reader you were frustrated.

Just as with any document that contains source content, be sure to use an appropriate documentation style to cite any source content that makes its way into your final draft.

Drafting the Narrative Frame

All good stories have a point, and all good stories have a genesis or "inciting incident." In a narrative, the point of the story, or the thesis, appears in the conclusion. The introduction generally includes information about why the writer is telling the story without giving away the point of the story. The goal is to make the reader want to experience the events of the story so that he or she can come to the conclusion in the same way the writer came to the conclusion - after the natural progression of events. The "trick," if it really is one, is simply to be honest and remain in the realm of  nonfiction. So, after completing the body of the narrative, you should think carefully about the overall lesson, revelation, or insight you gleaned from the research experience. Although information from sources should be shared within the body of the essay, along the way, the conclusion is not the place for recapping source content as it might be in an academic research essay. In a narrative, the reader desires a more universal and thematic thesis: a lesson about the topic that reflects "a universal" insight about life. Not only do you tell the reader what you learned about the topic, in other words, but you tell the reader what you learned about your broader world by completing the research.

A research narrative is a record of actions and realizations you have about your research topic as you are in the midst of the research process. By taking thorough notes, choosing important moments, and drafting content as scenes, you can complete the entire body of your narrative. Complete the narrative by explaining the impetus for your research in the introduction, and your insights about the topic (and life) in the conclusion. Get the reader to take the research journey with you, and you will have created a successful research narrative.

Want to read more about narratives? Try

Prewriting a Narrative Essay
Why Write a Narrative Essay: The Power of Narrative
The Power of Story: The Power of Narrative

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Fallout 4 and The People: Gaming with Moral Compass

Fallout 4 screenshot of main quest ending cut scene:
War. War Never Changes

With this post, the cat that lives on the porch at Abernathy farm is permanently out of the post- apocalyptic cardboard box: I am a huge, nerdly fan of the Fallout video game series.

I give my characters thoughts,  and I help them come to terms with their decisions:

At the end of it all, I returned to Sanctuary Hills, not ready to face my synthetic son, Shaun. How could he ever replace the flesh and blood man I'd betrayed? He'd referred to his mother as "collateral damage," and I'd never really gotten over the sting of it. Was that what drove me, in the end, to destroy the Institute, his legacy? I don't think so: I think it was his insistence on creating his own "collateral damage" of the people I'd come to know and knew I needed to protect.  I removed my power armor, stored away my weapons in the workshop, and changed into a clean, blue suit. I ignored the congratulatory conversations; only Nick Valentine, with the conscientiousness of a prewar man, seemed to truly understand the heaviness of my heart and soul. 

Making Moral Decisions in Fallout 4

Fallout 4 has a permanent home in our PlayStation 4.  I've played through Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and Fallout 4 several times, each time telling myself I'm going to make different decisions, follow different paths, complete different quests, or complete quests differently.  Every single time, however, I play as though I'm Captain America, making decisions based on nothing more nor less than my own (and Cap's) moral compass. Where does my plan to do things differently go awry?  In Fallout 4, specifically, I can't bring myself to ignore Preston's pleas for help defending The Castle from The Institute, so I save The Castle, and I lock myself into the same ending I've seen each time I've played the game. All of those innocent settlers and Minutemen at The Castle need me. I cannot ignore the call for help from the people.

Speaking of the people, the main reason I cannot bring myself to work with a faction is because the factions don't care for the entirety of the Commonwealth, the entirety of the population, the people. The Brotherhood of Steel, though it would be fantastic to see Liberty Prime in action, again, have horrendously awful things to say to Nick, my synth friend, or Hancock, my ghoul friend. The Brotherhood would rather see them all eviscerated by Deathclaws than lift a finger to help them live better lives. The Railroad folks care mostly about the synths and eliminating The Institute scientists and civilians. The Institute wants to replace real people with synthetic people, create a dangerous nuclear reactor, all the while refusing to help the people of the Commonwealth. Each and every faction wants to destroy freedom, create and maintain strict control, and determine who does or does not get marked as an enemy.

Making Moral Decisions in Life

It pains me to say so, but in Trump's America, these "decisions" to take under my protection all of the people or only some of the people are too close to real life, are they not?  Of course I have to do the right thing: These aren't really "decisions" I give myself liberty to make. I have to remember that all the people of the Commonwealth, whether they are people trapped in irradiated bodies or people whose minds are trapped in synthetic bodies, all deserve the opportunity to live together in peace. Pitting one faction against another accomplishes nothing. It never does, and therein lies the lesson that makes me repeat all the same decisions I've made in the past, just more emphatically. Even when gaming, I must remember that this country is made up of the people. We have a moral obligation to help all the people.

Did I do the right thing? Only time will tell, just as time will make the sting of my decisions over the past several months fade from the forefront of my mind. Only after the memories fade will I be able to intellectualize this new world and what it has made of me and my moral compass.  In the end, I chose to protect the entirety of the people, and I cannot fathom ever regretting that.

Want to read more? try

Remove Mobile Strike Video Advertisements
What is Toyification?
The Power of Story: The Power of Narrative

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Make-up: Carmindize or Contour?

Are you living in a three dimensional world?
Does anyone remember Carmindy from What Not to Wear? She always exuded an easy-peasy confidence and an easy-breezy style. This translated, too, to the way she taught her makeover guests how to do their faces. Emphasizing what made a guest already beautiful was her thing.

I was so completely impressed with her and her "5 Minute Face" that I practiced it until I perfected it and could list all my favorite products and their shade numbers by using only one hand. When and if I received a compliment on my makeup, I proudly told the complimenter that I "Carmindized."

Fast forward five years, since the show went off the air, and I haven't worn makeup but a few times in all those years. I've been sick, really sick, and it just wasn't something I had the energy or inclination to do. Now that I'm feeling better and interested in wearing a little makeup, again, I'm absolutely horrified by new makeup trends. They're scary, created by celebrities I don't respect very much, and complicated. More than that, though, these new trends mimic a troubling trend in the way people think about their own faces and their own lives.

Why do women demonstrating makeup on YouTube look dirty, like an online army of  Mary Poppinses and their sooty rooftop compacts? Some of them look green, some purple, and most look startlingly grey. Yes, I've heard of contouring, and I'm good at it because I was trained in stage makeup and did an A+ Mad Hatter and an extreme aging sample for my final exam. It's not something I would wear to the local Mexican restaurant for enchiladas rancheras and a side of guacamole, however. What about when people look at the side of such a face from as close as the next table instead of the fourth row of a theatre? Dirt: It looks like dirt. In real life we don't just get frontal views of one another, but this look wasn't really meant for real life or anything other than frontal views, was it? I don't think it ever was.

In an age where each second of each minute of each hour of each day is captured by photographic evidence, people are thinking about faces in a frontal photographic way. They are thinking of themselves in two dimensions. Today's makeup is photographic makeup sans a lighting designer, talking head video makeup, social media makeup, character makeup - albeit not quite as extreme as the Mad Hatter. It's makeup for people hitting the clubs and taking duck-face Instagram images. It's not the easy-breezy "5 Minute Face" we saw practiced from 2003 to 2013 on TLC. It's not even about getting out into the world and being true to oneself, which is what Carmindy constantly emphasized. Is that advice to be oneself really that outdated?

Give me back my "5 Minute Face," my naturally dimensional face, please.  Being a naturally multidimensional person and putting on a face that shows others I want to be in the world, the real world, is so much more my style than putting on a face that's meant only for living a series of two-dimensional photo ops.

Want to read more? Try 

Stitch Fix Review: Styling at 40
Product Review: MICA Beauty Cosmetics Vita-C Exfoliating Peeling Gel
Hair Accessories to Finish a Professional Hairstyle

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.