Advice From my Research Binge

Did you know that when Emily Brontë’s first novel, Wuthering Heights was published, it was often quoted as being written by Currer Bell, the pen name of Emily’s sister, Charlotte?

The mistake is understandable. All of the Brontë sisters wrote under pseudonyms with Charlotte being the first sister to publish Jane Eyre as Currer Bell, and Emily and Anne to follow as Ellis and Acton Bell, respectively. After Charlotte’s first novel was published, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Gray were published in one collection, though some newspapers, American ones especially, claimed that both novels were written by Currer Bell. Some foreign publication editions even published title pages with Charlotte as the author of Emily’s Wuthering Heights.

At this point you’re probably wondering why all of this is important and how, if at all, does it translate to research advice. Well…

I’m really into Wuthering Heights. I love the plot line, the characters, and the history of the novel, so a few months ago I started researching the novel’s background, context, publication history, and information on the author. Some of this information was easy to find and only a swift google search away.

Who’s the author of Wuthering Heights? BOOM. Emily Brontë.

When was the novel published? BOOM. 1847.

Other information, especially the perception of the novel during the time of publication, was a lot more difficult to find. I had to do searches in newspaper databases with terms like “Wuthering Heights” and “Currer Bell.” I had to learn about the customs of literature reviewers during the mid-19th Century. To answer a question like “How was Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights perceived at the time of publication?” I had to do hours of research collecting images and quotes from various sources, and my research didn’t just stop at answering the first question. My research binge led me to new questions like, “How did Americans perceive the novel?” “How  quickly did information spread about the real author of Wuthering Heights?” “What was the public’s reaction after Brontë’s death?” Essentially, my one question had an entire cohort of subquestions I needed to address if I wanted to answer my initial question.

And that’s exactly what I’m getting at.

Research is a lot of work. Research projects aren’t something you can tackle in one night. If you find yourself thinking about research and how much work it is, then you’re doing it right. Research is A LOT OF WORK.

But…

It’s also very rewarding. Realizing and learning something new about a topic you’re interested in is one of the most satisfying feelings you can have. So when you’re doing research here is my laundry list of advice for you to keep in mind:

1. Start early.

Weeks early if possible.

2. Track everything you read and look at on an Excel sheet (include links).

Trust me this will help when your computer accidentally dies and none of your old links load…

3. Rework your topic if you start getting bored.

Being bored is a “no go.” Research takes commitment so if you find yourself getting bored about a topic, maybe you need to rework what you’re writing on.

4. Commit to something you love.

If you write about something you love you are much more likely to create great material.

5. Organize your information based on the question the information answers (this will make it easier when you write your paper).

Essentially, when you find or collect data/sources on a topic for your research organize your findings as follows:

  1. QUESTION YOU HAVE
    • Answer you found

6. Don’t give up.

Research papers can be daunting but if you keep pulling forward you will find yourself reaping the rewards.

7. Set realistic deadlines.

Do what is feasible for you. If you are a slow writer account for that in your timeline.

8. Have fun!

Always try your best to have fun.

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