In Which I Encourage Students to Make Research Boxes

It is the height of teaching season! Fortunately, it is also fall break; I wanted to take advantage of this pause in my schedule to share my how research education sessions have evolved since beginning to incorporate lessons learned from reading  The Creative Habit.

Writing research papers is CREATIVE

When students feel empowered to call themselves creators and feel empowered to believe that their work is situated in a larger scholarly conversation, they tend to rise to the occasion. I also believe that connecting creativity, research, and writing gives students unique ownership over the entire process. Framing research as part of the creative process makes my classes more exciting for both the students and myself. It’s easy to think that the creative process starts with writing, but Tharp helps us understand that the research is equally important.

The research box is a winning metaphor

Tharp writes about the research box; the place (physical or metaphorical) where material, inspiration, and planning resides. Tharp does not believe that the box must only be reserved for actionable research, but also for pieces of inspiration and possible directions for a particular project. In my classes, the box becomes a compelling frame for students to consider using a citation management system like Zotero to collect their research as they work towards outlining and writing their papers. Tharp also cautions against conflating research with creation, a warning I also share with students. Research, while critical to every project, is just a step in the larger process.

Rituals build better habits

Tharp wrote about the importance of routines and rituals in her work; daily rituals sustain her and prepare her to do work effectively every day. Creative genius is not a burst of brilliance, but sustained, consistent effort over time. Creative practice is as much about work ethnic and dedication as it is bursts of energy or ideas. Sustained effort helps translate ideas into projects and performances. I like to encourage students to think about how they do their work, to break it down into parts and understand that investing time into understanding how their process actually works and to refine their research rituals and routines will help them evolve. Research is a craft that requires dedication to refine over time; no one is a ‘born researcher.’ Tharp’s book does an excellent job of modeling that mindset; your research paper won’t get written when inspiration strikes in the course of one night, but through meticulous research, iteration, outlining, writing, editing, and refining over a period of time.