14. Finding Your Way
The 'Backwards' Research Guide for Writers - Using your Life for Reflection, Connection, and Inspiration - Sonya Huber
Sonya Huber [+]
So far, the research bucket has been bottomless, and your task has been to gather as much interesting information as possible and to follow the questions that lead to still more questions. At a certain point, however, the mountain of material will overrun any container. A researcher who becomes invested in a topic and pursues its complexity might have to pull away from the chase as the deadline for a written project or presentation draws near. How do you know when to stop researching? Experienced researchers often notice that at a certain point, their sources begin to sound repetitive, each echoing themes that previous sources have brought up. For many researchers, however, a deadline or due date is the “dead end” sign at the end of most research projects. But as you speed toward the deadline, you might feel as though the wheels of your research vehicle are spinning and slipping as you attempt to stay on the road. You might have the feeling that the subject is too big to ever cover in a comprehensive way, or that you are missing the path as you switch gears from researching to reflecting and writing about what you have learned. Putting on the research brakes can feel like pure panic, but this process happens to a greater or lesser degree in every research project. You can also think of this shift as a momentary pause to check the map and see if you’re headed in the right direction – or if you’ve already reached your destination. A map of your researchin- progress can indicate possible organizational structures and connections that already exist within and among the sources you’ve gathered. First, you can use the quick methods below to see when you have left major gaps or whether you are heading exactly in the right direction.