Journal on Writing a Drexler Paper

*This paper was written by Jenna Cuddeback, a former Writing Center Consultant, in fulfillment of an assignment for the Writing Center staff development course, Topics in Composition. The commentary provided addresses the writing process that the author went through while completing an term paper for Non-Western Cultural Perspectives, taught by Dr. Robert Drexler.

In my dual role as person writing about how to write a Drexler Term Paper and a person writing a Drexler Term Paper, I felt it would be very helpful to include a journal of how I myself completed this assignment. It is not necessarily a blueprint for how to write a term paper, but perhaps it can be seen as a reflection on how the process might work. In the section after Journal of a Term Paper, I include basic information about the term paper, analysis of evaluation for the Term paper, a word about the intended audience, a sample paper (namely, my own, as it is the only one I can get on such short notice, a few notes on outside resources for the nuts and bolts, and a final word about the class.

Journal of a Term Paper

Topic selection for the term paper for Dr. Drexler's Non-Western Cultural Perspectives course on Vietnam began about a week into the term. I chose a general category--the 1950s. After talking with Dr. Drexler, I narrowed down to a specific topic: Dr. Thomas Anthony Dooley. I had never heard of the man before in my life. Starting on February 18th, however, he was my topic for a term paper.

I intended to start right away--at least, that's what my day-planner tells me. I have the 18th labeled as the day to begin work on Dooley. As with all good intentions, however, this went sadly awry.

My first labeled workday for Dooley is March 1st. The record in my bibliography for that day is that I accesses Encyclopedia Britannica online. I started the paper by searching the internet. Information from the internet is not highly reliable and should never be the basis for a paper; however, the internet is a quick way to discover basic dates or information--in this instance, who Dr. Dooley was, what he was responsible for, when he lived and dies, and why I should study him. Online encyclopedias, though not a replacement for textbook legwork, offer the same information as printed encyclopedias and are much easier to access. Encyclopedia Britannica, at http://www.encyclopediabritannica.com, is a good source form which to launch research.

My search engine of choice is www.askjeeves.com or www.ask.com. At this location I typed in my question ("Who is Thomas Anthony Dooley?") and came up with some information. I read through and printed the pertinent information, winnowing out what I might need. Some examples of things I obtained from the internet: the page about Dr. Thomas Anthony Dooley from The Daily Catholic; The University of Missouri at St. Louis's Historic Manuscript Collection's listing of their holdings of Dooley archives; and the list of Dooley artifacts form Notre Dame's Archives Inventory. Again, while I do not recommend that the internet be one's selling point for research, it is a good place to begin one's studies.

Also, while online, I searched Dooley's name at amazon.com, or www.amazon.com, to see what books he had written. I found the name of his works and well as the name of his biography. I printed these pages, so I could look for the books at the Coe library. Coe's library was relatively useless in this instance; they held none of Dooley's books or his biography. Therefor I decided to go to the public library.

The reference librarian at the public library was helpful; she located for me the Guide to Periodicals and found the years I needed (1954-1961 for Dooley's public or work life). I then read through carefully, looking under the subjects most closely related to my topic--in this case Dooley's name, the fact that he served in Laos as a medical missionary--and came up with several articles. From there I found magazines, read articles, and photocopied several. I also used microfilm to find New York Times articles pertaining to Dooley.

This was all well and good, but they were almost all obituary clippings--reports of his death. I needed information about his life. These I checked out, and endeavored to read. Had the public library not carried them, I would most likely have checked for an interlibrary loan, from one of the other colleges.

I got the books and articles together on March 3rd. The first segment--containing about ten pages of text--was due the 16th. I read the book, but instead of trying to wrestle with it I worked from articles, detailing how I would begin and end my paper for the first turn-in date. I read over the books over the next two weeks, marking pages I might need to work from.

The second segment of my work on the paper began at Spring Break. I had decided to St. Louis to visit my grandmother for break, and as I knew Dooley attended St. Louis University, I decided to visit the college and see if they held any archival information about him.

One March 19th, I visited the college. I learned that they did not carry all of the archival information; much of that was actually at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. I did spend time in the St. Louis room and came away with several articles form when Dooley was alive, as well as having a chance to look through Dooley's mother's scrapbook collections, collected there in reproduced form. I was given a brief bibliography detailing Dooley's highlights. I also learned that Dooley's biographer was an instructor in Theological Studies at SLU. I telephoned him on March 20th at the school and arranged an interview.

I met with Dr. Fisher for an hour, and came away with an audio-recorded (with his permission) interview about Dooley, an interview that answered several of my questions, gave me a focus for my paper, and helped me understand the man a lot more.

Back in Cedar Rapids, I transcribed my interview. I got my term paper back from Dr. Drexler, with his comments and my initial transcribing and discussion of the articles. I knew I had a lot of work left in front of me.

I froze. Two weeks passed in which I had done nothing. finally, I went through my planner and from April 3rd on I marked every day a Dooley Day - meaning I was going to put in at least a little time on Dooley. I didn't, but I made an effort. I met with Dr. Drexler to discuss his comments and what I was planning on doing with the paper from where it was.

The term paper was due May 9th. I began rearranging what I had previously turned in and putting in what I had recently gathered about three weeks before that. I continuously printed copies.

From about April 23rd on came the third stage of my paper - the constant revision. Every other day I was retyping and reprinting and scribbling all over the paper. I still had no introduction and on conclusion, but I was coming closer to having at least a thesis. Dr. Drexler assured me that I did not have to come to a solid conclusion, but I had to have an idea and something to wrestle with - I could not simply write a personal history.

I spent the week from April 30th to May 3rd on what I thought was the final draft, and by that point I had 12 pages. I had cut a lot of the information from the texts and the interview. May 4th I handed in my finalized copy to Dr. Drexler. It was returned to me on May 8th. I met Dr. Drexler, talked to him, and made a couple of notes. He was two selections he wanted me to expound on. I took the paper but did not complete it. I also did not hand it in on the 9th.

Though I hate missing deadlines, I wanted a perfect paper. I returned to school May 10th and worked a final four hours on the paper, moving around selections and working to integrate my multitude of sources. I cleaned up my interview and handed it in with the paper, leaving all seventeen pages of paper and the interview at Dr. Drexler's office by midnight.

My bibliography for this paper lists, besides my four internet sources, fourteen magazine articles, one interview, and five book sources. Of those five book sources only three were actually helpful.

Basic Information about the Term Paper: From a scattered few things said in class and repeated in individual discussions, I came up with the following sketch of Dr. Drexler's instructions and his intentions with this term paper:

  1. First draft of the paper is due before Spring Break. It should be somewhere between five and ten pages long, contain a bibliography, and be from any point in the text. It does not have to have either a thesis or a conclusion; ten pages from any part of the paper will suffice.
  2. Final draft of the term paper is due the week of finals. It should be between ten and twenty pages long and contain all relevant information to the topic. It should have a thesis or focus, though this does not have to be in the beginning of the paper. It must have a conclusion and in come way this conclusion must relate to the texts and movies steadied throughout the course external to the works. In other words, the conclusion must tie the entirety of the paper and course work together. It must integrate. The paper should contain internal citation or footnotes and a bibliography written in MLA format. The paper should follow an organizational scheme, should contain transitions, should be accurately punctuated and contain correct spelling. Evidence of thought and consideration on part of the author towards the topic is important. Spelling and punctuation do not count against the grade. Finally, the paper must be concluded, but a satisfactory conclusion can be that one cannot reach an answer [in the case of my paper I could not reach a conclusion on whether Dooley was successful or a failure, but I conclude my paper by discussing why I could not decide].

Dr. Drexler never came out and said any of this at any given time; as I said, it was gleaned from several discussions.

Analysis of Evaluation for the Term Paper: The term papers are evaluated first and foremost, as with most Drexler papers, in terms of content. If one's paper contains misspellings he will often mark them of it he questions word choice he will mark the word, but he doe not consider these heavily unless they are constant throughout the paper. He looks foremost at the text - at what the writer said, not have they said it. He will mark places for expansion or tightening, and he will also mark places where questions are raised and not answered. He writes a good deal in the margins of the paper generally, often noting minor issues. However, much of this is not considered in the final evaluation as long as the paper has been informative or has said something substantial. Even on the final copy he will write. Also, handing in copies frequently is a good idea to make sure one is on-track, as he will write all over them and give them back in short order. Typically, turning in paper before due dates and then again on due dates works to one's advantage, because he recognizes the work on and evolution of the paper. If you do this, however, do not simply take the paper he has read through and change the minor errors and hand it back in, especially not on the final draft. It is a good idea always to include more data or information or new reflections simply because he will recognize he has been used as a sophisticated grammar check, and react accordingly.

About the Intended Audience: It is best to assume that, for this particular paper, the intended audience is one's classmates and the professor. Some degree of explanation of outside events - if one's paper is about a event in the Vietnam War, for example the Boat People, it is a good idea to include a brief note about the war. One does not have to include much, however, because in general one's classmates know the background. If one ahs an esoteric topic one should include information not familiar to the class, but other than that, direct the paper at your classmates.

Outside resources:

  1. Bibliography should be in MLA format. There is information on MLA-style documentation available in the Writing Center.
  2. A good possible source if one is having difficulty beginning this assignment is "Writing Research Papers" or whatever it's called, available in the Writing Center.

A Final Word about the Class: Paper for Dr. Drexler's classes tend to follow this same pattern. Though this was the first research term paper I wrote for Dr. Drexler, I had written analytical term papers over literature for him in other classes and I found that the system is the same. Thus the above guidelines, including grading proceedings, tend to be much the same no matter which Drexler class one is writing for. Thus one can apply these ideas to other Drexler papers or term papers.


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