Monday, December 16, 2013

Dr. Milton or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Social Proof

Now that the initial "Praise the Lord it's done!" phase of my paper is over, it's quite nice to take a look back over my writing process and see how I succeeded and how I need to improve. This assignment was a bit different from most others I'd had, and it was interesting to flex some academic muscles I wasn't too familiar with.

I must admit, most of my research was done at my laptop, usually bundled up in my duvet with a mug of hot chocolate. This is how I work best, and so I maintained the habit, but I did do a few things differently in my traditional researching stage. I used Delicious  to gather some of my less scholarly sources, and I've found I really like this tool. It allows me to pin a topic to my page without making a bookmark, and on the site itself I found a few sources that led me to those I used in my paper. The HBLL website was a little less useful for this paper. I couldn't find topics related to my own, and while it was a good place to start it helped me
A little something to get you
through finals week.
realized I did indeed need social proof for my essay.

The social proof part of my essay was a bit scary, and when I say a bit I mean very. I would start an email to a professor or scholar, but as I wrote I would start to feel my query was infantile and after a few frustrating restarts I'd just scrap the whole thing. Fortunately I finally mustered up the courage to contact Professor Kerr, who was more helpful than I can describe. His thoughts and recommended source shaped my essay dramatically, and I feel a bit sad that I didn't take advantage of this learning outlet further. I also contacted Professor Burton about a tricky line from Paradise Regained, and his take on the passage proved to be quite useful. I didn't include thoughts from my peers on my subject, primarily because none of them had studied Milton enough to where they felt comfortable talking about his works in detail. I'm sure they were being modest, but I've realized that I should expand my social networking circles to include more people who share my academic interests.

The primary texts were the main source for my paper, and I quite enjoyed examining them. I chose selections from Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, and Samson Agonistes, and I quoted extensively. I feel there was an imbalance with my sources in this, since about 80% were from primary texts, so in the future I'll include more secondary sources. However, I do feel that Milton's works are the most important part in writing an essay about them, and I'm happy I incorporated them.

My paper changed a lot through the writing process, more so than any other paper I've completed. Looking back it's interesting to see how my sources, especially the social ones, influenced my writing and topic, and I look forward to my future endeavors where I plan to utilize the skills we've learned further.

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