For as long as I can remember, the essays we wrote in primary school hinged on having a well-researched background and strong supporting statistics, but rarely did I ever need to do any data collection myself. The only times I would collect my own data to be used for scholastic reasons would be for lab reports in my science and occasionally for math projects. When producing essays for any of my social science or English classes, I would normally sit down for a few hours, research the topic and write like a madman. I would use mostly use secondary resources and never collected any of my own data for any argumentative essays.
It’s astonishing to think about how much my mindset has changed in my first year at Santa Clara, as now, it seems like the best, most convincing essays have some data that the author had collected themselves. By including some data that the author had collected themselves, it seemed like the authors both had more credibility to make certain points, and made the writing more engaging by showing that the issue being discussed was one that they were truly interested in. Comparing the essays that I had written in high school to the ones I had written for this class, I noticed that the papers I had written for this class were a lot more convincing and interesting to read.
But making the transition was not as quick and smooth as I would have hoped it to be. When writing first two essays back in the fall, I figured that I could write essays like I had always done in high school, and produce a decent essay. It was, by no means, a bad piece of work–I had put in the effort to make sure it was presentable–however, what it lacked was the support that directly fortified my slant. My second essay was about how the nutritional value of food is often overlooked by Santa Clara students, and I hadn’t collected any data myself. I was not aware of at the time, but going around and doing a bit of primary research would have made my essay much stronger and more convincing. Sending out a survey asking students why they chose to eat what they did, or doing an interview with a student to get a few quotes would have been extremely helpful, and probably the most valuable source in my essay because it would have directly related to my slant.
When I wrote my third essay of CTW 1, I had finally decided to do some data collection myself and sent out a survey that was answered by about 60 SCU students. My slant was about the lack of value of food as seen through the high wastage of food, and the survey had questions directly relating to my points such as how many unfinished meals students had thrown away, and whether they believed composting was a solution to food waste. This did not only did this directly relate to my target audience but also was indisputable support for my slant. After averaging and aggregating the statistics, I was able to say that if the whole student population of freshmen had behaved similarly to my sample size, then about 1900 meals per month would be wasted by freshmen students alone. I thought that including a surprising statistic would leave a lasting impression on the readers and help support my slant.
When I had written my second essay, I knew very well that Professor Leither wanted us to use a mix of primary and secondary research, but a combination of procrastination, laziness and poor time management had sabotaged that essay. In my eyes, writing an essay that involves doing primary research is much harder than doing one solely based on secondary sources. Thinking back to when I wrote that essay, it’s clear to me that I didn’t collect data because it was hard, and I was lazy, but when I had written it, I had told myself that it was ok because I had a lot of secondary research. Upon reflecting on the process of writing the essay, I realized that I was being creative to avoid the harsh truth that I was lazy. I am introverted, and asking people who I don’t know to take a survey for a class was out of my comfort zone, and something I did not want to do. Only by conducting primary research and leaving my comfort zone was I able to improve my writing, make more convincing claims, and fortify my arguments.
As an active learner, one must recognize and question the implications of our emotions on our opinions. Many people often justify avoidance of a task they may find difficult or unpleasant to do due to personal bias. Perhaps the more significant question concerns the things in your life that you abstain from due to personal disposition. Recognizing these flaws may be difficult, but it leads to self-improvement and ultimately ameliorates the underlying problems that debilitate your life.
Ariely, Dan. The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie To Everyone – Especially Ourselves. London: HarperCollins, 2013. Print.
Lim, Timothy. “Food Waste & Composting”. Survey. 30 Nov. 2016.