Overview of the Research Process

I haven’t been as regular in my blog updates. However, I do want to give an overview of my entire research process and how it went as opposed to how I thought it would go.

The biggest change is that I had originally wanted to look at just Louisa May Alcott and childrearing. I wanted to know why a woman who has never had children focused so much on childrearing in her novel, and subsequently, what childrearing meant to the definition of womanhood during the time period. However, as I got more into my research, I first noticed there was a gradual expansion of the woman’s sphere in the Little Women saga, and then in her life as well. When I was still reading the primary and secondary sources, I kept this observation in the back of my mind. However, as I started organizing all of my notes and outlining my essay, I realized that her relationship with childrearing is actually just a part of a bigger and more interesting issue:  her attitude towards her own gender .Once I realized this connection, my essay became significantly easier.

It took me a few days to write, revise, and edit my outline. During this process, I wrote numerous “thinking drafts”, in which I wrote as if it was my final essay in order to get a feel for how the transitions would work and try to see what exactly I want to say in words and not just abstract thought. After I had my outline finished, I wrote my first draft, revising as I worked. Some of the examples and quotations I had in my outline worked. Others did not. But eventually, I found all the pieces of evidence I needed to support my conclusions.

The rough draft only took a few days to write. I revised extensively, sometimes rewriting whole sections at a time. At some points, I would get confused and, in the midst of everything, lose sight of exactly what I was trying to say. For example, this happened when I was explaining how the character of Alice Heath illustrates Alcott’s new ideal for womanhood.  During these times, I would write by hand in a conversational tone what I was thinking and what I wanted to convey. I like writing by hand because I’m a slow typer and writing by hand forces me to slow down and not get ahead of myself.

After the edits, I worked on my citations. This part was also difficult for me. Almost all of my primary sources were unpublished manuscripts from the Alcott family. Thus, everyone had the same last name and the citations got confusing. In addition, some of the letters or notes were undated or untitled. If it weren’t for Purdue OWL’s online writing lab, I would have been completely lost.

I ended the entire project with a final read through. I do this for all my essays, but it was harder for this one due to its length and the amount of information packed into it. However, I do believe it is important to do to ensure that everything I wanted to include is in place and makes sense.

And that’s everything!


  1. zkharazian says:

    Even though my research was more quantitative this time around, I can relate to your description of your research process — I sometimes get confused and lose track of what conclusions I meant to draw from my results, for example, given the gaps I identified in my lit review. Your “thinking drafts” tip helps, though — thanks.