17. The Joys of Research

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Instructions for Lesson 17

1. Read this page.

2. Make and keep an appointment with Dr. G to review your progress in the course.

3. Add three more sources to your research journal (assigned in Lesson 12.) Today's source hunting should wrap up the bulk of your work on your research journal. You tell me what it all means in your Research Narrative Essay (as assigned in Lesson 14) that's due in Lesson 18!

4. Try the attached exercise on "research questions."



Module 1

1: Orientation  
2: Goals   

Module 2

  3: Euthyphro  
     4: The Library
 5: The Apology   
    6: Citation   
    7: Crito
    8: Phaedo  
    9: Exam Prep   
10: Plato Exam

Module 3

11: Research Project 
12: Research 101   
13: Books   
14: the Librarian   
15: the Web   
16: conferences  
17: Joy of Research 
18: Reasoning 

Module 4

19: Outlines 
20: Review the Plan:
21: Language 
22: Dr E's Grammar
23: Peer Review  
24: Hit Parade 

Module 5

25: About the Exam
26: Mock Final 
27: Exam Prep
28: Graduation 


1. Last call on plagiarism and citation
try one final checkup using Hacker's website exercises

Use of researched source material is absolutely essential to academic writing, so you must know how to handle sources correctly, skillfully, and without plagiarism. Hacker covers the plagiarism rules in A Pocket Style Manual at section 29 (Hacker 115-118).

You can perfect your understanding of this important subject by visiting Hacker's web site and trying her online research exercises. From her research exercises page, click on the area "MLA" and then to the right click on "Avoiding plagiarism in MLA papers." (There are three sets of exercises, a total of 25 questions.) You will be asked to sign in by providing your name and the instructor's email. For instructor's email here use gutchess@englishare.net.

If you have any remaining questions about plagiarism after trying Hacker's exercises, please raise them immediately. This lesson will complete our formal coverage of the MLA rules.

 2. "telling of one Socrates, a wise man,
who speculated about the heaven above. . . " (Apology 18b)

The ancient sages revealed "true" heaven, "true" earth, and similar mysteries hidden from the view of ordinary people in everyday life. In many cases they offered their claims of this extraordinary kind of "knowledge" as proof that they knew gods, or heard gods, or indeed that they themselves were gods. Their claims to divine wisdom often drew the wrath of the religious establishment, and led to banishment or execution. And yet their kind remains and even flourishes in the modern world. We recognize it in eccentric cult leaders who continue to attract small bands of fanatical believers and to lead them off to paradise. We also recognize it in Galileo, Darwin, Faust, Dr. Frankenstein and other real and fictitious academic researchers engaged in the deepest speculation in the sciences.

Socrates set the research agenda by recognizing the importance of what we don't know. In a wonderful passage in "Phaedo" he reveals to his friends that the world is much bigger than they think, and that there's a true earth and a true heaven that human beings have been too feeble or too lazy to see:

I believe that the earth is very vast, and that we who live in the region extending from the River Phasis to the Pillars of Hercules [essentially, the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions], along the borders of the sea, are just like frogs around a marsh, and inhabit a small portion only, and that many other peoples dwell in many other places. In all parts of the earth there are hollows of various forms and sizes, into which the water and the mist and the air collect. The true earth is pure, and there is also a pure heaven, the place of stars that is commonly called the ether, for the sediments have dropped out and collected in the hollows of the earth. Of course, we who live in these hollows are deceived into thinking that we are dwelling above, on the surface of the earth, It's just as if a creature at the bottom of the sea imagined that he was on the surface of the water, and that the sea was the heaven through which he saw the sun and the other stars--since he has been too feeble or lazy to swim to the surface he has never lifted up his head and seen this region which is so much purer than his own. 

This is exactly our case: for we live in a hollow of the earth, and imagine that we are on the surface; and the air we mistakenly call the heaven, and in this so-called heaven we incorrectly believe that the stars move. We are too feeble or lazy to fly up and reach the upper surface of the air. For if any person could arrive at the upper limit, by taking the wings of a bird and flying upward, like a fish who puts his head out and sees this world, a world beyond would appear; and, if the human could sustain the sight, the discoverer would acknowledge that this was the place of the true heaven and the true light and the true stars. For this earth where we live, and the stones, and the entire region that surrounds us, are spoiled and worn, like the things in the sea which are corroded by the brine; for in the sea too there is hardly any noble or perfect growth, but clefts only, and sand, and an endless slough of mud: and even the beautiful shores cannot compare with the fairer sights of the real world above.  "Phaedo" 109a-110a

Today we should be in a position to know much more about the universe than Socrates knew 2400 years ago, and yet we remain almost as unenlightened as he claimed to be. Astrophysicists who are up to date on the latest research can join Plato's hero in speculating about a "true" heaven and "true" stars that are many times greater than the known universe. Recent measurements with the Hubble space telescope have confirmed Edwin Hubble's original discovery that the observable galaxies are receding away from one another, but the new data clearly shows that the expansion is proceeding at ever-faster rates of speed! Under the laws of physics that we currently know, the expansion from the original explosion of the Big Bang ought to be slowing down--like the deceleration in explosions that we observe in debris from bombs on earth. Unless something is wrong with our present understanding of the physics of explosions, the Big Bang theory of the universe now needs a drastic overhaul. The motion of the visible galaxies implies that the Big Bang "universe" is only a small fragment surrounded in every direction by mysterious mass of incomprehensibly immense gravitational force.

In the twenty-first century AD, we are still frogs around a marsh. Since the time of Socrates, the marsh has grown slightly larger, but the vast bulk of reality, the "true heaven" that remains unknown, has grown much faster. From the little knowledge that we do have, we have more reason than Socrates to be impressed with the scope of our ignorance.

3. the practical use of research

Whatever we don't know--and there's more that we realize we don't know than at any time before--we have the opportunity to discover through theoretical or applied research. Inquiry into the size of the universe is "theoretical," but "applied" research inquires into problems of immediate practical use or application.

The opportunities of applied research are far greater than most students imagine. We tend to associate research only with universities and high tech companies, but I encountered it everywhere in my life, not only in colleges and graduate schools, and in law practice and in politics, but also in the seemingly low-tech business of lumber manufacturing. In order to outperform its many competitors, our company designed its own machinery and manufacturing processes. It developed new products and markets where none existed before. All competitive advantage in business is based on research--whether it's market research (on customers), industry research (on competitors), economic research (accounting research on profits and losses, costs, and efficiencies), research into resources, product research, or technological research.

My late uncle Neil, for example, lived the life of research and reaped very practical benefits from it. There was nothing cut and dried about his career in the lumber business.

Neil's story

Neil graduated from Dryden High School, class of 1951, and he went on to the SUNY College of Forestry at Syracuse University. He enjoyed those college years, forming friendships that lasted a lifetime and participating in varsity athletics--and drinking beer--but above all developing skills that would lead to a highly successful career in business. His field was wood technology. By the time he graduated, he knew the properties and uses of the different species of wood from all over the world, but what use could be made of such seemingly abstract knowledge?

For a few years after college, Neil took several jobs with different employers, buying and selling all species and grades of North American lumber. These early jobs rounded out Neil's education by teaching him the markets. He was a fine salesman, but his education enabled him to do more. Because of his thorough knowledge of woods, he could envision new wood products and also new markets for existing wood products. This ability to innovate was his competitive advantage.

When Neil entered business for himself, he specialized in developing overseas markets for hardwoods from North America. His was the first company to sell these products extensively in Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia and other developing markets. (Of course, everyone in the American wood industry today, some 40 years later, takes these markets for granted.) It was Neil's education that made these pioneering efforts possible. For example, unlike others before him, he could foresee how white hard maple lumber from New York State might gain acceptance by the Japanese people in their highly traditional housing, furnishings and crafts. (Native wood species in Japan had been depleted through over-use.) He was able to persuade some Japanese entrepreneurs that they should take the risk of introducing this strange western wood into their stores. This business became quite successful, especially during the boom years of the Japanese economy in the 1970's and 1980's.

When other companies learned what Neil had been doing, they entered the lumber markets that Neil had created, and Neil's company gradually lost the competitive advantage that it once had held. Competitive pressures of this sort led Neil to further pioneering research throughout the balance of his career. In the year of his death, for example, he had experimented with Brazilian Eucalyptus wood, and he had discovered how to kiln dry it successfully. (The textbooks all said that it couldn't be done.) When he died, Neil was in the process of constructing a manufacturing complex in partnership with a huge Brazilian paper company that had been using its millions of acres of Eucalyptus plantations only to grow cheap pulp wood to make paper. The high quality Eucalyptus lumber coming from this Brazilian mill today is a substitute for Black Cherry, one of North America's most expensive woods. Black Cherry can't compete economically with Eucalyptus because it takes 80 to 100 years to grow a mature Black Cherry, but the amazing Eucalyptus matures to a full height of 75 to 100 feet in only 12 to 15 years!

Neil's research benefited himself, his family, dozens of employees whose jobs he created, and hundreds of his business associates all over the world. Never forgetting the crucial role that his college education had played, Neil donated generously throughout his later life to research projects and student scholarships at Syracuse SUNY ESF.

Students sometimes think that research is only an academic exercise, because that is how they have experienced it in their young lives. But research is considerably more. What you learn distinguishes you from people who have not learned, but what you discover distinguishes you from everyone else on earth. Your knowledge can be your economic advantage when you succeed in applied research. 

Assignment for Lesson 18: complete your Research Narrative Essay (as assigned in Lesson 14).  This assignment should help you to think about your research in preparation for organizing and writing your draft research report later.






















































































Left: Neil Gutchess, summer of 1951, Skaneateles Lake

























Left: a memory garden devoted to the late Neil Gutchess. In Japan ancestors are worshipped in memory gardens of this sort--it is the Japanese counterpart to the ancient Greek hero shrine--so this tribute to Neil's memory is an unusual honor.

gutchess@englishare.net                    Academic writing home page                    Gary Gutchess 2003