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The 'Backwards' Research Guide for Writers

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Nautilus Award 2012 Silver Winner - Creative Process

The "Backwards" Research Guide for Writers demystifies the writing process by inviting writers of all levels to focus on their passions, questions, and obsessions as the key to generating seeds for further exploration of the world around them. Writers then develop these questions into focused projects that explore the teller’s central role in the open-ended quest of unfolding a research topic. The boom in narrative journalism, memoir, and creative nonfiction has generated wonderful writing, but no resource for writers exists to bridge the gap between passionate research and the page. This book addresses that gap by turning the task of “research” on its head and by speaking to students who resist the idea of research as an objective and dry assignment. Students are invited to experiment creatively with collecting observations and information and then to step beyond their subjective realities to interact with the world around them and ultimately become vulnerable authors willing to change their perspectives as they research and write.

Developed with input from college student writers, The "Backwards" Research Guide for Writers is relevant as a text for undergraduate and postgraduate courses in composition, creative nonfiction, literary journalism, and feature writing as well as for working journalists and other writers seeking a new way of approaching a writing project. It includes interviews with notable authors that focus not on the completed and intimidating project of a successful author, but on the project as it took shape and mystified a researcher. Another unique feature is a section in every chapter on ethics, as ethical questions are central to the writing process as well as a method for sparking interest in writing and learning. The guide includes extensive examples of research challenges and dilemmas, strategies for planning a research project, exercises for generating ideas, a guide for writing the research-based work, an appendix of on-line databases, a section in each chapter focused on ethics in research and writing called “gray matter,” a selection of recommended readings, and a bibliography of conventional research guides.

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Published: Nov 1, 2011


Section Chapter Authors
Editor’s Preface Martha C. Pennington
Acknowledgements Sonya Huber
Introduction for Instructors: The Context for Seeking as Research Sonya Huber
Section I. Research: An Inside Job
1. Write About Anything Sonya Huber
2. Meet the Author: You Sonya Huber
3. Areas of Expertise: Using What You Already Know Sonya Huber
4. Living and Loving the Questions Sonya Huber
Section II. The Inside Meets the Outside: Paying Attention as Research
5. Learning to See Sonya Huber
6. Responding to Reality Sonya Huber
7. Uncharted Obsessions Sonya Huber
8. Beginner’s Mind Sonya Huber
Section III. Big Bang: Form and Structured Chaos in Research
9. Take Note Sonya Huber
10. Noodling as a Research Method Sonya Huber
11. Conversations Sonya Huber
Section IV. Open Minds Invite Surprises
12. Twists and Turns in the Research Story Sonya Huber
13. The Research Road Map Sonya Huber
14. Finding Your Way Sonya Huber
15. Writing the Story’s Journey Sonya Huber
16. Revision: Seeing Again Sonya Huber
Appendix A. Experiments in this Book: Short Sonya Huber
Appendix B. Experiments in this Book: Long Sonya Huber
Appendix C. Experiments in this Book: Take-Home Sonya Huber
Appendix D. Recommended Reading Sonya Huber
Appendix E. Source Citations Using MLA Style Sonya Huber
References Sonya Huber
Subject Index
Subject Index Sonya Huber
Author Index
Author Index Sonya Huber

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'Offers a very helpful perspective on the writing and research process. Recommended.'
Choice, Vol 49, No 10, June 2012

'This is a practical, hands-on writing textbook which could be conveniently used in a number of classroom and workshop settings with beginner researchers and writers, as well as independently. ...Huber has produced an organized, thought-provoking and practical guide book for would-be writers. Although the idea of using one's life as creative material is hardly new, her emphasis on self-knowledge and contemplative resourcefulness, or "backwardness", is refreshing and timely. The book is well-written and carefully edited and invites both cover-to-cover reading and intermittent dipping into. Instructors and students alike will find something to appeal to their needs and tastes... .'