Another Saturday Skype call with T. Olga — my off-campus mentor who guides me through the sometimes-overwhelming world of academic literature — yielded one clear message: even more so than last week, I need to narrow my focus in order to
not drown in sources turn out a paper by the end of May.
It’s very easy in the research phase for this sort of project to become distracted and enthralled by a “perfect” source and let it pull you away from your thesis. I’m guilty of it myself, and today was a repeat of last week’s meeting in that respect, but with a lessened feeling of despair on my part — that’s something, I guess. Now I have a much more centered focus of my research in my head and I feel more optimistic about the prospects of this independent from now until May.
We also resolved a long-standing issue for me with respect to writing the paper itself: In writing a history paper, how do I avoid droning on and on in a survey of event after event after event so that the reader stays easily engaged?
Our solution? Don’t focus on event after event after event — just pick one.
If I am talking about the relationship between the U.S. and Israel — and I am most definitely talking about that — then the Six Days’ War of 1967 is the obvious choice if I have to choose one event to center on — and I certainly do.
Contrary to what I said in my previous post Mass Media and Foreign Policy, about the infeasibility of conducting my own “extensive analytics on media coverage of the State of Israel”, T. Olga and I did some exploring in the NYT Historical Database, and with the mantra of ‘narrow, narrow, narrow’, we managed to determine parameters under which conducting my own research would be feasible.
We narrowed down to 11 articles published in May through July of 1967 (with the Six Days’ War having taken place on June 5-10 of that year) on the front page of the NYT with both “Israel” and “war” in the title, and I now feel comfortable with that scope for my personal research because it is incident specific — there is no question about which event the articles reference, and they will all almost certainly address my thesis in some significant way.
Of course, it won’t actually be that simple; in taking T. Joseph’s World History classes this year, the constant theme he has centered on is the idea of historiography — the methods one uses in developing a historical narrative — and a responsible model of researching and “writing history” necessarily calls for some sort of buildup or context in which to set a specific incident. In that respect, I’ll be meeting with him soon so I can center once and for all on the focus of the paper.
So now, I’m buckling down for winter, in a sense — preparing to dive into my sources with renewed
masochism fervor and with a clear thesis always in mind.
Critical consumption of sources — that’s the name of the game at this point.