Teleri (telerib) wrote,

On Research

Research happens before a project starts.
This is true if you are writing a high school essay or making a Flemish gown. To do it right, you don't make the final product and then go back and look for supporting evidence. You find evidence to build towards a final product.

We see this all the time in the performing arts. You learn a song; it's a nice song, funny and kicky and people like it. Then you discover that someone thinks you should be singing "period" songs. So you run around widdershins three times while throwing your arms in the air and chanting "Oral tradition!" Alas, this does not actually age an 18th century song three centuries. If you want to sing period songs, find period songs and learn them.

This goes for any other field of endeavor, too.

Honesty is the researcher's cardinal virtue.
Yes, even when you honestly haven't done any research. Start your good habits early!

Be honest because the experts know when you're making things up.

Be honest because the novices will take you at your word, and you do them a disservice if you lie or misrepresent your work.

Be honest because you can't grow as an artist if you're not willing to admit where you still have work to do.

Let us say you are new to the SCA. You see everyone and their brother has little fabric thingies hanging from their belts. You ask and are told these are "favors," and usually indicate personal allegiances. Your spouse loves wolves; you decide to make an embroidered wolf favor for him to carry. You pick this design. Later, you decide that, since you worked so hard on it, you will enter it into the A&S competition.

If you do any research now (and what did we say about that?) you'll find that a modern cross-stitch kit is Not Period, and that such a naturalistic depiction of the wolf is Not Period, too. You may become alarmed and try to spin some story about how no really, the stitch itself was used in period and your persona just spontaneously created this image after the fashion of da Vinci.

Do not do this.

You actually did do some research. You observed favors as they are commonly used in the SCA. You made one after that fashion. This is what you say. Since you have now also done some research after the fact, you can also say that, if you were going to do it over again, you would use your new knowledge to make these changes: (and list your changes).

Even the most expert Laurel will look back over a completed project and think, "Gosh, if I knew then what I know now, I would never have done such-and-such." This is good. It's learning. It means the research process is working! It is more impressive to a good A&S judge to see that you are actually researching and learning than to read through yet another hand-waving story about How My Not-Period Project Really Kinda Sorta Is Period.

Boy, I know I'm reproducing a good bit of my class notes. Maybe the next order of business should be to get them online, eh?
Tags: research, sca
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