Thinking Out of the Box

Posted on January 10, 2012 by


I find that one of the most rewarding aspects of research is not learning about history or even producing a comprehensive paper on a subject, but learning about myself as a researcher and a person. In my Age of Ex class we have completed two projects and have now begun work on our third: 17th century political theory. One of the requirements for the project is a bibliographic essay that compares, contrasts, and analyses two sources on a 17th century political figure.

I chose an interesting but rather out of the way political group, the Scottish Covenanters, and an even more obscure member of this group to represent, James Ure, so this project is certainly going to test my resourcefulness in research. After finding a detailed, but not exactly helpful, page on Wikipedia, my usual background info go-to, on the Scottish Covenanters, I resorted to the school library and its database list. I searched for my topic in the online Encyclopedia Britannica, the library itself, and the Proquest research library, and although I found more this way, I was still lacking in a basic understanding of who and what the Covenanters were. So, I delved into a book titled A Short History of Scotland by R.B. Mackie (it is not very short) and finally found an entire chapter dedicated to the Covenanters. My teacher, Mike Gwaltney, then suggested using JSTOR, an excellent collection of scholarly sources, to further my research and I eventually found another book called the Scottish Historical Review.

After a bit of reflection, I realized that the process of research is an important part of any project, be it political theory in the 1600s or background research for a science experiment, because it helps to formulate a sense of what is available. Research also tested my creativity: I had to think of ways to rephrase a keyword search for better results and had to find access to a book published in 1919. By the end of this class, I am certain that my peers and I will have developed a better understanding of what research is, and as Jimmy Buffett said:

“Searching is half the fun: life is much more manageable when thought of as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party.”

Jimmy Buffett, from

Although research is not exactly life, they are surprisingly similar: both can cause pleasant confusion and both offer many opportunities to discover more about the world and about oneself.

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Posted in: Projects, Research