This problem is not uncommon for me. For much of the past few days I have been thinking - thinking about what I want to say. Although I have committed several pages of thoughts into words, this term paper is still very much in the formative process... which means it is likely to change direction at any given moment. Briefly, I am trying to look at the civil rights movement through the lens of feminist theory and then, maybe (a big maybe), applying that perspective to the gay rights movement. If it sounds more like a thesis than a term paper, that’s probably because I still have too much on my plate. I will eliminate much of it once I find the clarity I seek. As far as that “maybe” is concerned, it will likely not materialize in this paper.
That does not, however, make research in that direction wasted effort. Although it is true that it would be more efficient if I concentrated my time on what I need rather than what I might, it is the totality of the picture I am trying to form that will lend the clarity in what I write. In other words, I cannot accurately describe the part without being familiar with the whole. And though that is absolutely reason enough not to try to manipulate my research in the interest of expediency, there are others. The most obvious, perhaps, is that in the not too distant future, I will be writing a thesis of sufficient length that I might indeed be able to pursue the threads I have to abandon here. In this light, I am investing my time towards a future work.
But that is not a sufficient reason, in and of itself, to compel me to do research that is not of immediate value. As I already indicated, my modus operandi is well entrenched, but that alone would leave me fighting – looking for shortcuts. There must be more for this process to be anything more than useless tedium. As it turns out, it is as simple as it is profound – it is about education. The reality of this particular term paper - of any term paper, really, is that a finite and not particularly large body of research is all that is needed to complete the assignment – and if carefully arranged - complete it with high marks. I know this; as an undergrad, I know it from personal experience.
But in the forum I have placed myself, every assignment is about much more than it appears on the surface. I am digesting more than will ever directly appear in the graded work for a given class. So much more that, to be tested on it all in some fashion would be so time consuming there would be little time for anything else – like absorbing the material in the first place. And it is not as though we are charged with memorizing each and every theory or even every major theory ever presented in the study of communication and its related fields (which is pretty much everything), but that we will become familiar with and gain the ability to understand what these theorists are proposing.
As I do all that, I gain the ability to think about what they are saying and, further, make determinations as to the value of the theory. Is it any good? Does it apply here? Is it contradicting itself? What does it explain? And since I am working towards a Master’s degree in this subject, doesn’t it make sense that it hold some interest for me? Since it not only holds my interest, but fascinates me as well, it also makes sense that my curiosity will seem to slow me down at times. But it is my MO, it is an investment and, in the end, I love to find things that make no sense and poke holes in them - or things that serve to explain and support them. And since there is still a bit of time left, the panic that is so useful in sharpening one’s focus is still days away.