On Writing My Research Paper

In contrast to the convenient and rather enjoyable discovering of my research topic — the plight of child soldiers as exposed in A Long Way Gone and how that narrative calls for humanitarian action — writing the research paper was more difficult.

First of all, I’ve never written a prospectus or annotated bibliography before. In the prospectus, it is expected to use the pronoun “I” often because that part of the paper is an explanation of what I, the author, am going to do. I’m not used to using “I” in a professional essay format, so that took some adjusting. The annotated bibliography wasn’t too complicated, but it was definitely a lengthy task. I had to read each secondary source carefully to completely understand its content in order to write about its thesis and intended audience, etc. I do admit, however, that writing the annotated bibliography and prospectus helped me plan out my actual paper.

Before writing my first draft of the research paper, I made a very fleshed-out outline. It is because of this outline that I barely had to do any thinking for the actual drafting because all my research questions are listed there with evidence. I even matched my secondary sources to each claim. However, without a doubt, the most grueling task is to write the actual research paper. Because I have such a short attention span, and unless I’m very invested in my writing with the right atmosphere, it is difficult to stay focused and write more than a paragraph at once. I lagged at drafting because of this, which created a lot of extra work later during my research paper writing.

Ultimately, I am proud of my paper. It took a lot of time and effort and focus, but the end result was worth it. I’ve never written anything like it so far! My paper on child soldiers and A Long Way Gone includes a prospectus, annotated bibliography, full-bodied research paper, and works cited page. I’m glad the paper is over, but also happy for all the knowledge it gave me.


On Discovering My Research Topic

The last time (and only other time) I had a research paper was sophomore year in high school. That was three years ago… I only remember how time-consuming and surprisingly fun it was. My topic was on the Peter Pan Syndrome and the problem of puer aternus, which means “eternal boy.” The specificities of the writing process are gone from my memory, so, for me, writing a research paper now was almost like learning a new writing style.

I knew that in order to make the task less difficult, I would need to find another subject just as fascinating to me as Peter Pan Syndrome was. My research topic was limited to war-related topics, which is tricky because I already don’t like the dark topic of war too much. I decided to simply brainstorm what I find interesting, and the first things that came to mind were psychological disorders, children, and art. These, in relation to war, would become PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), children affected by war, and artistic renderings of war and its effects. I thought PTSD was way too overdone and that art, although interesting to me, was such a broad topic with so many options that I felt I would never narrow down to a thesis in time. Therefore, I focused on children affected by war.

Dr. Roetzel gave me some ideas to find an artifact, such as the Kindertransport and child narratives. Although Kindertransport, named for the rescue efforts of Jewish refugee children during World War II, was interesting, it didn’t strike me as interesting enough. I decided to simply look up “children in war narratives” on Google. One of the first books that popped up was A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, a memoir about his experiences as a child soldier. I immediately was drawn in; child soldiers was a compelling topic! I knew exactly from then on what my research would be on. I looked a little into Beah’s autobiographical narrative and found it to be perfect!

Even more to my happy surprise, after I decided to use A Long Way Gone as my artifact, was that there was plenty of scholarly secondary sources for my research! As I delved deeper into the child soldier dilemma and the civil war conflict in Sierra Leone, as well as once I completed the book itself in one sitting, I began to have questions. The library workshop we had during class one time pieced it all together. The young man presenting came over to help me for five minutes and asked a question that later began a string of inquiries in my head: “How does A Long Way Gone and its format articulate its content?” From then on, I have elaborated on that question and found so much to work with, while also being passionately absorbed in my topic. The discovery of my research topic was so straightforward!

War Is Only A Relative Away

For an elementary school assignment, I’ve interviewed my grandfather (from my father’s side) about World War II, but the most experience he had with the war was watching bomber planes fly overhead in practice flight. He simply worked on a farm with pigs and cows as a young boy during that war, so he felt disconnected from the war and its effects. It was interesting to hear about his life on the farm, but his encounters with the war were limited.

I don’t know why I never thought about asking my mom about her parents and their experience with war. For this quarter of Humanities Core, I’m required to interview someone with exposure to war in some way, and I’m so glad I spoke to my Korean grandmother. Ends up, she was directly subject to the Korean War’s terrors and ripple effects. I never knew she went through such a difficult time in her life, and I’ve come to understand her and her Korean generation so much more.

The process, which was researching a little about the Korean War and then interviewing my grandma herself, was relatively straightforward and definitely intriguing. I now understand the ongoing split and conflict between North and South Korea, and where in history the Korean War stands (again, I reiterate about my insufficient history knowledge). I also feel ready to move onto the next step in this Literary Journalism piece; the interview was a success, and I even got some insightful input from my mom and her point of view because she was my translator.

After hearing my grandmother’s story about how the war affected her and her family, and how lucky she believes she was, I look at her in a new light. She is strong and yet more sensitive than ever. I hope she understands, when I see her this summer for my study abroad session in Korea, that I feel closer to her because of what she has shared so openly with me. It’s also so crazy how close war is to everyone because all one needs to do is just ask an elder relative to hear a war story…

Winter Done, Here Comes Spring

Wow… what a quarter!


At least I felt better about this round of HumCore than I did the last; fall quarter trained me to use my time responsibly and adapt to college life. What I take away the most from this quarter, I think, is the importance of drafting. The better the draft is, the easier finishing the essay will be. The same goes with the blogs. The more thought and effort I put into my blogs, the better off I will be when juggling studying for finals and editing my website.

I really enjoyed, however, the material of HumCore this quarter. Instead of just reading, we were asked to interpret visuals — both illustrations and films. This is interesting and different from what I’m used to because in high school, most of the focus in English classes were on literature. Luckily, I took AP Art History, which prepared me for analyzing images, but the connections we made with all the visual aspects to the theme of war was fascinating.

My favorite lecturer was Professor Fahs because she had such intriguing points to make about the Civil War and the poetry, literature, and photographs/drawings from that period of time. Her final lecture was quite mind-blowing, and I must say I was drawn to her story about her father and poet Duncan. Professors Lazo and Szalay were also great lecturers that both helped me understand the material better by providing historical context and analysis as well. Nevertheless, the most helpful aspect of HumCore was the seminar section. Dr. Jensen, my seminar leader, always made sure that our class understood the day’s lecture and went on to enhance our understanding with in-class examples and appropriate assignments. Strangely, one of the most engaging class discussions we had was about 8-year-old Hitler and time travel. The class laughed a lot that day 🙂

I’d also like to say a little more about my development as a student, or more specifically, a writer. My writing grew to encompass more as I developed new styles of writing throughout this quarter. I mentioned that I realized drafting is a very important step in writing, but I also learned how to write an opinion piece and write academically about films, both of which I’ve never done before. The opinion piece was fun to write, and I mimicked some of the lighter op-ed’s I read on The LA Times. Although my topic, EDM, is not a controversial one, I find it interesting to discuss and relevant to today’s music world. As for writing about films… well, I learned a lot of cinema jargon and hope that now I can find deeper meaning in movies I watch from now on.

The one thing I would tell myself at Week 1 of Winter Quarter is to start drafting earlier! I think I would’ve saved myself a lot of stress and time if I had begun drafting in advance so when mishaps or sudden time crunches occur, there are no problems. Not to mention, earlier drafting means more time to elaborate on my thoughts in the long run.

Overall, it was another great quarter of HumCore. Yes, challenging, but worthwhile and enlightening.

Observing Cinematography

The Manchurian Candidate was a surprisingly good movie. Although I found the beginning to be a bit dry, the plot unfolded, with many twists, and ended up to be tragically moving. In this blog, I will describe the cinematography of 1.14.00 to 1.20.00 of the movie in order to have some practice analyzing how a movie is put together for certain effects.

The scene starts with a still-set shot of the character Raymond and his good friend, Marco, at a table drinking together. Raymond had just finished drunkenly sharing a story of how he lost his true love and sets his head down on the table in grief. The camera follows Marco as he gets up to help Raymond move somewhere else. The scene then dissolves from the table setting to a bar setting, and the dissolve effect implies that some time has passed that isn’t important for the viewer to see (getting from the house to the bar). The camera zooms out as Raymond walks into the bar, and then continues with a following shot of him as he approaches the bar. He stands at the bar and the scene pans left to accommodate a new character in the scene: the bartender. The scene is in deep focus, as the viewer can see everything in the bar clearly including the other two people at the bar, and remains still as the bartender speaks to those two people.

Then the view shifts to a tilted upwards medium shot of Raymond when he receives the deck of cards and then alternates between close-ups of his game of solitaire and himself. This hints something important may happen to Raymond because all focus has turned to him and the game. Marco then walks in, in the background, and the camera follows him until he reaches Raymond, this time at eye-level so the viewer can see Raymond’s face. The shot changes to a close-up of the Queen of Hearts for a few, long seconds, stressing its obvious significance. It returns to the eye-level shot.

Meanwhile, the diegetic sound of the bartender’s voice has carried on throughout these shots and with the stillness of the scene his voice is drawn out again, seeming to have an effect on Raymond who suddenly leaves the bar. The viewer is presented with a montage sequence of Raymond and Marco, chasing after him, getting into taxis, walking along various settings, until an establishing shot of a lake area comes up. A non-diegetic music plays during this, creating a curious, confused sort of tone. Then the view cuts-in to a following shot of Raymond as he marches right into the lake. A medium close-up of Marco’s astonished face, back to Raymond in the lake, then back to Marco, gives the viewer a defined reason to Marco’s confusion. Marco runs to the lake, helps Raymond out of the water, and then there is an exchange of medium close-ups of each as they speak. The camera tilts down towards Marco’s hands as he realizes something, and he mimics the motion of playing solitaire.

The scene then cuts to a close-up of an actual solitaire game and then zooms out, tilts up, to show Marco and his colleague at work to decipher what has been affecting Raymond. The shot zooms in rather quickly when something strikes Marco; he has discovered something, and the viewer is meant to see that on his face. Two close-ups, one of the colleague’s face and one of Marco’s, are shown of them smiling. They have stumbled upon an answer, and the cinematography highlights that as well as the process to it this entire sequence I have described.


EDM is Taking Over the Music World


Electronic dance music (EDM) is not a new genre of music that’s popped up in the last several years. Hit EDM artists today such as Calvin Harris, David Guetta, and Tiësto have been around since the late 1980’s, when the disco era of music ended. But suddenly these artists, amongst a growing number of others, have been making the top charts these past years, and there doesn’t appear to be an end to their success anytime soon. In fact, the electric or trance sound of EDM has been creeping into more and more modern day American music.

Currently there are eight songs on Spotify’s Top 50 Global Hits that were created by EDM artists. Music dance festivals have quadrupled in capacity size since 2009. David Guetta leads Spotify as the most followed music artist, ahead of Rihanna by 1.5 million. Huge pop stars such as Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj are doubling up with EDM artists because of the electronic popularity that seems to keep growing. From 2013 to 2014, interest in EDM shot up 76%; no doubt even more so from 2014 to 2015. In the year of 2015, Calvin Harris’ total earnings amounted to $66 million. The industry itself is worth $6.9 billion. North America represents $2 billion of that estimate. Wow.

Without a doubt, EDM is booming with popularity, especially in the U.S.

But how has EDM become so popular? Why do people find EDM so appealing? I attribute it’s success to social media and the infectious pleasure young people find at music venues.

Success today, at least for pop culture, is measured in number of likes, hits, views, followers, retweets, shares, and comments. Knowledge about everything today is shared online through social media. EDM collaborations with other popular music artists may have assisted EDM to get to its position in the music world today, but the Internet’s social advertising played an essential role. An EDM artist can create a new track, post it on social media, and it will become accessible all around the world. Connections for gigs or record deals are made via Facebook or Twitter because an event organizer or recording director saw an artist’s work. And what do these organizers and directors look for? They want what their consumers want, and that’s fun, danceable music.

EDM is an umbrella genre; it encompasses house, trance, dubstep, trap, drums and bass, etc. What all these sub-genres hold in common is that they are all danceable. Artists build up tension towards what is known as the “drop” to a song, when the sound is distorted and produces a huge, energetic response in the crowd — it is this “drop” that listeners anticipate most. Whether vocals are added or not, people feel the rhythm and beat generated by the DJ and want to dance. Generally EDM is very upbeat, and I think it is the “dance” factor in “Electronic Dance Music” is what appeals to the masses. EDM music was created and is meant to be played at parties, clubs, and festivals with the glaring light shows and holographic projections. It’s a genre that demands a live audience.

Therefore, in a time when annual record sales have reached an unheard low, tickets for music festivals have shot up and are also the main source of revenue for EDM artists (see graphs below). Nightlife in 2014 was 26% EDM related and the 12 largest electronic clubs in Las Vegas pulled in a revenue of $500 million. EDM venues are so popular, it’s ridiculous. This is where people have been putting all their extra money?

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 5.04.10 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-02-23 at 5.10.41 PM.png

There doesn’t seem to be an end to the EDM genre anytime soon. As society becomes more technologically advanced, music that matches also makes sense. Pop music will continue to incorporate electronic dance aspects until EDM becomes the new popular music genre. Maybe once it reaches that peak, then another underground genre will rise and take its place. But for now and a bit into the future, I see EDM dominating the music world.

Graphs from statista.com

Op-Eds are Fun!

My brother and friends always accuse me of being culturally and politically ignorant. I rarely ever read the news, watch the television (which includes TV shows and news channels), or tune in to celebrity or politician doings on my phone. I generally am not very good at keeping up with either pop culture or world news because I don’t care too much for the daily lives of celebrities nor find myself zoning out when I try to read the news. News articles are a bit too dry for me.

I think, however, I will spend more time reading Op-Eds, now that I have read three already, and have discovered how much more interesting they are to read. One is about Donald Trump, a running presidential candidate — of course I haven’t been paying attention to the presidential race — and another is on the international effect of avian viruses. Op-eds apparently don’t even need to be about anything political or international because my third op-ed is about how to avoid saying insensitive things to the wrong people.

Out of all the candidates for the 2016 election, I only know about Hilary Clinton (because she’s a woman) and Donald Trump (because I’ve heard so many jokes made about him). Otherwise, I’m clueless. What I’ve heard of others’ opinions on Trump are overwhelmingly critical, and the piece by Gerson further adds to Trump’s negative reputation, as I see it. Gerson has a pointedly condemnatory attitude towards Trump and his choice of language as a public political figure. I can tell Gerson does not want Trump to win the election, and therefore is targeting sensible voters. Through his argument that Trump is tainting the authentic role of presidency candidates, Gerson hopes to dissuade voters from Trump’s side and to also simply inform that language on a public level for even young people to hear is getting out of hand. He strongly believes language as a form as politeness should refrain from excessive profanity. “And if I am the last holdout on this issue, so be it. I don’t really give a damn,” he writes.


I know a little more about the strains and virus breakouts around the world only because when they are bad enough, everyone is alerted to be careful/aware of where they are going because of so-and-so disease. Shah spends the first half or so of her op-ed giving informational context on Asia and the transfer of avian germs to humans as well as how climate change has affected avian viruses to spread from one species to another. Shah wants to make it aware to her audience that avian viruses can pose a serious health hazard in the future, and I can feel the implication in her writing that new solutions should be proposed and tried. Her tone is serious and educational.

The final op-ed is light and casually-written. I feel as if the authors are speaking directly to me and giving me advice on how to avoid saying the wrong things. In second point of view perspective, the authors enlighten the embarrassed masses of people who have mistakenly complained to the inappropriate person or to those who know people as previously described. The tone is light and somewhat humorous because the topic is amusing and helpful. There are no political purposes to this op-ed, and it certainly is a fun read. I even agree that the authors’ offered technique to avoid situations recounted in the piece can actually help!

All three op-eds fulfill the “requirements” set in the Handbook guidelines. I did look into other websites instructing on how to write a op-ed, and many said that the shorter, the better. The second op-ed I spoke about was lengthier than desired, but the other two were short and concise. They all were very clear and I could plainly find the topic and position/argument in each. I think I will start reading op-eds more often… they are short and interesting enough to hold my attention. 

Gerson, Michael. “Donald Trump’s Foul Mouth Is Just a Cover for His Ignorance.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 8 Feb. 2016. Web. 09 Feb. 2016.

Shah, Sonia. “What You Get When You Mix Chickens, China and Climate Change.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Feb. 2016. Web. 09 Feb. 2016.

Silk, Susan, and Barry Goldman. “How Not to Say the Wrong Thing.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 7 Apr. 2013. Web. 09 Feb. 2016.