Professor Co-Authors Latest Edition of Preeminent Manual for Writing Research

By Tom McLaughlin

FitzGerald says that the ninth edition offers fresh advice on electronic modes of research, in addition to more contemporary examples.

Writers in academia and beyond rejoiced on April 16 and picked up their pens (or logged onto their computers), as the University of Chicago Press released the ninth edition of the late Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.

For the latest edition, William FitzGerald, an associate professor of English at Rutgers University–Camden, teams with Boston University scholar Joe Bizup as the next generation to revise and steward the landmark reference guide.

We check in with FitzGerald to find out just what separates the manual – known simply as “Turabian” by many – from other resources for research writing.

More than 70 years and over nine million copies sold since it was first published, Turabian is still a staple on the bookshelves of researchers everywhere. What gives the manual its staying power?

Lots of folks in higher education know Turabian is “the” guide to Chicago-style documentation and to support in general for writing theses and dissertations in humanities and social sciences, especially history and political science. It continues to be one of the best-selling guides to academic writing, with a fairly wide readership in the United States and beyond.

Who is the manual geared toward?

It is geared toward advanced undergraduates and graduate students conducting independent scholarship. It is useful to practicing researchers in many fields, in and beyond academia.

What gives the guide such a universal appeal?

Students can find lots of advice out there on conducting research in the library, in the field, and in the lab, as well as on the mechanics of representing information and data. However, nowhere else do they find such a clear orientation to the nature of research as a mode of inquiry and argument. As a result, it applies to many fields.

FitzGerald says that he looks forward to having an ongoing role in keeping the book an essential guide for current and future generations of students and researchers.

What is different about this edition from past offerings?

This edition offers fresh advice on electronic modes of research, in addition to more contemporary examples. It was revised in tandem with the 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style, an essential reference guide since 1906.

While previous editions delved into digital forms of research and writing, this book recognizes that most students do the bulk of their research online. As it details on the book’s website: “Chapters include updated advice on finding, evaluating, and citing a wide range of digital sources and also recognize the evolving use of software for citation management, graphics, and paper format and submission.”

What does it mean to you personally to be associated with such a respected academic resource?

I’m deeply gratified and look forward to having an ongoing role in keeping the book an essential guide to current and future generations of students and researchers.

How did you become involved with co-authoring this latest edition?

Beginning in the 1990s, after Kate Turabian’s passing, the team of Wayne Booth, Greg Colomb, and Joe Williams adapted their Craft of Research text – used in our first-year writing program at Rutgers–Camden – to the needs of an expanded Turabian in order to teach the research and writing process.

With their passing in the past decade, Joe Bizup and I have worked with Chicago’s editors to keep the book timely. Initially, Chicago approached Joe to work on a new fourth edition of Craft of Research and he brought me into the process as co-author. That project led to Turabian’s ninth edition as well as to revising a third book now in production, The Student’s Guide to Writing College Papers, which is aimed at beginning researchers in college and even high school.

What do these manuals cover?

Each book has a distinct audience but follows a basic outline for finding a topic, formulating a research question, conducting research, planning, drafting, revising, editing, and, finally, preparing a document.

What sets apart these guides from other resources available for writing research papers?

What makes Craft, Manual, and Student’s Guide distinctive is a rhetorical approach that emphasizes audience and argumentation, reasoning, and effective use of evidence. The advice helps students avoid the major problems of “all about” research papers that merely report on what others have said on a topic without contributing something original to the author and, especially, without answering the “so what?” question.

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