Updating a Classic
William FitzGerald '83 had the opportunity to leave his mark on the next generation of researchers in academia.
Published by the University of Chicago Press more than 70 years ago, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations by Kate L. Turabian has become a true staple of college life, selling more than nine million copies since it first appeared. In 2016, Turabian, who died in 1987, even earned the number-one spot on Time magazine’s list of “The 100 Most-Read Female Writers on College Campuses.”
Over the years, of course, the Manual (often referred to simply as “Turabian”) has been updated and revised a number of times. The latest edition—the ninth—was released in April, and we can thank William FitzGerald ’83 for the newly revised version of this reference classic. FitzGerald, an associate professor of English at Rutgers University–Camden and an expert on rhetoric, teamed up with Boston University’s Joe Bizup on the project. FitzGerald, who teaches such courses as “Special Topics in Rhetoric: From Song to Cyberspace” and “Argument and Style,” is the author of Spiritual Modalities: Prayer as Rhetoric and Performance. He spent nine years teaching math at a Friends school in Maryland (and composing opera librettos) before earning his Ph.D. in English at the University of Maryland in 2002. “Going from math major at Haverford to professor of English is a very Haverfordian thing, isn’t it?” observes FitzGerald, who now lives about 200 yards from the Haverford campus in Ardmore.
FitzGerald spoke about the venerable manual and his role in revising it—and two other well-known books on writing and research—in an interview for the Rutgers University NewsNow web page. Here is an excerpt from that interview:
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.
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.”
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 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 the University of Chicago Press editors to keep that 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.