The main purpose of writing a research paper, even if it’s not done in an obvious way is to use a central idea to hopefully support a thesis statement about a certain topic. In my case, when writing my first draft, the use of a rather general research question without an opinion or viewpoint toward my topic turned out to be a setback. My original research question was “How is rap music portrayed in America?” My thinking when choosing a neutral question as so was that my paper then wouldn’t become too opinionated and I wouldn’t start assuming things (forcing me to cite statements). This did turn out to be true, because in my first draft I was able to incorporate articles with different perspectives of rap music into my paper. Also, I wouldn’t be as likely to write a persuasive essay, instead of a research essay. However, after my first draft was done, I realized that I needed to connect the different parts of my paper together so that it all flowed well. The easiest way to do this seemed to be by incorporating a little more personal emotion into the essay, which goes back to the main research question that provides the theme of the whole paper.
The biggest problems with using such a general question was that I felt my feelings toward the topic weren’t being expressed enough in the paper and it was too hard to focus on just a few aspects of the topic, instead of many. I ended up changing my research question to “Why is rap music generally portrayed as negative in America, especially in the older generation of today?” With a more opinionated question, I found it much easier to focus on the central idea that I wanted to get across in my essay.
As an avid rap music listener myself, I feel there is a problem with the way rap music is viewed in America, especially among adults, which is the main reason I chose to write about this topic. I wanted to expose both the good and bad aspects of rap music, but at the same time convince that there is more “good” in rap without straight-up saying that was what I was doing. Using rap music in comparison to other genres, and showing the similarities between them, is very effective in showing it shouldn’t be seen as so “bad.” I think the main problem with people’s negative views of rap is they usually have very little knowledge of the genre. Like anything else, it’s pretty easy to form negative opinions about something when you know little about the topic. A majority of today’s adult population didn’t grow up listening to rap music which could be the main reason as to why many are quick to make decisions about rap, without knowing much about it. By providing information that supports rap music and gives reasoning for its content in my essay I hope to influence perception some adult’s perceptions, at least a little.
The hardest part of researching for me was narrowing down my searching and the topics in my paper to just a few, instead of many. Being so interested in rap really made it hard for me to stay on track and stick to my research question/ central idea. I always found myself researching things about rap that didn’t actually relate to my question. This resulted in a paper that had good ideas without significance, or at least proven significance. However, after changing up my research question, I found it much easier to research only things that could help answer my question, instead of random information about rap music that had no significance to my paper and overall idea.
A majority of the sources I ended up using were scholarly sources, which I think is very important for a topic like this, because trustworthy data is needed to show that rap is in fact portrayed negatively. If I couldn’t prove this, there would be no way to use my research question, considering it’s just an assumption otherwise. One of the most important sources for my paper was "Rap Music and Its Violent Progeny: America's Culture of Violence in Context," by Jeanita Richardson and Kim Scott. The article's intention was to take a different look at rap music/industry from a positive outlook. Its main purpose- to show why rap music shouldn't be seen as just deviant behavior put into words. The belief being that making a negative impression about rap, without understanding its meaning and how it came about is unfair. Richardson and Scott seemed to believe that too many negative attitudes nationwide are directed at rap music, when many other forms of music and media could also be seen as having negative messages. They feel that if put into a rap artist's shoes, many people would better understand the intended theme of the songs. This source was very useful, because its theme was very similar to what I intended my paper’s theme to be.
Another source that was rather useful in my essay was "The Words Have Changed but the Ideology Remains the Same: Misogynistic Lyrics in Rap Music," by Terri Adams and Douglas Fuller. The goal of their article was to show the relationship between misogynistic views in rap music and the overall view of African American women throughout history. They claim that since misogyny emerged in rap music during the 1980s, it has remained a large component of rap in many different ways. Even songs with a title that doesn't relate to women at all sometimes fit misogynistic comments in their songs somewhere. Adams and Fuller claimed that the use of misogyny in rap is what causes 1, many people to have a negative view of rap music, and 2, those who like rap to develop racist or sexist views. This article was very important when writing my own essay, because it provided an opposite viewpoint to balance out my opinion and articles that backed it up. Also, by having a lot of content about misogyny in rap, the article was helpful, because the misogyny topic was very important throughout my essay as well.
A third significant source for my essay was “Controversial Rap Themes, Gender Portrayals and Skin Tone Distortion: A Content Analysis of Rap Music Videos," by Kate Conrad, Travis Dixon, and Yuanyuan Zhang. Its main purpose was to analyze rap music videos and show how they affect people's overall portrayal of rap music. They provided both negative and positive themes found within rap music and use them to figure out the relation of music video content to listener's perception. By using rap music videos to analyze the portrayal of rap, this article provided me with a whole new topic I probably wouldn’t have otherwise considered. I think it added a lot to my paper, by looking at songs from a perspective besides the lyrics. You know what they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
The sources I chose to use and the feedback I received through the drafting process were really what ended up shaping my paper. Without sources to back up my research question, there isn’t really anyway to write about the question. Luckily, it wasn’t too difficult to find sources that related to my question. By using my peer’s feedback, I was able to determine what it was that most readers wanted to hear when reading a paper with my topic. Knowing what a reader wants to read about when writing a paper makes it much easier to decide what and what not to write.