Going back to school

I went to back to school last week part-time for technical communications with two writing-related courses on the agenda: Tech Writing (intensive) and College English Workshop. For the English class, I have two main semester-long duties: writing a 10-page research paper, and writing about 400 words/week in a journal. Blogs count, so I’m using this opportunity to blog more.

The research paper topic is going to be on how the show 24 has affected American’s opinion on torture. For a long time it seems American’s have viewed themselves as being the “good guys” and the “good guys” don’t torture people—that’s the “bad guys” job. Since Jack Bauer, the lead character in 24, routinely tortures people because he doesn’t have the time to ask them nicely and the show receives both high ratings and critical acclaim, I’m curious how American’s view torture against the context of the show.

The hardest part is going to be finding sources. I need at least seven sources, and I’ve found some decent ones: an article in which Justice Scalia is quoted as saying that Bauer would never be prosecuted and that extreme times call for extreme measures. I’ve found articles in which Pentagon and West Point officials have visited the producers telling them to lighten up a tad since apparently military people are using Jack Bauer as a training manual. Those are soft sources and I need to find some harder ones, which means I’ll need to nail down the topic and thesis into something I can find academic sources on, which may prove difficult for something entertainment-based.

I’m looking forward to this; the last time I had to write a research paper was almost 20 years ago. Since I’ve been writing professionally for a while, I do not doubt my ability to do the work, but I’m curious how the standards for academic writing differ from writing for publication. When writing for publication, I’ve found the criteria seems to go: 1) on-time, 2) doesn’t take up too much of my editor’s time, and 3) good. I expect academia standards are a tad different, but I actually wouldn’t be surprised if they were that much different: “Hmm, looks like Mr. Crump handed in his assignment on time. That’s a bonus. Looks like I won’t need go through five red pens marking this one up, either, and whaddya know, it’s actually fairly decent.” But I have a nagging feeling it’s going to be much different.