Thursday, April 19, 2012

Presenting a Paper: A New Experience

I recently had the privilege of being selected as one of the presenters of a research paper at an Undergraduate Research Forum. I am enrolled in a class that focuses on J.R.R. Tolkien, specifically on The Lord of the Rings. During class one night, a thought struck me. Why is the Ring not seen as a character? It never makes the "characters list." I found myself on a mission. I could not let the concept go. Tolkien is a master at making a lot of things feel alive in his work. I decided this would be the topic I would cover in my research paper for the class. I had no idea just how challenging this particular paper would be. Apparently no one has been talking about this situation very much. I checked our college databases. Nothing. I searched books in the library. Nothing. I did Google searches and Google Scholar searches. Nothing. Oh sure, I found plenty of articles, blogs, books, and websites devoted to Tolkien and his great work, but I did not find that a single one of these discussed the Ring specifically as a character. This is the point where I started to feel that tightness in my chest as I thought "Uh oh. What have I gotten myself into?" I am about as stubborn as they come, so I decided I was not going to let this paper beat me. I refused to change my mind about my topic even though a few people felt that it could not be done. There were enough people on the other side of this argument that were supportive and gave me the encouragement I needed to keep pushing through.
The concept of the Ring as a character rather than just an object seems so simple. I had no idea just how complex it would become. Thankfully, I had the foresight to begin my research early. I have been working on this topic since early February. The paper is finally finished now that it is late April. I had a breakthrough when I read Peter Kreeft's The Philosophy of Tolkien. I finally found someone who was looking at Tolkien from several different angles.
I had a tough time getting my thoughts organized. I had finally gathered all of my sources and was ready to write, but I had no clue where I was going with the topic. I am usually organized when it comes to writing my academic papers. This time I was like a balloon floating on the wind. No control. I do not like the feeling of having no control. Not one little bit. I pushed through and wrote a paper. Not the paper, but a paper. My ideas were all over the place, but the thoughts were there. I had the information I wanted, now I just had to put it together properly. Thank goodness for my professor. I sent my paper to him electronically, and he was gracious enough to look it over and help me figure out what to do with the information I had. He has also agreed to assist me in searching for periodicals/journals that might publish such a paper since there doesn't seem to be much out there about this topic.

The experience of presenting the paper to an audience and standing up there taking questions was a great benefit. Not only do you have to know your subject, you have to do a good job with the presentation. I also did a PowerPoint presentation as an oral presentation assignment for the class based on my paper. This gave me a second opportunity to present the information in a different way. I had to stand in front of the class, give my presentation, and take questions/comments from the class. The class had a lot more questions and comments than the audience I originally presented to. This situation was rewarding for me. I actually had people who said things like "I never thought of it that way."

I can definitely say that I am happy that I stuck it out and finished the paper and presentation. I have learned so much about the topic as well as what it is like to stand in front of a class and basically teach something. I have read where many authors will do readings of their works and get really nervous beforehand. It's amazing how you can stumble over words you have written yourself! Each time we get up in front of an audience, whether it be 2 people or 20, is a beneficial experience.

Happy writing both creatively and academically!

Photo by Emily D. Wood
Copyright (c) Emily D. Wood


  1. I love your idea. Sometimes writers have very personable objects, which makes things a lot more fun. I'm glad that you enjoyed the Research Forum. I also enjoyed your presentation. :)

    1. Thank you! Now I just have to make it through this last month of school.