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Are you thinking about entering in the Ice Dragon Arts & Sciences Pentathlon this year? Great! It is fantastic to see our Sylvan Æthelmearc artisans get back in the swing of things – although some did not seem at all slowed down with the transition to virtual competitions in the past few years! We have faith next year’s Arts & Sciences Pentathlon will happen in some shape or form – preferably in-person, of course – which means we need to get our act together soon. The entry deadlines are starting to creep up… with the first one being:

Research Paper deadline (category Literary Arts): February 15th

The category Literary Arts includes, but is not limited to: Poetry & prose, Research paper, Musical arrangement & composition. Entries are not to exceed 10,000 words (approximately 40 pages double spaced exclusive of images) and should be sent electronically or via hard copy in the mail.

But what exactly makes a written work a research paper? Ideally, a research paper should do more than simply summarize known information. It should ask a question, make an argument, prove a point or present a conclusion about a topic of interest to those in the SCA. The subject might draw from history, or it might relate to the way in which we attempt to accurately recreate the past in the SCA. The end of the introductory paragraph of the paper usually includes a statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved (called a thesis) and would offer a neat summary of the main point or claim of the paper. And like the literary arts, research papers come in different types, too.

Research papers can come in different flavors – which one is yours?

A research paper can be Argumentative: this would be a good one for writers presenting a debated topic. First clearly explain and present two opposite opinions on the issue at hand. Then take a position in the paper with your view for one side of the topic. Present facts, data and authoritative opinions in support of your position to persuade and convince the audience and argue against any contradictions. Argumentative papers can be quite fun to read!

Any paper by Baron Caleb is a fun read, and his example of an argumentative paper What the Norse Greenlanders Ate (2017/2020) is once again memorable. It was entered into the Kingdom Arts & Sciences Championship, 2020.

A research paper can Compare & Contrast: this type of paper is used to compare two different subjects, or concepts, and how they relate to one another in both similarities and differences. The paper’s statement provides clarity on the contrasts and comparisons throughout the paper. The goal is not to persuade the reader, but to neutrally inform the reader about distinctions between varying viewpoints of related topics or genres.

An example of this would be my comparison of medieval gruit beer with modern gruit ale, using oft contrasting viewpoints to figure out why and how gruit ale changed so much from its historic origins. It was entered in the 2018 Ice Dragon Pentathlon.

A research paper can be Analytical: here, you would focus on facts instead of opinions. It is informational in nature and uses a large variety of viewpoints and sources on a subject without a specific opinion. It provides the reader with as much information as possible, but allow the audience to draw their own conclusions. However, instead of merely presenting the information, you should be able to present a factual analysis of the data you are working from.

A concise example of an analytical paper (research does not need to be many paged to be effective) would be A Brief Survey of SCA Bardic Music by Gwendolyn the Graceful. Another, yummy, example would be Krupnik and the Plausability of Landrace Honey Cordials by Lord Cassiano da Castello, entered into the Kingdom Arts & Sciences Championship, 2021, and smartly accompanied by a practical, sip-able, example.

A research paper can be a Report: Report papers are merely an organized and detailed list of facts about a topic. In many cases the report works to outline details related to a case study or process. The statement of the paper would describe the subject being explored and define the scope of the report, and can include your personal experience related to the topic under consideration. Authors of reports choose a subject, research it, and convey the evidence to the reader using quotes, graphs, tables, interviews, experiments, a summary and appendix

Period zombies? Why, yes! Draugarnir: Revenants in Old Icelandic Sagas by Baron Fridrikr Tomasson would be a (somewhat creepy) example of a report paper, as would Luceta di Cosimo’s paper Dead Men Walking – an Overview of Apotropaic Burials, entered in the 2017 Ice Dragon Pentathlon.

A research paper can show Cause & Effect: These papers guide the reader through a series of “chain of event” scenarios. Such papers work to study results; considered, expected, probable or, perhaps, unexpected. Cause-and-effect papers are not written based on opinion, but on quantifiable evidence with supporting documentation. With supporting evidence, this format can be both informational and quite intriguing for the reader (especially when accompanied by YouTube videos!).

Experimental archaeology, finally! An practical example of a cause & effect paper (I did this, and that happened) would be Experiments with Bone Ice Skates and Their Associated Poles by Master Robert of Ferness, entered as an Applied Research paper in the Ice Dragon Pentathlon 2019.

I hope you enjoyed my TED talk on research papers; for sure a topic close to my heart.  Of course, don’t expect all papers to neatly fit into these five broad categories. SCAdian artisans are known for their out-of-the-box thinking and category mash-ups happen just as much in writing as elsewhere, of course. I do admit it took me more days to track down (mostly) appropriate research paper examples, than I did writing this post – so if you know of a better example, let me know. I can’t wait to see – and read – what will be entered in this year’s Pent – you’ve got winter break to start thinking if you have not already… nudge, nudge, wink, wink!

Yours in service,

Want to know more about the Passing the Ice Dragon Arts & Sciences Pentathlon? Look no further, the website is updated with the latest information, including updated deadlines.