Research Project in Children’s Literature Studies 

From Start to Finish 

Dear readers, 

Today, I invite you to embark on a journey with me—a journey that will take us from the inception to the completion of a research project. We will explore the essential steps and procedures involved in academic writing. This idea recently came to me, and I am delighted to share my research journey with you. 

The Project 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to beginning a research project. Allow me to share my personal experience. Sometimes, I start with a clear idea of what I want to achieve, often expressed as a research question or hypothesis. 

In this instance, I have a concept that I wish to investigate. It centres around the field of literary geography, a relatively new subfield within literature studies that focuses on spatial narratives. The inspiration for this project arose from my everyday observations. While reading Japanese picture books with my three-year-old son, I noticed a scarcity of stories featuring foxes as the main characters. 

This is rather atypical for British stories, where fox characters are found in a substantial portion of picture books. In contrast, a Japanese reader is more likely to encounter raccoons as characters in children’s stories. This difference may be explained by the fact that there are as many foxes in Britain as there are raccoons in Japan. 

Comparing with other countries, one may notice different stereotypes about foxes. My Finnish friend and colleague holds foxes in high regard. In Finnish tales, they are not portrayed as witty, sly, or cunning creatures, as they are in Britain; instead, they are seen as kind protectors of the forest. On the other hand, the personalities of raccoons in Japanese picture books are similar to British foxes. In Slavic countries, foxes have the same personality traits as British foxes, but they are considered female (while in Britain, a fox is male) unless stated otherwise. 

All these observations raise questions about foxes and raccoons and the reasons for their varying portrayals in different countries. Are there factors beyond species population that influence the depiction of characters in picture books? This is my initial research idea. 

Researcher’s Approach 

As a researcher, I cannot draw conclusions until I have conducted a thorough investigation. These are the first steps I need to follow: 

  • Check for existing research literature on the same topic. This step also implies that there may already be research that addresses my question, though I highly doubt it. Who else would pay attention to foxes and raccoons in picture books and their populations? Nevertheless, this step will ensure I clarify all the relevant facts about my research question. 
  • Find facts. This step entails locating sufficient evidence to support my argument. Are foxes exclusively depicted as sly and tricky in British picture books? There may be other traits I’ve overlooked. This fact-finding process will help me gain clarity and finalise my research question. 
  • Determine research methods. What actions do I need to take to answer my research question?  

At this stage, these first steps will suffice, but as the research progresses, additional steps will be added to this list. 

The Pleasure of Research 

To some of you, picture book raccoons and foxes may not sound like fascinating subjects. I respect that perspective. However, research is generally a highly rewarding endeavor. 

I wholeheartedly recommend following my updates to learn, through my experiences, how to find enjoyment in your research journey. 

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