Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Craft of Research: Chapter 11

Finally we get to drafting! First, of course, you must plan...

Plans - things to think about before drafting
  • Recognize readiness: when you have a sense of your paper, a tentative outline, evidence to support a point (4 criteria: concise, contestable, clear, and concrete), and perhaps warrants and objections.
  • Trashable vs. polishable drafting: you will cut out quite a lot of material, so begin early.
Traps in structure
  • Slavish mimicry of a given assignment, if any. DO NOT "repeat the assignment word for word in your first paragraph"!
  • Source summary vs. synthesis and analysis. The paper must have your cogitation apparent throughout.
  • Using data to organize: this is too predictable. Practice shuffling data by different categorizations (e.g. instead of by the standard people/places/things, perhaps do it by people-thing relationships).
  • Telling what you did. "The first issue I addressed was . . . , Then I compared . . ."
Steps for drafting (but they don't have to be in this order)
  • Should your point be in your introduction or in the conclusion? The Golden Rule applies here: "In general, plan your paper so that a reader...could skim your paper and get its general gist and the gist of each section."
  • Have a temporary introduction that lays out the plan for yourself. Open with some context; if you are stuck, refer to the tripartite question of Chapter 4 (I am studying ____ because I want to find out whether ____ in order to understand how ____).
  • Necessary context: give just enough; keep summaries short; if it ends up awkwardly long, end that summary with the absolutely vital points.
  • Revise the outline. Put your audience first. Readers generally prefer old (vs. new), short/simple (vs. long/complex), and uncontested (vs. controversial). However, these three may conflict, so judge the relative importance of each. Other ways to organize include chronologically, logically (e.g. evidence --> claim), or concessions/conditions --> objection --> rebuttal --> "your own affirmative evidence."
  • Judiciously select data. You will discard much.
    Ernest Hemingway once said that you know you're writing well when you discard stuff you know is good. You know you have constructed a convincing argument when you find yourself discarding material that looks good - but not as good as what you keep.
Producing a draft that's a draft - one you can revise
  • Ways to draft: get-raw-ideas-out (turning off the computer monitor!), which leaves room for drastic rearrangements; or perfectionist, which makes global revision difficult. To do the latter, say the authors, "you must have a detailed outline." I tend toward the latter and, fortunately, enjoy outlines somewhat.
  • Habit. "Ritualistically straighten up your desk, sit down, sharpen your pencils or boot up your computer, get the light just right, knowing that you will sit there for an absolutely irreducible period of time." Try to prime the pump.
The High Crime, Plagiarism, and its Prevention
  • Definition: taking someone else's words or ideas, directly or indirectly, intentionally or inadvertently, and using them as your own (i.e. without citations).
  • Direct-quote stealing: to prevent, make a block quote (Quick Tip, tomorrow) or put in quotation marks; record words verbatim (use [] and ... to show changes); cite.
  • Direct-idea stealing: using ideas while changing terms and not crediting the authors. Common knowledge may need no citation. If you can cite a source for an idea, do so.
  • Indirect quote-stealing: summaries and paraphrases. "[I]n fields that use a lot of direct quotation, such as history and English, close paraphrases [used in law, for example] are risky." May be tricky to recognize. To detect, read your paper along with the source.
  • Test: "Be conscious of where your eyes are as you put words on paper or on a screen."
Final hints
  • Clean up the draft if you are the get-raw-ideas-out type of drafter.
  • Make sure you have notes, quotes, etc.
  • Skim to discern your logical flow. Mark odd-sounding passages.
  • Remember your readers! How will they read your paper?

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