Tuesday, 1 March 2016

#14daypaper Part 2. Research

Welcome back to #14daypaper, the short series in which I try to write a conference paper in a fortnight. So far, I've explained a bit about why I'm doing this. I've also talked a bit about my attempts to write a good plan:

Part 1. Planning

As always, this is not the definitive way to write a conference paper. It's just the way that I'm going about writing this particular conference paper. I would love to hear how you handle these challenges.

Day 5
After making a reading list yesterday, I know which texts I need to revisit. I also have a few leads for further research on a few key points. This is where I run into a slight problem. 

My paper compares two texts that appear alongside each other in a manuscript. One text is a version of a saints' life, so there's plenty of research material. My other text is more obscure - it's an extract from a longer text. Finding any sustained reference to my text proves difficult. After spending most of the day researching, I can only find dismissals of the genre. I can't even find any critical dismissals of this specific text.

I have a tendency to neglect secondary criticism when I write a paper. However, if I don't have any criticism, what can I do? Should I mention this in my paper? Is it a strength? Or does it make seem like I'm studying nonsense?

Day 6
I have my monthly volunteering session in the morning. After lunch, I sit down to work. I compare my obscure text with the original. I read them side-by-side to see if there are any differences that are relevant to my argument. No luck: apart from a few lines, they're the same. 

I've now filled all the gaps in my knowledge that I identified on Day 1. This means I'm ready to start planning. I follow Nadine Muller's fantastic advice and collate all my notes  and evidence in one document. I then arrange them under one-sentence headers that outline each part of my argument.

This means that tomorrow, I'll just take my evidence, link them together, and write a first draft. Out of curiosity, I check my word count. I have 1200 words already: I'm worried this paper might end up being too long.

Day 7 and Day 8 
I wake up halfway through the night with excruciating stomach cramps. I'm not sure what's caused it, but I spend the next two days between the bed and the bathroom with a tummy bug.

During the long nights, I listen to the World Service to distract myself from the pain. After hearing a piece about Donald Trump, I then have a feverish nightmare where he tells me my paper is crap. Hurrah!


And on that terrifying note, I've lost two days of writing to Trump-related dreams and stomach cramps. And I still don't know how to approach the fact that one of my pieces is largely unstudied.

Does a lack of existing criticism position a paper as pioneering? Or does it make the speaker seem like they're studying trash?

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