Wednesday, 16 March 2016

#14daypaper Part 4. Fine Tuning

Welcome back to  #14daypaper - the short series in which I try to write a conference paper in a fortnight. 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, so please join in the conversation!

Introduction: How to Write a Paper in a Fortnight
Part 1. Planning
Part 2. Research
Part 3. Write, Write Again 

Day 13
That introduction is still irritating me. On reading through my paper again it seems clunky. I spend a good hour or so trying to come up with something that's punchy rather than procedural.

I fail.

Instead, I decide that it's ready for my supervisors. They're both experienced academics and fantastic public speakers. They're also generous with their feedback. I have the usual moment of anticipation/worry/imposter syndrome when I send off the draft. I feel the fear and press 'send' anyway.

In the afternoon, I work on my handout. This involves a lot of quote-checking and fiddly formatting. I'm halfway through  a rant about Microsoft Word I realise the 14 day paper project is almost over.

Day 14
Day 14 actually comes nearly a week after Day 13. Extra work commitments mean I don't have a single PhD day. I meet with my supervisors. I expect them to agree with me that the introduction is haphazard.

Turns out, they love the introduction. But they do pick up on my other weaknesses. Both suggest more on the debates around these texts. After 45 minutes of discussion, we realise that the arguments I'm making should - really - lead to an entirely different conclusion. This is a little embarrassing. (Who writes a paper that doesn't support the conclusions they draw?) But, thinking this through now changes how I think about this codex as a whole.

I leave the supervision a little flat. All I can think about is how there's still so much work to be done. After wallowing a little, I get some perspective. This paper will be better for that work. Ultimately, the thesis will be better.


And with that, the 14 day period is over. And my paper is not finished, exactly. Admittedly, I could give the paper as it is. But I also want to make it as good as it can be. Is this how other people approach papers: always striving to improve them? Or is done good enough for you?

While I make my revisions, I'll also think about what this experience has taught me. So there's one part left to go in this series.

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