writing course day two

We began today by looking at the abstract again – the Tiny Text – and then went on to think about titles. After some paired discussion of the potential titles and a bit of work on some volunteers’ abstracts and titles, we progressed to using the abstract as a road map to the article. Each sentence of the abstract became a section of the paper. The group then allocated word totals to each section. The result formed a plan for writing.

We considered introductions and what beginning work needs to do, and I introduced the notion of OARS, Occupying a Research Space.
(1) Establish the territory in which the work is located – policy, practice or debate
(2) Establish a niche for the paper – say what is needed – fill a gap, address a problem, add a new perspective
(3) Fill the niche – say what the paper will do
(4) Signpost the argument and the structure of the paper

A sentence skeleton for signposting was put up for the group to use if they wanted.

My paper consists of x sections.
I consider…, then go onto to… .
I …….. before… .
I conclude by …… .
I begin however with/by….. .

The group then went on to do a 10 minute shut-up-and-write about what they needed to do for OARS. So just like yesterday, they were writing about what they were going to write, not writing the actual stuff. They then talked to each other about their introduction in groups of three, four or five.

I then suggested that this shut-up-and-write writing about could act as a kind of holding text. They had written enough for them to move on and consider the next stages of the paper. The holding text contained the material needed for the introduction, even if wasn’t actually the final thing.

So let’s recap I said. The group had started with an abstract, then constructed a road map with word lengths for each section, then gone on to write about what was needed in the introduction. This was, I suggested to them, a pretty good start – they had the shape of the paper and how to get going on it. However before going any further we just needed to check on the abstract again, to make sure that the locational work and the so what were working as well as they could…

So, finally, we got to the homework, to prepare a five minute powerpoint for presentation to the group tomorrow. The slides will cover the journal and its readership, the various parts of the paper and the so what now what – The Point.

The most challenging conversation for me as the ‘teacher’ focused on getting an angle when the actual research that you’d done had ended up with results that weren’t startling and of interest in any arena other than the local setting – they simply reproduced what was generally accepted. The case in point was about a particular kind of knowledge reproduced in school text books around the world. Potential angles we talked about were (1) why the text books were the same in diverse settings, how could this be explained – and (2) how the same kind of text could continue to be produced and reproduced over time and in diverse settings. We also talked about the problem of arguing that your research was important because nothing had ever been done on the topic before. Rarely the case. So we thought about how to word this kind of claim – most research focuses on this and that, and it could be useful to know more about…

About half of tomorrow‘s session will be spent on the presentations. I’m looking forward to it.

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
This entry was posted in abstracts, introduction, Tiny Text, writing course and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to writing course day two

  1. I am enjoying your course from a distance. Would like to be there. Looking forward to tomorrow’s summary.


  2. I’m enjoying it too – and I’m going to give that second shut up and write a whirl too as I work on my new paper idea…. 🙂


  3. Pingback: Writing course day two | Life as an academic | ...

  4. Pingback: Moving from your proposal to chapter the first | How to write a PhD in a hundred steps (or more)

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