The last two days of the writing course. Most of the participants now have something that looks like a paper. They’ve got all of the relevant sections even if these are not all totally finished. Some sections may have pieces of holding text – like (add more data here) or (find more references) or (is there another key piece of literature that goes here?).
Despite being unfinished and certainly unpolished, this is a good time to get some early feedback. You might think that you have to wait until you have something respectable to share, but that’s generally not the case. Work in progress is the time to solicit some responses, beige you’re totally committed to a line of argument and sets of words.
Today in the course we looked at this ancient (an oldie but a goodie) post of mine on how to read a paper that you are about to referee. While it wasn’t all completely relevant to our process of giving early feedback to each other, a lot of it was. Reading for the contribution, the argument and the So What for instance, was all relevant. We then brought these posted questions about reading to a real paper – we read an actual first draft of a paper in progress. Groups of three and four read the paper and then compared notes on what was good about it, and what could be strengthened. We then shared these views in a whole group discussion.
As it turned out, there was still quite a lot to do on the paper we read, even though at first sight it appeared to be nearly good enough to send off. This nearly-but-not-quite-there state reinforced the point about the need to get some feedback sooner rather than later, in order to focus revisions. Getting clues from readers can be very handy at the point of near first draft consolidation; seeing obvious areas to work on at the outset can save a lot of heartache later from a revise and resubmit …
I hope the workshop participants could see some similarities between the state of the paper they saw – it wasn’t at all bad and it did have a lot of potential – and the state of their own papers. Maybe there were some things that arose from critically viewing this paper that might help when they look again at their own first drafts… well that was my hope!
Tomorrow we will share the participants’ papers. Groups of three will read each other’s work – everyone will read two papers at the start of the morning and then give feedback, so everyone has two lots of comments.
And then that will be it for me. Pack my suitcase and head off to Keflavik.
But it’s not the end of the course. My colleagues in Iceland are committed to working with writing course participants to get all of their papers to the point where they can be sent off to journals. This means everyone working in groups of four and five for the next couple of months. I’m hoping to be kept in the loop by email and will also provide further feedback on the papers as they develop.
Fingers crossed for lots of brilliant “published in 2016” papers!!!