It’s often tricky to work out how to turn a piece of finished research into a journal article. Or two. Or even three.
This trickiness is in part because it’s hard to get your head out of the whole that you’ve constructed – the completed report or chapters took ages to put together and make coherent. It’s too hard and too much to think of unpicking the argument again. But it’s also hard to move away from a completed text simply because the text is already written. You’ve slaved away at this text and it’s pretty good and you can’t bear to think that you might have to do it all again. It’s a great temptation to think that you just need to tweak this existing writing a little bit and the paper will be done.
Alas. If only.
While a few people might be able to cut and paste and fiddle a bit with their pre-existing text, most of us, most of the time, have to do much more. We have to face up to the fact that in order to get a good paper out if an existing report or chapters we can’t simply cut the bigger piece into smaller slices. No, that probably won’t work. We need to do more. You see, what we have is raw material that we now have to refashion for a different purpose. We have to remix our text into something that is a separate and stand-alone, brand spanking new text.
How is this done? Well, one strategy is to focus on the point. The point that we can make using this raw material. Alternatively thought of as a contribution. Something that adds to the conversation.
When I work in writing workshops, I often suggest that people ask themselves a series of questions. These are geared to help them focus on the reader, the field, the contribution and the point. These questions are listed here in this powerpoint. You might want to work through them to see how they work.
You might find this question based strategy helpful. It does work particularly well if you do it with someone else – things get clearer when you have to explain your thinking to another person. Giving your answers to the questions and having someone else ask for clarifications can be a very helpful way to make sure you find your very particular point.
And… Once you have found your point, you can then go on to consider how you will stage the argument that leads the reader to it.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and strategies, Pat. Very timely as I am attempting to ‘extract’ a paper out of my dissertation…