Happy birthday to me
July is patter’s eight birthday and this is my 784thpost. That’s a lot of words. At about a thousand per post, well, there’s about ten books worth buried in this blog.
I’ve had a bit of a look back over my very first posts. I can immediately see that my writing has freed up a lot since I first started. I’m a lot less fond of the orthodox paragraph and sentence than I used to be. But the reader I was writing for hasn’t changed. I was clear at the start that I was writing for doctoral and early career researchers and those who work with them. And I still am.
There’s so much stuff now sitting on this blog that even I can’t remember what’s there and what isn’t. In my look back I noticed that one of the earliest posts was about using writing skeletons.
Writing skeletons were good, I said at the time, as a way to get the hang of how other academic writers structured their arguments. I’d add to that now. Id probably explain more about meta-commentary as a way of staging an argument. It’s not just the content that matters but also the moves you make to string the content together.
I now also always emphasise that writing skeletons are a good way to help you sort out what you want to say. Forcing yourself to write small and get the key points down in the right order saves a lot of time when it comes to writing the final thing. A writing skeleton is a tiny text that can do big work.
So in honour of the writing skeleton and patter’s birthday, here is one new skeleton to use when thinking about the warrant for a paper – be it conference or journal. This is one I use in writing workshops around papers and chapters and sometimes the thesis.
- There is a growing research literature on ….. ( broad topic)
- Researchers have examined ….., ……, ….., ……., and ……… ( examples of aspects of broad topic with one or two references after each)
- However, there is as yet little which addresses …… (the focus of this paper, also an aspect of the broad topic)
- The inspiration for this project came from…. ( either your reading, an experience or seeing a policy effect or social phenomenon)
- This example suggests that….. ( what you think the example might show about your topic and why you need to research it)
- My research set out to test this assumption or investigate further or explore the (specific issue) by…. (describe the research in brief)
- The paper reports on ….. ( the results that you are discussing)
- I will argue that …..
And here is one of the originals. An oldie* but a goodie.
- The thesis/chapter/paper builds on and contributes to work in the field of …..
- Although a number of studies ( ) have examined ……., there has not been a strong focus on ………..
- As such, this study provides additional insights about ……
- This research differs from previous studies in …………. by identifying/documenting/ ………….
- In doing this, it draws strongly on the work of ………… and …………. who……………
It’s important to remember that a finished skeleton may not be your actual text, the one you give you supervisor or send off to a journal. You may want to play with these somewhat dry bits of prose. But these skeleton tiny texts are a very handy ways to get to your final text. Once you have the content and logic of the moves worked out you can focus on how best to say them.
*Adapted from Dunsmire, P (1997) Naturalizing the future in factual discourse: a critical linguistic analysis of a project event. Written Communication 14 (2) 221-264.