Story and research writing

You often hear that writing about research is story telling. This is partly right and partly not. Partly not, because a lot of academic writing is better thought of as argument. Argument relies on evidence to make a case for a particular research result. And partly not story, because some research writing is reporting results. Reports rely on a standard order of content. So here then is the question, how is research writing like telling a story?

And one answer to this question is man in hole. Man in hole is an answer which can guide your writing. Man in hole is attributed to the late Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut developed five classic story structures. Now, Vonnegut is not the only person to develop universal story structures. But let’s stick with Vonnegut and his man in hole structure for now.

So if you’ve watched this little video, you’ve probably worked out how you can use the man in hole structure. It can help with two research writing tasks.

1. Research proposal. Outline the problem – man in hole. Say how you are going to get the man out of the hole – research plan.

2. Research report, thesis, book or journal article. Outline the problem – man in hole. Give an answer or a partial answer to the problem and say how you did it – how you got the man of the hole.

Man in hole is clearly a big structure that you can use when you start to think about how to organise your research material. You start with the problem and finish with some kind of answer.

That’s not all you have to think about of course when you’re writing about your research. But that big man in hole narrative structure could give you somewhere to start.

There are other ways to think about narrative and research writing too. There’s more coming up.

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
This entry was posted in academic writing, narrative and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Story and research writing

  1. Samin says:

    You are my writing lifeguard, always rescue me from the sea of confusion and keep me afloat! 🏊‍♀️📝🌊

    Liked by 1 person

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