Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Death by a thousand pinpricks.

Academic writing and I don't get along very well, so I'm starting to think.

I've been chipping away at Round 8,442,930 of thesis revisions, and things are not going well. I synthesized three professors' worth of advice — mostly along the lines of evaluating where commas go, making sure my sentences don't run on, that sort of thing — and (I thought) whipped my Literature Review chapter into shape. I even added some neat ideas, completely in line with my research questions, at the suggestion of one of my supervisors: a nice study in which, strangely enough, someone else actually talked to teachers and asked their opinion on how things are going.

Well, even with three profs making their copious suggestions, apparently I still don't know how to write. Even though the majority of the things that were pointed out to me today were of the "take out the phrase 'a set of' here" variety, my main supervisor says there are still "big style issues."

I think part of the problem is that I don't really pay that close attention to the style of writing when I'm reading research journals; I'm more just interested in the information they contain.* Also, I haven't quite worked out the sort of authority I, as a lowly master's student, have when it comes to saying something in a paper. I get the impression I have to qualify every little claim I make, but then my supervisor tells me not to bother; then, in other places, I haven't explained myself enough, so I have to elaborate. The end result is that I have to go over this whole thing about eight times over, and after about the third you'll probably be ready to quit.

That's in sharp contrast to pretty much every other paper I've written for a course. Ah, those were the days... you blast something off, hand it in, brush off your hands and wait for a mark. (I confess, there were a few papers I wrote — for grad courses, no less — which I didn't even read all the way through after printing them off, and I seem to have done alright in those.) This is different, though. The stakes are much higher, and there are multiple profs just waiting to pounce on you.

I don't know. Maybe this will eventually make me a better writer, make me more thoroughly understand the points I'm trying to convey, make me an aristocrat who uses a cigarette-holder and says phrases like "jolly-good" and "the data clearly show blah-blah-blah" and so on. But for now, this fucking sucks.

* This is a very strange thing for me to say, given that I come from the school of "it's not what you say, it's how you say it." I'm all about being articulate and polished, but seriously, some of these academic type folk are obsessed.

1 comment:

'nee said...

If you need a proofreader, I volunteer my eyes (and if they start bleeding you get your money back). I'm technically qualified because I've been published in a journal. Sure, it was The Comics Journal, but still it counts, goddamnit, in fact I have a picture of the cheque from Fantagraphics balanced on my boobs. As proof, like.

Besides, I have a favour to ask you since you're the only person I know, except my ex-roommate Matt who thinks I'm kind of weird, who is a teacher and is thusly qualified to help me figure out how to pitch something to teachers. I don't actually know your email address, though, at least I know your post email but does that even still work? LOOK, A RUN-ON SENTENCE. No wonder I'm not a grad student.