Think about this!
This blog is one I am hoping you will return to across the term to remind you of basics. As I have said in the past I am dyslexic. For me English (and any languages apart from sign-languages) feel foreign. I feel most able expressing myself in the wordless mode of movement. So it is with the mind-set of someone who has learnt (and is learning) the rules of a foreign language that I write this about the academic presentation of your work. These are constant problems that there is no need to make.
1. Your work should have page numbers, with your name and student id number in the footer.
2. Keep spacing (lines double-spaced) consistent throughout the paper. Check the font is consistent throughout the paper. Problems occur if you copy sections of text from other places and just put them into your paper. There are problems here with plagiarism if it is from others, and context if it is from something else you have written.
3. Check the tense of the words you are using, check that the ‘s’ ‘ed’ ‘ly’ type endings of words are correct in terms of the sentences you are using them in.
4. Check you understand and explain the words you use. Don’t rely on the word itself to explain your meaning. Explain the ideas rather than prove you have read something by just coping the same words you read.
The literature – is what other people who are established in the area have said about the area you are looking at. It is not a few random articles that come up on Google when you first look. The literature carries the trends for what people think on the topic. It is a source from which you can compare your experiences and the opinions of the people you know. THE PEOPLE YOU KNOW ARE NOT THE SOLE SOURCE. Do not use the people you know as if they were the literature. This is not because their opinions are not valid, it is because the literature is a part of a wider discussion. (Like it or not published works are made credible across the world. Because they are published)
If you don’t like reading this just means you need to do careful research on which books would be best to read, so you only read what you really need to read. It does NOT mean you just don’t read.
Learn how to cite, quote from books, journals, and articles in the press. (See earlier blogs guide-line for citing or look at lib-guides.) If you write a paper and you haven’t cited a few things think of this as a problem and ask yourself why not.
Send your Advisor your best work for feedback. Do not send work in the hope that the feedback will help you finish it. If you send your best effort then the feedback will help push you further. If you send anything else then all the feedback does at best is get you to where you might have got to on your own anyway.
Work out your ideas and the ‘story’ of what you are writing anyhow you need to. Then write it. The act of writing a paper is an act of communication (NOT THINKING), You have to know what you want to communicate before you start to communicate it. When I write a paper I find my first version is very emotional, it seems to include everything I’ve ever thought, I end up crying and by the end the whole thing is so confusing. Then I take a breath (do a dance class or some other kind of movement – this helps me think). Then I start all over again. This is because I need to get all the chips off my shoulder before I can write something that is not just about me justifying what I think. It is also because I am dyslexic and so I don’t think in the linear unemotional form needed for a paper. I understand I have a process that takes at least four drafts for me to get to what would be the first draft for some people – 1) the emotional draft, 2) the first one when I re-order everything, 3) the draft where I realise what I am really trying to say, 4) the draft where I triple check for spelling and left out words. And I need to move between each step in order to think. This (fourth) draft is my official first draft. The one I would send someone for feedback. What process do you use now? How can you develop this process? Use your time on this BA course to work out your process and tinkering with it so it is workable for you. This means you leave the course with a new skill and a new understanding of yourself.
Understand that just because one does academic type work does not mean one will suddenly become comfortable in a dream academic type approach to creating (where you sit down once with your computer and produce a master piece). Just like a dance class you have to fight for the techniques and practice by pushing yourself beyond what you think you can do. Part of this is about finding a new way to express yourself – a new range to your voice.
As we start the new term please have a think about these points.
The blog below is information about the Re:generation conference in November. It is always interesting to go to conferences and hear the papers people present you get ideas about presenting work and styles of writing.