As a novice 21-year old researcher looking to present concise and coherent arguments within my limited word thesis, I started out by setting myself word count limitations for each chapter or sub-chapter of my planned thesis, and attempted to write to them, conforming to the set guidelines. In doing this, I felt as though I would naturally be compelled to critically evaluate the worth of every sentence I committed to the page – so I could cover all of the key ideas for each section of writing as succinctly as possible, without exceeding my overall word count. In hindsight, this was an unrealistic expectation to set for myself as a researcher.
On a number of occasions over the past month or so, I have found that some of the research doors I have opened have been very hard to close satisfactorily. Sometimes these doors have led me to places that have been difficult to leave (places that I have enjoyed researching within), only for me to realise hours later that in the grand scheme of things, the research doesn’t relate enough to the context of my thesis, and I probably should never have entered in the first place.
However, I am starting to see the benefits of opening such doors. Reading over my work thus far, it is clear to me that the best and most fluent extracts of my writing seem to arise when there is adequate context for them to develop – and this context stems from deep reading and research, and from writing things out in detail so that you fully understand them as a researcher. This has left me with way too many words – (i.e – 2000 words in sections that were intended to have 500), and potentially a thesis subject with too large a scope to accurately address in a 12000 word Honours thesis. Obviously, when working within word limitations– not everything that is written can be retained.
And so there has been a recurring feeling of tension, anxiety and impatience as I have struggled to cull words from my writing, in the fear of having a detrimental impact to the flow of the piece. I think it is natural for a researcher to become attached to his/her own work.
However, with an objective mindset, it should be possible for me to weed out the weakest sections and arguments without losing the context required to drive the strongest points home. With my first draft due for submission on Friday, one of the primary goals for today is to start weeding out the superfluous information – not necessarily deleting work that I have done, never to be seen again – but just storing it somewhere else to see how the overall thesis reads without it included.
I think printing out the work and reading it from a more impartial viewpoint, on paper rather than your computer screen, could prove useful in this regard.
I do feel like there is a lot of writing yet to be done. However, I have been too scared to go forward and write the necessary new material until I’ve nicely rounded out my previous chapters (the ones with too many words), which I cant seem to leave alone and stop editing! I think the best plan of attack is to use the draft submission this Friday as the dividing date. Condense, condense, condense for these next two days – and try and hand in something that communicates the general sense of where my thesis and research is headed. Having done that, I can pick up the further writing next week, using my draft content as a foundation.
I’m currently on a train heading out to Footscray, where I will be setting up for the day and tonight to do some peaceful study with my friend Steve in his art studio. Apparently the chair in this space is less than comfortable. Regardless, I look forward to a change of scenery and to work somewhere new. But I just really, really hope, in spite of the change of scenery and perspective – that I can keep all of the tempting doors of further research locked for these next few days, and focus on the task at hand: editing what I’ve got, and completing the draft.