Monday, 18 June 2012

Literature Review III: Choppy Writing

I'm considering myself well into the writing mode now and am close to halfway towards my word limit (which has been revised to 8,000-9,000 at most now).  As I've said before, this is my first real piece of academic writing since my undergraduate days, and I've noticed that I've approached this project in a completely different way.

One of the main obstacles for me has been the lack of a solid question. Obviously, I have a question I am trying to answer within the review, but I'm talking about the smaller sort of sub-questions that shape the direction and style of your argument.  For example, when I am writing about magic, I want to establish the value of magic research in science, as well as discussing the work that has informed my own research.  The former is quite a broad topic, where the latter is much more specific, yet these are to be covered within one large section about magic. 

If we continue with this example, my problem has been how to make the progression between each subsection within the magic area.  This has resulted in what I've called "Choppy Writing".  I go from one section to another, writing a few sentences or paragraphs as I come across something I think will link into that section, or as I read a paper and see that what I've written might be better placed elsewhere, and so on.

I don't suppose this in itself is inherently problematic (although I can see me having to do crazy proof-reading to make sure I've still got all the references that are in my reference list) but it does feel strange for me to write in this way.  I've mentioned before I like to write a section in its entirety before I move on, or at least - I used to.  This time, the choppy writing has come to me naturally; it seemed the most intuitive way to approach the topic.  Write what I could when I could, so that something is down on paper.  I suppose that's what drafts are for - editing is where I need to shape it up and refine the ideas and arguments.

The draft itself still feels very rough and I'm not sure how good anything I'm producing is, but at least I'm at the point now where I am going to send one completed subsection to my supervisor.  The prospect terrifies me, but I think it is okay, so I need to see where my judgements of the work stand in relation to my supervisor's.  We shall soon see!


  1. like i said, it's kinda good to start from a concrete example and then progress from there.

    u can use the example of the rose conjuring magician and the proceed with questions such as ..

    what is magic? illlusion?
    how is it performed? sleight of hand etc
    principles of designing magic?
    scientific approach of designing magic?
    problems? solutions?
    translating design into performance?
    the construct of magic design? process flow?
    the construct of magic performance? flow? taxonomy?

    :) hope it helps.

  2. Hi,

    I'm half way through the first year of my PhD and I'm the depths of my literature review. I feel as though I'm drowning in it, and with this being the first formal piece of writing I will be presenting to my supervisor, the anxiety and pressure is really wearing me thin. Every Sunday, I'm faced with the weight of the impending week and the thought of work the following morning makes me want to curl into a ball. After spending weeks writing and re-writing (and I'm still only at 3,000 words) and facing my deadline tomorrow, it all feels hopeless. I realise no one said this was going to be easy but I feel more alone, anxious and broken than I have ever felt. Maybe this literature review has beaten me. But what will I tell my supervisor? I'm sure he's regretting hiring me!