Ellie Mackin is a third year PhD student in Classics at King’s College London, and is working through Wendy Belcher’s ‘Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks’ while attempting to finish her thesis.
Half way! That’s right, things are finally starting to happen and my article is taking shape! This week was all about structure, and although I thought it was going to be a boring (albeit necessary) week, it actually turned out to be very interesting. The explanatory text for this week began with types of structure – what Belcher categorised as ‘micro’ and ‘macro’ structure. That is, the structure of your overall article and the structure within each paragraph. This started with five basic ‘organisational structures’: description, sequence, causation, problem/solution and comparison: I’m not sure what effect knowing this has had on my writing, but it certainly has made me a better reader this week, because I’ve been concentrating on identifying these structures within other texts I’ve been reading (and, in fact, I wonder if this whole process is not just making me a better writer but a better reader and researcher as well – I certainly notice things differently and read more carefully than I did before…). Belcher then goes though article structures, and I have to be honest, I didn’t read the ones aimed at Social Sciences (although perhaps I will go back and read them), but skipped straight though to the Humanities-themed structure. This is a very useful part of the book, and if you do nothing else then read though this section (Humanities is on pp. 180-182.). Not only does Belcher give the general structure but she gives an example of how the structure works in an actual article (it would be interesting to go though and read the article with the structure in hand and see how this works. I should have done this, probably, but I’ve been so busy this week as per usual). We then go though ways to solving structure problems, including prompts asking if you could use more subheadings or summary, if you use an appropriate structure, if you present your evidence properly, if your main argument appears in each paragraph and, if not, should you include it more, and whether you could develop your examples more successfully. The next main task is to outline a model article. I used an article I was about to read anyway, instead of the suggestion to read the model article that was identified in week one. I’m not sure if this was more or less successful than it could have been in the circumstances, but I got a lot out of the exercise, both in terms of what I got out of the article and being able to identify what worked and what didn’t in the model. Finally, before getting to your own article, Belcher asks you to outline your article using the examples outlined. And then, you guessed it, you have to implement the structure. This wouldn’t be a blog by me if there wasn’t at least one confession, so here it is: I am rubbish at editing. And this was no different. I struggled big time with this task, but I got there. My article needs a lot more revision, and the two days that Belcher put aside for this task weren’t enough for me, so I will have to take this though into the weekend as well. I have taken away some really valuable lessons from this week, and lessons that are more widely applicable than just for my article. I’m going to create a structure map of my thesis, as a whole and chapter by chapter, and see if I can improve it using Belcher’s system. All in all, an interesting and useful week! Hope AcWriMo is treating everyone well.