Study Leave Week 7

Organising materials for writing

When working on a large research project, such as writing a new book, there comes a point when you have to stop researching new materials, and start writing it up. Making sense of all the material, and organising it into a coherent argument, is one of the most rewarding (but daunting) processes to go through.

For me this week, the practicalities of marshaling all my material has meant printing out the book ‘roadmap’ that I completed last week, and then setting up or amending Word files so that they have the right titles, headings, and subheadings of each of the detailed sections. This means I can then drop in the materials I need into each section. Sometimes this will be quotes from primary sources, sometimes it is summaries of arguments made by others in secondary critical literature, and sometimes it is excerpts of my own conference papers from times when I ‘tested out’ new material in a live presentation in front of my peers. Dropping these materials into place gives a really strong basis from which to then work up the new material needed – the bread and butter writing of the argument, supplemented then by the new and original research findings (which were the whole impetus for the project in the first place). This is a system that I have used before, so I am reverting to a tried and tested model that works for me. But I have adapted the process this time round by also updating my Study Leave Planner as I go along. When a section or chapter is largely finished (based on the materials I currently have to hand), I then update my Planner not just with a big tick saying “DONE” but also with a new entry signalling what additional materials I need to source (e.g. from the BnF in Paris) at what stage so that I can fully complete the writing of that section.

Writing means organising. If you can make sense of where your ideas should go, then it bodes well for others being able to make sense of your work when you publish it.

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