Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Theory, Thesis, Process

You will find it easier to write a good paper if you have interesting, straightforward answers to three questions.

  1. What does your field expect your research show? (This is a question of form.)
  2. What does your research in fact show? (This is a question of content.)
  3. How do you plan to get the paper written?

The answer to the first question should include a short list of the names of specific, living researchers who hold these expectations and whose work expresses them. The answer to the second question should make use of the same terminology as the first and include a few easy-to-understand declarative sentences. And the answer to the last question should include specific dates, times, and tasks—it should be the outline of a writing schedule.

If you can answer these questions without too much trouble then you have a good sense of your theoretical context, your empirical thesis, and your writing process. If you are writing your paper to discover the answers to these questions, you are likely to run into trouble. People are different, of course, and if you write and publish often without answers to these questions, you are an exception.

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