I'm grateful to Gareth Hughes*, who has helped me to define a project for the month of July with his comments (as "Garzo") to one of older my posts about the "standard issue" social science paper. As readers of this blog know, I have a pretty detailed proposal for how to structure garden-variety paper in the social sciences, paragraph by paragraph. What about the humanities, Hughes asks? Well, I have actually tried to apply my approach to this problem before. But, unlike the social sciences, I don't have a lot of experience to base my suggestions on, neither in my own case, nor in the case of the authors I work with. I write and coach mainly in a social science tradition.
So that's what I'm going to change this summer, at least for a month. I'm going to work on an old idea of mine (which I'll keep to myself) but try to form the essay into roughly 40 paragraphs, with a tightly structured introduction and conclusion, and well-defined sections that correspond roughly to background, theory, method, analysis and implications. The whole trick will be to find a way of presenting an argument without resorting to those two hallmarks of social scientific writing, "theory" and "method". In general, these two notions must be subsumed under the broader and more mysterious notion of "style".
We'll see how it goes. I'll be working on my paper in the early mornings, and then I'll keep you, ahem, posted on my blog about what I'm learning. I wrote the introduction this morning, and I'll write the conclusion tomorrow. I'll write a post about those five paragraphs (one eighth of the paper) sometime tomorrow.
*Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Garzo as John Wells.