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Chapter 6: Writing it Up

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  1. Chapter 6: Writing it Up

  2. There are many different ways to proceed… Feeling out of control You don’t know how to choose the right words, construct sentences, create a written product that reflects your intention.

  3. Gain control… “Writing is a series of discrete decisions rather than one enormous undertaking that must be accomplished all at once.” (Bogdan, 185) It’s reassuring that… “Writing from qualitative data is somewhat easier than writing, say, a conceptual piece. The fieldwork, analysis, and preliminary interpretation produce files of coded description that provide a starting point- some words on the screen.” (Bogdon, 185)

  4. Beginning Basics: • Dissertation = conventional writing • All writing must have a: - Beginning: What you will do in the paper. - Middle: Development of an argument, presentation of findings. - End: Summarize what you have said, bring disparate points together (tidy up).

  5. Writing Choices: “You gain more control when you consider the different possibilities you have and consciously choose the option that looks like it will work for you.” (Bogdan, 186)

  6. Decisions about…. • Your Argument • Your Presence in the Text • Your Audience • Disciplines • The Introduction • Core of the Paper • Conclusion

  7. Decisions about Your Argument: • Clear focus: decide what you want to tell the reader (1-2 sentences). That is your argument. • Have a point (don’t change perspectives). • Different types of arguments: - Thesis- proposition you put forth then argue. - Theme- concept or theory that emerges from data. - Topic- unit of a particular aspect of what you are studying. * Arguments are typically hybrids which have elements of all three.

  8. Decisions about Your Presence in the Text: • Professional movement to a more personal pronoun- “I” instead of “the researcher”. • “I”- does not mislead the reader, awareness of own subjectivity. • Most importantly- write in a voice you feel most comfortable with. • “In some qualitative circles, the confession is the new device to gain authority with the reader.” (Bogdan,189) • Confessional/ Personal Bias- should not immobilize you or get in the way of your point(can be boring and self-centered).

  9. Decisions about Your Audience: • What would the reviewers of the dissertation want to know? • What questions do they have that are left unanswered? • Have specific understanding of who you are writing for (Miles & Huberman, 1994) • Be politically correct when describing subjects. • Do not demean or romanticize the subject (be sensitive and honest). -”subject” sounds respectable- MAY NOT BE

  10. Decisions about Disciplines: • “If you are doing work within a particular discipline, you often use vocabulary and concepts common to your peers without being aware of how influential they are.” (Bogdan, 190) • Common words of a discipline may not allow you to get deeply into an issue.

  11. Decisions about Introduction: • Write introduction last. It’s only then that you know what you are introducing. • For dissertation, paper should be in the context of the research or current debate. • On first page- write directly and succinctly (Don’t lose the reader with too many details too early). • “A good way to start the paper is to tell a brief story from your research that captures the essence of what the paper is about or something central to what you are studying.” (Bogdan, 191) • Stories as part of the introduction are becoming more accepted (can involve readers early, ground them in a concrete way in the subject matter…)

  12. Decisions about the Core of the Paper and Strategies for Communicating Evidence: • Core is the bulk of the paper and gets direction from the argument. • “Proceed to do what you proposed to do in the introduction: advance your thesis, present your theme, illuminate your topic.” (Bogdan, 192) • Coded Data- “After you have singled out a few coding categories, you should begin working with them, reading them over, and looking for patterns, parts, elements…sort the data in small enough files so that you can physically manage them.”

  13. Decisions about the Core of the Paper and Strategies for Communicating Evidence: • Write in the MIDDLE - If you don’t have sufficient data, you may need to change focus. - If you have too much data, focus may need to be narrowed. • Each section in the middle should have beginning, middle, end: - Beginning- Tell you what the section contains and links to focus. - Middle- Provides what the intro. promised. - Conclusion- Summarizes what was in the section.

  14. Decisions about the Core of the Paper and Strategies for Communicating Evidence(continued): • “There are several ways of considering what qualitative researchers do when they write up a study. Spradley (1979) calls it a translation. This way of understanding suggests that what researchers do is to take what they have seen and heard and write it down on paper so that it makes as much sense to the reader as it did to the researcher.” (Bogdan, 193) • A good qualitative paper is well documented with description taken from data to illustrate and substantiate the assertions made. • Empty vessel metaphor vs. language of the writer

  15. Decisions about the Conclusion: • Argument is incisively restated and reviewed. • Implications are elaborated. • Call for further research is almost always true. So if you write it ….cliché - it’s also a tell that you’ve run out of steam.

  16. More Writing Tips… • Call it a draft, it relieves tension. • Then… 1. develop a focus 2. outline the core 3. try writing a section- force yourself to start. Put your thoughts on paper.

  17. Styles of Presentation • “Particular schools of qualitative research produce manuscripts with a distinct style.; you can identify them by the particular phrases they employ. Diversity, however, reigns. You might want to choose a particular school to associate with, like groups who do ‘ethnographies’, ‘constitutive ethnographies’, or ‘micro-ethnographies’, to refer to a few types.” (VanMaanen, 1988; Richardson, 1990b)

  18. Styles of Presentation (continued) • Formats: • Micro-ethnography- intimate behaviors in a single setting. • Macro-ethnography- lay out the whole realm of a complex situation. • Can be visualized on a continuum • Two extremes: • FORMAL/TRADITIONAL (didactic) • INFORMAL/NON-TRADITIONAL (tell a story)

  19. Overwriting • First drafts suffer from being overwritten. • Too wordy, contain more than the reader could be interested in knowing. Yes. But…? • It is important to raise the questions the reader might have. • Present alternative points of view and discuss why you chose one more consistent with the data.

  20. Keep it Simple Up Front • Don’t give a reader too much complex and/or detailed information too soon. • Be simple and direct early. • Complex and sophisticated later. Whose Perspective Are You Writing From • Don’t over rely on quotes. • Say it in your own words clearly- so reader gets understanding and you are sure you know what you mean.

  21. On Giving Voice • It is crucial when you are writing to make clear whose perspective you are writing from. • If you are writing from your subjects perspective, you need to clarify which subjects. • “While qualitative research provides readers access to the world of people they would not otherwise know and to some extent allows these people’s stories to be told, the subject never really tells his her own story. Although you might attempt to, and some degree succeed at, conveying to a reader what it is like to be the person you are studying, you are always the one doing the telling.” (Bogdan, 201)

  22. Jargon and Code Know your audience!!!

  23. General Advice • Write in an active rather than passive voice. • Dictionary and Thesaurus are important. • Try to get into writing groups….with honest people. • Read well-written qualitative research articles and books.

  24. Criteria for Evaluating Writing • Is it convincing? - Specifics on the research and data collected. • Is the author in control of writing? - Not pushed in all directions- clear logic. • Does it make a contribution? - Does it pass the “so what” test?

  25. A Final Point About Getting Started • Don’t Procrastinate- You are never going to be ready to write. • Be disciplined….People only write well because they have developed good work patterns, confidence, and skills. • KEEP REMINDING YOURSELF THAT YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY!