connecting chapters/chapter introductions

Writing a thesis, or indeed an academic book, means constructing an extended argument. One common problem in writing a very long text is that it’s not hard in 80,000 to 100,000 words for the reader to get lost in between chapters – they aren’t sure of the connection of one to the other and of how they work together to advance the case being made, move by move. And sometimes the writer can get lost too! That’s because chapters are often written in a different order to the order in which they are read, and sometimes they are written at very different times. Of course, sometimes the text is written straight through. But whatever the circumstances, it’s easy for both reader and writer to get lost in the overall argument because there is just soooo much detail to cover.

Here is one way to address the getting lost problem and one that many thesis writers find helpful. Confident and clever writers will find their own way to connect chapters together, but if you’re feeling a bit stuck this will help. It’s just a simple frame to use at the beginning of each new chapter. The frame – link, focus, overview – can be used for writing the first draft of the whole text. Because it’s a bit formulaic, it’s helpful to play with it on the second and third drafts so it reads more easily. But even when playing with it, keep the three moves because this is a good way to keep yourself as writer, and the reader, on track.

Paragraph One: LINK 
Make a connection to what has immediately gone before. Recap the last chapter. In the last chapter I showed that… Having argued in the previous chapter that… As a result of x, which I established in the last chapter….. It is also possible to make a link between this chapter and the whole argument… The first step in answering my research question (repeat question) .. was to.. . In the last chapter I …

Paragraph Two: FOCUS
Now focus the reader’s attention on what this chapter is specifically going to do and why it is important. In this chapter I will examine.. I will present… I will report … This is crucial in (aim of thesis/research question) in order to….

Paragraph Three: OVERVIEW
The third paragraph simply outlines the way that you are going to achieve the aim spelled out in the previous paragraph. It’s really just a statement of the contents in the order that the reader will encounter them. It is important to state these not simply as topics, but actually how they build up the internal chapter argument… I will begin by examining the definitions of, then move to seeing how these were applied… I first of all explain my orientation to the research process, positioning myself as a critical scholar.. I then explain the methodology that I used in the research, arguing that ethnography was the most suitable approach to provide answers to the question of…

Now, as I said, this is pretty mechanical and it doesn’t make for riveting reading. It’s meant for conventional theses and not those that break the mould. However, the bottom line is that it’s better to be dull and establish coherence and flow between chapters, than to have the reader, particularly if it’s your supervisor or the examiner, wondering what’s going on and how what they are now reading links back to what has gone before, and what the chapter is going to do. And if you’re the writer, it really does help keep you on the straight and narrow.

This post is the first of a four part series suggesting one strategy for achieving flow. Read the rest here, here and here.

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“The importance of stupidity in scientific research” by Martin A. Schwartz

I recently saw an old friend for the first time in many years. We had been Ph.D. students at the same time, both studying science, although in different areas. She later dropped out of graduate school, went to Harvard Law School and is now a senior lawyer for a major environmental organization. At some point, the conversation turned to why she had left graduate school. To my utter astonishment, she said it was because it made her feel stupid. After a couple of years of feeling stupid every day, she was ready to do something else.

I had thought of her as one of the brightest people I knew and her subsequent career supports that view. What she said bothered me. I kept thinking about it; sometime the next day, it hit me. Science makes me feel stupid too. It’s just that I’ve gotten used to it. So used to it, in fact, that I actively seek out new opportunities to feel stupid. I wouldn’t know what to do without that feeling. I even think it’s supposed to be this way. Let me explain.

For almost all of us, one of the reasons that we liked science in high school and college is that we were good at it. That can’t be the only reason – fascination with understanding the physical world and an emotional need to discover new things has to enter into it too. But high-school and college science means taking courses, and doing well in courses means getting the right answers on tests. If you know those answers, you do well and get to feel smart.

A Ph.D., in which you have to do a research project, is a whole different thing. For me, it was a daunting task. How could I possibly frame the questions that would lead to significant discoveries; design and interpret an experiment so that the conclusions were absolutely convincing; foresee difficulties and see ways around them, or, failing that, solve them when they occurred? My Ph.D. project was somewhat interdisciplinary and, for a while, whenever I ran into a problem, I pestered the faculty in my department who were experts in the various disciplines that I needed. I remember the day when Henry Taube (who won the Nobel Prize two years later) told me he didn’t know how to solve the problem I was having in his area. I was a third-year graduate student and I figured that Taube knew about 1000 times more than I did (conservative estimate). If he didn’t have the answer, nobody did.

That’s when it hit me: nobody did. That’s why it was a research problem. And being my research problem, it was up to me to solve. Once I faced that fact, I solved the problem in a couple of days. (It wasn’t really very hard; I just had to try a few things.) The crucial lesson was that the scope of things I didn’t know wasn’t merely vast; it was, for all practical purposes, infinite. That realization, instead of being discouraging, was liberating. If our ignorance is infinite, the only possible course of action is to muddle through as best we can.

I’d like to suggest that our Ph.D. programs often do students a disservice in two ways. First, I don’t think students are made to understand how hard it is to do research. And how very, very hard it is to do important research. It’s a lot harder than taking even very demanding courses. What makes it difficult is that research is immersion in the unknown. We just don’t know what we’re doing. We can’t be sure whether we’re asking the right question or doing the right experiment until we get the answer or the result. Admittedly, science is made harder by competition for grants and space in top journals. But apart from all of that, doing significant research is intrinsically hard and changing departmental, institutional or national policies will not succeed in lessening its intrinsic difficulty.

Second, we don’t do a good enough job of teaching our students how to be productively stupid – that is, if we don’t feel stupid it means we’re not really trying. I’m not talking about `relative stupidity’, in which the other students in the class actually read the material, think about it and ace the exam, whereas you don’t. I’m also not talking about bright people who might be working in areas that don’t match their talents. Science involves confronting our `absolute stupidity’. That kind of stupidity is an existential fact, inherent in our efforts to push our way into the unknown. Preliminary and thesis exams have the right idea when the faculty committee pushes until the student starts getting the answers wrong or gives up and says, `I don’t know’. The point of the exam isn’t to see if the student gets all the answers right. If they do, it’s the faculty who failed the exam. The point is to identify the student’s weaknesses, partly to see where they need to invest some effort and partly to see whether the student’s knowledge fails at a sufficiently high level that they are ready to take on a research project.

Productive stupidity means being ignorant by choice. Focusing on important questions puts us in the awkward position of being ignorant. One of the beautiful things about science is that it allows us to bumble along, getting it wrong time after time, and feel perfectly fine as long as we learn something each time. No doubt, this can be difficult for students who are accustomed to getting the answers right. No doubt, reasonable levels of confidence and emotional resilience help, but I think scientific education might do more to ease what is a very big transition: from learning what other people once discovered to making your own discoveries. The more comfortable we become with being stupid, the deeper we will wade into the unknown and the more likely we are to make big discoveries.

Writing Style by Definition

  1. articulate – able to express your thoughts, arguments, and ideas clearly and effectively; writing or speech is clear and easy to understand
  2. chatty – a chatty writing style is friendly and informal
  3. circuitous – taking a long time to say what you really mean when you are talking or writing about something
  4. clean – clean language or humour does not offend people, especially because it does not involve sex
  5. conversational – a conversational style of writing or speaking is informal, like a private conversation
  6. crisp – crisp speech or writing is clear and effective
  7. declamatory – expressing feelings or opinions with great force
  8. diffuse – using too many words and not easy to understand
  9. discursive – including information that is not relevant to the main subject
  10. economical – an economical way of speaking or writing does not use more words than are necessary
  11. elliptical – suggesting what you mean rather than saying or writing it clearly
  12. eloquent – expressing what you mean using clear and effective language
  13. emphatic – making your meaning very clear because you have very strong feelings about a situation or subject
  14. emphatically – very firmly and clearly
  15. epigrammatic – expressing something such as a feeling or idea in a short and clever or funny way
  16. epistolary – relating to the writing of letters
  17. euphemistic – euphemistic expressions are used for talking about unpleasant or embarrassing subjects without mentioning the things themselves
  18. flowery – flowery language or writing uses many complicated words that are intended to make it more attractive
  19. fluent – expressing yourself in a clear and confident way, without seeming to make an effort
  20. formal – correct or conservative in style, and suitable for official or serious situations or occasions
  21. gossipy – a gossipy letter is lively and full of news about the writer of the letter and about other people
  22. grandiloquent – expressed in extremely formal language in order to impress people, and often sounding silly because of this
  23. idiomatic – expressing things in a way that sounds natural
  24. inarticulate – not able to express clearly what you want to say; not spoken or pronounced clearly
  25. incoherent – unable to express yourself clearly
  26. informal – used about language or behaviour that is suitable for using with friends but not in formal situations
  27. journalistic – similar in style to journalism
  28. learned – a learned piece of writing shows great knowledge about a subject, especially an academic subject
  29. literary – involving books or the activity of writing, reading, or studying books; relating to the kind of words that are used only in stories or poems, and not in normal writing or speech
  30. lyric – using words to express feelings in the way that a song would
  31. lyrical – having the qualities of music
  32. ornate – using unusual words and complicated sentences
  33. orotund – containing extremely formal and complicated language intended to impress people
  34. parenthetical – not directly connected with what you are saying or writing
  35. pejorative – a pejorative word, phrase etc expresses criticism or a bad opinion of someone or something
  36. picturesque – picturesque language is unusual and interesting
  37. pithy – a pithy statement or piece of writing is short and very effective
  38. poetic – expressing ideas in a very sensitive way and with great beauty or imagination
  39. polemical – using or supported by strong arguments
  40. ponderous – ponderous writing or speech is serious and boring
  41. portentous – trying to seem very serious and important, in order to impress people
  42. prolix – using too many words and therefore boring
  43. punchy – a punchy piece of writing such as a speech, report, or slogan is one that has a strong effect because it uses clear simple language and not many words
  44. rambling – a rambling speech or piece of writing is long and confusing
  45. readable – writing that is readable is clear and able to be read
  46. rhetorical – relating to a style of speaking or writing that is effective or intended to influence people; written or spoken in a way that is impressive but is not honest
  47. rhetorically – in a way that expects or wants no answer; using or relating to rhetoric
  48. rough – a rough drawing or piece of writing is not completely finished
  49. roundly– in a strong and clear way
  50. sententious – expressing opinions about right and wrong behaviour in a way that is intended to impress people
  51. sesquipedalian – using a lot of long words that most people do not understand
  52. Shakespearean – using words in the way that is typical of Shakespeare’s writing
  53. stylistic – relating to ways of creating effects, especially in language and literature
  54. succinct – expressed in a very short but clear way
  55. turgid – using language in a way that is complicated and difficult to understand
  56. unprintable – used for describing writing or words that you think are offensive
  57. vague – someone who is vague does not clearly or fully explain something
  58. verbose – using more words than necessary, and therefore long and boring
  59. well-turned – a well-turned phrase is one that is expressed well
  60. wordy – using more words than are necessary, especially long or formal words

Source for Words: Macmillan Dictionary on writerswrite.co.za.

[Video] What is Referencing?

How font impacts responses in online surveys, here some insights

Tim Harford, economist and author of the book ‘Messy: How To be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World’ believes that ugly fonts like Comic Sans or Monotype Corsiva help you concentrate on what you are reading.

“When you get something in these fonts – it’s ugly, difficult to read, and it attracts your attention. When you have your attention, then you actually start trying to understand what it says,” he told Business Insider.

Harford referred to a study run by psychologists at Princeton University where school teacher’s handouts were reformatted in either easy to read or harder fonts.

“Those who got their handouts formatted in difficult, ugly fonts did better in their end of term exams across a variety of subjects.”

Produced and filmed by Claudia Romeo. Special thanks to Joe Daunt.
Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/economist-tim-harford-ugly-font-comic-sans-handouts-study-attention-stand-out-2017-3?IR=T

Paper structure for inductive approach based research

Most writers agree with Robson (2002) on the general structure to adopt for a project report that is the end product of your research, i.e.: abstract, introduction, literature review, method, results, discussion, conclusions, references, appendices. However, this suggested structure is not the only one and should not inhibit you from adopting something different. The structure outlined above fits the deductive approach particularly closely. It assumes that the literature was reviewed to establish the current state of knowledge on the topic and this informed the method adopted. Reporting the findings in a factual manner gives rise to a detailed consideration of what these findings mean to the specific piece of research that has been conducted and to the current state of knowledge on the topic. However, if your research is essentially inductive, it may be that you prefer to structure the report in a different way. You may prefer to tell your story (that is, to explain your conclusions) in the early part of the report. This may include a clear explanation of how this story relates to the existing literature on the topic. This could be followed by a detailed explanation of how you arrived at these conclusions (a combination of an explanation of method adopted and findings established). The precise structure you adopt is less important than the necessity for your reader to be absolutely clear about what you are saying and for you to meet the assessment criteria.

Phillips and Pugh (2005) note that these general sections can be sub-divided into one or more relevant chapters depending on the topic and the way in which you want to present your particular storyline. This is a vital point. Your structure should have a logical flow. Your readers should know the journey on which they are being taken, and should know at all times the point in the journey that has been reached. Above all, the structure you adopt should enable your reader, having read the report, to identify the storyline clearly.

Source: Saunders, M. N. (2011). Research methods for business students, 5/e. Pearson Education India.

La soledad: un ingrediente clave de la creatividad / How loneliness conducts to creativity

POR MAR ABAD Original source

Una novela gráfica sobre Glenn Gould explora la vida y la obra de este genio de la música que amaba sus momentos a solas

 Glenn Gould se encerraba en su soledad para componer sus piezas. Ahí nadie molestaba. Este genio de la música clásica (1932-1982) vivía en un espacio interior tan profundo que un día de sol radiante vio algo insospechado: «Creía firmemente que todo el mundo compartía mi pasión por el cielo nublado», dijo el canadiense. «Me sorprendió mucho darme cuenta de que algunas personas preferían el sol».

La soledad siempre fue un buen lugar para crear. Isaac Asimov sólo concebía trabajar envuelto en su aislamiento. Pensaba que esos momentos eran farragosos y la presencia de otras personas sólo podía entorpecer la concentración. «Mi sensación es que todo lo relacionado con la creatividad requiere aislamiento», escribió en un artículo titulado ¿Cómo surgen las nuevas ideas? «La persona creativa está trabajando continuamente. Su mente está procesando información en todo momento. Incluso cuando no es consciente de ello. Es muy conocido, por ejemplo, el caso de August Kekulé. El químico seguía pensando en la estructura del benceno mientras dormía».

Hemingway decía que la escritura era un acto privado, que requería soledad y concentración. El austriaco Stefan Zweig se desplazaba a pequeños pueblos en Francia, donde no conocía a nadie, para escribir sus novelas. El filósofo polaco Wincenty Lutoslawski, a principios del siglo XX, se trasladó a lugar remoto para escribir sobre Platón. Fue a Mera, una isla gallega a la que sólo se podía llegar en barco siempre que el viento y las olas lo permitieran.

Incluso Sherlock Holmes trabajaba así. Era una sensación placentera, según deslizó el creador de este personaje, Arthur Conan Doyle, en El perro de los Baskerville. En esa historia, un día, el detective «regresó a su sitio con esa tranquila mirada de satisfacción interior que significa que tenía una tarea agradable por delante», y preguntó a su ayudante.

—¿Se marcha, Watson?

—A no ser que pueda serle de ayuda.

—No, mi querido amigo, es en el momento de la acción cuando busco su ayuda. (…) No me importaría si usted considerara conveniente no volver antes del anochecer. Para entonces sí me gustaría cambiar impresiones sobre este problema tan interesante que se nos ha presentado esta mañana.

Watson pasó el día en un club y, al anochecer, volvió en busca de Holmes. Al salir de la habitación, el ayudante pensaba para sí: «Sabía que la soledad y el retiro eran muy necesarios para mi amigo en esas horas de intensa concentración mentaldurante la cual sopesaba cada partícula de evidencia, construía teorías alternativas, equilibraba una con otra y decidía cuáles eran los puntos esenciales y cuáles los que carecían de importancia».

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En esa soledad fructífera pasó gran parte de su vida Glenn Gould. Aunque otras veces ese silencio era amargo y oscuro, como ese que atribuyen a los genios excéntricos y doloridos. De esos estados habla una novela gráfica que acaba de publicar Astiberri con el título Glenn Gould. Una vida a contratiempo.

La obra, de la francesa Sandrine Revel, relata la vida de este músico en una narración que transcurre entre sus palabras y los testimonios de muchas personas que lo conocieron. De esa tendencia a interiorizar en el pensamiento habla también Susan Cain, la cofundadora de Quiet Revolution que dejó atónito a Bill Gates con su charla en TED sobre ‘el poder de los introvertidos en un mundo que no puede parar de hablar’. «Cuando los psicólogos estudian la vida de las personas más creativas, descubren que son muy buenas intercambiando e introduciendo ideas, pero también son muy introvertidas. Esto es así porque la soledad es un ingrediente fundamental para la creatividad».

Cain piensa que en las instituciones más importantes, los colegios y los lugares de trabajo han sido diseñados para los extrovertidos y su imperiosa necesidad de estímulos. «En la actualidad, tenemos un sistema de creencias, al que yo llamo pensamiento en grupo, que proclama que toda la creatividad y toda la productividad vienen, por raro que parezca, de un lugar gregario», indicó en TED.

La autora del superventas Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts (Poder silencioso: Las fortalezas secretas de los introvertidos) cuenta que Darwin paseaba solo por el bosque y siempre rechazaba las invitaciones a fiestas. Steve Wozniakinventó el primer ordenador Apple cuando se sentaba solo en su cubículo de Hewlett-Packard y, según decía, nunca hubiera aprendido tanto de tecnología si no hubiese sido un niño introvertido al que no le gustaba salir de casa.

Hay muchos más. Julio Verne tampoco acudía a eventos sociales y se encerraba con llave en su dormitorio para escribir mientras su mujer, desde fuera, golpeaba la puerta para que bajara a tomar el té con las visitas. Philip K. Dick también apreciaba el silencio. Por eso redactó esta dedicatoria a su mujer en las primeras páginas de su obra El hombre en el castillo: «A Anne, mi mujer, sin cuyo silencio este libro nunca se hubiera escrito».

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El pensamiento en solitario es más libre y original que el pensamiento colectivo, según Cain. El trabajo en grupo, en cambio, exige que los miembros de un proyecto intenten amoldar sus ideas a una dirección común.

Además, la sociedad actual no entiende la contemplación, según la estadounidense. Lo que está bien visto es teclear, llamar por teléfono, llevar papeles de un lado a otro, aunque no sirva de nada. Lo importante es que siempre haya movimiento. Estar quieto y no tener nada en las manos se asocia al mal de la holgazanería improductiva.

Lo constató un experimento en Finlandia. A la oficina de Deloitte en Helsinki llegó una joven en prácticas que cada día se sentaba en su puesto sin ordenador ni móvil ni libreta. No hablaba con nadie y miraba al infinito. Eso levantó las sospechas de todos sus compañeros y un día, después de muchas intrigas y murmullos, alguien se acercó a la estudiante y le preguntó a qué se dedicaba. Ella contestó: «Estoy pensando».

Entonces las risas y las caras de desconcierto fueron aún mayores. «Disimular la vagancia aparentando que haces algo o estar en Facebook durante las horas laborales entra dentro de los comportamientos aceptados por la comunidad de trabajo», indicó Pilvi Takala, la artista que montó esta instalación artística, The Trainee, en colaboración con Deloitte y el museo Kiasma de Helsinki en 2008. «En cambio, sentarte frente a una mesa vacía, con tus manos en el regazo y pensando, amenaza la paz de la comunidad y rompe la concentración de tus compañeros».

Glenn Gould nunca tuvo ese problema. Trabajaba solo y, además, conocía el valor del recogimiento. En la última grabación que hizo de las variaciones Goldberg de Bach, en 1981, dijo: «La música debe escucharse en privado. Debe llevar al oyente y al intérprete a un estado de contemplación».