‘Writing is social as well as solitary’

I’ve been struggling with a piece of writing for an academic journal which needs revising. The editor of the journal sent the two reviewers’ comments to me and my co-author with a simple comment “you’ll see that the one reviewer is a tough customer”. This review is nearly seven pages long and feels like somehow we touched a nerve and set this person off. The lecturing tone also makes me feel like an intruder into someone else’s disciplinary home, so the decisions about how to rework the piece feel very fraught. This was the state of mind I took with me into a writing workshop with Pamela Nichols one recent Saturday. It didn’t take long before Pamela’s use of the “Toulminised” method of argument and lots of little squares of white paper with words like “claim”, “context”, “reason 1”, “reason 2”, “evidence for 1”, “evidence for 2” had sorted out this particular fog and indecision. I (and my co-author who was there too) now have a very clear idea of what we want to say, and how to find the important bits in the review and to ignore the unimportant bits. Continue reading “‘Writing is social as well as solitary’”

A little in love with Laurel

When I was doing my PhD, one of the doctoral students in my research programme said to me one day that she was uncomfortable with the kind of academic she felt she was being forced to become. It was a novel thought; I had not stopped to consider that along with the reading, writing and discussing was also an identity formation programme, a subterranean idea of what a doctoral candidate should be, how this person should behave and what she should aspire to.

Since then, I’ve been way more attentive to this idea of an academic identity and how the choices you have to keep on making (get involved in that research group, put an article into that journal, collaborate with that person) shape this identity. And if you sit, as I do, in a department like journalism and media studies, then it’s easy for all the different fields and people you relate to (journalists and editors on the one hand, theorists on the other), to make you feel equally illegitimate no matter who you are talking to at the time!

It can be hard to hold on to your hard-thought through commitments when your identity is on the line.

I’ve been using Laurel Richardson as a bush-clearer, path-maker, sense-giver because of these very dilemmas and difficulties. Richardson is emeritus professor of sociology at Ohio State University where she is in the graduate faculty in women’s studies (so a feminist too; tick). I first encountered her brand of honest trail-blazing in that bible of qualitative research edited by Normal Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln. Continue reading “A little in love with Laurel”