Scholarly dithering

My academic goals for this year are: the full completition of my thesis (here’s hoping the viva goes well and the revisions are minimal) and its acceptance, at least in principle, with a publisher; at least the successful delivery of the 2 conference papers I have had accepted and 2 or 3 journal articles at least under review.
However, I am at this stage horribly uncertain about which things to approach first.. my plan for the articles is to take one or two out of my thesis with moderately substantial rewriting to make them more focused [one from a specifically Cornish angle and one from a Classical Reception standpoint basically] and to make one or maybe two from the research I am doing for the conference papers (which are overlapping but not the same).

My problem is this.. do I knuckle down to first re-writes of parts of my thesis, knowing full well that real serious re-writing may be required to in fact pass my doctorate and that in beginning re-writes before I have my examiners feedback might make me less confident but knowing that the material is comparatively fresh in my mind? Or do I throw myself into new research and writing conference papers with a firm eye on the publication potential of the work and use that to fill me with fresh confidence and enthusiasm about the process of research when I have been so busy writing for so long now but risk losing the detail of the knowledge I built up in my thesis research?The truth, I guess, is that it matters almost not at all as long as I do something and don’t let my mind atrophy through the process of job applications.

Grammar Fascism

There are certain things I like about good grammar.
I wince at poorly placed apostrophes and would rather people used the appropriate spelling
But for me the sense and sound of a work are more important than the rules..

My supervisor disagrees.

She is firm that the infinitive should never be split and generally verbs formed of several words shouldn’t be either. She feels that ‘not only’ can only be followed by ‘but also’ (there should be no split between the but & the also; and no substitutes for the also, such as additionally, are acceptable). She utterly despises sentences ending in a preposition – which would be easier if whence didn’t sound such a tragic archaism. She believes that nor can only be used with neither.. and must never be used as a conjuction in its own right (e.g. does not x nor acts as y). In fact she even disapproves of contractions.

I just can’t bring myself to ditch my terrible colloquialisms entirely. I love to add a casual adverb into my verbal phrase, I enjoy the rhetoricising feel of nor and don’t feel the need to balance my clauses precisely. I find moving my prepositions sounds artificial and frankly I’m finding the whole process rather tedious.
I cannot ignore her completely especially where actually her thoughts about the grammar help make my writing smotther and thoughts clearer. But…

So what are your thoughts? Which grammar rules do you flout?

Things I’m Surprisingly Bad at: 1 – Dedication

I know a lot of geeks…
They come in a number of varieties: fandoms (Buffy, bsg, firefly, red dwarf, discworld, HP, Dr Who..) gaming (tabletop, larp, mmporpg, console, cards etc) tech (programming, codes, hardware, sound engineering) music (metal, prog, folk..) or alcohol (beer, cocktails, history of.., sale of.. etc) but they all share a unique type of dedication. They are fascinated with new trivia or information and they have an eye for detail, they tend to write/talk about their topic a LOT.
Whether it is remembering the value of a card in a set of top trumps or the episode name and number of a particular quotation these individuals are dedicated beyond my ken. Even as a classicist my ability to quote line nos. is non-existent. I am a failure when it comes to focused bands of knowledge.

Partly this comes from my massive unwillingness to commit hours of my time to repetitive hobbies but it is also related to my inability to commit certain facts to anything beyond short term memory: numbers, dates, quotes…. and, now I am old and have broadband, pretty much anything google will remember on my behalf. This lack of attention to detail and focus means I don’t follow long involved tv series and sometimes fall asleep in films. It means that in my thesis I HAVE to go back to my notes everytime I want to reference something, that every theorist and book has to be minutely accounted for in my piles of paper, bibliography and web-browser.
Weirdly this has 2 impacts on my life – firstly, I retain a mildly puzzled air of silence around most of my friends, perpetually out of my depth and a little bit unsure what I can contribute; secondly, that I am fascinated by connections – whilst I can’t quite remember who said what about such-and-such I am delighted by broad similarities or overlaps in areas like that tv programme I saw the other day and that blog article I read last week or when a book seems Ovidian and I can’t work out why..

Of course the other issue is a lack of focus can lead to procrastination from one’s thesis.

PostGrad Confessions

I am not a model grad student. I don’t expect to be, but some of my short-comings I feel guilty about…
Therefore in no particular order:

  • I have never been to the British Library
  • I have never been into the Bodleian                                                                               (despite both being within an hour’s journey and actually having a Bod Card)
  • I have never been to my home institution’s archive reading rooms (in my defence it is 3hrs away)
  • I am still a little unclear on the correct citation format for newspapers (in my discipline)
  • I do not and have never sat down for regular 8 hour days of research and writing
  • I regularly use google for my research (both Google Books and Google scholar) and spend about half of that time cursing its ability to find what I want but not let me read it.
  • I find it terribly hard to get rid of things that I have written

Hot is Bad

Its so very muggy and it makes me unreasonably tetchy.

Haven’t had sex for over a week cos I’m too stressed and grumpy and headachey. Don’t like not being able to curl up and sleep in my lovers’ arms, don’t like feeling angsty.
Just want to think coherently. Wanna make with the clever words for the big writey thing.

so can we have a thunderstorm now please!

Writer’s Block

Some days the words disappear.

I really want to crack on with Chapter 1 – I’m working on the literature review – I know the key authors and I know the important things… but I can’t work out how to make the flow happen.
I’m absolutely out of words. I can’t manage this section and its driving me crazy! I know that this is temporary and that I need to work on the key facts/points before stitching it together but I’m struggling.

In other news – I’m out of painkillers. Not coping well.
Lots of Co-codamol and lots of wincing, the weather isn’t helping and sleeping is bad but it will be ok..


I have never submitted an article to an academic journal [Blame time constraints or lack of confidence in my material] – perhaps one day…

But what I have spent a surprisingly long time doing is helping my wife footnote and format her articles for different journals. For those of you who don’t deal in the minutiae of academia a brief explanation might help: academic journals all have a house-style which means that they want your headings and sub-headings to be consistent with other articles, they want a specific type of citation and have preferences about fonts, margins and footnotes. Journals are internally consistent but can be wildly different from each other even in the same discipline. Some author guidelines are several pages long and if you want to get published you sure as hell better read them because its ruthless out there..

I have come to the conclusion that the process is labyrinthine and laborious primarily to make you (the author) feel like you have really earned your place amongst the pages.
I have also realised that the key reason they make you do it – is so they don’t have to. It is long slow work reading and reviewing articles even if you are interested in the topic but checking commas and margins and references…it would be never-ending. I am pretty anally-retentive about style but I could never be a professional proof-reader!

So it is with some trepidation that I approach editing my thesis and acknowledge the mammoth task ahead. Also am I ready to write my own articles yet?…

Digital Tools in Research: Part Deux

A follow on from Here and Here

I have just found out that the university want to recruit interns to work on the project – research students with experience of using tools from various departments. It involves getting some personal training and training others whilst making a record of practice and implementation. I have to confess I am interested.. but I know I can’t commit. I can’t realistically physically be in my department that many hours a week – I can’t afford it in terms of funding myself, plus I would struggle to keep up a writing regime which is crucial at this stage of my PhD, my beloveds need more support than that would allow for and I can’t let myself attempt to fit that all in without expecting the fatigue to push me towards another breakdown. I hate feeling that I can’t do stuff but I have to be honest with myself.

Below is a summary of the interview based on the notes I made in preparation and entirely unverbatim. The interview itself was more informal and much more based on the feedback I gave the researcher in advance (i.e the answers I discuss below)It focuses on 4 key points: Mindmapping, RSS feeds, Social Networks, Sharing experience. I hope that including it here helps other people believe that they can use these tools and make a difference to others trying it out. I also hope that my getting more people involved more subject-specific resources will be built up and better networks will arise.

Continue reading

Collating and editing

56,000 words, 124 pages
(or 65,000 & 143 incl. contents, biblio & footnotes – thats 5,000 words worth of footnotes!)

Today I put a whole load of words into one document to send to my supervisors; I updated the Contents in order to reflect the actual shape of the thesis and I started again with the editing and shifting process in Chapter 4. I know realistically I am putting off writing the summary of the chapter out of a fear of how weak my conclusions sound. On the other hand it is always good to try to draw together threads and themes in a way that can only really work when you address the organisation of the whole.

So where am I at in terms of progress?
Introduction: More or less complete 1,500
Chapter 1: Essentially rejected as solely in note form  approx 10,000 – not incl. in above word count – projected length c. 15,000
Chapter 2: Perhaps two-thirds written. Needs extension on Strabo, revision of Pliny and opening sections, and summary  – currently approx 20,000 words – projected 25-30,000
Chapter 3: Two-thirds written. Needs extension of commentary on Copeland Borlase, Hitchins and Drew, Whitaker’s supplement to Polwhele, the early academic theorists. Also Summary to write. Currently 25,000 words – projected 30-40,000!
Chapter 4: Three quarters done? Summary to write and overall editing.. currently 15,000 – projected c. 18-20,000
Chapter 5: Nil

At the moment it looks like it might be a touch on the long side if I include what I expect to… Still better to be cutting than frantically pushing to reach the lower limits.
Time-wise I am still moving too slowly though.

So back to the grind