Research Update 2: Syrian Ladies’ Aid Society, in Conclusion

I finished the paper for this project (see post title) just over two years ago. I never got a chance to update my blog to document the research and writing process as planned, but I thought I might hit the high points and conclude that project out here. I hope you’ll find some helpful insights and maybe more info about the project that intrigues you.

As I alluded to in my first and only post on the subject, the research itself was a bit of a weather adventure and I didn’t get to spend as much time in the archive at the Arab American National Museum as I would have liked (in fact, I spent most of my trip watching Netflix and the accumulation of snow). I was able to get enough to complete the project, but it is something I hope to return to in the future. Some highlights from the project (research, writing, and completion):

Title: “To Help All Syrian and Lebanese Wherever”: The Syrian Ladies’ Aid Society and Cultural Maintenance in the Diaspora

Main argument: Through their charitable and fundraising activities, the women of the Syrian Ladies’ Aid Society played a key role in the creation of a Syrian-American identity in the diaspora as they moved women’s role in cultural maintenance from the home to the political and transnational public sphere.

Research process: Pictures (approximately 300; researchers who spend weeks and months in the archive have thousands of pictures to sort through). Because my time in the archive was limited to begin with and ended up being even more limited as a result of weather, the two half days of research I was able to do was a flurry of picture-taking and quick note-making that I got to process when I got home. Here’s an image of my image database, using Excel (this was the first half day, when I thought I would have two and a half more days of research, so my notes are more complete):

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I duplicated this list to some extent in Evernote in order to draw out some of the main themes (see image below). It worked well for me, but I think it was a lot of duplicating work and I’m thinking of better ways to organize myself for my dissertation, where my pictures will number in the several thousand, I’m sure. One of my colleagues uses Google Drive and tags his pictures so that he can easily search for specific documents. I think you can also describe and annotate the image. I’ll check it out and write about it as my research progresses.

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Writing: A LOT of drafts. Going through my folder, I have about 15 drafts saved, from initial thematic write-ups to several versions of the full document. Looking through them, I can see how my paper evolved in significant ways over the several weeks and many drafts. I also remember the many breakthroughs and insights I had while working on these drafts that, in many ways, reshaped my paper’s entire argument and, ultimately, made it a better paper. I seem to recall that, in order to complete this project, I devoted a particular amount of time per day to writing for it. I’m guessing about an hour. This is a process I hope to continue as I work on my dissertation and other future projects. I’ll keep you updated on how that works out, too.

Completion: Though this project had a formal completion date, I find that none of my projects are ever really done, and I look forward to returning to this one at some point, maybe revising it to write an article. If that happens, I’ll keep you in the loop about that, too!

What is your writing process like? What projects (academic, non-academic, personal) are you working on right now?