Week 6: Structure

Week 5 was all about situating your article in the existing scholarly literature on your topic. I found it immensely helpful. Not only did the activities make me realize I had NO citations for my theoretical framework or methodology (oops!), but it also served as a helpful reminder about simple strategies for figuring out where exactly I fit in that literature. It was also a helpful reminder that the literature review for my article doesn’t have to be as exhaustive as the one for my dissertation, which narrows down the works to include and relieves some of the anxieties — common, I imagine, to many grad students and early career researchers — associated with the feeling that you have to include everything ever written on your topic lest you look like you don’t know what you’re doing. Finally, it forced me to write a lot, and think A LOT for both my article and my dissertation, which is always good.

Week 6 continues our close engagement with the article itself by looking at its structure. As a writer and writing teacher, I can never stress enough to my students the importance of good structure–from the micro level of word choice and sentence construction to the macro of paragraph/section order–to moving you towards a well-written and easily-readable paper. Unsurprisingly, Belcher is of the same opinion and provides a helpful analogy: “You can think of structure as the skeleton of your article: invisible but essential. Without a skeleton, you have a collapsed biomass. With a skeleton, you have a living, breathing, moving entity. With a structure, your article can support the weight of your own ideas” (172). In this chapter, Belcher discusses the levels at which article structure occurs, provides sample outlines for well-structured papers in both the social sciences (quantitative and qualitative) and humanities, and includes a series of questions that encourage you to think critically about whether or not your paper has structural problems. In addition to these starter questions, Belcher’s primary tactic for analyzing your article’s structure — and another thing I always encourage my students to do with a near-final draft of their papers — is to put your article into an outline, rework that outline until you have the article you want to produce, and then restructure based on your new outline.

Week 6 tasks:

  • Day 1: Read through page 185, do the activities, and start documenting time.
  • Day 2: Read page 185 and outline the model article chosen in Week 1.
  • Day 3: Read page 186 and create an outline for your own article; revise as necessary.
  • Day 4: Read page 186 and restructure your article as needed.
  • Day 5: Read page 186 and continue restructuring your article as needed.

For all posts related to this project: Week 0 (Introduction), Week 1 (The writing plan), Week 2 (Getting started), Week 3 (Arguments), Week 4 (Choosing a journal), Week 5 (Literature review), Week 7 (Evidence), Week 8 (Strengthening the intro and conclusion), Week 9 (Giving and receiving feedback), Week 10 (Editing), Week 11 (Finalizing the article), Week 12 (Send!)

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