Thursday, 16 February 2012

Grad School Problems

I have to write a paper for my music analysis class.  Normally writing papers is no big deal.  I've been writing essays pretty much as long as I can remember... I have a minor in English... I like writing.

But I've never written a paper for a music theory class.  And I never, ever write my papers following any kind of regimented schedule.  (You know: write an outline.  Write the introduction.  Whatever.)

For this class, I have to write the introduction first.  Which I guess makes sense - start with telling what you're going to write about?  Start with the hypothesis/thesis?  Okay.  Except I've always written papers by just diving in -- describing what I see, what I think, what might be going on -- and out of the rambling I figure out what I'm actually trying to say.  THEN I write the introduction.

(Yes - I've usually written at least four pages before I figure out exactly what my thesis is.  I'm sure this is very unorthodox.)

I have to turn in an introduction tomorrow morning.  I've analyised the piece, broken it down into themes and ideas, labeled things, plonked things out on the piano... and I have no idea what I want to say about it, because I haven't "written out" my thoughts.  And of course I procrastinated a little.  (A lot.)  So this might be a long night.  I think I'm going to have to write half the paper before I can write the introduction.

I think I may have a problem.

5 comments:

  1. Write your paper, then send in the introduction. Voila! It does put a bit of a squeeze on the 'write the paper' part of things, but the rest of the semester will be easy, since the paper will be well past the rough draft stage.

    Unorthodox, but not uncommon.

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    1. If I had more time I would do that, but unfortunately I've left it to the last minute. I'll just have to turn in an introduction with the proviso that my hypothesis may change completely later on!

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  2. According to my mom (english major and professional writer) very few people start with the introduction. It's much more natural for the human brain to fully think through all aspects of something (aka write the paper) then come up with the best way to summarize it in the introduction.

    After all, how can you introduce your paper if you haven't written it yet? Can you introduce a person you've never met?

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    1. That's very much how I think about it. My professor wants us to do it this way so that we have the thesis idea firmly in mind as we're writing the paper (to avoid wandering, he says) but really I never know what exactly I want to say until I've said a lot of other things first! I turned in a not-very-brilliant introduction, but only after I'd noodled around with several directions I *could* take this paper, and I'm sure it'll change once I start writing properly.

      I so much prefer the type of teacher who says "your paper is due on x day, turn it in then" and leaves me to my own devices! (Although it is a really wonderful class. I just don't write quite the way he does, I guess.)

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  3. The problem with the professor's approach is that it assumes that ALL the analysis is done and your conclusion is absolutely, completely, and irrevocably set before you first touch pen to paper. Unfortunately, I've seen far too many papers (even reports of experimental work) where the "facts" are obviously being shoehorned into a preset conclusion. The worst was a student's thesis where his experimental evidence disproved his thesis, but he didn't let that minor detail stop him after forty pages of hard work!

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