My plan for writing this term

Currently I am between two possible writing projects for this course: a thesis chapter or a paper for publication. My research involves reconstructing environment and subsistence through the analysis of archaeological fish remains from various islands in the Kingdom of Tonga.  I have been working with my supervisor to sort and identify ~10 000-15 000 skeletal elements. It has been a long yet enjoyable experience (even when most of my friends have told me that fish bone identification is something they would never want to do), however this past December my analysis has come to a temporary halt. At end of this week I have a meeting planned with my supervisor to go through the data extensively and identify patterns of taxonomic variability within and between sites. After this meeting I will have a better understanding of the path my research can take and the types of major questions I can actively explore in this project as well as my thesis.

At some point this year I would like to write an article suitable for publication. My goals are to provide a detailed report of the data collected thus far and discuss the various taxonomic patterns using an ecology-based approach. The current uncertainties are whether I have collected enough data to accurately discuss any patterns at all, and if I do I must be careful my report will not imitate or overlap too much with the article my supervisor is planning to write in the near future. Once again, these questions will (hopefully) be answered this Friday. With a copious amount of fish bone data at hand, I believe this writing option is feasible, and my intentions for this class are to produce this article.

On the other hand, I would be just as happy to compose a chapter of my thesis. Last semester I took two reading courses to research the historical background of my target region, and the various methodologies in zooarchaeology. The focus for my chapter would be on a description of the site context and a discussion of past regional studies. Dr. Roddick mentioned how writing or reading a background chapter can be a slightly unpleasant experience, but not if it is written effectively. The content can be presented in an engaging and appealing manner, as opposed to a simple descriptive outline. I will admit, I did not consider this approach as an option before now. If this is the project I choose to write, I plan to start my writing process by asking this question: “What story should this chapter tell?”.  I hope this class can assist me with writing an effective narrative and encouraging myself to be actively interested in the reader.

I plan to complete 30 minutes (at times it may become 60 minutes)of free writing 5-6 days a week on this project and I have set some strict rules for myself. The process will involve 30 timed minutes to write on a specific section of my paper, and I will turn off my Wi-Fi and refuse to stop and search through my references. However, once time has progressed and I am closer to completing my first draft, I will have to be more flexible and cut that time period in half so that the first part is assigned to free writing and the remaining 15 minutes will allow for referencing and fine-tuning. Considering writer’s block affects me throughout the editing phase as well, I plan to conduct my editing process in the same manner with timed writing periods. This is so I can mimic that feeling of ‘crunch time’ and as soon as the timer stops, I must finish and wait until the next opportunity to finish my thoughts. By completing certain sections every day, I might avoid those dreaded days of endless hours trying to produce ideas yet failing to go anywhere. I am optimistic every 30 minute period will guide me a step further to accomplishing my goal, and I must maintain this positive outlook throughout the entire process.

My outline for writing is such:

5-6 Days a week: 30 minutes of free writing (no internet, no fact checking, no opportunities to pause/stop)

Up until January 20th: Brainstorm major ideas for thesis chapter and article

January 20th: Meeting with supervisor

January 27th: Create outline for paper

February 3rd: Read through references, conduct further research, create reference list

February 10th: Compose really rough first draft from daily writing sessions

February 19th- 25th: Reading week, give draft to a family member or friend (a non-academic) to comment on clarity

March 9th: Bring in first draft to class

March 23rd: Bring in second draft to class

March 24th- April 1st: Edit, edit, EDIT! And utilizing the help of a peer editor (or two)

March 30th: Create presentation of paper

April 6th: Presentation of final paper

After April 6th/end of term: Give paper to supervisor for comments and further editing

I believe I have provided myself with reasonable tasks and time to complete them. As with any other writing assignments, starting is the first battle, yet I will try my best not to grow weary during this time. My hope is that the implementation of 30 minutes of free writing each day will minimize the occurrences of writer’s block while simultaneously enhancing the fluidity of my writing. In addition, I am looking forward to the peer editing process which will be taking place later in the course. My goals are to commit to sharing all of my future work with at least one peer editor so that I may be more easily guided in the right direction.

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3 thoughts on “My plan for writing this term

  1. aroddick

    Hi Roxanne
    This looks good — We’ll definitely check in to hear about how the free writing is going. (And remember, you can certainly shift gears to actual writing at some point — use the free writing as a way to get something on paper).

  2. Brett Furlotte


    My writing project for this semester will focus on pinning down a theoretical perspective for my thesis and one of the most common perspectives I have seen employed in the regional literature is that of cultural ecology. I am mentioning this because I noticed that you intend on using an ‘ecology-based approach’ and am curious why or how it is that you chose this angle? Does an ecology-based approach characterize the literature? Did your supervisor suggest you align your work with this perspective? Are there any other theoretical perspectives, or aspects of them, that you could incorporate into your research?

    These comments stem from a growing concern I have, after reading Luker, about being critical of the ‘canonical’ literature. Perhaps thinking about these questions could allow you to address or reframe questions in a manner that do not “imitate” or “overlap” with those of your supervisors.

    I hope I have offered something useful to you with this comment,


    1. wildenrk Post author

      Hi Brett,

      Thank you for your feedback, it was rather helpful and I am thinking about how the manner of my questions can move away from those of my supervisor. I suppose I was thinking more about the content and less about the narrative (something I need to work on!). The choice of an ecology-based approach came from my own personal interests and influences from the literature. However, I am definitely going to incorporate aspects of other theoretical perspectives, especially in my background chapter of my thesis (culture-historical theory for sure plays a big part).


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