Running Through Jello

I continue to plod on with the manuscript edits. Plod, plod, plod.

I have spent the entire day on a paragraph. An innocent-sounding query by one of the lovely people who reviewed one of my manuscripts ended up sending me on quite a fact chasing mission. The idea was that I needed to add in a sentence or two to an existing paragraph, you know, to clarify things and add in a little factoid. Searching for this particular factoid seemed like it would be a straightforward research question, but it ended up being anything but.

Imagine, for instance, that there existed a law banning, say, eating ice cream cones in public. But this imaginary ice cream cone law had different clauses for, say, sugar cones vs. regular cones — maybe one was banned earlier. And would frozen yogurt count? And what if different branches of the legislating institution had different laws on the books about eating ice cream cones in public? All of the sudden it becomes quite difficult to offer up a straightforward factoid-laden sentence explaining the imaginary ice cream ban. Yeah…that is about the size of the research/writing I did today, substituting, of course, the imaginary ice cream ban with the actual subject of my research. The digging I did today revealed some really important stuff and this will certainly strengthen this section of the manuscript, but I would really like to have more than a single paragraph to show for about 9 hours of work.

Slow and steady wins the race and all that jazz. I feel like I’m running through jello right now.

4 thoughts on “Running Through Jello

  1. when you have a bit of $ in your research account, that is exactly the sort of thing you can pay an RA to do for you.

    I LOVE the automatically generated related posts :-)

  2. *giggle* The auto-generated posts are funny, aren’t they?

    Here’s what I’m thinking about re: hiring an RA. This wasn’t a straightforward query. I found what I was looking for almost by accident, a slight mention in a totally different source led me to a footnote which, in turn, led me in the right direction. There was no way I could have mapped out this path ahead of time. How does this sort of serendipitous work happen when an RA is involved?

  3. Hmmm. You started out with a query you needed to follow up. So I suppose, you could have sent an RA to follow up on that query. They might have hit a dead end. They might have found you that first piece, you read it, you find the footnote and realize you need to go check that out. So then you ask the RA to go look that stuff up.

    I think the idea is that while you are writing you compile a list of fiddly little things that need finding in the library to fix one sentence or one paragraph. You try to articulate where you would start with that. And then you have weekly meetings with the RA to go over what they’ve found and give them new things.

    An awful lot of research is based in serendipity and just finding stuff. And it is useful for RAs to know that. In fact being an RA (which is just a fancy word for apprentice) is perhaps the only way you are going to find out the messiness of research. In class, and in final published versions, we tend to tidy it up and make it look all linear and logical when it really isn’t (even for the scientists).

    But using an RA like this makes it possible to keep a few projects going at once and also keeps you in flow, rather than getting bogged down in fiddly details all the time.

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