Sloppy Writing Habits
It seems like I’ve done more writing during this academic year than any other and I can’t help feeling I’ve developed some rather bad habits – right when I needed them least. Perhaps I’m just becoming paranoid or over-analysing things, but it just seems that my style of planning, writing and editing essays has become very inefficient.
Although, I’m doing a lot of research at the outset, I think the ‘planning’ stage for assignments has been lost – it’s somehow merged into the research and writing stages. On the LLb I used to force myself to take the time to write a coherent plan and would refer to it throughout the writing process. On the LLM, though, I’ve found myself doing this less and less. And when I do produce a plan, I seem much more inclined to veer off at tangents and not refer to the plan again. Not good.
I think modern technology is partly to blame. I’ve found myself relying heavily on writing key phrases as reminders or key elements of my paper straight into Word or Onenote (if I’ve used that in the research process). That used to be reserved for refining arguments part way through an essay. Now, though, I’m using this as my actual essay plan.
Because it’s so easy to manipulate and amend these ‘digital’ plans, I refer to them less than I would a plan roughed out on paper. Writing essays on the fly can be much more efficient than the old fashioned ways but, left unchecked, I think it can result in bad habits too. Perhaps I should make more use of mind mapping software, or simply force myself to get that pen and notepad before I touch the keyboard? On that subject, I think I should flag-up a recent great find - Mindmeister. This seems an excellent mind-mapping solution that keeps your plans in the cloud which you can even share with others. Best of all, it’s free.
The level of study affects things also. I think at this level of academia, the essay content can change dramatically during the writing process. It’s not feasible to aim to finish the research stage entirely before writing; there’s just too much material and too many nuances to that material for that to be possible. The whole cohort has been continually assured that this is ‘normal’ for LLM students as the material being dealt with is extremely complex and multi-faceted. And because of this, it’s natural for opinions to evolve during the process and to form a rigid thesis at the outset will necessarily exclude the inclusion of key refinements in the paper.
Comforting as this might be, it doesn’t help me much right now. I think a much more disciplined approach might be in order.