Trying out a new writing process

It’s Wednesday, that means writing day. Time to continue work on a paper that’s been mentioned previously. In this process I’m exploring being open about the writing process and attempting to create a collection of artifacts (evidence?) leading up to the final paper. This post documents today’s steps with a particular focus on first steps with a new Smallest Federated Wiki (SFW) enabled writing process that fruitfully merges with use of this blog.

An idea SFW enabled writing process

Perhaps it’s my programming background, but when I start writing a paper or a presentation I start by developing the structure. The sequence of ideas or points that I want to make in the paper. Once I have that structure in place, once I know what I want to say, I find writing that much easier. Of course the structure will change over time, but having the outline of ideas helps.

In the past I’ve used a range of adhoc methods for developing this structure. Ranging from the purely mental approach of reciting and reframing it in my head through to drawing upon artifacts such as pen & paper, text files edited with vi, and Word documents. As the title suggests the plan here is to use SFW. To create a page/article in SFW that consists of a list of ideas/concepts. Each of those ideas/concepts are separate pages in SFW.

The idea being that the writing process will be a sequence of reading, thinking and writing about each of those ideas/concepts. Of fleshing out each of the pages for the single ideas and perhaps moving them around, removing some and adding others. At some stage when I’m happy with the raw material on SFW, the idea will be translate that into Word or some other editing software.

On the plus side, this approach seems to offer better support (the linking of ideas and their separate development, versioning at a paragraph level, enabling others to build on what I’ve written) for a writing approach I’m comfortable with. However, it’s also likely to offer some challenges and misfits. For example, I found it difficult to come up with labels for the ideas/concepts that make up the paper that are both meaningful to me (and the writing process) and general enough to encourage/enable others to contribute and build upon those ideas.

If other people do contribute on build on those ideas, what implications might this have for authorship? At the moment, I don’t see the SFW ideas being in the form of the final paper. They will be more general. When I move to the word processing software I will re-write/write my own version, but it will likely be influenced by the input of any other contributors.

I also wonder about the affordances of the SFW interface for writing. i.e. the level of technical support it offers for entering and organising large amounts of text and my understanding of how best to leverage that. There’s still not the level of “fluency” (I feel somewhat dirty using that word) I’d like.

Associated with that I wonder about the question of citation management. Important to academic writing, but not directly supported by SFW. I’ll have to develop some practices and wonder how those will scale, especially as I move into the writing of the formal paper.

Time will tell.

Case studies in relevant journals

The next phase of writing is to start filling in some of the ideas in the paper structure by looking at the literature. The first area I’m looking at will be the question of case study research in the journals I’m targeting and also around the question in the paper (what’s involved in the reality of trying to develop high quality learning environments in higher education? Does that explain why there’s limited widespread quality?) The point is to identify prior work to build on and learn from.

Raising the questions of how to best search through articles in specific journals. Does Google scholar support this or do I have return to using the old style (horrendous) “library database search”. Ahh, appears the institutional library has moved a step beyond some of my memories from years ago and my local collection of papers is revealing some tidbits.

Time to start sifting and reading.

Progress made. To early to tell how it will go.

At least one of the papers I skimmed resonated with a negative local experience and generated a rant.

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