Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Prime Directive for Academic Writing

I was trying to figure out this morning if I had written this before.  I know I have said it many times.  In my search, I found that I have several Rule #1 posts (such as this and that), but none for writing and apparently no Rule #2 posts although this post mentions both my rule #1 and a potential rule #2.

Anyhow, with NPSIA grad student Eric Jardine writing about his dissertation experiences, I was thinking of my rule #1 for writing, which I was thinking of already as my students in my Contemporary Security course are now working on their final papers and the rule is relevant for them as well.

Rule #1, the prime directive of academic writing, is:
Just because you learned something does not mean it is relevant for the current writing project.  
The danger of doing heaps of research is losing track of that which is relevant to the argument, the project, and that which is cool but not so relevant.  I have had a series of conversations lately where I am reminded about that which Dave Auerswald and I learned as we researched the book but did not put in the book.   Some of that info will be handy in my teaching, some will come out in my blogs and in other writings, but if it was not relevant for the book's main arguments, it got dropped. 

Given that book publishers and journals have word limits, following this rule should make one's life a bit easy. 

Oh, and rule #1 of reading, at least for me, is not to read folks that are always wrong (a.k.a. the Robert Kaplan Rule). 

No comments: