This is part 3 of a blog series about re-writing processes for Alice Eden’s forthcoming book based on her thesis. Before gaining a book contract Alice underwent a peer review process. During peer review a number of edits were suggested which ranged from specific to more general. This post examines how her re-writing methods have been a useful part of her post-PhD journey enabling her to review her work and academic identity.
I have been re-writing areas of my book manuscript. Part of the process has involved getting up to date in several scholarly areas – looking at anything new which had been published since my thesis was completed. I have also needed to summarise literature that features in the thesis and bring it out more, making it both more visible and easier to digest. Another aspect has been restoring examples that were too familiar to be included for my thesis audience and were thus dropped early on during my PhD. These will now provide a helpful ready prompt for readers new to this area of scholarship.
I have approached re-writing processes in a number of ways that work for me. For example, I have created new separate documents for each of the sections I need to develop. I then edit and re-incorporate them in the main text. This involves writing more text which then needs to be cut down. I needed to contextualise artists within the European Symbolist movement so I wrote an overview of what that movement was, who the key figures were, what were the most significant works of art and their meanings and how the artist fitted into that context. I am unlikely to need all of this material, but this is now a valuable resource for myself. I have already ear-marked a number of uses for the material: teaching, engagement activities, public talks, future publications which focus on alternate perspectives.
Another section I needed to add was a summary of contemporary feminisms, 1880-1930. This sounded like it would be a couple of paragraphs, but again once I started I realised there were so many aspects that deserved to be included. This extra material ended up being 3-4,000 words. On reviewing the word count it is again unlikely I will include all of this; I have worked carefully to collect bibliographical details for the various components of the section so that they can be re-used for another purpose, as above.
I have needed to summarise academic literature. I have often found that the best academic articles include a useful summary of current scholarship in their opening paragraphs. While the authors’ knowledge of the historiography is vast, they are able to summarise this succinctly for a range of readers. Many of these summaries are so well-written that you sail into the reading of the article feeling empowered as if you have read all these other volumes! That level of authority surveying the field has inspired me in my endeavours to re-visit many texts that I read early on during doctoral research to provide similar summaries in my book.
Re-reading entire books has not been necessary, since brief statements about argument and content are needed. These have been gleaned from recollection and from book reviews sourced through databases. I have also started to keep more annotated bibliographical references than I did earlier in my research. In these records I summarise the key points of pertinent books and include primary sources cited. This builds further future research tools.
Being an academic involves constant acts of re-framing and rethinking. You are constantly updating knowledge from reading new scholarship, attending conferences, using online networks. You reconsider and critique your own work and make revisions. Job applications, new projects and publications allow you to re-think your own academic priorities absorbing new perspectives and extending your areas of interest as well as consolidating long-standing areas of expertise. For me this revising and rethinking has dovetailed well with medium and long-term planning regarding publications. These processes have been part of my early career experience, helping me continue to position myself moving forward as an academic post-PhD.
Check out Alice’s blog series here:
Have you undertaken re-writing during your thesis? How have you handled it? Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.
Alice Eden is a Research Curator at Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Early Career academic. Her primary interests are modern British cultural history, spiritualities and feminisms, with expertise in Victorian and Edwardian art history. She is an Associate Tutor in the History of Art department, University of Warwick and is writing a book based on her PhD thesis. Alice can be contacted via email and followed on twitter at @Alice_Eden4.