Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Writing a conference paper

Back in August of last year I submitted a proposal to present a paper at the AERA conference to be held in Chicago in April 2007. The process was somewhat daunting, given that over 2000 words was the expected length of the proposal, to be followed by a blind review of the contents by three referees. The structured format provided by the AERA program committee—objectives, theoretical framework, methods, data, results and importance of the study—made the task easier.

Needless to say, all aspects of this process have been electronic, even to the point of a screen that reveals the ratings and comments provided by the referees. They each used a set of criteria and a 5-point scale to assess the proposal, then supplied an overall rating. I was advised in November last that the proposal had been accepted and that each referee had assessed the proposal as a ‘4’. All papers need to be registered within a Special Interest Group (SIG) of the AERA, of which there are over 150. My paper is registered with the ‘Narrative and Research’ SIG.

The paper will combine the use of case narrative and reflexive interpretation to assist in the process of reconceptualising the doctoral experience. I prepared a draft towards the end of last year which actually proved to be a major circuit-breaker for me—in terms of my thesis writing rather than the conference paper per se. Having written a series of case narratives during the past 18 months using my qualitative data, I had been experiencing difficulty with interpreting them adequately. In the process of drafting the conference paper, I began to work on the development of a conceptual model and refining an approach to analysis and writing that has advanced the thesis considerably. As a result, I have been working on three chapters of the thesis for the past couple of months.

Given that my initial draft of the conference paper was almost 10,000 words, I’m now turning my mouse to the task at hand. My objective is to reduce the scope of the draft and craft a tighter paper with a narrower focus (e.g. 5,000 words) as quickly as possible. Hopefully, this should only take a couple of days. It’s hard to believe the first month of 2007 has slipped by already.