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Plotting an academic paper Mary Dixon-Woods Department of Health Sciences University of Leicester.

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Presentation on theme: "Plotting an academic paper Mary Dixon-Woods Department of Health Sciences University of Leicester."— Presentation transcript:

1 Plotting an academic paper Mary Dixon-Woods Department of Health Sciences University of Leicester

2 The 7 step programme 1.Problem 2.Desire 3.Opponent 4.Plan 5.Battle 6.Knowledge 7.New level Adapted from Writing_Tips

3 1. Problem Show that there is some issue that really needs tackling Introduce it in an attention-grabbing way if you can Make it an interesting problem –Show how it’s obstructing the achievement of important goals –Link it to a policy or practice objective –Show how it affects people’s lives

4 2. Desire Your desire is to put the problem right Formulate your desire as a clear research question At the early stages of a paper you may be working up towards posing this question So use your literature strategically

5 A good research question Is clearly stated Is well defined (and will have defined its terms in the lead-in phase) Is oriented to solving an empirical or theoretical trouble

6 3. Opponent The thing that is standing in your way of resolving the problem is (usually) that other research has failed There is a gap in the literature And you’re the one to fill it – you’re the (wo)man with the plan

7 Using the literature Everything you do has to work to establish the problem, desire and opponent DO NOT simply list studies and what they say –this is very boring and doesn’t help you build your argument DO NOT start sentences with the name of the author –e.g. “Woodrow et al state that most patients avoid taking tablets that are difficult to swallow.”

8 Marshall the literature effectively Identify ways in which the literature can be organised Generate your own labels for these if needed Use devices such as numbering –Four major approaches to explaining non-compliance can be distinguished. – One dominant way of understanding non-compliance is to examine the acceptability of medicines to patients. An alternative, and much more neglected approach, involves an emphasis on patients’ perceptions of the legitimacy of medicines.

9 4. Plan State your aims clearly at the end of the Introduction, having convinced us there’s really a problem Now outline your plan This should be a good plan that is well suited to addressing the problem

10 5. Battle The battle is your efforts to implement your plan It won’t always go perfectly So show how well what actually happened matched your plan –Report response rate and the characteristics of who ended up in the study –Tell us anything that might be relevant to understanding plan implementation

11 6. Knowledge This is your results Present them authoritatively and clearly, in a logical sequence – build a plot and keep us interested Put things in tables if needs be, but then don’t repeat the material again the text. And don’t say “Table 1 reports…”

12 7. New level This is your Discussion Start by restating your main findings Reflect on the new level you’ve reached as result of your plan and battle to address the problem Link to what is already known Acknowledge the limitations Tell us about the implications (what needs to be different now?) Say what more needs to be done to sort the problem

13 The authorial voice This needs to be constantly present But not clumsy – you need to be confident and in control of the material, steering us towards your argument Be assertive, be in charge, make us think you’re worth listening to Use devices such as explaining what your argument is at the beginning – “we will argue that non-compliance is best understood as a problem of legitimacy, rather than one of unprincipled cognitive lapse”

14 Other plot devices Use a short, authorial interjection from time to time –“All three of these approaches are deficient in the way they conceptualise non-compliance” –“Soandso’s (1993) approach offers perhaps the most thoroughly informed critique of the ‘cognitive lapses’ tradition”. –“Soandso’s proposal does little to address the problem that ‘cognitive lapses’ explain only a small proportion of non-compliance.”

15 Sleights of hand When you need to acknowledge that there are lots of ways of thinking about something, but don’t want to go into them all –“Among the many approaches to conceptualising non-compliance, those that address patients’ beliefs are most persuasive.” –“Non-compliance escapes straightforward definition. For purposes of this study, we will adopt that used by Soandso, in her influential analysis.”

16 The signs of an amateur Saying “in 1993, Soandso said that..” Using ‘dollops’ of literature Claiming their work is much more important/significant/original than it really is Describing, not conceptualising Being too passive


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