When To Stop Reading

I wrote a post, a while ago, about the difficulties I experienced in letting go of a piece of writing. I can also find it difficult to let go pile of booksof reading.

One of the things I’ve been doing for #AcWriMo this year is working on an article for an academic journal, about the role carers can play in mental health research. The role service users can play is fairly well established now (which is not the same as it all being plain sailing) but there is clear evidence that service users’ participation will benefit the research itself and everyone involved. There is no such evidence for carers, who are often ignored or sidelined by service providers, researchers, and others, yet I believe that carers also have a unique and valuable role to play in mental health research.

According to the literature, so do a few others. I’ve found some articles which are directly relevant, primarily from the Australian region of Victoria, and some others which are peripherally relevant, from various places. I’ve probably found enough. But there’s a niggling anxiety that maybe, just maybe, there’s a crucial, seminal article somewhere which I just haven’t found yet.

When I did my PhD, I read from two bodies of literature: work on emotion (huge, over more than a century, no chance whatsoever I could read it all) and partnership (comparatively small, over a decade or two, I could definitely read most of it). That was an interesting experience. I read as much of the partnership literature as I could lay hands on, and a more targeted selection of the emotion literature. One key emotion text was published during my doctoral studies, and I didn’t find out about it until I was close to the end. I read it swiftly, and banged in a few references, but my examiners turned out to be dastardly clever and very much on the ball. They pulled me up for not having considered the writer’s arguments with sufficient care, and made me go back and read and cite her work again.

This has left me with a dread of reading inadequately and being found out. And there is so much out there to read! Journal articles, grey literature, chapters, whole books, and more being publbig pile of booksished every day. I can end up spending hours devising new search terms that might just uncover one more relevant piece of text. For a journal article it’s not possible to review all the literature, as you might for a doctoral thesis. But reviewers and editors will expect a writer to have a good understanding of the literature in the field, and to be as familiar with recent developments as with the seminal pieces of work.

And that’s my guideline. Do I have a good understanding of the literature, which includes recent developments as well as key texts from longer ago? If the answer is ‘yes, I think so’, then I can stop reading. While I may still have missed something relevant, it’s over to the reviewers, then, to point that out. And after all, if I carry on reading for ever, I’ll never get any writing done, and what use would that be?

Conference Registration Open!

I may have mentioned that I’ve been involved in organising a conference on Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences, where my next book will be launched. This conference will be on 8 May 2015 at the British Library Conference Centre in central London. I’m delighted to say that registration for this conference is now open.

This means I can also reveal the line-up. The keynote speech will be given by Professor David Gauntlett, author of several books including Creative Explorations and Making is Connecting. Then we have four subject experts who have agreed to chair the workshop streams and form a final panel:

Dr Kitrina Douglas, champion golfer, broadcaster, sports researcher at Leeds Beckett University (formerly Leeds Met), poet and songwriter, will chair the arts-based research workshop stream
Jamie Bartlett, Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos, will chair the research using technology workshop stream
Matt Barnard, Head of Evaluation at NSPCC, will chair the mixed method research workshop stream
Dr Molly Warrington, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at Cambridge University, will chair the transformative research frameworks stream

There is an ‘early bird’ discount of 10% on bookings made before the end of January. Don’t miss out! Hope to see you there.

AcWriMo Progress Report

Over a week into AcWriMo and how is it going? For me: not too well so far.

My target is to finish and submit one sole-authored paper and one joint-authored paper. The joint-authored paper I planned to work on has mostly been drafted by a colleague, who asked me to write a couple of sections in return for a second authorship. We talked about this back in the summer, I said I’d be happy to help, and my colleague agreed to email me all the necessary information by the end of October. It hasn’t arrived.

I’m not surprised; I know my colleague is over-stretched. Nor do I mind, as I have another joint-authored paper to work on instead. This one has been in the doldrums for months, after a rejection from a journal, and again I’m second author so haven’t been able to move it along. I did offer some gentle encouragement, but that didn’t make any difference, and there’s a fine line between gentle encouragement and nagging which I didn’t want to cross. However, we now have the opportunity to publish in an edited collection instead of an academic journal, which is much easier, so that’s a good incentive for the lead author to get cracking. I’ve already given feedback on a couple of drafts, and am hoping a nearly-final version will appear in my inbox very soon.

The sole authored paper features a co-produced evaluation I led around a year ago. If we can, it would be good to publish this in an open-access journal, but that requires a budget. So I’m waiting to find out whether the commissioners of the evaluation want to pay for publication, as I don’t have a spare three thousand pounds myself. I have started work on this paper: I’ve downloaded quite a bit of relevant literature, and begun reading and thinking. But I don’t yet know which journal we’ll submit to first, and I would like some idea of the required word count and style, and likely readership, before I write anything substantive.

Luckily, there are still three more weeks of November. So there’s every chance I’ll get both papers done. Either way, I’ll let you know.

And if you’re doing AcWriMo: how is it going for you?

Four weeks to go!

I am already very excited about the 8th of May 2015. Because, on that day, I will be at a conference on Creative Research Methods, run by the Social Research Association, at the British Library. And my next book will be launched there!

So why am I saying ‘four weeks to go’ when it’s clearly six months away? Because there is just one month to go to get your abstracts in, if you want to present your work at this conference and earn yourself a hefty discount on the cost in the process.

I’ll let you know when we’re open for registration – should be in the next week or two.