Writing: Progress and Process

I finished writing my book at the end of last October. My aim since then has been to produce one written output per month, such as a completed first draft of a writing project, or a submitted journal article or book chapter. So far, so not too bad:

writing on keyboardOne sole authored book chapter submitted, reviews received and dealt with

One co-authored book chapter submitted, waiting for reviews

One sole authored journal article submitted, waiting for reviews

One first draft of a voluntary writing project sent out for feedback

One first draft of a top secret writing project sent out for feedback

I have also made progress on five other outputs: two sole authored journal articles, two co-authored journal articles, and a working paper intended for publication by the Third Sector Research Centre on their website.

The voluntary writing project is an update of the Social Research Association‘s research ethics guidelines. I am on the Board of the SRA, and lead on ethics for them, so it is my responsibility to see that the update gets done. It’s a daunting responsibility, too, as the last version has been – and still is – highly regarded by academics and practitioners alike, and so is a very hard act to follow. But the last version was published in 2003 and, therefore, in great need of an update. It seems odd to think that in 2003, not everyone had email, the BlackBerry was only just being released, and smartphones with touchscreens hadn’t even been invented. The updated guidelines will need to cover topics such as research using technology, social media, and the ethical implications of innovative methods. Though one great advantage we have now, which the authors of the 2003 guidelines didn’t have, is that we can signpost readers to existing online resources such as the invaluable wiki hosted by the Association of Internet Researchers which contains a wealth of resources for ethical decision-making in internet-related research.

This week I will mostly be writing, as the Easter holidays mean it’s quiet on the client work front. I have the first set of feedback on the SRA guidelines, so I want to work towards a second draft of those, which will then be sent out to different people for more feedback. I also want to make progress on one of the sole authored journal articles, one of the co-authored journal articles, and the working paper.

This may seem like an onerous workload, but actually I prefer having a variety of writing tasks on the go. It is quite difficult for writers to sustain productivity for several hours at a time, and I find it helps to be able to switch between projects. I use the same approach when I’m writing a book, by treating each chapter as a separate project. In terms of productivity, once you know how, you can often work more skilfully and more effectively in a concentrated half-hour than in a relaxed couple of hours. I don’t time myself, though; my method is to start with one project, work until I notice my concentration slipping, then switch to another project. That works well for me.

top secretAs for the top secret project: it’s something I’m really excited about, and it won’t be top secret for ever. As soon as I’m ready to go public, you, my dear blog readers, will be the first to know.

4 thoughts on “Writing: Progress and Process

  1. Lovely post! I very much agree it’s hard to sustain focus for long periods. Multiple projects on the go also means you can switch focus if you get bogged down. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always cover letters to write or references to check! Good luck with the top secret project!


  2. Wow! You’re so inspiring, Helen! I have a quick question for you, though, with regard to ethics: Where do independent researchers go to get ethical approval?


  3. Hazel, thank you! Generally we’d go to the ethics review committee of whoever commissioned the research. Or not seek ethical approval at all – I do quite a bit of evaluation research for clients, and have never been asked to get ethical approval for any of this (which is an interesting ethical issue in itself).


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