Friday, October 17, 2008


The comps wordcount passed the halfway mark at approximately 9:15 p.m. last night. This is the point where I finished refining a paragraph from disjointed notes into a coherent statement, and Word told me that my cursor came after 5,063 words. The cursor was sitting just over halfway down the 17th double-spaced page.

No, I am not going to force myself to get to 10,000 words, the lower limit of the "expected length" range we were given. I am going to make the points I need to make, citing as many of the 116 journal articles on my reading list as I can. My advisor's inevitable requests for clarification may put me into the proper range, of course, but I prefer to keep to concise statements rather than try to make an arbitrary word count.

The most frustrating thing about a theory paper is that I have no idea whether any of what I'm saying is true, or even reasonable. Have I somehow missed huge swathes of the literature, or misread critical points? I try to take comfort in more senior grad students' assurances that I won't be failed as long as I demonstrate some competence in theoretical arguments, but I can't help but cringe at the potential expectation that this be publication-worthy. I have enough confidence that it's accurate to base my dissertation work on it, but not to let anyone who actually knows this field look at it. Wasn't I supposed to be feeling like I had a good grasp on this topic by now?

Meanwhile, the current status of the paper is 5,459 pages, spread across a full 18 pages. Add all the notes I have on sections that are not ready for proper writing yet, and the word count is 7,234. It'd all be in good shape if it didn't have to make convincing sense.


deb said...

I'm not a frequent commentor on blogs, but just wanted to tell you that you have company - I'm doing pretty much the same thing right now (though we don't have a 10k word suggestion, dang!). Also feeling similarly about the whole 'grasp' of my research topic, ugh.

It sounds like you'll make it to 10k words pretty easily, at least! I've been working on just getting the concepts in the right places and the length stretched out, and now it's time to go back and make sure it actually makes sense (and also to wrap up the research and paper bits of my first project, and do some preliminary work for my second so that I can justify what I'm proposing, and and and!).

Wishing you a speedy wrapping up of the text...

grad student said...

I couldn't decide if having the 10k guideline was helpful or stressful - helpful to have some idea of what was expected, stressful because I prefer concise writing not stretching out sentences to reach a word count. It sounds like it must be more helpful, especially since I won't fall too far short.

I'm definitely not looking forward to going back and checking that everything makes sense. I think that's going to be the worst part..