The location of argument and the connecting of sentences

I have been lucky enough to get a contract for a second edition of my last book, Understanding intercultural communication, with a remit to completely re-frame the text to make it more readable. It will be a more traditional, prose-based, academic text. However, I am also intent on a reference-free text that is more accessible.

In the previous version I put all the ‘literature review’ in a final ‘epilogue’ chapter. In this version I’m creating footnotes in which I say where concepts come from and who is discussing them. So, for example, when I am talking about interculturality, I can put in the footnote that this has been discussed by so and so who suggest this and that about it. Something similar for essentialism, Othering, hybridity, and so on, where I cannot claim to have sole ownership of the concepts.

I’m just trying this out at the moment to see how it works. However, I am finding it a liberating experience because I can focus on what I’m trying to say. This means that I don’t quote anyone else in the main part of the text. I only use my own sentences; and they have to work all by themselves.

Making my sentences work is all about getting the ideas and the connections between them organised in the right sequences. This can sometimes require pulling whole paragraphs and even sections from other chapters. It’s sometimes tough going; but eventually getting there is a wonderful thing – at least for a time. How, for example, does that discourse relate to this paradigm and that ideology and what these people that I have interviewed have to say. It’s all data driven because I relate everything to reconstructed ethnographic narratives, which are themselves based on interviews and observed behaviour.

At the core, therefore, is observed social life. In the footnotes are references to broader debates. These might be the equivalent to data chapters and literature review in traditional research writing. But the substance of the whole thing is, on the basis of this evidence, what I have to say – my argument. And I can now see far more clearly exactly where my argument is located and what it needs to look like.

One of the reasons for writing this particular blog is to address what I see in so many student dissertations, and the awful struggles that students have to put them together. I wonder if, because there is so much focus on the main content being the literature and the data, plus I suppose the methodology, the students’ own argument is left to survive in bits and pieces in between these blocks. Very often this argument is hardly visible at all.

What I am feeling good about, just at this particular moment, is that I’ve found a significant place, and mode, for my own argument. Then comes the struggle with the actual sentences and how they connect – but at least they are all my own sentences.

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