Thursday, 25 July 2013

Cutting and Sticking

I have rediscovered a surprisingly useful primary-school-level form of play: cutting and sticking.

This is for those times when you have handed in  draft of your Introduction, or whatever, and your supervisor says: OK, good, but you need to change XYZ, you need to put your research questions a LOT earlier, you need to rethink this bit... (so basically: you need to make lots of changes to the structure. Your heart sinks at the thought of injuring the already-written paragraphs; you know very well that, to make your research questions fit in earlier, you will have to change things around. You procrastinate and don't want to do it.)

Print your introduction, or chapter, or article, or whatever it is that you can no longer stand to look at (go to 'print', then 'layout', then select 'four pages per sheet', so it's really teeny and doesn't take up loads of space). Get some A4 paper from your endless supply of scrap paper (those 1001 old drafts under your desk) and stick two bits together. This will be your background. 

Get some tape (prefferably artists' masking tape - comes off easily, so you can re-arrange things) and some scissors - and start cutting and sticking paragraphs! 

This works for me beautifully because: it stops me getting fixated on the wording of some footnote or other; it gets me to look at paragraphs as finished entities and move them around, without getting obsessed with their phrasing, etc; and it's easy to flip through pages, stand back, spot things and realise where they could go, what goes with what, etc. This means that I have saved entire paragraphs from being endlessly rewritten (and thereby escaped the curse of eternal revisions...). It's also a lovely break from the computer. And then you just hop on the computer later and search for the relevant paragraphs in the document and arrange them in order - a nice mechanical task now that you have a poster-size version of your 'Introduction' on hand to follow! 

I have been dreading rereading and tweaking the chapters, because I knew I was liable to drown in details; I think this will help. 

It's also just fun to do some cutting and sticking for a change. Dust down those old-school skills and enjoy working with a different bit of the brain.


  1. You actually wrote something on how you work on your PhD, not on how you hate it. This is not what is promised in the title of your blog.

    I feel less guilty when you just write about things you do you shouldn't do instead of writing about things you do that you actually should do (i.e. re-arranging your introduction).

    Please get back to the promised topic of this blog.

    I appreciate it.

    1. Ah, but if you read between the lines, you will notice that I still hate my PhD (‘can’t stand to look at it anymore’) ; also note how subtly I describe my mental downfall, finding myself reduced to ‘cutting and sticking’ like a small child/ grown woman gone mad (does it not make you think of occupational therapy?... ☺ ) That said, I admit that in recent months this blog has verged a bit more on the positive/ useful; instead of just harping on about how much I hate my PhD, I have been trying to include useful advice, etc, on how to have fun anyway, despite hating it. It's just a case of trying to stay sane.

      But I promise that I shall always stay cynical and that I shall ALWAYS Hate My PhD. That is my manifesto. Yours Truly,

      CN xx