Last Wednesday I attended to one of the RNUAL lectures (UAL) about how to approach writing up problems (essays, papers, chapters, thesis). As a first general conclusion, to approach this problem, the best strategy is to have a clear framework –a plan? – as a starting point. This means, to know exactly what to write and discuss, before start writing and writing without having a define direction. For this, the selection and organisation of raw material is essential.
One of the methods introduced during the lecture was to organise the material/information in columns.
I called this method 3-column structure as it classifies raw material in three interconnected columns in a quite useful and clear manner.
So, a possible starting point can be the definition of the main themes (of the chapter/of a paper/of an essay). These are the themes that are key for a subject and that can be used to structure a piece of writing. That is to say, the most relevant issues that will be discussed and explained.
After this, as a second stage, it is important to select the authors related to those themes. This means, who has said/written something significant about that themes. Besides the authors’ names, quotations can also be included into this category. Ideally, each theme should match with one or more authors from the literature and practice review.
A third and last stage would be focussed on defining the specific things of the previous selected themes I would like to write about. For things are understood the individual elements that composed a theme, such as key terms, projects or interviews.
Information/raw material can also be classified following a different stages order. For example, starting with the selection of things and leaving the themes for the end. Or by identifying key authors and then matching them with their main themes and terms. The order of the stages depends on the subject being analysed and the kind of text that has to be written.
In addition, it is important to notice that it was also highlighted during the lecture the importance of using diagrams and mind maps as a way of organising information. This is one of the reasons that this 3-column structure method is useful: it visualises the collected material, emphasising and ordering the important points. Moreover, these diagrammatic structures also show how different parts or components are related and enable to see new points of view that with a traditional organisation (or without it!) are not seen so clear.
Once again, this method shows how powerful tools diagrams are for organising and visualising complex information.
Following this (or any other) way of organising information, as a result ideas and thoughts will be also organised, and the task of writing up (or any other!) would be easier, as there is a previous plan.