Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Making Your Work Stronger

My criterion for A work is that it be Excellent, as the University requires. If it is so strong, I will be glad to show it to my colleagues and they will be impressed.

As I indicated in class, the usual counsel on making your work stronger is not so specific:
--the website should be easy to understand, and the flow of materials should make sense;
--you can navigate the site easily;

--the essay should be thoughtful and indicate you appreciate the issues; it should be nicely written;
--in the case of the SketchUp model, the structures should have enough detail so that they do the work of giving you a sense of what the block is like, the video should be fluid and likely it is a walk-through with no stuff that gets in the way (transitions that make no sense, for example). Simple and clear design of a website almost always works. Is the font you use large enough, no spelling errors, captions on images and videos? [Obviously this is for a specific assignment, but the general tone should be helpful.]

Most writers and scholars have their work reviewed along the way by their colleagues and co-workers. It's almost impossible to see what's wrong, but when someone points it out, you realize that it is obvious. So you may want to show your site to your classmates or friends and listen to their reactions.

All of this means that if you want work to be strong, you have to start early enough so you can make it better, have time to look it over with a bit of distance, and if you get stuck you can get help.

Once you have done this, then it is time to ask your instructor for help. Why? Because then you have done your best and so your instructor or TA can help you. Of course, minor problems ought to be brought up immediately.

I believe one of the side problems here is that in most courses you have to study for tests, or if you have a paper due you do not have to show intermediate drafts (perhaps this has changed?). You are not taught the craft of doing work, although you well know all of this if you play a musical instrument, are fluent in a sport, etc.

I hope this is helpful. In my own work, making it better is an iterative process. A book is not just written, but it is drafted, redrafted, read by a friend or colleague and you get advice, redrafted..., edited, sent to a publisher who then sends it to referees, who then tell you how to make it better and acceptable and so you rewrite, edit, and submit. At that point, if you are  lucky a copy editor gets hold of the manuscript and makes the text much better. Your tenth book project is better than your first, but not enough to avoid most of these steps.

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