frenchpony (frenchpony) wrote,

  • Music:

Slash! Chop! Fold! Spindle! Mutilate!

I just spent an interesting forty minutes getting a paper ready for conference presentation. Over the course of these forty minutes, I managed to cut between one third and one half of the paper's content, while still keeping the overall point and flavor intact. It's really amazing how much of writing is salad dressing -- oil and flavoring designed to improve the flow and provide a little style, but not absolutely necessary, when you come right down to it.

The paper began life as a seminar paper, ostensibly for a history class, but ending up as more of a music history paper. Because I really liked the ideas I was working with, I submitted an abstract of this paper to a conference to be held here in Chicago at the end of February. The paper had to be written anyway, since it was for a class, so I figured submitting for this conference wouldn't require any extra effort on my part. The committee accepted the paper, happy happy joy joy. Then they told me I'd have twenty minutes to present it, which works out to about ten pages of written material.


The version that I turned in to my history professor, the version that got graded, the version that I based my abstract on, is just over eighteen pages long, and would take about thirty-five to forty minutes to present. Somehow, I had to find eight pages' worth of material to cut from what was already a fairly tightly structured paper. Amazingly enough, I did it. By hook and by crook, the thing is now ten pages long. And it still makes sense.

I am now grateful for two things in life: The first is that there will be an opportunity for people to ask questions after the presentation, during which I can elaborate on things that I had to cut. And the second is that there will be an official dry run of everyone from the U of C who's presenting so that professors and other students can listen and make comments. This is a very good thing, because this history paper has been accepted to a music conference without any music person ever laying eyes on it.

Ain't academia weird?
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