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During my undergraduate degree I wrote every essay right at the last minute. The most extreme example of that was researching the essay during the day, writing it overnight and submitting it the next morning. I have no idea how I managed that. It was the feast and famine nature of my studying – actually, it was reflective of the feast and famine nature of my life.

I wrote the first essay of my MA over the course of a month. And doing it that way I found what I think of as gems. Bits of information it’s just not possible to find when you rush your research. You’ve got the bones of your essay, got most of your word count, but you’ve left yourself enough time to comb the books. When I got that first essay back I noticed that prof had ticked bits that he particularly appreciated, and they were all gems I’d found. So I’ve never rushed an essay since.

I’m nearing the word count of the dissertation. I have an outline, a conclusion, a literature review, a coherent thread running all the way through. There is a looooooooooooong way to go. The hard work has really only just begun. When you have the bones of your research in place, when you know where you’re going, you know the points you want to make, you know what gets you really excited about this topic… that’s when you have to back yourself up. I’ve disagreed with a major piece of work in this dissertation, so I’d better have good reason for doing so.

That involves trawling through endless passages in the Qur’an to find evidence – which may or may not back up my hypothesis. Bit of a risk, but that’s what research is. The guy I’m critiquing seems to take his ideas and run with them, defending them regardless of whether his source material actually agrees with him. Anyway, I have lots and lots of verses in front of me. I pull apart my argument into its smallest elements and stare at all that Arabic hoping to make some sense of it.

And I have to look at the commentaries I mentioned a couple of posts back. There’s no shortcut for that. These are massive works and I don’t have a little medieval man sitting in my pocket telling me where the best bits are. Pick a verse, any verse, and scan the commentaries to see if I understand anything. I’m not a patient person but I persevered today and I think I found some gems.

Oooooooh, it gives me a buzz. Knowing that this is my own translation, completely my own understanding, that I can’t rely on anyone else to help me out… it makes it harder and much, much riskier. But way more exciting too. It’s tedious and frustrating work, particularly because even after ten years of studying Arabic, I have a lousy memory and often have to look up words in my dictionary. For every word I understand, there are ten that I don’t. Not entirely my fault, Arabic has a lot more words than English, with more meanings, and it’s ancient language expressing complicated ideas with complicated grammar. Anyway, enough excuses. 😉

I love it when I suddenly understand what’s being said. So today I found an explanation of a very small verse that adds a new dimension to the concept of mercy and takes my research just that little bit deeper.

I’m at 9,000 words and I have a feeling I’m going to have to factor in a fair amount of time to delete excess words… Also have to remember to factor in time for the simple things of life too, like washing. Haven’t had a shower in three days, oops. Minger. Buried myself in words. *Goes to clean self*

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