Writing and Presenting Research is unconventional as far as academic writing books go – it puts more emphasis on alternative styles of writing and presenting research than on conventional styles. In fact, it might have been more appropriately titled Alternative Ways of Writing and Presenting Research. As a stand-alone course book for students who are planning to write a conventional thesis or dissertation, there are probably better alternatives than Writing and Presenting Research. However, for those brave few planning to write their thesis or dissertation in an alternative style, Angela Thody's book will prove a good source of motivation and information.
Writing and Presenting Research serves many purposes. It is a step-by-step guide for writing and presenting research. It spurs debate about the use of conventional and alternative styles. And it provides readers with plenty of wisdom about the writing process. The book is meant primarily for researchers in the social and health sciences, the arts, and the humanities, but is also relevant for researchers in the natural and applied sciences and in law. According to Thody, 'it covers research written as theses and dissertations, chapters, books, reports, and articles in academic, professional or general media such as newspapers. It reviews the options for presenting research orally as lectures, keynotes, conference papers and even TV games shows' (3). It is not entirely clear, however, for what level of writer the book is intended. The author mixes advice for beginning writers, such as when it is appropriate to make a hard copy of one's text, with advice for professional writers, such as 'visit bookshops to see if they stock your book. If not, ask for it' (33). [End Page 174]
As in most academic writing books, the book's sections parallel the steps in the writing process. In the first section, 'Preparation,' Thody discusses the debates about conventional and alternative writing styles, how to choose between styles, and how to adapt one's writing to a specific audience. This section ends with a discussion of the art and craft of writing, including tone, style, and the writing process. The second section, 'Selection and Reduction,' is devoted to the reduction of data and the writing of narrative-type literature reviews. The third, 'Production,' deals with the presentation of quantitative, qualitative, and narrative data. It also discusses the writing of beginnings, endings, and citations. The fourth section, 'Publication,' handles strategies for getting published, how to be an entertaining presenter, and how to not infringe copyright. The final section consists of an epilogue and appendices.
Throughout the book, Thody's method of operation is to compare and contrast conventional and alternative styles of writing. The text is dotted with poems, lists, imperatives in oversized fonts, and reflections, all quilted together with dry, conventional prose passages that serve as functional counterpoint to the alternative styles. The result is an entertaining, but somewhat schizophrenic, introduction to the variety of styles for reporting research. A good example of Thody's use of contrast can be found in the section that presents the arguments of the style debate in both poetic and textbook formats. First, she presents the arguments in a poem called Conference Debate, reproduced below:
It's like listening to poetry,
I go to a conference to hear the poetry of the paper;
The paper is like poetry read by the real, actual writer,
Word for word,
Like all papers,
I learn later from reading the paper;
But not at the conference.
There you only go to hear researchers as poets. [End Page 175]
You hear them interpreting their own poetry or words,
Their nuances, their cadences, their enthusiasm.
They do not need to explain them to YOU.
It is enough to be close to academic celebrities,
It should be teaching,