Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Actually cutting and pasting

Grad student Tanya Roth, no stranger to the tools of the computer age, sometimes takes out the scissors and starts hacking away:

My grad school colleagues know me as someone who uses a number of digital processes for the dissertation project. ...

Maybe that’s why my advisor seemed surprised when I told her about my other hacking process…the literal cut-and-paste process I use when I’m editing chapters. This is the part where I hack the printed pages into pieces... I fell into this practice as a college freshman when I took my school’s comp 101 class. Back then, it was just a 10-page paper, but it worked. I cut the draft into paragraphs, numbered each, and wrote notes on the sides of each paragraph – sometimes editing sentences, but other times just noting what the theme of the paragraph was so I could rearrange content more effectively.

I did the same for my undergrad thesis, and the whole process has reemerged periodically during the dissertation stages. For all my digital processes, I can’t deny that this cutting and pasting works for me: it gives me the ability to visualize the whole piece a little better because I can see more than just one or two pages on the screen. I can try out what it will look like/sound like to rearrange paragraphs.

There's more, in this post and in others.

I like the idea of seeing the whole chapter laid out:

I don't know if it would work for me, but it might be worth a try.


  1. Well now - what an interesting concept. Not sure where I'd find the floor space but if I move some furniture around it might be worth a shot.

  2. Anonymous12:59 pm

    I used to do the same thing, and then I discovered a computer program called Scrivener, which lets you set up a virtual cork board and do the same thing. (Sorry, I tried to put in a screenshot, but couldn't figure out how.)

  3. I like the sound of this. It seems to have a weak spot where content needs to be blended into an existing paragraph, but maybe my writing just isn't as disciplined as Ms Roth's. All the same, the whole-piece view is appealing; this is why I often do one editing run on paper for something I'm sending out, it's easier to compare two parts of it against each other.