Sunday, October 21, 2007

Thoughts from the coffee shop

I'm sitting here at my favorite working coffee shop. Believe it or not, I haven't been back here since I had the baby! But it's still working its magic---I've only been here for a half hour and I've already gotten through half the items on my to-do list.

Sunday mornings are quickly becoming my work time. Mr. Jane likes watching Baby Jane on Sunday mornings (they can lounge around together), so I have a few hours to myself between the mid-morning and lunchtime feedings to just shut myself in the office, or leave altogether, and concentrate on work. Weirdly, I find myself looking forward to this time all week long. So I get lots of stuff done, which helps with the oh-my-god-I'm-going-back-to-WORK-soon-and-what-have-I-accomplished panic I sometimes feel these days. And the time to think "deep thoughts" helps me to be a better mom, because it rejuvenates me.

It's also nice that they have a new drink here (yummy!)---although I'm not 100% sure they made it decaf like I asked. I guess I'll find out in a few hours---if I get the shakes and start bouncing off the walls, followed by a wicked withdrawal migraine, I'll know.

One thing I'm noticing, as I work on the latest journal article, is that when I work on articles, whether for conferences or journals, I often get stuck on the results. Because often there's something in the results (or lots of somethings in the results) that doesn't have a neat explanation. In this case, I tried to summarize the results in a particular way, because I thought I could get a nice strong conclusion from them. But as it turns out, that particular summary actually muddles the overall picture! So now I have to come up with a better way to summarize the results, to demonstrate what I know the data is telling me...but I'm not 100% sure how to do that just yet.

In the case of the journal article that will not die, I made the mistake of writing the rest of the article first and then putting in the results. And that, frankly, made a mess of the article, because after compiling all of the results I realized that my results are not coherent---it's kind of a kitchen sink full of results that are somehow connected, but I haven't made those connections strong enough yet. So it seems as though this is a recurring pattern with me. Something to work on as I move forward, I guess. (And I'm thinking that fixing this particular issue of mine will help me get publications, especially journal articles, out more quickly, which is my big sticking point right now. I sit on these things forever.)

OK, back to work---I don't want to squander all of my precious work time!


EcoGeoFemme said...

Why not start with the results?

Enjoy your coffee shop work time. Good luck with your to do list.

hypatia said...

My advisor taught me to write in the following order:

Results/Figures (the stats part, not the interp. part)
Introduction (all and only what you need to motivate methods/results)
Discussion (mirrors intro/interprets results. You may find you cycle through intro/discussion a few times)

Your milage may vary. The main risk I face when I do this is that I get redundant so I always have to do 1 final proof/cut to clean things up

jo(e) said...

Hurray for getting back to your favorite coffee shop.

Jane said...

ecogeofemme, I do actually start with the results, usually. On this current journal paper, I wrote the results first, thought I saw a particular trend, tried to quantify that trend, and ended up with...not quite the trend I thought I saw. I didn't start with the results on that other paper, though, and that definitely got me into trouble.

hypatia, that's a great rule of thumb! I usually flip the results and the methods, and sometimes I even write the abstract first...although when I do that, I typically end up rewriting the abstract, sometimes radically. :)

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog and I'm seeing myself in a lot of what you say. I have the same problem dwelling on the little things in the results. A couple of times this has resulted in new directions and interesting findings, but for the most part it just results in me sitting on manuscripts forever.