I’m not doing very much primary source research at the moment. Instead, I’m caught up in a round of presentations of various kinds, and the work that I’m doing on my PhD proposal (along with some background research on assignments I have due). I’m okay with this, mostly because I know that soon I’ll get back to the happy state of working with primary sources (I’m due to dive into the archives in a couple of weeks, in fact). But I want to seize this moment to discuss writing.
Since March 2014, the last 18 months, I have written up the same piece of research in seven different ways. I wrote it originally as my undergraduate dissertation, with an abstract, of course. Six months later, I rewrote it as a journal article. That was rejected, and after some painful review, I began to understand where I’d gone wrong, and I rewrote it, six months later, and submitted it to another journal. To my delight, this was accepted, and after revisions, will be published next January. In October, I presented a short talk on my research to the general public. In November, yesterday, in fact, I delivered a conference paper based on it, to my peers and superiors. In a few weeks, I shall be delivering an extended version of that to a local history society, at their AGM. A few days after that, I shall deliver a second, slightly edited round of the general public talk. I have been asked to do at least two more public talks to larger audiences as well, over the next year and a bit.
While I am very happy that my research, and presenting style is such a hit, I’m not writing this in a congratulatory sense (well, maybe a little bit. Can you blame me?). Rather, what I want to explore is the ways in which these pieces of writing are so different from each other, despite all being on the same subject, and how I have deliberately adjusted each bit of writing to match the audience expectations, knowledge, and also the demands of the piece.