Losing the Plot

In his entertaining article from 2007 (revived via a tweet from my colleague @leroyh), Jonathan Wolff describes the tension a novelist creates between story and plot to keep the reader engaged in the unfolding narrative. He suggests however, that the inherent protocols of academic writing – and requirement to signpost theoretical, methodological and analytical processes – dictate such tensions are removed entirely.

Extending Wolff’s detective novel metaphor to the TV screen; it could be said that academics take the Columbo approach to revealing the ‘killer facts.’ The 70’s cop show from NBC (revived in 1989 by ABC) was unusual in discarding the ‘whodunnit’ format in favour of revealing the murderer at the very start, only for him or her to be hounded relentlessly by Lieutenant Columbo (Peter Falk), whose dishevelled looks and wandering style of enquiry belied a incisive analytical mind, a meticulous approach, and a ruthless pursuit of the truth.


2 Responses to “Losing the Plot”

  1. virginia Yonkers Says:

    This comes at an appropriate time as I try to determine if I should lay out my argument which will lead readers into the model I have developed or if I should start with the model. On the one hand, I am told that I am putting in too much detail, but on the other hand I am told that I need to support (prove) what I am saying.

  2. Andy Coverdale Says:

    I’m (re)structuring the first few chapters of my thesis now (excluding the Introduction). In sampling other theses, it seems structural norms may be heavily influenced by supervisors, discipline or institution. Personally, my main supervisor is quite encouraging of me developing a personal narrative within the structure, provided key decisions (conceptual, theoretical, methodological etc.) are well signposted and cross-referenced within and across chapters.

    Ailsa Haxell also discusses this in her post.

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