On Wednesday my committee and I discussed that my writing needs improvement, especially my historiography section. Both Dale and Dr. Jones said that my historiography is too descriptive and linear, almost like a list of books that are not related. Together we decided that I need to focus more on creating a web of scholarly ideas instead of a list of individual ideas. In discussing historiography with my writing group we wondered if it might serve me better to attack my historiography thematically instead of chronologically. My writing group things that I would have more success with a thematic approach because many of the books focus on the same issues, but approach them differently, and I would be able to discuss all of the book at the same time instead of separately. The thematic approach would allow me to more through the literature in groups and give a coherency to my work that I currently lack because I too focused on the chronology of the literature and who is answering whom in each book. If I discuss Kimmel, Bederman, Putney, and Carnes at the same time, I can draw stronger correlations between them, and show where there is a gap that my work will fulfill.
We also think it will be easier to create bridges between the themes than it is to create a coherent chronological review of the literature. I can create better bridges between themes by using a book that covers both themes. Basically, if I start by discussing the ideals of masculinity as described in Kimmel, Putney, and Bederman, I should use Gorn to bridge the gap between masculinity and sports, where I can then discuss Gorn, Watterson, and Gruneau. After that I should maybe use Ingrassia, who discusses sports and higher education, to connect the literature of sports to the literature of college culture like Horowitz, and Thelin, then finish with the work more specific to Virginia Tech like Wallenstein, Kinnear and Lazenby. This format will help me draw strong correlations between the literature within each theme as well as connect the themes together into a coherent historiography.
We also discussed a standard format, a writing formula, that I can use until I get the grasp of writing good historiography. I mentioned it in our meeting last week, but Heather told me that she used Kim Staub’s proposal as a guide that taught her to write one sentence to introduce the historian and the book, followed by one sentence about the argument of the book. Then comes 1-2 sentences of analysis of what the book does right or wrong, well or poorly, or what he leaves out, and ending with how I would use the work to support my own research or fill a gap that the historian left in his work and the previous literature. I need to focus less on trying to make sure the reader knows every detail about each book, and really focus on the arguments that historians make that are pertinent to my research. I focus too much on proving that I read the book, when I should really prove that I understand the book and can use it to support my own research.