Guest Author - D. Lynn Byrne, Ph.D.
I've always wondered why professors refuse to give graduate-level students a "formula" for writing papers. They certainly have no problem telling undergraduates exactly how to approach a paper. Maybe they feel that graduate students should "know" everything there is to know about writing by the time they've hit their 5th or greater year of university. Honestly, though, many graduate students have been out of school for a year or more--some for many years--and could really use a few tidbits of advice.
Amacom books has just released a neat little book about how to effectively tell a story. No, its not targeted to graduate students and it isn't really related to research projects; but, in it you'll find some solid advice on how to share your topic with readers and really tell a story that's both meaningful and interesting. Annette Simmons is of the opinion that you don't really need a true template. What we all need to do to write an effective story is to "be more intentional in creating the kind of perceptions that achieve goals rather than reinforce problems."
Her book, Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins identifies six types of storytelling. Perhaps the most valuable types for graduate students are her "vision stories" (provide information that reframes the present and aprises readers of future possibilities), her "values in action stories" (those that tell a story to illustrate in action what values mean behaviorally) and her "I know-what-you-are-thinking stories" (stories that surprise people and seal their trust by validating suspicions and dispelling them--without being defensive). Simmon's primary focus is on helping people develop story-telling methods that bring their stories to life. Graduate students often create very meaningful and important stories; but, these stories are dull and boring. By focusing on the prospective reader, the kind of perceptions you want to get across to your reader, and the goal for your writing you're more likely to tell a story that's interesting. Really, that's what you want--right?
Her book is targeted to the everyday writer and may not appeal to graduate students. Her methods may not apply to all research writing, either, as by nature, some research tends to be a bit dry. But, its well worth the read. Especially if you'd rather create something that's not only meaningful, but makes a solid and lasting impression on your reader; instead of putting them to sleep.
If you're interested in Sommon's book, its currently available from major retailers and online booksellers. Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins: how to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact - $22.00 from Amacom Books.