It was a furious last week with several late nights, but on Tuesday I turned in my first draft of the paper. I have been able to remove myself from the process since then, but this coming week we will begin the revising stage. Here are a few thoughts on how the first draft went:
— I started on my paper slightly later than my peers, giving priority to collecting as much information from my sources as possible. Though doing so abbreviated my writing time, it mostly worked out as planned: Having a dense collection of notes prevented me from needing to refer back to my sources too often.
— It was very easy to look back on my notes because I stored all of my information on OneNote. Not only are my notes easily accessible but I also don’t have to worry about losing them.
— A challenge in note-taking was deciding upon what information to record (and which pieces of information to omit). I faced the same dilemma in determining which pieces of notes to incorporate into my project and which to overlook. I know that other Ramonat students also found this to be a difficulty.
— I made a major mistake in how I formulated my bibliography. I originally had used MLA format but decided to switch my citations into Chicago, the preferred style for history research papers. I wasted a lot of time reorganizing my citations. I will remember to be more careful with this going forward, assuming I continue onto graduate school at some point in the coming years.
— Because my paper focuses on a more recent period of history, some of the consequences of her early work are still unclear. Still, there has been significant development in the capital punishment debate since the end of the 20th century. An advantage of studying (very) recent history is that Prejean’s work provides a better opportunity for research than some other well-known Catholic social activists (entering “Dorothy Day” on Google Scholar returns about 632,000 results and “Thomas Merton” has 132,000 hits; in contrast, Prejean’s name is tied to 1,840 results).
— I feel that my current draft is imbalanced in how well-developed each section is. I will apportion much more time and energy on revising particular sections of my paper so that the final product is well-rounded.
— Working on a paper of such breadth is something I haven’t experienced before. I can easily get away with writing papers with ten or less pages without an outline, but my outline for this initial draft was very important in keeping me organized.
I am looking forward to receiving feedback. From experience, I have learned that editing, not writing, separates a good academic paper from a poor one. It is not uncommon for the final form of one of my papers to turn out drastically different from the original piece of writing. In nearing the final phase of our research projects, we are also arriving at the most important one.