Saturday, 10 March 2007

Drawing a conclusion

It’s Saturday night and here I am writing my Freud essay. Let it never be said that I lack commitment! In fact, a couple of glasses of delicious South African Riesling seem to have freed up those creative juices very nicely (hic). Up until this point, I’ve been like a potter scooping out clay and shaping it into a vaguely vase or bowl-like blob. Now I’ve started up the wheel and put my hands on it, and have succeeded in giving it a decent base. Yep, I’ve written my conclusion. You can see it on the wiki if you’re interested.

This may seem a bit strange, given that I haven’t really written anything else. But give me the benefit of the doubt for a second; isn’t a journey much more comfortable, swift and purposeful if you know where you’re going to end up? As long as I know approximately what I want to say in the essay and in what order, I find that the conclusion is the best place to start. When I begin writing the body of the essay, it always seems to flow very happily towards the conclusion. I think my method works by priming the brain, infusing it with a purpose. As my dad used to say to me when I was a sulky teen, "the purpose of washing the dishes is to get them clean, not to make a big fuss, waste hot water and finish up having a big pile of filthy plates." In short, remember your purpose and you won't squander your time.

There’s another important benefit to this approach. In writing the conclusion first, I’m fresh. I haven’t yet boggled my mind with the finer points of my argument or its expression. I can make sure that my last paragraph leaves my reader with the firm impression of a question well answered. To this end, I tend to do a second question analysis just before I start writing the conclusion (I’m appending mine below). I also start the conclusion by trying to craft a last sentence that will leave the reader with a definite and hopefully appealing take-home message. An earworm, as they say in German (a really delightful term for something catchy, like a song, that you just can’t get out of your head). This is a challenge for me, as I’ve always had a ridiculous amount of difficulty with goodbyes. So yes, I have tried my hardest to devise a method to make it easy, and this is it!

Question analysis:

Evaluate Freud’s theory of personality

I only have 1500 words in which to do this, so I won’t be able to go into a long explanation of the ins and outs of the theory. How to reduce a life’s work to 1500 words, though? Plus, I don’t want to do the obvious thing where I explain all the theory and then evaluate it. Boring. Boring. I want to give a flavour of evaluation, of opinion, right from the off, as in take a critical view of the concept of personality. I also don’t want to stick to purely scientific evaluation. There’s not really enough of it.

Evaluate to me suggests be even handed in my assessment. Look at pros and cons, with evidence for both, and come to an opinion. Ok, I already feel that Freud’s ideas are unfairly and unreasonably dismissed. I need to limit myself to areas of theory that have something to say for and against. Also the essentials. Dynamic unconscious, psychological defences, id and ego, we develop through psychosexual stages. Personality quirks can arise from fixation. So also a discussion of libido. I notice in my argument list I mention libido late, and don’t explain it. I need to get it in early, with the id. Then I need to finish by saying that contemporary scientists have seen fit to take Freudian theory and subject it to systematic appraisal. What’s more, it hasn’t been found as wanting as the hype would have us believe.

20 comments:

Kathy said...

Hi Lynn,

Well, here it is Sunday evening and I'm reading about your essay writing! It is addictive...

I like the reasons you give for writing your conclusion now, before you've written anything else. How sensible! Why didn't I think of that?! :)

When do you write your introductions? I tend to write mine last, because it's only then that I know exactly what the argument of my essay - or other writing - is and so can step back from it all and think of how to prepare the reader for the unfolding of this argument. I'd be curious to hear what your process is.

Kathy

Anonymous said...

Sandra says:
I like both these writing ideas!
the conclusion first does give a sense of direction and purpose - and the introduction last allows you to write an introduction to the essay that you have actually written.
My tip: in the introduction acknowledge the 'import' of the question. Why was just that question set? What is it encouraging you to consider? What special issues or debates is it inviting you to touch upon?

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