Truth in Society

March 28, 1995

Prompt #63

Today's agenda . . .

According to the schedule we distributed in Prompt #61, focus groups are to do what's necessary in order to have draft chapters ready to circulate by the end of the day today. On Thursday, the schedule calls for a day's worth of "reading and responding to collections of draft chapters."

Assembling a draft . . .

Here are some suggestions for how groups might want to proceed. There are some things that it's simply not possible to do in groups of nine or ten, like drafting and editing, but there are some things that can be done, like making procedural and strategic decisions.

To ensure that no important pieces get lost in the shuffle, consult the lists of relevant research report files stored in P:. Before anything else happens, every person should make sure that she's read all of these files.

Then here's how we see you moving towards a draft by the end of the day:

1. Decisions about Report Organization

Looking at each group's research so far, it should be possible to make decisions about how your report will be organized by "blocking out" chapters, each dealing with a particular aspect of the subject or piece of background or approach to it. Then it's a matter of assigning each of the files to one of those chapters. (It's important to bear in mind that if you don't have a file on some subject, it's a little late to decide to do research on it: you should be working from the files to the chapters, rather than deciding on chapters you don't have files for.)

How to do this blocking out and assigning? One approach we'd recommend is to convene a focus group meeting. Begin with a period of serious inkshedding on the organization of the collected papers. Imagine, for example, the table of contents of the focus group's collected works and write that. Then ask yourself questions like: "Why should this chapter come before that one?" "Why should we have these two tiny related chapters when we could combine them?" or "Why should be have this large diverse chapter when we could have two separate chapters?" And answer yourself in the inkshed.

Share inksheds as usual and then discuss the shape of your focus group's collected works. Work towards making decisions about chapters, sections and subsections. (It's worked well in the past when someone volunteers to record -- and then post -- decision minutes.)

Then you will be ready to establish a division of labour, so that each person can be working -- alone or with others -- on one of the chapters.

2. Working with Hard Copy

Once these decisions have been carefully made and recorded, print out the relevant files and collaborate on a way to combine, order, augment, relate, and structure them so that they add up to a draft chapter. (In our experience, it is easier to do this with hard copy than to edit directly on the computer.) You may need, at this point, to do further research to clarify things or add detail, but it should be very focused and clearly defined research. This is not the time to add whole new files to the group's collected work.

3. Editing the WP Files

Once the hard copy editing is completed for this draft, it's time to make electronic changes. Copy the relevant files from P: to one person's H: drive, combine them, do the editing decided on in hard copy, and print out the chapter. Copy the chapter, as edited, to Q:, under an appropriate title, and in the appropriate subdirectory. If you have trouble with any of this, we'll be around to act as consultants at the usual times (that is, Thom's not available 10-11:30, Russ isn't available 11:30 - 1, John's not available 2:30 - 4:00).

Whole class meeting @ 4 . . .

There will be a whole-section meeting at 4:00 in EC 120 to assess where we are and to arrange for the reading of draft chapters by readers from other focus groups.

A note on contributions . . .

If you look at the list of files for your group, you'll notice a pretty wide variance. There are people who, on the evidence of the research reports collected there, appear to have done three or four weeks' worth of solid work; there are others who seem to have done a great deal less than that . . . and there are some who, it would seem, haven't done any at all. Each group will have to work out how it handles this. Our expectation is that from this point on, groups will not be generating entirely new research reports, but will be going through a process of organizing, editing and revising, and probably adding detail to, files already available in P:. This means that there are a number of people whose contribution to the research effort will have been pretty slender.

The question of what happens to these people now is an interesting one. From now to the end of the term each person in your focus group will be working on some part (or parts) of the group's collected work. While we've done what we could to make it clear that this inquiry process required a continuous effort, it would seem that some people still felt they could let research and writing slide and catch up at the last minute. That can't happen now. We don't think that any group has an obligation to let someone who hasn't contributed so far jump on board for the last couple of weeks -- but of course, they can do so if they want. It's up to the group: we will not make the decisions for you.

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