The Art of Reweaving Academic or Scientific Text
Weaving a text is an art, and this is true even if you are a scientist and the content of your document is hard fact. Anyone who has ever tried to write about complex material of the kind generated by advanced research is aware that language may limit or enhance what can be said, and alterations in vocabulary, phrasing, sentence structure, logical progression and so many other elements of scholarly writing can make an enormous difference. Recognising the inherently changeable nature of text and exercising the ability to reweave it at will are vital for the scholarly author who would make the most of his or her research and writing. The following list presents some of the many situations in which reweaving may well prove productive.
• When there are problems with your written language. If, for instance, a colleague or acquisitions editor points out that your writing is confusing and is hindering the clear communication of your research, you will need to revise to correct errors and rephrase your prose.
• When a document turns out too long or too short after the first draft. If the discrepancy is relatively small (say, a few hundred words), adjustments in wording to render your text more concise or more descriptive can do the trick. If your text is thousands of words longer or shorter than it should be, some significant cuts or additions will probably be necessary. Remember that using tables and figures to present data and procedures can greatly reduce the number of words in the main text or add to that word count in an effective manner.
• When you need to prepare your manuscript for submission to a publisher or perhaps prepare it differently for submission to a different publisher. The changes required by publisher guidelines tend to relate to formatting and documentation more than to primary content, but there are instances in which the structural or other requirements of a press will demand changes to the main text. The content may need to be rearranged and the progression of the argument altered to some degree.
• When you wish to use the same material for a different type of document. Perhaps you want to turn a chapter of your doctoral thesis into a publishable article or to write a blog post about the research in your recently published book. You may be able to cut and paste chunks of your original text into your new document – larger chunks if the new text is long, but perhaps only a sentence here and there if it is short – but you will also need to reweave much if not all of that borrowed text in minor and sometimes major ways to suit the focus, context, audience, purpose and other aspects of the new text.
• When your text does not seem to be generating the interest or response you had expected or hoped it might receive. Some readers you recruit to offer you feedback will not have much (or much that is good) to say and some publishers simply are not the right fit for a manuscript, so be careful not to give up on your first weave too quickly. However, if repeated criticisms and rejections convince you that there may be a better way to present your research, reweaving the material in a manner that will render it more engaging, more logical, more accessible or more unique might be the perfect solution.
Keep in mind whenever you are reweaving your text that careful proofreading is always essential to ensure that errors have not been introduced along with the improvements and that the new text is woven smoothly into the old to achieve the effect you desire.