An Experimental Method


As a student who came into college with the intention of being a Chemistry major, I have always thought of writing in a quasi-scientific way. Each of my papers is a thought experiment, conducted with language and rhetoric as opposed to chemicals. It begins with a research question (How does this particular text relate to the time or circumstances it was written in?).  I select a certain methodology to investigate my question (feminist, new historical, Marxist). I gather the tools I need to perform my experiment (secondary sources and criticism). I finally form a hypothesis (The author had a particular political agenda). I then set about proving my hypothesis (applying my research to primary texts).

I don’t do a lot of pre-writing or planning, I like to dive into the mix of things and see what happens. Though I have described my process here as being linear, often the stages I go through to write a paper happen out of order or concurrently. My writing process can seem chaotic or disjointed to the outside observer, but there is always a method to my madness.

mad scientist

Like any experiment, sometimes my argument is a valid one and I have no trouble writing my paper through to a satisfying conclusion.


Sometimes my argument doesn’t work out so well…


As scary as this scenario can be, when I hit a snag in my argument, finding a new argument can actually be more exciting and satisfying than the one that I started with. In that case, it is not about scraping my idea, but rethinking the issue, revising the question, and finding new points of entry into the text.My writing process is a process of discovery,  about finding new ways to think about  ideas and issues.

Though it is my least favorite part of the process, revision is an important part of my writing process. Like any good experimenter, I want to present my findings in the best way possible, even if that takes some extra effort.

balancing scientist

At its best, I like to think of my writing process as a grand exercise in critical thinking. From start to finish, my goal is to find something new about the world I live in and commit the ideas I find to paper, to be shared with others who want to investigate their world. I like to believe that my thinking has not strayed so far from the scientific reasoning I would be using as a chemist. It’s just that the elements look a bit different…


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1 Comment »

  • Julie Candio Sekel says:

    You bring up an interesting idea here – – that writing is a type of science, although we do not typically think of it in this way. I like the thought of you trying to apply your interest (and what you believed to be your future career) to something you are passionate about. It’s interesting to me that while scientific experiments are usually based on a strict process of executing steps and recording data, your process is more “chaotic or disjointed,” as you put it.


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