Visual Writing

An interesting thing about the process of grad school is that I am developing systematic approaches to particular types of activities. I have created a writing strategy that helps me transition from familiar visual methods to unfamiliar territories of writing. I started using this method with the Thesis Project Proposal, then continued using a similar method in writing the questions for the Narrative Interviews and for writing the Sprout Business Plan.

Knowing the amount of writing I have done so far, I felt that some of it would be helpful to incorporate into the final thesis. I began by laying out a huge sheet of craft paper and creating sections based on my initial table of contents.


I then printed out all applicable writing. Using a cutting and sorting technique, I clipped out phrases. This process helped me separate each idea or paragraph from the context it was written in and see how the words fit into a new application.


As I taped them down, I could see how the ideas could be restructured.


I then realized that there were three main types of content that I wanted my main thesis to reflect. I tagged each paragraph using color-coded pens as either; making and studio work, theory and academic research (including precedents and market research), or Participant Research.


By laying out the entire thesis visually, I was able to quickly see areas that had too much content and needed to be paired down as well content holes.


After I had arranged or discarded all of my paragraph clippings, I added an additional layer. I used sticky notes to further tag the content.


To use all of this information, I planned on retyping so that I could edit and format as I transcribed. Many of the phrases spoke of activities in future tense that were now past tense (especially those from the thesis proposal). My supervisor suggested that I purchase Dragon Dictation so that I could read and speak the thesis. This was quite beneficial although it did take a while to get used to speaking for dictation and for the software to learn my speech.

Overall, this was a beneficial experience that got me to my first thesis draft. It may have taken me a bit longer than if I had sat down to write the thesis from scratch but I found some valuable ideas in the old writing that I had forgotten about. Also, dictation errors were fairly common and added an additional layer of editing to look out for. My favorite was how every time I said "Michael Pollan" it just put a ";" (semi-colon). Pretty funny.

JournalKaren Whistler