Apparently its not the size of the ship; its the motion of the ocean!
Or so goes the old adage from snickering childlike men who should know better. But when it comes to academic writing, how big is too big? As a current doctoral student, I find myself in somewhat of a popular conundrum. My thesis should be about eighty-thousand words There or thereabouts. wit about 200 typed words to a page (single-spaced), that would work out at about 400 pages, give or take, probably a bit more when one takes into account referencing, covers, etc.
In the last few months there have been a marked upsurge in the numbers of peers who have been submitting their own works for final viva voce examinations in universities and colleges throughout the land. And without fail, these have all exceeded the nominal eighty K mark! One stood at 104-thousand, while another weighed in at a staggering 108!
Seriously it was like being a featherweight at a sumo wrestling match!
Now both of these theses dealt with periods of history that were significantly longer than my own. The former was a multi-generational local history study, while the other examined a decade-long policy of counter-terrorism under successive Irish governments. But still, quite impressive in terms of length! Does this mean that there’s now an upwardly mobile trend emerging in terms of academic writing? Is more and more simply becoming the accepted order of the day? Or do people want to read more about a topic. One wonders is there a danger of regressive behaviour emerging concerning the Secondary School desire to show work done and knowledge, as opposed to relevant knowledge only? A case of ‘well I had to read it, so its going in!’
A number of years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a conference dinner. There was an after dinner speaker and traditionally they were always quite looked forward to, as a little controversy is the perfect sauce to accompany a creme brulée! But this gentleman had apparently grasped the wrong end of the stick and instead of a light hearted story telling, his captive audience was subjected to about a 90 minute excerpt of his latest book. I wont mention the subject matter, but let’s say it was it was not intended for light-hearted discussion. The room was bored to tears. several people left. Some of us used our phones and tweeted about it. More than one person fell asleep, head on the table and thrown back in chairs. And it was a SMALL dinner room, maybe 50 guests,
Sometimes, less is definitely more!