Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of blog posts by Richard Jones, who has written a detailed book about timber technology that required hundreds of hours of research, which he talks about here. The book is scheduled to be released in early 2018.
— Kara Gebhart Uhl
My tentative foray into writing articles on timber technology for magazine and journal publication morphed almost seamlessly into writing a book (which you can read about here). I felt the material was unsuitable for the compressed format expected by woodworking magazine editors. Short, snappy articles of 2,500 to 3,500 words incorporating 10 or so images are favoured. The generally small remuneration for significant writing effort was off-putting, and occasional, irritating editorial blunders made by the magazines niggled: How, for example, could a couple of sentences from one paragraph be moved into another paragraph on another page? It turned the article I’d spent a great deal of time perfecting into verbal flatulence, and rather diminished the end product.
I wanted to create something that differentiated itself from other books on timber technology. I asked myself questions such as: “As a woodworker, what’s important to know?” and “Are there issues secondary to the core material that gives a woodworker important and useful ‘rounding out’ knowledge?” By this time in 2007 I’d moved to a new job leading the undergraduate Furniture Making programme at Leeds College of Art (LCA, now Leeds Arts University). LCA required I develop a ‘research profile’ befitting a lecturer in the UK Higher Education sector. I had a project in hand that I could use to undertake appropriate ‘academic research and publishing’. I had the kernel of a manuscript suited for such a purpose where light Harvard Referencing would be appropriate.
My starting point was to write what I knew, but to verify the information. It quickly became apparent that what I ‘knew’ was a mixture of truth, along with myth and hearsay that had been passed down through generations of woodworkers to me. I needed to research a topic through studying several reliable sources of information, collate, assess, draw conclusions, and then write. Sources were books, journals, online publications, personal discussions and correspondence with specialists in their field, all with verifiable credentials, e.g., wood scientists, entomologists, mycologists, engineers, etc, and further, to persuade experts to peer review relevant sections of my manuscript. Being in an academic field at the time of writing had its advantages. There’s a common etiquette in academia of peer reviewing the work of fellow academics – I was in the fortunate position of being able to take advantage of this arrangement.
– Richard Jones