Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Busy Few Days - Huge Sighs of Relief

Well, with handing in both my ADR Progressive Learning Journal and my Intellectual Property Major Paper, and with my classes all being finished, I'm officially DONE two of my classes, and only have three to go. My to do list is looking a lot better:
  • Write my International Law final exam on Dec. 10
  • Write my International Trade Law final exam on Dec. 16
  • Write my Family Law final exam on Dec 17
AND NOW ... a word about citations.

Yuck. I had a tonne of authorities for my major paper. I thought I was being smart about the whole citation thing by creating a new system for doing them ... tried to be ├╝ber organized ... but I think I ended up spending a good 7 hours total, after my paper was done (which is another story), just wrapping up the citations. Too long. I must find a way to cut this process down.

After 2 years of law school complete, I think I finally understand (more or less) how to use the McGill Guide ... and use it I did ... but I'm getting ahead of myself already.

As I was researching and writing my paper, I compiled a numbered authority list (in no particular order) in a word document. This reached about 60 authorities in no time (yikes).

While I was writing my paper, I would add footnotes, and reference the authority in the footnote as "Authority #", where the # corresponded to the # where that authority appeared on my numbered list.

I was able to edit away at my paper, add footnotes, delete them, etc. and I still knew which authority they referred to (as opposed to previous approaches that I've taken, where I did Supra and Ibid. references while writing, and when I changed the structure of the paper, I had no way to figure out which footnote referred to which reference). When I was finally done with the paper, it was time to address the footnotes.

First, I had to go through my authority list and find the proper citation format from the McGill Guide. This took awhile.

Next, I went through my paper, and began to substitute in the proper citation from the list for the "Authority #" that was in the footnote, all the while keeping track of the original footnote citation # on my authority list so that I could cross-reference easily while adding Supras and Ibids (i.e. If the first time I referenced Authority 1 in my paper was at footnote 22, I would put the proper citation in footnote 22 and write "22" next to authority 1 on my master list. If the next time that I referenced Authority 1 was in footnote 57, I would look on my authority list for "Authority 1", see by my notation that it had been originally referenced to in footnote 22, and I would then write "Supra note 22" for footnote 57).

May seem slightly complex, but it allowed me to complete all citations in one pass of my paper. This was a VAST improvement over other papers that I've written where citation chaos was the norm.


NEXT TIME I do a major paper ... I think I'll take the time, as I add each authority to the list, to actually put the proper citation on the list as opposed to just the author/title/website url approach that I used this time. This could probably cut almost 3 hours off the process. Could be enough for me to downgrade citation from "miserable pain in the butt" status to "tedious, but at least I have a good system" status.



As for finishing my major paper ... this one was really hard for me to "put to bed". I had a lot of things to say, but didn't have the space to say all of them (who'd have ever thought that a 50 page maximum would hold me back ... so crazy). I tried to pick and choose the most meaningful things, present them in a sufficiently general way so as to appeal to a legal reader as opposed to a legal/technical reader ... AND ... tried to keep the focus centered around what we covered in class. Also - it was tough, as someone with a technical background, to know how to inject my technical knowledge without referencing back to some authority from a class I took in University 10 years ago. As someone not super experienced in academic paper writing, this was a tall order. Hopefully I somewhat achieved these goals ... only time (and my Professor) will tell.

So funny how, when I'm actually trying to convey a point of view that I care about, my insecurity about how the paper will be received and understood goes WAAAAAAAY up. While caring about the subject matter makes it easier to write (especially on the motivation front), it sure leaves me quite vulnerable feeling in the end.

On a final note, there was a Jostens Rep in our student lounge over the last couple of days showcasing rings that could be purchased for graduates of this year. I had to really get me head around the fact that I fall into this category. Law school has gone by SOOO FREAKIN' FAST! Once exams are done, and it is established that I've passed everything (heh), I'm 5/6 done ... that's 83.333% done ... that means that I have about 3 1/2 months left of being a student before I'm back out in the real world as a working woman. Crazy. Don't get me wrong, a salary will be a nice thing to re-establish in my life, but it seems like it's happening so fast.

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