Released the week before last, the Warner Bros. film Suicide Squad (2016) was met with mixed reviews, setting ablaze DC fans, Marvel fans, critics, and bandwagoners alike. Despite a score on Rotten Tomatoes that continually plummeted in the two weeks since, this new addition to the DC Extended Universe nonetheless continues to be appreciated — in all senses of the word — by those wishing to know what worked in the movie and what went wrong.
On a forcibly bright side, at least the franchise is now one step closer to Justice League (2017), the zenith toward which the previous DC movies have been but a stepping stone thus far. Also, at least some people still found aspects to praise in Suicide Squad; other fans have meanwhile resorted to defending the movie against critics. As a stab at constructive criticism, then, here are some faults those critics found with the film applied to the hitherto unrelated occupation of research paper writing.
Yes, research paper writing.
1. Avoid flashbacks.
One must produce output with an intended audience in mind, whether this be a panel of experts on the subject, or a set of neophyte readers with no prior knowledge of one’s topic. In many film adaptations of novels or comics, this has spelled the difference between making a movie for the fans and making a movie for the general public.
In research paper writing, it is better to begin with a run-through of all fundamental concepts needed for more complicated explanations later in the paper; than to begin with a complex idea and insert explanations of the basics, i.e. flashbacks, as that idea unfolds.
2. Synthesize, not summarize.
A music playlist can run in the background of a movie, but it will not always constitute a soundtrack — especially if one song does not seamlessly flow into the next. The whole, after all, is more than the sum of its parts. The same goes for organizing ideas: if one merely summarizes data or, heaven forbid, lists them one after another, the output is devoid of meaning for both writer and reader. The synthesis, with its additional insights and more coherent style, is therefore more preferable.
3. Revise in cold blood.
Unnecessary parts are exactly that: unnecessary. For no other basic reason than this, brutal revisions are necessary. This attitude applies to scenes, minor characters, purportedly major characters, even entire chapters. One must then avoid using flowery sentences when a single, concise statement can deliver the same message with more oomph. It lessens the risk of a paper being dragging.
It also goes without saying that in this period of revisions, one must already take the time to check that elements as seemingly minor as page numbers, typographical errors, or table of contents are polished.
At the end of the day, less is almost always more, and readers/viewers will come to appreciate prudence in editing, as long as it stands to reason.
4. Get (and acknowledge) reviews.
At the end of the day, papers are written so they may be read, in the same way that a movie is filmed so it may be watched. Reviews are thus important — as early as the first draft and by an outsider if possible — because they are supposed to point out gaps and loopholes that would otherwise not have been spotted by the writer who has been dealing more exhaustively with the material.
Unfortunately, there is no pleasing everyone; if negative reviews arise, these had best be dealt with a mature and open mind. If everyone says one’s output is terrible because of “muddled plot, thinly written characters, and choppy directing,” for instance, there are at least two ways to respond.
The first would be to ignore the criticism and to carry on with one’s work. Lashing out at the critic before moving on is optional.
The second would be to acknowledge the criticism and to incorporate any suggestions during revision. If the paper has already been completed and submitted, mayhap the criticism could be treated as a learning experience, and the suggestions saved for the next attempt at writing. For purposes of continuous self-improvement, this second response is obviously recommended.