Rubber duck debugging

blogpic - rubber ducks

I am getting close to the final draft of a manuscript but struggling with the last final piece of it.

I feel like all these many, many months of writing and analysis has left me with a very myopic view of my work. It’s quite a struggle now to move back and remember what the bigger picture was and find myself straining to put it all together.

I recall a method of debugging code that some of my software engineer friends would use, and it was called rubber duck debugging. The method required you to articulate the problem in layman’s terms, so to speak, or in natural language. I am certainly not an engineer, but in some ways, I think I’ve complicated my writing and analysis so much so that I’ve not effectively communicated the research to my audience. As a way to take a step back and evaluate what I’ve done so far and come back to what was essential, I tried to apply the rubber duck debugging method to summarising my manuscript and preparing to present it to peers, professors, friends, family, and others.

I don’t have a rubber duck at home, but used my doorstopper which is a turtle. It felt very strange at first, but when I really committed to it, I found it really helpful. I was speaking in plain, everyday language, establishing what the problem was and describing the analysis I conducted, and the findings of the study. It helped that I was also able to communicate, without any of the academic jargon, why this study was important and why it mattered that someone was looking into it. As I was presenting to an inanimate object, it was useful that it didn’t speak or make comments, so I wasn’t distracted by needing to please or worrying about feedback. Instead, all I was preoccupied with was communicating the content, specifically the essential content of the manuscript. Although this exercise made me feel very silly at the start, it was all worth it. I feel like I’ve gotten myself un-stuck and out of a writing block.

Tagged in What messes with your head, writing, Productivity, presenting