December 4, 2023

How to Write a Pandemic Paper in the Midst of COVID-19

Author: Dr. William Oliver Hedgepeth
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By Dr. William Oliver Hedgepeth
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics Management, American Public University

Writing a paper on the effects of the COVID-19 virus as the pandemic rages across the globe might seem tricky even if you have already written about how this pandemic has shuttered businesses, left millions of people unemployed, and killed more than 500,000 people around the world.

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Of course, the minute you finish that paper, the numbers of casualties will be incorrect. You may sense that there is more to this story that hasn’t been told. The newspapers and TV news seem to be reporting a similar story regarding COVID-19, just with different numbers of affected people. The numbers change but the story remains the same.

Writing a Pandemic Paper Starts with Examining Your Area of Expertise

The next paper you can write should be about what is happening at a crossroads, the place where traffic comes together, and you have to deal with stoplights and other lanes. You, however, are watching only your lane of traffic; in this case, that lane is your interest or expertise that you want to write about. Your expertise might be food supply, retail operations, accounting, history, criminal justice, nursing, logistics, or any special hobby or interest that helps define you.

To write a new paper about this pandemic, however, you must visualize a new road or lane crossing yours. That new lane or road is COVID-19. So, you might look at that intersection of how COVID-19 is affecting logistics and their ability to perform daily functions, as well as the ability of workers to perform their job.

Your new pandemic paper then probes deeper into the operations of that crossroads.  You might be looking at how the pandemic is affecting logistics in one location, such as a local hospital or medical supply warehouse, and the status of shipments of PPE and surgical masks, respirators, and hand sanitizer. Those stop lights or traffic cops at that intersection could be your witnessing and uncovering or just reporting on why those medical supplies are late arriving. It could be why such supply chain and logistics operations are not meeting the sudden customer demand.

And who is the customer at that intersection? Is it the patient in the hospital, the nurse, the doctor, the administrator, the hospice logistic department or the trucking company charged with delivery these medical supplies? Your research to untangle this intersection includes the news you are reporting on, but more on how the crisis intersects the normal logistics flow of traffic.

Additional Roads Coming Together at the Crossroads

You are already aware that every business is under revision or attack today from the COVID-19 pandemic. Jobs are being lost. Jobs are being remade.

Now consider additional roads joining the intersection. For instance, consider the culture of engineering management, operations management, public transportation laws, or a comparative history of what happened during previous national or worldwide pandemics or disasters. For example, add a crossing road of history. What happened to those roads when crossing after 9/11? Or the recession of 2008?

Your paper could be a “crossroads view” of two, three, or four different professional business aspects or how unique organizations all crossing at that intersection face that COVID-19 roadway. How is access to the hairdresser versus the grocery store versus the public ballpark being opened or closed to the public?

This story would be more complex because when one process such as supply chain delivery fails or is delayed, the logistics process of feeding customer organizations is delayed. And if you are working in engineering management trying to plan out a new building project, your well-made plans for logistics or supply chain expansion of raw materials and labor are affected, stalled, or killed outright. Those results are also an intersection of facts, features and fears, and result in a new paper.

While this intersection of business and human functions can have many crossroads stories, your pandemic paper could also be about their effect on college courses. These academic courses include history, criminal justice, nursing, logistics, supply chain management, reverse logistics and hundreds more.

This academic crossroad story could also be about how the social distancing lane of this pandemic intersects with college courses or even high school ones, courses that rely on face-to-face encounters between teachers and students. The new lane of social distancing of all humans is a story that is unfolding daily at this crossroads for today’s educators and next year’s budget.

Another pandemic paper could be about the strategic effects happening at this complex intersection written as “what if” conditions. Those “what if” conditions could be new course materials not part of the standard textbooks that describe the smooth flow of all those academic topics mentioned above.

A Pandemic Paper Could Also Discuss Logistics and Supply Chain Impacts from AI and Robotics

COVID-19 is causing factories and retail stores to close and lay off workers. Unemployment rates haven’t been this high since the Great Depression of the 1930s. That is a story in itself, but one that is fast becoming too well told. You can write about what is happening to all those millions of people who may or may never return to their jobs. There is a fear and an excitement story at that crossroads. The fear is easy to find. What is the excitement about losing your job? New businesses are being formed daily. What are they?

The Crossroads View Can Become a Negative or a Positive Story

The crossroads view can become a negative or a positive story. While human workers may be replaced by robots or AI, your company could survive and may even earn greater revenue in the future. Plus, the new use of robots and AI may produce a new cadre of workers who have computer programming skills to run those systems. The story you write from this crossroads perspective is a positive one of hope for the creation of many new jobs.

The year 2020 has significant story ideas sprouting like weeds at the intersection of the different fields of study, work, recreation, health, culture, social issues, ethics and education. The remaining outline for additional pandemic papers is based on what is happening at that intersection at a specific time, day, month or year. What will be the next nationwide or worldwide disaster? It is not a question of if, but when that next event, maybe another pandemic, will happen. Will the governments, hospitals, retail industry and your hometown be prepared for the next disaster? That is another road crossing your future intersection.

Writing ideas for a pandemic paper are everywhere. There are good and bad things happening at that intersection of lanes and stoplights and traffic cops, even during this life-threatening pandemic. Just look for those roads coming out of the mist of confusion or distraction that cross your lane of interest.

About the Author           

Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is a full-time professor at American Public University (APU). He was program director of three academic programs: Reverse Logistics Management, Transportation and Logistics Management and Government Contracting. He was Chair of the Logistics Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Dr. Hedgepeth was the founding Director of the Army’s Artificial Intelligence Center for Logistics from 1985 to 1990, Fort Lee, Virginia.

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