How writers can use feedback effectively

FeedbackA good writing practice—a habit of coming back to work on your project regularly—is the foundation of good writing. One of the biggest challenges to many writing practices is to keep going after receiving difficult feedback. And perhaps an even bigger challenge is the fear of receiving feedback, which often contributes to writer’s block. If you’re submitting to a publisher, a journal, to your dissertation committee, or anyone else who might provide feedback, it will help if you feel like you can use the feedback you get effectively.

The following is a slightly edited excerpt from my book Getting the Best of Your Dissertation: Practical Perspectives for Effective Research: [Read more…]

Dissertation support groups (part 2): Success!

SupportPreface: This is the second of two posts on dissertation support groups. In the previous piece, “Dissertation support groups (part 1): Watch out!”, I described several benefits and cautioned readers about drawbacks of a group. In this piece, I report on a successful group in the words of its founders and members. The philosophies and methods may help graduate students seeking support groups and faculty desiring to start them.

“I couldn’t write. I’d be in the library, staring at the portrait of the bearded benefactor, and the time would just tick by. That’s when I decided to join the group.”

This member of a dissertation support group was not alone in her dilemma. [Read more…]

Writers: Don’t get caught in the ‘downward spiral’

Getting the Best of Your Dissertation

A good writing practice is the foundation of good writing. A good practice is built on regular action, and depends on the ideas or perspectives that lead to effective action. When faced with a large writing project, it is important to look at the relationship between your work practice and your emotions. Today’s actions influence tomorrow’s approach to the project, and work today can make it easier to work tomorrow.

The following is a slightly edited excerpt from my book, Getting the Best of Your Dissertation: Practical Perspectives for Effective Research: [Read more…]

5 Reasons to aim for brevity

Getting the Best of Your DissertationA good writing practice is the foundation of good writing. A good practice is built on regular action, and depends on the ideas or perspectives that lead to effective action. When planning a writing project, one effective idea is to aim for brevity: keep your work short.

The following is a slightly edited excerpt from my book, Getting the Best of Your Dissertation: Practical Perspectives for Effective Research: [Read more…]

Quote or paraphrase? Three tips from a pro

quotesIt’s a pity when surface problems scuttle otherwise strong scholarship. As an academic editor, I’ve noticed that poorly handled quotations are particularly damning. Inelegant use of prior scholarship can give the impression that a writer is unsophisticated, or even amateur.

Naturally, research does involve mining books and articles to inform our own arguments, which are ideally novel and substantial but still reference that prior work. Often there may be temptation to repurpose existing literature that seems to say exactly what needs to be said in order to get to ideas that are original. It can certainly be difficult to think around the particular ways in which influential scholars have formulated cornerstone concepts. [Read more…]

11 Tricks and tips to get those words on a page

Writer's BlockWhether we’re in the throes of a dissertation, article, or book, most of us have trouble writing—starting, continuing, finishing. Especially after our original flush of enthusiasm and amazed production at the first few paragraphs or pages, we find that each of our writing projects carries its own problems.

From my own experiences with tortured writing and those of my academic coaching and editing clients, here I’ll share eleven tricks and tips to help you ease into or continue your writing. If you need convincing, included too are credible rationales for how each method can help you. [Read more…]

From the other side of the draft

draftI generally empathize with beleaguered graduate students who are wrestling with their dissertations. Most doctoral candidates seem to get little support from their chairs in guidance, writing, or cheering on. However, exceptions exist . . . .

A student recently sent me a heartfelt communication from a chair to his dissertation group. This chair, unlike many others, held bimonthly meetings with his students in the throes of their dissertations or gingerly approaching them. I was impressed by the forthrightness of this professor and the caring he showed in insisting that his students measure up. The chair—I’ll name him Professor Bellows—shared several important “gripes” we can all learn from. [Read more…]

The most important thing you’re ignoring: Ergonomics

Ergonomics for writersWriting is a necessary part of your career. Whether your goal is to become a successful textbook author, gain tenure at your university, or publish various other types of scholarly works, you will have to make writing a large part of your life. Just as anyone who lifts weights, runs, or bikes knows, the proper form and equipment are necessary to avoid injury and stay on track with their training. These same principles are true for writers. To stay at peak performance level, that is to say, to stay writing (and comfortably) it is imperative that you have the proper form and equipment—proper ergonomics. [Read more…]

How to start writing again after a break

Taking a long break from anything,Mahatma Gandhi — 'The future depends on what you do today.' writing included, can make it difficult to know how or where to start again. Two of the biggest hurdles to overcome are allowing yourself to let go of any guilt you have from not writing and putting to rest the infinite “I’ll do it tomorrow” mentality. Of course that isn’t to say that breaks are often necessary. They allow you to come back to your writing rejuvenated, more motivated, and re-inspired. However, when a break turns into weeks and months without writing, the daunting task of how and where to start again is often suffocating.

So what can you do to get back into your writing routine? [Read more…]

6 Tips for proofreading your own academic writing

proofreadingAcademic writing is one of the main things you’ll be judged on as a graduate student. It shows how much you really learned when you were earning that degree. Now that you’re out into the world, things aren’t much different. Every piece of academic writing you do has to be just as good as the ones you wrote in college – if not better. You don’t have a professor to proofread for you anymore, and now the task rests solely in your hands. It’s sometimes difficult, but practice makes perfect. [Read more…]