The most useful textbook & academic writing posts of the week: July 17, 2015

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.You need to start somewhere.” –Anne Lamott

No piece of writing is perfect when first written—that’s why they call it a first draft and why editing exists. Pat Thomson offers a bit of comfort in her piece this week in that all academic writers (or any writer for that matter) face the same struggles. She focuses on being ‘stuck’ with a writing piece and how to move thru it. Today, just focus on getting started and let the rest fall into place. The rest will either fall into place or, if nothing else, give you direction for where to go on the page next time you sit to write. Either way, just start and know that you can (and will) edit later.

Happy writing! [Read more…]

The most useful textbook & academic writing posts of the week: April 17, 2015

There are SO many great articlesdon't give up on your article in this week’s most useful textbook & academic writing posts! I’m so excited about what’s below that I’m not even going to write a long introductory paragraph. I’m just going to say, I hope you enjoy these articles as much as I did and of course: Happy writing! [Read more…]

Join us for the April 19 Virtual Dissertation Writing Boot Camp

bootcampGain access to resources, accountability check-ins, and support and encouragement as you work to complete your dissertation, by joining us for TAA’s April Virtual Dissertation Writing Boot Camp, which will be held Sunday, April 19, 2015. Registration deadline is April 16. Register today. Free for TAA members!

The boot camps, led by Ashley Sanders, Digital Scholar Librarian at the Claremont Colleges and a doctoral candidate in History at Michigan State University, each focus on a different aspect of the writing process, including: [Read more…]

TAA PODCAST: The Art of Revising

academic writingIn this TAA podcast, “The Art of Revising”, Rachael Cayley, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer at the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto, shares strategies to help you revise your academic writing. In particular, Rachael talks about different sorts of revision and the optimal way to sequence the revision process. By developing your overall capacity for revision, you can enhance your experience of writing and improve the eventual reception of your writing. Read Rachael’s article, “The Craft of Revision”, which is based on this podcast, on her blog, Explorations of Style.

Download PPT [Read more…]

Registration is now open for TAA’s October Virtual Dissertation Writing Boot Camp

bootcampGain access to resources, accountability check-ins, and support and encouragement as you work to complete your dissertation by joining us for TAA’s October Virtual Dissertation Writing Boot Camp. This third boot camp in a series of 9, will be held Saturday & Sunday, October 18-19. It will feature a 30-minute webinar presented by Meggin McIntosh, PhD, President of Emphasis on Excellence, Inc., entitled, “Ack! My Dissertation Feels Like a Bloated Elephant: Getting Your Dissertation Written One Bite at a Time”, that will offer ideas that you can use to conceptualize, plan, and manage your projects.  Registration deadline is October 15. Free for TAA members! Register [Read more…]

Write with POWER: Join us for September virtual dissertation writing boot camp

bootcampJoin us for TAA’s second boot camp, which will be held September 20-21 and features a mini webinar entitled “Writing with POWER”, presented by Margarita Huerta, Assistant Professor of English Language Learning/Early Childhood Education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. As a postdoctoral research assistant, Huerta was integrally involved with P.O.W.E.R. Writing Services program at Texas A&M University, a program that provides “motivational and instrumental support for graduate students’ and faculty’s academic writing”. In this webinar she will share tools and strategies from the P.O.W.E.R. writing program that can help you jump-start your dissertation project. You can learn more about P.O.W.E.R., which stands for Promoting Outstanding Writing for Excellence in Research, by visiting power.tamu.edu. Register for the September boot camp. Free for members. Non-members pay only $15 and can participate in all 9 boot camps.

Writing Accountability PartnerNEW! Registrants of TAA’s Dissertators United Chapter Writing Boot Camps will be invited to sign up to get connected with an accountability partner. Knowing that you need to communicate your progress to someone else can provide the accountability you need to keep your dissertation on track! Sign up instructions will be included in the boot camp registration confirmation email.

10 Ways to overcome challenges to writing your dissertation

frustrated authorThe top challenges participants of TAA’s August Dissertation Writing Boot Camp indicated that they were facing in completing their dissertation included time management, staying focused, writer’s block, holding themselves accountable to deadlines, and anxiety.

Boot Camp Leader and Dissertators United Chapter Chair Ashley Sanders, who is also working on completing her dissertation, said that one of the strategies she finds really helpful to overcome the anxiety she feels when working on her dissertation is to start the day by free writing in her journal.

“I mean, completely free writing,” she said. “Whatever comes to mind I pour out on the page for 10 to 15 minutes. It helps me work through any anxiety I’m facing or worries or fears by taking the time to write out things I’m grateful for in my life. That starts me out with a positive mindset to begin tackling what can be some very challenging tasks, because I’m much more focused on what’s going well, what I’m thankful for, and all the good things that are happening in my life.” [Read more…]

When writing, focus on your strengths

Dave Harris

Dave Harris

There’s a world of knowledge out there and it all intertwines. The study of any one subject begins to touch on the boundaries of others, motivating study into the new subject. When reading and when writing, we learn new things, which could lead to feelings of treading on unfamiliar ground.

I’ve met some brilliant and hard-working people in my life in academia. I’ve met people who read articles by the bushel and books by the shelf, but I’ve never met one who had read everything worth reading. There’s too much knowledge out there for any one person to know everything there is to know and to read everything that has been written. And, of course, we recognize this; it is the motivation behind the specialization all around us. Nonetheless, it is not unusual to become paralyzed by the sense that we don’t know enough.

At some point we have to stop looking for something new to learn—some new answer or some new scholarly source on which to rely—and start trying to figure out what answer works for you. We must shift from merely accepting the work of others to beginning to explicate your own voice, your own wisdom, your own discovery. This is central to academic work. Though we may stand on the shoulders of giants, still we must add our own height.

If you are trying to write a dissertation or thesis, the time to stop reading is now. Universities do not set you on a dissertation expecting you to read—they expect you to write. The criteria for getting your dissertation accepted is not based on what you’ve read, but on what you have written. Of course you are expected to have done some reading. But the dissertation is about writing—it is about completing a written work.

Think of it this way: which person is more likely to have their dissertation accepted: Person A, who has read everything there is to read on his/her subject, and has written only an incomplete dissertation draft or Person B, who has written a complete work that uses only a handful of sources?

The answer is obvious: person A, lacking a complete work for submission, has no chance of having a dissertation accepted, while person B, has a real chance of getting his/her dissertation accepted.

At some point you have to stop reading and researching and start writing—and what you use to write is your strengths—those things that you have studied, and especially those things that you know best. Rather than trying to fill in all the gaps in your knowledge, and rather than spending your time focusing on those gaps, focus on what you do know. Focus on using the strengths that you have developed during your studies. Focus on what you know best. Use the material that you do have.

Of course it is necessary to do some research and some reading; of course it is necessary to be diligent and careful and to be aware of the limitations of our knowledge. Your work should not be founded simply on your untested opinions. There must be a solid foundation, not one of dreams. But if you have built a solid foundation, rely on it; focus on the strength it gives.

Dave Harris, Ph.D., academic writing coach and editor, helps writers rework their writing process, fine-tune their final drafts, and everything in between (www.thoughtclearing.com; dave@thoughtclearing.com).
Copyright © 2007, Dave Harris. All rights reserved