Two types of university friends you may have never thought of (part 1)

librarianGraduate students on the road to doctoral Oz often feel more isolated than a vegetarian at a barbecue. Especially if you have a laissez faire chair and committee, you may believe you’re abandoned and unloved. You’re not. In my work as editor and coach for struggling dissertation-writing students, I know well that many other people in the university community can comfort, calm, and care for you. Here I’ll remind you of two types who can help ease your dissertation traumas. (Next post: two more.)

Librarians Love You  

Even in this age of access to many online databases, librarians can help you greatly as you plow through the dissertation. Once you recognize the immense resources at their keypads, you can enlist their aid to save yourself time, effort, and digital runarounds. [Read more…]

What can you learn from learning centers?

writing centerWhen you’re writing your dissertation, in its grip you’re probably on the lookout for any resource that holds out the slightest smidgen of help and solace. One of these is learning centers, or writing centers, as they are often called. Learning centers constitute one of those university auxiliary supports that espouse noble goals. They aim to help the graduate student get through that dread writing and do it right. They sound good, with individual tutors who lovingly go over your work and spruce it up.

In my work as an academic coach and editor primarily assisting doctoral students, many have told me of the problems and splendors of learning centers. If you are wondering about the value of learning centers, perhaps my observations will help and save you the time you should be devoting to your Chapter 5. [Read more…]

5 Web tools to help you manage and organize citations

citationsWhen it comes to academic writing, it is important to be diligent about collecting and organizing sources that will support your statements. The success of the overall project is often determined by the organizational skills you show during the research stage, and if you lose track of the sources of your ideas, you may also end up inadvertently committing plagiarism.

The following five tools can help you manage your sources and organize citations in accordance with whichever citation format you follow. [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…]

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…]

Dissertation support groups (part 1): Watch out!

 Pros and cons of writing support groupsThis is the first of two posts on dissertation support groups. In this post, I acknowledge some of the advantages and alert you to some of the dangers of a group. In the next post, I describe a successful group in the words of its members.

In the seemingly endless struggles with your dissertation, you may think about joining a dissertation support group. A group can be excellent for “solace, support and motivation” (Axelrod & Windell, 2012, p. 101) and sharing of information and writing techniques (Grant & Tomal, 2013; Joyner, Rouse, & Glatthorn, 2012; Rockinson-Szapkiw & Spaulding, 2014). The group can also be a great source of consolation and camaraderie, a welcome environment in which everyone speaks the dissertationese dialect, and a welcome spot for empathetic grousing. [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…]

Your dissertation coach: Your personal academic trainer

Your coach helps you bite off manageable tasks in realistic timeframes.My joyful livelihood for three decades has been as a coach and editor for doctoral candidates in all aspects of their dissertations. So I warn you now—I am partisan. That said, here I’ll describe the (best) duties and functions of a coach, with the basic distinctions too about editing.

Some universities positively ban dissertation coaches and editors, some graze the subject with tacit acceptance, some sanction certain types of editing and not others (such as light or medium editing; see below), and others almost require them. Depending on students’ academic skills and confidence, they adhere to or ignore such strictures. The coach/editor shouldn’t be expected to write the little beauty but to guide students in organizing their thoughts and managing their lives so they can write. And be their cheerleader and ally. [Read more…]

The most useful textbook & academic writing posts of the week: February 26, 2016

Print this quote and keep it next to where you write. This way, you will the first draft is nothing more than a starting pointalways be reminded, “The first draft is nothing more than a starting point,” as Andrew Stanton urges. You do not have to get the words out perfectly the first time; you just have to get them down. Remember, editing (and editing over and over again) exists for a reason! Below you’ll find excellent articles from around the web this past week. From the future of textbooks to how to get your first academic paper published, and so much in-between, I know you’ll find an article that is useful to you. And, as always, happy writing! [Read more…]

Join us in San Antonio for TAA’s 29th Annual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference!

San Antonio Riverwalk

Join us in San Antonio for TAA’s 2016 Conference!

Mark your calendars, the Textbook & Academic Authors Association’s 29th Annual Conference is fast approaching. Don’t miss out on this valuable two-day writing conference where you will gain inspiration for your writing projects, network with veteran authors, and learn strategies to help increase your publishing success. The conference program is ambitious, offering a wide variety of session topics for both veteran and novice authors. Register soon to take advantage of early registration rates. [Read more…]