The most useful textbook & academic writing posts of the week: February 19, 2016

“Like stretching before exercise, I start my writing day with a heavy edit and rewrite of my previous day’s work. That seamlessly catapults me into today’s writing.” – Jerry Jenkins
What sorts of strategies do you use to catapult you into your day’s writing? Do you do as Jerry Jenkins does and start the day with “a heavy edit and rewrite” of the “previous day’s work”? Maybe you do as Rachel Toor suggests: “leave off at a point where it will be easy to start again.” Rachel adds: “Some writers quit a session in the middle of a sentence; it’s always easier to continue than to begin.” Various other writers suggest using bullet points at the end of a writing session that point them in the direction they want the writing to go when they next return to it. Perhaps you have a completely different method altogether. If you do, I hope you will share it in the comments below this post. Happy writing! [Read more…]

8 [MORE!] Academic writing blogs you should be following

Are you ready for more great academic writing blogs to follow?! blog logoThe original, 8 Academic writing blogs you should be following, was so popular (and continues to be) it seemed fitting to bring you a second addition—not to mention the fact that the blogs below are worthy of being followed! In no particular order, here are eight academic writing blogs that offer superb advice on everything academic writing and publishing related, plus life as an academic: [Read more…]

The most useful textbook & academic writing posts of the week: March 13, 2015

I’m excited for a few reasons this week. You fail only if you stop writing.First, spring-like temperatures have arrived and stuck around for multiple days. (Woot!) Second, this week’s most useful post is jam-packed with articles I think you’ll enjoy. Topics range from knockoff rating companies to massive open online courses (MOOCs). Third, I found this great quote by Ray Bradbury, “you fail only if you stop writing,” that I couldn’t wait to share with you all. This quote is so simple, yet so powerful.

We all define success differently but ultimately failure, that is no longer writing, is the same. If one journal or publisher rejects your writing, you don’t stop writing, you either tweak what you have, find a better fit, or start on another project. You haven’t failed until the moment you stop writing. In a bicycle race you haven’t failed unless you stop pedaling. Of course not everything we write is worthy of being called a masterpiece, but I don’t think that just because a piece of writing isn’t our best that it should be considered a failure. Isn’t it by writing and rewriting that we discover those masterpieces?

Happy writing! [Read more…]

Stop procrastinating on completing your dissertation: There’s still time to register for this weekend’s 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 September Virtual Dissertation Writing Boot Camp. This second boot camp in a series of 9, will be held September 20-21. It will feature a 30-minute webinar presented by Margarita Huerta, Assistant Professor of English Language Learning/Early Childhood Education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, entitled, “Writing With POWER”.

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. Registration deadline is September 18. 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.

6 Reasons to participate in a writing boot camp

Nothing Worth Doing is Ever EasyAshley Sanders, a doctoral candidate at Michigan State University and leader of TAA’s Dissertators United Chapter Writing Boot Camps, (the second boot camp, “Writing With POWER”, will be held Sept. 20-21. Register today) shares these six reasons to participate in a writing boot camp:

(1) Create space and time in our schedules to make significant progress on our writing goals
(2) Develop goal-setting skills
(3) Increase the writers’ awareness of their own process through writing logs
(4) Share writing resources
(5) Determine sustainable writing habits
(6) Offer both camaraderie and accountability

Read Ashley’s article about writing boot camps on Inside Higher Ed [Read more…]

8 Academic writing blogs you should be following

BlogsWhen trying to find relevant articles to share on our Twitter feed I seem to always go back to the same blogs. These blogs (below) offer stellar advice for academic writing, from dissertations to journal articles, to book proposals and productivity. Here is my list of eight academic writing blogs you should be following:

The Thesis Whisperer—Developed ‘Shut up and Write!’ which “turns writing from a solitary, to a social experience.” You can either start a group near you or find a group in your area using their interactive map.

patter—Pat Thomson covers everything from thesis writing to journal etiquette and rejections, to how to get started on the page. I especially like Pat’s posts on writing for journals.

PhD2Published—This blog is packed with tips, so many that I’m not even sure where to start. You’ll just have to check it out for yourself.
[Read more…]

When writing your dissertation, look at it from several perspectives

The project is not the subject. The project is not the thesis. Whether you are writing your dissertation, a journal article, or a book, the project is not simply the thesis. When I ask people about their projects the answer I get is always (or almost always) the subject of the project. Sometimes I ask specific questions like “what kind of project? Is it a dissertation? A thesis?” And still the answer I get is the subject of the project. But your project is not just about a subject; it has a certain form. It is a journal article, a dissertation, a book. It has a certain intention—to share a discovery, to support a position, to instruct others. It is aimed at a certain audience—peers, or students, or educated lay people.

If you can see that form, and understand how that form relates to the work you’re trying to accomplish, then the writing process becomes much easier: it’s less a shot in the dark, and more a purposeful action.

Of course, form is uncertain in some ways–we cannot be certain that what we think will be good will be thought a good dissertation by a professor, a reviewer or an editor–but it is still useful to have some image of the complete project. If we have an idea of the complete project, we can judge when we need to do more work, and when we can move on to another section or chapter. We can judge what is good enough and what still needs work. Without having some guiding image of what we’re trying to accomplish, it’s hard to know when we’ve reached our goal. If you don’t have an idea of the complete work–an outline, an estimate of length–then you can more easily vacillate about what should be included. Even if you’ve thought out an outline and have many details of the plan down, it can help to do things like estimate intended page length.

Intention and Audience

It’s difficult to separate these two: part of intention is to reach a certain audience. Having a clear intention is important—again it helps one focus and keep an eye on what should and should not be included. The same thesis would be expressed differently if the intention were to instruct or the intention were simply to present an argument.

Understanding your audience is crucial. By understanding the audience, you can tailor your language, structure and examples appropriately. Writing to peers is different from writing to students. Again, the same thesis will be expressed differently for a different audience. By clarifying your intention and audience, you help shape the form and expression of your thesis.

Sometimes it can help to think about writing to two audiences. One is immediate, the other distant and idealized. The immediate audience is your professor, reviewer or editor. You want them to accept and approve. The other is the audience that you idealized: whom the work is trying to reach if it can get past the gatekeeper. In the case of a peer-reviewed journal, these are approximately the same. But again, thinking of the audiences helps focus on how the thesis is to be expressed.

There’s a general point: there are several perspectives from which one might approach a work. One of these perspectives is the perspective of trying to prove a point or make an argument. But that’s only one perspective that is relevant to an author. By understanding more than one, you gain additional insight into the project, and this additional insight can play a major role in helping you use your energy efficiently.

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

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