The obsession with work seems embedded not only into our current civilization but also into academic pursuits. We are all focused, dedicated, committed, even driven in our scholarly work. We live, breathe, almost eat our work, or always eat while we work.
When 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.
Preface: This is the second of two posts on dissertation support groups (read the first post, Dissertation support groups (part 1): Watch out!). In the previous piece, 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 method 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.
This 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).
It’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.
Whether 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.