Advice about academic writing often stresses the iterative nature of the writing process; the creation of an effective final draft generally requires multiple drafts and extensive revision. A crucial corollary to a commitment to extensive revision is an acceptance that revision mustn’t be allowed to go on indefinitely. Otherwise, a certain mania can set in: any draft can always be other than it is. After a certain point, we have to ask ourselves about diminishing returns and about the very real possibility of messing up what is already working.
Doctoral study involves a transition from student to researcher; a key aspect of that transition is becoming an academic writer. This is not to say that most new PhDs would readily describe themselves as academic writers. But that level of accomplishment requires the development of a set of academic writing skills that were likely not present at the outset of doctoral study. It’s also likely the case that the development of those crucial skills was a significant challenge.
Becoming an effective academic writer is one of the key challenges facing doctoral students and early career researchers. Despite the centrality of writing, few writers feel comfortable with the process or confident about their product. Rachael Cayley, author of the blog, Explorations of Style, discusses the anxiety that attends academic writing.