I’ve been posting a little more about marketing recently, so here is a piece about research, drawing on the wonderful period of a thesis called “write-up”.
Academic writing is a bit peculiar. Especially when writing a bigger piece, like a thesis, you have accumulated so many ideas, notes, drafts and thoughts over the years that writing all that up in a coherent whole literally feels like milking your brain of its substance.
Writing up was actually a fairly enjoyable stage of the PhD for me, I liked the storytelling process. However, I also struggled at times. I would like to share it with you some tips I gathered in the process.
Dr. Karl Warner finished his PhD at the Adam Smith Business School in 2014 and he gave us brilliant advice on how to get the beast written (Karl was awarded the Prize for PhD Excellence at our university, I think he writes alright!):
- Create momentum: when ideas are flowing, keep going! Karl suggests to make sure to write every day, but not more than 3 to 5 hours at a time.
- Try to write about 1000 words a day. It can be more, it can be less. I found that keeping count really helps. To keep myself accountable I would also tweet my daily word count:
- Be critical. This is core to academic writing, never forget about it. Separate the good milk from the bad milk.
- Get into your ivory tower. Find your spot, where you are confortable and undisturbed.
I have implemented Karl’s advice and although it requires discipline, I can say they worked for me. Actually, I had two ivory towers rather than one: my office during day-time and my room at night.
Here a couple of extra tips from my own experience.
- Take breaks. Yes, creating momentum is important, but well-timed breaks allow you to come back to work with a fresh mind and pair of eyes.
- Focus. You just cannot write EVERYTHING that comes to your mind. Stick to the purpose of your piece, or you might confuse yourself and others.
- Seek help/feedback. Probably the most important point. You can decide to attend writing seminars (more useful than you might think!) or simply seek informal feedback on your work from peers and friends.
I hope this post illuminated the journey of PhD students and other academics looking for writing tips. Just start milking, your glass will soon be full.
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