I have a friend, let’s call her Jenny.
Jenny is about six months into her degree and just beginning to discover the true extent of the literature which might be relevant to her topic. By which I mean – she’s completely and utterly freaking out.
At the start of her journey Jenny read a few things her supervisor suggested and then went off exploring. She did all the right things. Her journey started with a meeting with the subject librarian who taught her how the databases in her area worked and how to use Google Scholar properly (not everything is in there, just so you know). She learned how keywords work and, most importantly in my view, how to do citation searches. Jenny trawled through the databases and discovered a vast amount of stuff which, although it was interesting, seemed only peripherally related to her topic.
She read the literature she found, discussed ideas with her supervisors and some of her peers, wrote a bit, then read some more. Her ideas about her thesis changed; becoming more sophisticated and thoughtful. As she read on she started to recognise the same names started appearing in the bibliographies. She started to see how people were linked together in skeins of thought. Being a social type of person she did a bit of academic networking and started to know, socially, some of the people who wrote those papers. This made her feel more confident. Comfortable even. Part of the community.
Until she downloaded THAT paper.
This post is by Cassily Charles from Charles Sturt University – a fellow thesis Whisperer. Cassily is the academic writing coordinator for Higher Degree Research Students in the CSU Academic Support Unit. Cassily discusses misunderstandings about writing style and how they can lead to conflict between students and supervisors. This post is enlightening to me as an educator – I hope you will be enlightened too.
This is a story about a doctoral student named Laura (a real person, but not her real name) and how she came to pull her hair out (well a few hairs anyway).
Laura began her PhD this year and really hit the ground running – within a few weeks, she was giving her supervisors many many pages about the literature on her topic. Laura’s supervisors are conscientious, organised and well-intentioned. They gave her masses of feedback on her drafts, with many helpful comments about content, style and structure, including comments such as: ‘good observation – now relate this to an over-all argument’ and ‘engage critically with these definitions’.
This is where things went wrong and Laura pulled some hairs out…
Suffice to say I only had one emotion when Kylie Budge, PhD student at the University of Melbourne and academic at RMIT, sent me this post. Envy. Let Kylie give you a justification for planning that thesis writing retreat you have always wanted… Ever considered the idea of taking yourself away for a self-imposed thesis […]
This post is by Dr Katherine Firth who works in Academic Skills at the University of Melbourne, with a particular interest in research student literacies. Basically, Katherine is a Thesis Whisperer, like me. Unlike me, Katherine is still an active researcher in her field of 20th-century poetry. Over coffee Katherine told me about the ‘Cornell Method’ and kindly agreed to write a post. I found it enlightening, I hope you do too.
This piece was written by Ben from the Literature Review HQ. Ben describes his blog as a “Literature review how to – from beginning to end”. In this post Ben reflects on his own PhD journey now he has some distance from it. You can find a permanent link to the Lit Review HQ on […]
Last week, as one of my last duties as research fellow at RMIT before I take up my new role at ANU, I hosted two seminars – one from Prof Anthony Pare from McGill and the other from Prof Helen Sword, the writer of the wonderful “Stylish Academic Writing”.
Helen and Anthony had many interesting observations about the process of learning to write, but both made the same basic point: very few of us have formal instruction in how to write like an academic.
Last week, Charlotte Frost of the wonderful PhD2Published blog declared November #acwrimo (academic writing month). The concept of #acwirmo comes from NaNoWriMo where the aim is to write a whole book in month.
If you don’t know James Hayton’s blog, the Three Month Thesis yet, you should. James did his PhD in Physics in the nanoscience group at the university of Nottingham where he developed an interest in productivity. He now lives in Barcelona – because he can (I should would if I could!).
In this post James takes issue with the advice that many research educators, myself included, give to students: that you should write from day one. I’m always willing to listen to a contrary opinion! So take it away James, convince me I’m wrong
A group of academics across the world set out in November 2011 to write a negotiated word limited of up to 50,000 words (give or take according to what you decided your focus, capabilities and commitment could be) for a book or set of academic papers. A commitment was being made to a task that is a part of our roles as academics. Writing. It can be tedious and a challenge in itself to find the time, dedicate focus, and complete in a reasonable time. So in committing to prioritize writing for the month of a November a learning curve was set, and a steep one at that.
There are times I hate writing with the heat of 1000 flaming suns, as my sister would say. Like this week, when I have been editing a 105 page report filled with statistics. It’s the kind of writing job that makes me want to stab my eye out with a pen…