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…
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…
Writing comes hard to some of us but, like most things, it does get easier with practice. One thing’s for sure, if you’re interested in an academic career post-PhD (or are employed in one now) writing and the ability to produce academic publications is a critical skill. Inger wrote a post a short while ago about why publishing during your PhD is a must for enhancing your career prospects. This post is more about how to get started in publishing and a look at collaborative writing as one way to make this happen.