The TextExpander guide for academics

Type Less. Eat more ice-cream. Welcome to the Mewburn-Downs guide to using TextExpander. Here’s the promise of this book in a nutshell: Without working any harder, you can save time with TextExpander by typing less, but still producing the same number of words. TextExpander is an app that runs in the background on your computer; ...continue reading.

The uneven U

Publishers often send me academic writing books to review. I happily look through every book, but if I think I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, I just don’t write a review. I don’t want to crush a fellow author’s soul. The rejected titles sit sadly, in small piles of guilt, on the bottom of one of ...continue reading.

Latest articles

January 5, 2022

How to win at academic tearoom conversations – even when there are no tearooms

Did you have a break over Christmas / New Years? I hope so. It’s summer here in Australia, so we are rolling into the quiet month of January. For the second year in a row, we have a low fire danger summer, instead of a repeat of the horror of 2019. In fact, it prettycontinue reading.

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December 1, 2021

Writing as an imaginary conversation with your reader

It’s the end of #acwrimo!! Did you take part in Academic Writing Month this year? I certainly did. It was lockdown, so this year we made a big deal of it at ANU. Not to put too fine a point on it, I taught my ass off. You can see some of the workshops Icontinue reading.

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November 3, 2021

Why a PhD can feel pointless (and what to do about it)

Probably should start this one with a content warning. I try to be upbeat and helpful, but I am touching on mental health issues here, including anxiety and depression. If you’d rather not go there today, click away now. Here’s a gif of a kitten before you go: If you believe the ‘The Illustrated Guidecontinue reading.

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October 6, 2021

How to finish that big writing project (and get on with your life)

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of requests to run my workshop called ‘How to finish that big writing project (and get on with your life)’. I’m guessing it’s a sign of pandemic fatigue: everyone close to the end of a PhD just wants it to be, well – over. I feel you. I’m notcontinue reading.

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August 25, 2021

Will you get a job after Covid has wrecked Higher Education?

I started the Thesis Whisperer to help PhD students finish. In the last five years I’ve extended that mission to helping people get jobs after they graduate. It’s my firm belief that, although the world has 99 problems right now, research can fix a lot of them. Therefore researchers need to be able to putcontinue reading.

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August 4, 2021

The late stage (or lock down) loopy la-las

There’s a period of PhD study that I have come to call ‘the loopy la-las’: when you become highly capable of doing PhD work, but start to become incompetent at, well – almost everything else. I remember the day it started to happen to me. It was 2008 and I was deep in a Foucaultcontinue reading.

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July 7, 2021

The art of the ‘cold call’ email

Email is the lifeblood of university communications: quick, easy, painless… and so very easy to get wrong. We humans are a curious lot. We are highly social creatures but idiosyncratic. There is a lot of love, but also a lot of jostling for status and power. Academia, with its deeply middle class, coded language andcontinue reading.

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June 2, 2021

The project finishing mindset

To generalise ridiculously, there are three types of people: People who start a research project intending to finish it on time. People who start a project not really caring when they finish it. People who don’t care about finishing a project on time until they fly past the deadline. If you are doing a PhDcontinue reading.

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May 5, 2021

How to make your dissertation ‘speak’ to experts

Most people come into a PhD program with well developed writing skills but a  dissertation – or as it is called in Australia, a Thesis, is a very particular kind of writing challenge. All thesis writers must bend their existing skills to the appropriate ‘thesis style’. Ironically, the people I have seen struggle the mostcontinue reading.

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April 7, 2021

Information indigestion? The search for a perfect note taking system.

For the last 20 years I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect academic note taking system. I abandoned paper in 2005 when I realised my notebooks were the place my ideas went to die. Although writing into a notebook felt useful at the time it was hard to find stuff later. Flipping fruitlesslycontinue reading.

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