Thesis writers have to do a heck of a lot of reading. This is why one our missions here at the Whisperer is to take some of that reading load off your shoulders.

I had a short conversation with a colleague after a committee meeting this morning who told me she had started a fiction reading group for her students. I thought this was a great idea because we all know that what we read influences how we write. My colleague pointed out that reading only topic related journal articles which are generally limp and lifeless can make your writing, well – limp and lifeless.

When I was writing my PhD thesis I found it almost impossible to read ‘good’ literature for pleasure and got stuck into trashy novels in a big old way. Trashy novels are fun brain candy, but they are not ‘improving’ reads – for that I recommend all thesis writers find time to read popular non fiction.

What’s that I hear? You don’t have time to read more books? No problem – you probably have time to read an article or two. To that end I have done some pre reading and deem the following articles worthy of your spare ‘improving’ reading time:

The Information: how the internet gets inside us

I clicked through this link from @eloise_zoppos on Twitter because she headed it with the line “Why doesn’t Hermoine use Google?”. The actual title is bland, but it’s a balanced critique of the role of the internet in our lives and some of the current debates about ‘information overload’. I enjoyed the way the author started with the Harry Potter analogy because, well I live with a 9 year old Harry Potter fan and I still think my Android phone is kind of magical.

What I tell my graduate students

Professor Tim Fry at RMIT kindly emailed me this link to an article in the careers section of the Chronicle. In it, Professor Davis, an academic at the University of Illinois, deals out some very sound career advice to PhD students. Unlike many other articles in this genre, Davis is specific about the number of articles he thinks students should publish and how to go about doing it. He sounds like a great supervisor if you ask me. I also wrote an article for PhD 2 Published blog this week on the role of journal ranking systems in a PhD publishing strategy if you are interested.

Pantser versus Plotter

I enjoyed this piece on – but don’t venture there if strong language offends! Chuck Wendig rants about the reasons why you should at least try to map out the direction of your writing in advance. My favourite part is his observations on the role of planning in dealing with the ‘blank page’ syndrome.

The Shadow Scholar

This article, also from the Chronicle, rippled through the internet late last year and generated a lot of debate. It’s written by a person who claims to have made a living ‘ghost writing’ student papers and even doctoral theses for quite a number of years. It’s in the best tradition of provocation pieces: entertaining and confronting all at the same time.

A revolutionary idea for your blog

I liked this article because it uses insights from marketing to talk about writing for specific audiences. Basically it encourages blog writers to respect the intelligence of their readers and not to be afraid of being too ‘niche’. I think this blog is niche, and my readers are certainly intelligent, so I was nodding along. However, it occurred to me as I was reading that a thesis is the ultimate ‘niche’ piece, so the advice would apply to writing for a scholarly audience too. The call to action is to write “clear, useful and inspiring content’ – surely what any examiner would like to read?

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did. Have you read something that inspired you lately? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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