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

May 13, 2020

Where I call bullshit on the way we do the PhD

There’s a looming economic crisis in higher education. Perhaps you have lost work already and you’re wondering how you will support yourself (I’m really sorry). It’s hard to know if you’ll get more or less teaching next semester and what form it will take. Will it be online? Or face to face? Maybe your coursescontinue reading.

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April 22, 2020

The Valley of Deep (Covid) Shit

In my last #pandemicpost I asked – should you quit (go part time or pause) your PhD in this global pandemic? One month later, not to put too fine a point on it: the world is in pretty deep shit. Everyday life has not got back to anything resembling ‘normal’. There’s a dawning realisation that wecontinue reading.

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April 8, 2020

Should you quit (go part time or pause) your PhD during Covid-19?

Some of you might have noticed I recently put the blog on ‘pause’ –  for the first time in ten years. I am not a week by week blogger. I like to make space for creative inspiration to strike. For this reason, I always have at least six months of content ‘in the pipe’, waiting tocontinue reading.

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March 4, 2020

How do I write the discussion section?

Some time ago, on the advice of my good friend and efficiency guru Jason Downs, I read The 80/20 principle: how to achieve more by doing less by Richard Koch. To be fair, Jason did tell me, in the spirit of efficiency, that I didn’t really need to read the book. The main message, he said,continue reading.

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February 5, 2020

Academic spy networks (and why you need one)

First, a fire update! Thank you SO much for your messages of love and support in response to my last post. Thank you to everyone who donated to our P2 mask appeal: it was wildly successful and is now closed. We gave out an astonishing 3500 masks and donated the excess (some $1500) to ourcontinue reading.

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January 5, 2020

You have to believe that what you do matters

Greetings friends. I hope you had a summer or winter break wherever you are. I’m back early this year because Australia, where I live, has hit the world media for all the wrong reasons. You might have seen the horrifying footage from the South Coast. My  oldest friend, who was holidaying there, sent me this photo, whichcontinue reading.

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December 18, 2019

Winding down the Thesis Whisperer?

[Edit 23/12/2019: I donated all of my Thesis Whisperer Amazon royalties (about $1000) to the NSW Rural fire service. Thanks to everyone who bought a book this year: you have made a difference. If you can spare anything else, please consider giving. The government has not funded services enough and volunteers are completely exhausted. Here’scontinue reading.

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December 11, 2019

Keep on stepping up to the plate

Failure. The PhD makes you much better at dealing with it – at least that’s the hope. I was always a pretty mediocre student, but I didn’t realise just how mediocre I was until I went to architecture school. Frankly, I was bad at it – and people did not hold back in telling mecontinue reading.

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November 27, 2019

It all depends!

I’ve written before, here, about how much bad advice there is out there for PhD students. One of the reasons that advice can be misguided or inappropriate is the many differences between PhD students in terms of age, discipline and projects. Comparing yourself to other people, particularly when it comes to making progress, is a gamecontinue reading.

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November 13, 2019

Setting yourself free of perfectionism?

Are you a perfectionist? I always thought I wasn’t, but my therapist introduced me to the idea of ‘functional perfectionism’ last year. This  forced a rethink, which I documented in this post where I wonder if perfectionism  is a spectrum disorder. One of the perfectionist traps I fall into all the time is unhelpful self talk,continue reading.

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