Helen writes: reading to write

In the third of an occasional series, Writing Skills Advisor Helen Williams talks about how reading previous theses can contribute to your writing practice.

If you saw last month’s posts about perseverance and The Conversation, you’ll have picked up on the fact that November was #AcWriMo (Academic Writing Month) – an annual, month-long, communal attempt by academics at all career stages to focus on their writing. In thinking about what can be most helpful in both facilitating and improving writing however, I keep coming back to how important reading is as part of this process.

"If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot." Stephen King

Continue reading “Helen writes: reading to write”

In a post-submission “lull”?

The Research Student Administration team find they are at their busiest for thesis hand-ins at this time of year. This post explores some options for what to do next.

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Travel photo created by bedneyimages – http://www.freepik.com

Congratulations!  At long last you have submitted your completed thesis to Research Student Administration (RSA), perhaps after attending a Thesis submission event.  What happens now?  Patter describes this period of time as “hand-in limbo”.

First of all, take a break.  Away from your thesis, and away from your research.  This well-earned holiday is both a chance to reconnect with yourself as more than just the author of your thesis, and to reconnect with family and friends that you may have been neglecting recently.   Importantly, this also gives you a new perspective on your thesis  for when you return to it to prepare for the next milestone in your journey, namely your viva. 

After your break, here are some practical tips on how you can fill the post-submission lull productively.  Continue reading “In a post-submission “lull”?”

Avoid a referencing nightmare

The University of Birmingham has extended their licence agreement for EndNote, so this post about using reference management software from Lynne Harris, Research Skills Advisor, will be equally useful for new and continuing postgraduate researchers alike.

Why do I need to use referencing software?

Keeping an accurate record of all the material you have consulted in the course of your research is essential and can help you to avoid plagiarism.  Referencing software is an excellent way to manage your research literature.  EndNote x9 logoEndNote is the referencing software recommended to researchers as it is suitable for most subject disciplines, has functionality that is especially useful to researchers, and is fully supported by the University.  Other software is available (e.g. Mendeley) so find the option that works best for you.

When can I get help with referencing?

Act now!  Continue reading “Avoid a referencing nightmare”

Academic Keepie-Uppie

135px-meredith_beard_28cropped29Much like keeping a ball in the air without using your hands/arms, it can feel like it requires constant effort and concentration to stay up-to-date with the latest research literature in your area.  In this post we’ll look at some of the useful tools that are out there to help make this that little bit easier.

Keeping up-to-date is a lot easier and quicker if you have a solid foundation for your understanding of the literature.  Continue reading “Academic Keepie-Uppie”

What’s the difference between a systematic review and a literature review?

In this post, Sue Stevens, a Research Skills Advisor in Library Services, talks about systematic literature reviews.

This is a question that I’m often asked, or I have a request to help someone with a systematic review, only to find that what they really need help with is a systematic search of the literature for a literature review.  So what is the difference? Continue reading “What’s the difference between a systematic review and a literature review?”

The PGR Writing Summer School 2019 eased the PhD journey for me

Last week was the PGR Writing Summer School 2019, and Eric Ngang, a Global Challenges Scholar in Law, was there.

PGR WSS Pen Shield
To follow the links in this post, self-enrol on the PGR Writing Summer School 2019 Canvas module: https://canvas.bham.ac.uk/enroll/Y6HXJ4

If you want to get top tips on how to navigate your PhD journey irrespective of the stage at which you are in the process, the PGR Writing Summer School is the ideal opportunity. I took part in the 2019 Summer School and it has been the most invaluable opportunity for me to reflect on my PhD journey after one year.

The first two days of the School were made up of well-structured packages covering specific modules including academic writing for your thesis, and writing for publication: the publication process, ethics and article structure. Continue reading “The PGR Writing Summer School 2019 eased the PhD journey for me”

Helen writes: explicit content!

In the second of an occasional series, Writing Skills Advisor Helen Williams gives advice on writing more clearly.

I am often surprised by the difference between what people think they have written compared to what is actually on the page. I was reminded of this recently when helping a friend with a chapter of her postgraduate work; she was confident that she made frequent links back from her literature review to her own research. Trusting her opinion I had a look, but soon found myself writing comments like “How does this inform your approach?”, “I’m not sure how this relates to your topic” and “Can you link back to your own research here?”

Parental_Advisory_labelEither you are explicit in how you set out your ideas or discussion, or you are expecting your reader to pick up the implicit connections. Something about doctoral-level writing in particular seems to breed a fear of being explicit. Certainly on my part I always felt that the more complicated I made my writing and argument, the more ‘intelligent’ it would appear. Setting everything out clearly for a supervisor or examiner felt overly simplistic or even patronising – as if they couldn’t work out the links for themselves.

The reality is that no-one should have to ‘work’ to understand your writing; there is a difference between complex ideas (which a doctoral thesis should engage with) and complex writing. Continue reading “Helen writes: explicit content!”