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?”
Either 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.
A research thesis is a very different piece of writing from anything else you may have produced before, and from anything you will need to do in future, and as such, it can be difficult to understand exactly what is required, particularly in terms of structure and style. Looking at previous theses can provide really useful examples to help you navigate this unique form of academic writing. Continue reading “In the footsteps of others”
In the first of a new occasional series, Writing Skills Advisor Helen Williams gives advice on getting started with your thesis writing.
In 2018 I started at the University of Birmingham as a Writing Skills Advisor, and when asked to contribute to this blog I considered the hardest part of writing my own thesis.
Fittingly, ‘getting started’ was often the toughest task for me, which also felt apt for a first blog post. Preparation is essential in drafting effective writing, and there is a lot that you can do encourage this process before putting pen to paper. So, to start, here are four tips for getting started. Continue reading “Helen writes: getting started”
Writing for research is such a huge topic that it can’t be covered in its entirety in a 2-day summer school, so a blog post is definitely not up to the job. But in the spirit of the writing summer school, I wanted to share with you my “top tip” for writing. It’s not particularly original, and has been encapsulated in a thousand clichés, but here it is: