Writing Skills Advisor Helen Williams continues her occasional series during #AcWriMo with her thoughts on ways to deal with a tendency to procrastinate.
I recently read this column in The Guardian on procrastination – most likely when I should have been doing something else – and started thinking about the relationship between productivity and procrastination. When I speak to students about procrastination, they often seem to think they need to change a lifetime of habits, how they approach their work, and even the type of person that they are. Of course, this in itself becomes a mammoth (and impossible) task. Much more effective, as the article says, is to start changing the smallest possible habits that you can. If you’ve been taking part in Academic Writing Month (#AcWriMo), you may already have started to form a few new habits that can help with productivity, but if not, here are a few suggestions.
November is Academic Writing Month (#AcWriMo) and in this post, Liam Knight, a PGR in the Department of English Literature and a Westmere Scholar, reflects on his experience of participating in last year’s event.
Back in 2020, I took part in AcWriMo, a month-long writing event in which people working within academia set themselves goals to accomplish over the month of November (e.g. write X000 words, collect X amount of data sets, read X number of papers, etc.) and then use their local and online academic communities to keep themselves accountable and supported and ensure that they reach those goals (or come as close as is reasonably possible)!
Continuing her occasional series, Writing Skills Advisor Helen Williams reflects on what it means to find a gap when writing your literature review.
The fact that doctoral research must be original and fill some kind of ‘gap’ in the literature is trotted out all the time, particularly to PGRs in their first year or so of study who may still be grappling with all the existing research on their topic. But how do you search for an absence? How do you identify something that isn’t there?
It can feel like a somewhat impossible task, especially if there are reams of articles, chapters and books that have been written on your topic. One answer could be changing the parameters of your research slightly; focusing on a specific and under-researched angle might tick that ‘originality’ box in a field that is saturated with research. However, if this isn’t practical, or you’re already fairly set on what research you want to carry out, it might be that you need to try to record your reading in a way that makes that gap more obvious.
Why is it that life as a PGR that means learning to write all over again? Just as you think you have got the hang of writing essays suddenly, there are a whole new set of things that you have to write; abstracts, literature reviews, conference papers and even, whisper it softly, grant proposals. What’s worse, each one seems to have its own set of, often secret, rules that you have to learn. Well, at least that’s how I felt before I attended #PROWSS2021 this year. It was four days of ideas and advice followed by a full day of Shut up and Work – a great way to put into practice some of the ideas that you picked up earlier in the week.
Whenever you start something new, whether that’s a new job or joining a membership society for the first time, there’s a lot of learning to do. What are the requirements? What are the expectations? Do I have the equipment and/or the skills that I need? Where can I find out all this stuff? Much of this learning is set out for you through formal channels, but often we learn some of the most valuable information informally, stumbling upon it while looking for something else, or while gossiping with a peer.
A research programme is no different (you probably saw where I was going with that!). And in 2020, there are new ways of working for us all.
Two weeks ago today, the Postgraduate Researcher Online Writing Summer School 2020 (#PROWSS2020) began. Find out what went on from Kathryn Twigg, a PGR from the Shakespeare Institute.
#PROWSS2020 was an invaluable research experience. It comprised a week of workshops targeting different areas of postgraduate writing and was accompanied each day by a 2-hour Shut Up and Work. After hearing wonderful things about previous Writing Summer Schools (and attending last year’s myself), I was an eager participant in the 2020 sessions.
COVID-19 has affected us all (for better and for worse) and university life has not escaped the dramatic changes the pandemic has triggered. With libraries and study spaces closed and opportunities to work from home being sporadic at best, #PROWSS2020 provided a much-needed opportunity for focused work. Continue reading “#PROWSS2020 in pyjamas: this year’s writing summer school”
In the next of our occasional series, Writing Skills Advisor Helen Williams talks about refreshing existing writing as a rewarding and important step on the road to your thesis.
In these uncertain times it’s nice to have a few constants and, whilst working at my desk overlooking my garden, I’ve been reminded that the changing of the seasons is one of these.
As always, spring has sprung, and this put me in mind of other spring-related traditions that roll around each year. One of these that feels quite apt right now is spring cleaning; what better time than now to do all those tasks that get pushed to one side and ignored in favour of more ‘urgent’ ones?
You may be using this time to charge ahead with writing up and churning out new chapters, which is great, but if you’ve ground to a bit of a halt or want some variety, the following are some good ‘housekeeping’ activities that will pay dividends later on when your schedule may be getting back to normal (most of these assume that you have drafted some work already; if you need to start writing but are struggling, check out my previous post on this).Continue reading “Helen writes: spring-clean your thesis”
Peter Hancox, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science and PGR Lead for the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, gives his advice to those for whom the lockdown means starting to tackle your thesis…
That day has come. You can put it off no longer. You can’t even go into the lab under the pretence that you just need to do a little more work.
You must start to write your dissertation.
The experience of writing a dissertation can be lonely. After all, it is your dissertation and no one else can (or should) write it for you. It’s a bit like being at a social distance from your colleagues.
Happy New Year and welcome back. Or just welcome, if you’re starting your research programme this month.
It’s traditional at this time of year to make (and perhaps break!) a few resolutions. The media is full of articles about diet and exercise, but what about resolving to make lasting improvements in your research processes? It’s easy to say “I will do more” or “I will do better” but what exactly does that look like in practice and how can you make it stick? Continue reading “Happy and productive 2020!”
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.