Mapping your ideas for planning, writing and more

When you are faced with a blank page, consider creating a mind map.

Mind map showing some of the benefits/uses of mind maps
Photo credit: Fernandosca

A mind map is a visual way to capture thoughts and ideas as they occur to you, and to indicate relationships between those ideas.  Because they do not need to be created sequentially, they are ideal when you are just getting started and your brain is full of stuff.  Examples of when you might find a mind map particularly useful include: writing a new chapter/article; project planning an activity for your research; and creating your to-do list.  There are many more examples of PhD researchers using mind maps on Twitter. Continue reading “Mapping your ideas for planning, writing and more”

Happy and productive 2020!

Happy New Year and welcome back.  Or just welcome, if you’re starting your research programme this month.

2020 balloons

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!”

Fighting procrastination

Oh, how easy it is to put things off, especially if those things are difficult, ill-defined or repetitive.  Or if your deadline isn’t for a few years yet.  Unfortunately, that’s a pretty good description of postgraduate research, so a postgraduate research degree is fertile ground for a tendency for procrastination to flourish.

procrastination, n. The action or habit of postponing or putting something off. [OED]

Let’s learn a little bit more about procrastination and why it happens, but note that procrastination can become a habit for lots of reasons (or a combination of reasons) so if you are struggling with persistent procrastination, you may want to explore some of the counselling options available to you via the Mental Health and Wellbeing Service.
Continue reading “Fighting procrastination”

Helen writes: getting started

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.

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Helen Williams, Writing Skills Advisor, Library Services

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”

So, what’s this Shut up & Work all about?

Eren Bilgen, PGR Community Development Officer in the University Graduate School, runs regular “Shut up and Work” days at Westmere and here she tells us what goes on…

Shut Up And Work Graphic
An idea that started in San Francisco became a popular activity among writers around the world and transformed writing from being an isolated activity into a social experience. You probably came across “Shut up & Write” sessions for researchers in different universities. We call ours “Shut up & Work (SUW)” because working on your PhD involves many other activities as well – reading, data analysis, thinking, planning and so on.  We all know that shutting up and working is what we need to do to get our work done, but let’s face it; this is easier said than done. Somehow, the magic happens when it becomes a collective activity. This is how it works. Continue reading “So, what’s this Shut up & Work all about?”

#AcWriMo – what’s your writerly goal?

November is Academic Writing Month, or #AcWriMo.  Based on the ever-popular National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo) for writers of novels, #AcWriMo is hosted by PhD2Published and allows you to work towards a stated academic writing goal with the support of a huge online community of academic writers doing exactly the same thing.

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Image credit: Raul Pacheco-Vega

I would encourage you to have a look at the #AcWriMo resources following the links above – there’s loads of really great stuff there, and a whole online community for mutual support – but I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about setting goals.  A well-set goal can drive you forwards, focus your activities to get you where you need to be, and keep you motivated and enthusiastic.  A badly-set goal is hard to reach (or even to know if you have reached it), and is, crucially, demotivating, defeating the whole purpose of setting it in the first place. Continue reading “#AcWriMo – what’s your writerly goal?”

What are you going to do today?

Sometimes old-school pen and paper does the job best.  Sometimes technology really does do something better.  Most of the time, it’s down to personal preference and how the tools fit with your workflow.

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Image credit: Adam Diaz

A “To Do” list can be a few scribbled notes on a Post-It, or a detailed project plan.  It can be used just to help you with today, this week, or months and years.  The key advantage of a “To Do” list is that you no longer have to spend mental energy keeping track of what you have to do, which David Allen of Getting Things Done notes will free you up to think and be creative.

There’s no single right way to keep a “To Do” list, and, to be honest, they’re not for everyone.  If you think you’re a list person, there are hundreds of ways to do it, so you’re sure to find a way that works for you.  Continue reading “What are you going to do today?”