How do you write well?
Up until quite recently, I was involved in research to do with the impact of writing retreats on academic identity and productivity. My colleague and I wrote a paper which provided a ‘how to’ guide on how to set up a writing retreat (pre-publication version available here) in order to create the correct atmosphere for a sense of community and productivity for novice researchers.
What we don’t look at in our research is how to write well – the technicalities and what it is that makes for a good writer.
I don’t think I am a very good academic writer and I am not a very good speaker either but these are two things that you are assessed on and which eventually means you earn a doctorate. But can this change? Can you learn how to become a good academic writer? I hope so.
I have a book by Patricia Goodson called ‘Becoming an academic writer: 50 exercises for paced, productive and powerful writing.’
Here is the content outline:
|Chapter 1. Get Ready to Practice|
|Part I. Practice Becoming a Productive Academic Writer|
|Chapter 2. Establish and Maintain the “Write” Habit|
|Chapter 3. Practice Building Academic Vocabulary|
|Chapter 4. Polish the Grammar|
|Chapter 5. Get Feedback|
|Chapter 6. Edit and Proofread|
|Part II. Practice Writing Sections of Journal Articles, Research Reports, and Grant Applications|
|Chapter 7. Exercises for Writing Introductions, Purpose Statements, or Specific Aims Sections|
|Chapter 8. Exercises for Writing the Methods Section|
|Chapter 9. Exercises for Writing the Results/Findings Section|
|Chapter 10. Exercises for Writing Discussion or Conclusion Section|
|Chapter 11. Exercise for Writing Abstracts|
|Appendix: Additional Resources|
I will have a go at these. Much of the literature tends to be about how to improve productivity and avoid writer’s block – there is no point in producing lots of stuff that is quite frankly rubbish and not at a high standard. I am not quite sure exactly what my problems are just yet, but my mum who used to proof-read my work seemed to suggest there was much room for improvement! And as mentioned before, I don’t feel like I have a very large vocabulary which I think is a problem for speaking and writing.
Goodson suggests that like an instrument you need to practice. Just like my steelpan I suppose, in three years of being in the band I am much better than I used to be and am now even teaching others how to play. So perhaps this can happen with writing?
© Annika Coughlin 2014