Red pen on paper with corrections

Academic writing: some resources

This post was originally written for The Doctoral Community @ LTE, and is being constantly expanded with new resources:

As some of you might be aware, November is Academic Writing Month, so I thought that it might be useful to share some resources I’ve stumbled upon over time on the topic of scholarly writing. It has been argued that academics cannot write; if that is true at all, it certainly isn’t due to lack of good advice, so here’s a selection of what is available.

SETTING UP

Starting with the most mundane of topics, here’s some advice on improving your typing skills. While on the topic of typing, the University of Manchester also contains useful advice on selecting a laptop and working on it, as well as setting up a workstation.

In addition to setting up your workspace and getting comfortable, you may also want to establish some routines for managing the stress of writing. What works best for you is likely to be very personal, but here are some ideas to get you started.

GENERIC ADVICE ON ACADEMIC WRITING

  1. A fairly basic introduction to academic writing;
  2. No-nonsense advice on how to write “less badly”, and a list of mistakes to avoid when writing for publication;
  3. …and 30 more tips covering the writing process from the beginning to the end;
  4. This article gives advice on the process of writing for a journal, but most of the comments apply to all types of writing; 
  5. Academic writing involves ruthless editing for focus: here are some tips and tricks that will help you stay within the word-count (but note that the article is about general, rather than academic, writing, so some advice may not apply well, e.g., using contracted forms)
  6. Remember to write slowly and edit extensively;
  7. If you’re co-authoring a paper, here’s some advice on writing collaboratively, and writing collaboratively at a distance;
  8. And finally, here’s a handy Academic English phrasebank, and a more comprehensive one by the University of Manchester.

THE ARCANE ART OF CITING

How many citations do you need? Well, it depends, as your paper must be both well-supported by evidence and readable. Overall, you will want to avoid:

Obviously, journals and scholarly books are good sources to cite from, but what about other publications? Here are some pros and cons of citing academic blogs. Pictures and graphs found on the internet can be used, but you will need be aware of what rights Creative Commons Attribution gives you.

WRITING FOR SPECIFIC PURPOSES

  1. Some tips on writing a dissertation proposal;
  2. Here’s some advice on connecting dissertation chapters, and a different perspective advocating ‘clean starts’;
  3. Once a dissertation is finished, you may want to turn parts of it into journal articles: here’s how to do it;
  4. And here are step-by-step guide for writing an abstract and a journal article from scratch (Parts 1 & 2);
  5. Considering a chapter in an edited collection? Here are some pros and cons about this particular publication type.

PUBLICATION, COPYRIGHT AND MORE

You will need to be aware that when a paper is published, whether in a journal or a book, it ceases to be “yours”. Copyright passes to the publisher, which may mean that you cannot reuse it (i.e., submit it elsewhere, self-archive it etc.).

You may want to consider publishing under an Open Access agreement, in which case I suggest that you read this fine article of mine. Be especially wary of predatory publishers, who will charge high fees for printing your work in journals of low repute.

Of course, publishing a paper is only half the story. You will want your work to be read and cited as widely as possible. More often than not, this is a question of luck, but here’s are some tips on getting noticed. Being open, and using social media can be a useful part of this strategy, and here’s an example of how to do it well.

NON-TRADITIONAL WRITING OUTLETS

While on the topic of writing, one should remember that part of scholarly communication is about engaging wide audiences. Writing for the general public is not as easy as one might think (here are some tips).

However, non-traditional writing, such as blogging, is still viewed  “with considerable suspicion by many academics”. In addition, there may be risks involved in contributing to public debate, especially for early career researchers. If these caveats haven’t put you off, you may want to peruse the following links on academic blogging:

  1. beginners’ guide to academic blogging;
  2. Ten questions and answers for potential academic bloggers;
  3. “Why do some academics hate blogging“?
  4. More on academic blogging.

FINDING OUT MORE

JUST FOR FUN

This time-lapse video of a paper in progress does not really contain advice, but it’s quite interesting.


Featured Image: Jenny Kaczorowski (cellar_door_films @ Flickr) | CC BY-NC-SA


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