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Becoming an Academic Writer (Patricia Goodson) – my reading notes

Even though I write a lot about Academic Writing, I rarely read books now on #AcWri. Not because I don’t want to, but because I have so much stuff that I need to write myself that I end up shunning any other type of reading other than my scholarly work. HOWEVER, I had heard so much about Professor Patricia Goodson’s book “Becoming an Academic Writer: 50 Exercises for Paced, Productive and Powerful Writing” that I had to actually buy it (I could have asked for it as a review copy, but I figured it was important to pay for the product itself if I benefit from it).

As my brief Twitter-sized comment above says, I found Goodson’s book quite compelling. Goodson is quite clear in that her book is more of a workbook than a textbook. I strongly believe that the fusion of workbook-type exercises with more theoretically-grounded accounts of the basis for each exercise and/or routine that Goodson presents is quite compelling. Goodson actually encourages the reader to seek a deeper understanding of why we procrastinate when we actually should be writing, and how to overcome roadblocks (also well known as “writer’s block”).

There are obviously points where I agree with Goodson, and one or two areas where I definitely have my disagreements. For example, while I am a big advocate of considering anything that pushes our research forward, “academic writing” (e.g. writing emails about a paper or datasets to a coauthor or a student, writing summaries of articles and books, etc.), I am definitely not on board with considering the writing letters of nomination or recommendation or providing feedback to students actual AcWri. I may be alone in my assessment of what should be considered #AcWri, but that’s literally the very one disagreement that I could find with what should be otherwise read as a fantastic workbook.

Goodson’s “Becoming an Academic Writer” is a logically-structured, fast-paced read. I literally devoured the entire book in one sitting (though Goodson explains how to best use the book). I would skip Chapters 1 and 2 and go directly to Chapters 3 onwards to the exercises. I haven’t tested them, but having read them and suggested similar stuff in my blog posts, I am completely on board with using Patricia Goodson’s “Becoming an Academic Writer” as a workbook to teach how to improve your academic writing. The other book I think you should consider reading, and I’ll be writing a set of reading notes on that one too is Wendy Laura Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success

I’m not the only one who sings Patricia Goodson’s praises. Dr. Pat Thomson wrote a review of Goodson’s book here. Her post provided me with a good reminder – I should mention that I paid for Goodson’s “Becoming an Academic Writer” on my own dime, so I have no obligations to provide a nice review. I just loved her book! And I thoroughly recommend it, both for my own students and for anyone (established or up-and-coming) who wants to improve their writing with systematic exercises. You can read more about the underlying logic of the POWER method that Goodson preaches here (link to a PDF of one of her talks).

UPDATE – Grateful to Shalini Sharma and Marieke Riethof for useful and insightful feedback on the issue of whether writing letters of recommendation and student feedback notes should be considered #AcWri.

I clarified my position on Twitter, as I think what Goodson’s book is about is teaching you to self-motivate to do your academic writing. I don’t need motivation to do stuff for my students!

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