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Write It Up! (Paul Silvia) – my reading notes

So, since I had already read Paul Silvia’s first book (How To Write A Lot) and devoured it within like an hour, and spent said hour basically yelling “YES, YES, YES, AGREED!”, I was very eager to read Paul Silvia’s second book (Write It Up!).

#AcWri while travelling

Given that I’m leading a mega research project now, it’s important to me that my PhD students and my postdoctoral research associates can have some resources on academic writing beyond my own blog. That’s also one of the motivations for me in buying books on academic writing (beyond, well, comparing my own contributions to the genre to theirs).

#AcWri while travelling

Well, I have to admit I was disappointed in the second book (which is not unsurprising – there’s a saying in Spanish “segundas partes nunca fueron buenas” (sequels have never been good). This happens with movies, and also with books (you’ll notice I didn’t love Helen Sword’s latest book either). I am not saying either of the books (Silvia’s Write It Up and Sword’s Air, Light, Time and Space) aren’t good. They are. They are VERY good. But I expected so much more from them because I was so in love with the writing they presented in their first books. At any rate, here are some of my notes from reading Silvia’s Write It Up.

I disagree with Paul Silvia that you should think about the journal before you even do the research. This is where I struggle with following anybody’s academic writing advice: what works for you and your scholarly discipline doesn’t necessarily work for me.

While I loved Silvia’s first book, I was disappointed in his second one. I think the problem I found with it is that many of the suggestions he offers are discipline-oriented (psychology) and very specific. I think it’s definitely a good book to read and have on your shelf, but not to read on your own if you’re not experienced in the craft of doing academic research and writing scholarly prose.

Paul Silvia is an excellent writer and his books are agile and easy to read. But I would definitely encourage graduate students to read the first one, and then when they read the second one, approach a senior scholar or mentor and ask for advice, particularly when it comes to responding to referee reports and prioritizing where you submit your scholarly research output.

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