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The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations, and Books (my reading notes)

The Clockwork MuseAs many people who follow me on Twitter know, I’ve been reading numerous books on how to write, and particularly in the past few months, how my doctoral students can write their doctoral dissertations. My goal with all this reading is not only to improve my own writing, but also to learn better techniques to help my students get through the finish line. Doing a PhD isn’t easy and I want to make sure that as a PhD advisor I am doing the best I can. Someone on Twitter recommended The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations, and Books, and I absolutely LOVE IT. The Clockwork Muse is THE PhDJourney book that everyone should read. It’s an incredibly fast and agile read and will help those who write PhD theses-as-books or 3-paper-dissertations. I’m impressed Eviatar Zerubavel is so concise and precise.

I wish I had read Zerubavel as a doctoral student, and I keep it handy in my campus office now that I am a professor.

One of the most important elements from Zerubavel’s book is his emphasis on what Scandinavian authors call the Red Thread (Pat Thomson discusses this concept in her post, the Red Thread being a coherent line of thought that goes throughout the entire manuscript and makes the argument entirely coherent). William Germano calls it the Throughline. But very few authors of writing volumes seem to place much attention on this idea, that there is one line of argument, one Red Thread or Throughline that should be discernible as you read a book, or dissertation.

Strongly recommended, both for doctoral students AND for authors (prospective and published) of books.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. A synthetic memorandum on advice on academic research and writing – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD linked to this post on July 29, 2019

    […] SPACE: Most authors I have read (Joli Jensen, Eviatar Zerubavel, Stephen King, Helen Sword) recommend that people carve a physical space to do their writing. This […]

  2. Which “writing” book is best suited for me? A map of the literature based on a re-read of Helen Sword’s ALTS – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD linked to this post on August 16, 2019

    […] ALTS I see bits and pieces of Zerubavel’s The Clockwork Muse + Joli Jensen’s Write No Matter What + Sword’s Stylish Academic Writing + John […]

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