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Academic Writing (#AcWri)

This page is dedicated to suggestions I provide to improve scholars, professors and students’ writing. These tips have worked for me, and I hope they will work for you!

Producing New Text

Writing a paper (going from generating ideas to finishing and editing manuscript)

This post should be useful to those who are trying to execute an entirely new paper based on literature that is not necessarily in the main domain of expertise of the writer.

Dealing with The Dreaded Blank Page

We all face the same challenge: we turn on the computer and stare blankly to our computer screen, facing The Dreaded Blank Page. This post outlines a few strategies I use to tackle this challenge, and how I share them with my students and RAs.

Writing topic sentences and crafting paragraphs

This blog post shows how I and others develop paragraphs through the use of strategically crafted topic sentences.

Two methods I use to write a paper outline: Answering questions and listing topic sentences

Often, students ask me how to write a paper, and before I send them to this post of mine, I tell them to write a detailed outline. In this post, I explain two methods I use, asking questions to myself and listing half-baked ideas that I can then refine into full paragraphs.

Developing a Writing Practice

A synthetic memorandum on advice on academic research and writing

I wrote this blog post to summarize and distill most of the advice I’ve read on how to write academir prose, with links to several books I read.

My Top 10 Tips to Improve Your Academic Writing

Perhaps my most popular post, this is a list of suggestions for writers in the academic field. The list includes organization and time management, manuscript structure and routine design.

A different metric of #AcWri success: Completing sentences and paragraphs

A lot of people suggest that we ought to write 1,500 words per day, or 5 pages. In this blog post, I suggest that we ought to reconsider this approach that may be actually counterproductive. Instead of targetting word counts or page counts, I focus on completing sentences and filling paragraphs.

Setting small writing goals to gradually build an academic writing practice: 125-250 words are enough.

This year (2018), especifically since January 2018, I decided to forget about large word counts, and establish small goals and objectives. This approach has worked for me, as I set between 125 and 250 words as targets on a daily basis, and I’ve accomplished about 9,000 words per month by following this practice and relaxing and not stressing over how much writing I’m getting done.

What does Joli Jensen’s “low-stress, constant contact with a writing project that I enjoy within a supportive environment” mean in practice?

In this blog post, I apply Joli Jensen’s mantra to my own writing and describe strategies I use to remain in constant contact with my writing projects.

3 strategies to re-start your writing practice

This blog post presents three techniques I use to catch up with my writing and re-start so that I don’t feel as though I’ve left behind what Joli Jensen calls “constant contact with a writing project“.

Should you write every day yes or no?

A lot of people have opinions about this. So do I. Personally, I like the structured approach of devoting the first two hours of my day to writing and research. I explain why here.

Producing Components of a Paper/Article/Chapter

Writing the introduction to a research paper, a journal article, a book, a book chapter or a dissertation or thesis.

This blog post explains (using examples from several published authors’ research output) how to write a solid introduction. The methods and variants shown by the scholars I quote can be applied to books, a dissertation, or smaller manuscripts like journal articles and book chapters.

How to write the conclusion of a paper

I examine several strategies to write a solid paper conclusion in this blog post. Most frequently, when I am writing the conclusion I am already tired, and it shows on the paper. This post offers suggestions on how to avoid this fatigue.

How to write a book chapter

I was asked to develop a blog post on how to write a book chapter, since its structure and goals are different from journal articles. This post explains how I have written mine.

Overcoming Writer’s Block

Getting unstuck with your academic writing: Responding to a fellow scholar as a tool to get started.

Frequently, we feel stuck with no apparently easy way to get started with our writing. In this post, I propose responding to an author or critiquing their statement/argument as a solid strategy to get “the writing juices flowing”.

Lateral writing: A strategy to get over writer’s block

I often feel what people call “writer’s block”. There are times when I have to write about Topic A because I have a deadline for a paper, but start writing a bit on Topic B because that’s where I feel most comfortable. I call this “Lateral Writing” and I explain how it works in this blog post.

5 strategies to get your academic writing unstuck

We all know that moment: When you are staring at a blank page, or when you simply don’t want to write because you are feeling writer’s block. These 5 tips may open the door and enable you to continue writing. This post was republished by the London School of Economics LSE Impact Blog.

5 Prompts You Can Use to Face Writers’ Block

This post explains how you can use five different types of prompts that you can use to kick-start your academic writing.

Strategies to generate new ideas for (or within) a paper

Sometimes we wonder where could we find new ideas for a paper, or how we can improve it from within. Here are some strategies I use – including the creation of an Excel conceptual synthesis, and using datasets.

6 strategies to kickstart your academic writing

This post gives you 6 strategies you can use to start writing even if you feel like you’re facing a blank page. This post of mine was republished on the Times Higher Education blog.

Tools and Technologies to Improve Your Writing Process

Using Mendeley as a citation manager, as a reference manager and to help you write a paper

All my students and research assistants need to learn Mendeley to be able to co-author with me because that’s the reference and citation manager I use. This blog post was written with them in mind, so that they could have a handy guide to refer to. I am sure there’s a lot more to Mendeley than what I’ve mentioned on this blog post.

Publishing Strategies: Rewriting, Revising and Planning Papers, Books, Chapters

On writing every day for two hours

This post explains why I choose to do 2 hours of writing every day, or 10 hours of writing a week (which can be 20 blocks of 30 minutes of writing as well).

How to respond to reviewer comments: The Drafts Review Matrix

This blog post offers a systematic approach to editing manuscripts. As many people know, my editing process is quite analog. I print out the manuscript, make notes by hand on the margins, add notes using Post-Its. But I also assemble a Drafts Review Matrix where I compare what the editor or reviewer asked me to do, and what I have done. This systematic approach allows me to know exactly how much work I still have left to do, and what tasks need to be scheduled by when in order to submit the manuscript on time.

Designing and implementing a Publications Planner

One of the most challenging planning processes I have encountered is the design of a publications pipeline. What article needs to be written first to comply with some artificial deadline? I designed a Publications Planner, which I describe on this post, along with other smart colleagues’ suggestions on how they plan their own research output. My publications planner is quite simple, and I keep a digital version but can be printed too.

8 sequential steps to write a research paper from start to finish (relatively quick and easy)

Many fellow academics had asked me about a process that made sense to create a paper from start to finish. My process isn’t perfect, but it’s sequential and it makes sense to me. It allowed me to write 3 papers in 3 weeks, and it’s given me enough structure to be able to maintain a writing routine/practice.

Four strategies to build an academic writing practice: Implementing Jo Van Every’s, Wendy Laura Belcher’s, Tanya Golash-Boza’s and Raul Pacheco-Vega’s approaches.

In this post I explain 4 approaches to gradually building an academic writing practice. Hopefully these will be of use to other scholars!

Fighting writer’s block and crafting new ideas: Using Dr. Meghan Duffy’s Barf and Buff approach to find a balance

I really love Dr. Meghan Duffy’s approach of getting words out and THEN polishing them (the Barf and Buff approach). In this blog post I explain why this approach works.

Simplifying your Academic Writing with Microsoft Word and Mendeley Cite-O-Matic

While many people use different types of reference managers and writing software, I’ve grown accustomed to Mendeley and Microsoft Word. I use the Cite-O-Matic function of Mendeley to simplify how I write my memorandums and my papers. In this post, I explain how I use it. Endnote has a similar function, Cite-As-You-Write.

What counts as academic writing?

A reflection on the fact that much of the writing we do isn’t what many people call “generative writing” (e.g. writing that will be published), but it IS indeed academic writing if it helps us move forward our work (e.g. memoranda, notes, emails about specific research projects, etc.)

Editing a research (academic) paper

This is a post that I wrote by popular demand. I don’t think I’m particularly good at editing my own work, because I love my writing and hate cutting paragraphs and sentences, but I am systematic at the edition process, and this post explains how I do it.

Revising Papers

An improved version of the Drafts Review Matrix.

This version of the Drafts Review Matrix feels to me more comprehensive than the previous one. I also edited posts that link to the previous blog post.

Dealing with rejected papers and Revise-and-Resubmits (R&Rs) with purpose

This blog post is intended to outline how I’ve attempted to be more systematic with the way in which I deal with rejected papers and with revise-and-resubmits. I explain a bit about the process I follow to absorb reviewers’ feedback and incorporate it into my revision.

On doing the grunt work in academic writing

I wrote this post because I felt that a lot of people were thinking that every morning is filled with writing smart ideas, and so on. This isn’t the case. Sometimes, all I do is grunt work. In this post I describe the activities that this entails.

My #AcWri Strategies: Fill Up Paragraphs, One Idea per Paragraph

In this post I explain how I tackle a blank page: I focus on filling up a paragraph, developing ONE idea per paragraph. That way I avoid feeling stuck and unable to write.

My #AcWri Strategies: Write First, Edit Later, and Edit By Hand

As I’ve explained all throughout my blog, I am very analog. This is particularly important for my editing process. I dump words on the page, and then edit, by hand. My post explains why edit this way. As Daniel Nexon noted, this process only works if you actually can read your own handwriting (I can).

My #AcWri Strategies: Integrate Reading into your Writing Workflow.

I have explained this to good friends of mine many times: if you aren’t up on the literature, your writing will suffer. So I integrate reading into my writing. I make sure I read a new article every day at least, and I systematically and regularly schedule reading time. This post explains why and how I justify this strategy.

My #AcWri Strategies: Write Memos About Readings and About Research

One reason why people tell me they don’t write every day is that “they don’t always have something research-y to write”. That’s wrong. You can write notes to yourself, you can scribble text in a document that summarizes your current thinking about your research projects, you can draft parts of a paper summary or memorandum. This post explains how.

The value of handwritten notes in research

I write by hand most of the time, so I share here my rationale for doing so. It helps me retain more and conceptualize better. Obviously, doing this requires to have neat handwriting so you can understand what you’re writing!

#GetYourManuscriptOut and finish your paper!

There is a need for a growing community of scholars who support each other in finishing a manuscript. That’s the goal of the hashtag #GetYourManuscriptOut which I created after a conversation with Dr. Steven Shaw and Dr. Mireya Marquez.

On binge-writing vs writing every day

I know for a fact that for me, writing in sprees (what many call “binge-writing” from the Boyce book) doesn’t work as well. But here I ponder why I sometimes do it.

Using tables as devices to organize concepts

I am a fan of tables, and I explain here how you can use it to organize your academic writing, your teaching and your thoughts, more generally.

Improving your Written Output

Writing theoretical frameworks, analytical frameworks, and conceptual frameworks

I read articles and books who use all these three types of frameworks (theoretical, analytical and conceptual), so I wrote this post to clarify the differences and similarities for myself.

Recognizing the difference between Description and Analysis in academic writing (in the social sciences)

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a graduate student supervisor is teaching my students how to analyze and how to put their analysis in writing. There is a difference between analyzing and describing, and in this post, I offer some examples and resources to help improve the writing of students (and fellow academics!).

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. The Social Academic | Academic writing month 2018 linked to this post on August 6, 2019

    […] The first, a political scientist and geographer, who has written and blogged extensively on Academic Writing and academia. […]

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