Research collaboration now involves significant online communication. But sending files back and forth between collaborators creates redundancy of effort, causes unnecessary delays and, many times, leaves people frustrated with the whole idea of collaboration. Luckily, there are many web-based collaborative writing tools aimed at the general public or specifically at academic writers to help. Christof Schöch looks at the different tools […]
Designing ‘attention points’ in academic work: Four principles for improving tables, graphs, charts and diagrams.
Attention points in a written text help to focus readers’ attention on the key points of the research findings. While the inclusion of such points are generally recognised as vital, Patrick Dunleavy finds that in practice, many scholarly writers struggle with basic design strategies. He identifies four top-level design principles to consider when constructing tables, charts, graphs, or diagrams. Particularly in a digital era […]
Blogging can be a release from all the structural pressures corroding the creative impulse in academic writing.
Mark Carrigan untangles the mixture of creativity and routine when academics sit down to convey complex thoughts. Waiting for the organic moment of inspiration when deadlines loom can be unreliable. By making blogging his main vehicle for intellectual exploration, he was free to explore a form of creative expression that he found intensely liberating. Is consistent writing a matter of attentiveness to moments of inspiration […]
In this book David E. Gray introduces readers to the essential aspects of the research process, covering topics ranging from best approaches to the design of appropriate research tools, to issues of data collection, analysis, and writing up. The author skilfully explains complex and daunting concepts in an unpretentious manner that simultaneously demystifies the research process and illuminates the complexity and messiness of actual research, […]
Why do academics choose useless titles for articles and chapters? Four steps to getting a better title.
An informative title for an article or chapter maximizes the likelihood that your audience correctly remembers enough about your arguments to re-discover what they are looking for. Without embedded cues, your work will sit undisturbed on other scholars’ PDF libraries, or languish unread among hundreds of millions of other documents on the Web. Patrick Dunleavy presents examples of frequently used […]
As academics look to write for different audiences and in more accessible ways, it is worth paying closer attention to the variety of styles across different genres. James Hartley asks, do writing styles change over time – or are they consistent – or do they vary for different kinds of writing? And if there are consistent writing styles, how are they […]
Research is about making sense of things and channelling further thought: our top five posts on how to write
Our posts on the process of writing well proved popular with our readers again this year. Here are our top five most read pieces on academic writing.
Science and the English Language – lessons from George Orwell
Drawing on George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language”, Lewis Spurgin discusses the bad habits prevalent in science writing. He argues the imitative and […]
Writing Across Boundaries: An opportunity for researchers to reflect on the process and anxiety of academic writing.
The process of writing-up one’s fieldwork data can be daunting for even the most seasoned researcher. Bob Simpson and Robin Humphrey discuss the Writing Across Boundaries initiative, which is aimed at supporting early career researchers who are seeking to engage more effectively with the practical and intellectual issues involved in social science writing. Some years ago, we hit upon the […]
The value of academic writing is in its ability to channel further thought. Attempts to measure this effect are ill-fated.
Attempts to measure the value of academic writing in formal assessments have been profoundly damaging both to thought and academic literature, argues Les Back. The value of academic writing is in how it encourages thinking and dialogue with largely anonymous interlocutors and any attempt to audit and rank this process is fated to misguided guesswork. Some writers’ names become associated with whole ways of knowing. […]
Comprehensible writing relies on the strength of authorial voice, but voice remains a bewilderingly nebulous concept. Rachael Cayley recommends shifting from discussing voice to discussing contribution. The clear articulation of the contribution of one’s work to a body of research will ultimately strengthen voice. Cayley outlines modesty, inexperience, and familiarity as hurdles many academics must overcome to achieve greater clarity. In my line of work, I […]
Drawing on George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language”, Lewis Spurgin discusses the bad habits prevalent in science writing. He argues the imitative and pretentious nature of how scientists write science papers acts as a barrier to access and to thinking critically. Science is about finding the truth and making sense of things and an essential part of this is communicating […]
Are you getting the best out of your referencing software? Ellie Harries tackles Mendeley, Zotero and EndNote in a browse at the choices available for those who find themselves stuck in a referencing rut. Referencing is an essential feature of all academic research and rapid technological advances have contributed to the proliferation of programmes which can help researchers systematically manage their […]
Paul J. Silvia is creeped out by the correlation between quality and quantity in academic publishing, but why do the people who publish the most also publish the work that has greatest influence? Gregory Feist—a distinguished creativity researcher at San Jose State University—is not a haunting man, but his research on scientific eminence creeps me out. One of his early […]
Academics tend to focus on how best to get their outputs read, rather than on the writing process itself. Pat Thomson argues writing itself deserves attention. If academics embrace their writer identity, there is much to be learned about the art from wider creative resources. Academics are very concerned with getting the writing done and getting the stuff out there. After all, it’s […]
It’s easy to agonize over every word and grow frustrated at a stunted word count. Here, Helen Sword explains how she stops herself from spending days pushing words around in circles and joins W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway as she embraces slower, well-tempered academic writing as a craft. As a painfully slow writer who agonizes over every sentence, […]
What about the authors who can’t pay? Why the government’s embrace of gold open access isn’t something to celebrate
Dismayed by news that the Government has embraced the Finch Report findings, Mark Carrigan asks what will happen to authors and early careers researchers who have not yet secured a steady stream of funding and cannot pay the upfront fees required of gold open access. Sometimes I worry that Twitter is an echo chamber, reflecting my own prejudices back at […]
Treat academic writing not as a set of inviolable rules but as a series of stylistic choices, writes Helen Sword, who has found that a conversational yet authoritative tone coupled with attention-getting titles, compelling openings, anecdotes and illustrations is the key to accessible, interesting academic work. Several years ago I sent out an email to colleagues in which I asked […]
Books at last are going digital – bringing to an end the futile period of paper books losing out to digital journals. With prices falling and instant availability leading to the growth of people reading ebooks, Patrick Dunleavy foresees a renaissance of books as a major format in social science teaching, research, and impacts work. This push-back is strongly supported by the […]
James Hartley argues that new technology used for submitting papers to academic journals increases the possibilities for gathering data, analysing it and improving the refereeing process. My recent article (Hartley, 2012) on ‘Refereeing articles in the information age’ appears to have attracted some attention. I began by summarising some of the research on peer reviewing carried out before the advent […]