Six academic writing habits that will boost productivity

What’s the secret to a productive spell of writing? Chris Smith shares insights gleaned from interviews with a diverse group of academics, from which a number of common academic writing habits stood out. These range from the simple acts of scheduling and setting self-imposed deadlines, to both formal and informal accountability partnerships and the use of “freewriting” techniques which help authors write their way out of blocks.

How to make the most of an academic conference – a checklist for before, during and after the meeting

Going to an academic conference is an exciting opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals and exchange stimulating ideas. However, to make the most of a conference requires a lot of hard work before, during, and after the meeting itself. Marta Teperek provides a checklist of things to do at each of these stages.

Writer’s block is not a struggle with your writing but with your thinking. Write your way out of it

Most graduate writers who are struggling with their writing are actually struggling with their thinking. It isn’t a psychological block, but rather the intellectual confusions endemic to the process of communicating sophisticated research. To Rachael Cayley, these confusions are real and can have deleterious consequences for writing, but when we treat these problems as conceptual problems in our thinking we create the space to use writing as a strategy to solve them. The writer’s block label may just be further alienating us from our own writing; write your way out.

Five steps to meeting the challenges of maintaining an appropriate writing voice

It’s often said that to embark upon a PhD you must be passionate about your topic. But when it comes to writing up your thesis, being passionate can seem at odds with the need to maintain an academically cool and objective writing voice. Daniel Beaudoin shares five simple steps to keep the “me” in check; including firstly by recognising that your research may be driven by emotional and personal motives, using your theoretical construct to pave the way to a more impartial writing roadmap, and by submitting drafts of your writing to your supervisor and peers on a regular basis.

Understanding the frustration of academic writers

Have you ever found yourself unable to complete a piece of writing because something else got in the way: a more urgent commitment, a lack of crucial information, an inability to find the right words? If yes, then you are probably well acquainted with frustration, an emotion commonly felt by academic writers but seldom explicitly discussed or examined. When Helen SwordEvija Trofimova and Madeleine Ballard first set out to write a scholarly article on the topic, they found themselves, well, frustrated. Their experience of writing about writing-related frustration helped them develop strategies for moving beyond it.

How to design an award-winning conference poster

A good academic conference poster serves a dual purpose: it is both an effective networking tool and a means by which to articulately communicate your research. But many academics fail to produce a truly visually arresting conference poster and so opportunities to garner interest and make connections are lost. Tullio Rossi offers guidance on how to produce an outstanding conference poster, considering the scripting, concept, design, and logistics.

How to keep up to date with the literature but avoid information overload

The sheer number of online services and social media platforms available to academics makes it possible to receive a constant stream of information about newly published research. However, much of this may serve only as a distraction from your research and staying on top of it all can even come to feel like a burden. Anne-Wil Harzing offers some simple advice to help you streamline your alerts and notifications and keep up to date with the important new publications in your field. Getting the most out of your Google Scholar profile, creating some old-fashioned table of contents alerts, and simply setting aside time to periodically review key journal titles will ensure you rarely miss out on important research.

Writing a page-turner: how to tell a story in your scientific paper

People love stories. We watch, read, tell, and listen to stories every day. Despite this, most researchers don’t think in terms of story when they write a journal paper. To Anna Clemens, that’s a missed opportunity, because storytelling is easy to implement in your manuscript provided you know how. Think of the six plot elements – character, setting, tension, action, climax, resolution – and the three other story essentials – main theme, chronology, purpose. You’ll soon outline the backbone of your narrative and be ready to write a paper that is concise, compelling, and easy to understand.

A scientific paper shouldn’t tell a good story but present a strong argument

A recent Impact Blog post extolled the benefits of using a storytelling approach when writing a scientific paper. However, while such an approach might well make for a compelling read, does providing an arresting narrative come at the expense of the reader’s critical engagement with the paper? Thomas Basbøll argues that the essential “drama” of any scientific paper stems from the conversation that reader and writer are implicitly engaged in. It is more efficient to think of your paper as series of claims to be supported, elaborated or defended according to the difficulty a knowledgeable reader will experience when faced with them.

Six factors influencing academic writing productivity and satisfaction

Writing satisfaction is strongly linked to publishing productivity and, potentially, career success. Chris Smith reports on research investigating the tools and systems academics from all career stages use to keep writing and publishing. Age, experience, and having a sense of certainty about what sort of writing system suits you and your life are all important to productivity and overall satisfaction. Early-career researchers may struggle with external pressures and barriers such as procrastination or feeling overwhelmed which cause most dissatisfaction, but these feelings do slowly ebb away. The more experience you gain, the more likely you’ll have found a writing system that works, and the more productive, satisfied – and hopefully successful – you’ll be.

How to save space and stick to the limit when writing research funding applications

Research funders impose length limits on applications for practical reasons: to discourage epic submissions, and to ease the burden on reviewers. It’s also true that concise ideas are generally stronger ideas. But sticking to these limits can often seem a difficult and frustrating task. Jonathan O’Donnell offers advice to researchers looking to find a little more space in their applications. These range from simple pointers that make for an improved proposal, such as ditching the passive voice and exploiting simple formatting functions, to more desperate moves, such as compressing references lists or resorting to the ampersand.

Tips for negotiating the peer-reviewed journal publication process as an early-career researcher

Early-career researchers are subject to higher levels of scrutiny than ever before, with publication in academic journals essential to how they are funded and evaluated, and how their careers will be built. Margaret K. MergaShannon Mason and Julia E. Morris share insights from their own experiences of navigating the journal submission and publication process as ECRs, emphasising the importance of being strategic about journal selection, understanding which suggested revisions will actually improve a paper, and knowing what is the right moment to contact the editor for guidance.

statcheck – a spellchecker for statistics

A study has revealed a high prevalence of inconsistencies in reported statistical test results. Such inconsistencies make results unreliable, as they become “irreproducible”, and ultimately affect the level of trust in scientific reporting. statcheck is a free, open-source tool that automatically extracts reported statistical results from papers and recalculates p-values. Following an investigation into its accuracy, Michèle B. Nuijten finds statcheck to be very effective at flagging inconsistencies and gross inconsistencies, with an overall accuracy of 96.2% to 99.9%.

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