bad writing advice | pat thomson

There’s some very bad writing advice out there. Most of it is well intentioned. Most doesn’t aim to make profit from anxious writers. But unfortunately readily available writing advice is not uniformly good.

Does this matter? Caveat emptor perhaps? Well, there’s a lot of research on writing, and on academic writing in particular. A lot. So every now and then I find myself wondering why people offering writing advice don’t consult the available evidence.

Academic writing is a multi-disciplinary research field. Let me give you a bit of a sketch – by no means complete, but enough to show…

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for the reader – citations, reference lists, tables of contents and indexe | pat thomson

Most of us understand that citation is about locating our work in the field.

We cite to show that we understand the field, that we know who counts and we understand what previous studies are important.

We cite to show the “borrowed stuff” we have used to build our own project and what has informed our interpretation and argument.

We cite to show what aspects of the scholarly conversation we contribute to.

But there are other ways to think about citation.

One approach is to see citation as performative. It is not unusual for people to cite simply to indicate that they’ve have done…

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live blogging academic writing – an un-conference | pat thomson

This week I am running an academic writing course at The University of Iceland. Ive been running academic writing courses here for some years but usually I just do a week long programme about writing a journal article. This time however I’ve returned to the first part of the course which is about writing a conference paper. This week is intended to provide the basis for the second half of the course – revising, polishing and submitting the paper to a journal.

I decided to switch the course up a little this time – well you know I think about how to do things differently a lot – and run it as…

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thesis knowhow – “the contribution” can create consensus | pat thomson

My Nordic colleagues often say that the thesis has to have a red thread, a line of argument that holds things together.

So what’s this red thread? Think of the red thread as a sturdy rope that guides the reader up the rocky mountain that is the thesis, making sure that they don’t fall down a crevasse or take a side track that leads nowhere.

Banned guide chain on Uluru. See below. 

The thesis red thread creates coherence in and through the text.

One way to approach the red thread is to think about it through the prism of the contribution. So, to the next question. What’s “the…

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your MC for this paper is… | pat thomson

Academic writing often needs an MC. Yes MC, a Mistress/Master of Ceremonies.

The MC, or emcee, is an official host. A compere. At a public event, say a festival, their job is to introduce the acts – speakers or singers or DJs or bands. The emcee has to know enough about the performers to say something about them by way of introduction. The MC has to make sure that the audience is in the best possible mood to listen/hear what’s coming up.

But the emcee also has to keep the audience interested and engaged in between acts. They have to make sure people don’t drift away. So they talk about…

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bad research questions | pat thomson

Writing a research question is hard. And it takes time. Often much more time that you might think.

The research question is really important as it underpins your research design. And your  design allows you to find an answer or answers to the question (s) you have posed. And that of course is what matters. You’ve been enrolled on a PhD and/or funded to find the answer(s).

There are different views on what makes a good research question. Alas, there is no universal view about how a question is best worded and how many questions there should be. I’m of the not-too-many-and-keep-it-simple…

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writing the thesis – the theoretical framework | pat thomson

Please note that I write my blog on weekends. It is not part of my workload or job description. I support the #USSstrike and “teach out” online. 

Not every thesis has a section or chapter devoted to a theoretical framework. But a lot do. (It’s the Ph in PhD after all.) And these ‘theory chapters’ can be very tricky to write – and are often tricky for the examiner to read.

Before starting to write your theory section/chapter it can be good to think about what the examiner wants to see.

The examiners have likely been appointed because they know, and possibly use, the same theoretical…

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