Friday, 28 November 2014

The accountability cure (Tseen Khoo)

Leonard French - Four Seasons panel, La Trobe University
(Photo by Tseen Khoo)
My greatest achievements in academia were produced by my fear of shame and humiliation. 

I (jokingly?) said this to a colleague recently, and we had a good laugh.

The moment has stayed with me, though, because it's kind of true.

We tend to produce our work to deadline, whether these are set by ourselves or others.

Others' deadlines tend to be much more successful, usually, but I often still find myself standing at the edge of the abyss. Then I end up in spirals of frenzied, panicky activity that I fear will produce rubbish.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Being whispered through a PhD (Karina Quinn)

Photo by Vee O. |
When I started my PhD, the first thing I did was read about how to write, read, and research.

The longest piece of writing I’d ever produced was my 15,000 word thesis for my Postgraduate Diploma, and I was terrified at the thought of having to produce 80,000.

Not just terrified: I was stopped in my tracks. I knew I wanted to do it, but I didn’t know how.

I’m particularly grateful today that I allowed myself to be a beginner at that moment in time (something I haven’t always been particularly good at).

I’m also grateful that a good friend told me, a long time ago, that if I wanted to get somewhere or change something in my life, I needed to find people who were already where I wanted to be, then copy them.

Enter the Thesis Whisperer, Twitter, Shut Up and Write, and my early PhD motto: "If Inger says it, do it".

Inger Mewburn (who created and manages the Thesis Whisperer [TW]) had completed a PhD early, with small children. I had small children (still do). I was 37 when I began, and knew I couldn’t afford to have an excruciatingly drawn out process: I had promised my partner this was the last study I would do, that I would finish on time, and get a job.

I started my PhD with a 6 month old and a 2 and a half year old, I finished in just under 3 years, and a big part of how I did that was by following excellent advice.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Writing as a social activity (Jennifer Sinclair)

Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison
If you’re part of a research team, you’re lucky to have a potential built-in group of collaborators when it comes to writing articles.

For many others, writing research articles or a PhD can be pretty much a solitary exercise.

But there are ways to make writing a more social event and some benefits of finding ways to make it more social. Some of the benefits are that it can make writing a more enjoyable experience and can help us keep going and on track.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Writing for the long haul (Reem Al-Mahmood)

Photo by James Forbes |
When does the writing phase start for a PhD?

The best piece of advice I was given is that writing starts from day 1 of candidature – not during the last 6 months of candidature!

There is no such thing as the ‘writing up’ stage. There is, however, the intensive ‘writing marathon stage’ to the end. These writing sprints, as I came to call them, require immense mental and physical stamina.

Building up towards PhD completion, requires a daily schedule and working with your rhythm.

Writing takes time, effort, and thinking. For some, it is a 9-to-5 job; for others, it depends on seizing hours here and there, or in inspired writing phases. The realities of sustaining PhD writing across 4 years full-time (or 8 years part-time) are formidable, and can be simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Making time for real writing (Kelly Farrell)

Cyclops frog
(Image by Mark Rain |
Don’t tell my children this, but I was one of those kids who passed notes in class.

There was something delicious about those little folded missives passed through sweaty teenage hands containing the promise of some earth-shattering pubescent confidence.

The sheer joy of the distraction from the business at hand, that small matter of an education - well, that was just as enticing.

Email is the grown-up version of passing notes in class.

It has all the hallmarks: distraction from actual work and the potential – no matter how remote - for something vital to be contained within each unread message.

There’s the pleasure of the format itself: no longer a piece of Foolscap 7mm Ruled, but the Outlook (or whatever your poison) dashboard with its shaded window panes, little blue folders and neatly ruled lines separating each mini-missive.

As most of us know very well, email is the very antithesis of getting writing – real writing – done. Yet, for most of us, it’s the first click of the day.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Writing for a public audience (Susan Lawler)

Photo by Matt Cornock
Academics who are used to writing for their colleagues and students usually find that writing for a public audience is quite a different gig!

It takes time to develop a style and vocabulary that is accessible to people not familiar with our discipline.

So, why would you bother?

Writing for the public can increase the impact of your research or promote tertiary education because it puts your ideas before a wider audience.

It can also, counter-intuitively, force you to think deeply about what you are doing and why. This is because you always understand a topic better after being forced to explain it to someone new. Most of us have had the experience of learning by teaching.

How do you do it? 

Friday, 14 November 2014

Writing up a PhD thesis doesn’t have to be hard (Sam Manna)

Write till you drop
(Photo by Nenyaki |
Anybody who has completed a PhD will tell you that it’s not easy, and I'd agree.

Most people would say that the hardest part was writing, and that's where I disagree!

Don’t get me wrong: writing up my own PhD thesis and publications wasn’t easy. But the “I will start writing up after all the research is done” attitude of many PhD students makes the writing process much harder than it needs to be. It also leads to the PhD taking longer!

In this blog post, I want to share a few pieces of advice on writing up a PhD.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Criticism – easy to give, hard to receive (Julianne East)

Photo by Shane Colella |
Curled up, with tears of shame and hopelessness, I had just received the latest response to my writing from my supervisor.

This may just be a memory now, but I can still feel the pain of being told that I didn’t have it right and that ‘the voice’ in my writing wasn’t meeting its mark.

Not so terrible when compared with the criticism received by one of my research buddies, who was told that her writing showed that she didn’t really understand what she was writing about. She had been researching the particular topic for a number of years and saw herself as having a deep understanding of the literature, but she had only recently started writing about it in English (an additional language for her). She cried from the frustration of not being able to communicate effectively in English.

Even now, I would love to receive a review of my writing that referred to my work with glowing praise, rather than focusing on my limitations. This has yet to happen, but I have found a simple strategy to manage criticism of my work, and I want to share it with you in this post.

Monday, 10 November 2014

From the editor's desk (Tanya Fitzgerald)

juggling 35 papers and articles while writing my lit. review
(Photo by Soren Mork Petersen |
Do you have an idea for a paper, a thesis chapter that you want wish to revise for a journal article, or have a paper completed that you now would like to have published?

This post helps you think about which journal to choose and what responsibilities you, as an author, might have. I'm not addressing the intellectual content of your paper, but providing insight into the mechanics of getting papers to the right journals and the often hidden ‘rules of the game’.

Why publish a journal article?

It’s important to publish your work; to get your ideas into the public domain and contribute to the intellectual conversations in your field or discipline.

Journals are useful outlets for your work; you will receive peer review on your manuscript that will enhance the quality of your work, journals have a wide international readership and are widely distributed across academic libraries, and the public dissemination of your work is important for the intellectual development of the field.

Getting published is a way for other like-minded people to know that you too are working in the field. Some of my published work has led to invitations for collaborations from across the world.

Where to publish?

It’s important to ask for advice from your supervisors and senior staff. Have a look, too. at where those authors you cite are publishing their work. That will give you some insight into the relevant journals in the field.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Why "Shut up and write"? (Tseen Khoo)

Chicken Kitchen Timer
(Photo by m01229 |
I have done a PhD, so one of my transferable skills is my ability to reach excellent levels of procrastination.

The combination of being a master procrastinator and social media zealot means that I am often my own worst enemy when it comes to getting things finished up.

I have no problem with starting up planning for any number of projects, ideas for bits of writing, and compiling reams of to-do lists.

The problem appears when it comes to the doing of the writing.

So, what saves me from myself? ‘Shut up and write' (SUAW), of course!

#LTUacwrimo photo competition - "What helps me write"

Photo by chancema |
During the month of November, for #LTUacwrimo, the RED Unit is running a photo competition with the theme "What helps me write".

This competition, with a fabulous prize of a $100 voucher, is open to all research students and staff members of La Trobe University who are signed up for the #LTUacwrimo challenge.

Your photo could be of your favourite work-space, preferred writing 'fuel' (e.g. coffee, walks), most indispensable gadgets, or some other aspect of your writing routine.

Think creatively, capture it beautifully!

The photos will be judged by a panel of La Trobe specialists:
  • Dr Maryanne Aitken (Director, Research Services)
  • Tess Flynn (Manager, Photography and Digital Imaging)
  • Rebecca Norris (Manager, Online Community)
The photo competition's judging criteria are:
  • the quality, composition, and aesthetics of the photo; and 
  • the photo's interpretation of the theme, "What helps me write".
Entries for the #LTUacwrimo photo competition must be received by C.O.B. on Monday 24 November 2014. 

Competition guidelines and conditions appear below.