Saturday, April 02, 2011

Academic writing

Mike Munger has some very good advice on academic writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I really agree with everything he says, but particularly with #2:

Set goals based on output, not input. "I will work for three hours" is a delusion; "I will type three double-spaced pages" is a goal. After you write three pages, do something else. Prepare for class, teach, go to meetings, whatever. If later in the day you feel like writing some more, great. But if you don't, then at least you wrote something.

That was something a friend in graduate school said he did--writing two double-spaced pages of dissertation a day--and I successfully copied it and continue to do so in some fashion (though not necessarily always two pages).  Those two pages aren't necessarily good, and will be changed through editing, but they represent a concrete goal and then accomplishment.


Lillie Langtry 4:23 AM  

When I was writing up my PhD, my goal was 1,000 words a day. That worked for me - less and I tended to feel that I hadn't achieved much, more and the words tended to require really heavy revision later and be a bit counterproductive. Of course, the bulk of the reading/research had already been done beforehand so I was properly at the writing stage. I became addicted to the word count function in Word though ;-)

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