Tag Archives: dissertation

4 Tips to Help you Become a Better Editor

“Write like you’re in love. Edit like you’re in charge.” – James Scott Bell

EditingHere on the APAGS blog we’ve previously offered some tips on how to become a better scientific writer, addressing ways to make it easier to put words onto paper (and finish your thesis/dissertation/manuscript!). But good writing mostly happens in between drafts one and two … or 19 and 20, as editing your own work effectively is consequential to getting your point across. So to pay homage to the skill that is fine-tuning, below I’ve assembled some tips to help you become a better editor. Hopefully they will help you transform your original ideas into digestible content.

Edit as if you were another person

You will always be your best editor when you can look at your writing from the vantage point of your audience. First, this helps remove the emotional baggage from reviewing your own piece, whether this involves feeling as if you are not good enough or – just as dangerous – as if you are Nobel Prize worthy. While we always want to feel invested in our work, and proud of the pieces we put forth, much about writing effectively has less to do about you, and everything to do about your reader. So try forgetting for a moment that you wrote what’s in front of you and ask yourself: what is the author trying to convey here? Answering this question time and again will help you identify areas that are either not clear enough or need reframing.

Print out your draft

I’m not usually an advocate for printing many things on paper these days, but when editing your writing you may consider making an exception. Seeing words on paper simply has a different effect on a reader versus seeing them on a screen. Plenty has been written about this topic, enough to ensure me that I’m not the only one that feels this way. So if your stuck in your writing and unsure how to move it forward, print out what you have thus far and read it away from your computer. Annotate edits in the margins (for old time’s sake). Another tip is that if you have multiple pages already complete, start with printing just page one and go from there. Often you’ll notice that there is something to attend to early on and you’ll need to change it right away before moving forward. So save your paper (and toner) and go one page at a time.

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Top 10 Reasons to Complete Your Dissertation Before Internship

I, like many other interns, started my internship year without having completed my dissertation. I knew it wasn’t ideal to be a full-time intern and work on my dissertation, but I figured since I made it through 5 years of graduate school simultaneously juggling other responsibilities and survived, I would be “okay” managing both of these tasks. Upon reflection, I wish I would have considered just how different and more demanding the internship year really is. As such, here are my top 10 reasons to complete your dissertation before internship (in no particular order). Please feel free to share your reasons in the comment section below!

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5 Tips for Writing from Home

Home office “You can always find a distraction if you’re looking for one.” – Tom Kite

For those of you currently immersed in a large writing project (dissertation, anyone?), taking a day or afternoon to write from home can be a good way to maximize productivity by eliminating time spent on commute, meetings, and putting on real pants. However, as we all know, the promise of accomplishing much when writing from home is easily thwarted by the black hole known as YouTube (there are literally hours of must-see Beyoncé music videos), or the immense desire to clean your refrigerator in the middle of the afternoon. In addition, the invisible tug of e-mail doesn’t go away just because you’re away from the office. Because we’ve all been there, I’ve compiled a few tips below to help you steer clear of these distractions so you can spend more time writing (and finishing) your project.

1. Create a writing space

In your office it’s much easier to get down to work because this space was designed and organized specifically for such an endeavor. The area of your desk where the computer sits is where you write, but this space is separate from the couch where you read articles, from the table where you meet with students, and from the conference room where you attend meetings. These spaces provide expectations (and tools) for the work that will be done there, but their boundaries are harder to establish at home. As a consequence, tasks can easily bleed together and make it more difficult to carve out time for writing when away from the office. Help yourself out by dedicating a room, corner of a room, or even a corner of your kitchen table just for writing. Acknowledge that when in that space, you’re committed to writing rather than checking e-mail, answering the phone, or grading papers. Clear clutter out of the area and add in items that help you write, such pen and paper for making notes on the fly, ear-plugs or headphones, and your favorite chewing gum or mints. You may even consider putting out a specific candle or incense and burn it only when writing to more fully distinguish this space.

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FINDING NEMO 3D

5 Tips from Finding Nemo for Completing Your Dissertation

FINDING NEMO 3DThis past weekend, as I stumbled upon “Finding Nemo” on cable (ok, I’ll confess, I wanted to watch it again), I reflected on how Marlin’s journey could be similar to the dissertation process. In the movie, Marlin is a clownfish who sees his son Nemo captured from the Great Barrier Reef by a diver. He embarks on a long journey to Sydney to rescue his son. Here are my lessons learned from Finding Nemo that I believe can apply to the dissertation process (seriously).

1)      Be prepared for a long journey. Marlin swims hundreds of miles in search of his son. Be ready for all the work that can go into completing the dissertation, which also takes lots of time. It’s helpful to know that you’re on a long journey, and give yourself plenty of time to do all the assigned tasks.

2)      Friends can help you along the way. Marlin gets help from numerous friends: Dory reads the address on the diver’s mask; Crush the sea turtle gives Marlin directions to Sydney via the East Australian Current; Nigel the brown pelican rescues Marlin and Dory and takes him to Nemo. Your friends and peers in graduate school can help you as you finish the dissertation. They can encourage you, help you solve problems that you encounter, and then celebrate with you at the end.

Fish Sydney Opera House3)      Listen to the advice you’re given. A school of fish advise Dory to avoid jellyfish. Marlin didn’t listen and ended up getting stung. On your journey, you may get advice from your colleagues and professors. It’s helpful to listen to what they say, particularly when it’s about making your path easier. While you might want to add some more measures to your dissertation, if someone is suggesting that you streamline your study to make it easier to finish and analyze, that is good advice to listen to!

The-sharks-in-Finding-Nemo4)      Watch out for the sharks. Marlin encounters 3 sharks, one of whom eventually tries to eat Marlin and Dory. You may encounter different sharks along your dissertation journey. For example, a professor who is really difficult to work with could be a shark if you pick him to serve on your committee. If you do end up with a shark on your committee, don’t bleed like Dory! Do your homework, prepare for what kind of questions he might ask, and don’t give him any reason to eat you.

5)      Just keep swimming. Of course, the final, and most important lesson, from Finding Nemo is just keep swimming. When you find yourself overwhelmed with the amount of work you have in front of you, keep slowly chugging away. Work for small amounts of time, even just 10 minutes a day, to keep your momentum. If you keep swimming, you might be able to build some momentum and work for longer bits of time. However, if you stop swimming, it might be harder to restart. Swimming every day is the best path to finishing the dissertation!

Just Keep SwimmingThe dissertation is a long journey, so best of luck while you dissertate, and when all else fails, stay calm and just swim on!