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October 2012


Jame's Hayton's Whisperer post "Why writing from day one is nuts" generated a lot of comments, but also sparked off a response from other bloggers interested in academic writing.

Clamourous Voice wrote a spirited and entertaining defence of continuous writing in her post "why writing from day one isn't nuts".

Explorations in Style asked "Can you write too early?" ,arguing for seeing writing as a process, not a product. Patter wrote an enlightening piece on the connections between writing and identity in her piece "Writing the thesis from day one is risky". Explorations in Style continued Patter's theme of identity in another post "Cut and Paste Job"where she explains why the writing you make early might not fit in later drafts:

"Text will almost always carry with it traces of its provenance. More importantly, using old text denies ourselves a chance to write that same material again from our current perspective. When I augment a document in this particular fashion, I always do so over a muffled objection in the back of my mind. I can always feel the way the imported text doesn’t fit in its new home and the way that I may have missed a chance to say it anew, to say it better"

Thanks to James Hayton of 3 month thesis blog for starting off the whole debate!

Academic Culture
There's much more written about the nasty sides of academic culture than the positives. The College Ready Writing blog dealt with the little discussed, but no doubt widely experienced, sensation of envying your academic colleagues in this entertaining piece "Bad female academic green eyed monster". Clamourous Voice post "Soul Crushing Academic Feedback - the collectors edition" was a huge hit on the Thesis Whisperer Facebook page (my favourite was "“Your entire essay is barking up the wrong tree, and then complaining when there’s no cat in it.”). The theme of failure was picked up by Literature Review HQ in typically upbeat style in the post "Are you failing enough to be successful in your writing?"

All these posts could be usefully read with "comparison is toxic", by Ben Deaton, as a corrective. As Ben (who freely admits it took some therapy to come to this view) points out:

"Everybody achieves what they achieve in an entirely different context. By that I mean that everyone was raised in different families, went to different schools, was surrounded by different social circles, devoted themselves to different extracurriculars, developed at different rates (not only as children, but also as adults), entered grad school with differing grasps of mathematics and science, carries different burdens and life responsibilities, cares more or less, pursued PhD’s for different reasons, has an advisor with different levels of control of the project, and wants to do different things afterwards. Almost all of these are private factors that you will never know about others. Given all that, how do you expect to objectively benchmark yourself against someone else?"

While we're on the topic of #phdemotions, Dave (not his real name) who is nearing the end of his PhD wrote a funny piece called "Screw you thesis", which talks about suddenly hating your thesis. Ailsa of A musing space wrote a great post about submitting called  "Betwixt and Between" where she describes not having a thesis in your life as being "… a bit like having a sore tooth, sticking my tongue into it, biting down, sucking air across it, checking if it still hurts…". Congratulations on finishing Ailsa!

Research News

The big news in Australia this month was the research funding freeze, which Tseen Khoo of the Research Whisperer critiqued on The Conversation called "Time to thaw: the human side of the research funding freeze". Part of the problem, says blogger Alex Burns in "The Big Chill" is that "research management in Australia has become about ‘high finance’ decision-making more akin to private equity and asset management firms".

Do we need to look for alternative models of funding, like crowd sourcing? Check out this report from Mashable of the pitch for funding from Ethan Perlstein, an evolutionary pharmacologist and independent research fellow at Princeton. If you are in the midst of a grant application now that the freeze is partially lifted, this post from The Research Whisperer on the meaning of cross, multi and trans-disciplinarity might be useful.

Productivity Tips

Dr Charlotte Frost of PhD2Published has declared November to be #acwrimo (Academic Writing Month), as she explains:

"The idea hails from NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) an initiative designed to turn the whole of November into a month-long write-fest for current or would-be novelists. The idea is that you set yourself the task of writing 50 thousand words in November alone and bingo, you’ve got yourself a whole big chunk of novel!  In 2011 I decided academics should give something similar a go and, I can happily report, it went brilliantly!"

As I wrote in my post "why I changed my mind about #acwrimo", last year I wasn't so sure about the idea. But now I think there's value in declaring your writing goals. You can take part in #acwrimo by putting your name on google spreadsheet started by My Studious Life.


This month, with my Amazon Affiliates money (thanks everyone!), I bought "So good they can't ignore you"by Cal Newport. The best book I have read so far on the subject of career management. Expect a review soon. I also bought Helen Sword's "Stylish Academic Writing"an excellent addition to my library on writing. Helen shares her interesting research on academic writing and offers helpful tips for diagnosing and fixing problems in your own writing. I'm happy to say I have secured an appearence by Helen at RMIT University in late November.

The Thesis Whisperer ebook "How to tame your PhD" has helped me to pay for running the blog domain next year. It continues to sell and I'm pleased to see it now has 11 five star reviews. Thanks to everyone who has bought a copy. I plan to say a non profit enterprise for now and will use the extra money to do a major site overhaul.

That's all for this month - happy writing everyone!