Becoming a research writer
“The work of the scholar becomes consequential only as it is understood by others”
Boyer, E.L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of teaching, p. 23.
This quote reminds us that no matter how ground-breaking and interesting your research is, if you can’t communicate it effectively in writing, it has no value.
During your time as a research student, you’ll write extensively. After you’ve written your research proposal, you’ll write your thesis, research articles and conference papers, as well as other supplementary writing along the way. You’ll write up your thoughts, others’ thoughts, your data, your analysis… In fact, if you’re not writing, you’re not doing research: Research is writing.
Good writing is all about good habits; managing yourself, your research, your thoughts and your emotions. The section on preparing yourself has some useful strategies, and following these suggestions mightl also help:
- write every day
- write at a regular time every day
- find a comfortable place to write every day
- join a writing group
- give yourself permission to write badly in your first draft.
The process of writing
There is not one simple, linear approach to writing: it is iterative and messy. However, we can conceptualise it as having four broad interlocking phases:
Look at the short Prezi on the process of writing, developed by Dr. Ken Manson, which shows a common path from the original idea to the final paper. If you’re using a mobile device, download the free app (iPhone, iPad or Android) here
You’ll find many other resources on this site: we discuss how to generate and organise ideas, and you can brush up on academic writing style, such as using a voice of authority. You can also find out about editing and proofreading strategies.
You’ll also find resources on specific types of writing:
If you’d like to read more, here are lists of research writing references, as well as references on research design:
- General research writing references
- Discipline-specific research writing references
- Writing a research proposal
- Research design references
“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham; www.phdcomic.com
Got a quick question about writing? Check out our FAQs.