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The story of my thesis

If you have ever been to one of my workshops in the last decade, you will probably have done this warm up. In fact, if you came to a multi-day writing retreat I ran, you would have done this at the beginning of each day. It is the most powerful, most flexible, simplest tool in my writing tool box.

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Succeeding in a Research Higher Degree

Doing a Research Higher Degree (like a PhD) is hard, but lots of people have succeeded and you can too. It’s easier if you understand how it works, this blog gives you the insider view.

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The story of my thesis

If you have ever been to one of my workshops in the last decade, you will probably have done this warm up. In fact, if you came to a multi-day writing retreat I ran, you would have done this at the beginning of each day. It is the most powerful, most flexible, simplest tool in my writing tool box.

Read more

How to unstick your reading list

As I was getting to the end of the recent book, I was buying books at my usual pace but not reading them (as that brainspace was completely taken up with reading my own draft or references for the draft).

Now the book is in and the summer has started, I felt excited to dive into all these books but I also felt stuck. I couldn’t get into gear, let alone find my groove.

So I rummaged around in my toolbox, and came up with this list of techniques. None of them are perfect, but little by little we are turning the dial back to reading.

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Will an AI soon be writing our PhDs?

With major strides forward in AI (artificial intelligence/machine learning), computers are increasingly able to produce music, images and text. So you might wonder if soon we’ll have an AI that can write your PhD for you.

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Going to a big conference

Last week I went to the Australian Association of Researchers in Education (AARE) conference in Adelaide. It was a big conference with lots of parallel sessions, and I haven’t gone to a really big conference for 7 or 8 years (let alone not travelling or hanging out with large groups of strangers face-to-face for a few years for pandemic reasons). It was a good moment to reflect on what it’s like to go to a big conference and what you might look out for if it’s your first time.

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Between the paragraph and the word is the ‘line edit’

There is another intermediate stage of editing, which is typically called ‘line edits’ in creative writing. This is the edit that is all about style and grace, about flow, about clarity and voice. In other words, this the edit that is absolutely not essential and many academic writers don’t bother with it. It’s a ‘nice to have’, a cherry on the cake, which is why I haven’t written about it before.

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Getting back into the swing of this

The book is now in with the series editor and going out to reviewers (2 weeks late, but also 2 weeks before the deadline I had written on my otherwise trusty whiteboard… a story for a later post!!). So in this little writing block I had in my day—too small for getting back into another big project—I thought I’d warm up the blog machine.

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Five finger exercises for academic writing

If you have ever learned the piano, you may have had to do ‘five finger exercises’—little pieces that are less about their musical value, and more about making you use all five fingers on your hands, to improve your technique. They are warm-ups, strengthening and skill-building exercises. They are part of the invisible part of performing music—I have never seen a concert performance of these exercises, but I’m also certain that every concert pianist I have ever paid to listen to, has done hours and hours of them in their time.

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Resources

Books

For more insider tips, techniques and insights, check out my books.

Level Up Your Essays

Level Up Your Essays is the essential guide to essay writing for university students. Written by the people who mark your essays, it will show you step-by-step how to write high-quality essays that will get you top marks.

Your PhD Survival Guide

The ‘Insider Guides to Success in Academia’ offers support and practical advice to doctoral students and early-career researchers. These neat pocket guides fill specific and significant gaps in current literature. 

How to Fix Your Academic Writing Trouble

This clear and accessible guide to decoding academic feedback will help you interpret what your lecturer or research supervisor is really trying to tell you about your writing – and show you how to fix it.

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