Blog

Visual planning techniques

I’m a huge fan of sketching out a plan. I find it helps me structure things and clarify what I’m doing.

Here are some examples. Thanks to all the students who allowed me to take pictures of their plans!

  1. Don’t plan to do lots of little things, just a couple of bigger things.

IMG_1047

2. I use this all the time to make sure my arguments flow–a flow chart forces me to think about where my arguments are leading, and I can always tell when something is a distraction from the main argument!

2013-05-28 16.57.25

3. Use a huge whiteboard, or some butchers paper and try to make it all work. Different kinds of writing might need different kinds of mapping out. And you’ll probably need more than one go. Just go for it!

IMG_10462012-05-04 11.51.50

4. I don’t have a white board in my current office, so we just wrote out the texts on bits of paper (index cards might be prettier) and shuffled them around until we could get the thesis to flow. The candidate went home and kept reshuffling the texts as she wrote up her outline and plan, until it worked.

IMG_1800

These are all really rough looking–because planning is. I thought about tidying it up, but that seemed counterproductive. A plan isn’t fixed, it’s a rough sketch of where you think you’ll be going, it’s a back of the envelope calculation, it’s a compass and a goal.

As you progress through your research and writing, you’ll find your plan will need constant tweaking, adjusting, reworking. That’s okay. A good plan gave you a way to get started and made sure that most of what you did was relevant. Having no plan is a recipe for inertia or a scatter-gun approach, neither of which is helpful getting your thesis written.

Even a plan that totally didn’t work is super helpful. ‘The literature would lead us to expect that X would be the case in this situation, and so I set out to prove that. However my research shows that this is not the case here, and here is how and why,’ is a fantastic way to write a chapter, journal article or book.

Go make that plan, go write that thesis. And share your visual planning strategies! I know other people use apps, sketches and storyboards, I’d love to have examples. 

This is a companion piece to the post on narrative outlines. There are lots of ways to write a plan, and you probably need more than one of them, and different techniques at different stages. 

SHARE

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.

Contact

Related Posts

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Get the latest blog posts