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Looking back as Research Insiders reaches 200 posts

I started this blog (under another name) about nine years and over 200 posts ago… that’s a long time on the internet. In the first year I posted every week, and some busy years I posted on average once a month, but mostly I’ve fallen into a pattern of posting once a fortnight.

I’ve always held that this blog was something I offered free–a place to be generous to others about insider knowledge I had, but that readers might not yet have access to. That means I’ve always been generous to myself–if I have something to post, or time to write and edit a post, then I put something up… and if I’m too busy or tired or not inspired, then I don’t post. That’s kept the blog sustainable, through some tough times.

I’ve also been generous about what I post about–if it interests me and I think it might be interesting to share, it’s been shared. That means I talk about academic writing and productivity… but also about wellbeing, knowledge, stress, communities and more. My experience of writing and working in academia has included my body, my friends, my emotions, as well as my brain.

Part of the generosity is what I received from others, and then had the chance to make their ideas work for me: including variations on the Cornell Method of Note Taking, Done Lists, Thomson and Kamler’s Tiny Texts, on Rachael Cayley’s Reverse Outlines, and Robert Boice’s Generative Writing alongside Frances Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique. I hope you too have had the chance to learn, make your own and share resources from this blog.

Still, the main spine of the blog has always been about communication. Communicating to others through writing or speaking, being communicated to through reading and learning, or communicating to yourself with instructions and stories about your day and your process.

Some readers are regulars (hello! I really appreciate your ongoing support!) and many more come to the blog because they were searching for information on Google about how to write more concisely, or they ended up here a bit lost while searching for information on Scout’s pace, or talismans. The search stats tell me you really care about writing more concisely, but also about how to contribute to knowledge, how to make a logical progression, why a PhD is hard, and how many draft you should write.

Looking back over the last 200 posts, I can see some times when I succeeded, and times when I failed. Times when I felt like I was on top of things, and times when I felt I really wasn’t. I’ve also noticed how my thinking has kept developing, so often I go back to a post and realise that I have had a lot more thoughts about the subject over years since I wrote it, and now it needs an update. For example, the chapter in the new PhD Survival Guide book about what it feels like to finish a PhD includes a lot of thoughts I remembered writing about in The Monkey Demon of PhD Guilt… but it was only there in my head!

This blog has often been something I did quietly on the side, not really a comfortable part of my work identity. Nonetheless, there has often been a reciprocity between the blog and the conversations I have with students in my teaching: such as the Perfect Sentence Vortex, the concept of Turning the Dial, and my various screeds against perfectionism. Those conversations with thousands of people actually doing research degrees right now are the main reason this blog exists, and continues to exist. I’m so privileged to get to be part of your journey.

The blog has also meant I have made friends, got to work with great people, and been able to justify book proposals on these topics. Thanks to this blog, I can celebrate books with Inger, Shaun, Liam, Pete, and the teams at Open University Press, Routledge and New South. Academic Writing Trouble, Your PhD Survival Guide and Level Up your Essays wouldn’t exist without this blog. At the same time, the writing of those books has been a fruitful source of more content for the blog, as I reflect on the various stages of the writing process, from shitty first draft to final edits.

9 years, 8 jobs, 200+ posts, 4 books… plus articles, chapters, conferences and more. It’s been a journey. I’ve so appreciated having a space to think out loud, and loved having readers who think with me. I look forward to reaching a decade!

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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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