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Week 1: Writing and Research
Types of Writing and Challenges of the Writing Process
The below introduction is from a more detailed handout available on the password-protected LUVLE site: students registered for either the face-to-face course or for the Research Training Pilot should log on to LUVLE for their course materials and (in the case of virtual students) their discussion groups.
It is now widely acknowledged that one of the best ways of breaking down the barriers to academic writing is to identify, and exploit, different forms of writing at the different stages of the research/writing process.
Students just embarking on independent research after a first-degree or taught courses may only be aware of a very limited number of types of writing - e.g. notes, first draft, final draft. Moving on to longer projects necessarily involves a much wider range of writerly activity, although many of these have not been identified or talked about by professional writers and/or academics.
Further discussion of the different types of writing that may be deployed at the different stages of the research process will be provided in the form of handouts from Rowena Murray, University of Strathclyde, Thesis Writing, video and notes (1995) [available from the Social Science Faculty: see Lynne Pearce for details] and Peter Elbow, Writing with Power (Oxford: 1981/1998).
The exercises for the first week of the virtual course include thinking carefully about all the different sorts of writing you might be engaged in in the course of your PhD, the value of that writing, and where you are most comfortable doing it. Having filled in a grid relating to types of writing, you are asked to discuss your thoughts on your lists and what they tell you about the writing process with the students in your virtual study group, considering, e.g., what interests or surprises you most. What this exercise should reveal is how much writing you do in the course of your studies even when you think you’re ‘doing nothing’ and how you can use writing to ‘grow’ your thesis even if you are way off completing a draft chapter. See page on An Ideal Thesis.
Research has shown that the more the doctoral student writes – even in the form of rough note-taking / casual thoughts – the easier the composition process will become. You will be asked to consider the obstacles you’ve encountered in Academic writing and to consider such questions as: What has emerged as the most pressing challenges for yourself and your peers? What do you think is the greatest obstacle preventing PhD students from writing?
It is suggested that students may also find it useful to experiment with ‘freewriting’ as a means of becoming comfortable of writing about their research without the fear of anyone else seeing it. See LUVLE (Week 1 - Introductory Handout) for Rowena Murray’s description of freewriting and how to experiment with it. A good freewriting exercise to begin with is a 7 minute stint beginning with the phrase: ‘The reason I got interested in this topic is . . .. ‘. Students can often find this helpful when they find they are losing focus – and or interest – in what they are researching!
The chapter from Peter Elbow’s book, ‘The Dangerous Method’ (see LUVLE - Week 1, Articles section) may also help you think of your academic writing as a series of different phases / activities. A PhD is not a 3,000 word essay; it is impossible to ‘get it right’ the first time!
© Lynne Pearce, 2007
LUVLE-based Virtual Research Training
Summaries of Pilot Modules on LUVLE:
Latest VRT News
The pilot of the new programme of interdisciplinary virtual Research Training is now running. It started on 21st April 2008 and has enrolled 22 students from a range of departments within FASS.
Any members of staff or other PhD students interested in looking at the pilot in progress on the LUVLE site are welcome to contact us.
If those of you involved in the pilot have any problems or questions, please contact Kate Horsley.
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