Doctoral researchers share writing secrets

On Friday the Research Hive hosted a workshop drop-in to discuss the act of writing doctoral research. The audience consisted of an assortment of Philosophy, History, Sociology, Art History, Life Sciences, Media, Biology and Informatics researchers. A good turn out!  The aim of the session was for doctoral researchers at all levels to share their challenges and working practices around writing.

Among the areas discussed were how to write ‘academically’. It’s long been acknowledged that most academic texts and doctoral theses are written in a particular language, but how does it come about and is it always necessary?

The group discussion around this question quickly began to focus on the role of the supervisor; can they help you find a way to write in an ‘academic’ fashion without it becoming heavy, cumbersome and unclear? Additionally the importance of reading the language of existing literature in your field and discussions with your peers over accessibility of writing were viewed as useful outlets.

Perhaps the biggest topic of conversation was in regards to actually getting started with writing and creating the right environment and mindset to enable productivity. Most of the group members had their own different circumstances which meant they operated within slightly varied routines. This is not unusual, doctoral research is, by its nature, a fairly personal quest but there were areas of resonance within the group that proved fruitful.

For example; choosing the most comfortable working environment for yourself. This is the only aspect you can fully control of your writing, so it was important to the group to operate in a sphere which allowed them to be creative. Several members liked to write earlier in the morning, whilst shunning emails and any form of distractions until they had passed a particular target, be it wordcount or a time period.

The clearest message that emerged throughout the workshop was that, whilst nobody else can do your writing for you (unfortunately) that doesn’t mean that the presence of other people cannot be beneficial. Whether it’s just to bounce ideas off in an informal chat or to simply have other people working around you.

Writing need not be lonely!

Due to the demand of the session the Hive Scholars are already planning another session in week 10 to share writing challenges and secrets to success and in week 8 Karen Burrows doctoral researcher from Media, Film and Music will be chairing a round table discussion on being an Associate Tutor at Sussex.  If you’re interested in either session please email researchhive@sussex.ac.uk

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