Hello everyone!

It’s the first time I have strayed over from the Thesis Whisperer to the Doctoral writing SIG blog. I’ll be your managing editor and chief poster for the rest of December and January, while I take a break between jobs. Right now ‘break between jobs’ seems to equal ‘catching up on writing’. I’m sure many of you can relate to that!

My posts will be aimed at making research support work easier by sharing resources, ideas and information that you can use to help your students, and yourself. Most of these links were sourced via my network on Twitter, others were sent to me by colleagues.


A couple of papers have caught my eye this month. Rowena Murray’s “It’s not a hobby’: reconceptualizing the place of writing in academic work” (Higher education, 2012) was sent to me by a colleague. Murray surveyed a group of working academics about their writing habits. Murray points out that ‘writing’ is not usually identified as a task on academic workplans, which creates a situation where writing is seen as a practice disengaged from everyday work. This can create tensions where academics “(fear) being seen by their colleagues as disloyal or unprofessional, rather than academic or strategic” when they take time out to write.

Murray suggests that academics who are ‘stuck’: unable to write as much as they wish may be doing so because they are “…anxious, alienated and attempting to write in working environments designed for other tasks, where those other tasks are given priority by other people. These environments are not working for writing.” This paper is an interesting read for people attempting to diagnose underlying reasons for writing problems in students and in professional academics.

I was reminded of how much I enjoy the work of James Hartley when I noticed he had contributed a post to the LSE impact blog called ” Academic writing in old age: How retired academics can make considerable contributions to their institutions”. I was inspired to dig back in my database to reread an old paper from 2005 “To attract or to inform: What are titles for?” (Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 35(2), 203–213.). It’s a great paper for students who may not realise the connection between the composition of a title and the likelihood your paper will be easily searchable in online databases.

On the Blogs

The Explorations in Style blog was very active during the month of November, publishing a number of interesting and reflective posts which would be useful to hand on to students. In Self expression or adherence to form Rachael wonders: “Does strong academic writing come from an authentic sense of self-expression or does it come from an adherence to the existing genre conventions in the field?”. The rest of the post speaks well to one of the key the tensions in doctoral writing, especially in creative disciplines.

What I particularly like about the Explorations in Style blog is the way Rachael homes in on the parts of the writing process which are rarely talked about. For example, in the post Between drafting and editing she tackles the problem of coming back to a draft after a break and forgetting what you need to do to move it forward. I find these kinds of posts useful as take aways from workshops that students can read and hand around in their offices.

I hope you enjoyed this brief round up. If you have written a paper lately that you want to feature on the blog please let us know. Happy holidays everyone!