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Academic Writing: Increasing Productivity

Posted Aug 31 2010 12:00am

Last week, I posted a few times on the subjects of statistics and research.  I acknowledged then that I have been a consumer of research and journal articles, but I have not done much in producing research, especially since completing my dissertation.  Coincidentally, last week I also started to read How to Write A Lot , by Paul Silvia, Ph.D.  It is a short, direct "how to" guide to increasing one's productivity regarding academic writing.

The book itself is easy to read, both in terms of understanding it, and in its style.  There is no effort here to empathize with the difficulties associated with academic writing: Silvia's attidue is pretty much, "Yes, writing is hard, and often boring/unrewarding/painful.  But, if you want to do it, rather than thinking about doing it without actually doing it, here's what you need to do."  Simple and to-the-point suggestions for being accountable tod increasing productivity are what the book offers.

Right off the bat, in Chapter Two, Silvia hits one nail on the head.  He notes people often have trouble getting their writing done because of various "specious barriers," which he describes as superficially legitimate reasons for not writing, but which "crumble under critical scrutiny."  His very first specious barrier is one I've often succumbed to: "I can't find time to write."  He notes, correctly, that to get anything done in a consistent, productive manner, one needs to schedule time for the task, not find time for it.  We schedule time for that which we prioritize: If we want to write more, we need to schedule time to do so, not simply throw writing in with other lesser tasks that we get around to now and then.  This little section impacted me right away; since I read it, I've been able to take multiple steps towards two different projects I'd been thinking about for some time, but hadn't actually made a move on.  Often, it is not that you don't know something, but that you need it put in your face a certain way, in order to make the information relevant and used.  In this case, How to Write A lot has started me on tasks I'd been pushing off.  I'm looking forward to reading more.

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