Cultivate a writing habit

I’m not the expert in writing, but throughout this dissertation journey, I have learned some very good tips or tricks about writing. I’m sure many experienced scholars have offered many writing tips out there and what I’m going to say here probably are nearly the same. In my own way, I hope to share what I have learned or practiced throughout my journey. Here are some tips that really help me in completing my dissertation:

1) Plan

To me, planning my writing is as important as writing itself. My mind can only work if I have a clear plan on what to read, what to write and how I want to write it. For my dissertation, I love to outline ideas on each chapter by stating my goal/purpose for each chapter and what goes for each sub-section in that chapter. With this outline, I can sometimes write whichever sections (without following order) I wish or feel the mood for it without worrying my sections do not relate later. My chapter outline serves as the blueprint for my whole dissertation so that I always have the ‘big picture’ in mind. Of course, the plan is expected to be changed or improved over the time as you progress.

2) Read

Some people can write spontaneously, which works for most writing, I guess. However, in academic writing, we have to read enough to write convincingly to prove we have the necessary knowledge to debate/discuss about our topics with others. Not forgetting we are required to cite proper references to support our arguments while we write. Finding the time to read or get well-versed in your field is a prerequisite for writing. Reading time should be scheduled sufficiently in your writing plan. Making notes should go together while you read, that’s why it’s important you have a plan that you know what to look for during reading. This is to avoid wasting time by what I would like to call as idle reading.

3) Write

It’s essential that we cultivate a good writing habit as early as possible during the dissertation journey. As I work full time in the office, finding the right time and place to write daily was quite difficult. Due to my limited ‘available’ time, I put in dedicated 1 – 2 hours (mostly in the evenings) every day to make sure I achieve my daily writing goal. Finding the dedicated time and place to write every day is critical to get you to the finish line. Doesn’t matter if you are an early morning person or a night owl, all you need to do is to commit yourself to write daily according to your plan and very soon you can complete everything on time. The hardest part in writing is going through this daily commitment even if you don’t feel up to it. Simply commit yourself to write 300, 500 or 1000 words a day can help you a very long way.

4) Revise

Many think that their first draft is their final work. Totally wrong! I have learned that our first draft is supposed to be the most crappy draft and we need to revise as many times as needed to make it perfect acceptable. This is why it’s very important that you take note the amount of time needed to write and rewrite. You need to count this revision time into the writing plan so that you still meet your writing dateline even if you need to revise countless times.

Ideally, the writing process is an iterative process until you reach a satisfactory result of your manuscript. One very good advice I have learned is not to be a perfectionist in your writing. It’s more important to finish than to be perfect.

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