This post was inspired by an anonymous PhD student who started a blog to improve their academic writing. My advice to PhD students to improve academic writing is simple: read academic writing and write academic writing.
There are many books and resources about academic writing, but the best way to understand conventions is to read academic writing such as PhD theses, journal articles and conference papers. Start with recent PhD theses in your discipline, from your university and others, and note similarities and differences, strengths and weaknesses.
For new PhD students, it is particularly important to understand the form and structure of a thesis which is the ‘final product’ of the PhD research and assessed by examiners.
Then read journal articles. Read fellow students’ work. Accept offers to be a reviewer of journal articles. Consider why you might find one piece of writing hard to read and another clear and easy.
Any writing is good writing practice, but learn and practise the conventions by writing journal articles, conference papers and thesis chapters. The more you write material for your thesis, the easier it becomes. Ask others for feedback on your writing and see if your institution has a writing group or training. See my posts on:
Here are some writing resources I like:
- free online course in writing in the sciences from Stanford University
- free Academic Phrasebank from University of Manchester
- for Australian writing in general, Style manual for authors, editors and printers.
Please contact me for editing or writing inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org