Tag Archives: academic writing

The role of writing support in PhD completion rates

Many factors affect PhD completion rates, as identified and discussed in a 2018 article on The Conversation  by Dr Tim Bednall from Swinburne University of Technology.

Setting aside debate about just what the true completion rates are, completion factors relate to students themselves, their supervisor and the university environment.

Students write so many items throughout their candidature including proposals, funding applications, conference papers and journal articles, as well as the thesis itself, that good writing skills and good practices make life easier.

Writing support is part of the university environment and different forms of support are available. Bednall noted that universities do provide research training and related training and support to increase the skills and capabilities of students. To overcome bad habits such as busyness, procrastination and disorganisation, Bednall described helpful actions such as scheduling dedicated writing time, reframing difficult tasks as learning opportunities, and developing a work routine.

Bednall also noted that some universities have Shut Up and Write sessions, which turn writing into a social experience and limit distractions, and there are supportive online communities and blogging which can be useful.

Is writing a social experience? I’m not sure. Perhaps social in the sense of support, rather than writing in a group. It depends on the writer.

Students should check courses at their university learning centre on writing in general and specific aspects of academic and research writing. Experienced editors are also a source of advice on writing for students and academic staff. With or without support, there’s no substitute for actual writing.

Please contact me for editing, writing or communication inquiries at rhdaniels@bigpond.com

Font type – is there a right font?

Here’s a follow up to a previous blog on Font size – Is there a right size? Just as there is no right font size, the choice of font type depends on the purpose and audience for a document.

A font can be used to stand out or fit in, so consider what you want to achieve and what your readers are expecting to see. The font type has a huge influence on the look and readability of the page or screen, often without the reader even realising why.

The impact of font type depends on many design choices such as:

  • font size
  • alignment of the font: left justified or fully justified
  • spacing between lines and paragraphs
  • bold and italic forms of the font
  • contrast between fonts for text and headings.

Graphic designers experiment with all these elements for creative impact, but for academic writing, stick to what is most common and expected. For academic writing such as a thesis, Times New Roman is popular. A draft journal article in a font designed to look like handwriting, such as Comic Sans, is likely to be poorly received by reviewers, despite its merits. Using Courier font will make your work look like it was typed on an old-fashioned typewriter – fine if that is the intention.

It is common to choose between a serif font such as Times, Cambria or Palatino or a sans serif font such as Arial, Calibri, Geneva or Helvetica. Experiment with different fonts to find what works best for your document and audience, whether print or digital.

Please contact me for editing, writing or communication inquiries at rhdaniels@bigpond.com