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Academic Writing

I am an advocate of direct, concise and lively writing. Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck communicated well. Unfortunately, many authors like long, meandering sentences. Writing is a skill, something we have to work at, whether undertaking an MA, a Ph.D or our fifth book. A well-crafted paragraph of two or three sentences often communicates better than several paragraphs of turgid prose. The poor quality of academic expression partly explains why so much of our writing is little read. We often do a bad job of explaining why what we research matters.

Please keep figures and tables to a minimum. They are usually a poor substitute for good writing.

Most of us write badly and must practice in order to write well. To assist in this objective I recommend reading Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (Pocket Books, 2002), William Zinsser, On Writing Well (HarperCollins, 30th anniversary edition, 2006) and Paul J. Silvia, How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (APA Life Tools, 2007).

Doctoral Supervision

Although four decades old, I recommend David Sternberg, How to Complete and Survive a Doctoral Dissertation (St. Martin's, 1981). Also read Aaron Wildavsky, Craftways: On the Organization of Scholarly Work (Transaction, 2nd edition 1993), and Peter Burnham (ed.) Surviving the Research Process in Politics (Continuum, 1997).

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