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Cat in the Stax: Writing Resources

Next week marks the second working break of the semester and a great opportunity to stop procrastinating and sit down to write those papers. Below, I’ve compiled a handful of resources that have been lifesavers for me over the years. 

Writing Guides

These two writing guides have been recommended to me by a variety of different professors, mentors, and other students. They’ve also come in handy in a pinch while writing a paper. Rather than comb through resources online, having a writing guide next to me helps me find an easy answer. And the best part is that both are available in either Falvey’s collection or through an inter-library loan.

Style Guides

The worst feeling in the world is when you finally finish a research paper and then need to spend the next hour going back through, adding citations, and ensuring that it’s in the correct style. Below are links to style guides to the three most popular citation styles used in academic writing. 

The Library’s website also has additional citation resources that you can find here.

Resources at Falvey

Falvey has a wide range of research services that are available to all students. Below are links to a couple of highlighted resources.

  • Utilizing subject guides are a great way to find sources
  • The Villanova Writing Center is housed within Falvey and get help with any part of the process from brainstorming to outlining to editing and walking through your final draft.

Finally, remember that Falvey is always open with quiet study and writing spaces that you can utilize to write!


Jenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department.

 

 

 

 

 


 


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Remote Discoveries: A Synthesis of Advice for Writing at Home

 

As we all continue to adjust to the “new normal” new difficulties emerge in different facets of our lives. One of the academic challenges I have been struggling with is maintaining my writing output for classes and my thesis.

Although merely a small wave in a sea of much greater challenges many face, writing is, I am sure, a struggle under the present circumstances; however, we still are pressed to do so.

By no means am I suggesting self-help tips that could bear the title “Follow these five steps to make your quarantine a productive one,” or any other nonsense that glosses over the structural failings and inequalities that led to this crisis. Rather, I put these suggestions together with hopes that writing may help some of us cope with the frustration, sadness, and anger that accompanies these times.


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Considering that many of us have different comfort zones, I wanted to provide a couple methods, as writing is certainly not a one-size-fits-all affair.

Deborah J. Cohan offers some guiding points to maintain writing output while dealing with numerous responsibilities. Although this piece is geared more towards faculty who must balance numerous pressures, this also applies to students who have multiple responsibilities.

Nue Lee espouses a daily writing schedule, embracing the repetition of a strong structure as a means to reliably get words onto the page. On tip I found particularly helpful was, “Write fast now, edit slow later”. This type helps me avoid getting bogged down in specifics, holding off on deep reading until editing.

Finally, Christine Tully provides alternative suggestions for those who prefer to do all of their writing on a single day of the week. Her suggestions focus around properly planning that single day of writing, in order to not procrastinate or become overwhelmed at the prospect of writing for hours on end.


Most importantly–and this is my own personal thought about writing currently–write for a reason. Whether this be to cope with the situation, working towards your own betterment, or to make our own small contribution to solutions in the future.


Nate GosweilerNate Gosweiler is a graduate assistant for Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication department. He is currently distraught over Bernie Sanders dropping out of the democratic primary.

 


 


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Grad Students: Beat the Writing Blues

By Daniella Snyder

I’m Daniella Snyder, a second-year graduate student at Villanova University, and your ‘Cat in Falvey Library’s Stacks. I’ll be posting about academics–from research to study habits and everything in between–and how the Falvey can play a large role in your success here on campus!

This post goes out to my fellow graduate students, and a question that we have heard regularly over the last two weeks:

How’s your thesis going?

Whether it be from co-workers, classmates, or professors, the question is anxiety-inducing. The timeline I had envisioned for myself might have been too demanding, I keep getting distracted, I love procrastinating…the list goes on and on.

However, I’m not here to stress you out any further. Instead, I want to help you. Over the course of the last few days, I’ve found tons of thesis and dissertation writing tips, tricks, and testimonials, and I’ve listed some of the best pieces of advice below. Wildcats: best of luck, and get writing!

1). It’s okay if you don’t write every single day. In her Inside Higher Ed article, Christine Tulley writes that, despite the popular “hour a day” writing schedule, real-life academics “carve out time and space for writing in an impressive variety of ways,” and advises a weekly writing day. If that sounds more doable than a daily writing sesh, read Tulley’s article.

2). Get in the driver’s seat. Dora Farkus, PhD, shared her own dissertation-writing journey in this online article. Farkus advises that you have to be your own project manager. “The purpose of grad school is to learn how to become an independent researcher,” she writes, “you are not at the mercy of your thesis supervisor,” and that you are at the point in your education where you know what is realistic to accomplish.

3). Accept that you will never feel like writing. In a different online article, Farkus makes it clear that you should not wait to be inspired to write. However, there are a few steps you can take to “warm up your writing muscles:” listen to music that puts you in the mood to write, watch a motivational video, or visualize all the things you will do once your thesis is finished. Then, she advises, start typing gibberish! Get something down on paper until words flow naturally.

4). Be intentional when writing. Instead of writing “work on thesis” in your calendar, Farkus and Tulley assert that you should be specific, such as “Finish Section II of Chapter I, 3-5 p.m.” This way, you can feel accomplished when you do finish the task. Further, by setting specific time restraints, you’re more likely to mono-task (the opposite of multi-task!) during that time frame.

5). Finally, not writing is writing (sometimes). Of course you know that you should take breaks when writing, but Tulley writes that on your walk to get more coffee or doing your laundry, you should use that time to think about what you worked on. Do you feel proud? Are there still problems to tackle? Who can you send it to to for constructive criticism or revisions? This way, you’re not allowing your break time to distract you from your project, and you’re still making progress towards your end goal.


Daniella Snyder HeadshotDaniella Snyder, graduate assistant for the Communication and Marketing department at Falvey, is currently working on her master’s thesis.


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Write, Damnit

by Katy Meyers (via Inside Higher Ed)

During my first PhD anthropology theory course, it was suggested to us that we should start writing every single day. Our professor told us that we needed to sit down for an hour every single day, or most days of the week, and just write. We shouldn’t focus on a specific topic, or try to answer a question, but rather we should just write whatever is on our mind. Honestly, I’ve been a fairly good writer since high school, and I wrote a lot in undergrad, so I wasn’t concerned with it. I had to do half a dozen 25 page papers during my masters, and I had just finished writing my thesis. Practicing writing was the least of my worries.

However, writing was a slow process for me. I wrote out detailed outlines, took weeks to fill them in with perfect sentences and dozens of citations. For a final paper I had to begin the process of writing at least a month or two in advance so that I could carefully make my way through it. My thesis only took two months to write, but I spent nearly 8 months planning out every single detail.

Then I started writing my blog. It was literally a way for me to keep up to date with journal articles. I figured that twice a week I would read a journal article that had nothing to do with my own personal interests, but something broadly from archaeology. I would then writeup a summary of the article, add some of my own critiques and publish them online. Honestly, I didn’t even think that people would read it.

My first post was August 2010, and I’ve written almost two posts per week since then, coming to a grand total of 180 posts to date. The posts are about 600 to 800 words long depending on the length of the journal article or my opinion. It used to take me about two hours two write that many words. Now it’s about an hour, and the posts always range on the longer end of the spectrum. I honestly didn’t realize until recently the writing benefits that I had been getting from an activity I consider to be a hobby. I now have the power to sit down at my computer and pound out 800 words with little difficulty.

Since writing is a major part of graduate school, its important that we start developing this skill. That way when we get to the dissertation we’re not paralyzed by the writing. Here are some tips:

1. Write almost every day: My suggestion is not that everyone start writing a blog, but try writing more often. Try sitting down every other day and just writing for an hour or even a half hour. Emails and facebook messages don’t count. Writing isn’t a big deal if you’re doing it all the time.

2. Break it down: Writing a ten page paper isn’t daunting, but writing a 200 page dissertation is. Don’t think about the ultimate goal, think about the proximate ones. Instead of listing ‘finish thesis’ on your to do list, write down each chapter, or even sections within the chapter. If you’re practice writing a thousand words a week, getting out a section won’t seem so scary.

3. Strive for progress, not perfection: The writing doesn’t have to be perfect. We’ve got computers so we can write really rough drafts and edit them later. Don’t worry about getting it right the first time, just get it out! I think of it as doing a ‘mind vomit’. Just get the ideas down on the screen and make them pretty later.

4. Take a break: After you’ve finished your brain dump at the computer, and the words are roughly strewn across your screen, walk away. Take a breather, go for a run, maybe even close the document down for a few days. When you come back to it you’ll be refreshed and ready to make those rough ideas into a document you’ll be happy with.

So just do it. Sit down. And Write, Damnit! I promise it’ll hurt less the more you do it.

 

 

 

 


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Write Better By Talking

Write Better By Talking

by Gina Hiatt, PhD

(via http://www.academicladder.com/)

We Write Alone

Writing is a solitary process. It must be. You’re writing your own ideas. Yes, you are in “conversation” with other scholars, but your writing is your individual contribution to that conversation.

But writing can be very isolating, can’t it? If writing is your primary activity, your days can be pretty lonely. If you are squeezing your writing into a busy day, the solitude can be a relief, but it is still you, writing silently.

IdeasWe urge you to speak up! At some time (usually multiple times!) in every writing project, you need to find a person and actually speak.

Why Should You Talk?

You think while you talk. How often do you say to a friend or family member, “Can I talk this over?” or “Would you like to talk about it?” or “I was saying to our friend….” You do think through your ideas using speech.

But the unwritten rules in academia are “Don’t admit that you’re unsure,” or “Don’t let anyone know what you’re thinking.”

It’s time to contradict those messages! We’re all unsure at some point in our writing! There’s no shame in sharing your partially-formed ideas!

When you speak, you have to make sense. You can hear your unclear places much better when you actually use your voice. That’s the reason that writing experts recommend reading your written work out loud: what makes sense to your eye does not necessarily make sense to your ear.

Talking with someone else also reduces the isolation we can experience. As important as solitude is, and as valuable as written exchanges between scholars are, spoken interaction is one of the best tools in your writing kit.

When Should you Talk?

Talking with another person is a big, scary step, but it pays big dividends. Some strategic points in your writing process that call for conversation are:

  • You are excited about a new idea and thinking through its potential
  • You are stuck in your project and can’t quite work out how to frame a key argument
  • You are debating between two organizational structures
  • You are shifting gears, such as moving to revision
  • The writing will be presented orally, as at a conference or in an interview
  • You are just plain stuck and feel hopeless
Who Should You Talk With?

The best person to talk with depends on the stage of your project. For example:

If……… Find someone who is ……..
You are just starting out, with free writing or a Zero Draft (not even a first draft) …a friend and very gentle and will listen to you charitably as you fumble around
You are figuring out whether you are finished, or whether you need to back to more research …a fellow writer and would know what questions to ask you
You are checking that your major argument fits well in the literature of your discipline …even more well established than you: a mentor or senior colleague
You are framing your focus statement, or the “elevator speech” you use to answer the question, “and what are YOU working on?” …a good listener who loves you. A mom can do it, a spouse if not too busy, and a precocious nine-year old is perfect.
You are almost ready to rehearse your conference or interview presentation …as above. These wonderful folks love graphics too!

What Should You Talk About?

Framing a conversation about your work maximizes its value for you, and also maximizes your chances to ask again. Here are some phrases to employ:

  • Could I talk over my ideas for this project with you?
  • I’d like you to listen and take notes, and then tell me what you heard me saying.
  • If you don’t understand something, would you stop me so I can clarify?
  • These are my goals. After you listen, could you tell me whether you think I met them?
  • I want to talk about this challenge with you. Can I think out loud about the pros and cons?
  • My feelings say this is hopeless, but I believe it is actually feasible. Could you convince me that my feelings are wrong?
  • I will buy the coffee.

It’s time to talk!

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Resources:

Boice, Robert. (2000). Advice for new faculty members: Nihil nimus. Needham Heights MA: Allyn and Bacon.


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Last Modified: March 28, 2012