Keeping Track Of The World

Research Methods for Regular People

Archive for the month “February, 2013”

Become a Better Writer

I work primarily with doctoral students. These are smart people who already have at least two degrees. As the program I work in is a professional program they are generally accomplished leaders with full time jobs. A surprising number of them can’t write well.

Writing well is not an optional skill. In todays world of email and Twitter communication clear, careful and concise writing skills are more important than ever. Good ideas are more valuable if they are communicated well. If people can’t understand you they can’t learn from you.

My advice is simple: practice, read your work out loud, get others to read it, read lots of good writing and don’t give up.

Dave Kerpen says something similar in this article:

Want To Be Taken Seriously? Become a Better Writer | LinkedIn.


How to Give a Great Presentation

This blog is primarily about research but at some point most people want to present their research orally. This could be teaching a class, presenting a paper at a conference, or just trying to convince a group of people to benefit from what you have learned.

I have read a lot of material on how to give a good presentation. The basic recommendations in the literature are relatively consistent—which makes it surprising that so few people pay any attention.

Here is a summary of one of the classics in the literature: Writing that Works.

How to Give a Great Presentation: Timeless Advice from a Legendary Adman, 1981 | Brain Pickings.

Leading Writing Problems

I read a lot of writing by doctoral students. I have never considered myself a grammarian but with enough reading the contrast between good and bad writing becomes relatively obvious. Furthermore, some problems are more common than others. In the Lingua Franca blog Ben Yagoda notes that of the writing problems he encounters:

“The leaders of the pack are wordiness, imprecision, poor or incorrect word choice, and spelling and punctuation errors.“

via A Swang and a Miss – Lingua Franca – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

This entirely matches my experience. Fix these problems and people are much more likely to know what you are taking about.

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