Academic Writing Tips 2: Avoid blocking and Write Your Ideas

Writing for some students, is a daunting task. I have the same experience, even since my elementary school. Things change when I had to write a paper for my dissertation. Writing has to become my second nature. So, what is the trick ?

You, my student, you have to realize that all of you are good in writing. Check your line, facebook, whatsapp, or whatever social media you actively use, in writing mode or video. If you collect the story you wrote, definitely you can have more that a chapter. And sharing thought has become Gen Y second nature. So, don’t worry, you can make it.

Now, in academic writing basically, it is your thought that you write. You tell your story to others, so they can read and agree on your argument. The distinguish different are, all of your story lines or arguments, based on  evidence and theories. And the evidence has to be valid and reliable. Therefore, you can convey the fact, knowledge, and data that written in the document.
Secondly, it follows some rules of writing, punctuation, grammar and spelling. And the structure of the sentences is so unique to the particular research topics.

The writing structure rules is one of the problem that make academic writing become nightmare for students.

As you aware, the writing cycle above, once you understand that in order to write an academic paper requires certain grammatical rules, your brain works differently when you write. We have to break this cycle.

Once more time ! If you do not write your idea, no body will know. If you do not write clearly, with a good story line, no body will understand what you mean. SO the goal is write your idea in order people can understand as clear as crystal about what your idea is. Only by reading your writing.

Now, I will give you a little bit tips to be able to write and avoid blocking. I modified this method form a training “Thesis Boot Camp” created by DR Peta Freestone which I attended in 2015 and end up as my life saving to finish my dissertation. I hope that you can do this by yourself.

Firstly, you need a tool for help. A Pomodoro Timer, you can download as an app or you can do it online from your browser. But I prefer download in your phone so you will not distracted by browser. Go get the app in your phone. Pomodoro technique actually is a time management technique. I like this method. You will divide working time by 25 minutes works and follow by 5 minutes rest. After doing 4 times work, then followed by 15 minutes rest. Btw, Pomodo is Italian for Tomato.

In this technique, you have to work in certain time frame. Do it with full discipline. Remove all distraction, chatting, social media, problems, etc. Dedicate your work in this time frame. The minimum time you should work is 1/2 cycle (one hour). Less than that, usually your idea is not flowing that well yet.

With this time frame, I found that we can manipulate our brain to work fast. Because we have target time. And I found out that it feel easier for work in the middle of busy time (for students who works and take school), because we can decide, to work in 1 cycle or 1/2 cycle.

Secondly, work in this step :

  1. Tell to your friend or who ever want to help you to listen (or not), a story about your thesis (if you work on your theis) from A to Z. As complete as possible in 2.5 minute (time with your watch).
  2. After that, type in your computer using word software in 5 minute only (again use your watch). Type your story exactly like you told the story to your friends.
    After 5 minute, count your words. Based on my experience teaching students, the average is around 70-80 words. Some speedy type’rs could type above 110 words.
    This is good start, that you can write your story.
    Before continue, remember the previous theory about writing. At this technique, you have to ignore editing or even polishing your writing. Continue your writing, do not even think of editing. If you have thought of edit .. erase it from your memory.
  3. In this section of practice process, you will do writing in 25 minutes. Time your writing. Write again your story about your thesis/research as if you tell that story to your friend. Remember, remove all possible distractor. Focus on your story writing.
    After you reach 25 minutes, STOP. And count your words.
    The average of my students range from 350 to 450 words. Some speedy type’rs will do above 550. If you ¬†do around 250, don’t worry, you have company.I will tell you my story, when I join the writing training, I always end up as the slow writers. Since English is not my first language. But other than that, writing is not my favorite subject since I was elementary school. But you know what ? I am the first one that finish my dissertation among all of the trainee. And I am the one that finish the doctoral program the fastest. This training is works.

Now lets calculate, if one chapter is 4000 words, with five chapters in total is 20 thousands words. When you type 400 words per minute, means you can do your one chapter writing only in 2.5 cycles of pomodoro, or equal to 5 hours.
Amazing right ? Yes, turn out you can do it.

Do you know what happened here ? Everyday, you are used to talk and tell some sort of argument or story to somebody. Here, you just focus on telling the story, eventhough your story is a thesis/research. In this process, you type a form of spoken language. You write with the spoken language style. And it proven to be easier. This is important. Writing an academic writing is basically telling a story. And your reader has to be understand with your writing.

With the usual writing cycle, editing and polishing, will make your brain stop telling story in smooth story line. Too rigid in telling your argument. And at the end, your reader won’t understand. So, what is the point of writing if no body understand it ? Therefore this writing technique style is able to create a good story line. Don’t worry about your grammar and technical rules about academic writing.

Later, when your writing is ready, one section or one chapter for example, then do the editing and polishing, Do not forget to put the citation at this process. There is a good source to find good sample of phrases that used to appear in academic writing (i.e. journal paper ), it is freely available in phrasebank in Manchester. They have beautiful samples. Use it.

Another tips in writing, I usually open 2 document at once, one is scrap doc, the other one is my main document. I do this spoken language form writing in scrap doc. Therefore I don’t have to worry about making mistake. Keep writing. Do not delete your mistake, just do like this. Even I have to do it whole paragraph. The unused paragraph is strike out too. With this method, you will be able to track down your progress of your writing. And you will see the development of your writing skills.

Then you only copy n paste the good part into the main document. If you use zotero to cite, the cite copied to the other document as well. Hence you can create list of bibliography in your main document (the References part).

Note that this writing technique is only works well when you already have good background of knowledge, therefore, the ability to read a lot of reading sources is mandatory. Please read my tips to develop your fast reading speed here.

Happy writing …



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