The Study Dude – Exercises for Self-Editing and Writing Academically

Study Tips from a Semi-Anonymous Friend

There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants for you than to self-edit your paper with the greatest techniques available.

Well, in these articles, as The Study Dude, I’ll try to give you the study tips you need to help make your learning easier. I’ll also give you straight and honest opinions and personal anecdotes?even the embarrassing ones that you wouldn’t ever dare read about from any other study tip guru.

This week’s article examines the book Becoming an Academic Writer: 50 Exercises for Paced, Productive, and Powerful Writing by Patricia Goodson.

Start a Writing Journal and Record Your Sessions in Excel
I love to journal. Journaling not only helps improve your writing, but also clarifies your thoughts, heals your soul, and releases tension. I’ve encountered books that talk about the value of journaling your sessions, such as Paul Sylvia in his book How to Write a Lot: A Practical guide to Productive Academic Writing. Paul talks about taking recording your writing sessions to an extreme, whereby he advises you to record all of your sessions in an SPSS data sheet. You’ve got to love his tenacity.

In recording your writing sessions, you enable yourself to write more prolifically. At least, most books profess that writing output increases with journaling and recording sessions.

Bearing superb strategies for journaling and recording writing sessions, Patricia Goodson can help you transform into a prolific writer:
– Keep an Excel spreadsheet where you clock in your start and end writing times. Have each line entry dated and type in your total minutes so that you can tally your time writing each week.
– Boice (as cited in Goodson, 2013) says that “faculty who shared their writing logs were 9 times more productive than the faculty who had only logged their times, without sharing the log with someone else” (p. 31).
– In log sum your minutes for the month and be sure to include how many words you wrote plus what you worked on.
– After you log your start time, begin journaling your writing goals, thoughts, and concerns. Go to your actual writing task and get to work. Once you finish writing, journal what you accomplished and what you aim to achieve in your next session. At the very end, go to your Excel spreadsheet and log in your end time.

Nab Yourself a Top-Notch Vocabulary
In the graduate program, my vocabulary paled compared to that of other graduate students. I yearned for a means to up the ante with my vocabulary, but didn’t quite know how to approach the matter. Since then, I started writing unfamiliar words I read in the back of the books I find them in, and then scouting out dictionary.com for meanings. I also created flashcards in dictionary.com pertaining to the listing of unfamiliar words I jotted down in the back of each book. I rarely used the flashcards, however, and sometimes the dictionary.com site would sputter, and hours of definition entries would disappear before my eyes.

Now, I read two pages of the dictionary each night, aiming to read the entire dictionary cover-to-cover within a year’s time. The more I read the dictionary, the more familiar I get with dictionary structures. I now realize that I would love to own a dictionary that includes word origins, information on whether an indirect or direct object follows a verb, and example sentences. These little perks make themselves desirable the more I read the dictionary.

By reading a dictionary cover to cover, I have come to learn how a word can have multiple meanings, none of which relate even remotely to one another. These nuances make reading the dictionary fun.

I recently discovered an Oxford dictionary that contains special inserts naming significant historical people and events. Reading through the people’s entries, I delighted in the knowledge gleaned. For instance, Alfred Adler introduced the inferiority complex and Adam in Adam and Eve exists both in the Koran and the Christian bible. Reading dictionaries made me realize that I might even thrive on reading encyclopaedias for sheer entertainment reasons.

– Get some journal articles from top-of-the-line well-written journals in your field. You can talk to the AU librarians for guidance.
– Jot down an assortment of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs that appear in the document.
– Select three verbs and any three of the following: nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. Look up the word definitions, even if you think you understand the meaning. Take these six words and implement them in your own writing.
– Alternatively, look at novel words in the journal article and write them up in a phone book style under the respective alphabetical letter. Write in the journal article’s definition of the word, if provided, and ensure that you write down the dictionary definition of the word also. Be sure to cite the definition. Such nuanced definitions will come in handy for your own article drafts.
– Purchase a disciplinary thesaurus and dictionary (for example, the dictionary of education), and enter in the definitions found from these disciplinary reference guides into your phone book.

Master the Self-Editing Craft
I used to self-edit my documents in detail, first focusing on restructuring big sections and then emphasizing grammar and spelling. I aimed to polish my submission to a tee: not a single mistake would remain. In ensuring an error proof document, I guaranteed myself as close to an A grade as possible.

My strategy included finalizing the first rough draft at least two weeks in advance of the deadline, revisiting the document with corrections and reorganizations every second day or so. This seemed to work fine, but many other strategies for self-editing could streamline the process with even more pizzazz.

Now, after my long hiatus from writing academic essays, I find myself struggling to get back a momentum with self-editing. Aiming to enter a graduate program again in the future, strategies for self-editing remain imperative to my future success.

To aid both myself and you, the reader, in learning self-editing techniques, we shall visit Patricia Goodson’s outline of self-editing strategies.

– Highlight the key ideas in all of your paragraphs. Separate these key ideas onto a new word document and then organize them chronologically, thematically, or structurally. Remove sentences that don’t flow with the argument or rewrite them so they fit. Insert a transition at the beginning of the paragraph to ensure the flow.
– The paragraphs should be structured with a starting optional transition followed by the main idea followed by the main idea details.
– Goodson says don’t outline at the start, but outline what you write. By outlining only after you make your draft, you enable creative flow rather than the logical structure that outlining at the beginning would superimpose. Focus on gaps, order everything so they flow.
– Highlight every instance of the preposition “of” and try to tighten your writing by eliminating it. For instance, instead of saying “The bottle of wine”, say instead, “The wine bottle”.
– Try to eliminate the following words: of, that/which, this/that/these/those, and to be verbs.
– Locate a reverse dictionary. A reverse dictionary allows you to look up a phrase and retrieve a similar word or word phrase. The Website www.onelook.com offers a reverse dictionary feature.
– Shift your words in your sentences so that the most important word comes at the very end.
– Read your draft out loud in a slow manner.

However, I recommend outlining both at the beginning and at the end of what you draft. Outlining at the start can help you focus and spend less time in the editing room. Sure, outlining may inhibit creativity in favour of logic, but going into a writing session without a guide always proves cumbersome for me.

So, there’s nothing to fear. The Study Dude is determined to make right for you all the wrongs I made in grad school?one A+ at a time.

References
Goodson, Patricia. (2013). Becoming an Academic Writer: 50 Exercises for Paced, Productive, and Powerful Writing. Thousand Oak, CA: SAGE.

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