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workshop writing

Notes on academic writing

Earlier this year (January in fact) I spent a few days away on a writing retreat to help develop academic writing skills for new academics. I made a few short notes during that process that for some reason didn’t make it onto the blog. Here they are…

Completed the following articles:

  • Wikis and collaborative learning in a South African physiotherapy department
  • Developing reflection and research skills through blogging in an evidence-based practice postgraduate physiotherapy module

Observations on personal development re. writing skills:

  • Keep track of references (including page number) from the outset. I wasted a lot of time having to go back and read through articles just to find the point I was checking.
  • Know what journal you’re going to write for, so that you can begin using their formatting. I also wasted a lot of time because I wrote the entire article using APA Style, then realised that the journal I was submitting to required Chicago Manual Style.
  • Begin the article with clear aims and objectives. Write the article with the aims and objectives next to you. Don’t include anything that isn’t directly relevant to the achievement of those aims and objectives. I spent a lot of time exploring ideas that were eventually culled because they weren’t relevant to the article’s aims and objectives.
  • Keep your writing “tight”, meaning simple and concise. Ask how you can get your point across with as few words as possible. Einstein said that everything should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. Seems like good advice.
  • As much as I like to believe that I can do everything using just a computer, sometimes it’s good to print out a draft and go through it with a pen. Oddly enough, things can look different when it’s in a physical form.
  • Applying a theoretical framework in the beginning and building around it is easier than trying to manhandle it into the article at the end.

By Michael Rowe

I'm a lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. I'm interested in technology, education and healthcare and look for places where these things meet.