Tips to boost up your academic writing for international postgrads
Term 3 has commenced, and some of us might be struggling with dissertations. Time is a great constraint, especially for some postgrad students who only have around 2-3 months, a plethora of things to work on, and even a family to feed. Therefore, knowing certain tools and tips and tricks in boosting up your time working on your project can certainly help. Within the scope of this humble blog entry, I will attempt to, from my own experience, provide readers with three tips and tools to make academic writing a quicker process. You may have heard of those tips before, and maybe you are using them right now, but for others, I pretty much hope this post is helpful. 🙂
Intensive reading and arranging files in your laptop
Intensive reading is one of the first steps before you get to the writing.
While you are still attending seminars (and have yet to reach the deadline stage) pay close attention to some of the reading that you think you may use later on. The reference pages of those articles may serve as a guiding torch for your future extensive reading.
Around 10 days before the deadlines, spend one day downloading all of the articles/book sections of interest. Do not put them in different folders. I remember spending hours classifiying my files into different folders, and when I got to the actual writing, the whole process of clicking on folders looking for files is a huge distractor – it significantly slows me down, and when it comes to the file I was unable to locate, before I knew it, I stopped writing and started watching silly videos on the Internet.
Instead, put all of them in one folder and code them. My way of naming files is usually ‘Area – Author name(s) – Year – short, 5-word title’. For example, the file name for Walsh and Mann (2015)’s ‘Doing reflective practice: a data-led way forward’ is something like ‘REFL – Walsh Mann 2015 – Reflective practice data-led’. The sorting feature in most laptops will help you look up for the files easily now that you have them properly coded. The photo below delineates a short, sorted-by-name list of articles about English as a Lingua Franca (ELF).
Reduce the misery of referencing with Mendeley
Conforming to a specific type of citation and referencing (in my case it is APA) is another thing that can slow down your writing process. This can be partly alleviated by using Mendeley, a reference management app. Mendeley can help you (1) systematically organize your citations within your Docx file, and (2) provide you with a tailor-made, already-formatted bibliography/references page that includes articles you have cited in the file. What is even more amazing is that the app stores data of all of the literature you have done from the very beginning. In other words, if you wish to use one of the articles you have used, say, in Term 1, you do not have to re-type all of the information again – it is already there at your disposal.
In certain situations, if the article has DOI (most articles nowadays do), Mendeley can use that code to auto-generate the information, which is super convenient.
Take advantage of two screens/monitors
During the process of doing assignments, oftentimes you might find yourself in need of seeing multiple apps at the same time. Some people minimize one app to see another; some others split the screen into halves. A third solution, which is my favorite, is to take advantage of a second monitor, which is readily available in Warwick’s study spaces. With two screens, you can seamlessly move files from one screen to another and look at both screens while you multi-task. This has greatly boosted my assignment completion!