writingWriting is such a hurdle for PhD students. Try to use the mindset of an experienced writer.

Many researchers need more time than they think to finish their research. Probably you are also one of them. How come? Heinze Oost – a former employee at Utrecht University – explained quite a bit in a series of 5 (highly recommended) articles on research and I definitely agree with him.

According to Heinze Oost two major obstacles are causing the delay in a research process: the precise formulation of the research’s exact problem and writing down the research’s results. Both are rather big hurdles.

Writing is a hurdle

You could say: writing is a big obstacle in the research’s process. And for many starting researchers – like PhD students – especially producing the first version is a big problem. The aspects of perfectionism, lack of time, strong self-criticism, lack of confidence or motivation all play a major role. Novice writers experience a writing block because they don’t know how to proceed, or because they make mistakes or because of doing the right things at the wrong time. Do you recognize any of this?

It is not surprising: a starting researcher has never learnt how great writers tackle their writing. You probably have taken on board that you need to structure your text before you start writing.


Writing is a hurdle, how to overcome it.

What is the difference between experienced and inexperienced writers?

  • Experienced writers spend a lot of time in preparation, inexperienced writers don’t.
  • Experienced writers spend hardly any time producing text, inexperienced writers do that a lot.
  • Experienced writers spend a lot of time revising their texts, inexperienced writers do less so.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to devote all of your time in preparation (as in structuring your text) and in revising hoping this will result in great texts and saving time. No, you need to have experienced writer’s knowledge.

This means you should have sufficient knowledge about the product you are writing – a course in academic writing will be very beneficial for this. You also need to be aware of the process of writing. Essentially, inexperienced writers have to learn how to reflect on what they are doing while writing.

How do experienced writers deal with this?

  • Experienced writers ask themselves what the reader would like to find out about the subject, inexperienced writers just reveal what they know.
  • Experienced writers reflect on what they want to do with their knowledge, inexperienced writers just use their knowledge.
  • Experienced writers view their research as a well-argued response to a relevant question, inexperienced writers view their text as a collection of arranged facts and ideas.
  • Experienced writers think about the interpretation and integration of the different text elements. Inexperienced writers explain per subject and text element what they know of each.
  • Experienced writers work in a cyclical way from text to content and from content to text (what do I want to say, how do I write it down and looking at what I have written down, does it say what I intended?) Inexperienced writers work in a linear way (what do I want to express, how to write that down in the right way?)

Experienced writers prepare a scheme for their text, not because their supervisor demands this… They actually think about what they want to achieve, how to achieve this, ask themselves if they are on the right track and if they have succeeded in achieving all this.

In short: good writers know that writing is all about thinking. BLOG They also are in control of their writing process, contradictory to inexperienced writers.

Three Day Wiring Course

Fortunately, you can learn how to reflect and control your writing process. Find 7 other students, colleagues, friends who need this as well and I can organize a Three Day Writing Course completely in English for you. Contact me for further information.

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