Agency and Networking

in Researcher Career Development

ERASMUS + Researcher Identity Development

Getting a PhD

Writing more persuasively

While conducting research is at the core of the PhD, assessment of the quality of the work is made through your ability to effectively persuade readers of the value of its contribution to your field. Clearly, writing the dissertation – whether a monograph or a series of papers – is a major writing task; however, there are many kinds of writing that form part of doctoral work, for example, abstracts, conference proposals, scholarship applications.

Learning to write effectively can be a challenging process, one that benefits from feedback from not just doctoral supervisors but also others in your network. An additional advantage is that feedback may help you to prepare for the viva examination, as Elizabeth reported about her experiences as part of a writing group:

We didn’t realise it at the time, but it was good preparation for the viva, because you’d be saying, well, why are you saying [that] why aren’t you doing this; so that, if you were ever questioned ‘why didn’t you look at such-and-such’s work’, at least you knew that you’d looked at it and dismissed it and had a reason, you know, justification for doing so.  So it was very good for that. 

In addition to communication with others, writing about your research can hone your thinking processes and enhance your understanding of the topic. Sarah noted this when she explained the purpose of drafting an outline of her research proposal:

I draft something …so …I can know which direction I can take; how I can modify it …I needed to write something in order to start to think …that’s all

At the same time, many individuals reported difficulties, for instance, John reported:

My supervisors tell me to stop reading and start writing, but it’s…easier to go read something else, so to look at the literature again, then it is to write something new. I think it’s hard...

In sum, this section provides tools to help you think about 

  • the breadth of your writing experience

  • writing strategies to help you be more effective and confident

  • how to use the structures of academic writing to convince readers of your argument 

  • how to get regular feedback by setting up a writing group

Explore the other themes

Researcher Identity Development (2020).

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