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Writing Across Boundaries – introduced by Bob Simpson and Robin Humphrey

Today’s post, which includes some useful links to blogs about academic writing in the social sciences, introduces an exciting writing initiative currently being run by Project Leaders Bob Simpson [Durham University] and Robin Humphrey [Newcastle University]. The Writing on Writing link in particular provides great advice for doctoral students and academic writers alike. Bob tells us more about the project;

Doing a doctorate in the social sciences involves reading a lot of words, thinking up a good question and, in methodological terms, figuring out how to answer it, and then doing fieldwork or some other form of data collection and analysing it all and then comes the ‘writing up’.  In our experience, a lot of energy goes into preparing students for all these challenges, except, that is, the last one.  ‘Write me a draft of chapter three’ can be a very troubling request for a student perched at that tricky point between analysis and writing.

In recognition of the difficulties that might arise in negotiating this gap in the training of doctoral students we initiated  a series of workshops [with the help of an ESRC Researcher Development Initiative grant]. These were aimed at exploring some of the challenges faced by researchers writing a thesis which would draw on qualitative data of some kind.  The Writing Across Boundaries project held its first workshop in 2007 and for four years thereafter.  The workshops were extremely successful in bringing together researchers from a range of social science disciplines, who are all post-fieldwork, who could set about the specific task of reflecting on their own and others’ writing strategies.  From the feedback we have had, the opportunity to focus over two days on the business of writing and analysis has proved very useful for PhD students in their quest to produce texts that are engaging, accurate and analytically insightful.   Crucially, the workshops have dealt with some of the more personal challenges faced in producing text for others to evaluate as well as covering the practicalities of writing.  The workshops will now place annually, open to all, but organised within the ESRC North East Doctoral Training Centre.

Accompanying the workshops is a Writing Across Boundaries website which provides open access support for those writing up qualitative data.  The main sections are as follows:

  • Writing on Writing is an initiative in which scholars who have made a significant contribution to the social science literature offer personal reflections on the process of writing.
  • In Postgraduates on Writing, we publish short pieces from research postgraduates on any aspect of the process of writing in doctoral study.
  • In the Resources section are sections dealing with Drafting and Plotting, the Data-Theory Relationship, Narrative, Rhetoric, and Representation. We have also included a general section containing Hints and Tips on Writing.

Check it out!