Why we’re studying academic writing practice and how you can help

We’ve just launched a major study into academic writing practice. It’s research that we hope will give anyone who needs to write evidence-based guidance on how to develop a writing system that works for them. Here’s why we’re doing it and what’s involved. 

At the beginning of the year we interviewed 23 top scholars about their writing practice. At the time, we were doing this to inform the ongoing design and development of Prolifiko but as we spoke to people, we started to see some patterns emerge about how these academic writers keep motivated and moving forwards with their projects – patterns that we wanted to explore further.

Anecdotally, we found that the people who had the most balanced relationship with writing were also the ones who had developed some kind of personal system or strategy to help them keep moving forwards with their writing.

Effective strategies

We also found that these writing systems were all very different – often developed through years of trial and error, unique in combination to the individual.

Some people had strategies that were complex and multi-layered whilst others preferred to keep it more relaxed – they’d learned to do just one thing to help them write. Some had formalised and explicit systems – they knew what their strategies were – whilst others didn’t know (and didn’t much care). They did what worked.

Those who had developed strategies weren’t always high-fliers or hugely productive but they did appear to have an easier relationship with writing. They seemed less stressed-out by it. They were more at ease with themselves, more in-control of  their work. Their writing ‘wellbeing’ seemed pretty healthy.

Investigating systems

Whilst we wrote up the findings for the LSE Impact Blog and received plenty of interest in the work, we knew that our hunches were just that; hunches – albeit based in four years of working with writers.

So, we set about developing a wider, more rigorous study which would test out some of these assumptions give us evidence about the effectiveness of writing ‘systems’, their roles in helping academics keep writing and publishing – and importantly the role of a ‘system’ on writing wellbeing.

Our new study is all about gaining insight and understanding about scholarly writing process and practice – and if you’d like to take part, we’d love your insight.

Our aim is to advance knowledge in the field plus develop a range of practical methodologies that scholars can incorporate and apply into their own practice.

The study has two elements to it:

  • An anonymous, base line survey which asks a number of questions about scholars’ individual writing practice and preferences. The survey takes around 7 minutes to complete.
  • The chance to opt-in (at the end of the survey) to a more in-depth study which examines the role of tracking and self reflection on behaviour change and the scholarly writing process.  (Participants can take the survey without being involved in the longer in-depth study.)

If you’d like to take part in the survey, visit the survey here.

If you want to know more about the 30-day study, find out here.

Research advisors

We know about writers but we’re not academics so we’ve enlisted the help of two advisors in the field of writing studies and information science and one top notch market researcher. We’re very grateful to them:

Christine TulleyChristine E. Tulley is professor of rhetoric and writing at the University of Findlay, US. She is also founder and director of the Master of Arts in Rhetoric and Writing program at the university and serves as the Academic Career Coordinator for the UF Centre for Teaching Excellence. She is also the author of How Writing Faculty Write.

 

Lettie ConradLettie Conrad is an information systems researcher and publishing professional with 15 years experience. She’s a former senior advisor at Silicon Valley startup DeepDyve, serves as North American editor for Learned Publishing and is associate editor for The Scholarly Kitchen. She is a doctoral researcher at San Jose State University.

 

Dee Watchorn

Deirdre Watchorn is a market research and consumer insight professional with over 20 years experience using qual & quant research tools to advise brands and companies. She currently heads up user research in the new digital product management team at De Gruyter, an academic publishers in Berlin.

About the author: Co-founder and writer in residence at Prolifiko | failed academic and ex-philosophy lecturer | maker of unpopular short comedy films.