How writing can help your qualitative analysis

By PGPR team member Elly Phillips

You’re committed to completing a rigorous, thorough and well-developed analysis. You’ve collected your data and spent hours immersing yourself in coding and organising your codes into themes. When are you ready to start writing up?


When is the best time to start writing?
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pixabay

How final is the final report?

It’s useful to address the perception of qualitative research as a linear process with writing up as the conclusion. If you follow this model, you may be reluctant to move on until you’re sure your codes are ‘finished’. Perhaps that idea comes from quantitative research, where you analyse your data then write up your report to present to others. Based on this, your concerns might be mostly about judging when you’re ‘ready’ to move onto writing.

Writing as a process

Instead, consider writing as an integral part of continuing your analysis. The use of writing as an analysis tool crops up across social sciences and qualitative methods. You might have read about memo-writing in grounded theory, for instance. Hermeneutic psychology writers have suggested writing should be an integral part of developing an analysis.

In this vision, the writing is less about reporting your fully formed ideas and more about refining your thinking, ideas and arguments about your data. Codes only capture a small part of your thinking and don’t allow you to explain or explore. As you write, you can capture and develop initially nebulous ideas about your work.

How does writing help?

Initially, writing can be for yourself. You can test your arguments and reasoning. You might start setting down your analytic claims about your data. How did you make sense of the participants’ words? Which parts of the text do you think were particularly relevant? These don’t have to be final ideas, but they can help you decide what might be useful.

Writing can also help you get feedback from others. A narrative with quotes, analytic commentary and overarching comments communicates your ideas with more depth than code names or standalone quotes. A written account helps an outsider understand the reasoning that took you from data to themes and how you’re interpreting the data.


Sharing your ideas
Photo by Startupstockphotos via Pixabay

A short, written analysis example can reassure your supervisor that you’re engaging in a thorough analysis. They will then be able to see your work’s structure, content and analysis style, which can be vital to ensure you’re creating a well-developed piece of analysis.

What to write?

There are many options for when to write and how much. Personally, I like to write often, even if many of those narratives only collect virtual cobwebs on my laptop (I always believe I’ll use them one day). You can write a brief reflection on each interview and after transcription. You might want to write up some key themes from one transcript, explain what you think is important about a small group of quotes, or write a full analysis of each participant’s account.

Strange things happen when you write. Despite rigorous attention to coding, our analytic ideas can prove frustratingly slippery when we try to explain them. You might find that some themes develop beyond their original scope as you find more to say about them. Others may turn out to be uninteresting once you start writing. Either situation should nudge you to return to your data and see what was happening (moving back around the hermeneutic circle). Are there multiple ideas within one initial code that might benefit from more thought? Are there other parts of the data that might elaborate your ideas and develop those dull themes? If you encounter these questions early, it’s an exciting way to advance your analysis.

How can PGPR help


We can help you take the plunge
Image by Anja via Pixabay

If you’re unsure or reluctant to take the plunge, we can help. A Skype session might help make decisions about writing. If your supervisor can’t review all your developing ideas, you can ask for feedback from our team. We can review early drafts and help you refine and focus further analysis.

Starting to write and explain your ideas is an exciting time in your research. Take the plunge to see where it can take you.

What you can expect from PGPR’s different levels of service

If you’re reading this blog, you’re either a PGPR client or you’re thinking about becoming one. Either way – welcome! We hope we’ll get the chance to read some of your research soon.

We offer four levels of service here at PGPR. This is a blog to explain what you’ll get when you book each of those services.

1. Basic proof-reading

First and foremost, proof-reading is about ensuring that your spelling and grammar are correct. You probably realised that, but PGPR proof-readers look out for and help you with than just those factors. Those extra areas include:

  • Tightening your writing by cutting down overly long sentences
  • Clarifying confusing text
  • Ensuring consistency of formatting, terminology, punctuation and so on
  • Checking your in-text references and, for a small extra charge, your reference list

We’ll amend your piece using Word’s track changes feature and send you back two copies: one with the changes still marked and one clean copy. It might be that we also include some comments to ensure we haven’t changed your meaning or that you agree with any suggested re-formatting.


The PGPR team really love reading

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Who should use our basic proof-reading service? Clients who are happy with the structure and meaning of their work, but who struggle with English or academic writing.


Read more about why you should work with a proof-reader here.  

2. Feedback only

The PGPR team includes a wealth of qualitative experts. As such, we can offer feedback on your structure, methodology, findings and discussion sections. We might ask whether you could dig a bit deeper with a certain interpretation, or if you can find links between certain themes. We may also suggest papers which would be useful to read, point out methodological errors or highlight sections of your thesis which your examiners might question you about.

We can also offer feedback on earlier stages of analysis, such as tables of themes or transcripts. It might be helpful for you to consider a Skype session with one of our experts if you’re at this earlier stage – more on those below.

If you book feedback only, you’ll get a single copy of your work back, marked up with helpful comments from one of our team. Read more about our brilliant team here.


The PGPR team will tell you what’s working and what needs more polishing

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Who should use our feedback only service? If you are confident that your writing is strong, but you feel less sure about whether your analysis or methodology are as robust as they can be, this is the service for you.

3. Proof-reading plus feedback

This is our deluxe service and is fairly self-explanatory! If you book this service, we’ll combine all the elements of basic proof-reading and feedback. This means you’ll get two copies of your work back: one with the tracked changes still there for you to look at and one clean copy. Both copies will include the feedback comments.


PGPR clients are great; we genuinely enjoy giving you feedback
 
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Who should book proof-reading plus feedback? If you’re feeling unsure about your English or academic writing skills and need some extra assistant with your analysis, book this service.

4. Skype sessions

The PGPR team now offers Skype sessions for its qualitative clients. These are an ideal opportunity to talk through difficulties you’re having at any stage of your research project with one of our team of experts.

Once you’ve booked a Skype session and been paired with a team member, you can send some examples of your work for your expert to look over. They will then spend up to an hour discussing the work with you via a video chat. Note it’s fine to turn the video function off if you feel shy – you’ll still be able to hear our advice and questions.

You can read more about the benefits of our Skype sessions here.


Use one of our friendly Skype sessions to steer you in the right direction
 
Photo by visuals on Unsplash
 
 

Who should book a Skype session? Anyone who is feeling stuck with any stage of their qualitative research project.

If any of these services sound like they might be helpful for you, get in touch via the form below and have a chat with us about what we can offer.

How a PGPR Skype session can help you with your qualitative analysis

Would talking with a friendly qualitative expert help you to move past hurdles in your project?
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Feeling stuck

There are times in any research student’s experience where they lose a sense of direction or need some reassurance. We all sometimes feel stuck! Unfortunately, students don’t always get the support they need or want from their research supervisors (we’re not blaming supervisors as many are often over-stretched and under pressure). This can sometimes mean students need help in:

  • Formulating a concise qualitative research question
  • Figuring out which qualitative method would fit the best with the research question
  • Understanding if their interview schedule will elicit the best qualitative data
  • Getting feedback on a table of themes to see if the analysis is appropriately in-depth
  • Advice about their project from an independent qualitative expert
  • Thinking through what they might say at a viva to defend their project

Maximising the focus of your precious time

Many postgraduate students work long, solitary hours on their projects, and for some, these hours are undertaken after the ‘day job’ or while juggling other commitments. Time is a precious commodity and it is frustrating to not have a clear sense of direction when a few hours have been carved out.  For full-time students, the single focus of the research programme can be overwhelming, to the point where students ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’. Does any of this sound familiar?


At times students struggle to find a clear way forwards with their research
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Moving forwards

Sometimes, having a human-to-human conversation can be a much-needed antidote to needling concerns, unanswered questions, and, at times, a sense of isolation for postgraduate students. Having someone encourage, give direction, affirm and offer insight into an element that has been problematic can pave the way for a more productive way forwards.

We’ve been there! Our experienced team have empathy for postgrad students and recognise that sometimes you just need to have a helping hand. This is why we now offer one-on-one Skype sessions with our qualitative experts. Our team appreciates how important timely supportive and empathic feedback is, and we work hard to make our time with you as productive and helpful as possible. And we’re friendly!

Here’s how it works

You contact us and tell us a little more about what you need. If a Skype session seems like a great fit, we’ll arrange for a mutually convenient time for you to talk with one of our team. They will spend an hour in preparation for the session reading your work, so you might want to send material relevant to your discussion beforehand; although do bear in mind that we can’t read an entire thesis in an hour. You might also give some thought to the main aims you’d like to achieve in the hour of talk-time. Then we’ll contact you and talk with you for an hour, based on the agreed session outline.

Previous students who have engaged with our Skype sessions have really appreciated them:

I would say what helped me the most was just having a discussion with you as it was absolutely paramount in building my confidence. I felt more confident going into the viva and definitely answered the questions with a lot more conviction. So again, I just want to thank you for all your help! (PhD student)

So, if your project needs an injection of human-to-human discussion, please get in touch via the form below. Sometimes a little support is all it takes for your project to take flight again.

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Top tips for formal academic writing

The world of academic writing can be a terrifying place, full of tricky rules and customs. If you’re a student working on an essay, thesis or paper, you might have been told that the writing you’ve poured your heart and soul into is too informal. This vague bit of feedback isn’t much use on its own. But fear not, the Post-Graduate Proof-Reader is here to remove the mystery with some tips which will allow your words to rub shoulders with the greats.

You don’t have to be scared of academic writing any more!

Photo by Photo Boards on Unsplash
  • No abbreviations

You may find you’re using more shorthand than you realise. You’re sadly unlikely to be encouraging your readers to BYOB to your essay – but you may well be using eg, ie or etc. These are not good academic language, so always make the following substitutions:

eg = for example

ie = such as

etc = and so on

The only exception to this is acronyms. If you’ve defined a term with an acronym the first time you use it, use that acronym each subsequent time. For example: In this thesis, I have used interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Smith devised IPA in the mid-90s…

  • Hedging your bets

Research is a tentative world. Experiments are flawed. Some results are replicated, others are disproven. When you’re analysing qualitative data, there is often room for another interpretation. As such, it can be hard to know when you can confidently state that such-and-such a finding is bona fide or when you should be more cautious.

Think about your subject matter, as this will help you decide on your tone of voice. Let’s look at an example from some hypothetical qualitative findings. If a participant you’ve named Emma says:

I finally had to accept that I needed dialysis, and that made me really depressed

you can afford to be bold in how you phrase your interpretation. You don’t need to say ‘It appeared that the thought of dialysis distressed Emma’; she’s telling you in clear and unambiguous language that she was depressed, so it’s fine to state that as a fact.

However, Emma might go on to say:

Although the ward was chaotic, the only company I had was the bleeping of the machines

This is more ambiguous, so reflect that by saying ‘it seems Emma felt isolated.’ You can apply the same logic to the rest of your paper; if an existing finding or theory is uncontroversial, report it as so. Hedge your bets with anything more ambiguous.

Be cautious when describing ambiguous findings – or you could fall into dangerous territory!

Photo by Nicolas Cool on Unsplash
  • ‘The model states…’ – or does it?

Remember that models, papers, theories and chapters are not sentient and cannot suggest, confirm or deny anything themselves. It is always the people who wrote or created those ideas who have the agency.

For example, ‘a recent paper agrees’ is not right, whereas ‘the authors of a recent paper agree’ is. ‘The ANOVA demonstrated’ is not right, whereas ‘our use of ANOVA demonstrated’ is.

This can be a hard one to get right but keep trying and it will become second nature. This article on the issue from Walden University is helpful if you want to read more about this.

  • Humanising language

It’s important for all academics – and especially psychologists – to use language in a way that is respectful of people and mindful of diversity. For example, rather than the unwieldy ‘he or she’, use ‘they’, which is not only neater but also makes space for people who identify as non-binary.

Always state a person’s humanity before other identifying factors, especially factors which might be stigmatising. So rather than ‘HIV patient’, you should say ‘person living with HIV’. ‘Participants’ is a better word than either ‘subjects’ or ‘patients’ as it implies an active rather than a passive stance.

Not only is language like this better for humanity, it is also in line with British Psychological Society (BPS) guidelines and the standards of most journals where you might be sending your work.


Share the love by using language which puts people first

Photo by Hian Oliveira on Unsplash
  • Hire PGPR

If all this feels like far too much like hard work, don’t worry – just get in touch with us via the form below, and we can do all the heavy lifting for you.  

Why PGPR charge more for university clients

Here at PGPR, we’ve recently decided to start charging clients who pay through their universities (who we’ll call university clients) more than we charge those who are paying personally (personal clients).

If you are paying through your uni, you might be asking why we’ve decided to do this. After all, it can’t take us any longer to read your words than those of someone who is paying from their pocket, right? So how are these extra charges fair?

While you’re right that the work itself takes no more time, our experience has shown us that setting up and receiving payments from universities is much more time-consuming and stressful than receiving payments straight from clients. That’s why we’ve decided to raise our rates for those clients. Read on to find out more…  

  1. The associated admin for receiving payments from universities is much more time-consuming

When we are invoicing a personal client, all we need to do is send a couple of invoices: one for a deposit before the work commences, and one for the balance once the piece is done. The invoice lists all our payment details, and the client can use BACS or Stripe to pay. Quick and easy for everyone.

When a university is paying us, they usually need to set us up on their system. This involves filling in lots of forms, sometimes having to print them off and post them back. We often have to go through this process two or even three times when the forms get misplaced under the boss’s coffee cup or shredded by an overly zealous work experience student. Some universities need us to fill in a host of forms for every single job we do for them. This takes time – time which we’d much rather be spending reading your fascinating research.

No-one loves endless admin

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2. Waiting for payments from universities can take a (really) long time

Once work is complete, we ask for payments in 14 days. Deposit payments are due immediately. We rarely have to chase personal clients for payments – the researchers who hire us are generally so pleased with our work that they can’t wait to pay, which makes us feel top-notch!

Sadly, the same cannot be said for universities. Their payment cycles tend to operate in a way that means suppliers should be paid within 30 days, rather than the 14 we need for our cash flow. And unfortunately, invoices, like other paperwork, go missing with alarming regularity in university payroll offices, meaning payments from university clients are always late. Sometimes by days, sometimes by weeks – often by months.

Chasing up payments takes time and really doesn’t feel good – so we have decided to be more lenient with the speed at which university clients pay us but ask them to pay us more to make up for this (sadly, inevitable) delay and difficulty.

We hope this blog has answered your questions about why we charge university clients more than personal ones. Of course, if you still think this is unfair, you are welcome to look for another proof-reading service. But we do hope you will stick with PGPR’s winning combination of expert proof-readers, quick turnaround times and honest, friendly service.

Convince Any Stats-Lover with Your Qualitative Method Section

You have done a cutting-edge piece of qualitative research that is ripe for publishing… but your subject matter means that targeting traditional, quant-based journals makes more sense for your beloved paper. Do you know how to get your paper ready to submit to a potentially stats-favouring audience?


Sending your paper to someone who does this all day? Don’t quake in your boots… we’ve got you covered!
 
Photo by Ruth Zimmerman on Unsplash

Lots of publications have quantitative researchers reviewing qualitative work and you want to make sure that your reviewer has no doubts about the value of your fabulous paper.

Fear not – here are some top tips on how to get your methodology section looking ravishingly rigorous and ready for submission.

1. Check the journal’s conventions for qualitative research.

Many journals that accept qualitative papers have specific conventions or guidelines for qualitative submissions.

There are also journals that do not accept qualitative papers (sad but true!), although they don’t always let you know this. If you can’t find any specific conventions for qualitative papers in the publication in question, have a look to see if they have any lovely qual papers in their archives. If they don’t, it’s probably a waste of your time to send your paper to this journal, so cut your losses and move on to the next journal on your list.   

2. Recognise and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the qualitative approach.

One sure-fire way to put off reviewers is to ignore the weaknesses of your approach. Of course, you want to emphasise why your approach is fantastic and perfect for addressing your research question (as well as why quantitative research is not suitable for your study). However, discussing the disadvantages will give strength to your argument.

Talking about the strengths of your approach is obviously important, but don’t forget about its weaknesses!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

3. Discuss validity and reliability.

One concern of quantitative researchers is that qualitative research lacks validity and reliability. Emphasise the rigour of your approach, using examples.

4. Put all the right information in your methods section.

The structure of your methodology section will depend on your specific piece of research. Qualitative methods sections are not as cut and dried as quantitative methods sections. There are, however, some essential ingredients!

  • Research question: Be sure to clearly include this.
  • Design, methodology, approach and philosophy: Your theoretical assumptions need to be made explicit. Many researchers trained in quantitative methods are not aware of the philosophical underpinnings of qualitative research. Also, be mindful that approaches such as TA and IPA might need more explanation for quantitative researchers.
  • Researcher information: Also known as reflexivity – ensure you talk about your background, its relevance to the study both in terms of usefulness and potential bias
  • Sample, recruitment and drop-outs: Quantitative reviewers can sometimes be put off by small sample sizes. If you have spoken to a small sample, or if any participants have dropped out, explain why.
  • Procedure: Say what you did and why you did it. Make it relevant to your research question. What do the reviewers need to know about the research setting? How did you collect your data?
  • Ethics, including consent and confidentiality: Although ethical issues for quantitative and qualitative research can be similar, highlight any other issues, such as ongoing informed consent for case studies or additional means of protecting participant anonymity.

Just like the lovely cocktail you might celebrate with after your submission, your methodology section needs to have the right ingredients.
 
Photo by Pastel100 on Pixabay

5. Make sure it looks top-notch!

Don’t give the reviewer any chance to get off on the wrong foot. Your references should be perfect and your paper needs to be free from mistakes. Need an eagle eye to check over your paper? The Post-Graduate Proof-Reader can help!

Six Reasons You Should Work with a Proof-Reader

Why should you work with one of the PGPR team?

If you’re reading this blog post, you are either an existing PGPR client, or you’re thinking about using our services. Either way – thank you! We are so appreciative of your business. Everyone on our team finds the research you send us fascinating, meaning that a day’s work for PGPR is better than a day off from a more traditional job in academia.

I have been personally recommended to many of my clients, which means some people feel a bit unsure when I tell them that it won’t be me looking at their work. If this describes you, this handy blog post will explain why you are in safe hands at PGPR, no matter which team member tackles your thrilling thesis.

  • The team are carefully vetted 

I am ultra-careful when recruiting PGPR team members – after all, our reputation relies on their excellence. Most of our clients are working in the field of qualitative psychology. As such, I ask experts in that field for recommendations of people who might want to work for me, and then I follow those recommendations up. All potential team members complete a series of tests before being interviewed, meaning I am satisfied that their work is excellent and their values align with those of the company; those values being honesty, efficiency and kindness, in case you were wondering.

Feel the love with the PGPR team
 
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  • All of the team are experts

Every member of the PGPR team is an expert in their field. Some are expert proof-readers with years’ experience on a multitude of texts. Others are experts in qualitative methods, with PhDs of their own. Some teach at universities. Others were taught by Jonathan A Smith, who devised IPA, the method so many of my clients use.  

All of our team have read at least one book this big, so you know you can trust them
 
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  • You will be matched with the right member of the team

We will always ensure that our clients are matched to the team member who best aligns with their needs. Are you looking for a super speedy and accurate proof-read, but don’t need any feedback? Then Hannah or Rosy are your women! Need feedback on your qualitative work, but feel confident your English is strong? We’ll pass you on to Fiona or Lydia. If you need proofing and feedback, then Rachel, Astrid or Elly will be perfect for your project. Between us, we have expertise in a range of qualitative methods, so we’ll ensure that your proof-reader’s skills fit with your research.

  • Quicker turnaround times

When I started PGPR in 2018, I had no idea it was going to be so popular. I quickly found myself with a waiting list more than four months long, which was no use for stressed-out students working on a deadline. Expanding the team has meant that we can offer much tighter turnarounds, which is good news for everyone.

  • Four eyes are better than two

There are times when it’s useful for a client to work with more than one proof-reader. For example, they might have a huge thesis with a turnaround time which is just too tight for one person to complete. If so, we can put several proof-readers on the case for you. Or a client’s supervisor might be giving feedback which conflicts with ours. When that happens, we can ask for a third opinion from another member of the PGPR team.


Two heads are better than one
 
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I hope this blog has calmed any concerns you might have had about working with my team. Of course, if you have any more questions, please do get in touch on info@postgradproofreader.co.uk and we will happily answer those queries for you.

To book a slot with one of PGPR’s excellent team, visit www.postgradproofreader.co.uk

Six Reasons You Should Work with a Proof-Reader

Finally, you have finished writing your paper and it’s ready to check over before you submit it. Well done!

Now you want to make sure that it’s absolutely perfect so you feel confident to send it off to a journal or your supervisor.   

Have you ever considered working with a professional proof-reader to get your fabulous paper looking flawless? Here are a few reasons why you might want to do just that…

1. Proof-readers are trained to catch tiny little details that you might just miss, even on the second or third read-through.

Before you decide to proof-read your own work, ask yourself:

Would you notice if you accidentally type two spaces instead of one?

What about getting the full stop in the right place in every single reference?

Does Microsoft Word notice that you have typed ‘affect’ instead of ‘effect’?

Mistakes like this reduce the quality of your article. You might have created the greatest piece of research known to humankind (we know you have!), but errors like this will make your paper seem unprofessional.

2. Automatic grammar checkers do not replace the eyes of a professional proof-reader.


You might want a robot to do your housework, but do you really want one checking your beautiful, human research?
Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

Algorithmic programmes such as Grammarly can sometimes pick up if a sentence does not read well, but they usually just check for grammatical or spelling errors. And quite often, such programmes get it wrong.

To make sure your paper has an impact, clarity is vital. Proof-readers can consider how your sentences, paragraphs and sections read as a whole, and advise you on any restructuring that needs to take place.

3. Proof-readers will pick up on anything that might be difficult for your reader to understand.

You have probably become so familiar with your research that it is easy to forget which points might not seem clear to your reader. If anything seems even slightly fuzzy, a professional proof-reader will query what you mean and help you to rewrite it in a way that will make sense to your audience.

4. Proof-readers will check your references and make sure you stick to your style guide.

You’ve slaved away over your APA reference list three times… but have you forgotten to italicise a book title? Or maybe you missed a comma after a full stop in the list of authors. Don’t let your blood boil over emboldened brackets! An eagle-eyed expert can check that everything in your references is in the right place.

The same goes for sticking to your style guide in the rest of your paper. Accidentally started a sentence with ‘37’ instead of ‘Thirty-seven’? No sweat! Your proof-reader has got it covered.

5. You will feel more relaxed when the paper is out of your hands.

You can be sure that after the proof-reader has finished, if they have no queries, the article is ready to submit. Working with a pro-proof-reader means you are not going to be marked down or rejected for formatting or language. So, that means no waking up in cold sweats worrying about whether you had formatted your literature review correctly!


Don’t you hate it when you have a nightmare about whether your paragraphs are too long?
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6. Proof-readers can help you express yourself more precisely if you struggle with English.

If you are dyslexic or English isn’t your first language, it can be difficult to express your ideas succinctly. This is where an expert proof-reader can really help. They can remove clunky phrases, cut sentences down, and replace words to make your paper read beautifully.

So, instead of tearing your hair out over the final readthrough, why not put your feet up and let the Post-Graduate Proof-Reader get your paper ready for submission? 


Get the superhuman eyes of a proof-reader all over your paper!

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Five easy fixes to make your academic writing stand out

You’ve spent months toiling in the lab, you’ve wrangled with SPSS or IPA or FDA or one of those other acronyms that make your family’s eyes glaze over. Finally, you’re ready to write up your fascinating findings.

It’s one thing to bore the pants off your family, but how can you stop your audience’s eyes glazing over? How can you keep those examiners or reviewers or students turning pages?

Worried your audience will look like this? Fear not, the Post-Graduate Proof-Reader can help!

Photo by Alex Michaelsen on Unsplash

Academic writing has a reputation for being dry and hard to struggle through, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I am the post-graduate proof-reader. I’m a qualitative psychologist and novel writer, and I’ve proofed more PhDs than you’ve had hot toddies, so I know how to make formal language sing. Here are my five easy fixes.  

  • Present your text professionally.

Align your work to the left. Justifying leaves unsightly spaces between words – spaces which, when I worked on magazines, we used to fill with unnecessary ‘buts’ and ‘whys’ and ‘therefores’. Do everyone a favour and hit align left. This simple step will make your eyes sigh with relief.

Inserting returns between your paragraphs is another stunningly easy fix which will have your examiners smiling. It’s easier to read text that’s spaced out than words which are crammed together.

  • Break up those unwieldy sentences

Postgraduate work is brain-breaking stuff. Sometimes our ideas are complex and feel too big to be hemmed in by such bourgeois notions as short sentences. As you start writing, you might find that your ideas run on and on. That’s fine for a first draft, but always go back and try to divide those monstrous marathons up. Look for where you’ve used the word ‘and’. Can you delete it and start a sentence? Can you delete it? Start a new sentence? (See? It’s simple.) Your readers will thank you.  

Get editing for concise writing

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  • Omit needless words (Strunk, 2007)

No matter what you’re writing – an epic poem, the great British novel, a paper on the latest discoveries about the phonological loop – William Strunk’s famous edict applies. Effective writing is concise.

Mistakes I see a lot include writing ‘all of the participants’ where ‘all participants’ would do; ‘appears to suggest’ where ‘suggests’ works well; or ‘For P1, the experience of rain was distressing’ where ‘P1 found the rain distressing’ is far more elegant.

  • Avoid informal words

This one is a bit trickier as you have to learn which words don’t work in a formal environment. However, as with all writing – academic or creative – it helps to be specific. Don’t say ‘things’ when what you mean is ‘negative elements’. Avoid the word ‘normal’, especially if you’re talking about people, as it implies that some people are abnormal. And never use the word ‘very’. Your writing will sound stronger without it. Trust me!

For more on this topic, check out our top tips for formal writing.

  • Employ the post-graduate proof-reader

If all this sounds knackering and you just want to get back to writing your next grant application or maybe even watching a bit of Killing Eve with your long-suffering spouse, fear not. Just get in touch with the post-graduate proof-reader and I can help you complete all these fixes and many more so that your academic writing becomes something to write home about.  

Employ the Post-Graduate Proof-Reader and you too can be this delighted by your writing.

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How to get your qualitative study ready for publication in five easy steps

Are you a postgrad student with a comprehensive, beautifully written qualitative thesis? You know your research deserves to be read by a wider audience, but after looking at journal word lengths, you’ve realised you’ll need to cut your gorgeous study in half (or maybe even quarters) to be eligible for publication.

How on earth can this be done?

Don’t panic! This blog will outline five easy steps to help you cut your study down into a bite-sized, publishable piece without losing any of the nuance you’ve put your blood, sweat and tears into.

1. Select a journal Think about audience, word-length and style

Before you even start thinking about making cuts to your precious study, the first thing to get straight is which journal you’re writing for. Who is your ideal audience? Do they have a key publication? If so, that could be the one for you. Run a quick search through your chosen journal’s archive to ensure they are open to qualitative publications; it will be a waste of your time and theirs to send your gorgeous IPA findings to a publication which only deals with stats.

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Once you’ve found your ideal journal, search their website for their instructions for authors, and note down their word length and style guidelines. Some journals might ask for a certain number of pages rather than a word length. Most will have requirements for font, point size and spacing, which you will do well to adopt from the outset so you don’t get a nasty shock when it turns out you have to double space the article you’ve spent hours getting down to 30 singlespaced pages.

2. Re-read your study What are the novel points? What will be of particular interest to your chosen journal’s audience?

Once you’ve selected your ideal journal, go back and re-read your study. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to fit all the findings from a master’s or PhD study into one paper, so think about which findings are the most novel, or which will appeal most to the audience of your chosen publication.

3. Choose two to three themes Which would work as an individual paper?

Feeling overwhelmed by words? The Post-Graduate Proof-Reader can help!
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You might have to make some big choices at this stage. Have you got five themes? Perhaps there will only be room in this paper to present two of those. Don’t worry – it could be that you could put the other three into a second paper for another audience. Maybe there’s just one theme that you feel is really hard-hitting. That’s fine too – you can pull that out of the study and present it alone.

4. Re-write your lit review and discussion Tailor these to your chosen themes

Once you’ve selected the theme/s you want to focus on for this paper, you’ll need to tailor the introduction, method and discussion sections to fit. Which papers from your lit review are relevant just for these fewer themes? Add a short section in your method explaining that you have (for example) selected two themes from a wider project, and explaining why you’ve chosen to do this. You might also want to include some recommendations and reflections towards the end of your discussion section.

5. Send your paper to the Post-Graduate Proof-Reader

Your study should be looking much more like a publishable paper now. It will be shorter and more tightly focused towards a specific audience. Congratulations! But… you may still be a little beyond that elusive word limit. Could you make your points more succinctly? Perhaps you don’t need all those limitations you’ve humbly included in your discussion section! Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes is needed at this stage. Visit http://postgradproofreader.co.uk/ and I’ll be happy to help you get your piece down to the correct word length and help you share your fabulous research with the wider world.