If you’re a
qualitative researcher, the chances are you will be conducting interviews. This
means that at some point, all that lovely data will have to be transformed from
audio files into documents that you can annotate and analyse.
Of course, in an ideal world, we would all transcribe our own interviews as it does get us that step closer to the data. In the real world, however, researchers often don’t have time for this laborious job. If you’re trying to recruit participants and work on your analysis whilst also looking after a family and working in a part-time job, the thought of sitting hunched over Word and VLC for days at a time trying to work out whether a participant said ‘pathology’ or ‘potatoes’ might be enough to make you weep.
Well, fear not, because PGPR now offers transcription alongside proof-reading and feedback. In this blog, we’ll explain exactly what happens if you decide to use PGPR to transcribe your precious data.
send us your audio file
We use the secure service Tresorit to transfer files. Tresorit is based in Switzerland and is one of the most secure services of its kind. All files are encrypted at source and the company has no way of accessing documents you upload or send through their service. They take security and GDPR compliance seriously, meaning your precious data is safe. You can send files of up to 5GB in this way.
You upload your file to Tresorit and send it to us. We will ensure that the link gets to the team member who is transcribing your audio. They will then download the file.
we transcribe the data
Since our team members are either qualitative researchers themselves or are editors who specialise in working on qualitative pieces, we understand how important it is to get every word and line of your interview exactly right. If you want, we can include hesitations, repetitions, ums and ahs, laughter and sighs. We can also anonymise all identifying data, such as names or locations, as we work.
we check that our work is accurate
We always listen
to your interview twice over to ensure that our transcription is both accurate
four… we send the interview back to you
Once the transcript is ready, we will password protect it and email the document back to you. You will then receive a text message from Layla or Johanna telling you what the password for your interview is. In this way, we are ensuring security. We can send your work back within 24 hours, 48 hours or five working days from the time you sent it to us.
we delete your audio file
ensures that your confidential data doesn’t make it into the wrong hands.
If you’d like to use our transcription service, just get in touch via the form below, we’ll be happy to help.
It seems like only five minutes ago that you were a trembling new student, going along to your first supervisory meeting with your knees knocking. But somehow, through a flurry of ethics reviews, recruitment and analysis, plus some blood, sweat and sobs… here you are. Your thesis is submitted, you’ve selected your examiners and the final hurdle is in sight.
The postgrad viva voce is truly a rite of passage. For those who don’t know, this is the final exam for a postgrad project. It takes different forms in different countries. For example, in the US doctoral defense, the supervisory committee also grill the student. In the European system, students have to defend their work in front of a public audience. Here in the UK, the viva involves sitting in a room with two examiners (one from the candidate’s university and one from another institution) for two, three, four or more hours, answering questions about your thesis.
students feel nervous about their vivas. However, if handled correctly, they
can be a fulfilling, rather than frightening, experience.
1. Take a
break from the thesis
This is an
important first step. Once you’ve had that thesis bound and put the obligatory smiling
selfies on Instagram, put it down and don’t look at it for a few weeks. For a
start, you deserve a break. But just as importantly, giving yourself space from
your masterpiece will allow you to look at it with fresh eyes, so that you can
spot areas to be discussed more easily. I’d also suggest using this downtime to
buy yourself a lovely notebook that you can use for your prep. After all,
stationery that makes your heart sing is never a bad thing.
2. Start by
thinking about your strengths
…And why not? After all, you’ve written an entire thesis. This is amazing! If you start this process by remembering what you love about your research, that will set you up for a happier viva. What are the strongest findings of your thesis? Which aspects make you feel proud? Can you summarise the thesis in 300 words or so? Write all these points down in your notebook and get ready to shout them to the rooftops.
3. And then
think about the challenges
The next step is to use those newly objective eyes to look for any weaknesses in the thesis. There almost certainly will be some, and that’s just fine. The point of a viva is not to prove that you’ve conducted a perfect series of studies; if such a thing were possible, we wouldn’t need peer-review. You’ll be better off demonstrating that you’re aware of things you might do differently next time, or which you might be able to address in your amendments. Write your ideas down in your notebook, along with some thoughts about challenges you overcame during the research. Additionally, if there are any theoretical areas you’re shaky on, re-read the literature and try explaining those concepts to other people.
about your examiners
You should already know your examiners and their work by this point. It’s important to remember that, while those examiners will (hopefully!) be as fair as they can be, vivas are run by humans and are therefore a subjective experience. Try to get inside the heads of your examiners by reading their publications. How does their work interact with yours? Can you think of what these particular people might want to ask you about your research?
about questions you might be asked
In addition to the list of questions the examiners might ask, re-read your thesis and think about the questions anyone would ask. Make lists of those questions. Write down your answers. If there’s anything you’re unsure about, make another list (who doesn’t love a good list?) and book in a time to talk those areas through with your supervisor, who is there to support you. If you’ve had any papers published from your thesis, think about the points your reviewers made. Might those points come up again?
Yep, there’s a lot of reading involved in viva prep. Once you’ve finished re-reading the thesis, you might also want to re-read the papers you cite most often. Plus, when did you write your lit review? It might have been a couple of years ago now. Have a look on Google Scholar and see if there are any papers which have come out since then that you need to know about for the big day.
Practice, practice, practice
One of the things many postgrad students feel most nervous about – especially here in the socially awkward UK – is having to say their ideas out loud, rather than being able to hide behind the safety of a keyboard. The best way to beat those nerves is to practice. You might feel a bit silly, but ask your supervisor, friends, mum, partner, even your pet parrot to quiz you. Try explaining your ideas to people who don’t know anything about your subject. If they understand you, anyone will. The more you do this, the more confident you will feel, and the higher the chance that you might actually enjoy the viva. Trust me, unbelievable as that might feel from this side of the event, many people report genuinely enjoying this experience. After all, you’re getting to talk about your passion, the thing you know more about than anyone else in the world, to two experts you’ve hand-picked. This could be the stuff dreams are made of!
8. Book a
Skype session with PGPR
We offer hour-long video chat sessions which are perfect for students who are about to take their viva. While we obviously can’t read your entire thesis and quiz you on it, we will spend an hour looking at your notes and ideas beforehand. We can then talk through any concerns and worries you have, ask you some practice questions, and give you some friendly support. Get in touch via the form below to book your session.
ethics, recruited participants, collected your data, analysed and written up your
findings – phew! What a marathon. The hard work is basically over, right?
not, because there is one more hurdle to jump; the dreaded discussion section.
This is where
you compare your work to the existing literature. Sounds simple, but this can
be the hardest chapter to write. I have a theory (entirely untested, I should
point out) that these chapters are especially hard for women, who have
generally been socialised not to brag about their achievements, something you
definitely need to do here.
Read on for
six tips on how to leap over this final hurdle and write a devastating
1. Read around your findings
You will already have done plenty of reading for your lit review, but before you start writing, do some more, especially if you are doing qualitative work. In quantitative research, you shouldn’t discuss any papers you haven’t already bought up in your intro, but this is not the case for qualitative explorations, where the researcher will have been expecting the unexpected. Now that you have your unexpected findings, search for similar papers and make notes on the relevant points.
I find it helpful to start a new document listing each of my key findings, and to make notes of any existing findings which confirm, contradict or add to my own, along with a note of which paper the new findings have come from. Include the key findings from the key papers from your intro or lit review on this list as well. You might want to highlight findings which back yours up in one colour and those which don’t in another. This list document comes in really handy once you start to write.
Look for work from the same or similar methodologies to you, as well as work from other areas. Find and read papers that are cited in useful studies.
Top tip: if your university doesn’t have access to a paper you need, email the author, or look for them on ResearchGate or Twitter. They will probably be happy to share their work with you. (I am always happy to share my papers, just get in touch via the form below to ask.)
2. Think about format
The format of your discussion section should mirror that of your findings. This helps your reader to logically follow your train of thought; especially vital if your reader is a PhD examiner, for whom you want to make life as easy as possible.
Start with your first finding. Briefly recap it. A common problem I see with PGPR clients is that they spend too much time reminding the reader of findings. The findings chapter is the one before the discussion; try to trust that your work is interesting enough that the reader won’t have forgotten it already.
Here is an
example of a recap from a discussion section in my PhD, which was about the
experience of living with and being treated for renal failure:
Seven of the participants talked about the impact that
ill health made on their lives. Some found that ill health was a wearing
intrusion, dragging them down and restricting them. Others had found ways to
come to terms with living with their chronic conditions.
Following this, you might want write a brief summary of the existing literature, after which you can start comparing your work to what’s out there already.
3. Look for areas where your research confirms other findings
The next step is to demonstrate how your findings concur with existing work (if they do). This is where the list document you made earlier will come in useful. Look for findings that are similar to yours and tell the reader about those similarities. If you don’t have anything on your document which backs up your findings, have another look, just to be sure. However, don’t force similarities if they’re not there.
4. Look for areas where your research builds on existing work
This step is similar to the previous one but can be trickier. Your work might appear to contradict existing work. Novice researchers may panic that this means their findings are ‘wrong’. However, is there a reason your findings are different from Professor Big-Brain’s? Did you speak to different participants? Has the political climate shifted? Perhaps participants reacted differently to you – an Asian female – than to Professor Big-Brain – a white male. If further research would be beneficial, point that out.
your findings add a new dimension to a model or set of guidelines. If so,
clearly demonstrate this and give yourself a gold star.
You might have an entirely novel finding – something no-one has found before. Again, check the literature carefully so that you can be confident you’ve not missed anything, but if so, use clear language to tell your reader that you have found something new and important. Don’t be shy about this! These are the kinds of findings you might include in bullet points about ‘what this adds to existing research’ when you’re submitting papers for publication.
5. Think carefully about what your reader needs to know
PGPR clients’ discussion sections are often overly long. We don’t need every detail of the papers you’re comparing your work to. Consider your examiners or the reviewers of your paper as you write. These people tend to be overworked as it is – and reviewing/thesis examination is extra work which they have to fit into their busy day. Do they really need to know exactly how many people Dr Finickity interviewed, or do they just need to know what those participants experienced?
Here is another example from my PhD, demonstrating a succinct comparison:
Several participants talked about a loss of freedom via the restrictions placed on them by their illness, either in terms of being too fatigued to live life to the full, or in terms of more practical concerns such as diet restrictions. Authors of previous qualitative work on ill-health have found similar themes. The restricting impact of ill health in terms of both social life and diet spoken about by Charlotte is reflected in findings by King et al. (2002), in which dietary restrictions and ill health were both found to have a major impact on the diabetic renal patients.
6. Ask PGPR for feedback
Discussion sections are difficult – but the PGPR team has plenty of experience writing, marking and examining these chapters. We are happy to offer feedback on how to get your discussion chapter just right, so fill in the form below if you would like some extra support.
Postgraduate work is rewarding and can advance your career. But it can also be hard, lonely and scary. When your brain is full of ethics forms, analysis and recruitment, it can be hard to take care of yourself. Looking after your mental health is always essential but is especially important when you’re so busy you feel you don’t have the time. As the Zen proverb says:
‘You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour’.
Here are five
tips for maintaining your sanity while completing your master’s or PhD.
1. Fight isolation
is often groundbreaking. This is exciting, of course. But the problem with
breaking new ground is that there might not be anyone else breaking that ground
with you. This means you can end up feeling isolated.
Is there anyone else at your university doing similar research to you? If so, drop them an email, see if they fancy lunch. If not, have a look online for groups of people doing similar work to you. Lots of PGPR clients are conducting qualitative research using interpretative phenomenological analysis; if you’re one of those people, check out the IPA groups.io gang, which is a supportive place to ask questions and make contacts. Despite its reputation for being toxic, Twitter can also be a friendly space for academics. You might want to start out by following @AcademicChatter, @PhDVoiceand PGPR’s account @DrJohannaSpiers for some interesting online conversations.
2. Take breaks
drowning in deadlines, it can feel tempting to keep working on into the night, only
stopping to cram crisps into your mouth every now and then. But we all know
this is a bad idea, right?
Make sure you work regular breaks into your days. Does your uni have a gym? Go for a yoga class or a game of squash. Are you working from home? Go outside, sit in the sun, read a chapter of a novel. Is it Sunday and you’ve been working for 15 days straight? Stop it! Watch some Ozark and put your feet up. You’ll feel much better, and you’ll be more productive when you do get back to your desk.
3. Ask for support if you need it
There’s no escaping it; doing a master’s or a PhD is tough. You’re leading your own research, which is unpredictable and has many elements outside of your control. You’re probably skint. You’re watching your friends and family fill their evenings with fun while you’re conducting analysis and writing discussion sections. And you might be juggling family responsibilities while doing all this. If you need help, ask for it. Many universities have free counselling services which are quick to access. Your personal tutor is there for you to talk to. Asking for help is a sign of strength, so don’t be scared to reach out.
4. Celebrate the wins
If you’ve read this far, you might be forgiven for thinking postgrad work is nothing but doom and gloom. However, there are many triumphs along the way: getting accepted onto the course, passing your status upgrade, getting ethics approval, recruiting your first participants, writing your first paper, presenting at your first conference. These are all amazing achievements – remember to enjoy them!
PGPR for extra help
If you’re feeling stuck with spelling, tense about tenses or grouchy over grammar as you’re writing up your findings, get in touch for proof-reading help. We can also offer written and video-based feedback for qualitative social science work or help with your interview schedules and conference presentations. Just fill in the form below to find out more.
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 also look out for and help you with more 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
should book a Skype session? Anyone who is feeling stuck with any stage of their qualitative research
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.
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 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
ie = such
etc = and
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.
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:
finally had to accept that I needed dialysis, and that made me really depressed
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.
Emma might go on to say:
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
2. Waiting for payments from universities can take a (really) long time
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we will happily answer those
queries for you.
To book a slot with one of PGPR’s excellent team, visit
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 single–spaced 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?
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.