How to make your writing sing

If you’re an academic, you are also, by proxy, a writer. Academics lives are full of words. Emails, feedback to students, grant applications, papers, theses – all of these require the careful placement of the one word next to another. As Prince once (almost) said, if you put the right letters together, you make a better day. And if it’s good enough for Prince, it’s good enough for the rest of us mere mortals.

However, while we university types are educated up to the eyeballs in our particular topics, we’re not often taught much about writing itself. Sure, we might have had an undergrad lecture about writing essays which follow the funnel structure, but other than that, we’re left to sink or swim. Which, given how much of our lives we spend trying to communicate complex ideas through the written word, is perhaps a bit of an oversight.

Humans have been communicating their ideas through writing since ancient times.

Photo by Kyle Smith on Unsplash.

With that in mind, here are some of PGPR’s top tips for creating words which stand out.

1. Read

Every writer also needs to be a reader. Fiction writers are experts in their genre, reading everything they can get their hands on by the writers they admire. The same counts for academic writing. Read as many papers and books in your field as possible. Spot what works and what doesn’t. Try to use the best techniques in your own writing.

Additionally, two great how-to books that can help every writer are Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style and Stephen King’s On Writing. I’m sure there are other great books on writing which haven’t been written by someone called Steven, but those are a great starting point.

2. Plan

That funnel structure lecture you sat through in undergrad was actually pretty useful. Good academic writing should always follow a structure. This might feel boring, but it makes it easier for others to read, which should always be your aim. Think carefully about the points you want to make. How you order those points will influence how the reader digests your ideas, so plan carefully before you start.

A good plan is worth its weight in sticky labels!

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3. Write tight

As we’ve said in a previous PGPR blog, a key tenet of writing is to ‘omit needless words’ (Strunk, 2007). Effective writing is concise. We all write in longer sentences when we’re drafting something, so look back over your work and get rid of those filler words (‘that’ ‘very’ ‘really’) which aren’t needed.

Another tip for writing tighter prose is to avoid repetition. We all have favourite phrases which we use over and over again without even noticing. Try to spot yours and find new ways of phrasing. This will keep the reader’s attention.

4. The Curse of Knowledge (Pinker, 2014)

This concept, which Steven Pinker discusses in detail in The Sense of Style, is especially relevant to academics. When we’re an expert in any topic – be it phenomenology, attribution theory or fuzzy logic, it can be easy to forget that our readers don’t share our knowledge. This can mean we don’t provide essential explanations, leaving the reader lost. This is a tough nut to crack, but if you ask for feedback from a non-expert friend or colleague, they will be able to help you spot the holes that need filling.

A good friend will always help you out of a tight spot!

Image by Anja🤗#helpinghands #solidarity#stays healthy🙏 from Pixabay

5. Read your work aloud

You might feel like a bit of wally doing this, but it is super helpful. There’s something about reading aloud which helps you spot the awkward clauses or overly long sentences you might otherwise have missed. You could read to a friend or family member, or just to yourself in your locked office – whatever you choose, release your words into the ether and you’ll spot lots of areas to improve.

6. Impactful words should be at the start and end of sentences

This is a neat trick. If you are using words which pack a punch – and let’s hope you are – try to place those words at the start or end of the sentence, and your writing will immediately improve.

Let’s look at an example. Perhaps you’re writing up some qualitative findings from your fascinating study about eating tasty cakes. You’ve drafted the following sentence:

It was reported that the chocolate cake was the most delicious out of all of the options.

The three best words there, I think we can all agree, are ‘cake’, ‘chocolate’ and ‘delicious’. At the moment, while there’s nothing technically wrong here, those words are a little lost. Our hacky human brains might therefore jump over them, in our rush to skip to the end.

What might work better?

Most delicious, reported participants, was the chocolate cake.

The chocolate cake was reported to be the most delicious.

Chocolate was found to be the best flavour.

There is no one right answer. When you’re faced with a sentence like this, play around. Is ‘best flavour’ a more impactful way of saying ‘the most delicious’? Several needless words were omitted in the edited versions. Which sounds best to your ear?

Keep an ear (or two) out for those unnecessary filler words.

Photo by Kyle Smith on Unsplash

7. Employ PGPR

If all this sounds like far too much hard work, just get in touch with PGPR via the form below. We’ll be happy to help your writing be the best it can be.

How transcription works with PGPR

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.

Is transcription making you want to tear your hair out?

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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.

Step one… 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 guard your data carefully

Photo by Liam Tucker on Unsplash

Step two… 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.

Transcription is serious business

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Step three… we check that our work is accurate

We always listen to your interview twice over to ensure that our transcription is both accurate and thorough.

Step 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.

That feeling you get when you don’t have to worry about transcribing your interviews…

Photo by Fernando Brasil on Unsplash

Step five… we delete your audio file

Again, this 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.

How to sail through your postgrad viva

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.


It’s normal to feel nervous before your viva
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Most 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.


You wrote a thesis? That’s worth celebrating
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

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.

4. Think 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?


Your examiners will have their own take on your thesis. Can you try to predict what that might be?
Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

5. Think 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?  

6. Keep reading

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.


As a postgrad, the reading never stops
Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

7. 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! 


What do Dr Beaky and her colleagues think about your epistemology?
Photo by Sid Balachandran on Unsplash

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.

Six steps to the perfect discussion section

You’ve passed ethics, recruited participants, collected your data, analysed and written up your findings – phew! What a marathon. The hard work is basically over, right?

Well, sadly 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 discussion.

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.

Immerse yourself in the relevant reading

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

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.

Think carefully about your format before you start writing
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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.


How similar does your work look to existing work?

Photo by Chan on Unsplash

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.

Perhaps 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.


Don’t let your brilliant new ideas sink without trace  

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

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.

Five tips for looking after your mental health as a postgrad


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’.

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

Here are five tips for maintaining your sanity while completing your master’s or PhD.

1. Fight isolation

Postgrad work 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, @PhDVoice and PGPR’s account @DrJohannaSpiers for some interesting online conversations.


Postgrad work can be lonely
Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

 

2. Take breaks

When you’re 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.


We all need a helping hand from time to time
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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!


Celebrate your postgrad wins whenever you can
Photo by Ambreen Hasan on Unsplash

5. Contact 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.

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 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.


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

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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. Video consultations

The PGPR team now offers video consultations 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 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 video consultations here.


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

Who should book a video consultation? 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.

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.

*Note that in APA 7, the rules on anthropomorphism, as this rule is known, have relaxed. Check out our blog 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.

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

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!

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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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