Sunday, June 21, 2009

What's your daily writing pensum?

For all those of you who have to write papers, reports, thesis or your PhD. You may know I am currently writing my Diploma Mapping Report. The maps are done and with my supervisor (who liked them very much) since early June. Since then I should have been writing the report. But I didn't have much progress. Gladly I am still out of problems reach concerning my supervisors and I would like to keep it that way.

I want to set myself some strict goals, i.e. a numer of words or pages I must write every day no matter how stupid it looks like. This is mainly to get some content down and would probably be a good morale boost to see that there is something, even if quality may, yet, be lacking.

So I am curious about how you do it:

How do you get yourself to write that paper or report that you really don't feel like writing?

What is the average span of words or pages a day that you consider good?

I believe the trouble is that it is the first time I am working completely alone. Before I always had at least one fellow student or friend as co-worker. Telling your friend that you will be done with chapter X by monday makes quite a difference for writing. No one wants to disappoint his friends, right?

Also I was unlucky in terms of writing location. I didn't manage to get a room at university to work in. We simply don't have enough for every student. The library came to mind but offers too much distraction both in terms of other people looking for books and in the form of said interesting books. Additionally I don't feel like carrying all my books, papers, samples and notebook to it every day.

There is no other location at my university that I could use. So I am stuck in my own, small room at home.

What is your advice?


BrianR said...

Like you mention, just get anything down on paper first ... even if it's a bunch of bullet points. Once I have something tangible productivity increases. Writing is weird thing, I definitely have a love-hate relationship.

Personally, daily goals of number of words or pages doesn't work for me. But I know it can for some.

Lost Geologist said...

Thanks for your advise Brian. I can agree on the love-hate relationship. Especially while I am in the purely descriptive parts that don't really require much creativity.

Well, today I managed 3.5 pages. :-)

Silver Fox said...

I've never used a words per day guideline, so don't know what to suggest. Being a sort of OCD type, usually once I start something, it's hard for me to stop, and it always bothers me when something isn't completed. Maybe if you work on certain sections at a time, try to get a rough draft of each section, then after that you can put it together and clean up the parts that need to be moved from one section to another. Do the abstract last.

Suvrat Kher said...

Do the abstract last.

And the conclusions first! :-)

I am thinking of Peter Medawar's essay, Is the Scientific Paper a Fraud? What he meant is we dont conduct research and think in the same order the way it is presented in a thesis or paper.

So if you have some interpretations or conclusions about what you have collected write them down even if you dont have all the data you want.

dont have to write in the same order you will present your case.

Lost Geologist said...

The abstract is the least of my worries.

At the moment I keep writing on whatever part of the report I have ideas.

The conclusions are not hard to reach. The entire project is pretty straight forward.

But it is very hard to keep writing the boring parts in which I describe a 100+ outcrops with repeating lithology.

Thanks for all your help. :)