2: Research & Drafting

Keeping an investigator’s notebook
Don’t wait to start writing until you’ve finished your research/reading. Set aside a notebook in which you record your questions, ideas, notes, and concerns as they arise. Research, especially for the dissertation, is not just taking in ideas or facts; it involves engaging with information. Since you can’t expect to hold all of your ideas and thoughts in your head as you go, write them down.

Begin with writing for yourself
Explore your ideas and begin writing a draft for you. This draft is a place for you to make your ideas tangible on the page. Write uncensored. Work through ideas as you go. This is a first step—just getting your ideas on a page—and you do not have to show it to anyone, which alleviates any pressure or expectation of a polished writing project.

Consider these approaches
Start by writing down your ideas; don’t stop to correct or find the right word. Just get all your ideas down on paper in any order you can, and don’t worry about editing. Some folks call this “blahing on the page.”
Outline the chapter or section with major ideas, writing out each section as research comes in, and then read it over. Later you can move sections around as needed and eventually blend in changes.

  • What approaches to research and drafting would you recommend to other PhD students?