Academic Writing: key skills in the life of a PhD student | Arif Budiarto
Arif Budiarto’s experience of attending a writing retreat for PhD students in the Centre
Arif Budiarto, a PhD student based at the University of Edinburgh, recently attended a workshop as part of the Postgraduate Training Platform in the Centre. Here he tells us about his experience and what he gained from the session.
Recently I attended a workshop which focused on writing techniques for PhD students. It was led by Professor Marialuisa Aliotta, Professor of Experimental Nuclear Astrophysics within the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Edinburgh. This workshop is a light version of her course entitled “HANDS ON WRITING: How to Master Academic Writing in the Sciences”. Overall, I really enjoyed the session where I not only got theoretical inputs for my writing journey but also several useful practical suggestions.
Effective reading is the basis for effective writing
Marialuisa split the workshop into two main parts. The first part was mainly focused on how to effectively prepare for writing and was followed by strategies for drafting. As a first-year PhD student, this part was very relevant for me as I need to prepare my first-year PhD report. The writing preparation is ideally started with effective reading. She clearly elaborated on the approach of how to extract useful information from our reading. It gave me a useful guideline on which parts I need to focus on most when reading a paper to avoid wasting a lot of time. Subsequently, she gave some examples of how to define the layout of our writing based on its purposes and the extracted information from our readings. This step is very important in drafting the writing so that we will have a clear direction in conveying our ideas in a written form. At the end of the first part of this session, I got a chance to directly practice creating the layout for my first-year report.
After the lunch break, we had a feedback session from Marialusia on some of our work. She took two of our works as an example. One of them was an example of a first-year report outline. Besides highlighting the strong point from this work, she also emphasized how we can make the work even stronger by including more specific points of discussion (instead of just writing “background”, it is better to specify clearer points based on our topic so it can help the reader to easily understand the overall flow). I could directly relate this elaboration into my own first-year report.
Feedback: how to evaluate and revise your work
The second part of the session was more focused on evaluating and revising writing. This particular topic was also very relevant to me since I was in the middle of revising my first PhD paper. One key takeaway for me was the strategy of gathering and incorporating feedback from co-authors. Before attending this course, I experienced a very difficult situation in completing this task. I tend to spend so much time making the draft as perfect as possible before circulating it to the co-authors. Consequently, it only made me reread and change the contents over and over again which sometimes only led me to make unnecessary changes. Yet, in fact, the most important thing is actually to let the co-authors start to read the draft so they can give more objective and useful feedback for us to revise the writing.
Postgraduate Training in the Centre
Despite the online setting of the workshop, as participants, we still got a fully interactive experience where we could directly ask the speaker questions and do some practical exercises. I am glad that the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research gives continuous support to their PhD students in every aspect of their PhD journey, including this workshop. This kind of support is extremely important for PhD students so that we can fully focus on the completion of our PhD project while at the same time receiving valuable learning experience.
Find out more about Arif’s study on his PhD student profile page: