Equipping doctoral research students at King's College London to excel

Month: October 2020

Writing Tips for Postgraduate Research Students from Royal Literary Fund Fellows

Writing clearly and persuasively about your research is a vital skill to master but it does not always come easily. To help you develop your writing skills, King’s hosts two Royal Literary Fund Fellows each year. The Fellows are professional writers who can provide support to postgraduate research students across all disciplines and at all stages of their degrees (see our webpage to book an appointment).

One concern that our Fellows frequently encounter when working with students is a lack of confidence and the belief that writing comes easily to everyone but them. This is a common misconception; RLF Fellow Ros Schwartz confirms that writing is hard – even for professional writers. Fortunately, there are numerous techniques and practices that can help you refocus your writing and self-correct errors.

Here are 10 key tips from our 19/20 Fellows Ros Schwartz and Mirza Waheed, based on their many appointments with PGR students last year:

  1. Try printing out your work instead of always looking at it on a screen. You’d be surprised how much easier it is to pick up errors when you see your work on paper.
  2. Take your work to a new setting (outside your usual research/writing/work space) and give it a read for a fresh perspective.
  3. Leave yourself plenty of time for writing up and refining your work – don’t underestimate how long editing will take.
  4. Read your work aloud as this can help highlight punctuation problems or wordy sentences.
  5. If you can speak fluidly about your research but find it difficult to translate that into text, try dictating and then transcribing your work. There are even apps that can record your voice and transcribe for you.
  6. If you’re over-using words, pick them out and build a glossary of synonyms to help you diversify your language.
  7. Try separate readings of your work to focus on different issues, e.g. one for overall flow, one for punctuation, one for over-use of certain words and phrases using the ‘search’ function.
  8. Don’t be afraid to let your voice shine through, particularly in your early drafts. You can always refine the language as you edit, but your opinions and evaluations are critical in forming a strong thesis.
  9. Read proactively to develop a broader vocabulary; when you come across a word you don’t know, look it up in the dictionary and write a few sentences using it. Doing this regularly will increase your vocabulary and improve your writing style.
  10. Let your work sit for a day or two before reading it so you can revisit your writing with fresh eyes.

“Language isn’t just about words and meaning, it’s also about music. Punctuation is there to create pace and breathing spaces to allow the reader to digest the information.” Ros Schwartz

Useful sites for grammar, referencing, style, proofreading:

Manchester Phrasebank: http://www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk/

RLF Dissertation Guide: https://www.rlf.org.uk/resources-home/

Use King’s LibGuide for help with referencing (discuss your department’s preferred referencing style with your supervisor if unsure): https://libguides.kcl.ac.uk/reference

The Chartered Institute of Editors and Proofreaders is a UK-based organisation that maintains a directory of professional editorial services that may be of use: https://www.ciep.uk/

We advise research students seeking support with English as an additional language to explore the King’s Foundations courses and support: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/study/foundations.

 “Many students felt pressured to write like an academic, to sound authoritative and scholarly. I told them they already are scholars and academics, so they need not force their hand and make a piece of writing impenetrable. Write in your own voice.” Mirza Waheed

November is Academic Writing Month!

King’s College London has joined WriteFest 2020 (#AcWriFest20), to support researchers contributing to Academic Writing Month (#AcWriMo).

Inspired by the amazing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), this month-long celebration of academic writing caters to the specific needs of researchers. It’s hosted by PhD2Published and throughout the month they share dedicated blog posts about academic writing and literally thousands of tips via Twitter and Facebook. The month will consist of a selection of virtual workshops that will offer tools and strategies to help you reach your writing goals.

How can you get involved?

  • Get writing in November with inspiration from all the contributions to #AcWriMo on Twitter
  • Use the #AcWriFest20 hashtag to share your progress with other researchers at King’s College London and across the other Universities.
  • Join the weekly, virtual Writing Retreats that are run by the Centre for Research Staff Development

Check out the full programme of workshops and WriteFest 2020 activities here.

Additional writing support

The Centre for Doctoral Studies offers several fantastic workshops and webinars to develop your writing skills, such as  Clear & Concise Academic Writing, Fundamentals of Good Writing, a Virtual Writing Retreat, Writing for Publication in the Arts & Humanities, Publishing a Scientific Research Paper and more. These are open to all students, check out the Doctoral Training Brochure for more information.

King’s Careers & Employability Autumn Events for PGR Students

This is a guest post by Donald Lush, Careers Consultant with King’s Careers & Employability.

King's Careers & Employability

Dear PGR Students

I hope you are all very well at this time.  It has been great meeting many of you in appointments over the summer and being part of the new student induction last week.

I’m aware there is an awful lot of information floating about at the moment and wanted to help you make some sense of the huge range of activities that you may be hearing about that will help you think about your future, by picking out three things for you to choose to focus on this month.

All King’s Careers & Employability events are available to book through King’s CareerConnect. It takes just a moment to make sure your details are up to date on there, and then you have access to a fantastic array of activities giving you information to help you take your next steps.

1. Life & Health Science Careers Event 2020

This year’s Life & Health Science Careers Event is sponsored by AstraZenica and is taking place next week from Monday 12 to Friday 16 October.

We’re hosting some of the UK’s largest graduate employers in life science, health, consulting and medical sciences related industries; it’s a fantastic chance to network and explore a career with sector-leading companies.

Normally run at The Francis Crick Institute,  this year the event will run virtually on KEATS, and you’ll be able to visit the employers’ virtual stands, browse their resources and click through to scheduled Q&A sessions where you can talk to employers throughout the week.

Find employers which may interest you in advance of the event, and take a note of the specific date, time and joining instructions for their presentations. Some highlights include:

  • Astra Zeneca Post Doc Programme: Thursday 15 October 14:00-16:00
  • Cambridge Healthcare Research (Consultancy) Drop-in Session:  Monday 12 October, 14:00-15:00, Thursday 15 October 14:00-15:00
  • Costello Medical (Communications) Drop-in Sesions: Monday 12 October 16:30-17:30 & 17:30-18:30
  • Healthcare Consultancy Group: Monday 12 October 10:30-12:30, Tuesday 13 October 10:30-12:30
  • IQVIA (Tech and Analytics): Monday 12 October 13:00-14:00 and 16:00-17:00
  • JA Kemp (Patent Attorney): Monday 12 October 14:00, Thursday 15 October 14:00

Register on King’s CareerConnect today to book your place and learn more about the AstraZenica Life & Health Science Careers Event.

2. Webinars for researchers

Take a look at the webinars that we run for researchers as part of the Centre for Doctoral Studies training programme.  These generally take place at lunchtime on a Wednesday; for example, book to attend one about CVs  on Wednesday 14 October 12:30-13:30.

3. Careers in Your Ears

If it’s going to take some time to process all this information and perhaps you need a bit of direction to do that, take 20 minutes to listen to this episode of Careers in Your Ears, the careers podcast for doctoral students and research staff at King’s, featuring an interview with former Head of King’s Careers & Employability Dr Kate Daubney as she helps you to reflect on your employability, widening out this out from the niche knowledge you are creating. It’ll remind you of all the great qualities you develop as a researcher!

Looking forward to seeing you at a webinar / in an event / on a Teams call soon!

With best wishes

Donald Lush
Careers Consultant