Academic Writing Frustrations

I help people write academic papers including dissertations.  While it can be thrilling to see these types of masterpieces take shape, it can also be extremely frustrating.  The Internet has become the new sweetheart to online writers providing just enough information and support research for web based articles and other online writing.   But when it comes to writing academic articles or doing scientific based research, Internet sources are not your friend.  I try to get this across to students all the time, but we live in an internet world.  Young kids are trained to go online to find their resources instead of searching through books.  I’m not saying books are not used, they are uploaded to the web, that’s true.  But I’ve seen citations from and even other articles based sites.  Some of these I write for so I know they’re not academically accurate on everything but use other web sties are sources.

So what’s a teacher to do?  Just keep pushing the understanding of when to use what resources and how.   Now there’s always the “deep web” that many are not familiar with.  That’s the part of the web that the average web browser wouldn’t look for that houses information from various university libraries or scholarly journals.  that’s where I want my academic students to dwell.  Get into those journals tha tsound like gobbly goop to others.  Learn to read them and understand how real research is done. That’s your task.

Today,  a student called, being frustrated at a meeting where another person was using Google to locate sources for a dissertation; straight off the web.  How that could even happen I’m not sure but I urged her not to let herself get confused.  Just stick to knowing that real sources for academic writing come from journals and other academic sources.  I know, many out there will begin to ask  about articles and more.  Sure, that’s great.  Ask away. I’d love the discussions. But let me know what type of writing you’re doing so we can look at it honestly. Meanwhile, I’ll finish my rant and move on.  The main thing I know is that it comes from not understanding the differences in sourcing information which comes with time, patience, learning and practice.

Chase Away Procrastination: 8 Top Tips

I call myself a “closer” in that I need to finish stuff I start.  But that doesn’t mean it won’t take a long to to achieve this goal.  Somethings I want to finish have been hanging in there waiting on me to come back to them for almost five years.  That’s embarrassing but true.  Getting finished is often difficult for creative types such as writers.  Putting things off is much easier.  Sometimes at night I go through what I’ve accomplished in my head.  Be careful with this; it can keep you up for a long time.  But what I’m looking for is to identify what got finished for the day.

  • Maybe I finished a class I was teaching and got the papers graded and recorded.  That’s a finish
  • Maybe I needed to listen to an audio and do a handout in a course I purchased and I got through it. That’s a finish
  • It could be starting a new writing project, maybe just creating the outline. That’s the first step and that’s a finish.
  • It might be writing up an audio script for a client and getting it back to them for the first draft.  That’s a finish.
  • In fact, I just took a quick detour to respond to a graphic artist I’m having layout the new brochure I just created for the local free clinic.  That’s a finish.

Finishing is precious.  Creatives, that is, writers and similar artists need to stay focused to get finished.  Finishing is how we advance in our art.  But finishing can also be a problem because of the big “P” factor, that being procrastination.  Procrastinating or putting things off is common when you don’t like what you do.  Who wants to stay involved with what doesn’t make them happy.  But what about doing something you really enjoy?  That’s when procrastinating to the point of never finishing becomes a mystery.

I have to ask that because I really love writing.  When people ask that question “If you had all the money you needed to live the lifestyle you wanted, what would you do?”  My response is always “write.”  Yet, that doesn’t mean it’s the easiest thing to do.  Why do we put off what we love?

I’ve found a few things that happen with that for me.  For one, my brain is all over the place.  I remember reading about the concept of “monkey mind” in my all time favorite writing book “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg.  That Monkey mind for me is probably a bit of the ADHD I’ve never had formally evaluated but know is there.  My mind is always running.  I think of 20 different things at once.  Sticking with one project can be close to impossible and doing what’s necessary but boring is actually physically painful, but I do it because I have too and that’s a part of life.

So on some days, I procrastinate.  I’ve gotten so much better over the years but it’s definitely better.  You too might go through the ups and downs of getting to the finish and having procrastination days that can be difficult to conquer.

For days when you need to overcome a procrastinating mindset here are a few ideas.

1. Make small steps work for you.  When you’re putting off starting a large project it may be because it seems like a huge task that will eat up all of your time.  Instead of expecting yourself to work for hours on end, try starting with 10 minutes. This will get you going on it and then it will be easier to continue.

2. Take breaks.  This is something I have to practice.  Once I get going it’s difficult to remember to get up and take a break.  But sitting for long hours is more tiring than stopping periodically for a breather.  Try dividing the time into small steps and take a break when you complete each step.  Another method is to just get up every hour for a 10 minute break every hour.  That’s what I teach at my More & Eat sit for people who sit too much and move too little.

3. Take a walk.  That is, get out and get some fresh air to give your brain a break.  Fresh air and exercise can stimulate creativity by letting you stimulate the mind.  Plus getting outside lets you connect with nature so you can start thinking up new ideas.  Go for a walk so you can get back to your project with renewed energy.

4. Make a plan. It’s easy to continue on the path of procrastination when your goals remain unclear. Give yourself a strict deadline if necessary. Write down the tasks you need to complete and the details of those tasks. It’s a way of holding yourself accountable for what is or isn’t done at the end of the day.

5. Get to the root of the problem. Sometimes there’s an underlying reason why you’ve been procrastinating on one specific issue. You might not be able to identify this reason until you really think about it. If you can identify the reason, you might solve your procrastination problem for that specific issue.

6. Reward yourself. While a break might seem like a reward, you can promise yourself other types of rewards for completing tough tasks. Decide on something you want to have or want to do. Allow yourself this luxury once you’ve completed the task at hand.

7. Believe in yourself. When you believe in yourself, you gain a passion for life and an enthusiasm that will help you get through the day. Once you believe in yourself, you have the power to get over procrastination and reach your ultimate goals in life.

8. Do the least-liked task first. When your day consists of many tasks you need to complete, start with the one that’s hanging over your head. While you might be procrastinating against all of them, once the bad ones are out of the way, your day will improve.

9. Schedule fun tasks, too! I know, I said eight tips and here’s nine.  I went for a walk, that’s why and got a creative idea.   So I still wanted to share it with you without making a lot of changes.  Just like what I did, take time for yourself by making enjoyable tasks a part of your day. Since your to-do list is usually packed with undesirable tasks, you should include enjoyable activities as well.

Don’t let procrastination be a regular part of your life.  You don’t have to let it be a member of the family who you don’t enjoy but tolerate.  Un -invite the little bugger from your life.  That doesn’t mean procrastination won’t drop in for a visit once in a while; that’s just a normal part of life.  So when it comes in, say hello, maybe offer a cup of tea, then let it go.  It will get the point after a while and you’ll get to “finish” faster and quicker as time moves on.