Graduate Student Workflow, Part 6

I will be continuing on in my series about my workflow as a graduate student (overview in Part 1). Last week, in Part 5, I talked about free writing. This week I will discuss the next step in the writing process for me: memos.

picardwriting

Memos

For me, memos look a lot like my free writing. They are mostly unformatted text (I will throw in an occasional header for sanity reasons). The big difference is memos are focused. They usually start with a question or idea that I want to expand upon. Maybe I am working through collected data or some literature I have just read. Perhaps I am asking the 10 questions about my research (https://depts.washington.edu/csclab/2009/11/the-10-questions/). Memos are a great way to start thinking through without worrying about the consequences (no grammar check, no worry about formatting, or if there’s a point).

Another difference between free writing and memos is the likelihood someone else might read a memo. My free writing I don’t share with anyone. However, my memos might get shared with co-authors or my advisor – especially memos that I have iterated on and are in a little better shape after a couple of drafts.

Really rough memos I do in Evernote. One nice thing about Evernote is you can link notes to each other. So as I am writing I can paste in links to other relevant notes (which would include other notes I’ve written, pdfs I’ve saved, or media I’ve clipped from the web).

Screenshot 2016-03-30 23.40.00

Screenshot 2016-03-30 23.44.01

If my memos make it to the stage where I am doing multiple iterations or drafts, I switch to Word. This is mostly so I can save versions as needed to Dropbox and so I can share easily with co-authors and my advisor.

Memoing is an important step in between free writing and starting drafts of academic papers. This is where the big thinking happens. Granted, you are thinking your way through the whole writing process, but this stage is where the questions get asked, the connections get made, and the literature starts to make sense. I have found it makes the next step, which I will talk about next week, much, much easier.

Grad Student Workflow, Part 4

As mentioned in Part 1, I am discussing my various workflow tools in order to have a more pleasant and efficient grad school experience. Last week, in Part 2, I discussed my general task management and in Part 3 I discussed reading and citations. This week I will be starting my sub-series about writing.

Sources: Much of what I’ve learned about my workflow, I’ve gotten from other folks. What I’m discussing in the next few posts is an amalgamation of different work management patterns I’ve gotten from around the internet, people in the lab, or figured out for myself. I would like to give a big thanks to Hacking the Thesis.

writing-quotes_cslewis

Writing

Over the next month I will be posting about the various steps I take in my writing. My plan is to talk about the following:

  • free writing
  • memos
  • academic paper drafts
  • writing for blogs or other “general” audience media

One book I found very helpful was Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day. The habit that I have picked up since my first read through is writing everyday. I do this by setting aside roughly 45 minutes of my day for my free writing. I aim for about 1500 words per day of this kind of writing. The next level of writing is slightly more structured memos, which usually have some kind of focus (a question I am trying to answer, or something specific I am analyzing or drafting up). Finally, the free writes and memos then feed into my rough drafts. When I know what kind of question I want to answer for a particular venue, I can start a more formal drafting process. This is also where I bring in coauthors to help with the argument, literature, and clarity.

While my main focus is my academic writing, I also change things up to give my brain a rest by writing fiction and journalling. Perhaps I will have more on this after I’ve finished this series of blog posts.