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Essential Guidebooks on Academic Writing

Aiding the Writing Stalled Professor by Joli Jensen, July 26, 2017, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Annotated Bibliography provided by Sarah Pittock, Advanced Lecturer in Stanford’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric.

On productivity and academic writing:

Boice, Robert.  Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing, OK: New Forums Press, Inc., 1990.

Burka, Jane M. and Lenora M. Yuen. Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It, 2nd Ed. Cambridge, MA: DaCapo / Life Long, 2008. 

Written by psychologists, the book is divided into two parts—”Understanding Procrastination” and “Overcoming Procrastination.”  The first section focuses on fear of success, failure, losing autonomy, separation, and attachment.  The second section offers concrete advice for resolving problems with procrastination and explains how to set goals, schedule, improve timing, and organize support.

Silvia, Paul J.  How to Write a Lot.  A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007.

This book has lots of no-nonsense advice based on psychological theory and research.

Sword, Helen. Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017.

Zerubavel, Eviatar. The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations and Books, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

For dealing with writer's block:

Bane, Roseanne, Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Solve Writer’s Resistance, London: Penguin Books, 2012.

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. New York: Anchor Press, 1995.

This book is aimed at writers of all genres. The book’s title derives from a family story. The night before his not-yet-started paper on “Fifty Birds” was due, Lamott’s brother panicked. Dad’s advice, “Just take it bird by bird.”  The same holds true of honors theses. As does the advice in the chapter called “Shitty First Drafts.”

Staw, Jane Anne. Unstuck: A Supportive and Practical Guide to Working through Writer’s Block, New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2005

For working within the norms of scholarly writing:

Belcher, Wendy. Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE publications, 2009.

Written by a literature professor, this workbook is designed to help scholars in the humanities and social sciences write successful articles for peer-reviewed journals. Many of its chapters teach skills that are equally useful for thesis writers, from designing a plan for writing to advancing your argument, reviewing related literature, presenting evidence, and getting, giving, and using feedback. Belcher emphasizes breaking large projects into manageable pieces—as small as 15 minutes of writing time per day—and using this time strategically.

Becker, Howard.  Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish your Thesis, Book or Article. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 2nd edition, 2007.

This book has useful chapters on Editing by Ear, Risk, and Getting it Out the Door.

Germano, William. From Dissertation to Book, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Graff, Gerald and Birkenstein, Cathy. They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2010.

Hayot, Eric. The Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014.

A stylish demystification of humanities argumentation; includes chapters on paragraphing, transitions, and titles and subtitles

Luey, Beth. Handbook for Academic Authors, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Schimel, Joshua. Writing Science: How to write papers that get cited and proposals that get funded. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Written by an ecology professor, this guide uses principles of story structure to help scientists write better research papers and other technical documents.

Williams, Joseph and Joseph.Bizup. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace, 11th ed.  Boston: Pearson, 2014.

An influential book that persuasively shows how transdisciplinary rhetorical principles can help you revise your prose to make it more reader friendly.