Thoughts for Doctoral Students: The Power of Writing

Thoughts for Doctoral Students: The Power of Writing

Writing well is required to assure success as a doctoral student.  Strong writing skills will be needed in every single class and will become critical in writing the dissertation.  Writing skills lie along a continuum with no ceiling (and possibly no floor either).  So, everyone who writes, including an accomplished writer, strives for better writing.  Many of your professors and classmates will fit into the category of writers, who write well and are striving to improve.  Writers, who are leaders in the social science fields of business, education, and health care are often communicating vital information and trying to reach a specific audience.  Writing well insures an audience of readers. 

As you prepare for a career in leadership, you are learning writing skills applicable in many different contexts. The skills of scholarly writing are needed in grant writing, professional reports, journal articles, conference presentations and communication with other professionals.  Consider how leaders use the skills of a professional or scholarly writer and remember that developing high-level skill takes effort.

Gaining skill always take time and effort.  Developing a golf swing, or tennis serve takes coaching and hours of practice. In so many ways, individual skill development is similar across many fields.  The strongest practitioners can reach very high levels of performance, however the achievement takes commitment.  Many elements of skill, such as APA formats or document structures are taught separately.  However, ultimately, the goal is to develop as a writer, who can communicate complicated ideas very well.  While disparate elements of skill can be assessed separately, one overarching assessment can be applied to all writing.

Awareness: Becoming a stronger writer is often a case of gaining awareness.  Readability is one key attribute of good writing.  Consider the similarity of writing and speech.  We have all had the experience of listening to a vague, long-winded speaker.  The message is lost and time seems to stretch out eternally with a bad speaker.  The same is true of a writer who is repetitious, vague or ambiguous and who cannot keep readers engaged. Smooth, simple writing is the goal because readers will follow the discussion. Learning to write so that others will want to read is challenging but rewarding.  

In contrast to the long winded, we treasure brief speakers, who develop clear arguments and are even funny at times.  We enjoy the time, which seems to fly.  The experience of reading is similar to listening; the reader or listener is receptive rather than expressive. Reading a long, aimless, poorly written passage seems to take forever; and, the meaning is elusive. As you think about writing, understanding that good writing is interesting is a reasonable place to start.  

 

The illustrative painting is: Reading by James Charles: Oil on board undated (1880-1890 est.)