How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

For professors, writing letters of recommendation is a constant part of the job. Wise undergraduate and graduate students should make it as easy as possible for your professors to write them. Although few professors will write overtly negative letters, faint praise can just as easily condemn an applicant, especially when they are applying for highly [Read More…]

How Much Do You Need To Read Before Writing?

A reader and friend asked me recently about a key issue in the writing process: I feel like I need to read everything, then write, and even then, I’m unsure of when to have outlined and when to have allowed my new research to impact whatever working outline I may have going. I would love [Read More…]

Choosing a Book or Dissertation Topic

John Turner recently had a fabulous post on “Publishing without Perishing” which is full of excellent suggestions on how to survive writing your first book or your dissertation. There’s much fodder there for discussion, but today I want to consider the issue of selecting a dissertation topic. Of course, my perspective is shaped by my [Read More…]

How to Write an Excellent Statement of Purpose for Graduate Applications

Fall is the time for students to put together their applications for graduate school. Many of these applications require an enigmatic-sounding “statement of purpose.” With due regard for differences between disciplines, here are the top three mistakes in statements of purpose by graduate applicants: 1) Failing to be specific enough. “I am interested in the [Read More…]

Good advice for those who are ABD

From The Anxious Bench Archive.  Originally posted October 8, 2014. “It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take.” -Alanis Morissette, “Ironic,” Jagged Little Pill (1995). As my graduate school days appear further and further in my rear view mirror, there are certain events, discussions, and conversations that remain crisp and clear in my memory–just as if they [Read More…]

Handling Rejection in Academic Writing

Today’s guest post is by Dr. Beth Allison Barr, Department of History, Baylor University. You can follow Dr. Barr on Twitter at @bethallisonbarr Recently I wrote an odd sort of thank-you note. It was to a journal editor who had rejected one of my articles. The careful critique he had provided helped me reconceptualize my argument [Read More…]

Choosing a research topic

Philip Jenkins’ recent post on choosing a subject for a book or research project is well worth your time. If there’s anyone who knows how to pick a topic, it is Professor Jenkins! From my own time in a Master’s and Ph.D. program, through the present as I advise Baylor doctoral students, I am mindful [Read More…]

Writing in the In-Between

Today’s guest post is from Dr. Beth Allison Barr, Associate Professor of History at Baylor University. She writes on women, gender, and religion in late medieval England, and is the author of The Pastoral Care of Women in Late Medieval England. She tweets at @bethallisonbarr. I intended to write 1000 words yesterday. I began at 8:15 in [Read More…]

What to Publish, and When?

In response to one of my recent newsletters, a friend and former student asked, from the perspective of a Ph.D. student, “With seminar papers, conference papers, book reviews, and journal articles, there is a lot to think about. How to prioritize these? How to find time to work on long-term projects when the daily tasks [Read More…]

How to Stop Fiddling Around and Start Writing

A friend recently asked me about my writing practices – in particular, how do I keep track of notes as I am preparing to write? This allows me to make a recommendation that I hope you won’t find too peculiar: When writing, don’t take notes. Don’t make outlines. Just write. Let me clarify. What I [Read More…]