Research is Writing is Research is Writing is Research

“this is an interesting approach because it collapses the distinction between doing ‘research’ and writing ‘it’ up”

For years I’ve tried to impress this idea upon my PhD students and postdocs, that writing IS part of the research, and that “writing up” research is, at best, an inaccurate way of describing the process, even in the sciences. It’s had mixed success because it’s a difficult message to get across until they experience it for themselves and appreciate the importance of writing as they go along, even if much of what they write doesn’t end up in the thesis or research paper.

The quote comes from a recent post on Stuart Elden’s Progressive Geographies blog, and he in turn highlights a post by Raul Pacheco-Vega called “What counts as academic writing?”  Both are well worth reading, though Pacheco-Vega’s discipline of writing for two hours every day certainly won’t suit everyone (myself included).


5 thoughts on “Research is Writing is Research is Writing is Research

  1. ScientistSeesSquirrel

    Yes! I call this “early writing” in my book, but it’s all related. As a naive grad student I had this image that first I would DO the science, and then I would simply and easily “write up” what I HAD DONE. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that “simply and easily” were foolish expectations. It took longer to figure out that the capitalized verb tenses were part of the problem. If you can suppress the distinction between doing the science and reporting the science (by writing as you plan and execute the work), the writing is easier and you can discover design/analysys problems early enough to solve them.

    I’m tempted to be very meta by writing a post to highlight your post highlighting Elden’s highlighting of Pacheco-Vega….

    1. jeffollerton Post author

      …..and then I could write a post that highlights your post of my post highlighting Elden & Pacheco-Vega’s posts…

      Big fleas have little fleas,
      Upon their backs to bite ’em,
      And little fleas have lesser fleas,
      and so, ad infinitum.


  2. Manu Saunders

    Agree! Unfortunately it can be hard to impress the importance of writing on postgrads, when many of them have got through an entire undergrad degree mostly focused on short-answer exams and practical assessments.

  3. Tony

    And I love research, especially anything related to my current fields of interest yet do I like writing, not if I’m honest! Therein lies my problem of keeping my blog updated when I know I really should.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s