After reading some of Dr. Bolker’s book, I think I can share some insights on writing. I know my own writing has significant room for improvement and if there was a giant take home message from the novel, it is that practice makes perfect. I should definitely be writing more frequently than I currently am. Additionally the book had some suggestions on how to generally improve writing as a graduate student beyond that of grammar. It touches upon many factors including how to pick a supervisor, researching a topic you enjoy and quality > quantity. Additionally, just as the title suggests, the book strongly promotes frequent writing to take bite-size pieces of a thesis rather than marathon writing it in the last month of a program.
Overall the book is an interesting read and gives the graduate student a little self-awareness into considerations for writing. One contribution I would like to make in addition to Dr. Bolker’s narrative is that writing should trend with the progress of a particular experiment. It may be a good idea to break up the writing of a manuscript throughout the duration of an experiment. For instance, have a hypothesis and predictions formalized during the experiments genesis, complete a detailed methods section before embarking to the field and subsequent results/analysis once returned. Not only does this make individual manuscripts easier to write, but better links the paper with the experiment maintaining the purpose from conception to birth.
Another trend I am trying to develop in my own writing is to have a conceptual workflow. Our lab is great in that we conduct a review on a topic first before conducting an empirical test of that subject. I would like to go one step further and add in an application stage where the thesis is not only examining ecological relationships but contributing towards environmental stewardship. This is in the form of developing a restoration program or mitigating anthropogenic effects. Ideally, my thesis would have a workflow of Review –> Tests –> Management. With the “test” stage being the largest. Hopefully it works!