Recap session 6 – Revision techniques and what to do against writer’s block


Yesterday’s session topic was “Revision techniques and what to do against writer’s block”.

After solving the punctuation game homework and a short discussion about fuzzy punctuation rules we started off with a writing prompt. As I had left my prompt cards in my office  we picked up this tweet from @DailyPrompt:

Thank you to those of you who read aloud their fun stories on the making of peanut butter. If you want to re-read, here is my writing prompt text.

We discussed chapters 3 and 13 from Zobel’s “Writing for Computer Science” on Revising and Editing. It became clear, that there is a clear distinction between revision and proofreading. While revision is a crucial  and often repeated part of the writing process itself, proofreading is done mostly at the end to polish your text and finish it for submission or publication.

In my slides, a gave you a  summary of proofreading and revision techniques. Furthermore, we talked about methods how to handle writer’s block. One of those techniques is freewriting which is literally used to write yourself free. The technique stems from creative writing, but it can be applied to scientific writing as well. You write for a particular amount of time and jot down everything that comes to your mind regarding the central topic or term. Anything goes – spelling mistakes, incomplete sentences, funky grammar. Don’t limit yourself and allow yourself to write “rubbish”. Flex your writing muscle,  and you will come to the core and the real thing eventually.

If you want to see how a freewriting text could look like, have  a glimpse at this post over at the bachelor’s course.

Here are some more tips on what to do against writer’s block.

Activating and stimulating your writing muscle by actually performing writing movements with your hands really works. In that context, you might find the study “The pen is mightier than the keyboard” interesting.

One last thing regarding our discussion at the end of class about how to spark creativity: “Coffee vs beer: Which drink makes you more creative?”

Remember: be smart and don’t set your brain on fire. Moderation (in terms of amounts as well as frequency) is key!

Homework

  1. Read chapter 4 on “Hypotheses, Questions, and Evidence” in Zobel’s “Writing for Computer Science”. We will discuss that chapter in the next session.
  2. Write an abstract for your student project paper. This is not necessarily the abstract that will be part of your real paper later. The purpose of this exercise is rather to get started with writing for your project paper and to gain an overview on your topic. Write a first version of the abstract and let it rest for a day (or more). Revise and edit this version with the help of the tools and methods you learned in the last session. Post the revised version of the abstract to your blog. Maybe freewriting will help you to get started and you will produce a text that you will turn into a coherent abstract eventually.

[article image: Jonno Witts]

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