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Durham University

Department of Anthropology: Writing Across Boundaries

Rod Pitcher




Research is an emotional journey to which the good and successful researcher commits her or his heart and soul. Sometimes, as I found to my chagrin, it can end in the disappointment of the resultant journal paper or thesis being rejected. Yet, at other times, there is the great pleasure and ego boost of having one's work published and presented to a wide audience.

Before I started my candidature I had a vague idea that the data could be gathered, the results written up and publication take place all within a few weeks or months at the most. Now I know better. It can be years between the start of planning the data collection and the resultant journal paper seeing publication. If I wished to be cynical I might suggest that a lot of research is well out of date (Dare I say obsolete?) before it sees publication.

Increasing the number of journal papers I got published depended on improving my writing rate. It is sometimes difficult to find the time to work on a journal paper due to the other writing work, such as reports, the thesis and seminar presentations, that have to be produced. One of the most useful writing skills I have developed during my candidature which increased my production is multi-tasking.

In the past I wasted a lot of time being able to only work on one thing at a time. I often had to put a job aside and wait for inspiration or more information before I could continue with it. In the meantime I couldn't work on anything else and so got little done. I found that if I tried to work on more than one thing at a time I got confused and ended up making a mess of everything or had trouble going back to earlier writing jobs because I had lost track of where I was.

One of the advantages that came from handling multiple writing jobs was that sometimes one might influence another. Thus one job might provide inspiration for another, or suggest ways of breaking a block or just give me a break and allow my mind to process thoughts about the other work in the background. Working on something different for a while can provide a welcome break when the work gets a little tedious. I've found it sometimes helps in breaking writing block as well.

Once I learnt how to work on multiple writing jobs my progress was much quicker and my production went up. I no longer have to wait to finish one paper before starting another so a lot of time waiting for information or inspiration is avoided. Thus my time is used much more efficiently, I get a lot more done and my production of journal papers has gone up.

Learning to write more journal papers more efficiently helped my development as an independent researcher as it meant that I could get my findings out into the wider community quicker and become known to my peers. It also helped with opening up avenues as a prospective academic after I complete my PhD, since the number of publications is important for gaining such a position.


Rod Pitcher is a PhD student in Education at The Centre for Educational Development and Academic Methods at the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. The focus of his study is the metaphors that doctoral students use when describing their research and other matters related to their studies. His profile is at Email: Rod.Pitcher[at]