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Department of Anthropology: Writing Across Boundaries

Drafting and Plotting

As you will, by this stage, have realised, Qualitative Research produces vast amounts of data in many forms. You may have hours of tape to transcribe, hundreds of fieldnotebooks, an external hard drive packed with photographs, folders full of life histories or diagrams. Making sense of this data, ordering it, preparing systematically and rigorously analysing it is a time consuming process. The resources collected here are to help at points of reflection, whether you are just starting to work with your data or reflecting partway through your writing up. A selection of related books are listed in the bibliography attached below. Also below, is a brief article by Rob Lowe, in which he considers how certain features inherent in academic disciplines (as culturally embedded institutions) contribute to the writer's "ordering of information".



How you use your time is as important in producing a good thesis as the quality of your data. It is one thing to suggest to students that they plan their time, but many will have little to base their estimates on.

 The UK GRAD program offers useful general tips on planning time, targets, keeping on track and submission. Links on the right take you to pages more specifically linked to planning time and planning writing.

Mind Mapping

If you've never come across Mind Mapping, the links on the right are a good place to start. Mind mapping is an image based technique of putting ideas on paper, usually linked radially around a central idea. Mind maps are used to visualise, structure, classify, 'map' and even generate connections between words, thoughts, or tasks. Wikipedia has a good definition, and some colourful images.

 A more recent development in visual aid to thought is the Rico Cluster, which is intended as a writing tool. It works less off a central idea with radiating connected words, and more on a web structure, with no centre. See the Rico Cluster link on the right.


Developing an outline can give you a sense of purpose, direction and structure to your content. It can act as a framework upon which to hang your ideas, but a flexible one which can bend as you want and need. The OWL at Purdue have collected thoughts on how outlines can be an invention strategy for writing and suggest different forms of outline.

Revising and Editing

Writing is a process of revision and change, and it is very rare for the first effort to be what is kept. This should not discourage you, rather help you realise that most of your work will go through several incarnations before you are satisfied that it says what you want it to. The University of Queensland offers some useful comments on the parallel processes of revision and editing, along with practical suggestions for getting more out of your work.


 Proofreading your work is an important part of the writing process. It is less about the content of your work, and more about its presentability, any grammatical errors you may have made, flow, and structure of your piece. The OWL at Purdue again has some useful comments on general tactics for proofing your work.


There are a huge variety of Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software programs available. Writing Across Boundaries is interested in helping students translate and write about the results they obtain form these programs, while thinking about the impact they are having on their data and its analysis. We hope to build up this resource over the coming months. In the meantime, the CAQDAS (Computer Aided Qualitative Data Analysis) and the Online QDA sites offers practical support and information about computer software, its use and implications in analysis.

Furthermore, we always welcome discussion of some of the tools avaliable, and of Foss and Walters' piece on our discussion forums.


In a recent article, Jess Moriarty and Maria Antoniou ask what "What can academic writers learn from creative writers"? The answer seems to be 'Quite a lot'.


Writing and publishing are crucial to the development of a successful academic career. However, lecturers typically receive little guidance on this strand of their job. Any support that does exist tends to focus on the technical and practical aspects of scholarly writing. Advice is rarely provided on managing creative and emotional facets - factors that greatly contribute to writing quality and success. This article arises from a conversation between the authors: a Higher Education researcher and a Creative Writing lecturer at the same institution. The core of the article is a personal reflection by Author 2 on teaching Creative Writing to undergraduates. From this experience, we distil a model for supporting the writing of academic staff. We conclude that, whilst creative and academic writing enjoy their own styles and conventions, elements of the writing process are shared. We argue that Creative Writing lecturers hold valuable knowledge on the writing process, which is currently under-utilised in Higher Education.

The article can be found in

Teaching in Higher Education, Vol. 13, No. 2. (2008), pp. 157-167.