PhD Survival Guide; Ways to plan your writing

Throughout high school and undergraduate university courses, we get told about the importance of planning before we start to write essays or reports. I used to think that we were just told this for the fun of it, kind of in the same way that you are told to read ALL the instructions before using new technology… but for the most part we can just learn as we go. However, planning your writing can be a real asset when doing a PhD. 


The way you choose to plan is completely up to you, but I have outlined four different types of planners you may be as a guide:

The ‘tech savvy’ planner– There are many ways you can plan your writing using your computer. My favourite for my PhD is using a OneNote notebook. You can set up separate sections for each of your chapters and whenever you get an idea that may be important for ‘Future you’ type it in there. You can also use word or notepad.

The ‘artistic’ planner- Draw mind maps. This is a personal favourite technique of mine. If you are trying to work out a specific topic for a research report, write the general topic in the middle of the mind map. Then keep drawing arrows to connect all the relevant topics or questions related to that initial broad topic. Mind maps can be as simple or as complicated as you need them to be. They are a great way to pinpoint the exact areas you will include in your writing and they are actually fun to create.

The ‘I will always be a child at heart’ planner- Remember when you were in primary school and you loved to cut out shapes and glue them back down? Well, making a plan is a great way to get back to your craft making ways. In my honours year, I had a lot of typed notes which I knew were all relevant to my thesis, but I was not sure how I could fit all the information together in a coherent way. So I cut out the different paragraphs (making sure the reference was written on each piece of paper, so I didn’t forget where the words came from) and kept moving them around under different headings until I found where all the information fit. I then glued them down onto large cardboard sheets in pretty colours. 

The ‘I make many mistakes’ planner- If you are planning a particularly complex piece of writing, use a whiteboard! You can keep changing your plan as you go without having to have a messy, unreadable piece of paper.

Click here for this weeks PhD Survival Guide PDF- Writing plan reminders. 

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