Writing Resources and Policies

The difference between screwing around and science is writing it down. -- Adam Savage

Types of Documents

All documents in ARFC should eventually be publicly available. Here’s a list of document types which ARFC students might produce as part of their work. Each description links to more details and resources specific to that particular genre of writing.

  • Conference Abstract: <500 words, accompanies a conference presentation.
  • Conference Paper: >500 words, accompanies a conference presentation.
  • Poster: a single pdf page accompanying a poster session.
  • Presentation: slides or other digital media which accompany a talk.
  • Report: details a process, literature review, or result.
  • White Paper: conveys the perspective of a group of people, such as a workshop.
  • Pre-print: this is a copy of a journal article awaiting publication.
  • Journal Article: between 5 and 50 pages, submitted to an archival journal.
  • Masters Thesis: describes a cohesive research effort.
  • Preliminary Exam: <20 pages, proposes the scope of a dissertation.
  • PhD Dissertation: the ultimate document.
  • Research Proposal: describes future research for the purpose of receiving funding.

Advice on Writing

There is a ton of writing advice out there. Some exceptional advice is found below.

How to Write a Lot

Prof. Huff loved this book as a postdoc. The main lesson is that you should write every day, not in occasional bursts.


Create a Writing Habit

Here are some recommendations to help you make a habit of writing everyday:

  1. The Pomodoro Technique is a powerful method for doing focused, deep, work. There are several apps you could download to use this technique.
    • GNU Pomodoro is an open source timer for Linux OS.
    • Tomighty timer is an open source timer for Windows/Mac OS.
    • A standard kitchen or watch timer also works!
  2. Use full screen word processor that blocks all distractions.
    • FocusWriter is a free, open source, full screen word processor that can track daily goals, has built-in timers, and colorful themes. Available on Ubuntu, Mac, or Windows.
    • ColdTurkeyWriter is the nuclear option of word processors. Once you open the app and set a goal (time or word count) you cannot exit the app until the goal is completed. Caveats: Only the basic version is free (though you don’t need much more), it’s only available on Windows/Mac.
  3. Have a distraction-free word processor open on computer start up. Doing this forces you to write a certain number of words or for a certain length of time before you can do anything else!

Stanford MOOC on Writing in the Sciences

Prof. Huff’s writing checklist is mostly from advice in this massively open online course. You can take it yourself, for free, at your own pace.