I’m a big reader. If I’m facing a problem or difficulty, I like to read books or articles about it – about people who’ve faced similar situations, or instructions on how to make it easier. Dissertations or theses are no different. Research and academic writing are learned behaviors; very rarely is someone naturally adept at these things. There are many books dedicated to writing, research, grammar, and academic work; the quality runs the gamut, so it’s important to choose wisely. I’ve found several books that I return to again and again. These books help break down the research and writing process in an easy-to-understand way, while providing me with new things to think about and new avenues to pursue in my work, along with inspiration during those tough times where I feel like throwing in the towel. Here are some of my favorites.
How to Write a Thesis by Umberto Eco (translated)
Translated into English for the first time, scholar Umberto Eco’s guide to writing a thesis that he wrote for his own students, provides witty commentary and thoughtful questions about the writing process. Irreverent, smart, and sort of back-to-basics (it was first published in 1977), this can be especially helpful if you’re dealing with information and/or technology overload. He goes over the thesis-writing process from start to finish, providing guidance for newbies and a wise refresher to those working on any kind of research project.
The Craft of Research (4th Edition) by Wayne C. Booth et al.
This is a book that’s a great investment, since it’s applicable to everyone from undergraduates to grad students, to professionals working on projects in their fields. Written in an accessible manner, the material in this book covers everything involved with doing research, from starting your research to writing it up – and revising it.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr, and E.B. White
There are other books that contain the words “Elements of Style,” but Strunk and White’s version has endured for a reason: if you’re going to own one book on writing, let it be this one. Don’t let the slim volume fool you – this is packed with valuable writing and composition advice. If you’re looking for a bit more pizzazz, there’s even an illustrated version you can buy, with beautiful illustrations by Maira Kalman.
Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English (3rd Edition) by Patricia T. O’Conner
Grammar can be tricky, but when you’re writing a thesis or dissertation, you want to be sure that you’re doing everything correctly. This book is a (dare we say it?) fun read to the basics (and not-so-basics) of grammar, with a lot of real-world examples that help illustrate her points. In this new edition, she also gives spelling and punctuation their own chapters, and the bibliography at the end is definitely worth reviewing. It’s a great book to have on hand for any lingering grammar questions or concerns.
They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing (3rd Edition) by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein
A 4th Edition is coming out in June, so you might want to wait on this one – and it will be well worth the wait. This book is helpful in learning how to structure your arguments and has a wealth of information about using quotations, how to summarize, how to craft unique arguments, keeping your voice, and writing in various disciplines and contexts.
How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing by Paul J. Silvia
Academic writing is different than any other kind of writing, as most students know. Whether you’re working on your dissertation or thesis, or whether you’re up against deadlines for articles for professional advancement, productivity is key. Unfortunately, stress, anxiety, lack of organization, and more can all interfere with successful academic writing – and Silvia knows that. This book is an easy-to-read, down-to-earth guide to working past roadblocks and using specific techniques and tools to increase productivity with your academic writing.
While books are great to have on hand and can be extremely helpful, there's nothing quite like working with another human being. If you need assistance with your thesis, dissertation, major paper, book, presentation, or project, contact us today! Our consultation, editing, formatting, and statistics services can help take your project to the next level.
Some of our Favorite Books on Academic Writing
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