Alexander K Saeri

Recommendations

This page collects my personal and academic recommendations into one place.

Academic Writing

Volume

There are many books out there on increasing how much you write. A good one is Paul Silva's How to Write a Lot. Each of these books boils down to:

  1. make time
  2. jealously guard that time
  3. actually create content during that time

Style

Many people would say that you should read Strunk & White. This book, now more than 50 years old, gives a set of generally clear and strict rules for improving the clarity of your writing. The book has been criticized for being inconsistent and outdated. It is still worth a read, especially in context of the man who was Strunk.

Though not a manual, I recommend Steven Pinker's The Sense of Style. Pinker is a linguist and psychologist and cognitive scientist, and argues from research about reading comprehension and retention. Overall, an excellent book.

For academic writing I think it is most important to be clear, then concise. Clarity is most important, followed by conciseness. At first, editing usually involves adding words to make an argument more explicit. This improves clarity. Later, editing usually involves removing words to make an argument more simple. This improves conciseness without sacrificing clarity. This is a time-consuming and difficult process.

Importantly, you should do the best that you can in the time you have. Remember that the perfect is the enemy of the good and the 80/20 rule.

Process

The best tool or program for starting to write is the one with which you are most comfortable. Do not use "optimising your writing process" as an excuse to avoid writing.

Microsoft Word can be improved by starting from templates, working with styles, adding commands you find useful to the Quick Access Toolbar, and learning how to use your reference manager integration properly (e.g., Endnote, Mendeley). I have created an APA 6th manuscript template for Word that may be downloaded, shared, and edited freely.

Google Docs is a better platform for initial drafting, collaboration, and integration with reference management. I recommend Paperpile, a reference manager that integrates well with Google Scholar and Google Drive. Google Docs supports collaborative writing and editing. Multiple people can simultaneously edit a document, and those people you invite to the document may edit, comment, or suggest changes. I have created an APA 6th manuscript template for Google Docs that may be used, shared, and edited freely.

LaTeX is a language and typesetting system that can produce beautifully-formatted documents. It separates content from formatting so that a single document (e.g., a manuscript) can be processed to look wildly different (e.g., an APA styled manuscript, a journal paper, a book chapter). Writing in LaTeX is straightforward. But the various programs that run the LaTeX "engine" (e.g., TeXStudio, TeXShop) can be confusing and overwhelming. Further, it is less easy to collaborate using LaTeX (for some attempts, see Overleaf, or if you're familiar with git, you can use ShareLaTeX) For these reasons I recommend drafting documents in Google Docs, copying the text to LaTeX, and spending some time styling the document with tags. I think LaTeX is unnecessary for journal-bound manuscripts, especially in the social/behavioural sciences. But it can be invaluable when preparing a thesis or self-publishing a paper.

Travel

I have created a Google map with various personal recommendations on what to eat, drink, and see in various places. I welcome suggestions.

Open a new page with the map.

I still have the following locations to add:

  1. London, UK
  2. Groningen, Netherlands
  3. Berlin, Germany