Today, I submitted the draft of chapter 1 of my thesis to the thesis committee. I spent more than 2 months writing this chapter, and have found a way to work and write it effectively. This article will briefly record these methods and tools that I have used. I will focus on 3 topics: (1) Using Grammarly application to proofread articles; (2) Use the Flora application to focus on writing; (3) Develop a large document noting the readings during my PhD study. I hope that this is a useful article for you.
Use Grammarly to proofread your writing
Grammarly is a great proofreading program for writing. I have heard of this program for a long time, but I didn't use it until more than a month ago. Indeed, my husband is studying for an MBA and he bought this software to proofread his essay. He recommended it to me. I have only used this program twice but found it really useful. First you will need to set up an account on https://app.grammarly.com. If using a Mac, you can install grammarly apps as shown in the image below:
I usually upload documents that need proofreading directly to https://app.grammarly.com. After uploading the document, a “Set goals” window will appear as follows:
Because it's an academic document, I usually choose "goals" as follows:
Grammarly's editing suggestions will be based on the above criteria. I often look closely at each of Grammarly's correction suggestions, because not all suggestions are reasonable, and express exactly what I mean. You can accept or ignore each suggestion. I find Grammarly very useful when I need to find spelling mistakes or minor grammar mistakes. As writers, sometimes we can't find our own mistakes, especially for long texts like academic papers, even after we have read and re-read them many times. This is true even for users of English as a mother tongue. Once my husband asked me to read and proofread his final essay, I was able to spot some grammar and expression mistakes right away.
Today, I submitted Chapter 1 of my thesis to the dissertation committee. After having Grammarly proofread, I'm pretty happy with the submission! To use all the features of Grammarly, I use a Premium account, choose to pay quarterly ($60/quarter).
Use the Flora-Green focus app to focus on work, especially when writing
I really like the Flora app (https://flora.appfinca.com) when I need to focus on work. Application recommended by one of his professors. With Flora, you can create a to-do list, and set a specific time for each task. I usually try to focus on writing for 30-45 minutes, then take a 5-10 minute break. If you successfully focus, Flora will say “You have successfully planted a virtual tree”. At the end of the day, if you can concentrate 5 times, for example, you will have a garden of 5 plants. If during the allotted time you are distracted, watching FB or reading the newspaper on your phone, then Flora will warn, "Get back to work immediately, or you will kill a tree in the garden" . I find this app quite fun! At the end of the day, see the number of plants you have planted, you will know how focused your day is.
Well, you can invite your friends to join the “planting” too!
There is a document that notes all the readings during the PhD study
It wasn't until I was assigned to teach my own class and write my thesis that I realized how important it is to have a master fill of reading notes during my PhD. When I need to make a list of readings for students, I will open the file, go to the topic I'm interested in, and re-read the notes of each related reading. Which article is suitable, I will give it to the students to read. When writing a thesis, I need to find citations, or re-read an article I will find in the file. A master file like this is extremely helpful for Comprehensive exams.
I read the article using the Mendeley Desktop application, but briefly recorded the content of the article/book into a word file. That document is now over 1000 pages, noting all the papers I've read since my first year of PhD. I still update that document every day, every time I read a new article or book.
I arrange documents based on large content, in each large content, the readings will be arranged into a smaller content. You can see an example in the image below:
If I want to read articles/books related to “Tools of Control” in “Authoritarian Regimes Literature”, I just need to go to the table of contents of the large document, and click on the “Tools of Control” section.
For each article, I will take brief notes as follows: brief article summary, theoretical overview (background/Literature Review/Theory), Research design (including hypotheses, data, results) and conclusion. comments (including your own comments and counter-arguments)
Here is how I briefly transcribe an article in the “Tools of control” section of the “Authoritarian regimes literature” section.
The most useful point of this document is that I have many ways to find the reading I am interested in: through the table of contents, or search for keywords.
In general, to find out which way of working and taking notes is right for you, we have to experiment with many different methods. I have tried many different ways, and found that this traditional way of taking notes is very good for me.