Today I started my regimen with reading, lots and lots of it. But as always, I do not know what to make of it really. That is and was my problem from the start. As always, I would like to find help in guides. I am a sucker for self help books so it was only natural that I purchased a few regarding scientific writing. Which is not easy, since there are so many of them. Our professor provided us with the “classic” by Kate L. Turabian “A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses and Dissertations”. It seems that in the US students read this in their first year…that would have been great for me 😉
I also purchased “The Craft of Research” by Wayne C. Booth et.al and the “classic” for scientific writing which is recommended in Europe: Umberto Eco‘s “Wie man eine wissenschaftliche Abschlussarbeit schreibt” (“How to write a scientific master thesis”). It is funny to compare those books because Eco’s book is so Europe, in my opinion. It has this, as I like to call it, “lone wolf” feeling of a student being left alone and fighting alone to complete his/her degree. And that is basically the way it is done around here. So it is pretty comforting to read his book because you get the feeling of not being alone. In stark contrast are the books from the US, because they stress group works, exchange with others, talks with your professor, and also getting help from your professor, which is unimaginable here. It has to do with the University structure and everything, I don’t want to be critical about that, I just want to stress that I am not blind to reality. The way in which the US books are written is very laid back and also comforting, but as they do not grasp the reality of European universities, I still felt a bit alone and didn’t know what to do with it.
Then I also bought a few books regarding writing scientific English. The first one was Tim Skern‘s “Writing Scientific English”. This really helped me a lot. A friend already told me that he is a very good teacher, so I did not hesitate. He is a professor in Vienna but is a native British (I hope that is true 😉 The main thing I learned was not to use the word “get”…but also to not use negative words such as not…I have to work on that…It is very helpful that he knows both sides and his examples of bad English writing give me hope that I can master to write scientific English sometime, hopefully… He also recommended “Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr., which I of course bought immediately…It seems to be a classic and is also helpful to native English speakers, which is a bit comforting.
Oh my, there are still many books I want to buy, mainly “Writing your dissertation in 15 minutes a day” by Joan Bolker and “Frei geschrieben” (something like “Writing yourself free”) by Judith Wolfsberger. That would be another fellow Austrian which would be rather helpful…but it still costs 16 Euros and I am too thrifty right now to lay out that kind of money for something I am not sure will help me or not…And since I already possess so many books about the same topic and nothing is coming from it, I really should use those that I have better..or even better: just get started!
Ok…so for the first day of “taking it seriously” I think I did pretty good. I read three chapters which is spectacular for me…I still have to find out what to do with it but I am here to learn, so let’s be positive about that 😉