Seven prompts for writing with literatures – #startingthePhD


If you have just started your doctorate, then your supervisor has no doubt asked you to read, and read a lot. By now, you probably have quite a few texts entered in your bibliographic software. You can start to write about these already. You don’t have to wait until you are asked.

#AcWriMo2020, held every year in November, is a good time to begin to experiment with ways to write with your literatures. Try out different approaches. See what it means to use the literatures to help you think and plan.

Here are a few prompts which you can use to write a chunk – for yourself or your supervisor – about the reading you have been doing. You could do any of the responses to these prompts as a timed writing session (a pomodoro), or you could set yourself a word or time target.

Prompt One: What are your literatures?

What combination of texts are you using, why and how? Are any of your sources unusual? What is your justification for this?

Prompt Two: How do the literatures help you explain the context of your research?

Write about the context, or background of your research, using relevant literatures.

Prompt Three: Write about your research question

What is your research question or hypothesis? Why have you formulated it in this way? How have the literatures helped you to select and word your question?

Prompt Four: Write about your key terms

What terms in your research question or hypothesis need clarification? Where do you stand in relation to the ways these terms have been used in the literatures you have read? Why?

Prompt Five: How do you understand the field you are in, and where you stand in it?

Use the literatures to help you construct a written description of your field, or of your multiple fields. Describe which group of authors and texts you want to align with and why. Your reasoning might be about content, but it is likely to also be about your positionality and methodology.

Prompt Six: Write about your research design

You may not have decided yet what your research design is going to be. Or perhaps you have. Whatever is fine. Just write about what your thinking about your design now is and why – think about the who, where, how many, what, how often…

Prompt Seven: Write a mini proposal

Done all of the above? Use your writing and the literatures to help you write a short mini proposal. Show all of the components of your research – of course it’s still to be conducted and you can change it at any time. Just have a go. Try using all of the above prompts, as well as the chunks of writing you have produced in response to them. Draft and edit. Share.