Meet our editors and proofreaders: Anthony
As a part of “Meet our editors and proofreaders” series, we interview some of the native speakers who edit and proofread your texts. We started with Anthony, PhD in Urban Studies, from the University of Sheffield. He discusses his work and provides helpful advice about how to improve your academic writing.
What are you researching?
My research has focused on the politics and management of urban infrastructures – how cities manage their energy and water networks, how their telecommunications infrastructures are managed, and how transport operates. In an age of tight public finances, ageing infrastructures, growing climate concerns and debates over privatisation and nationalisation, how these infrastructures are managed is a vital public concern.
What inspires you about research?
The ability to learn something new and ‘create’ knowledge. Many academics have the stereotype of wanting to change the world (and that was what also inspired me to get into research), but the ability to delve deep into a subject and to fully understand the mechanics at work in a particular area is truly inspirational.
What is the major scientific challenge, in your field, for this decade?
Giving cities (and nations) the ability to fund and operate their existing infrastructures in a climate-friendly and cost-effective way in an age of dwindling natural resources and tight finances, while being able to provide fair and equitable access to all members of society.
Have you read a breakthrough paper recently?
Not really a recent paper (as it was published in 2001) but ‘Splintering Urbanism: Networked Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities and the Urban Condition’ was a book I’d recommend to anyone involved in infrastructure research.
What made it great?
Occasionally you find a book or a paper that manages to tackle all the complexities and interactions that are already swirling around in your mind, and simplify them to such an extent that you can just sit there and think, ‘of course, that’s exactly what happens’.
Golden tips about writing papers
How do you get motivated to start writing a paper?
I always find it easier to start writing a new piece of work than to finish an existing piece. New papers are exciting and fun, and you have a world of possibilities as to where your argument will take you. The problem for me is how to get over the boredom and annoyance that follows that initial excitement, when writing begins to feel more like actual work. My advice is to just keep writing. It doesn’t matter what, just keep at it. Put the words on the page as you think of them and just see what comes out. Stephen King famously writes around 2,000 words every single day – some are good, some are not so good. But keep practicing!
What is your golden piece of advice when writing a paper?
Signpost your argument. I can’t overstate how important this is for the reader. ‘In this paper I will… I start by examining… before moving onto… This will allow…’ A reader is unlikely to read your paper more than once (and even if someone does download your paper, it is likely they will skim through to the most important parts – academics are busy people!). Being able to see where your argument is going and being able to pre-empt what comes next gives the reader some impetus to keep reading.
What is the most common mistake you notice when you edit/proof papers?
Ignoring the question ‘so what?’ Why should I read your paper? What is the end goal? You might have invented the most efficient solar panel that has ever existed, but if you do not explicitly state this in the introduction and conclusion, then I will be reading nothing more than equations and difficult technical language that I may not understand, and your paper will be lost amongst the hundreds of thousands of other papers that are published each year.
Do you have a presentation/stylistic tip?
Try not to write overly long sentences. If you cannot avoid this, then sprinkle a few very short sentences into the text. Like this. A reader needs to able to ‘breathe’ when they are reading your paper, even if it is only in their heads. With sentences that get far too long and far too convoluted and fail to include any forms of punctuation that can help to break up the text to give the reader time to pause they can forget the point you are trying to make before they even get to the end of the sentence. So, break it up. Regularly.
Can you recommend any app/tool for improving scientific writing?
Referencing software (EndNote, Mendeley) can be useful to help reduce the annoyances that come from fixing your references, but bear in mind they are not always accurate.