A Draft is Just a Draft (as in writing, not the “Oh No, I am going to war” type)

Writing for Social Scientists by Howard Becker is a book I would strongly recommend to any graduate student who is about to begin the prospectus and/or dissertation process. This book is not solely about “how to write” in the sense of making outlines and editing. Instead, it is about how to overcome the obstacles people create for themselves before writing.

There are many obstacles to writing. These obstacles include having a tidy desk, making sure the right music is available to listen to, making sure no one else is around so that complete concentration is possible, and making sure to have all the resources that could possibly be cited available and read before starting to write. Without these conditions (and many others), it is often hard to write.

One of the key points to Becker’s book is that there is no reason to have a tidy desk, the right music, et cetera, to write. In fact, he points out that often we make up these conditions as a way for us to feel more secure that what we are writing is of good academic quality. However, having a tidy desk, or having the right music, will not change the quality of what we write. What it does is keep us from writing so in the end, we have less time to edit and we will produce less quality papers.

So the point is: just write. And do not be afraid that the first draft is not perfect. It will most likely not be, but there is a ton of time for editing. The editing phase is where you turn the paper into a good scholarly article.

Knowing that a draft is just a draft makes it easier to write. I know it has for me.

Julie VanDusky-Allen

About Julie VanDusky-Allen

Julie VanDusky-Allen is at Boise State University and received her PhD in Political Science from Binghamton University in 2011. Her research focuses on institutional choice and development, political parties, the legislative process, and Latin American politics.

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