Letting others read your drafts

When your job is basically to write, you have to let other people read what you write. This is the worst, and best, part of writing.  This week I had to submit my draft dissertation proposal to two professors and the entire grant mock review committee.

I have feedback from the two professors, and I have to admit I’m really happy with the comments.  I think this speaks to the benefit of working through to a third version with three members of my committee before sharing the draft.

Those of you not in the academic community may wonder why so many eyes are helpful for editing.  The reason lies in the differing backgrounds of the outsiders.  My committee and I know my study, and we know what we think my study is.  When we read the proposal we read between the lines and understand terms that may actually be considered jargon.  Inviting people outside my committee read the proposal helps pick up places where I haven’t described something well enough for outsiders or where I am using terms that are too specific for a diverse audience.

Key things found by the outsiders who read my proposal:

1.  I start talking about “outcomes of interest” before I define the outcomes of interest leading to confusion for the reader.

2. I don’t have citations for all the concepts I am including which gives the study a weak foundation.

3. I missed a major potion of the methods because in my mind it was obvious.

4. I left some possible outcomes on the table.  One of my readers made suggestions about additional data I may have access to which could strengthen the evidence from my study.

So keep this in mind both for your advocacy work, and for your grant writing…have some trusted advisers who are NOT a part of your project read what you write. I promise it only improves the project.