Tuesday, October 10, 2017

My PhD Journey - Musing #6 - 'To be' and other passivities

Since the Kathy Charmaz workshop recently I have continued to explore writing as a skill that can be improved with practice - and I do need the practice with academic writing!

Kathy Charmaz Qualitative Research Workshop in Brisbane, September 2017
Kathy has white hair, standing just behind the guy on his knees - I am behind Kathy, just to the right

Kathy talked a lot about the use of strong nouns and verbs and using them to build description. She stated we should reduce the verb 'to be' and passive constructions to about 10% of the page. So....the problem is...how do I identify a 'passsive verb or construction'?

Passive voice definition from From Dictionary.com
One of the two “voices” of verbs (see also active voice ). A verb is in the passive voice when the subject of the sentence is acted on by the verb. For example, in “The ball was thrown by the pitcher,” the ball (the subject) receives the action of the verb, and was thrown is in the passive voice. The same sentence cast in the active voice would be, “The pitcher threw the ball.”
Active voice definition
One of the two “voices” of verbs (see also passive voice ). When the verb of a sentence is in the active voice, the subject is doing the acting, as in the sentence “Kevin hit the ball.” Kevin (the subject of the sentence) acts in relation to the ball.
 ok....... so here's one trick......taking my revised memo (as shared in last weeks blog post)

I ran it through Expresso - a tool to edit texts and improve writing style.

Out of 130 words 16.2% are verbs - as shown by highlighting here. It also tells me that only TWO verbs are weak - 'happen' on line 4, and 'do' line 11.

There was no 'passive voice per sentence' -  yay!

This is interesting - rare words! (of sophisticated and intellectual quality?? I wonder?)

If nothing else, Expresso helps me to actually see the sentence and paragrpah structure through a new lens. Did I realise the word 'attitude' has been used in three consectuive sentences? Or that the word stem 'collabor' appears 3 times?

What other tools are out there? I wonder HOW I can effectively run larger sections of my thesis through this tool? I am thinking the more I do this, the deeper understanding I will have and good wordsmithing becomes second nature. I will not be passive about this :-)

Julie Lindsay
PhD student....'to be' advised

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