I have written a short paper that explains my approach here: “How to Write at University” (PDF). It is also available in Danish: “Bliv bedre til at skrive” (PDF).


The essential text is, of course, Booth, Colomb, Williams, Bizup and Fitzgerald’s The Craft of ResearchEvery serious student and scholar should be aware of the contents of this book, whether or not they agree with everything it says. It clearly lays out the normative framework within which academic research goes on. Not everyone lives up to these norms, but they ignore them entirely at their peril.

For people who are just beginning their academic careers (and, yes, that means you, undergraduates! You are beginning an academic career, whatever your further ambitions may be…) I recommend Graf and Birkenstein’s They Say/I Say. It will help you negotiate the sometimes tight turns of phrase that are needed to keep up with the scholarly conversation.

Finally, you do well to read and engage with Thomas and Turner’s Clear and Simple as the Truth. “In classic style,” it teaches, “the motive is truth, the purpose is presentation, the reader and writer are intellectual equals, and the occasion is informal. This general style of presentation is at home everywhere …” But it is, unfortunately, not as common in academia as one would hope. Please learn it.


First, read Joseph Simmons, Leif Nelson and Uri Simonsohn’s “False-Positive Psychology” (Psychological Science, 2011) and Anne-Wil Harzing’s “Are our referencing errors undermining our scholarship and credibility?” (Journal of Organizational Behavior, 2002).

Blogs &c.

You should regularly read Andrew Gelman’s Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science  blog. It’s one of the smartest places on the web, both in the main posts and the comment field. You will not always agree but you will always learn.

To keep abreast of the trends in contemporary social science, read the LSE Impact Blog. It has maintained an admirable seriousness while keeping up with developments in digital academia, whose denizens sometimes draw rather silly conclusions about what should happen at universities from what is going on in the culture.

There is also the LSE Higher Education Blog.

For other perspectives on academic writing, have a look at Rachael Cayley’s Explorations of Style, Patrick Dunleavy’s Writing For Research, Pat Thomson’s Patter, Kim Mitchell’s Academics Write and Helen Kara’s blog.

Also of interest: Matthew Overstreet’s blog, and Rob Playfair’s Teaching What English for What Purpose?