Two Books on Writing Every PhD Student Should Own

I have read a few books on writing, some of which are for academic writing and others for creative writing. There are a lot I have learnt in each. But I find the two books I’m going to share with you are more effective. They’re in simple English and their suggested advices are doable and achievable.

Two Books for PhD Students -

I’m going to talk about the books in the sequence I read them, neither in the sequence I bought them, nor my preference. Please be informed that the links I’m providing to the books are affiliated.

The first, Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day, was authored by Joan Bolker. The other, How to Write a Lot, was by Paul J. Silvia. Both Bolker and Silvia hold PhD; Bolker is a clinical psychologist and Silvia is a professor of psychology.

Bolker’s Fifteen Minutes a Day may seem too promising, but it really delivers its promise. For if you follow her advices, you will write every day, but more than 15 minutes. Silvia’s How to Write a Lot also sounds ambiguous. But I can comfortably assure you that you will really write, not only a lot, but effectively a lot. Provided you follow the advices he offers you.

The target audience for Bolker’s Fifteen Minutes a Day is every graduate student, whether you are at the beginning of your thesis journey, in the middle or towards the end. She also has some precious piece of advice for supervisors/advisors. Silvia’s Write a Lot targets psychology professors and students. But rest assured that you may find it more useful that some psychologist–students and professors–may find it.

Bolker’s Fifteen Minutes a Day was published in 1998; it comes in 184 pages, including 33 pages of appendices, recommended books and index. Silvia’s Write a Lot was published in 2007, but my copy, the seventh reprint, was printed in 2014; it comes in 149 pages, including 12 pages of references and index.

Both books have common grounds and differences; that are influenced by the differences in the personalities and styles of the authors. Messy people will appreciate Bolker’s Fifteen Minutes a Day; the organized will like Silvia’s Write a Lot. However, if you are a sensitive reader, Silvia’s humourous style may blow you away.

If you only want to write you doctoral thesis/dissertation and possibly finish on time, and then enjoy your life away from academia, Bolker’s Fifteen Minutes a Day is for you. If you are planning to finish your thesis and be a good and liked professor afterwards, you will still succeed, but perhaps, not as with Silvia’s Write a Lot. If you, however, want to be a dynamic writer–creative, novelist and academic– you must embrace both books.

The only one who will never find either of the books or both useful is the slothful student and, perhaps, the inactive academic. The lazy and the one who doesn’t want to change for good.

Bolker will guide you from starting with messy drafts (ideas generation–but not outlining) to real first drafts, all the way to polished and final drafts; in her own way. But effective. Silvia will guide you to break all the specious barriers that you’ve been hiding behind and not writing. He also guides through how to get published in journals.

Both books have dedicated parts that recommend some very useful resources that will help you in writing and those that will help you harness your style and diction. Some will help you generate motivation for writing and publications.

You may be able to borrow the books from your university library or your local public library. But these are essentials that you must own, if you want to write effectively a lot. Get your How to Write Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day here. And get your How to Write a Lot here.

If you have any related book you think we should read, please share it with us in the comments area below. I, too, would love to read it.

Baba Salam is a lifelong seeker of knowledge, a writer and blogger. He writes here at He's also the man behind GSalam.Net. He's also the founder of TVQ.Academy. You can find him on Twitter @1babasalam, Facebook @1BabaSalam, and Instagram @1BabaSalam.