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Similar to my previous question "Strategies to overcome “academic-apathy” in the final stages of the PhD?", one thing I am noticing as I am drafting papers and the thesis, I seem to becoming overcome by 'drafting fatigue' - where things that usually don't bother me, for example:

  • Punctuation and grammar fixups

  • especially when my supervisor (advisor) suggests a change, I make the change, then he suggests changing it back on the next draft.

  • wanting to add additional figures

and all things like this. After the 2nd draft, I find I am getting 'over it' (for want of a better term). So, this leads to my question - what practical effective strategies are there to overcome this 'drafting fatigue'?

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Having similar experiences, the only approach I have found effective is to leave it alone for an extended period (week to a month typically - with fresher eyes the longer I wait). You can dig into another project for that amount of time, so it isn't wasted doing nothing.

The bullet points jive with my experience as well, e.g. reading the same draft over and over again makes one less likely to see grammer mistakes, minor supervisor input is annoying, and you always want to do alittle more (like add in another figure).

For copy-editing sometimes I will ask my wife or a friend for a look over, which is nice because it gives you alittle respite from the draft as well.

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  • Tackle one aspect at a time. For example, on one pass, concentrate on fixing punctuation and make a conscious effort not to do anything about the other things that will inevitable jump out at you. (You can flag them for later attention if you're afraid you'll forget, but it is important not do too many things per pass.)

  • Vary your focus. Shift from looking at the big picture to looking at the details. One on pass, evaluate each paragraph in light of the entire paper. On the next, evaluate each sentence or phrase in light of the paragraph; you don't necessarily lose sight of the larger structure, but it is less important on this pass.

  • Ask others for help. This may mean asking your advisor to critique for you and/or have friends and family members proofread. Another set of eyes is invaluable; I am indebted to those friends and colleagues who have patiently answered my demands for feedback and blunt criticism!

  • Leave it for a while. To echo the thought of Andy W above, there are times when stepping away from a paper is the surest cure for drafting fatigue. One caveat; don't stay away too long! When you put the paper away, have a clear idea of how long you will be away, what you will do during that time, and what needs to be done on the manuscript when you come back. (Attach a note as a reminder for yourself!)

One final note: YMMV. Every author works differently, and what works for me may not work for you. While I struggle with trying to do everything on one pass, I have worked with others who were fine with the minutiae, but absolutely could not see the problems with the big picture except with help from friendly critics. The tips above work for me,and I offer them in the hope that others may learn from my success without needing to endure my failures! :)

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