Pepinsky on what to read in order to write a good dissertation (or book)

Yet it is only possible to read effectively if the thing you are reading is written well. That means that dissertation writers do need to write effectively. And that, in turn, requires dissertation writers to sit down and read books, not for argument, but for style and form and structure. The single most important piece of dissertation writing advice I received was to read more books, and to read them slowly and carefully while actively reflecting on style and structure. “Read this, and then write like that.”

That advice from a decade ago, coupled with several conversations over the past week, has inspired me to put together a collection of books that I think are exemplars of excellent political science writing in book format. That they all happen to be good books too is useful, but not my main point. My point in collecting them here is that these are books to read to learn how to write a good dissertation. Read these, then write like them.

More on this here (must read).

The same applies to papers. It helps to have a folder of “sample papers” to read whenever you experience writer’s block.

Thandika Mkandawire on the “Kenya Debate”

The ‘Kenya debate’ was a debate not among Kenyans but about Kenya by a group of expatriates, most of whom were temporarily resident in Kenya. This may partly explain its abrupt end. Kitching (1985) also suggests that the fact that all the protagonists viewed themselves as progressives precluded the further pursuit of the debate on how a capitalist accumulation process could be promoted.

Ouch. Kenyanists (Kenyan or not) will appreciate the zinger (please bring back economic history!) The quote is from a footnote on page 198.

Mkandawire’s paper on “Thinking About Developmental States in Africa” (not on Kenya) is a must read in any PE class on African development.