#AcWri, #AcWriSummer

#AcWriSummer Week 3: Arguments and Reviewing the Literature

It’s week 3 of writing and accountability. This week and next, we’ve bumped up our #AcWriSummer accountability group meeting to Tuesdays (6/21 and 6/21). With my #acwri co-conspirators — Patrice, CatherineCaroline, & Elvira —  are continuing to work through the Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks book. This week we focused on directing our manuscripts we are working on and consider how to read/reflect on the relevant literature. Here are some highlights for what we will be discussing this week:

 Advancing Your Argument (Week 3)

This chapter details a number of reasons why articles are rejected, specifically around an article argument being too narrow, too broad, off topic, too defensive, not sufficiently original, poor structure, not significant, theoretically or methodologically flawed, and too many misspellings and/or grammatical errors. It is important to review the direction of your paper as you prepare your manuscript for journal publication. Belcher (2009) encourages readers to identify if the current manuscript has problems and to consider how to revise the following issues:

  • Focus: contextualization, audience aim, proper length, and giving pertinent examples related to the argument;
  • Topic appropriate for journal selected: subject matter, methods, scope, etc. ;
  • Scholarliness: meticulous about documentation, reference multiple sources, cite recent and relevant literature, reference debates in the field, use discipline-related expertise, provide a critical framework and evidence;
  • Defensiveness: avoid extensive quotations, excessive documenting, monotonous accounts of others work, jargon, and dogmatism;
  • Originality: read literature in your field, focus on what’s new, argue what is, claim your ideas, and develop a voice for your research;
  • Structure: Present your structure clearly, stick to your point, delete the redundant or irrelevant, link article evidence to support argument, and state findings at the beginning of the article;
  • Problems with Significance: did you articulate how this research fills a gap or adds to the topic, and did you target this manuscript for the appropriate journal;
  • Theory or Method Issues: have your work peer reviewed for feedback, detail and describe your methods, avoid imbalance in writing, and review the analysis of your data or interpretations
  • Spelling and Grammar: improve your paper for these issues, run a spelling and grammar check, ask a peer for review before submission, get help in a writing group, hire an editor, and follow the submission’s guidelines for author.

Homework: Find an Article (or a few) to Model Your Article’s Argument
Find “model” articles for your manuscript that might be:

  • part of your literature review search
  • from the target journal(s) you selected (from Week 4)
  • outside your discipline or topic area
  • the way you will structure the presentation of your article’s argument

BONUS WORK: Abstract Revisions: Abstract examples on pp. 86-87 will help you in revising of your  abstract; consider how you to present  entire topic and findings in short form.

Reviewing the Related Literature (Week 5)

This chapter shared strategies for reading literature directed towards your articles focus. I like how it suggested setting up your electronic software or platforms first. This is critical — here are a few I have used or currently use myself with a quick “about” the platform:

references_phdcomics

I really appreciated Belcher’s (2009) suggestions on refining and targeting the literature review by reading materials that specifically contribute to the central argument of your manuscript. Here are a few categories to limit how you collect relevant literature:

  • Set a time limit:  i.e. read nothing written over 10 years ago or five or two depending on your field of scholarship/topic of research
  • Language: read articles in English or designated other languages
  • Questionable or not recommended publishing outlets e.g. trade journals, non-peer reviewed, some conference proceedings not always suitable (find a journal publication)
  • Journal outside your discipline (if not interdisciplinary work)
  • Certain kinds of authors (established vs. early career?)
  • Different geographical areas (by author country of origin)
  • Different time periods (related to your genre — this might apply to humanities more)
  • Different kinds of experiments (by your methods of study/research)
  • Different kinds of participants (by research sample type, size, etc)
  • Different variables (e.g. gender, age, etc.)
  • Without your keywords in the title or abstract – focus your search for these items
  • Non-electronic formats – if you can’t access the research from home/library resources

Homework: Share How You Review Literature
-Explain methods of how you search, find, read, review, and select your literature
-Outline strategies for effective ways to approach this part of the research process

Here are a few of my suggestions and approaches for how I read & review literature:

  • Make reading/review social – find others to collaborate and add them into your Mendeley (or another software program) group to add and review publications
  • Scopus Search (ALL.THE.PUBS) and Track: I record the different search strings, track what I find, and set an alert to receive any updates — this is relevant in my field as technology, methods, and research continue to build. Here’s a screenshot of one of recent Google spreadsheets for search with a colleague: Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 1.15.32 PM
  • Search for Publications Beyond Reach: articles I don’t have access to in my own library databases I tweet #iCanHazPDF [in action #icanhazpdf], ask a friend on Twitter, or email the author
  • Take fewer notes: Tag articles in the software,  group articles into specific folders, skim abstracts to code/organize, and identify literature for easy recall and use later
  • Don’t wait to write: Create annotations about publications as you would write it
  • Create an annotated bib for focused/small literature collections: include the APA 6th edition citation + a quick line or two making note about the study, methods, findings + personal thoughts on articles/methods
  • Google Scholar search the “Cited by ###” section of the site: this is to identify other relevant paper on topic or learn more about this research thread, i.e. a discovery search for missing literature
  •  Use Backward & forward referencing search method: for collecting and reviewing publications to be inclusive of empirical literature
  • Concept mapping the Literature: Check out the great post from Pat Thomson on “spaces between the literature” for reviewing research; a.k.a. bushwhacking
  • Key Searching Suggestions from Doing a Literature Review (Hart, 1998) was blogged about in my Book Review post.

Here’s our continued #AcWriSummer 2016 Plan schedule for the remaining 5 weeks:

  • 27th June WEEK 4: Chapter 6:  Strengthen structure =>Article outline (Meeting Tuesday, June 28th)
  • 4th July WEEK 5: Chapter 7 & 8:Presenting evidence & Opening/Concluding =>Draft article (Meeting Friday, July 8th)
  • 11th July WEEK 6: Chapter 9 & 10: Give/get/use feedback & Edit sentences => Give feedback on manuscripts (Meeting Friday, July 15th)
  • 18th July WEEK 7: Chap 11 & 12 (Wrapping up & Sending article!) => Final article (Meeting Friday, July 22nd)
  • 25th July WEEK 8: X & Other (Meeting Friday, July 29th)

If you’re following along or want to join, we’ll be meeting here from 9-10 am CT June 21st:

References:

Belcher, W. L. (2009). Writing your journal article in 12 weeks: A guide to academic publishing success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Hart, C. (1998). Doing a literature review: Releasing the social science research imagination. Sage.

#AcWri, #AcWriMo, #AcWriSummer

#AcWriSummer: Week 2 – Abstract Writing & Selecting a Journal

Last week, I shared how we were setting up an #AcWriSummer accountability group. Well, it happened. Thanks to Patrice, Catherine, & Caroline who are joining me on this 8-week #AcWri adventure as we go through the workbook created by Wendy Laura Belcher: Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks. Also, much thanks to Wendy, who shared her syllabi, as we work through our “short course” this summer. Here’s what our #AcWriSummer 2016 Plan looks like for the next few weeks:

  • 6th June WEEK 1: Chapter 1: Designing your plan for writing => Ideas for article; barriers; planning this short course
  • 13th June WEEK 2: Chapter 2 & 4: Abstract writing & Selecting a Journal
  • 20th June WEEK 3: Chapter 5: Reviewing the literature => (Reflections on) Lit review
  • 27th June WEEK 4: Chapter 3 & 6: Advancing argument & Strengthen structure => Article outline
  • 4th July WEEK 5: Chapter 7 & 8:Presenting evidence & Opening/Concluding => Draft article
  • 11th July WEEK 6: Chapter 9 & 10: Give/get/use feedback & Edit sentences => Give feedback on manuscripts
  • 18th July WEEK 7: Chap 11 & 12 (Wrapping up & Sending article!) => Final article
  • 25th July WEEK 8: X & Other (wrap up)

journal-1428424_1280

Items we’ll be working on this week are from Chapter (or Week) 2 and 4, which includes creating an abstract and reviewing potential journal publication outlets. We will be discussing these items on Friday (6/17) morning from 9-10 am CT (see more details about our online, synchronous meetings at the end of this post).

Week 2: Starting Your Article: The Abstract

“One of the best ways to get started on a revision of your journal article is to write and abstract – something that describes your article’s topics and argument” (Belcher, 2009, p. 54).

Why is writing an abstract so important?

  • Solving problems – can you clarify your own writing for what your manuscript is about? If not you might need more focus.
  • Connecting with editors (potential journal outlets) – are you able to explain your manuscript to a potential editor to determine fit with a journal?
  • Getting found – Can you explain and outline your research so it is easily found by other scholars? Think beyond title – abstract, keywords, etc.
  • Getting read – Can you introduce your article well enough that scholars will download and read your full article?
  • Getting cited – Would scholars be able to cite you on reading only your abstract? Do you share what the research is about in a succinct way?

The ‘Ingredients of a Good Abstract: Social Science” as suggested by Belcher (2009, p. 55) would answer the following questions:

  • Why did you start this research/project? (gap in literature, debate, or social issue?)
  • What is the project/research about? (topic of the article)
  • How did you conduct the research? (methodology)
  • What are your findings?  
  • What conclusions are formed from the study? (your argument)
  • What are your recommendations? (optional)

 

Chapter 4: Selecting a Journal: Searching & Evaluating

We bumped up Chapter (Week) 4 to this week, as we think it is important to also have an idea of how to formulate your manuscript based on the publication outlet you are aiming for. In this section of the workbook, Belcher offers a number of questions and resources to consider when searching and evaluating journal outlets.

If you have not already spoken to your advisor, colleagues, or peers about potential journal outlets in your discipline or for your research — you should! NOW! We will be discussing our target journals we have searched and evaluated during this week’s #AcWriSummer meeting. Other suggestions from Belcher (2009) include an old-fashioned shelf/online search, reviewing your citations to see where this research was published, identifying where your discipline publishes through your professional/academic associations and searching journal/electronic databases.

Here are a few search resources for finding journal outlets for publishing:

Let us know if you have other suggestions for searching for journals that you like or use – thanks!

Evaluating Academic Journals

Belcher (2009) offers questions to ask as you review these journal options for your own manuscript. I might suggest keeping the above journal and/or database information available AND be sure to DOWNLOAD the Scopus List [in Excel format] as it will also answer these questions when reviewing potential journals:

    • Is the journal peer reviewed?
    • Is the journal in the recommend publishing outlet category?
    • Does the journal have a solid reputation?
    • Does the journal have a reputable publisher?
    • Has the journal been around for a while?
    • Is the journal carefully produced?
    • Does the journal come out on time?
    • Are the authors published in its pages diverse?
    • Does the journal publish more than 5 or 6 articles a year?
    • Is the journal online or indexed electronically and where?
    • Does it take a long time to get published once you submit your manuscript?
    • Is the journal going through a transition?
    • Who reads the journal?
    • Does the journal have an upcoming theme or special issue on your topic?
    • Does the journal have word or page length limits you can meet?
    • Does the style of your article match the journal’s style?
    • Do you know any of the journal’s editors?
    • How does the journal require articles be submitted?

It was great to learn that Wendy is currently updating her book to include the importance of READING relevant journal articles. In listening to the 1st Episode of Research in Action, Wendy shared how more writers should be reading relevant journals. This is true. If you are not reading at least one article a week (or more), then you are not supporting your academic writing craft. Reading relevant journal articles, specifically those in a journal where you would like to target your manuscript allow you to target your paper by:

  • Citing related articles from the journal you select
  • Finding a model article to outline your manuscript to follow preferred style/format
  • Reading and knowing the direction, focus, scope, etc. of the journal
  • Determining articles published in the journal relevant to your topic, methods, etc.
  • Identifying the length of the articles and the number of references
  • Outlining key components in accepted articles published in that journal outlet 

This is not ALL there is in these workbook chapters for Week’s 2 and 4; however I thought a few of these resources might be helpful if you need to prepare your own abstract and you invested in locating the appropriate academic journal outlet for your manuscript.

Interested in Joining Us for our #AcWriSummer 2016 short course? Here are a few things to get involved in our academic writing group:

  1.  COMMIT to the #acwri process EVERY WEEK. This means following the workbook curriculum, check in during our weekly meetings, and following through with goals and objectives set each week for your writing process.
  2. SHARE YOUR PROGRESS via the #AcWriSummer 2016 Accountability Spreadsheet
  3. MEET EACH FRIDAY  (in June and July) from 9-10 am CT via the GoToMeeting link to “check in” and work through the chapter(s) each week:
  • #AcWri Summer Accountability Group 2016
  • Join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/648338213
  • You can also dial in using your phone: United States +1 (408) 650-3123; Access Code: 648-338-213

Reference:

Belcher, W. L. (2009). Writing your journal article in 12 weeks: A guide to academic publishing success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

#AcWri

#AcWriSummer for #AcWri Accountability Summer 2016

I’ve heard the mantra “publish or perish” in academia from a number of scholars, but what we don’t talk about is the true comradery of academic research and writing. I have been fortunate to be part of a few collaborative research and writing groups and pairs (Shout out to: The Center for Knowledge Solutions, my work with Dr. Nick, The Digital Learning & Social Media Research Group, #edusocmedia research team, the Mentoring Research Team, and the UNT Faculty Writing Group). I am proud to say that research and writing need not be a solo process.  This I know to be true.

In reading the @ProfHacker blog post, Academic Through Accountability, I was prompted to think about my own summer research and writing projects ahead. One quote stood out the most: “Finding the motivation to persevere through lengthy tasks with no end or reward in sight is a major part of being an academic.” The analogy of running and training alongside others for the long haul struck a chord with me. As a marathon runner, and one dedicated to long-term “training” for other sports — I am ready to part of another team to account for my writing habit and keep my #acwri practice productive this summer. And… I learned I am not alone.

Over the next couple of months, Patrice (a.k.a. @ProfPatrice) and I have committed to being #acwri writing partners-in-crime. In doing so we are going to work through the Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks, by Wendy Laura Belcher, in maybe 10 weeks this summer. Thanks to the UNT Writing Faculty Group for this resource, the time I have this summer to work through this book over the summer, and to Patrice for joining me in this #acwri journey process. 12 weeks If you want to join us on this #AcWriSummer journey (there’s a few of us using this hashtag on Twitter),  you can get your own book or read my weekly blog posts, and join our #acwri summer productivity group. There are only two rules:

  1. You have to COMMIT to the #acwri process EVERY WEEK. This means following the chapter curriculum (I’ll try to post the chapter themes on a Monday/Tuesday of each week), check in during our weekly meetings, and following through with goals and objectives set each week for your writing process.
  2. Be sure to #SaveTheDate and JOIN US each Friday (in June and July) from 9-10 am CT via the GoToMeeting link to “check in” to discuss your #AcWri progress:

#AcWri Summer Accountability Group 2016

Join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/648338213

You can also dial in using your phone: United States +1 (408) 650-3123; Access Code: 648-338-213

Week 1: Designing Your Plan for Writing

  • Understanding your feelings about writing
  • Keys to positive writing experiences
  • Designing a plan for submitting your article in twelve weeks (or less)
  • Selecting a paper or projects for revision/writing
  • Choosing Your Writing Site
  • Organizing your writing Schedule
  • Anticipating and overturning writing obstacles

It’s time to clean off that #AcWri white board of mine and put a few goals up… more to be updated soon! See y’all on Friday (6/10) at 9 am CT if you want to join the fun. Blogging, Instagramming, or tweeting about your academic writing progress? Feel free to use #AcWriSummer to share your updates. Write on!

Reference:

Belcher, W. L. (2009). Writing your journal article in 12 weeks: A guide to academic publishing success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

#AcDigID, #AcWri, #phdchat, Academia, Higher Education, networkedscholar

#AcDigID: Academic Digital Identity Matters

Over the last few weeks, you might have noticed the #AcDigID hanging off a few of my social posts. In between #OLCInnovate conference wrap-up work and the end-of-semester fun, I was designing a new workshop I’ll be facilitating via the Online Learning Consortium. This 7-day, asynchronous, online workshop is designed to support digital identity development for faculty and staff in higher education.

#AcDigID_hashtag

Developing Your Social Media and Digital Presence

Workshop Description: What does your online identity look like today? Have you Googled yourself lately? In academia, it is becoming increasingly vital to publish and share your teaching, service, and research knowledge. Besides developing an online presence and utilizing social media for professional development, faculty and staff are actively utilizing open and digital channels to support, learn, and contribute a thriving network of connected scholars. In this workshop, you will explore meaningful ways to craft an active, online persona, learn about strategies to effectively include social media and digital resources for your professional development, and understand how an online community of practice can enhance the work you do.

Learning Objectives:

  • Evaluate social media and digital platforms for faculty professional development, connected learning, and research impact.
  • Establish effective strategies for developing an online digital identity for open, networked scholarship.
  • Outline the benefits and challenges of open and digital scholarship while using social

Dates Offered: May 16-22, 2016 and September 26-October 2, 2016; Registration Page (if interested in signing up)

Initially, I was asked to create a workshop around social media; however I thought this could be more. There’s actually a lot more than just social media needed when becoming a networked scholar and in crafting your digital persona. Academic social networks are on the rise and there are a number of reasons why scholars use social media and digital resources (Van Noorden, 2014). This is an important topic we to talk about with our peers in higher ed, as we are all public intellectuals now – at least in some shape or form.

If you have ever attended a webinar and/or concurrent session with me on the topic, there’s way too much to share in just 45-60 minutes – so I was thrilled to think about these issues in an extended format and to figure out how to best support academics interested in building their digital presence. It’s been fun planning this workshop, as it has made me return back to my blog archive, review the articles I have curated, visit texts I’ve read, and also pick up a couple of new ones to learn more (future blog posts to review these books soon!).

Here’s the outline for the #AcDigID workshop this coming week:

  • Why Does Social & Digital Identity Matter in Academia?
    • Getting started, digital identity development, and state of scholars online
  • The Tools of the Digital Academic Trade: Social Media
    • Twitter, hashtags, blogging, podcasting, LinkedIn, and more!
  • Being a Connected and Digital Scholar
    • Digital research impact and influence, ORCID iD, academic social networks designed for scholars, and measuring impact.
  • Openness in Academia: Benefits & Challenges
    • Being open in higher education, the tension between challenges and affordances of online, and experiences from networked scholars.
  • Building Your Social and Digital Presence Online
    • Creating your own space and place for scholarship (at least 3 platforms)
  • Developing Your Digital Academic Identity
    • Bonus: ways to aggregate and showcase your digital/social profiles

I am looking forward to sharing ideas and strategies for digital scholarship and identity online this week in the #AcDigID workshop. I don’t claim to know all, and I continue to learn – however I will say I am grateful for those networked scholars who have supported my digital developing along the way. That being said, I know some of you might have suggestions, experiences, stories, and more when it comes to academic digital identity development. I welcome this. If you are or have been a higher education faculty/staff who is/was on social media, academic networking sites, or just online – please consider giving some advice to my #AcDigID workshop participants.

#AcDigID ADVICE and RESOURCES WANTED for how you share your teaching, service, and research scholarship online:

  • ADD TO THE LIST: to my “Academics Who Tweet” Twitter list? I would like to get a variety of scholars from all disciplines and areas in higher education. Let me know if YOU or someone else should be added.
  • SUGGEST A HASHTAG: Do you follow a particular academic hashtag that my #AcDigID community should know about?

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  • TELL YOUR #AcDigID STORY: Interested in coming to talk about your #AcDigID development? How did you become a networked scholar? Want to share your issues, challenges or affordances for your academic online self? Let me know – happy to have you during a synchronous, online meeting.
  • JOIN THE #AcDigID TWITTER CHAT: Join us for the live Twitter chat this coming Friday, May 20 from 1-2 pm EST – We will, of course, use the #AcDigID to ask questions and discuss the issues, challenges, and affordances of being a scholar online.

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  • USE the #AcDigID HASHTAG this week to introduce yourself, say hello, share resources, or offer advice.

Reference:

Van Noorden, R. (2014). Online collaboration: Scientists and the social network. Nature, 512(7513), 126-129.

#AcWri, #AcWriMo

Developing Writing Habits with #AcWriMo

Woah. It’s December 9th … where did the time go? It feels just like yesterday that I logged in to post my November #AcWriMo goals.

writing block

Here’s me reporting back after the month (Note: this month was extended as I took a bit of a hiatus over American Thanksgiving & #Friendsgiving) on my #AcWriMo GOAL(S):

1. Finish manuscripts in progress for journal submissions:
(a) ICS-Shared resources in CoP
(b) ER – Remedies for learners in MOOCs
(c) Cdn institutions use of Twitter
(d) IHE – social media governance
2. Edit and submit final version of NDSS chapter
3. Complete a draft of the full article for #edusocmedia SOTL systematic lit review publication.
4.  Draft of #advtech data & article on NACADA Clearinghouse/figshare.
5. Research methods & IRB for formal mentoring research project.
6. Outline article for peer review in MOOCs
7. #FashioningCircuits – data for another manuscript outside book chapter

Not bad, eh? Who knew that I just need to hone into #AcWriMo Rule No. 3:

Draft a writing strategy. Plan how to accomplish your goals. Organize your schedule for your uninterrupted #ShutUpAndWrite time. PLAN TO WRITE IN ADVANCE!

It’s SO true. If you don’t plan to write, you won’t actually write. Here was my overall strategy and plan for the month:

23641853985_c1f2571412_o

To make sure it happened, here are the strategic ways I ensured enough time to write:

  • Write EVERY day. This is hard. You are not always motivated to #AcWri every day — but it really helps you build a writing habit (21 days, right?). I am sure there are other items you can work on to fill the writing time, e.g. editing a manuscript, literature review search, organizing analysis, setting up project task lists, or organizing writing/research materials for your co-authors.
  • Determine the best time of day to write for you! For me, it was first thing in the morning between the hours of 6-10 am. These chunks of the day were for my “quiet writing” time. It could be late at night, or just after lunch. You decide.
  • Don’t check _______ before you start writing. For me the blank included e-mail, text messages, mobile, calendar invites, Twitter, RSS feeds, Facebook streams or news. I went right to the #acwri project that was up for that morning.
  • Block #ShutUpAndWrite time on your calendar (personal and work). Make it for 1 to 3 hours. Make appointments with yourself to write and KEEP THEM. I do this to reserve time on my calendar. This is a meeting for your writing productivity. (I do this with running & yoga as well — also very important appointments I keep).
  • Be an #AcWri Project Manager. Break your writing projects into smaller tasks. This will allow you to check off pieces of your writing, and motivate you as you make progress through your #acwri and research “to do” lists. (Bonus: Need a visual? Put it on a whiteboard in your office or remind yourself on your browser tabs – thanks Momentumdash!]
  • Log Your Time. This can be in your calendar notes, in a journal, or even an excel document — just to note the time in and out of writing. This helps to track when you were most productive, and what you worked on over the past week or month. If you need peer pressure, you could continue to log it here: #AcWriMo PUBLIC Accountability spreadsheet
  • Take A Day (or Two) Off. If you were VERY productive earlier in the week, it’s okay to break from the #acwri habit. Don’t burn yourself out from the writing flow. Or maybe come back to it later in the day if you’re not feeling it. #TreatYoSelf

The good news is I am still making progress on the #acwri goals not crossed off the list from November (and then some). Now that I’m armed with my #acwri plan, I will keep this writing pattern going strong for the winter break. With  ALL THE GRADING complete, nothing can stop me now. [Well perhaps a beach holiday might for a while, but I’m just adhering to #AcWriMo Rule No. 5]. Write on!

#AcWri, #AcWriMo

Learn to Write Badly #AcWriMo

In my writing process of jumping into #AcWriMo for November, I also decided to add reading to my writing goals. I have a number of books on academic writing I’ve acquired, so why not read more about said things to gain motivation, inspiration, and ideas for my writing process. As I’m personally extending my November #AcWriMo through this weekend (because American Thanksgiving interrupted my workflow, and perhaps some other fun things), I thought I would share some words of wisdom from Michael Billig’s book, Learn to Write Badly.

LTWBbook

I may have ordered this book based on the Times Higher Education review or comments from @ThomsonPat‘s blog post — either way it was not fully read until this month. I spent some time away from the screen to visit my parents in Florida and also to get ideas about my own writing practice. This was one of the books I packed and picked up again. A few comments stood out from these posts, which I agreed and wanted to read more about:

  • Academe is part of a wider world in which the use of highly technical, specialised language is endemic and possibly even necessary.” ~Times Higher Education
  • “…in writing in particular ways – doing pretty conventional social science in fact – we actually do poor research. When we turn actions into lofty abstractions, he suggests, we actually gloss over important ambiguities and difficulties and make it hard for readers to understand what has really happened, how or why.” ~ @ThomsonPat

As I agreed on both of these points, I thought — this read is for me. I will be honest. This books is not for all. There’s some historical context to academia that interested me; however there is also a delve into the discipline diatribe nature of certain social science arenas. This is not the fun “how to” light read you might be looking for; however it’s one academics comments and thoughts on how we research, write, and contribute to the cannon. If you’re into that, then you’ll enjoy this book.

A section of the book that stood out to me was in Chapter 2, where Billig discusses “Mass producing research” and the efforts academe puts into this process in higher education:

“Superficially all seems to be well in the academic world, for, along with the increasing student numbers, research is booming as never before and, as we shall see, never have academics been publishing so much. This is an age where research, across all disciplines, is being mass produced. Of course, with more academics working in higher education, one might predict an increase in research and academic publications. However, the books in research is far too big to be accounted for simply by the increase in the number of academics. The job of many academics has changed so that they are now expected to publish as well as teach” (Billig, 2013, p. 19).

[As well as service: mentoring, advising, career development, coaching, program development, course design, and then some.]

Just because there is more research or a “massification” in academic publications — it does not mean it is good. If you have had the chance to do a systematic literature review and citation analysis lately in your field or specific research area — you will soon discover a bunch of okay research gets published. Multiple times. Sometimes the same research, almost written the SAME WAY… just with different titles [I kid you not, and will dig into this topic in a later blog post].

This book had some serious slagging for how social scientists write and perpetuate a particular writing style, paired with a number of interesting historical and discipline specific references. For all academic writers, I think Billing’s (2013, pp. 212-215) recommendations offered in the final chapter provides helpful suggestions for our academic writing practice:

  1. We should try to use simple language and avoid technical terms as much as possible. We should not assume that technical terms are clearer and more precise than the ordinary ones…” – Keep it simple. Could you explain your research to anyone outside your field? Then do it in your manuscripts.
  2. “Try to reduce the number of passive sentences in your writing.” Say what you mean in present terms. Own it. The active voice should be the default voice as your sentences will contain more information and connect with your readers. Build this habit in your writing.
  3. “We should try to write clausally rather than nominally… I would like to see a greater proportion of them [technical terms] as other parts of speech besides nouns.” i.e. we need to express ourselves in clauses with active verbs. Be less passive in how we write (see #2).
  4. “Treat all these recommendations as either guidelines or aspirations, but not as a rigid rules.” You need to know the rules to break the rules of writing. I may have this rule for most things in life. Understanding more of the rules to guide how you draft your publications.
  5. “As social scientists, we should aim to populate our tests – to write about people rather than things.” The goal for this suggestion is to describe and write about what people think, do, feel, etc. How do your research findings actually impact the world around you? What does this mean for your discipline, field, or society?

Reference

Billing, M. (2013). Learn to write badly: How to succeed in the social sciences. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

#AcWri, #AcWriMo

Accountability for Writing with #AcWriMo

Academic Writing Month (#AcWriMo) is a month-long academic write-a-thon that happens every November. Are you in it, to win it? I am!

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Thanks to @CharlotteFrost for setting up the 1st #AcWriMo in 2011 (she’s also the founder and director of @PhD2Published) to coordinate a collaborative peer effort around accountability for academic writing.  After the first #AcWriMo ended, many embraced the #AcWri hashtag to continue a the discussion & discourse around academic writing (Follow: @AcWri). The PhD2Published blog shares ideas and inspiration for #AcWriMo – to follow these tips via the blog, follow the Twitter account, or “like” the Facebook page.

I’ve done #acwrimo in the past during my dissertating phase, so I know it works. This is a great peer community to help keep writing in check and supports my #acwri progress. This year I’ve set my #AcWriMo goals for November to wrap up a few writing and research projects. My priority is the green list, as these are active manuscripts in progress and need to be submitted before the month’s end. Then I’ll move right to publications in development, and future research ideas to tease out. Ask me how it goes this month – PLEASE!

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Good news. As of day 3, I am already finished with green list #1 – first draft of this manuscript is being edited and sent to the editors before the week is done. I have also made some progress on the Research I.P. for the IRB application and Research design on mentoring thanks to a meeting with collaborators this evening.

It might be day 3, but it’s NOT TOO LATE TO JOIN IN the #AcWriMo 2015 challenge => here are the 6 basic rules from the @PhD2Published blog:

  1. Set your writing goal(s) & plan. This can be in words, hours, or end products. You decide. (Check out the PhDometer app or 750 Words site to help you measure!)
  2. Make it public. Make it known. SIGN UP and let your goals & plan be known on the AcWriMo 2015 Sign-Up Form and then return to edit daily your progress. Peer pressure can do wonders! Check out WHO is participating from around the world on the #AcWriMo Map.
  3. Draft a writing strategy. Plan how to accomplish your goals. Organize your schedule for your uninterrupted #ShutUpAndWrite time. PLAN TO WRITE IN ADVANCE!
  4. Share your writing progress. Post it publically. Twiter, blog, Facebook, Instagram — share with the hashtag #AcWriMo how things are going AND track your daily progress on the community #AcWriMo PUBLIC Accountability spreadsheet.
  5. Keep the #AcWriMo-tivation going. Don’t slack off. Write like it matters. Push yourself to reach your goals — chunk out projects, writing sections, and manuscripts to GIT ‘R DUN!  December will be here sooner than you think…
  6. Declare your results. Update the spreadsheet or whatever space you are keeping track of your writing progress — then let the #AcWriMo community know about your writing results at the end of the month. It helps to share and be accountable in the open — it is also a chance to get support, cheers, and feedback along the way.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get your academic writing ON! See you out there, #AcWriMo!