Learn as you mentor: An interview with Felicia Moore Mensah

Felicia Moore-Mensah

Felicia Moore-Mensah

Felicia Moore Mensah, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Science Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is widely published in the fields of science and education and serves on the editorial review boards of the Journal of Science Teacher Education and Journal of Elementary Science Education, as well as lead-editor for Cultural Studies of Science Education.

Recently awarded the 2012 American Education Research Association Division K, Early Career Award, Dr. Mensah currently serves as President of Sisters of the Academy Institute, one of TAA’s chapters.

Here Moore Mensah talks to TAA about her experiences with scholarly writing:

TAA: How do you decide on a topic for your scholarly writing?

FMM: “My major focus of scholarly writing is academic writing in the form of manuscripts for journals or invited book chapters. I decide on topics for scholarly writing that are most connected to my research interests in science teacher education. Therefore, my research is deeply connected to my practice as a teacher educator, and this dictates my writing.

I read the literature and attend national conferences, and these two activities allow me to know broadly the dialogue in the field. I do research in my science methods courses, and with the opportunity to teach the same methods course two to three times per year, I develop a sense of what preservice teachers need and how to address questions of interest for research. I often develop several research questions and use multiple theoretical lenses and data collection methods from the courses I teach.”

TAA: Can you discuss your personal approach to writing?

FMM: “My approach to writing has changed a great deal over the last couple of years, post-­-tenure. I have not devoted as much time to my personal research, but I have been giving more time to my doctoral students and other junior faculty in mentoring and advising them through the publication process. I have also spent a great deal of time serving on the editorial review boards of journals in my field and serving as a guest reviewer for other education journals. Although this service has dipped into my personal writing time, I feel that I am a more effective and efficient writer because of these activities.

I reserve one to two days per week for writing, setting aside the whole day. This entails analyzing data, looking up journal articles or book chapters to read, and reading. I write at my home office rather than my office on campus because I need focused and uninterrupted time. I set goals according to the three to four professional conferences I attend annually. This means that I have 4-­-6 manuscripts per academic year; this does not include co-­-writing with my students or book chapters. I aim for a 3-­-4 months after a conference to submit the full paper to a journal. Therefore, I set semester goals and work so that my research and writing are connected to my teaching and that my productivity does not lag from year to year.”

TAA: Can you share a breakthrough moment during your writing career?

FMM: “I recall one aha moment and it was when I submitted my first manuscript that got rejected— and it should have! I have always thought of myself as a strong writer but being a strong writer is not the same as being a journal manuscript writer—though they are related. My submission was rejected without going out for review. On my second attempt, I sent out an article and one reviewer saw that I had some good ideas and gave me great advice on editing my manuscript. The aha moment was not in a huge revision of the paper but in small details, such as organization (make sure that when you present your findings that you also discuss the findings in the same order). There is an organized pattern or structure for a manuscript and I write within the structure but I do not let the structure hinder my flow of writing when I sit down to write.”

TAA: Do you have any tips that you can share that have helped expedite your publication process?

FMM: “The advice I would give is to know the structure and audience of the journal that you are writing/submitting to. Adhere to the journal guidelines and spend as much time on discussion and conclusion as you would the literature review and presenting the findings. In other words, the end of the paper should be as strong as the beginning of the paper. Make certain that the whole paper comes together into a coherent, insightful and thoughtful piece that tells a story that has not been told previously and can extend the conversation-­–­- i.e., it adds to the field.”

TAA: What are your favorite TAA benefits?

FMM: “My favorite TAA benefit is receiving the newsletter. The newsletters have wonderful features, such as advice for academic writers and textbook authors. I have a desire to write a book, one day, and the information from successful and accomplished TAA members who have written textbooks and other books is helpful and valuable information for me to tuck away in mind and to refer to when I am ready to put my ideas into a book proposal.”

TAA currently sponsors two academic authoring workshops presented by Dr. Felicia Moore Mensah titled “Writing and Publishing Your Scholarly Journal Article” and “Developing a Tenure Binder.” Learn more about these workshops