The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: April 20, 2018
This week’s collection of articles from around the web contains a lot of advice for academic authors including key writing skills, tips for communicating with your dissertation chair, coping strategies, and books on writing productivity. It also contains information on changes in research and edtech, including Google’s “Talk to Books”, a study on uncited research, necessary support and incentives for sharing data, and a scam involving forged acceptance letters from journals. Finally, we have an article on a technology platform for textbook authors designed to keep textbooks current.
According to Khaled Talib, “Writing is the light of imagination playing over shadow of thoughts.” This week let your imagination drive your research and creativity to enhance your writing.
One thing that students may never avoid is writing academic papers on certain topics. The learner is required to research, compose the writing, and refine it before submitting. Academic writings adhere to specific rules that guide the entire activity. Learning these rules is needful if one would want to create wonderful papers.
“No matter what your research goal, all research proposals present three common elements,” says qualitative methodology professor Nathan Durdella in the video segment below. “These are the introduction, the background or literature review, and the approach or methodology.”
As a dissertation chair, methodologist, content expert and former doctoral student I have sat on all sides of the dissertation committee. Throughout this process communication is the most essential element to facilitate student success throughout the progression. Without communication progress stalls, motivation can wane and confusion sets in.
During the early days of my PhD, I found that some of the ways that I used to work were not always helpful and added to my stress levels. I found many resources aimed at students transitioning from undergraduate and Masters degrees to PhDs, but not many aimed at those making the transition from full-time work to full-time study. Based on my experience, here are five realisations that helped me make the transition.
This is a review of six books that address productivity in academic writing (though some cover other topics too). They are listed in order of publication date. Page counts do not include prelims or appendices, indexes etc. All costs are recommended retail prices for paperback editions apart from Helen Sword’s book which is only available in hardback. Prices were taken from Wordery (who offer significant discounts on the prices shown here) apart from Jo Van Every’s book where the information was provided by the author.
Zombie papers might be the remnants of nearly-forgotten research ideas or the seed of a brilliant contribution. They seemed like a great idea at the time, but other things distracted you. Why do such papers exist? In a world filled with efficiency measures and impact factors, surely there is every reason for researchers to turn ideas into submissions into papers as efficiently as possible.
Last Friday, Google unveiled “Talk To Books,” a new tool which uses semantic search – search based on meaning, rather than mere keywords, and powered by the same Google conversational AI used to implement ‘smart’ email replies – to provide an entirely new way to explore books. What happens when, for the first time in human history, books can be searched at the sentence level, rather than at the author or topic level?
Traditionally, teachers would be assigned a textbook and asked to use it. They were likely unaware of the many steps that the publisher of the text had taken to create, vet, edit, and review everything that went into that textbook. The book might not have been fascinating to students, but the information in it was based on research and reliable. In other words, content quality was largely outsourced, and teachers need not add it to the list of things that they needed to worry about. Edtech, however, does not usually have the same kind of review or research in place before teachers use it. And this leads to a problem with edtech: Can research keep up?
Citations, footnotes, reference lists, lists of content and indexes are good avenues for getting deep into a topic. By using these handy little adjunct texts you can amass a set of relevant reading relatively quickly. These lead you to various complexities, permutations, and debates. And if you like reading out of your field, or reading texts written in other locations, these side texts can be very helpful indeed; the references that writers use are often culturally and geographically as well as discipline specific.
These vast differences in the rates of work going uncited in different disciplines have emerged from an analysis of bibliometric data from Elsevier’s Scopus database by Billy Wong of Times Higher Education’s data team. According to the analysis, which looked at disciplines in which at least 10,000 pieces of research were published between 2012 and 2016, almost 77 percent of publications from 2012 in the visual and performing arts were still uncited by 2017.
To achieve real “open science” we need to open up all areas of research, including research data. Making data available for other researchers to find, use, reuse, and reproduce will make research more efficient and effective. Members of the newly formed UK Research and Innovation, an independent organisation that brings together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England, the Wellcome Trust, and other UK funders have moved early to encourage and require data sharing. Yet researchers in the UK report lower percentages of data sharing than the global average. Policy must be coupled with greater support and education for researchers, and faster, easier routes to sharing data optimally. Incentives and credit for data sharing are also needed.
Another scam seems to be taking hold in certain parts of the world. Over the last 5 years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has become aware of seven fake acceptance letters for our journals. Here’s how this goes:
Draper’s remedy was a business model called Stukent. Stukent is a digital courseware provider that works to keep textbooks current with the industry. In 2013, Draper and a team of developers came up with a technology platform that allows them to work directly with textbook authors. The authors continually make updates to the text while Draper and his team market the service to universities.