The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: August 3, 2018
This week’s collection of articles from around the web includes several perspectives on expectations as they relate to doctoral studies, writing, and academic life. Do you have PhD fear? Accustomed to minimal writing or hyper performativity? Interested in the value of conference presentations, crowdfunding, or research ethics? Curious about the new age academic, life after the PhD, what can not be published, or how to engage the public in your scholarship? We’ve got it all in the list below!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reminds us that “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” This week I encourage you to define a finish line for one of your projects and celebrate an ending so you can move on to the next great beginning. Happy writing!
I’ve got PhD Fear. I’ve had it for three days now, and there’s no sign it’s toddling off to find someone else to haunt. It’s always there, like a software programme quietly running in the background of my mind. A strange combination of lively moments of panic and levelling moments of stillness, I find myself overcome with the thought of completing a PhD. A PhD which I love, by the way.
About 30 percent of student respondents have never been required to write a paper at or exceeding 10 double-spaced pages. The students’ backgrounds correlated with their responses. Students whose families were more affluent, who were less religious or described themselves as liberal or “very left wing” were more likely to have been assigned a 10-pager than other students. Black students, male students and students who grew up abroad were also more likely to have been assigned one. However, when asked about the need for additional writing instruction, many students in those same demographics said they didn’t need any.
Recently my university’s central research office promoted a workshop for PhD students seeking an academic career and at early career academics. It was called something like ‘managing expectations about teaching and research’. The workshop organisers claimed it was aimed at encouraging participants to develop reasonable expectations of both teaching and research performance and workloads – not aiming too high and not aiming too low.
I must admit my initial response was based around a preference for breaking down the dependence on conferences as THE place to share findings or research ideas. This was, in part, because of the assumptions about researcher mobility and material support that this entails. However, on reading my trusted colleagues’ views and reflecting on the dynamics of academia more generally, I’ve shifted my opinions.
Need money for a project? Ask the crowd. In today’s Academic Minute, part of American University Week, Krista Tuomi discusses the pitfalls of relying on crowdfunding for cash. Tuomi is an assistant professor at American’s school of international service.
“Reconsidering the Value of Covert Research: The Role of Ambiguous Consent in Participant Observation” (Roulet, Gill, Stenger, & Gill, 2017) will be awarded best paper for 2017 by the Academy of Management Research Methods division. The study was published in the SAGE journal, Organizational Research Methods, and is open access through this link. This thought-provoking paper raises a number of questions not only about the nature of informed consent in organizational research, but also about constraints presented by the codes of ethics and guidelines researchers are compelled to follow. To learn more, I posed a few questions to lead author Thomas Roulet.
Last week I met Dr. Jenae Cohn. Actually, I did not meet Jenae in person. I met her by seeing her blog post How Do We Make the Labor of Instructional Design Visible? Write About It. Jenae is an Academic Technology Specialist in the Program in Writing & Rhetoric at Stanford University. There is a new generation of academics like Dr. Cohn that are remaking higher education. They are advancing student learning in roles that did not exist just a few years ago. The old binary of faculty / not-faculty is breaking down.
This roadmap is not set in stone, of course. It is a collection of ideas and questions to help you frame your mind. If early on during your PhD, you feel like you’d like to stay in academia, that doesn’t mean that your decision is made and that you can’t change your mind. Thinking about your next steps, and exploring options is a better way to prepare yourself than writing your thesis and then waiting for a job to magically be offered to you.
The much-vaunted ‘public engagement agenda’ doesn’t seem to consider that some of the public might like to engage, not only as passive consumers of lectures, but also as active authors of scholarly work. Until all of these inequalities are systematically and effectively tackled, academic publishing will continue to represent privileged voices alone.
There is broad agreement that researchers and the institutions that support them would do well to increase public outreach. From the de-funding of public higher education to the skepticism of media and expertise generally, it seems clear that the more we share with all of our communities about the work we do, the better.