The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: November 2, 2018
As we enter into Academic Writing Month (#AcWriMo) 2018, the focus of many is academic writing practices and ways to improve the results and experience of academic writing. At TAA, we will be maintaining a fundamental focus on academic writing this month around the theme of “The 5 W’s of Academic Writing“. It is therefore fitting that our collection of articles from around the web this week focuses also on such challenges and practices.
Our collection begins with the challenges of academic writing, revising with a reader in mind, and starting new research topics as a post-doc. We continue with topics of experimental control and collaboration with peers. Finally, we explore the wildcard of examination, a holistic publication strategy, and the ethics of conference speakers.
Wherever you are in your own writing process, we hope that you can find ways to build a stronger writing practice over the coming weeks. Shannon Hale once said, “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” So whether you are simply shoveling sand or finishing a castle, happy writing!
I recently ran a poll on Twitter to learn what are the most common challenges with academic writing. While a quick poll with only four options to answer is a very limited approach, I did learn that my idea that “finding time for writing” is a challenge for many. For me, too, it is what I struggle with most. I try to block two hours each morning for my writing, but with everything I still need to write, it often feels like those two hours are not enough.
Different academic readers have different expectations, experiences, interests and disciplinary traditions. And while all academic readers will be looking to see that your writing is well evidenced and argued, they may also approach your writing differently. An examiner, a reviewer of a niche journal, a more general interdisciplinary audience interested in the book of your thesis, or readers of an academic blog may each be looking for slightly different things from your writing. So, when revising your first draft, one of the key thing to consider is – your reader.
Just as for the PhD trajectory, it is difficult to plan a research project – but allowing for plenty of buffer time in your planning and having an overall idea of what is expected from you, should help you draw a blueprint for your planning. Since the general steps of a post-doc project are similar to a PhD trajectory, I will here discuss the particularities only of a post-doc project.
An experiment without the proper controls is meaningless. Controls allow the experimenter to minimize the effects of factors other than the one being tested. It’s how we know an experiment is testing the thing it claims to be testing.
In addition to coursework, the work that students do outside of class can relate directly to dissertation research. In fact, a range of options may be available to students on and off campus to support dissertation work. Sometimes, you need to ask directly to find opportunities and consider every chance to work collaboratively with faculty.
Eventually I received my examination reports. To say they were polar opposites is no exaggeration. The first examiner judged my work to be “an exemplary thesis… one of the most outstanding pieces of doctoral research I have had pleasure to examine”. He further noted that “the thesis fulfils and then exceeds in most aspects standard requirements of doctoral enquiry”. On the other hand, the second examiner criticised all aspects of the research, suggesting that the thesis did not demonstrate the skills expected at doctoral level.
The theme for AcWriMo 2018 on SAGE MethodSpace is: Create a Holistic Publication Strategy. During MethodSpace AcWriMo you will find original posts and open access resources about all of these options. We are encouraging you to look for synergies among the options that best fit your work, so that choices are mutually-reinforcing. We hope that instead of feeling that you are being pulled in too many directions, you will find a sense of coherence in your writing activities. We’ll call that coherent plan a holistic publication strategy.
Ethically, I think I have a responsibility to identify and do what I can to address structural inequalities in our society. After all, it’s long past the time when manels or all-white panels should be thought of as acceptable. If you also feel this way, here are some ideas for what we can do. If you are invited to speak at an event, you can ask about the diversity of the speakers before you choose whether or not to accept the invitation.