Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: September 27, 2019

“I don’t think of literature as an end in itself. It’s just a way of communicating something.” ~Isabel AllendeIsabel Allende once said, “I don’t think of literature as an end in itself. It’s just a way of communicating something.” In reflection on this quote, TAA member Caroline Eisner commented on our LinkedIn page, “Allende seems a strong proponent of the idea that writing needs to communicate something TO SOMEONE, a strong appeal to writing with audience awareness. As if, without that awareness, literature doesn’t exist? Just thinking out loud here.”

This week’s collection of articles addresses similar thought, with focus on what publications matter at what stages of your career; the idea that writing is more than technical skill, but rather a capacity to apply knowledge; and the ability to use our skills as examples to others through mentoring or models. As more colleges try classes without textbooks, discussed in our final article, it’s right to consider whether literature is an end in itself or just a way of communicating something.

As you write this week, consider your audience and your form of writing. Are they aligned and do they communicate the ideas you intend to share with those for whom they are intended? Happy writing!

Which publications matter at which stages of your career?

What I’ve outlined below doesn’t list every type of publication and is not meant to be an indictment against any one of them. But for scholars who have any designs on a tenure-track job (not an easy get these days), let alone tenure, it’s important to know which invitations you should decline.

Grow your own writing practice

You often hear writing described as a skill. And a skill is the capacity to do something well, to use expertise built up through practice. Skills are often seen as merely technical, but a skill requires specialist knowledge and often years of training. However, it’s the capacity/ability to apply and use that knowledge that matters.

What makes a good mentor?

These four experiences shaped my sense of what makes a good mentor. When it was my turn to take the role of mentor, the term used for the dissertation supervisor at the institution where I served on the faculty, I aspired to be like the ones who influenced me in positive ways (and avoid any funerals.)

A good example

One of the best ways to understand what the research funding agency is asking for is to see a worked example. The very best way is to read the guidelines (and I’m sure that you all do that). But guidelines can only go so far – sometimes they are a bit vague, or ambiguous, or repetitive, or just poorly written. Sometimes it isn’t the fault of the guidelines at all – the fear of the task (and the ramifications of failure) overwhelm your capacity to understand the instructions. In all these cases a good example can go a long way to helping the writing process. So where can you find examples of applications?

Classes without textbooks? More colleges are giving it a try

Some states, including New York, are funding efforts to make open resources more available to students. In Pennsylvania, academic libraries are pushing for state funding, as well as educating and training faculty about open resources.