Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: November 22, 2019
Continuing the trend of Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo) articles, this week’s collection from around the web includes a lot of tips for academic writing. Specifically, this week we have found articles on productivity & happiness, creating better mentors, unsticking your writing, understanding research technology infrastructure, navigating the PhD defense process, and illustrating your research.
This week, we add the words of George Singleton to the advice as well, “Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk—away from any open flames—to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.” Happy Writing!
In his research on scheduling, the author of Deep Work, Dr Cal Newport, finds that in an age of distraction, it’s not the frequency of work that leads to productivity and satisfaction but the depth and level of concentration we are able to achieve.
A good mentor must know many things: the methodological foundations of the discipline; the tacit rules of academic culture; how to pass along insider knowledge in a way suited to a younger person’s career stage and personal dispositions; how to recognize and nurture potential; and how to empathize across lines of difference, if only those of age. But such knowledge is never enough. As in any relationship, success depends on the actions of both parties.
Regular readers know I have little time for the concept of writer’s block, where people allegedly find themselves unable to write for days, weeks, months, even years. However, I do understand that writers sometimes get stuck. This is a temporary affliction, but an annoying one, which can cost us valuable minutes or hours. So I thought it might be helpful to share ten strategies I have adopted and/or developed over the years to keep my writing flowing.
Over the last decade, research transformation through new technologies, infrastructure, collaboration and skills (eResearch) has been dominated by investments in facilities, large instruments, data generating equipment, and policy interventions. Cloud enabled services are now a fundamental part of the knowledge economy and the research sector. For students and academics to develop the data science, technology and computational competencies for working with increasingly rich and complex datasets, they must first understand the underlying enabling technical infrastructures. As needs and appetite for data-driven research increases, so does the requirement to acquire a better understanding of how to use the infrastructure already provided, as well as guiding and contributing to the kinds of infrastructure that are yet to be built. But we must start at the beginning, to make sure no-one is left behind.
As a writing coach I sometimes find myself giving the same pointers and tips again and again. Over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to the raised eyebrows these tips can generate. They seem unconventional and counter intuitive. They’re often not received academic wisdom. But I keep saying them anyway because experience has shown me that they work. And whether you’re starting out on your PhD journey or you’re an experienced author – they can work for you too.
I’m currently coauthoring a book about the PhD defense, and one of the points we are covering is advice for the PhD defense from the point of view of the examiners. The majority of testimonies in the “PhD Defenses around the World” are from former PhD candidates. Some of them have added a paragaph reflecting on how they now examine as a committee member, but the point of view of examiners is underrepresented. So, I turned to Twitter to ask for the best advice from committee members.
If you research people, places and cultures that are represented in TV, film, social media, or the news, then it’s likely you’ve thought that popular culture misrepresents your work and the people that you speak to. Graphic novels, with their focus on character driven narratives, are able to communicate the rich lived experiences of all kinds of people to an outside audience. This can provide a more nuanced and ethical portrayal of your research and research participants.