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Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: December 4, 2020

"The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself." ~Albert CamusWhat’s your purpose as an academic author? According to Albert Camus, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Our work as academic and textbook authors can have significant influence on our colleagues, our field, and society at large. So, do you know your purpose? And, are you fulfilling it?

We begin this week’s collection of articles from around the web with questions that probe the concept of purpose as researchers and authors. We then explore topics of support for our writing, pursuit of relevance, societal impact, and trust & credibility. Our list continues with practical advice on writing practices including note-taking, scheduling, literature review, perseverance, visual communications, writing groups, and a recognition that today is yet another opportunity to do more and to do better.

This week I challenge you to define (or refine) your purpose as an academic author and align your writing practice with that purpose for the remainder of 2020 and into the new year. Happy writing!

What kind of researcher are you?

Being trustworthy is important, not only for the credibility of our own research, but for the field as a whole. In a fact-challenged world, we need to show that empirical research has a unique value. If we want professionals, practitioners, and the general public to value our contributions, we need to exemplify high standards.

Do you have a sense of where you are?

Don’t ever think you have arrived. When you think that, even if you’re multi-published, you start to atrophy. There are authors who once cared about the craft but now just mail it in, because they have an established following. Don’t let that be you. Respect the craft, and keep at it.

Plan to write – a controlling purpose

At some point in the writing process, most writers develop a plan. Some writers may already have, before they plan, chunks of text or a crappy first draft that needs to be beaten into shape. Other writers begin with the plan, perhaps making an outline. Regardless of the point at which the planning happens, the plan itself needs to have a goal – or what is often called in writing instruction, a controlling purpose.

Using visual and material methods to support your writing

Very few people would say that they find writing easy. You might find it satisfying and (if you’re lucky) enjoyable, but most of us would also say that we find writing rather difficult. Whether we are writing for an academic publication, thesis or a friend’s birthday card, it can be a struggle articulating all we have to say through the written word. So what if we don’t make words our only focus? What if we can harness visual and material techniques to support and illustrate our writing?

In pursuit of scholarly publishing relevance

It’s not all doom and gloom. One must perform constant personal strength-weakness-opportunity-threat analyses to assess one’s future. There is no room for entitlement for any one of us. I have good news for you, though. There are multiple action items we can all take to future-proof our careers, as Scholarly Kitchen Chef David Crotty called this idea of the pursuit of individual relevance when I pitched this post to him.

Gold Open Access research has a greater societal impact as used more outside of academia

What impact does open research have on society and progressing global societal challenges?  The latest results of research carried out between Springer Nature, the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) and the Dutch University Libraries and the National Library consortium (UKB), illustrates a substantial advantage for content published via the Gold OA route where research is immediately and freely accessible.

Dec. focus: Trust & credibility in our research roles

In the Covid era we increasingly rely on connections established and maintained online. Whether they are gatekeepers or potential participants, editors or co-authors, we must build relationships with people we can’t meet in person.  Somehow, we need to present ourselves in a way that invites others to see us as trustworthy. Then, to create real impact with our research, we need to do a better job with differentiation between empirical, peer-reviewed findings and misinformation or opinion.

Analog note-taking when highlighting is not possible (e.g. books)

Since I prefer analog systems and do not mark books up, here are a few ways in which I take notes that still retain some of the characteristics of my strategies for printed materials.

When regular schedules aren’t working anymore

Focus on what needs to be done, not when: If it’s not going to happen 7am-9am, it’s OK to write later in the day. As long as I find some time during the day, often a shorter block than 2 hours, I can make progress. Some progress is still better than no progress at all.

How to write, evaluate, and use methodological literature reviews

The essay is based on the trio’s paper in the journal Organizational Research Methods, and both the paper and the essay make clear that despite some established conventions and a clear need for clear, thorough and transparent methods literature reviews to avoid questionable research practices, mastery of this technique is widely lacking and concrete advice is necessary. The paper’s abstract and video abstract appears below, followed by the essay.

While you scream inside your heart, please keep working

Good project management is at the heart of being a good academic researcher. I’ve bought a LOT of project management books and invested in a lot of software, which has helped a bit, but failed to solve the lateness problem completely. Lately I have switched away from a focus on tools and started to try and understand the problem of lateness better instead.

Visual communications and research

For the 2020 MethodSpace AcWriMo we aim to catalyze new thinking about Publishing Trends (and what they mean for academic writers.) See the whole series here. One trend is toward the digital, and another is toward creativity. These two trends intersect when we communicate visually, since the Internet is increasingly a visual medium. After my recent interview with Dr.Dr. Curie Scott about phenomenographic research, I asked her to weigh in.

Getting the most out of writing groups (online and offline)

I strongly believe that you get out of a writing group what you put in. If you are supportive of others in the group, you’ll definitely find support too. I don’t think one can get into a writing group in an extractive manner, expecting benefits but not providing support, help and encouragement as well.

There’s always December

November was Academic Writing Month, a month dedicated to collegial online support for writing productivity. Some of you may have participated; some of you may have laughed at the very idea; some of you may have resented the public show of productivity at a time like this; some of you may have tried and found it unhelpful; some of you may have never even heard of it. For the first time in many years, I tried to keep up with #AcWriMo myself in order to finish a first draft of my book manuscript. Switching up the way we work is always revealing, and I thought I’d use this post to reflect on the experience.