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Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: March 5, 2021

“We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.” ~Lloyd AlexanderAs academics, we seek to gain and share knowledge, we look for answers and question the ones we know, and we encourage students and colleagues to continue learning and expanding their breadth of knowledge. But what happens when we don’t find an answer or, worse yet, don’t feel like we have the answer to give to someone else?

As academic and textbook authors, we are the authority – the knowledge source – in our discipline, so how could we possibly not have an answer to give, and if we don’t, then maybe we need to question whether we belong in that position of responsibility as a writer after all, don’t we? Lloyd Alexander once said, “We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.” In other words, the pursuit of knowledge (and the efforts we make to help others pursue knowledge) are actually of greater benefit than the knowledge itself.

This week’s collection of articles begins with some limiting beliefs of many writers, includes suggestions for developing your academic writing through process and practice, and ends with a modern suggestion for overcoming writer’s block. As you write this week, spend time looking (and helping others look) for answers rather than feeling as though you need to already have or provide the answers themselves. Happy writing!

3 Harmful beliefs to overcome as a writer

Almost every writer I’ve spoken to has experienced one or more of the following limiting beliefs. In an effort to help you smash through your limitations, I’d love to share my tips on overcoming them.

Wrangling your best energy

We’ve all been in a situation something like this: there’s an important thing you need to write, and you spend your day running around while thinking of all the things you’re going to say in the piece you’re writing. Then when you finally sit down with the important thing, you’re out of energy and your brain is empty. And not only are you in this stuck situation; you’re also resentful because you remember all those other moments during the day when you DID have energy. And what you don’t remember is all those busy-work things you need to do to move the piece forward. All you know is that you don’t have what your brain needs to actually write a thing.

Lockdown writing routines – a.k.a a cheer for the humble pear

Most creative writers have their own idiosyncratic set of rituals and routines. Academic writers do too. But at least some of these practices may have had to change during WFH – working from home – during the various lockdowns. While I’ve been acutely aware of changes that lockdown has brought to PhDers I hadn’t thought a lot about what it meant for me. I’ve been aware of fluctuating motivation of course, something a lot of people experience at the best of times – but more so now. But that’s not all that’s been going on for me. As I realised a couple of weeks ago.

Helpful tips for isolated writers

Being isolated isn’t easy, especially as a creative person. The same active imagination that allows you to produce your art can also fixate on stressful life events. While we may not have chosen this current situation, we can choose to make the best of it. I’d like to share some tips for creatives facing isolation, with a focus on both wellbeing and work.

March focus: Designing an ethical study

In the first quarter of 2021 we explored design steps, starting with a January focus on research questions. We continued to learn about the design stage in February by focusing on Choosing Methodology and Methods.  For March, the focus is on Designing an Ethical Study.

Creative writing for social research

The techniques of fiction and non-fiction are not entirely separate. Good non-fiction requires good storytelling, just as much as good fiction. There is scope for academic writers to use storytelling techniques more often used by fiction writers, such as conflict, the creation of tension, and drama. A few writers know this already.

Batch-processing groups of reading materials (articles or book chapters)

The advantage that using Batch Processing offers, whether you distribute it over a week with a daily #AICCSED or devote a couple of hours on Fridays to this work, is that it allows you to reach Conceptual Saturation faster: by looking at interrelated papers, who might even be citing each other, you may end up being able to get a overview of the field (or at least, of the gaps you have in what you know about it).

Putting publications into context with the DocMaps framework for editorial metadata

DocMaps aims to be a framework with a common way of describing editorial events, on which publishers of documents can place the components they can, or wish to, share. We have come up with two example use-cases for DocMaps with the help of our Technical Committee. In one, a publisher wishes to capture context about a double anonymized review of an article published in their journal with two rounds of revisions. In the other, an independent review service notifies a preprint server about a review of an article on their platform, describing a fully transparent review of a preprint article with links to the review report and author response.

Getting creative with the discussion section

The discussion section is the ‘problem child’ of the thesis because it asks you to be creative. In How do I write the discussion section? I covered what could go in the discussion section and in what order, but I did not address the creativity problem.

Revising the dissertation/thesis: From first draft to readable draft to shareable draft

This blog post focuses on using backcasting techniques and Overview Devices to revise the doctoral dissertation (chapter by chapter and/or the full draft). Applies to any thesis, for that matter. You can also extrapolate my strategy to revising a book manuscript as well (edited or solo author).

On blocks and blogs

Common wisdom suggests lowering the writing bar and changing up the genre to make it feel more everyday, for example by journaling, writing an email to a friend or explaining what you want to say out loud to yourself and then transcribing it. But one of the most effective ways to get yourself writing is by writing (real or fake) blog posts.