Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: April 16, 2021
As we enter the back half of April, many of us in academia are finding students nearing the end of their academic term looking at their grades and considering what it will take to pass the class and avoid failure. Many of us, also as writers, may be facing deadlines or revisiting our goals and expectations for our writing during the same time and feeling this same sense of success or failure in our own efforts.
The spirit of academia, of learning, and of writing is one of process more than events. While we often focus on the events that define the process – graduation, publication, even final grades or first drafts, we need to remember the words of Zig Ziglar who said, “Remember that failure is an event, not a person.” Even when faced with events of failure, the process continues.
Our collection of articles this week includes processes of developing good habits, revising our writing (sometimes into multiple papers), defining the right methodology and tools for our studies, and exploring new opportunities along the way. Wherever you are in your process, keep your goal in mind. Treat failures as events and don’t lose sight of your process. Happy writing!
I had finally found a process that worked for me: sitting down every day and writing. It didn’t have to be perfect or even great; it was a first draft, which I learned could suck. I was taking the time to form a new habit — a good one — that made me go from piddling around on my keyboard to actually producing a full story. It didn’t matter if what I wrote was inspired or just helped me get from point a to point b. Writing daily worked my creative muscles.
But could I see that at first? No. I’m no different than any other academic writer in thinking through what and how to write a paper. I stayed mired in the morass I had created, bogged down for some weeks. I could absolutely see how the overall complex argument might go, but I just couldn’t make it work. Every day I did a bit on the unsatisfactory paper trying to whip it into shape. Multiple versions. Multiple days. No luck. Gah.
Researchers have been using photo, graphic, film elicitation techniques for a long time, but with today’s technologies we have new opportunities to expand these modes for collecting rich data. We can send images back and forth via text message or email, or even better, share and discuss them on a videoconference platform.
In short, these diagrams help us visually assess the possible causes and effects of a specific problem. We display the information in a way that we can also create relationships between these possible causes and effects.
While research terms are often used differently across disciplinary and methodological contexts, I use the term surveyto describe a way to collect data for quantitative research, using a tested instrument. I use the term questionnaire to describe a way to collect data for qualitative studies based on questions devised by the researcher. By this definition questionnaires can include more open-ended questions that invite narrative responses, while surveys include more check-box and Likert scale options.
As far as dead-ends are concerned, current solutions and business models are pulling us in the wrong direction, toward a world where only rich institutions and countries will be able to publish in the most widely read open journals. This approach threatens to further disenfranchise yet another generation of researchers from lower-resourced regions of the world, and perpetuate an era of privileged science where the only questions researched are those of importance to the rich.