Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: February 4, 2022
Roald Dahl once said, “A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.”
While our collection of articles from around the web this week (and most) identify many of the challenges of academic writing (and ways to navigate or face those challenges), there are also countless opportunities to advance the world around us through our efforts.
Ask most authors if they have gotten rich from their writing and you will likely hear a resounding no, but it’s worth considering the other forms of compensation that may exist for us fools who choose to write. Happy writing!
Plain Language Means Better Science
Plain Language Summaries move published research beyond the basic definition of Open Access – availability – toward a more ambitious goal of understandability.
Yes, Writers Need to Hear the Hard Truths. But Warnings Can Go Too Far
While warning each other is necessary—especially when it comes to predatory practices or people—I do wonder what happens when we spend too much time on the negative. I myself recently attended a conference where over half of the lineup was dedicated to the pitfalls of publishing. Even a program that I thought would be inspirational had a discouraging tone.
Just as a lot of ‘invisible work’ is needed to keep a supermarket functioning, so it is with the PhD. At the end of four or five years, we hope to see a document of around 80K words appear, but the work involved is virtually invisible to everyone except you. We don’t talk about this invisible work much – except for writing (there’s always a lot to say about that).
Revisiting: The Multifarious Book
To a very great extent, conversations about digital books assume that there could be a direct mapping from the world of print books to digital texts. While this may be true for some books (a novel by Stephen King or Zadie Smith can be read as easily on a Kindle or Kobo reader, a tablet, or an iPhone, as well as in hardcover or paperback), the “book” is not one thing, a homogeneous category. In fact many books are not likely to have precise digital equivalents. This is because the format of the printed book serves many purposes, and the presentation of content is only one of them. The book is multifarious. Here we revisit a 2017 post on the subject.
I’ve been meaning to write this post all week. But I’ve not done so. And here I am on Sunday morning with the prospect of not having anything to publish, for the first time ever. I’ve sat at my desk on several occasions fully intending to write. But other things called to me – the exercise bike needed to be pedalled, that paper needed revision, and the several books on my to-read pile called out for attention. I succumbed to two of these competing demands, bike and books.
Coach Rocío Caballero-Gill helps us break down the phrase “I need to find time to write.” She’s got some perspective on this universal issue, as well as some strategies for where to start. When we’re looking at trying to “find time” for something as academics, there are 3 things we need to start by reflecting on.
Your brand—your name, the cover art for your book, and even the typeface for the title—set expectations for the book’s contents. That advice about not judging a book by its cover? It’s lovely in theory, but in practice, that’s just not how it works.
Iterative Development, User-centered Design, and the Fear of Getting it Wrong in Publishing
If you try something, fail, and then use those learnings to improve, that’s not exactly an error. It’s part of a methodology. An important part of that methodology is the willingness to spot the least viable approach and pivot. It also requires a willingness to take risk and incorporate that risk taking into our approach to running our businesses. A core element of that methodology is focusing on the needs of users, and ideally interacting with them in this process.
After a recent one-on-one writing consultation, a student sent me a thoughtful reflection on what she had learned: ‘to acknowledge my writing style and learn how and where I can use my strength while I keep improving what I have’. I’m always glad when a writer leaves with a clear sense of their own strengths as well as areas for further development. As I thought about this further, I began to wonder about this tension: We all want to become better writers, but we can only be the writers that we are.
How to Write the Perfect Author Bio
One of the important marketing tools a writer needs is an author bio. This descriptive bit of writing informs readers, in few words, who you are, what you write, and what makes you unique. It’s the marquee announcing your author presence in the world of publishing.
Information Experience Design: Holistic, Humanistic Solutions for Scholarly Products
Despite the best intentions, UX methods can be employed as user-centric window dressing and are often limited to concerns with web interface design. User stories and profiles can be used to sanitize or simplify the messy realities of navigating the literature and the broader contexts in which scholarly information practices occur. I would argue that it’s time to elevate our thinking beyond the reductionist confines of UX methods to the more holistic and inclusive approach of information experience design (IXD).
Massive open index of scholarly papers has launched
A free index of more than 200 million scientific documents that catalogs publication sources, author information and research topics, has launched.