What do modern students want in a textbook? Writers want to know.

tablet with ebook in front of stack of print booksI was intrigued by an article in Research Information, a newsletter for libraries and publishers. “The rise and rise of e-reading” discussed the growth in electronic textbooks and articles. As a writer I have been intrigued by the potential for embedding interactive components and live links in texts, but disappointed to find that such materials are more typically relegated to a companion website. In my previous faculty role, I noticed a gap between the university’s enthusiasm for adopting e-books, and my students’ preference for paper textbooks. As a reader, I prefer e-books when I read for enjoyment, but usually like paper when I am working with textbooks. I thought I’d dig a bit more, and share what I discover with you, my fellow writers.

What did publishers say in “The rise and rise of e-reading”? [Read more…]

Doctoral writing circles: Learning to write and collaborate

writing circleGraduate students will graduate, and at that point they’ll need to write with others. In academic positions they’ll work with colleagues on committees and research projects that result in written materials, books, or articles. In professional positions they’ll work on project teams and write plans and reports. Yet while they are in school, especially at the dissertation stage, students’ work is typically conducted on their own.

First, let’s define the term collaboration to describe “an interactive process that engages two or more participants who work together to achieve outcomes they could not accomplish independently” (Salmons, 2019). Sometimes writers collaborate to produce one piece of writing, other times they collaborate on the process, while each produces their own piece of writing.

With those possibilities in mind, as instructors, mentors, or dissertation supervisors, how can we create opportunities for that help students collaborate to generate their best writing and at the same time, learn to collaborate so they are prepared to succeed in a team-work world? [Read more…]

Reflections on academic writing: Three insights

Janet in GilaWhat do I need to write now? What will I write next? Who is expecting what from me, when? What related tasks do I need to complete, such as finalizing figures or posting to social media? How many commitments can I fit into each busy day? These are some of the questions that usually percolate through my mind. In this December Abstract post I committed to take some time for reflection. Here is the story, and lessons learned.

It seemed essential to step away from my home office workspace. I did so by taking a two-week road trip through the American Southwest. Instead of looking at a computer monitor, a panorama of mountains and desert unfolded before me. [Read more…]

Reflect and reboot

reflect and rebootIn my part of the world, the days are short and bright, and the nights are long and dark. Without the screen of leaves, without colors from leaves and flowers, the brilliant blue sky draws my attention. Along with these seasonal changes, we can’t help but notice that we’re on the last page of the calendar. This is a time for reflection.

Let’s face it, in the pre-smartphone days we had small reflective moments now fractured by sound bites and fragments of news or photos of elementary school friends’ new babies. How can we pull away long enough to reconsider the proverbial big picture? [Read more…]

From solo to global: AcWriMo

acwrimo - Twitter Search - mapWriting is usually a solitary activity. Staring at our monitors or notebooks, we wonder: is this brilliant or nuts? Is this straightforward and clear, or so simplistic that the reader will yawn? Have we written something that will entice the reader to follow our train of thought, or will they jump off with the next distraction? The way novelist Helen Garner described her work as a writer resonates with me:

the absolute inability, while you are working, to judge whether or not what you are doing has any value at all– thus the blind faith and grim stubbornness required in order to keep going; the episodes of elation, the occasional sense of hitting your stride, or of being in tune with the force that creates–the feeling that now you’ve got it, now you can’t put a foot wrong… [Read more…]

Academic writers tackle social issues

Social IssuesWhether the discussion is about changes to our global climate or our cultural climate, the dominance of uninformed opinions can aggravate those of us who want to see the need for evidence derived from empirical research.

Academic writing for social good supports efforts for change to improve the well-being of people in our communities or around the world. While we might hope that all academic writing has potential to benefit society, the kinds of writing we are considering here have an intentional purpose. In a TAA webinar offered last year, Lynn Wilson and I discussed four ways that scholars and researchers can frame their writing. (View the recording here.) Let’s look at each one. [Read more…]

Communicate visually to engage readers!

Examples of VisualsKress and others observe that a shift we are witnessing from words to pictures is interrelated with a shift from print to digital. This shift means movement from an emphasis on written communication to an emphasis on images and media. At the same time, it represents a move from the printed publication to the screen.

As academic writers, we need to rethink our attachment to the words, and look for new ways to communicate visually in books, articles, and ancillary resources. We also need to update our promotional and social media materials to attract attention in an information-overload environment.

One way is to use diagrams, visual maps, or illustrations to concisely communicate important ideas and key relationships. Another way is to show ways the ideas or problems are demonstrated in real situations. [Read more…]

Writing in tribute: Don’t wait for the eulogy!

Thank youRecently I received some professional praise and recognition. One was in public,  the TAA Mike Keedy Award and the other was in private, a few sentences in an other-wise business-as-usual email. At first, I felt simply flattered. How nice! But as I reflected on the comments, I realized they were more than just sweet talk. The remarks confirmed that I am making progress toward accomplishing what I have set out to do at this point in my career. They helped me confirm priorities and set steps for continued improvement. In the digital age, we can write, post, and give webinars. We can read site analytics, but we can’t read the audience. Are they paying attention or are eyelids drooping? Are they reading or just scrolling? In absence of visual cues, it helped me to hear that my messages are getting through. [Read more…]

Pedagogy of the book and chapter questions

teachDoes the organization of the textbook relate to pedagogical approaches used to teach with it? I considered this question in relation to chapter organization in a previous post. In this post I will explore another part of the typical textbook chapter: questions.

Flip to the end of a textbook chapter, and you will usually find a list of questions, exercises, or other suggested assignments. Sometimes you will find additional learning activity ideas and resources on the companion website. Do they serve a purpose, or do readers flip past to get to the next assigned reading? [Read more…]

Write with purpose, publish for impact

This post was originally published on SAGE MethodSpace and has been republished with permission.

SAGE MethodSpace logoWhen we put our thoughts into writing and publish them, we tell the world something about who we are. We move beyond circles of people who know us — colleagues and friends– to reach readers we will never meet. They learn about us from the choices reflected in our writing. What messages do you want to convey to your readers? [Read more…]