Quandaries in your academic project? Use your inner mentor

you as academic mentorMost of us probably had mentors in graduate school and may still maintain contact with them. But they may not be available every time we need their advice or guidance. I suggest that we all have a mentor that is always available, night and day, every season and semester, for every situation and circumstance.

The IM

This is your Inner Mentor (IM), also called your inner guide, self, voice, spirit, higher power, soul, subconscious, guidance system, intuition, even your heart or gut. It has more power than your department or committee chair, the dean of your school, and even the guy who issues your annual parking sticker. [Read more…]

5 Ways to visualize your academic research

5 Ways to Visualize Your Academic ResearchData visualization is the placement of facts and figures in an illustrative design. This can include any form of multimedia such as videos, maps, charts and diagrams, for example. Adding elements of data visualization to academic research is an effective method because 65% of the human population are visual learners, according to the Social Science Research Network. This means their brains are more likely to absorb and retain information that is presented in a graphic format.

Imagery is simple, quick and digestible to process, whereas the majority of attention spans take in just 28% of words on a page, as reported by the Nielsen Norman Group. So because most people need complex material to be broken down into more accessible pictures and patterns, data visualization is essential for securing the readers’ interest and enhancing their retention.

You can integrate data visualization into your own academic research with these creative and interactive techniques for a reader experience that stimulates, informs, and compels your target audience. [Read more…]

The stuff our books are made of – Part 1

dictionaryThere is terminological chaos in the education culture. Yes, this is about the words we use as authors. More specifically, it is about the language of instruction, not about cellulose and silicone.

As Aristotle put it,

“For as long as it is not clear in how many senses a term is used, it is possible that the answerer and the questioner are not directing their minds upon the same thing,… [and, therefore] It often happens that a difficulty is found in discussing or arguing a given position because the definition has not been correctly rendered.”

The stuff our books are made of is extremely important because classroom teachers rely instructionally on textbooks for engaging subject matter. [Read more…]

5 Surprising lessons for writers from the business world

Open for BusinessLike most writers, I keep bumping up against articles on how to treat my writing more like a business. And probably like many writers, I rebel at this advice, always trying to pry more time for the writing itself. But in an infrequent browse through an older business publication, I stumbled on an article that didn’t give me administrative agita. Even immersed in creative bliss, a writer can hardly resist the title: “Ten Traits That Make You Filthy-Rich” by Jeffrey Strain (TheStreet.com, February 1, 2008).

The five points I discuss here from Strain’s evergreen article  may be new to writers. The parallels remind us what we need to do not only to become rich (yes, it’s possible) but to stay true to our writing potential. (Strain’s traits are in italics.)   [Read more…]

Three unmistakable signs you need to revise

revisionBetween bouts of hating what we write, we may secretly admire our creations. And we’re entitled to. But there’s a difference between these feelings and excessive love of our own words. Such love blinds us to editorial blunders, judicious cutting, and revision, and reduces the possibilities of publication. [Read more…]

3 “Not-so-obvious” tips for article submission and review

Q: Speaking from your perspective as Associate Editor for Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior for the past five years, what three “not-so-obvious” tips can you offer academic authors regarding the journal article submission process?

Julie Reeder, Associate Editor, Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior:

I will start with a few tips that might seem obvious at first, but based on my experience as an Editor, are often underappreciated by authors. First, an early visit to your target journal’s website is a must. Don’t wait until you are nearing submission to make your first review of its contents. [Read more…]

5 Rhetorical moves for writing abstracts

An article abstract is often the first thing that readers and reviewers see. Setting the right tone up front can impact whether your readers continue reading, influence the way the rest of your text is received, and, in terms of reviewers, it may determine whether your article is accepted to be published. What makes for a strong article abstract? What goes in and what stays out?

According to Mark Pedretti, Director of the Center for Writing and Rhetoric at Claremont Graduate University, there is something very commonsensical about writing an abstract. In his webinar titled “How to Structure & Write an Article Abstract,” Pedretti recommends thinking of an abstract as a cognitive roadmap for your readers; it generates the expectations that are going to inform how the reader approaches the text. The abstract signals to the reader what to pay attention to and where to expect transition, organizing the reading experience before it ever takes place. [Read more…]

3 Tips for writing an effective figure caption

Research with figureIn a recent post on constructing effective tables and figures, I noted the need for figures to include captions that “succinctly describe the accompanying content.” In this post, we will discuss the purpose of captions and how to write one that is effective.

It is important to remember that figures should be clearly understood, even in isolation from the rest of the manuscript. The caption provides an opportunity for the author to provide context and connection to the rest of the article, as it relates to the visual element. [Read more…]

7 Tips for constructing effective tables and figures

Figures with writingIt’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and for this reason using visual elements within your manuscript can help to keep the writing concise and effective. But how can you be sure that the words conveyed are delivering the right message?

Below you will find seven tips for incorporating tables and figures into your work.

Use visuals that enhance the manuscript

Most scholars agree that if the idea conveyed by a table or figure can be done with a sentence or two, the visual is likely unnecessary and the concept should be written in paragraph form. For larger data sets, complex ideas, or schematics, however, the use of visuals can simplify the understanding and reduce the overall word count needed to convey the information. [Read more…]

How to write a cover letter for your academic journal article

Cover letterIn this age of electronic submissions and instant gratification, the simple courtesies of yesterday are sometimes lost in the speed of today’s processes. Regardless, most people agree that good manners never go out of style.

As a result, introducing your article with a well-written cover letter to the editor can be the catalyst to a favorable review and acceptance of your submission for publication. These tips can help you write a cover letter that sells your research to the journal editor. [Read more…]