Crafting compelling and purposeful titles: A five step process

Although the old adage states “you can’t tell a book by its cover”, in academic writing it is crucial that the title of an article or book “tell” the essence of the work. The title is the first critical decision point for a reader. Its goal is to invite the reader to peruse the abstract, read the article, and, hopefully, cite your work.

The title does a lot of work for your manuscript, and there are many good reasons to pay attention to crafting short, content-rich, and engaging titles. First, for you, the author, spending time crafting a title forces you to distill your detailed, multi-page manuscript into 10 to 15 words, a daunting task.

Are you stalling by revising too soon?

When we’ve squeezed out a few sentences, a paragraph, or page of the first draft of our current writing project, in our elation we may be tempted to go back and revise. The pull to polish is irresistible. So, we revisit those hard-won sentences and baby them into perfection. Then we sit back and bask with satisfaction.

But what do we have? Admittedly, a start, but really just a few sentences. We know we should have kept going with the fearsome task of confronting the blankness, but we yield.

Project management: Two free tools to increase efficiency in your writing projects

Project management was originally developed for civil engineering, but even if you are writing a book instead of building a bridge, there are useful approaches to borrow that will improve your work flow. In a previous article, I described that within project management, tools can be roughly divided into “project definition tools” and “implementation tools.” Project definition tools are those that help you determine the scope, the tasks, and the budget (i.e., time), whereas implementation tools are those that help you conduct the work. Here, I focus on the latter, and present two tools from the lens of project management for writing.

Busy TAA People: Steve Barkan

An article by TAA member and former Council President Steve Barkan, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at UMaine, and Michael Rocque, Associate Professor of Sociology at Bates College and a UMaine sociology alumnus, received the 2020 Outstanding Contribution Award from the Division of Biopsychosocial Criminology of the American Society of Criminology.

The article, published in Critical Criminology in 2018, is entitled, “Socioeconomic Status and Racism as Fundamental Causes of Street Criminality” [26(2):211-231]

Round up all those stampeding ideas

Do ideas flood your brain like a herd gone wild? Do you flail around, physically and metaphorically, trying to corral them and drive them into the barn? Are you going mad trying to figure out how to use them all?

I am almost constantly barraged by ideas for essays, stories, poems, novel slivers, quirky descriptions, and metaphoric pearls. Ideas surface everywhere: as I edit clients’ manuscripts, wash dishes, huff through workouts, wait on line, watch people, meditate, fall asleep, and even during tactful small talk at business dinners.

All the deluging ideas used to make me groan. Sometimes I’d even feel envious of writers who complained about their sparse fits of inspiration. I’d grouse internally that my ideas never seemed to stop. How would I ever get to them all, much less organize them or make something of them? Most would end up in a mass of ragged notes or on scraps stuffed under the scanner.

Fine-tune your writing productivity with four Scholar Actions©

Writing and publishing are not the sole definition of an academic scholar, but these two activities are major roles that faculty fulfill. Academic writing and publishing are also primary expectations for career advancement, including the dissertation writing process. At each major point along the career trajectory of a faculty member—from assistant to associate to full—academic writing and publishing are there. Even in my role as an administrator, I continue to write and publish as well as mentor others through the process.

Over the years, I have developed my scholarly voice through my writing and publishing, but I still continue to develop my practice. I am a work in progress. But how did I come to this developing as a scholar? It is quite simple in some ways. I developed good habits to support my writing and learned the process of academic publishing early in my career.