Crafting meaningful stories to bring research methods to life

What's your story?Stories engage readers. We can use stories to show how the ideas or strategies we are discussing might play out in a particular social, cultural, or organizational context. I often write about research methods, and find that stories can help readers see how the pieces of a research design fit together. Stories can be presented in a fully-developed research case, or as an engaging example inserted within an article or book chapter.

For my first research book, Online Interviews in Real Time, I thought it was important to include stories. Online methods were new and few robust descriptions were available that showed how they actually worked. I found six researchers who were doing interesting online research, and interviewed them. I crafted a section for each chapter called “Researchers’ Notebook: Stories of Online Inquiry.” Readers could see how each of these researchers handled ethical dilemmas or sampling. The companion website linked to additional materials from the researchers’ work.

Several books later, I am getting ready to write a new edition for Doing Qualitative Research Online and again want to include stories in a “Researchers’ Notebook.” I know that more researchers are incorporating stories, so I wondered whether their lessons learned might help me prepare to move forward. In this post I will share a few tips and examples I discovered in three open access articles. In a future post I will look at digital and visual storytelling and how I can use these approaches in ancillary materials. [Read more…]

Join us for the 4/24 TAA Webinar, ‘Texts Plus: Ancillary Materials and Companion Websites’

Janet SalmonsYou have completed the textbook manuscript, now what? Some publishers expect you to develop ancillary materials for companion sites they host. If not, you might want to create your own.

Join us Monday, April 24 from 3-4 p.m. ET, for the TAA webinar, “Texts Plus: Ancillary Materials and Companion Websites”. Textbook writer Janet Salmons will share and critique examples of companion websites from major publishers and individual authors. She will evaluate the types of materials posted, including media, instructional or student resources. [Read more…]

Maintain an open ‘ancillary idea file’ for your textbook

TextbooksAs an author of several textbooks and ancillaries over a couple of decades, Kevin Patton, professor of Life Science at St. Charles Community College, shared the following valuable textbook writing tips on TAA’s Textbook Authoring listserv:

“Keep a file open on your desktop as you work on the textbook. As you ‘think about’ ideas for the ancillaries, jot them down in your open “ancillary idea file.” No matter how good your memory is, you’ll forget those brilliant insights when the time comes to implement them.

When I do this, I usually set up a skeleton outline of chapter numbers/names (if I’m fairly confident it won’t change much) or an outline of major topics and subtopics that I’ll be covering in the book. When you have an idea for that chapter/topic, you can simply drop it right into the correct location in your idea file–thus keeping it organized as you go.

Also, include some general headings for global, nonspecific ideas that may occur to you. For example, headings such as Question Types, Terminology, General Study Tips, etc., can help you sort out those ideas that might apply to the whole supplement (or all chapters).”

Kevin Patton hosts two textbook blogs: The A&P Professor and The A&P Student.

Should you create textbook ancillaries yourself?

Q: “Should you create ancillaries yourself?”

A: Michael Sullivan, author of 50-plus mathematics textbooks:

“In the first edition of your book and if you’re in an area where a solutions manual is typical, do it yourself. The pattern of a solutions manual must match the way they are done in the example. If this is not consistent, it will be confusing to the reader. In later editions, you can have someone else do it because you’ve created the model for how to do it.”