Defensive scheduling: Increase your productivity & piece of mind

I am a big, big fan of protecting time in your schedule. I live and die by my Google calendar, because I can always access it, but on that calendar, you’ll find more than appointments.

There are two kinds of scheduling – appointment and defensive. Appointment scheduling is pretty self-explanatory – you have somewhere to be at a certain time, and so you put it in your calendar. These are the kinds of things that people usually use their calendar/schedule/planner for, and of course, it’s useful. It gets you to where you need to be when you need to be there!

But defensive scheduling is a little different. It’s about protecting time, rather than filling it up. You put something on your calendar so you WON’T give that time away to someone/something else. You claim your time before someone else does. [Read more…]

Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: April 12, 2019

"Plagiarism: Getting in trouble for something you didn't do."This week’s quote – “Plagiarism: Getting in trouble for something you didn’t do.” – comes from an unknown source, but as often seems to be the case, the articles in our collection from around the web seem to have kindly fallen in line with this academic pun.

While our collection doesn’t have anything to do with the true definition of plagiarism, it does have a lot to do with the concept of getting in trouble for something you didn’t do. Specifically, problems or challenges may arise if you don’t check an index properly, if you don’t adequately prepare for a thesis proposal defense, if you don’t accept the dissertation publication requirement, if you don’t follow a traditional research path, if you don’t include your PhD on your CV (or if you do as the article discusses), if you linger in between identities during a career transition, if you don’t properly market yourself for a job, or if you don’t plan your approach attending a large conference.

As you approach your writing efforts this week, challenge yourself to not only look at accomplishing the things on your to-do list, but also examine the things that never made it there – the things that you aren’t doing that may be making your efforts more difficult than they need to be. Happy writing! [Read more…]

Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: February 15, 2019

"Writing is a continuous discovery – a learning process." ~Amae DechavezThis week’s collection of articles from around the web starts with ways to develop the habit of writing and to get creative with your thesis or dissertation. Our next set of articles offer different writing styles including tiny texts, the uneven U paragraph structure, and a tour of Roald Dahl’s “writing hut”. We close with articles focused on social media-based digital portraits of academics, valuing all of your time, and continued discussion of open access publishing.

As Amae Dechavez once said, “Writing is a continuous discovery – a learning process.” This week, we encourage you to discover new information, new habits, and new ideas. Happy writing! [Read more…]

The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: November 23, 2018

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” ~Albert SchweitzerThis week’s collection of posts from around the web includes advice on writing for impact, ways to reduce fear of theory, changes in the affordability of textbooks, and an author’s perspective on self publishing from a dissertation. We also found articles on invited keynotes, more creative presentation delivery practices, and a new podcast for PhDs.

Albert Schweitzer said, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” At TAA we are grateful for our members, followers, and supporters who light a flame within us every day. Happy writing! [Read more…]

Dear dissertation advisers: Ask for short drafts, use page limits

Ask for short drafts, use page limitsIf you want to give better feedback and also save yourself time, ask for short drafts and suggest the use of page limits (or word count limits). Both you and your students will benefit.

For any reasonably intelligent and diligent graduate student, the problem of having far too much to say is more common than the problem of not having enough to say and is the much more difficult problem to fix.

With someone who has not said enough, all that is needed is a question that leads to the necessary addition: “What about X?” It is much harder to give concise feedback to someone who has too much to say, not only is there more to cover, but there is greater potential for problems of focus to arise. [Read more…]

Dear dissertation advisers: Focus on the practical dimensions of the research project

Focus studentsGenerally speaking, this may be the least common of the “bad feedback” issues that I see, but it can be crushingly bad feedback. Many, many professors try to force their students to look at the practical dimensions of the project and try to get the students to do less. Almost every professor I ever worked with told me some variation of “do less,” and many students with whom I’ve worked have also been told to try to do less, so I know it’s no rare idea, but some students could really benefit from this advice.

I have two main suggestions here: 1. Get the students to reduce the scope of their project if possible and reasonable, and 2. Explicitly focus on the practical dimensions as a reason to make the project smaller in order to reduce the emotional impact of being told to do less.  [Read more…]

Dear dissertation advisers: Make sure student has defined the research purpose and question

Disseration adviceDefining a good research question is crucial to developing a successful research project, and it is no easy task. For some, defining a good question comes easily, but for many, especially doctoral candidates who may have never developed their own research project before, it is a great hurdle. And, as I suggested in the previous post, if the research purpose and question aren’t defined, then there’s no point in your looking at other stuff: if your student hasn’t defined the research purpose clearly, they’ll have trouble making progress.

A good definition of research question or purpose is not only crucial, it’s usually really easy for a reader to find in skimming through a paper. Most drafts have several sentences that say things like “the purpose of this research is…” and “the research question is…”. These sentences need to be clear, and they need to agree with each other (multiple conflicting statements of purpose can often be found in early drafts of research). [Read more…]

The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: September 28, 2018

"It is perfectly okay to write garbage--as long as you edit brilliantly." ~C.J. CherryhAs the seasons change and the academic year starts to settle into more of a routine, for some, the writing gets easier and the schedule is set up for success. For others, the daily schedule has begun to feel more overwhelming and the ability to focus or maintain momentum may be challenging.

This week’s collection of articles from around the web includes ways to generate ideas, create a super focused workday, balance family and academic life, be ready for a change in scenery to maintain a productive writing practice, successfully build a research network, and deal with the administrative grief of academic environments. We’ve also found great insight into the rise of peer review, research ethics, read and publish models, critical thinking, and the dissemination of scientific facts.

Wherever your writing takes you this week, we hope it moves you in the direction of your goals. As C. J. Cherryh reminds us, “It is perfectly okay to write garbage–as long as you edit brilliantly.” Happy writing! [Read more…]

Dear dissertation advisers: I have some advice for you

Dissertation adviceDear dissertation advisors, as a dissertation coach, I don’t actually want you to do your jobs better, because that might cut into my business. But if you’re interested in saving yourself effort and hassles in working with your thesis and dissertation candidates, I have a few pieces of advice for you.

As a dissertation coach, most people who contact me are struggling with their work, and often those struggles are exacerbated by poor feedback or support from professors. This biases my view of the general quality of research feedback, but the general patterns of what makes good vs. bad feedback are still useful to keep in mind. Good feedback helps the student effectively, reducing demands on the teacher; bad feedback will hinder progress, and may ultimately increase teacher workload. It’s good when students finish their projects, for both student and professor! [Read more…]

10 Question conference retrospective: Views from a graduate student attendee

The Loretto Chapel

The Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, NM. Photo Credit: Susan W. Bontly

The Textbook & Academic Authors Association’s small, focused conference, held in Santa Fe, New Mexico June 15-16, was one of the most useful ones I have attended.  The cost was a really great deal considering all the valuable information provided by the presenters. As a first-time attendee and a graduate student, here my reflections on my experience.

1) What were some of the highlights and insights?

The presentations I attended were all on the Academic Track. The first day, I went to two sessions, and then I had three wonderfully inspiring mentoring sessions. I started with Dr. Meggin McIntosh (see more below) and then Dr. Katherine Landau Wright’s presentation, The Journal Article Writing MATE: A tool for beginners, which provided a very helpful tool for evaluating journal articles to use as models for writing and can also be used as a general article assessment or summarizing rubric. [Read more…]