Writing and systems: Beyond strategies, beyond tools

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad 2020 has ended. The year was exhausting and disrupting on so many levels. I watched my productivity hang on like a spider web in a hurricane, and my soul curl up inside, challenging assumptions, questioning most everything. Invariably, I thought quite a lot about my academic writing; I wrote very little. I thought more than I wrote, yes, but the thinking nurtured the writing, offered renewed perspectives. With these, hope revived. With hope, the deep satisfaction of having stayed the course, having written somethingeven if not enough – and been sustained by the writing habit, by the comfort and familiarity of a writing routine.

Specifying the end: Project management as applied to writing

Is project management really an essential writing process? While academic authors certainly recognize that writing requires many unique processes, each deserving attention, we rarely think beyond research, drafting, and revision. Yet, how well we manage projects can make or break the outcome. Case in point, if you miss the deadline for a special issue, it hardly matters how well your paper was aligned with the editor’s vision! Even when outcomes are not so dire, project management allows you to work in a calmer and less reactive manner, thus allowing for greater creativity.

Within formal project management, the tools can be roughly broken into “project definition tools” and “implementation tools.” In general, project definition tools are procedures that help you determine the scope, the tasks, the time frame, and the budget (i.e., time). Implementation tools are those that help you work smoothly. Here I focus on the former.

3/11 TAA Webinar: “Why Your Journal Articles Are Confusing and How IMRaD Can Help”

Do you struggle to describe your research in writing? Like your crisp research vision inevitably devolves into a disorganized, confusing journal article? Let’s discuss a tool that can help—one with which you’re already familiar, but likely not familiar enough: journal article structure.

Join us Wednesday, March 11 at 1 p.m. ET for the 30-minute webinar, “Why Your Journal Articles Are Confusing and How IMRaD Can Help,” where Thomas Deetjen, author of Published, will explore the value of the Introduction, Methods, Results & Discussion—or IMRaD—journal article structure.

Stepping gingerly into 2021: Molding our future

At the end of the fall semester, I looked out at my students taking their final exam in masks—sitting in a room at half capacity with social distancing in effect, barely recognizing them—and I couldn’t help but wonder what their future holds.

The same question I ask my students at the conclusion of every class, I now ask myself about 2020: “What have I learned?” I learned that we can mold and change our future, all we have to do is fight for the things we believe in (nod to RBG). I learned that there are many heroes among us. Our health care and other essential workers have put their lives on the line, our scientific community raced to produce life-saving vaccines, our educators put their own lives at risk to keep our children engaged, and by many screaming loudly, we may finally advance some social justice issues. I have to believe that the many heroic efforts that took place in 2020 will result in change for the overall good of humanity.

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.