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.

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.

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]

5 Tips for strengthening your qualitative research and writing

Qualitative research methods allow investigators to go beyond merely counting how often something occurs or with how many individuals. Rather, they provide insights in to how or why certain actions are taken or the ways in which people interact with or interpret their lived experiences. This added richness can be critical to forming effective interventions to create behavior change, which is common in not just health and medicine but educational practice as well. Yet, many researchers are hesitant to journey into qualitative research beyond a few open-ended survey questions, due to concerns about qualitative research lacking the rigor and validity of quantitative studies. Although there are many approaches to qualitative research and the accepted norms for conducting and writing up this type of research can vary according to your academic discipline, the following five tips can help provide a solid foundation for starting your qualitative journey.

Manuscript matchmaking: Finding a home for your article 

With so many options, finding the right home for your manuscript can seem daunting. However, with a few useful tools, you can quickly and confidently locate publication venues appropriate for your work. In this article, you’ll be introduced to two such tools: Scopus Sources and the Web of Science Master Journal List.

Free to use, Scopus Sources allows authors to search for publications indexed in Scopus, an abstract and citation database from Elsevier. Scopus Sources is easy to search. Once you’ve performed a simple keyword search at the top of the page, you can refine your result list further by utilizing the limiters on the sidebar. For instance, you can limit by the open-access status of a publication, minimum number of citations, minimum number of documents, and by specific types of publications (such as journals, conference proceedings, etc.).

Polishing your scholarly manuscript–and letting it go

In this post, the fifth in a series of five, you will learn how to polish your prose by reading it out loud “backwards”—and then letting it go.

Before submitting your manuscript, read the manuscript out loud read it out loud s-l-o-w-l-y (Goodson, 2017, p. 36). To force yourself to read slowly, try reading your prose paragraph by paragraph backwards. That is, start with the last paragraph in your manuscript and move backward paragraph by paragraph until you reach the first paragraph. You will read more slowly because reading backwards is somewhat jarring. You will focus on each paragraph so you see problems that were previously invisible to you. You will read as though you were reading for the first time. You will divorce yourself from your prose and gain some distance from—and perspective about—your writing. You will see your manuscript through a new lens because what you were thinking at the time that you wrote and what you actually wrote can be different.

Solicit and use informal feedback before formal peer review

This post, the fourth in a series of five, shows you how to seek informal feedback before formal review, which will increase your chances for getting manuscripts accepted and grants funded. After peer review, journal articles improve on 33 out of 34 measures (Goodman et al., 1994). There is no reason to believe that this is any different for informal reviews. You can seek informal feedback effectively by asking the right readers for the right kind of feedback—and then listening avidly and responding quickly and thoroughly.

Seek informal feedback before seeking formal peer review because it is the eyes of our readers that really “count”—we are not (supposed to be) communicating primarily with ourselves.

Triple your scholarly productivity by writing daily

Some scholars astonish others in terms of their numbers of papers accepted and grants funded. Why do some flourish while others flounder? Even when you can’t work harder, there are important ways to work smarter. This post, the first in a series of five, offers strategies that can help you learn to draft manuscripts quickly and well by writing daily and by holding yourself accountable to someone else for doing so.

Scholars have found these strategies triple productivity. In one study (Gray et al., 2018), more than 90 faculty members and graduate students followed these strategies by writing for 30 minutes daily and holding themselves accountable to others for doing so. The participants increased their annual rate of finishing manuscripts from two to nearly six (Gray et al., 2018). Participants accomplished this by writing for only 30 minutes per day, four days per week.

Embracing an imperfect writing practice: Ebb and flow, organization & persistence

Julie Peterson Combs is a Professor of Educational Leadership and Director of the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership at Sam Houston State University. In addition to maintaining an active research agenda, she has written over 84 journal articles, seven book chapters, and co-authored four books including The Trust Factor: Strategies for School Leaders (Routledge).

Here Julie talks about the evolution of her writing practice and how ebb and flow and persistence can win the day.

TAA: With two decades of academic writing experience, how has your writing practice evolved and what have you learned?