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…]

11/6 TAA Webinar: Make “Collaboration” More Than a Buzzword

Learn to CollaborateJanet SalmonsHow do we decide what kind of interactive process will allow us to achieve outcomes more significant than what we could do on our own? What steps will improve collaborations when some or all of our interaction occurs online? These are questions Dr. Janet Salmons, author of the forthcoming book, Learning to Collaborate, Collaborating to Learn, will explore in her TAA webinar, “Make ‘Collaboration’ More Than a Buzzword,” on Tuesday, November 6 from 3-4 p.m. ET. Register today! [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…]

9/17 TAA Webinar: ‘What You Need to Know About Rights Clearance and Permissions’

Guide to Rights Clearance & Permissions for scholarly, educational, and trade publishingStephen GillenYour contract provided by your publisher will probably put the burden of securing permission for the use of third party material solely on you. How much of this is negotiable? What are the possible compromises? And regardless of whether you end up doing it or the publisher does it, under what circumstances do you need permission and how do you best go about getting it? Get answers to these questions from Stephen E. Gillen, a lawyer with more than 40 years of experience in and around the publishing business, and author of Guide to Rights Clearance and Permissions in Scholarly, Educational, and Trade Publishing, during his TAA webinar, “What You Need to Know About Rights Clearance and Permissions,” on Monday, September 17 from 2-3 p.m. ET. Register today! Free and open to members and non-members. 

3 “Not-so-obvious” tips for article submission and review

Q: Speaking from your perspective as Associate Editor for Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior for the past five years, what three “not-so-obvious” tips can you offer academic authors regarding the journal article submission process?

Julie Reeder, Associate Editor, Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior:

I will start with a few tips that might seem obvious at first, but based on my experience as an Editor, are often underappreciated by authors. First, an early visit to your target journal’s website is a must. Don’t wait until you are nearing submission to make your first review of its contents. [Read more…]

First TAA Writing Gym receives high marks, participation

TAA Writing GymIn a survey of this summer’s TAA Writing Gym, 45% of respondents said they used the gym 2-4 days a week. “The TAA Writing Gym helped me move from writing sporadically to writing every day,” said one respondent. “My writing approach has improved as well since I am now thinking about my projects regularly and I can work through ways to approach topics even when I am not actively writing.” [Read more…]

Tech tools for the professional writer

In the winter edition of TAA’s newsletter, I shared with you the importance of having the right tools on hand for your career as a writer and provided a list of 32 tools in eight categories to get you started. If you missed that article, you can read it here.

In this article I highlight a few more tech tools with the goal of helping you find the tools that fit best in your belt! In these last weeks of summer, I encourage you to explore some of these tools that you may not have time to experiment with during the school year. You may just find that they can help you free up valuable time as the busy fall semester comes around again. [Read more…]

5 Rhetorical moves for writing abstracts

An article abstract is often the first thing that readers and reviewers see. Setting the right tone up front can impact whether your readers continue reading, influence the way the rest of your text is received, and, in terms of reviewers, it may determine whether your article is accepted to be published. What makes for a strong article abstract? What goes in and what stays out?

According to Mark Pedretti, Director of the Center for Writing and Rhetoric at Claremont Graduate University, there is something very commonsensical about writing an abstract. In his webinar titled “How to Structure & Write an Article Abstract,” Pedretti recommends thinking of an abstract as a cognitive roadmap for your readers; it generates the expectations that are going to inform how the reader approaches the text. The abstract signals to the reader what to pay attention to and where to expect transition, organizing the reading experience before it ever takes place. [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…]