The changing nature of ye olde academic writing

classic booksLikely we all remember Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. It was written in the late 1300’s in Middle English. Here are the first few lines:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote

The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,    

And bathed every veyne in swich licour,        

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;          

Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

I am sure we are all flashing back to high school and suffering though this classic long work. Most of us read an updated version written in modern English, thankfully. Likely you remember the discussion of the evolution of language. [Read more…]

Choose your best dissertation chair

matchedIt is impossible to overestimate the significance of the student-advisor relationship. . . . This is both a personal and professional relationship that rivals marriage and parenthood in its complexity, variety and ramifications for the rest of one’s life. (Zhao, Golde, & McCormick, 2007, p. 263)

These wise observations were made by a new “doctor” in the study by Zhao et al. (2007) of how the doctoral students’ choice of chairs and their behavior affect the students’ satisfaction. The candidate quoted above echoes what many doctoral students learn, with ease or agony, during their dissertations. Your relationship with your chair (sometimes called advisor or supervisor) is absolutely the most important in your entire doctoral haul. [Read more…]

11/19 TAA Webinar – “Responding to Reviewers’ Comments”

Mark PedrettiWhether submitting journal articles or book manuscripts, academic authors can expect their work to be anonymously reviewed by expert peers. Sometimes helpful, sometimes infuriating, reviewers’ comments can make or break a publication; a negative review can bring your piece to a screeching halt. Join us Tuesday, November 19, from 1-2 p.m. ET for the TAA Webinar, “Responding to Reviewers’ Comments”, where presenter Mark Pedretti, an Assistant Director of English at Providence College, will discuss strategies for engaging with reviewer’s comments — both positive and negative. He will also:

  • Explore ways to figure out the importance placed upon comments in a given publishing context, the relationship between editor and reviewer, and whether comments are in fact “make or break.”
  • Talk about strategies for documenting responses to suggestions, and how to politely decline to make changes that are off base.

The goal: to equip webinar participants with a set of tools for navigating the unspoken rules of the review process.

[Read more…]

AcWriMo starts tomorrow – see what we have planned

AcWriMo 2019Established in 2011, Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo) is “a month-long academic write-a-thon that happens every November”. Here at TAA, we have continued to plan special opportunities for our members to engage in AcWriMo as a group to enhance their individual writing efforts. Some of our members have also created or sponsored additional AcWriMo events throughout the month.

This year, TAA has decided to focus on a theme of “Distinguishing features of academic writing”. Specifically, we have used a list of academic writing features to further focus our weekly TweetChat discussions and shared resources to include: academic precision, complexity, formality, objectivity, and accuracy. Below are several of the planned activities we have scheduled for AcWriMo 2019. [Read more…]

The promise of writing in the disciplines

academic libraryFor many of us who teach writing, we often think about the rhetorical triangle: ethos, pathos, and logos. Although, when speaking to our students, colleagues, or peers, we tend to use the more colloquial terms of speaker/writer, audience/reader, and message/content, and then in terms of genre and purpose. Through these terms, I teach writers what good academic writing is and how it works: about how and why we cite sources, use first- or third-person, active voice, even adverbs.

I first heard of Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) years ago in the K12 context of writing to learn and learning to write to be understood across K12 subjects: social studies, English, mathematics, and science. Undergirding WAC is the understanding that good writing in any subject requires writing to be clear and accessible. In math classes, for example, we asked students to write out the process by which they solved a problem. At the time, this allowed us to zero in on where students struggled and allowed us to give partial credit for a math problem almost solved correctly, but it did not yet have to do with writing well academically in the discursive styles of a specific discipline. But students were learning the mode of what we called “process writing.” [Read more…]

Academic Writing Month: Community and progress

AcWriMo is coming soonOne book to complete, another one to start. It must be time for Academic Writing Month! November is almost here, and writers around the world will be looking for tips and encouragement so they can make progress on articles, books, theses, or dissertations. We’ll share strategies, progress, and frustrations using the #AcWriMo hashtag.

Writing is typically a solitary occupation. Even when we are co-authoring, a lot of work is done on our own. And for most of us, the concept of a “book leave” or a sabbatical—undistracted time to focus on our writing—is the stuff of dreams. While we struggle to make sense of our thoughts and interpret research for our readers, life goes on. Dinner needs cooking, partners and kids need attention, and students expect us in class. [Read more…]

Can spirituality help you with school?

MeditationAt first flash, spirituality and graduate school may seem to conflict. School requires your intellect; spirituality requires your surrender of intellect. School subsists on logic and realism; spirituality survives on faith.

I used to hold fiercely to these assumptions. Spirituality and school were completely contradictory, I thought, or at least separate.

Privately, though, I’ve often applied spirituality in my longtime academic practice of coaching and advising doctoral candidates wrestling with their dissertations. Spiritual practices have helped me forgive an ornery client, receive internal guidance for the next step on a daunting project, access the right assuaging words before a difficult meeting, and many other quandaries. [Read more…]

Infographic: 15 Grammar rules it’s okay to break

“Use whom, not who.” “Don’t split your infinitives.” “Use appropriate personal pronouns when talking about yourself.”

Grammar rules are here to keep us in check, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be broken. Often you’ll see infographics listing rules like they’re gospel; stuff like, “Don’t use double negatives” or, “Know the difference between that and which”.

In reality, some grammar rules are more of a guideline than a law. When you know the rules, these can be expertly appropriated to give your speech flair and personality. [Read more…]

Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: May 17, 2019

"It’s not the fear of writing that blocks people, it’s the fear of not writing well; something quite different." ~Scott BerkunThis week’s collection of articles from around the web contains a number of articles focused on the aspects of writer’s life that are not directly related to the task of writing. Things like use of figures, evaluation methods, motivational efforts, discussion, and networking opportunities.

These same things, while supportive of our writing practice, may also prove to be a distraction or cause of fear of evaluation of our own writing. While it is important to keep them in mind and to incorporate them into our overall writing process, we must be sure to use them in a way that moves us further along in our writing efforts. As Scott Berkun once said, “It’s not the fear of writing that blocks people, it’s the fear of not writing well; something quite different.” This week let the evaluation, nagging, discussion, and presentation of your work drive you to be better and to move forward. Happy writing! [Read more…]

#AcWriChat Tweet Chat: Not on Twitter? Watch live here

acwrimoJoin TAA on Twitter every other Friday at 11 a.m. ET using the hashtag #AcWriChat for a TweetChat on various aspects of academic writing.

Not on Twitter? Not sure what a “Tweet Chat” is? Follow us here (you won’t be able to actively participate, but you will be able to follow the chat live).

[Read more…]