Lessons learned from false starts

unfinished puzzlesWe are all parts of various communities. The ones we physically live in. Our extended family is a community. You are part of an academic discipline which is an important group, as is where you work.

As a writer (even a beginner), you are part of a community. I do worry sometimes, that the writing community is made up a large group of individuals each on their own island. Each of us may be experiencing the same challenges and be suffering them in silence as we try to solve own our issues. Groups like TAA and this blog help address challenges. How do you create a writing schedule and stick to it? How do you approach revising your own work? When is your project “done” and ready for submission? [Read more…]

Distinguishing features of academic writing #4: Objectivity

fresh work area with a blank screen on the laptopA good researcher is objectively seeking answers to their research questions and reporting those findings objectively to the community at large. But what does it mean to write objectively? How do we maintain objectivity where possible? Finally, how do we make efforts to identify and avoid bias in our academic writing?

In our fourth discussion of the distinguishing features of academic writing, we discussed all of these questions. A summary of the discussion and related resources is below. [Read more…]

Distinguishing features of academic writing #3: Formality

formalityAmerican poet, W.S. Merwin once said, “The idea of writing, to me, was, from the beginning, writing something which was a little different from the ordinary exchange of speech. It was something that had a certain formality, something in which the words were of interest in themselves.” Perhaps this same sentiment is the foundational principle from which academic writing has gotten its distinguishing feature of formality – to provide something in which the words are of interest in themselves.

In our third discussion of the distinguishing features of academic writing, we discussed what makes academic writing formal, the purpose of such formality, effect of formality on tone and word choice, whether there are levels of formality acceptable in academic writing, and ways to improve the formality of academic writing efforts. [Read more…]

Distinguishing features of academic writing #2: Complexity

complexityAlbert Einstein is credited with saying, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” If this is true, why does it seem that academic writing is distinguished by complexity?

In this second discussion on the distinguishing features of academic writing, we aimed to understand why complexity is not only present, but acceptable in academic writing, and the challenges and benefits of reducing complexity while maintaining academic rigor. [Read more…]

Distinguishing features of academic writing #1: Precision

precision - pencil line being drawn with ruler on paperDuring the course of Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo) in November 2019, we explored five distinguishing features of academic writing – the first of which being precision.

What does it mean to write with academic precision? In this article, we recap the event where we sought the answer to this question. During the discussion, we also explored the importance of academic precision and the effects of word choice, active voice, redundancy, and organization on the goal of precision in our manuscripts. [Read more…]

On plagiarism

Plagiarism: Getting in trouble for something you didn't doYears ago now, when I worked at the Sweetland Writing Center at the University of Michigan, we hosted a large conference called, “Originality, Imitation, and Plagiarism,” to place “plagiarism in dialogue with notions of originality and imitation” (3) [1]. In the years since, as I work with departments to integrate writing across the disciplines and with graduate students and faculty to publish in their fields, I find myself continuing to think about how we can do a better job teaching these three cornerstones. [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…]

9 Proven strategies to help you stop procrastinating and write your manuscript

blank pageIn her recent TAA webinar, “Beyond the Blank Page: 9 Proven Strategies to Help You Stop Procrastinating and Write Your Manuscript”, Mary Beth Averill shared nine strategies for moving beyond the blank page. These strategies are proven techniques for breaking out of your procrastination trap and turning your paper from idea to written manuscript. [Read more…]

Find your article writing MATE in the “Most Awesome Tool Ever”

writingAre you a beginning author looking for help in developing academic articles worthy of publication? Do you find the process of organizing your academic journal articles challenging? Perhaps you’ve been successfully writing and publishing articles but are looking for a tool that can help you get better results, faster.

In her presentation at TAA’s 31st Annual Textbook and Academic Authoring Conference in Santa Fe, NM, Katherine Landau Wright shared the “Most Awesome Tool Ever” – MATE – that she developed with TAA member Patricia Goodson to help anyone learn how to write for academic journals. [Read more…]

The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: August 24, 2018

"A professional writer is an amateur who never quit." ~Richard BachIn this week’s collection of articles from around the web, we’ve found some helpful tips for academic researchers related to digital workflow, free writing, note taking, and time management. We’ve also found information on how openness influences research impact, things to avoid when developing surveys, and reasons one researcher would unfollow you on social media.

Richard Bach reminds us that “a professional writer is an amateur who never quit.” We hope that this week you can apply some of these tips to improve your writing practices and success. Happy writing! [Read more…]