Don’t want to write? Rev up your intentions

These languid summer days, after some necessary business with my dissertation coaching and editing clients, I resist doing my personal writing. Generally, I manage to balance (or struggle with or squeeze) the ever-ongoing writing projects—novel, stories, essays, poems—with the client work. If I don’t do something on my own writing, the day will feel wasted and I didn’t fulfill at least a little of my writing promise to myself.

To tease myself into writing on a particularly steamy day (despite the air conditioning), I remembered a technique that academic and creative coach Dr. Dominique Chlup (2016) teaches her clients. This is to first set your writing intentions: ask yourself how you want to feel writing during this session or having written.

‘What tense should I write a scholarly abstract in?’ and other frequently asked questions about writing abstracts

Erin McTigue, a writing coach with The Positive Academic, and Wendi Kamman Zimmer, an assistant professor at Texas A&M University, answer four frequently asked questions about writing scholarly abstracts.

Q: How long is an abstract?

Zimmer: “While this depends on the journal you’re publishing in and the requirements of your field, it is generally 150-300 words.”

Q: What tense should I write an abstract in?

McTigue: “Usually the present tense is used for the opening statement, the past tense is used for the methods and results, and the present tense again for the conclusion. It is definitely okay to switch the tenses.”

How to write a scholarly abstract that informs and invites readers

In academic writing, abstracts are the most powerful aspect of a manuscript, says Erin McTigue, a writing coach with The Positive Academic. “Realistically, to extract key findings, busy researchers may read only the abstract, and for those who proceed onward, the abstract provides an advance organizer framing their comprehension,” she says.

Abstracts need to be clear, and they need to have well-structured sentences, says Wendy Kamman Zimmer, an assistant professor at Texas A&M University. They should include concrete examples, words, and ideas, active voice, and human elements, she says: “Arguably, abstracts that are stronger have a contestable thesis or a very strong argument, something that you can touch; something that’s tangible.”

You are not your dissertation

In tears on the phone, my dissertation client Aurora wailed, “Chapter 2 is destroying me! I’ll be in this article gridlock for the next 10 years! I’m just not dissertation material!”

Aurora’s heartfelt confession was not unusual. In my longtime professional practice coaching struggling dissertation students, many have admitted feeling blocked in their writing, whether it’s Chapter 2, the dread literature review, like Aurora, or another chapter that particularly bedevils them. But Aurora’s assumption that she wasn’t “dissertation material” was particularly upsetting.

Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: June 25, 2021

Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows once said, “I think you learn more if you’re laughing at the same time.” Right or wrong, it never hurts to laugh and can add to the experience. In fact, emotions of many kinds are essential elements to our learning and academic writing efforts.

In this week’s collection of articles from around the web, we see examples of emotion as it affects word choice, research strategy, racism and social justice issues, and more.

TAA’s virtual conference kicks off tomorrow!

Are you excited to be part of TAA’s Virtual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference this year? The conference will kick off with a half day of programming on June 18, and presentations continuing June 21-24 and will feature a variety of session formats as well as networking opportunities.

All presentations will be hosted on Zoom, with 30- and 50-minute session formats welcome. Our Zoom formatting will allow for audience voice and video participation, chat features, break out rooms, question and answer formats, panel presentations, and more.