Announcing Academic Writing Month 2014

It’s back! Academic Writing Month 2014 starts 1st November! If

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #53 by Linda Levitt

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Do some warm ups! Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo) begins 1

Wendy Belcher

Random Post: Learnings from #AcWriMo Part 3: A Storify by Charlotte Frost

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[View the story “Your AcWriMo Tips: How To Deal With


Hackademic Guide to Networking: Have a Professional Approach
Posted by Angson Chow
Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/  under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/
under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

HAVE A PROFESSIONAL APPROACH. It’s worth having a networking strategy for every academic event you attend, and even more important to strategize at a macro-scale. We advocate always having a 5 year plan, even if it changes iteratively every 6 months. What job would you like to have? What things might you have published? What courses might you have taught? Now, work back from there. Who will be able to help you achieve these goals? Don’t just think about who is going to publish your work — although that’s also important — think about who can advise you and about whose work can serve as a model? These are the people you’ll need to start reaching out to in one way or another. You might start just by following them on Academia.edu, or Twitter. But eventually you should be ready to engage with them in a mutually-supportive and professional way. However, don’t start with a slew of unsolicited emails announcing your five year plan, and also don’t hover around prospective collaborators at conferences with nothing interesting to say. When you first reach out to potential mentors or collaborators, be clear and upfront about why you’re getting in touch and what you’re asking them for so they can make an instant assessment of the time involved in completing your request. And relate your questions to their work so they know you are genuinely engaged with what they do. If you’re writing them anything longer than a Tweet (say, an email or Facebook message) try something like:

 Dear Professor Clever-Cloggs,

 I’m interested in applying your method of teaching X with Z. I have already read your paper ‘Blah Blah’ but would love the opportunity to ask you a few additional questions (see below) so that I can fully synthesise your approach.

Likewise, if you approach somebody at a conference, first patiently wait your turn and second, be clear and direct about how you’d like to connect with them. Often there won’t be time at the conference itself so be ready to suggest a low-labour alternative. For example ask them if they’d be happy to Skype or Google Hangout with you for 20 minutes at a time of their choosing. Or offer to send them a follow up email with a few mutual action points. The key is to make it easy for them to work with you.

 

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #30 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Follow your journals on Twitter. Many academic journals have active Twitter accounts, as do journal editors. Having those journals and editors in your Twitter feed can keep you current on calls for papers and publications. Equally important is the opportunity to listen in and participate in conversations about research in your areas of interest and expertise. If you’re not familiar with or not active on Twitter, there are great Twitter tips catalogued here in the Hackademic Guide to Networking series.

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Publish and Publicise, or Perish: The Importance of Publication Impact by Mark Rubin
Posted by Linda Levitt

This guest post is from Mark Rubin, a senior lecturer in social psychology at the University of Newcastle, Australia. You can visit his ImpactStory profile at: http://impactstory.org/MarkRubin or follow him on Twitter @MarkRubinPsych.

I’ve recently conducted an “Introduction to Academic Publishing” seminar for PhD students at the University of Newcastle and the University of Canberra. During the seminar, I spend some time explaining to students the new emphasis on publication impact. Publication impact is the influence that scholarly publications have on other scholars and the general public, and it is becoming more and more important in academia. Below, I consider some of the ways in which publication impact is making an impact in the research world.

Measuring Researchers
The quality and quantity of a researcher’s publications provide a key measure of their research productivity. Consequently, publication track records are often used to determine whether or not researchers get hired, promoted, or funded for their future research. In addition, at the institutional level, the quality and quantity of a university’s publication output help to determine its international reputation and the amount of funding that it receives based on national research performance reviews. So, there are several reasons why researchers find themselves and their research outputs to be objects of measurements.

Tape Measure

© Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity, Tape Measure, Creative Commons

The ethos of “publish or perish” has been around for a long time. However, in recent years, this message has become more articulated, and it now takes into account the impact of researchers’ publications. In particular, researchers are now told that they must not only publish their research but also get their publications acknowledged by other researchers and society at large. In practice, this means that researchers need to get their publications (a) cited in the work of other researchers and (b) discussed in traditional and online media. To help achieve a greater scholarly and public impact, researchers must promote and advertise their work as much as possible. In this respect, the message has now become “publish and publicise, or perish!”

Publications Need to Make a Big Splash!

A Little Trick

© Nathan Rupert, A Little Trick, Creative Commons

Measuring Publication Impact in the Scholarly Literature: The H Index
The concern about impact in the scholarly literature explains the growing popularity of the h index, a metric that is used to quantify not only the number of articles that a researcher has published but also the number of citations that these articles have accrued in other scholarly work. My own h value is currently 12, meaning that 12 of my 33 research publications have each been cited at least 12 times in other research articles.High impact researchers are expected to have h indices that are at least as large as the number of years since their first publication. The h index is not without its critics, and some have argued that a more comprehensive assessment of publication impact should take into account a broader array of alternative impact metrics, or altmetrics, that include more than just citations in scholarly work.

The H Index

Wooden Brick Letter h

© LEOL30, Wooden Brick Letter h, Creative Commons

Altmetrics
Altmetrics platforms such as altmetric and impact story count the number of times that scholarly articles are mentioned in both the scholarly literature and online social media and websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia.They can also measure the number of times that online articles are viewed, bookmarked, liked, and downloaded on document managers such as Mendeley and Citeulike. Like the h index, altmetrics has its critics. However, if used wisely, altmetrics can provide a useful tool for assessing publication impact.

Altmetrics

© A J Cann, Altmetrics, Creative Commons

“Facebook for Researchers”
In an effort to increase their scholarly impact, researchers are now advertising their work on professional social networking websites such as Academia and ResearchGate, which have over 12 million researchers signed up between them. Researchers can follow other researchers in their area and be notified about their activities, including when they publish new articles. These sites also allow researchers to publish self-archived versions of their research papers that other users can then access, further increasing their citation potential.

Research Gate Logo

By ResearchGate [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Funnelling News of Research Outputs: Research Blog Aggregators
Modern researchers are also blogging about their work. I do this myself and, although it takes a bit of time to prepare each post, I really enjoy turning a dry research abstract into a more accessible and appealing piece for my blog. Like many other researchers, I feed my posts through to research blog aggregators like ScienceSeeker and ResearchBlogging. These platforms funnel posts from many different research blogs into a single stream of the latest research.

I think therefore I blog

© Marsmettnn Tallahassee, I think therefore I blog,Creative Commons

Open-Access = Greater Impact
The drive to publish lots of highly cited and publically-acknowledged articles also helps to explain the rise of open-access journals. Unlike traditional journals, open-access journals publish articles 100% online rather than in print and, without the associated printing costs, they are able to accommodate a greater number of journal articles. For example, PLOS ONE published 23,464 articles in 2012, making it the largest journal in the world!

Importantly, the appeal of open-access journals is not only their ability to publish more publications, but also their ability to make those publications more accessible to readers. Unlike traditional journals, which tend to hide their content behind subscriber-only paywalls, open-access journals make their content freely available to everyone with internet access. This has the effect of increasing publication impact by increasing citation rates among scholars as well as online discussion among the general public.

Open Access (1)

© Research and Graduate College Graduate Studies Office, Open_Access_PLoS, Creative Commons

Hello? Can Anyone Hear Me!?
If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no-one around to hear it, then does it make a noise? I can’t answer that one I’m afraid. But I do know that, nowadays, if a researcher publishes an article in a journal and no-one views it, downloads it, cites it, or Tweets it, then it certainly doesn’t make an impact!

Trees

© Sue Langford,Trees, Creative Commons

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Hackademic Guide to Networking: Shhhh! Listen!
Posted by Angson Chow
Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/  under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/
under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

 SHHHHH! LISTEN! When it comes to collaborating and networking, listening is just good form, and it will give you a much better idea of where your own work sits in the landscape of your subject area and neighboring disciplines. In fact, think of interacting with people as doing a kind of book-less literature survey. Find out everything you can about that person’s opinions and publications. You’ll stop yourself making any embarrassing mistakes or overblowing the originality of your work if you survey the territory first — carefully. And think about how you might listen on multiple channels. The conversation on Twitter is different from the conversation on your colleagues’ blogs, and both are different from what you’ll find at your annual conference or in a peer-reviewed journal. Don’t get so caught up in any one medium that you can’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak. Your discipline is happening, literally and figuratively, all over the place.

 

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #29 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Get TOC notifications. Staying current with academic journals in your discipline and areas of research interest can help shape your research agenda in positive ways. Keeping track of what is being published can also be a time-consuming burden. You can facilitate the process with Table of Contents notifications from your favorite journals. If you have an RSS feed, you can easily subscribe for alerts. Many journals will also send email alerts to those who sign up for them.

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Hackademic Guide to Networking: Tip Off the Press
Posted by Angson Chow
Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/  under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/
under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

TIP OFF THE PRESS. Sometimes you’ll organise an event or publish a piece of work that has obvious impact beyond your academic field alone. When this happens make sure you talk to your university’s marketing and press team. Work with them to draft a brief and to-the-point piece of text you can send out — press-release style — to relevant news outlets. It might be that you’re organising an event that will benefit the local community so make sure the local papers know about it well in advance. If you can make life easy for them as well by presenting them with text that pre-empts their questions you’ll increase your chances of the event/project being written about. If your work has real national/international impact then it’s really important you work closely with the press team not just to make sure you get press but also so that they can protect you and your intellectual property (no matter how you choose to license it, whether with a Creative Commons license or a more conventional copyright).

 Academic work is seldom a fame-game, but it’s always worth publicising important work because it will be bring prestige to your university and give you added kudos in your department (not to mention it may well build an audience for your work and help sell books etc) and that can lead to bigger and better grants. Jesse writes more on this subject in his article, “Promoting Open Access Publications and Academic Projects.” There, he writes, “Our work has value, and it’s safe to openly admit that. In fact, at this moment in education, championing what we do should be a major part of what we do.”

 

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #28 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Sort your projects. Many readers can see summer break around the corner, along with the opportunity to delve more deeply into research. If you don’t have that circumstance ahead of you, this is still a good time at the change of seasons to assess your research agenda. A writing group chum suggested sorting projects and project ideas into three categories: urgent, priority, and save for someday. Getting a sense of what you have to do and what you want to do—and making some choices in the process—can be a good first step to setting yourself on a productive trajectory. Don’t discard those “save for someday” ideas, as they may be a good for a call for proposals or a collaboration down the road.

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Hackademic Guide to Networking: Organize an Event
Posted by Angson Chow
Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/  under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/
under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

ORGANIZE AN EVENT. The most productive sorts of networks are populated by both strong and weak ties. One of the best ways to network is to attend events in your field, and sometimes it’s just as useful to attend events in neighboring fields. Even more useful, though, is to organize an event of your own. Doing so will force you to not only show up for the event, but you’ll also have the opportunity to work closely with folks you might not otherwise have the opportunity to work with. It’s also an important service to the profession. If you’re a graduate student, perhaps start by organizing a dissertation writing group or a series of workshops about academic writing. If you’re a classroom teacher, start a pedagogy club for talking about new perspectives on and strategies for teaching. When you find yourself without community, build one, and work to populate the community with a diverse array of participants — not just students in your cohort or faculty in your department, but a wider group of people that don’t always do exactly what you’d do or say exactly what you’d say.

After you’ve had some practice with organizing a smaller event or community, try something more ambitious. Gather together a group of your peers for an unconference or symposium on a subject related to your work. Or, even better, find a way to gather your peers together for a project that engages your local community (or some more global digital community). Put yourself in the center of the fray, wherever that fray is, and do work to help your discipline — your community — evolve.

 

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #27 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Another note to self. Do you have a paragraph in an essay you’re working on that vexes you? Or maybe an idea that you can’t seem to sort out? Print out or write down some of your work-so-far and carry it with you. When you have a bit of downtime, pull out your note instead of your phone. Checking in with social media is important, but checking in with your research can be even more meaningful. Spending time with your research periodically in spaces away from those where there is pressure to write can also alleviate some of the discomfort that occurs when you get distanced from your research-in-progress.

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Hackademic Guide to Networking: Share and Share Well
Posted by Angson Chow
Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/  under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/
under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

 SHARE AND SHARE WELL. Be good at sharing useful content via the social media platforms you choose to use. This may sound obvious but it’s easily forgotten and it ties in with our tip about being a good listener. Don’t take to Facebook or Twitter just to announce the paper you published. You want people interested in you and to friend/follow you if they value you as a useful source of information. So find out what’s going on in your academic world and pass it on. A great tool that can help you with keeping a steady flow of interesting information flowing through your social media accounts is Buffer. Buffer allows you to quickly select meaningful content from around the web and queue it up to be published at selected intervals — even when you’re away from you computer. This means that if you have very limited time to catch up with your accounts, you’ll still come across as an active user. Another useful tool can be IFTTT. IFTTT allows you to automate lots of content gathering/sharing. There are some people who use it to automatically tweet content selected by a Google or Talk Walker alert for a particular subject area. But ultimately this will make your Twitter account seem like a bot and you’ll frustrate followers who want to hear from YOU! Far better to use it as a way of making sure your blog posts automatically get tweeted, or to allow the same piece of content to be shared across all social media platforms at once, or even to retweet content from your favourite blogs. In short, automation can be good but only when it’s set up carefully and deliberately.

 

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #26 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Serve as a reviewer for conferences. While it varies across disciplines, large national and international conferences will often look to their membership to conduct peer review of conference submissions. Volunteering to serve as a reviewer has many benefits: You have an opportunity to see what research is underway in your field. You provide important service to the discipline, which 1) makes you part of the community, 2) strengthens connections and contacts, and 3) can be helpful if you are on the market or have service requirements toward tenure. You can also learn from the best practices and mistakes of other writers.

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Chatting with Editors and Publishers
Posted by Linda Levitt
Creative Commons photo by Michael Coghlan

Creative Commons photo by Michael Coghlan

In the first of a new series, we talk with Michael LeVan, editor in chief of Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies. Dr. LeVan shares his advice for best practices for authors submitting work to academic journals.

I’d say that there a few common mistakes I’ve seen over the past decade at Liminalities, especially with graduate students and early career scholars. In many cases these can be avoided by having the intended submission vetted by a trusted mentor (like an advisor in grad school or an established researcher in your first faculty position). They can help a lot, but you have to ask them. Even though you know they are busy with other things. But if they are successful, someone probably helped them early on. Having your peers review your work is often helpful for your esteem, but they usually are not seasoned enough themselves to know the big differences between writing seminar papers and writing journal articles.

One common mistake I see is authors making big claims that are not supported by the arguments and examples. I think many times we have a hunch about a big idea and we really need to spend our tenure-seeking years articulating and working on that question. My advisor liked to tell people that the dissertation, for example, was your first word, not your only word. Worry about being consistent, clear, and rigorous on a small observation rather than trying to part the clouds.

Another mistake that is pretty specific to Liminalities is when I get an essay from a graduate student who is writing about his or her full-length show. It is difficult enough to do a thorough critical analysis of a performance (or other aesthetic text) by someone else. It is exponentially harder to do this when it is your own text being analyzed. All they see is their own brilliance that comes from a thousand tendrils of tenuous connections to other ideas. Teasing out those connections in concert with vivid descriptions usually gets lost by the wayside and you end up with another case of heavy claims with light support. Rather than writing about your brilliant show, write about the insights into a research question that you learned from the process of doing your show. Of course, now with multimedia journals, you can submit the aesthetic text itself as a form of research, maybe including an artist statement that frames the motivating question(s).

Another mistake I’ll mention in essays is having a stinker of a conclusion. The conclusion is what you are writing toward, what you are leading the readers to, and where you can show the readers why your work was worth reading. This is where you can connect to bigger questions that your modest article exposes. Often, it feels like authors just stop at the end of their observations and say, “Ta-da! See? See?” Tell us what we should see, and this will want to make us read your next essay.

The final mistake that I’ll mention is doing too much exegesis of some theorist and too little analysis of the thing that your scholarship is supposed to be about (be it a text, an object, a discourse, or whatever). Of course, doing exegesis is important to showing your professors that you understand what’s going on in difficult texts, and the best graduate students excel at this kind of writing. But readers of scholarship want you to already know (and know you know) that stuff so that you can get to the interesting work of applying it, expending it, or arguing against it in terms of some tangible examples.

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Hackademic Guide to Networking: Be Easy To Schedule a Meeting With
Posted by Angson Chow
Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/  under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/
under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

ALWAYS BE THE EASIEST PERSON TO SCHEDULE A MEETING WITH. Certainly, there is a benefit to seeming like your time is in demand; however, the hassle of scheduling a meeting is a bear you shouldn’t let loose upon a new collaborator. Even if your schedule feels incredibly full, we recommend trying to offer as many possible times for a meeting. And, when in doubt, offer to meet somewhere that’s convenient for your colleague. In brief, fighting for the front seat of the car is not a game you should figuratively play with a potential collaborator. We both think of our schedule like a Rubik’s Cube, something constantly shifting as we move through the week to accommodate the various relationships we’re trying to develop.

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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #25 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Notes to self. Overwhelm and disorder are common to the writing process. Not only is it a challenge to keep papers, books, and electronic files in order so they are easy to access and use, it is also easy to get distracted. Sometimes a question will lead to an hour-long rabbit hole of searching for another source or pursuing an idea not immediately relevant to your writing project. An easy reminder to stay on task is to write your thesis statement on a sticky note and post it on the corner of your screen. It’s not there to nag you but to help you stay focused.

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Hackademic Guide to Networking: Hone Your Elevator Pitch
Posted by Angson Chow
Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/  under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/
under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.

 

HONE YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH. Learn how to describe what’s very broadly at stake in your work. This can take years of practice to get good at — and it’s especially hard to do straight after completing your PhD — but we don’t have years (we usually need to hone a pitch before the PhD is even finished), so here’s a cheat. Imagine you have to convey the life or death importance of your work (and that your life actually does depend on getting the message across). What would you say? Instead of being lost in the intricacies and jargon of your field, you have to tell someone — anyone — just why your work matters. This sort of thing is often described as an ‘elevator pitch’, a short teaser you could recite to the most important person within or outside your field in a short elevator trip.

 

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