Browsing the archives for the AcWriMo tag

Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #7 by Linda Levitt
Posted by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Find a writing buddy. During Academic Writing Month, many writers used the spreadsheet to check in and log their daily progress. Accountability can be a great motivator, and it doesn’t need to end now that AcWriMo is over. In fact, you can make it even better. A fellow student, a childhood friend, a sibling, a colleague: someone who has had a supportive role in your life at some point can be a writing buddy. You don’t even need to be in the same town—or country—with your writing buddy. Best if the process and commitment is mutual, but you can also check in with someone who is not currently working on a project or not even a writer at all.

If you bristle at the term “buddy” because it reminds you of having to hold someone’s hand on a fourth grade field trip, come up with your own term. It’s another fine way to take ownership of the process. And creating a personal culture around your writing process adds meaning beyond the product itself.

What quality should the buddy has ? This may gives you an insight.

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Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks – Week Seven
Posted by Ellie Mackin
By Aadityasardwal via Wikimedia Commons

By Aadityasardwal via Wikimedia Commons

Ellie Mackin is a third year PhD student in Classics at King’s College London, and is working through Wendy Belcher’s ‘Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks’ while attempting to finish her thesis.

Evidence.  A daunting word, and one that can mean so many different things.  I have my own system of categorising primary evidence depending on the source of the material (for example, an inscription is just primary whereas a medieval manuscript of a classical-period play is still primary, but less so, and a textual edition is even less primary than the manuscript – it’s a pretty loose system).  This week was all about evidence and fittingly Belcher began not with what evidence is but what the types of evidence are.  She covers qualitative, quantitative, historical, geographical, textual and artistic evidence, finally asking you to identify the types of evidence that you use.  I actually found this not only interesting but enlightening.  It’s not that I didn’t know that the different evidence existed, but I’d never considered anything  beyond the ‘primary’ ‘secondary’ and ‘tertiary’ categorisations, and thus had – in a way, but not consciously – lumped statistical data with historical data.  Probably because I use the latter and not the former, I had never considered what function the former actually plays in some research.

The next section is about writing up, and like last week it was split into ‘Social Science’ and ‘Humanities.’  I read though the Social Science, but not in depth, so I will mainly talk about the humanities section.  This was split into two sub-sections ‘close readings’ and ‘cultural studies.’  As what I do straddles the divide between the two sub-categories I didn’t favour one approach over the other but worked equally on both.  Belcher took these two sub-categories from what she describes as the two common theoretical positions in literary criticism.  I found her comments about each of these sections to be, in hindsight, obvious – but I don’t think I would have been able to list these as poles of theoretical approaches before I read this section.  Under close readings she discusses meaningful quoting, brief summerisation, ‘large picture’ referencing, and – I think most importantly, though she doesn’t emphasis it – careful selection.  That is, not trying to undertake too large a portion of text, asking the text ‘why’ or ‘how’, not ‘what’.  She also, interestingly, notes that you should limit your footnotes or endnotes, stating that more and more journals are asking for these to be limited.  I would have thought this would be in the author guidelines for any particular journal, and at this stage might be unnecessarily restrictive, but I’ve never come across this idea in my field, so perhaps it’s more relevant in some disciplines than others.  The second section of this is for cultural studies, in which she says, straight and to the point, ‘avoid biography’, ‘avoid simple politicising,’ and ‘deploy theory, don’t replicate it.’  Most interestingly in this section was her instruction to avoid the discussion of intentionality.  I really like this notion and I try very hard not to discuss what I think the author is trying to convey or intends to say, so I felt like I was slightly ahead of the game on this one (for once!).  All in all, this was a useful exercise to think about the way that I use evidence.

The second day’s exercise was to discuss evidence in your field.  The book asks you to make a few appointments to talk evidence, but I didn’t do this.  I have lunch and drinks with colleagues on a fairly regular basis and thought it might be best to discuss here.  We came up with some interesting things, including a discussion of the way that we all view primary source material in our field (which is Classics/Ancient History, and so primary sources can be of somewhat dubious origin in some cases).

I had fun and games with the third day’s task, which was to print out a copy of your paper and go though it paragraph by paragraph and pick out your evidence, determine whether it’s clearly presented and make a note if it doesn’t have a clear progression, ‘explanation power’ or is logical.  My margins were full of little notes, which helped over the next two days when I went through and tried – sometimes with more ease than others – to correct these passages.

Finally, there is the revision of the whole document, to take in the changes made.  My article is looking a lot different than it was at the start, and I’m really pleased that I saved a copy (though this was unintentional at the time, I admit!) at the start, so that I can look back and see how far I have actually progressed.  I’m feeling good this week, even though it’s the end of AcWriMo, my writing has never been better!

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Collaborative and Public Writing Techniques for Google Docs by Charlotte Frost and Jesse Stommel
Posted by Angson Chow

Charlotte Frost and Jesse Stommel met (as they often do) in a Google Doc to do some writing. This time, however, they invited a group of people to join them, and they demonstrated how and why they write together in Google Docs. In the blog post below, you can read the text they generated, but the original Google Doc they used can also be viewed as can the video of them writing together (which we’ve included below). If you have any further questions ask away in the comments section of this post.

My name is Charlotte Frost and I am a Visiting Assistant Professor here at SCM in Hong Kong. I run lots of projects looking at writing in an academic context including PhD2Published and AcWriMo. My other work is focused on digital and new media arts and the history of net art (the latter of which was the subject for my thesis). Jesse and I regularly work in Google Docs together on all manner of things because apart from anything else its fun.

My name is Jesse Stommel and I’m a teacher and researcher working in the US. I teach Digital Humanities and Digital Literacies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I’m also the Director of Hybrid Pedagogy, a digital journal of learning, teaching, and technology. I’ve been working closely with Charlotte for quite a while, and we have begun to inhabit each other’s writing in such a way that we often finish each other’s sentences.

In this session we’re going to:

  • Use a Google Doc to show how we work together and discuss what works for us
  • Describe and give examples of public writing.
  • Show which parts of a Google Doc we use for what.
  • Address some of the difficulties we encounter as we work in this way.
  • Demo all of this in a meta-sort of way, so you can watch it unfold before your very eyes.
  • (And hopefully film this demo so you have something to look at and refer to afterward)

Why Write Collaboratively?

Accountability: Writing together is a huge procrastination crusher. There’s safety in numbers and it makes it much less daunting to look at a blank screen with someone else there – you are NOT alone! (cause someone else is right there with you, prodding your sentences into life!)

Camaraderie: Having someone to talk to and write with and even ask questions about all sorts of things helps (especially questions about writing and academia of course!). It can make it easier to get started (see above) and make the whole process a lot more enjoyable.

Instant Proof-reading and Peer-review: Your partner can read for sense AND mistakes – if they don’t get it, others won’t either. But also, let them find your mistakes and save your blushes later on.

Less Work: If you work on something like this together in a Google Doc (whether it’s a blog post, article, outline, etc.) you halve the work. And, if you’re working with someone like Charlotte [says Jesse] it’s even less than half, because she’s very very prolific.

Progression: It will move your thinking and writing forward AND fast. There’s a difference between ‘thinking writing’ and ‘doing writing’ the former helps you work something out, the latter helps you show what you’ve worked out. A collaborative document can be used for either, but if nothing else, use it for ‘thinking writing’. It’s a sandbox for making sense of something of something.

Why not? Learning is social and doing this kind of work with collaborators helps improve your work and your partners. Writing does not have to be solitary. Sure, some writing prefers to live alone, but sometimes writing wants to live right alongside its readers.

 

How to Write Collaboratively?

(there’s lots of stuff to consider as you get started, but sometimes the best thing to do is just start putting words on the screen and work the details out as you go). Here are some strategies we’ve found work well:

Time and Place:

Set up a Google Doc and a specific time to meet – as well as the duration of your meeting.

Your work can continue asynchronously outside the scheduled time (especially if you’re working in different time zones) but writing together at the same time is key – so try to do that regularly.

But perhaps only do it for an hour at a time, it’s a tiring practice if you’re working very collaboratively.

Permissions:

Establish the ‘permissions’ you’ll set for the document, who can edit, who can comment, who can read, etc.

Decide whether you want your document open to the web.

If you’re inviting more people to work with you, make sure that you make them ‘editors’.

[currently this document is set up to only allow folks aside from Jesse and Charlotte to view the document -- or participate in the chat -- though we often open up our documents to a wider group of editors at some point during our process.]

The Google Doc Spreadsheet for AcWriMo for example is public and open to anyone to write on.

Types of Writing:

As well as writing your main body of text you’ll also be:

Using the chatbox for live discussion about all things writerly/academia and to arrange what you’ll achieve in your joint writing sessions.

Using the ‘comment’ function to select parts of the document to provide targeted feedback.

Navigation:

Decide how to navigate the various writing spaces together.

We meet in the chat box to get started and to arrange what we’ll do during a writing session, and we’ll often pop back into the chat box when we need to confer about our process.

We’ll also use the chat box as a space for dividing up what each of us will do during a writing session.

Sometimes, we will write in different colors just for fun to distinguish our voices. But we usually take that out as we polish the document.

 

Other examples of how you can use a Google Doc to work publicly and collaboratively:

Writing Buddy:

Partner with one other person and both use the same GoogleDoc to each work on a different project but so that your progress is witnessed and/or so you can get someone else to periodically review your work and comment on it, etc. (There are anxieties associated with writing in public in this way, so doing this work helps build trust.) Sometimes, Charlotte will work at the bottom of a Google Doc while I work at the top. This gives us some amount of privacy but the ability to “call each other” into our section of the document.

Public Peer-Review:

Write in a Google Doc and make it public for viewing and reviewing (you might allow people to comment but not rewrite the text itself). Offering up a piece of work to a specific group in this way is a great technique for obtaining instant peer review.

Example: Arts Future Book is one of Charlotte’s research projects and in this instance she wrote a paper and left it open to public peer-reviewing (using a blog rather than Google Docs though)

Sandbox:

Use one Google Doc for a large group as a sort of central repository for content.

You can brainstorm in the same doc and share ideas. and shape it up into something later. An Extreme example: of this is DigiWriMo Novel in a Day (which had about 100 people working in one Google Doc.)


Collaborate:

Write collaboratively with one or more people. Take turns to draft sections of the doc (perhaps its an article you’re writing together) and use the comments to discuss each other’s sections and how to combine them better.

Take turns to draft sections but then work on the same paragraph at the same time to review, comment AND edit.

Example: A document that started with 4 authors, evolved to 12, and the rest of the web to contribute to the creation of a Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age:

What Difficulties Do We Encounter When We Write Collaboratively?

Stage Fright: It will expose how many times you change a sentence before you finish it (or how many typos you make ;-) Charlotte likes to make typos, as do I. Luckily, we both find typos immensely charming.

Solution: If you see the other person writing at the speed of light you can lose your train of thought. Just carry on in your own way at your own pace until you feel comfortable. One of the most important things you can lean is that we all write differently and we have to find our own practice for ourselves.

Disagreements: It’s easy to get attached to your writing and hard sometimes to let someone else into your process. Occasionally, you will find yourself unable to share a common voice.

Solution: Decide in advance how you’ll resolve your writing issues with your writing partner. Agree to Skype, meet, or just agree to differ on what ever the issue is. Sometimes, you might decide that you want to write certain sections of a document independently, while continuing to collaborate on others.

Technical Problems: Technology can be temperamental. Occasionally, the gods of technology just don’t rule in our favor.

Solution: If you lose more than 15 mins to lost connections/Google Docs not refreshing it might best to just give up and work alone or on something else. But work out the next time you CAN meet and stick to it.

Ownership: Who owns this document? Who gets to decide its boundaries? When we work together in this way, who is the “author” of a document like this?

Solution: While we have both clearly been co-composing this particular example, what if one of us were writing and the other were primarily editing and offering feedback? If you set out to work on something together, even if one of your writes more of it, we think it’s probably best to just agree from the start that the work will be collaborative. This kind of work can’t be quantified in a cut and dry fashion. The production of one word is sometimes more difficult than the production of 10. Actual writing isn’t the only thing you bring to the table when you collaborate and we find that the balance of the work evens out in the end.

Looking for some more tips for working with Google Docs?

 This Google Doc workshop was offered as part of the Improving Your Academic Writing workshop series Charlotte gave at the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong as part of AcWriMo 2013.

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Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks – Week Six
Posted by Ellie Mackin
By Aadityasardwal via Wikimedia Commons

By Aadityasardwal via Wikimedia Commons

Ellie Mackin is a third year PhD student in Classics at King’s College London, and is working through Wendy Belcher’s ‘Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks’ while attempting to finish her thesis.

 Half way!  That’s right, things are finally starting to happen and my article is taking shape! This week was all about structure, and although I thought it was going to be a boring (albeit necessary) week, it actually turned out to be very interesting.  The explanatory text for this week began with types of structure – what Belcher categorised as ‘micro’ and ‘macro’ structure.  That is, the structure of your overall article and the structure within each paragraph.  This started with five basic ‘organisational structures’: description, sequence, causation, problem/solution and comparison:  I’m not sure what effect knowing this has had on my writing, but it certainly has made me a better reader this week, because I’ve been concentrating on identifying these structures within other texts I’ve been reading (and, in fact, I wonder if this whole process is not just making me a better writer but a better reader and researcher as well – I certainly notice things differently and read more carefully than I did before…). Belcher then goes though article structures, and I have to be honest, I didn’t read the ones aimed at Social Sciences (although perhaps I will go back and read them), but skipped straight though to the Humanities-themed structure.  This is a very useful part of the book, and if you do nothing else then read though this section (Humanities is on pp. 180-182.).  Not only does Belcher give the general structure but she gives an example of how the structure works in an actual article (it would be interesting to go though and read the article with the structure in hand and see how this works.  I should have done this, probably, but I’ve been so busy this week as per usual). We then go though ways to solving structure problems, including prompts asking if you could use more subheadings or summary, if you use an appropriate structure, if you present your evidence properly, if your main argument appears in each paragraph and, if not, should you include it more, and whether you could develop your examples more successfully. The next main task is to outline a model article.  I used an article I was about to read anyway, instead of the suggestion to read the model article that was identified in week one.  I’m not sure if this was more or less successful than it could have been in the circumstances, but I got a lot out of the exercise, both in terms of what I got out of the article and being able to identify what worked and what didn’t in the model. Finally, before getting to your own article, Belcher asks you to outline your article using the examples outlined.  And then, you guessed it, you have to implement the structure. This wouldn’t be a blog by me if there wasn’t at least one confession, so here it is: I am rubbish at editing.  And this was no different.  I struggled big time with this task, but I got there.  My article needs a lot more revision, and the two days that Belcher put aside for this task weren’t enough for me, so I will have to take this though into the weekend as well. I have taken away some really valuable lessons from this week, and lessons that are more widely applicable than just for my article.  I’m going to create a structure map of my thesis, as a whole and chapter by chapter, and see if I can improve it using Belcher’s system. All in all, an interesting and useful week! Hope AcWriMo is treating everyone well.

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Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: Week 5
Posted by Ellie Mackin
By Aadityasardwal via Wikimedia Commons

By Aadityasardwal via Wikimedia Commons

Ellie Mackin is a third year PhD student in Classics at King’s College London, and is working though Wendy Belcher’s ‘Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks’ while attempting to finish her thesis.

I can’t believe I’m almost half way through the programme now, and my article is starting to take shape and I am starting to feel good about writing – both the article and more generally, which is lovely.

This week has been crazy.  I ended the week pretty close to having a full first draft of my PhD, which I’m hoping to submit in two weeks.  Some parts are a lot closer than others but it’s coming together and I’m feeling confident about it.  As a result I was glad that this week’s tasks had a lot of reading components, because I knew I wouldn’t want to do too much writing other than my thesis.  That’s also why this post is a little bit late.

This week started with a pep-talk that I really needed, the gist of which is DON’T FEEL GUILTY!  Don’t feel guilty if you’re not working as much or as hard as you ‘think’ you should be working, because that guilt makes it even harder to get going.  In that vein I’m going to share with you my answer to Belcher’s request this week to write something positive about your own writing: ‘My prose is improving, my editing is improving, my ability is improving. I’m not there yet, but writing is not as scary as it used to be.’  Okay, so not the overwhelmingly positive gush that it could be, but considering how I felt about writing in the week one tasks, I think I’m made some pretty significant improvements.

This week I went through revising the relevant literature, by first learning about the types of literature that there are: original (or primary, of which I have a fair amount!), derivative (or tertiary sources, or ‘classroom’ articles, encyclopaedias, etc. – should not be used!), contextual (for background information on the context of your topic), methodological, theoretical (both, I think, self-explanatory), and related literature (that is, scholarly work that is directly related to your topic.)  Belcher then goes into how to read two specific types of literature: theoretical and related.  Honestly, I wish I’d read the section on reading theoretical literature six years ago before I started my undergraduate thesis.  My life would have been a whole lot easier then and now.  One tip in particular, which I’m sure many students (and scholars) feel inadequate when and if they do it, is using reference books.  I know this from first-hand experience of reading Kant and needing not only a book to explain the book, but a book to explain the language used in the book explaining the book!  An interesting suggestion from Belcher is to read biographies of the theoreticians, which I had never considered but is actually a great idea!

Belcher moves on to how to read related literature and this is a much longer section, understandably.  Belcher suggests that you limit your reading.  This goes against what we’re always told, and what many scholars feel they need to do, but it does make sense.  She suggests several ways of limiting research, and states that your article doesn’t need to be the comprehensive last-word on your topic.  Next she talks about finding your way into the scholarship and how to start the conversation – the analogy here is that you wouldn’t walk into a party and just start talking about yourself, you need to engage first.  I found a lot of this stuff common sense, but it’s always a good thing to revise (in fact, that’s a pretty good way to describe this whole week, particularly the section on avoiding plagiarism, which is always good to remind yourself of!).

For the first time in this process, I found the tasks to be a little bit tedious.  I understand the point of going through citations, but seeing as I started with a piece of writing that was fairly comprehensive anyway I found it a bit over the top.  One of the tasks (‘Identifying and reading the related literature’) was something I’d done pretty recently, and I am the kind of person/researcher that adds in new information and references as I find them, so my article is fairly up to date.  Finally, I am not the sort of reader that appreciates an extensive literature review in an article (certainly some literature review is good, but too much just eats into the article’s own argument) and so I found the drafting of a literature review that I probably wouldn’t use most of a bit over the top.

The week certainly made me think about some things that it’s good to review, but so far this was, I think, the least successful week.  Perhaps if I didn’t have so many other things going on I would have appreciated it more.

Hope everyone’s AcWriMo is going well!

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Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: Week Four
Posted by Ellie Mackin
By Aadityasardwal via Wikimedia Commons

By Aadityasardwal via Wikimedia Commons

Ellie Mackin is a third year PhD student in Classics at King’s College London, and is working though Wendy Belcher’s ‘Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks’ while attempting to finish her thesis.

It seems habit that I start each blog with a confession now, although this confession is the exact opposite to the one I made last week. I am writing. A lot. It is #AcWriMo after all!

I am just not doing a lot of writing on my article. Probably lucky that this week was all about choosing an journal to submit to, so I am still mostly on track with my article. There is a good lesson to be learnt here about not letting setbacks set you back. What I mean is that you can take a small setback and let it become a big one by taking on an attitude of ‘well, I’ve already slipped this week so I may as well not do x, y, z either!’ Or, you can just take it in your stride, ‘I didn’t do a, but I can still do b and c.’  This is one of the things I’m finding nice about Belcher’s book: it is set up into easily manageable sized chunks of work each week, so it’s easy get back on track.

This week, as I said earlier, was all about picking a journal, and therefore the front pages of the week are packed full of information about different types of journals. Belcher breaks the section up into ‘Nonrecommended Publishing Outlets,’ which includes newspapers, trade publications, and conference proceedings, ‘Questionable Publishing Outlets,’ which includes non-peer reviewed journals, graduate, note, review and local journals and – surprisingly to me – chapters in edited volumes and electronic journals (though I assume that the field of electronic journals has changed significantly even since 2009, but I’ll still heed the advice for now!). Finally, ‘Preferred Publishing Outlets’ including regional, newer, field, interdisciplinary and disciplinary journals. Belcher asks you to identify one journal from each of these categories that might be suitable for your article, and I admit I struggled to come up with an interdisciplinary journal so I just left that blank.

The next task is to properly identify some journals that your article might be suitable for, just by searching. By asking colleagues and advisors/supervisors, the ‘old fashioned’ self search, journals that your article cites from, and electronic databases. Belcher gives some really good information about electronic searching, and a bunch of tips that will make the job a lot easier. Tips include varying search words, and searching for not just the topic of your paper but your methodological approach, or theory, or broad discipline keywords. The next day’s task is all about evaluating the journals you’ve uncovered during this searching process, and Belcher gives a great many criteria to think about when evaluating journals – she suggests spending ‘an hour’ (although I found it too longer than this) and that you look at print versions of the journals in question (which I did) rather than looking online for the information.  The criteria include things like being peer-reviewed, reputable, from her recommended publishing outlet list, if the copy editing is good quality (that is, that the journal is not filled with typos and design problems), if it is timely in production, the journal size and number of articles published, how long it might take for an article to be published from acceptance, whether it is indexed online and who reads it. As you can see, this is quite a long list of things to look into, and some are as easy as flipping though a few issues to see for yourself and skim reading an article or two. When you have a list of half a dozen journals to look though, though, this process can take more time that Belcher has allowed you for the task, particularly when you take into account some of the things which are harder to find out on site – like how long it might take to publish an accepted article or how rigorous the peer-review process is – just something to keep in mind as you come up to this particular task. There is a handy form that you can use that will ensure that you don’t miss anything when searching, and that you can use for easy comparison between the journals.

Finally for this task you’re asked to review the forms and pick a journal – or several suitable journals in a ranked list!  Then, the easy (and fun, I think!) part: read the journals. Belcher asks you to read though a few of the journal articles in a couple of recent editions of the journal(s) you’ve chosen. Take note, this exercise is not just about reading the articles you like but about scoping out what the journal is like (and perhaps finding a relevant article or two to cite in your own article). This is so you can really look at the direction of the journal, see whether your article can fill a gap in their recent issues, whether there is a trend to the topics and whether any of the recently published articles cover similar ground to your article – her general rule of thumb is that if it’s been done in the last three years the journal might not want to revisit the topic again so soon, unless your article is significantly different.  Blecher almost tacks on the end to also look at the length of notes and bibliography, but I personally found this to be one of the most interesting differences in the journals I looked at – some had long, explanatory notes and some were just simple references, likewise some had many pages of bibliography and others had much shorter bibliographies – what I got from this little section is that you want your article to fit in to the overall feel of the journal, and I think this could make a difference to the place I choose to submit to.

Now – to return to the start of my post and my neglect. I confess: I haven’t done the day 5 task. I ran out of time because I was writing thesis-work. I am going to do this over the weekend and will put it in the next blog post, but I’ll run though briefly what the task is.

The task is to write a query letter to the editor(s) of your chosen journal(s). Belcher covers what you should ask editors, and gives a few sample letters, before running though what this kind of letter can do for you.

I’ll report more about that next week, until then – Happy AcWriMo everyone!

 

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Running Writing Groups by Charlotte Frost
Posted by Anna Szilagyi

grouphugThis is a guide by Charlotte Frost to setting up a regular communal writing session. The focus here is on the type of group that meets primarily to write with company, get support, and hold themselves accountable. If you run other types of writing group – where you offer feedback or target different writing tasks – please tell us more in the comments section.

Time

To run a regular writing group you need to start by arranging at least one set time a week that a group of you can all meet, at a designated location, for about 2 hours. Usually it takes a least 2 hours for a writing session to be productive. Using a Doodle Poll can help you narrow down your time-slot options.

Location

To begin with, make sure you have a regular location so people can get into a routine. Consider in advance if there is a kitchen close-by where participants can store and prepare refreshments and also whether the space you have chose permits the consumption of food and drink. You might also consider the availability of power points and how the room is set up – for example can you all sit together or will you be distributed around a busy library? If the latter, you might find your writing group doesn’t really feel like a group and the support and accountability working together can provide will be diminished.

Refreshments

You should also get everyone to agree to rotate who brings refreshments or each contribute to a refreshment kitty. If you have a kitchen nearby tea and coffee runs will be easy. We all have writing rituals and having the right hot drink often features heavily in these so don’t miss this part out. And remember that the odd indulgent cake doesn’t go a miss when you’re struggling with a section of writing.

Format

To build a format for the session, it’s worth beginning each week with everyone taking just a couple of minutes to each publicly identify the following:

  • What the ongoing project is.
  • What you have achieved since the last session.
  • What will be achieved during this writing session.
  • What is proving problematic (this can range from theory you’re struggling to understand to getting your citations in a tangle, just say what’s bothering you.)

When everyone has announced their goals and issues, agree to work for an hour without interruption. If people wish to eat or drink during this time, they must agree to keep noise and disruption to a minimum. After the hour is up, everyone is given 15 minutes to get something to eat or drink, to chat, visit bathrooms and generally refresh themselves.Agree to work for the remaining time (if in a 2 hour session) or for the next hour and then take a break again. You might even consider buying a timer so that everyone can see (and hear) where you’re all at in the session. It could even be a Pomodoro timer and you could run your group in 25 minute sessions. If you do do this, remember that, initially, some people might struggle to get the hang of working in such short blocks.

Routine

Its really important to make writing group meetings habitual. Encourage all participants to be consistent and attend every session. Help them see you must all take joint responsibility for making the group work. Of course sometimes there’ll be a schedule conflict or an emergency, but try making playful punishments up for no-shows – like they owe everyone a cookie or some proof reading next session.

Ground Rules

At the start of the session remind everyone to turn off/silence their mobile phones and to bring headphones if they want to listen to music. Let people know upfront that they are allowed to leave the session at any time, but they are not permitted to make or recieve calls and if they are working in pomodoros to take their 5 minute breaks very quietly and wait for the whole group to break before making too much noise.

Mix It Up

  • Location. Although it’s useful to have a set location, if everyone can make it, why not try a new venue every once in a while. How about all meeting in a coffee shop or at someone’s house. Different locations can refresh your thinking.
  • Games. Get everyone to write a writing task on a piece of paper (these might include footnotes, editing, introduction, conclusion…). Fold up all the task papers and put them in hat/cup/jar. At half time, invite everyone to take a task out, announce it, and commit to working on that for the rest of the session.
  • Themes. Sometimes you might like to dedicate a writing session to a particular issue or project type. If you’re doing your PhD how about a literature review session. If you are early career academics why not have a session where you all work on job applications together. If you do a themed session, be sure to leave some time to discuss the issues you faced.
  • Procrastination jar (as devised by Dimitrina Kaneva). Tell everyone that each time they get distracted they must write down what distracted them on a piece of paper, fold it up and put it in a hat/cup/jar. At the end of the session, pass the receptacle around and get everyone to read out at least one distraction. This provides light relief but it can also help you stay focused next time as you’ll have had a public reminder of what gets in your way.
  • Free-write/brain-dump. All take 10 minutes at the start of the session and write down everything you can think of that relates to your writing project. Just get it all out onto paper or into a Word document (or similar) and don’t you dare think structurally or critically. This will clear your mind and give you a number of places – literally listed on a piece of paper/screen – to start.

Readers

If your group is willing, you might all agree to become a test audience for each other’s work. You might dedicate a writing session to giving each other feedback on previously circulated material. Or you might all agree to offer feedback on any drafts emailed to the group. However, if doing this, set some ground rules. Perhaps everyone is only permitted to share one draft per writing project and only with a long lead time.

Small Scale

If you can’t assemble a whole group of other writers to meet and write with you, find just one. Buddy-up with another writer and try and work together using the same principles described above. And when you can’t write together, make a point of checking in with each other to listen to problems and progress. Your email/call to check on your writing buddy might mean the difference between them finishing a draft this month or next.

Virtual

And if you can’t write as part of a group in a physical location, use the #acwri (#acwrimo during November) tag to keep in touch with other writers virtually.

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Introducing new managing editor
Posted by Linda Levitt

Flickr_-_paul_bica_-_celestial_lightGreetings PhD2Published community! I am excited to join the site as managing editor here at the beginning of Academic Writing Month. Charlotte Frost and the team have fantastic plans for the month of November, when all of us will see what epic results we can gain by making a commitment to our writing. You’ll also have a whole community of support and enthusiasm to help you meet your goals.

Admittedly, I’ve set a tiny daily goal for AcWriMo, based on my struggle to meet my more ambitious word counts last year. A post on my experience—and why I’m looking forward to trying again—will be forthcoming.

A bit about me: I’m a communication and media studies scholar and earned my doctorate at the University of South Florida. My dissertation was a critical study of Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, and how this unique commemorative space is used for cultural events, performances, and celebrations. That project took my research interests in various directions, but all of my work focuses on the intersection of media and cultural memory.

After finishing my doctorate, I published journal articles and book chapters building on those existing interests, but managed to always put other commitments between myself and the book project I still have in mind. As other projects were completed and time passed, the idea of the book became even more elusive and mysterious. I came to PhD2Published in my quest to better understand the path to publishing a book.

I became an avid reader of PhD2Published as part of my summer reading and work on learning more about academic publishing, the writing process, writing groups, procrastination, and organization. I built my Twitter community, participated in Twitter chats, and even enrolled in a few MOOCs where I ended up having great collaborative experiences with people in various places in the world. As managing editor, I plan to bring some of this collective (and collected) wisdom to PhD2Published to help demystify the publication process. We might also find new collaborators, colleagues, editors, and companions along the way.

I have a friend and mentor who is brilliant about bringing people together. As such, she is not only able to set ideas and projects into motion, she is also surrounded by creative, thoughtful, productive people. She inspires me, along with Charlotte, Anna, and Sarah-Louise, and I am already in extraordinarily good company.

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Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: Week Three
Posted by Ellie Mackin
By Aadityasardwal via Wikimedia Commons

By Aadityasardwal via Wikimedia Commons

Ellie Mackin is a third year PhD student in Classics at King’s College London, and is working though Wendy Belcher’s ‘Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks’ while attempting to finish her thesis.

I need to start with a confession today: I am still not writing every day.  I used to be in the habit – and writing is a habit, and that’s reinforced time and again in Belcher’s book – but lately I’ve been so overwhelmed by the task of writing that I still struggle.  I certainly didn’t get enough done last week, which I was feeling terrible about but as soon as I opened the Week Three chapter I felt better:

If you didn’t get as much writing done last week as you hoped, join the club.  Very few scholars ever feel that they have done enough.

Yep.  That’s me.  I never feel as though I’ve done anywhere near enough, and I bet many of you feel the same.  In the first exercise of this week I was asked to reflect on what I’d learned from the previous week.  I wrote: ‘I am still intimidated by writing.’  But, as Belcher very clearly states, the goal is not perfection but productivity, and as long as I keep being productive then I’m going okay.  I hope.

This week started with a long explanation about types of articles that get rejected, with some concrete points.  At the end of each section (which are things like ‘too narrow’ and ‘not scholarly’) you’re asked to reflect on your own article and see how you might address any or all of the problem points raised in the section.  I found this really helpful, not because my article was a  lot of one category or another, but because I could see that there were a small number of things from each category that I could improve my article by addressing.  The main part of this section is about articles having no argument – which leads on to the week’s main exercises.

Day two starts with exercises on finding out what your article actually is about, i.e. what’s the argument and what’s the evidence.  After you’ve identified your main argument (and this is a straightforward ‘In this article, I argue that…’ type of construction, so nothing super fancy but still very useful)  and written down a short list of the evidence you’ve collated to prove your argument, Belcher asks you to go back to your abstract and revise it, in light of what you’ve written about your argument.

And then, as seems to be a theme here, you’ve got to share it again, this time with three different people (I confess I only shared mine with two…) and ask them to pick out what they see as the argument.

Well, this exercise did a lot for my abstract but not much for my writing confidence!  My argument was more or less picked out by both and after a second revision (which I just did, it’s not in the book) it was significantly easier to spot.

(As a side note, and some proof of this book’s wide range, I’m about to start writing the conclusion of my PhD thesis – I’m going to modify the exercises from this week and put each of my chapters though the ringer, as it were, and use the ‘abstract’ created to draft my conclusion.)

Now, the task is to try and put that argument into your article, so the week ended with writing a list of revision tasks for each section of the article (that is ‘introduction’ ‘body’ ‘conclusion’ but also with headings ‘early’ and ‘evidence’) and then spending the last two days of the week revising the article, with these points and your (by now very clearly set) argument in mind.

I think my article is coming on – I feel that I’m making progress after this week, although my prose is still a point of contention (in my own mind, that is).  I definitely feel that I’ve got a better base to start working from now, though.

All in all, a very good week (but not as much writing as I’d have liked) and my article is certainly coming along.  This coming week is all about journal selection, and I wonder how my idea of appropriate journals will change after this!

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Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: Week Two
Posted by Ellie Mackin

By Aadityasardwal via Wikimedia CommonsEllie Mackin is a third year PhD student in Classics at King’s College London, and is working though Wendy Belcher’s ‘Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks’ while attempting to finish her thesis.

After feeling great about finishing Week One and ready to overcome all of my writing demons, I struck a problem.  Writer’s block.  My thesis wasn’t going anywhere, my article wasn’t going anywhere, even my personal blog wasn’t going anywhere.  But this will (I hope) highlight one of the great things about this book.  The first day of Week Two I didn’t do the proscribed task (that’s why I’m now a day behind), but I went back and re-read the section on overcoming writing obstacles, I identified why I was feeling badly about writing, and in the end I just forced myself to write (and yes, I did delete everything I wrote that day, but the point was I wrote.)

And then I came, fresh and feeling good, to Week Two.  The first task is to identify what type of article you are writing – predictably, I am writing an ‘humanities research article.’  Belcher covers every type of article imaginable, some of which I have never come across in my field, which was interesting if not useful (this, I suspect, is a feature of this book and the reason that it is relevant to so many people, because of the breadth of information Belcher provides – there will be some picking and choosing relevant information, but I think this is better than having a very narrowly focused book).

What came next is, I think, the most interesting information from this week’s tasks: Myths about Publishable Journal Articles, followed by What Gets Published and Why.  I admit – I held some erroneous notions about what gets published and what makes an article publishable, and I am feeling significantly better about my own article after reading these.  Articles do not have to be heavily theoretical, with an overload of ideas which are entirely original.  Instead, Belcher suggests, three types of article get published: those which approach new evidence in an old way, those which approach old evidence in a new way, and those which pair an old approach and old evidence but in a new way.  The key: something old (which makes your article relevant) with something new (which makes your article useful for others).  So, I’ve identified what’s ‘old’ and what’s ‘new’ in my article, and discovered that I need to work on linking my findings to previous scholarship in order to make my article both relevant and useful.

The tasks then move on to writing an abstract, which I admit I was taken aback by.  An abstract?  Before I’ve written the article?!?  But, it was a very useful exercise which went something like this: learning what makes a good abstract (hint: it’s not the same as a conference abstract!)  Then, you have to talk your abstract – that is, sit down with someone and start by saying ‘My article is about…’ and though that process you get to a one sentence description of your article.  Belcher then invites you to reflect on this process (which I found very handy, I have never been in the practice of reflecting on my own writing and I am quite enjoying doing it in this process).  Following this, you must read your paper twice – once straight though, and once making notes.  I found reading though without making notes both hard and useful.  It allowed me to get a sense of the overall picture that my article was/is trying to present.  I found it make the next activity, writing a list of revision tasks, much easier.  Then you get to draft your abstract.  Easy, right?  No.  Wrong.  I found this so painfully difficult (I should have read ahead in the book!) because I wanted to get it ‘just right.’

But I didn’t need to, because then I had to send it to a reviewer.  And they tore it apart (but in a good, nice, constructive way).  And, so I finished the week rewriting my abstract, and reflecting on the process.

I’ve learned this week that I am a terrible re-reader, and if I am going to produce good, clean writing then I need to force myself to stop and look at the bigger picture.  I’m looking forward to next week, where I get to start really tackling the argument of my article and making some of the changes I highlighted during the re-reading this week.  I think that will be fun.  As long as I don’t get writer’s block again!

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Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: Week One
Posted by Ellie Mackin
By Aadityasardwal via Wikimedia Commons

By Aadityasardwal via Wikimedia Commons

Ellie Mackin is a third year PhD student in Classics at King’s College London, and is working though Wendy Belcher’s ‘Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks’ while attempting to finish her thesis.

I am months away from submitting my PhD thesis and I, like many others in my position I suppose, am starting to worry about what I will do in my post-doctoral years.  As students we are told to attend conferences, present our work, network and, above all, to publish.  The ‘publish or perish’ mantra is one that has, for better or worse, reached down into the lowest levels of academia (I have taught first year undergraduates who are already worried about publishing to increase their chances of getting funding for postgraduate study, and there are increasing numbers of undergraduate journals appearing all over the UK.)  But, there is very little guidance on exactly how to publish work that you won’t cringe with embarrassment about ten years down the track.  That’s the reason I jumped at the change to review Wendy Laura Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks when Charlotte reached out over Twitter.

By way of introduction, I shall say this: I have submitted three articles for publication.  One was (quite rightly, in hindsight) rejected outright.  One was given a rewrite and resubmit, but I decided to shelve the idea for various reasons.  One was published only a few weeks ago.  I am a third-and-final-year PhD student in Classics in the UK.  I have also recruited a friend, Andy, to work though the book with me, as Belcher suggests it is best to work though the book in a group or partnership.  He has recently submitted, but not yet viva’d, and is also in Classics.  Belcher also suggests that you can go though the workbook in any order you like – depending on what works for you.  For the purpose of these reviews, I’ll be working though the book in the order it’s presented in.

The first think that strikes you about the book is how comforting the introduction is.  Not only is is clear, but Belcher really explains how the book came about, particularly that it is the result of a lot of trial and error.  It shows in the tasks, too, that a lot of experience has gone into the construction of the program.  Andy commented specifically that he liked that Belcher sets out to help ‘those on the margins’ – graduate students and junior faculty – but that it’s proven to be useful to those at all career stages.

Each week is set out with a number of tasks, spread over five days and of varying lengths.  Some of the tasks simply involve reading, some involve some thinking and workbooking.  I assume that later down the line they will involve more writing and less reading.  Week one gives a huge amount of information, and both Andy and I felt that some of it wasn’t relevant for us.  But, I can see how it would be relevant to other people and so it really is a case of just taking on board the things that you need and moving over the other things.  This included, more specifically, in a section about different types of writing challenges that writers face.  If you’re willing to go   through the information then there is a lot of great stuff that is very helpful.  The very first task in the book is about understanding your own feelings about writing, and I won’t lie, I found it a bleak and depressing exercise.  Incredibly helpful, but challenging to face up to my own emotional-writing-baggage.

By the end of the week, though, I’ve picked an article to work on and come to terms with some of my own writing habits.  I’ve identified the obstacles that are relevant to me and I’ve started working on overcoming them.  It’s early days, but I feel confident about getting though this book and having a good, solid piece of work at the end.

Next week we start actually working on the article!

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Announcing AcWriMo 2013
Posted by Charlotte Frost

acwrimo1-01It’s time to get planning your Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo) tasks for November 2013!

AcWriMo is a month-long academic write-a-thon that happens every November. It’s inspired by the amazing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) but caters to the specific needs of academic writers at all stages of their career (from undergrads to the most distinguished of professors). It’s hosted by us – PhD2Published – and throughout the month we run dedicated posts about academic writing and share literally thousands of tips via Twitter.

The idea is that you set yourself a writerly goal and get stuck in with all the information, advice and support you’ll get from others taking part. The month helps us:

1)     Think about how we write,

2)     Form a valuable support network for our writing practice,

3)     Build better habits for the future,

4)     And maybe – just maybe – get more done in less time!

And if you can get a lot done in November – a busy time for us academics all over – think how easy it’ll be to get writing done the rest of the year!

So here’s how you get involved….

There are 6 basic rules:

1. Decide on your goal. You might count words, hours put in or projects achieved – it’s up to you. But try and push yourself a bit. (And if you need help counting our PhDometer app – the proceeds from which help fund this month-long writing extravaganza – was designed for just that!)

2. Declare it! Basically, just sign up on the AcWriMo 2013 Writing Accountability Spreadsheet and fill in the sections on what you’d like to achieve by the end of the month. Being accountable is key to this working for you. You need to feel a bit of pressure to get the work done. So sign up and add your goals as soon as you can.

3. Draft a strategy. Don’t start AcWriMo without doing a bit of planning and preparation. Get some reading done, carve out time slots in your schedule to dedicate to writing, even buy your favourite coffee. Sort out whatever you’ll need to write, and get it done now, there won’t be time when November comes around.

4. Discuss your progress. OK so being on Twitter and Facebook with us all day isn’t acceptable – you’ve got work to do – but checking-in at certain times is really important! We want to know how you’re getting on? What is working for you and what isn’t? Do you need help? Do you want to share a writing triumph? (You’ll find most discussion about AcWriMo on Twitter using the #AcWriMo hashtag, but if Facebook is more your thing, go there. Or use your own blog to keep in touch. You can even write little updates you want to share in the spreadsheet.)

5. Don’t slack off. As participant Bettina said of the first AcWriMo, you must ‘write like there’s no December!’ If you push yourself, you’ll quickly discover the tips and techniques that work best for YOU and that’ll save you even more time in the long-run.

6. Declare your results. It’s great to use the spreadsheet everyday (or as often as you can) to chart how you’re getting on, but even if you can’t do that, you MUST announce your results at the end of the month. Our writing community benefits not only from sharing in your achievements, but knowing what didn’t work and being reminded that, at the end of the day, we’re all human!

Last year, AcWriMo go so big that we’ve had to change things up a bit for 2013. We’re now excitedly presenting a team of AcWriMoAmbassadors who’ll all be on hand to help you and cheer you on throughout the month! They include:

Anna Tarrant, Charlotte Frost, Eljee Javier, Ingrid Marais, Jennifer Lim, Jodi Campbell, Linda Levitt, Lorry Perez, Melanie Boeckmann, Nadine Levy, PhDForum, Rachael Cayley, Sarah Rowe, Virginia Yonkers

There’s lots on the way, it’s going to be the biggest and best AcWriMo yet!

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How to be a Hackademic #35 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
Posted by Charlotte Frost

How to be a hackademic pictureHybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost rethink academic life and writing productivity in this on-going series of hints, tips and hacks.

BINGE WRITE. Dedicate a block of time to do an insane amount of writing. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writers Month. During the month of November, novelists and aspiring novelists publicly commit to writing 50,000 words, which is enough for a draft of a short novel or the first 50,000 words of something longer. The scope of the challenge adds a playfulness to the writing process, and the very public declaration of high levels of output makes us more accountable, while also providing a support network. There have been a number of non-fiction incarnations of this type of project including PhD2Published’s AcBoWriMo (Academic Book Writing Month) which uses Twitter to co-ordinate activity and offer fast and furious advice on keeping pace. You don’t have to wait until November, write quite so much, or even be as public with your intentions. Instead, try setting aside a space of time, deciding on a goal, and then dedicate yourself for this period to writing to the exclusion of almost everything else. Does the thought of such wanton writing behaviour completely appal you? Maybe you’re better off with a more measured approach like this…

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Baby on board, so time to take my leave (at least for a little while!)…by Anna Tarrant
Posted by Charlotte Frost

baby-on-boardThe time has come to announce that this is my last post for PhD2Published for a little while (boo! :-( because I am going to be taking some time off to have a baby! :-) She (yes apparently it’s a girl!) is due at the end of April 2013 so my attentions will be re-directed elsewhere for a while.

I have thoroughly enjoyed being the Managing Editor for PhD2Published and given that my body is being incredibly productive, I thought I would also take this opportunity to reflect on my time with PhD2Published to share some of the things I have learnt.

Becoming Managing Editor was a ‘seize the moment’ type affair (my first tip; seize any opportunity that you can – but be strategic!). I was working as a Senior Teaching Associate at Lancaster University (a teaching only position) at the time and I felt really disconnected from the world of academic publishing and research. In identifying a need for support and guidance in publishing I embarked on an online search for resources and that was when I came across PhD2Published.  As luck would have it, Charlotte was looking for someone to fill the Managing Editor role so I jumped at the opportunity and just over a year later I am so grateful I did. Here’s why:

I have learnt about how and where to publish

One of my roles as Managing Editor is to source material relating to topics relevant to academic publishing. With a desire to publish myself I sought information that would not just help me, but others too, in all our publishing journeys. This helped me to collate useful material that also built a strong personal, but openly accessible narrative about publishing.  In the past year I have invited academics of various career stages to write blogs, ranging in focus and including (but not limited too): contemporary publishing models such as Open Access; developing academic writing (see the benefits of writing in groups and collaborative writing); and reflection on publishing and emotion (e.g. Publish or Perish). I have even written my own resources for the site (see my series of #acwri summaries and what not to send for peer review) and for other reputable blogs including Guardian Higher Education.

As well as publishing blogs, I have gained a great deal of knowledge and confidence in publishing in more traditional ways. In the past year I have had three journal articles accepted, have had a book chapter published, with another on the way, and have been asked to peer review for several journals – all skills I needed to acquire but felt less able to in my teaching post. Needless to say, I am now a Research Associate at the Open University and can boast a much-developed CV.

I have upskilled

  • I have learnt how to blog, how to set up a blog site and how to write for different audiences,
  • I have learnt how to use Twitter, to network, to establish a professional identity, to share resources, to chair and manage a live chat (#acwri) and a large scale online project (#acwrimo),
  • I have also learnt how to use a range of different social media and applications including Twitter, Storify, Paper.li, Dropbox and Google Docs.

Networking: online and off

Networking and contacting academics from a variety of backgrounds, disciplines, geographic locations and so on has also launched me into a supportive, active and engaged community across multiple social media platforms; the website itself, Twitter and Facebook. Meeting people at conferences who know of me through Twitter has undeniably enhanced my ability to network and to meet people in my fields of research. Get known on Twitter, it helps to enhance your networking skills and visibility at conferences!

I have become involved in emerging academic debates about publishing/writing

Finally, PhD2Published has also expanded my research interests and expertise, so much so that I gave a conference paper about it at the SRHE Annual Conference 2012. This has afforded me the opportunity to reflect critically on academic use of social media for knowledge production and there is even a publication in the pipeline about this very topic, so watch this space!

Last but not least, as well as acquiring a range of skills I have also found a great colleague and friend in the one and only, charismatic and creative, Charlotte Frost. She is a quirky, selfless lady (with a penchant for pretty, purple, glittery things) and a true inspiration. I have the utmost respect for her and she has truly shown me that respect is earned; through hard work, tenacity, friendship, intelligence and a lust for life. I have a lot to thank her for and everyone who I have had the pleasure of working with/meeting in the past year or so.

Of course, I am not disappearing completely so hope to see you online soon!!

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Guess What?! NOBODY failed AcWriMo!
Posted by Charlotte Frost

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