Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in comments
Search in excerpt
Search in posts
Search in pages
Search in groups
Search in users
Search in forums
Filter by Categories
Academic Practice
Academic Writing Month
Academic Writing Month
AcWri
AcWriMo
Blogging and Social Media
Book Editing
Book Literature Review
Book Marketing and Impact
Book Planning
Book Proposals
Book Publishing
Book Writing
Books
Citations and Referencing
Collaboration
Community
Conference Paper Abstracts
Conference Paper Editing
Conference Paper Literature Review
Conference Paper Marketing and Impact
Conference Paper Planning
Conference Paper Presenting
Conference Paper Writing
Conference Papers
Digital Publishing
Experimental Digital Publishing
Grant Abstracts
Grant Completion Reporting
Grant Impact Statement
Grant Literature Review
Grant Methods Section
Grant Writing
Grants
Journal Article Abstracts
Journal Article Editing
Journal Article Literature Review
Journal Article Marketing and Impact
Journal Article Peer Review
Journal Article Planning
Journal Article Writing
Journal Articles
Networking
News
Open Access
Productivity
Reading and Note-Taking
Reseach Project Planning
Resources
Tools
Uncategorized
Website
Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: Week Two
Content_Writing

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!

Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: Week One
Content_Writing
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!

How to be a Hackademic #51 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/ 
under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GBImage by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/ under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB

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.

EDIT. Remember that good writing is about what you take out, not what you leave in.

What else can help your Hackademic writing ? Click here to find out!

How to be a Hackademic #40 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/ 
under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GBImage by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/ under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB
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.

RELEASE YOUR INNER CRITIC. If you’ve got a lot of writing done, preferably without over-thinking it, it is now time to usefully deploy the critic inside to marshal it into something good. Let your critical side be a bit brutal, chopping irrelevant parts, making substitutions and forming better alliances between sections. It is also important to Hack your time too!

From Panel to Publication: Putting together a special issue for a journal by Adia Benton

writingToday’s post by Adia Benton provides some useful advice about preparing a special issue for a journal. Adia is an assistant professor of anthropology at Brown University. Her research focuses on humanitarianism, development, and technology and their interface with issues of race, gender and sexuality in sub-Saharan Africa. She can be found regularly tweeting @ethnography911 and blogging on Ethnographic Emergencies about engaged anthropology, ethnographic research and teaching. 

A few years ago, after organizing a well-attended conference panel, we – the panel co-organizers and panelists — decided to put together a special journal issue based upon our panel. The only problem was that none of us had ever done it before. So we each reached out to our mentors and advisors for help, compared notes and put together a proposal. Last year, some two years after putting the proposal together, that issue was published. In this post, I outline the steps we took to go from panel to publication.

1. Draft your proposal for the special issue.

a) Provide a brief overview of the special issue. Ours was about a paragraph. As is often the case, our original conference proposal, although narrow enough to have the panel accepted (ahem), was still fairly broad and did not specifically address the papers’ common themes and what specific new conceptual, theoretical and methodological insights they provide. Therefore, we circulated the abstract to all panelists and modified the proposal to ensure that we narrowed our topic appropriately and described the gaps in the literature that the papers address collectively.

b) Abstracts for each paper – maybe 250-300 words—that are also modified to better fit the overview of contents.

c) Timeline: Without a timeline, you will have difficulty convincing anyone (including yourselves) that you have what it takes to pull together a special issue. Here are some milestones that you can include (with suggested time allotment):

  • Agreement with journal editor (within 8 weeks of submission of the proposal);
  • Article submission (3-6 months after agreement);
  • Article review (8-12 weeks);
  • Revisions (6-8 weeks);
  • Proofing, typesetting, articles in press and online (8-12 weeks)

Note: These are rough estimates and depend on the journal’s existing publication schedule. The editor who accepted our special issue told us that our dates were all wrong because there was a backlog of articles, slow turnaround on peer review, and two special issues already forthcoming. Although this was longer than we would normally expect for a single paper, it seemed to be normal for a special issue. On the bright side, this backlog meant that we had more time to write, edit and circulate our papers within the group of authors.

2. Circulate the proposal among the special issue participants, and perhaps, to colleagues who have editorial and/or topic area expertise. Edit using their suggestions.

3. Make a list of all relevant journals. I used a spreadsheet that included:

  • contact information for the editor;
  • general submission requirements;
  • any special requirements for special issues so that you can modify your proposal accordingly;
  • length of the average journal (number of articles and number of pages). This is important because you want to ensure that your final product falls within the range of what they are capable of printing in a single issue. Some editors have a bit more leeway when it comes to the length of issue, but it seems that most of them have an issue/page limit for each year.
  • If you have mentors, advisors, and friends who are on editorial boards, they might be looking to bring in new stuff. Ask. They might be able to push a proposal through too.

4. Submit the proposal to all journals on your list. I used a free email merge program back in 2010, but Outlook and Mac Mail allow you to perform an email merge.

5. Await a response. Within a couple of weeks, we received responses to most of our inquiries. A few well-respected journals responded positively but did not provide any firm commitments. One journal immediately accepted our proposal, which ‘fast-tracked’ our timeline a bit… But she also suggested that we prepare a backup plan in case all of our articles were not accepted. We had a colleague ‘on call’ in case we needed his contribution, but because we planned to devote a lot of time to editing amongst ourselves, we felt fairly confident that our papers would make it through.

6. Submit the papers according to the agreed-upon timeline. After circulating and editing papers over a summer and part of the fall, we all submitted our papers for peer review.

7. Await peer review comments and… darn we should have done that call for papers. One of our papers was rejected, and another that was on the cusp (ultimately, a revise and resubmit that was later accepted). The editor had also received two articles that fit our theme, so we would have had a full issue — even if it did not include all our original gang. Had we been less self-assured regarding our editing abilities, we probably would have posted a call for papers on our sub-discipline’s listservs and the journal’s website.  And we would have posted it immediately after we had our initial proposal accepted.

Writing Obstacle No. 13 – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

I really can’t move forward on this writing project.

Sometimes, through no fault of your own, you cannot write. Perhaps you must wait for a result or further funding or your advisor’s response. If the way is blocked on one project, turn to another. Success correlates with authors who are not monomaniacal but have several writing projects going at once. If bored or frustrated with one, you can switch to the other. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that only full-time dedication to a single project will result in success. If you’re brought to a standstill, work on a grant application, revise an old article, or draft ideas for another article. You should always be moving forward on some front.What else is common writing obstacles ? Click here to find out.

Writing Obstacle No. 12 – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

My childcare responsibilities are preventing me from writing.

Interestingly, students with children are often the best practitioners of the tenets of this chapter. Caregivers simply do not have big blocks of time, so they get used to working in time-bound segments of one to four hours. They cannot make writing their number one priority, so they do not fixate. They cannot stay up all night binge writing and then take care of the baby the next day, so they plan ahead. For those of you who don’t have kids, no, I’m not recommending that you adopt. But if you have friends who are caregivers as well as students, you might want to study how they get it all done. You can learn good lessons from them.

If you are not getting writing done due to childcare responsibilities, you already know the answer: getting others to care for your children several hours a week. Many students would love to have such help, but are far from family and cannot afford to pay someone. Perhaps you might look into a shared childcare arrangement. Find another student who is a care-giver and arrange to trade baby-sitting so that each of you gets a full morning for writing. Or, if what you really need is some sleep or to run errands, exchange for that as well. Just remember to get fifteen minutes of writing done in that time. If none of this is possible, focus on working with the small amounts of time that crop up. Write for half an hour after you put the kids to sleep and before you start cleaning up.

If it’s any comfort, studies differ as to the effect of marriage and dependents on faculty productivity. One study found that female faculty with children have lower tenure and promotion rates, while male faculty with children have higher tenure and promotion rates (National Science Foundation 2004). Another study found that family has little effect on the actual productivity of either female or male faculty (Sax, Hagedorn, Arredondo, Dicrisi 2002). These scholars speculate that the gender gap in publication rates, which has steadily been closing, is not explained by the weight of domestic responsibilities. Rather, this slightly lower rate seems to have more to do with women’s prioritizing of “social change” over advancement and field recognition. This isn’t to imply that male and female faculty experience family responsibilities in the same way. Among men and women with the same publication rates, female faculty did more work around the home and spent fewer hours per week on writing and research than male faculty (ibid.). That is, women were more efficient, producing the same amount of writing in less time.

Besides kid, yourself can also be an obstacle for writing.

Writing Obstacle No. 11 – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

I’m not in the right mood to write.

Many people believe you have to be emotionally ready to write. If you are not in the right mood, they argue, don’t even try getting started because it’s not going to work. Yet, many can testify that it is possible to get in the writing mood. Behavior modification theory shows us that emotion follows action, not the other way around. If you don’t feel like doing something, then start doing it and usually your feelings will follow.

Individuals who procrastinate frequently confuse motivation and action. You foolishly wait until you feel in the mood to do something. Since you don’t feel like doing it, you automatically put it off. Your error is your belief that motivation comes first, and then leads to activation and success. But it is usually the other way around; action must come first, and the motivation comes later on. (Burns 1999, 125)

David D. Burns’s book Feeling Good describes many techniques for thinking positively about your life and work so that you can overcome perfectionism and guilty feelings.

You can also use ritual to overcome feeling unready. You can jumpstart the mood for writing by lighting a certain candle, playing a certain song, or doing certain stretches. When someone I know was writing her first book, she started every writing morning by reading a section from the King James Version of the Old Testament. The beauty of the passages always called up a writing response in her. Even on those days when she didn’t much feel like writing, she responded to the ritual. If Pavlov’s dogs can do it, so can you.

So, don’t wait until your feelings catch up with your goals. Just make a plan and follow it.

Maybe this is another difficulties you are facing.

Successful Academic Writers Pursue Their Passions – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

When students list positive experiences with writing, they often note genuine interest in a topic as a real engine. Successful writers do not write primarily for their professors, their classmates, or their hiring committees. Rather, they focus on the questions that fascinate them.

For example, one of my students was writing about the negative effect of welfare reform on Cambodian women. She drafted and revised her article in record time because she was so angry about the policy’s consequences. A Korean student who grew up in Japan persevered despite several obstacles to publish her research showing that Koreans in Japan labor under legally imposed hardships. A student who wrote about pedigreed dogs and another who wrote about food metaphors always worked steadily because the topics were also life-long hobbies. Other students used their own experiences of ethnicity, gender, or nationality to reinterpret canonical texts, placing the traditional in a completely new light.

The lesson? The world changes quickly, so you are more likely to have positive writing experiences if you follow your deepest interests rather than passing fads. As the authors of The Craft of Research point out, “Nothing will contribute to the quality of your work more than your sense of its worth and your commitment to it” (Booth, Colomb, and Williams 1995, 36).

My model for this is an artist I discovered while doing research on street art in Washington, D.C. I spent a summer walking the inner city photographing everything creative I could find: murals, street games, hair weaving, garbage can musicians, fence art (Belcher 1987). I spent a lot of time in alleys looking at graffiti and I kept coming across the same thing. Huge spray paintings of women’s shoes. Not just life-size, but ten feet across. All of the shoes were portrayed from one side, in profile, and all of them were pumps. I became an expert on the development of this artist whom I never met, soon able to distinguish early pump (when shoes went untitled) from later pump (when shoes appeared with titles like “Black Evening Pump” or “Leopard Skin Pump” and were signed “Ray (c) 1987”). Whenever I found a new one, in yet another out of the way place, I was delighted. Because this artist took his or her idiosyncrasy and pushed it, unafraid to paint feminine footwear across an entire urban landscape. So obsess about things, pursue your passions, do not be bullied. Whatever your pump is, paint it.

Writing Obstacle No. 10 – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

I’m afraid of writing because publication is so permanent.

This fear is one that professors often aid and abet. Graduate students in the humanities are often warned not to publish until they are completely ready and in absolute control of their topic. Professors caution that early articles can come back to haunt and embarrass the author. Nevertheless, the benefits of publication outweigh its dangers.

The argument for waiting to publish goes something like the following story, told to me by a friend who is a professor. An assistant professor in the department was up for tenure when hostile committee members dug up the professor’s first article. They proceeded to lambaste the professor with it, calling it a “vulgar tract.” In this case, my friend pointed out, publication had hurt rather than helped.

I asked my friend two simple questions. First, had the professor gotten tenure? My friend had to admit that the professor had. Perhaps the professor told the committee that the article was early work, and that if the later work could develop so far beyond the first article, this boded well for the trajectory of the professor’s career. Apparently, whatever the defense, it won the day. No one expects that scholars are going to have the same theoretical or ideological approach over the course of a lifetime

My second question was, had the professor published the article in a peer-reviewed journal? In fact, the professor had not. The article had been published in a collection of conference papers, where the papers were not properly vetted. That’s why I emphasize that students send their work to peer-reviewed journals only. The review process, however faulty, provides a safety net. If a peer-reviewed journal accepts your article, it probably won’t embarrass you later.

Other professors are more to the point than my friend. “There’s enough bad writing out there, why increase it?” one said. “Most graduate students have nothing worth publishing.” All I can say in response to such critics is that they have not read my students’ articles. Students’ first drafts for the classroom can be rough, but those students willing to do real revisions often produce fascinating, cutting-edge work that many professors would be proud to publish. Certainly, if quality were the only criteria for publication, many a faculty member dedicated to the obtuse would have to recuse him or herself from this debate.

You should set up goals for your writing as well.

Successful Academic Writers Persist Despite Rejection – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

The writing life is filled with rejection. This is one of the few shared experiences of great writers and terrible writers. A quick read of Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews & Rejections offers the comfort of knowing that most canonical authors (for instance, Hermann Melville, T. S. Eliot, and Virginia Woolf) had their work rejected in the strongest possible terms (Henderson 1998). Jack London received 266 rejection slips in 1899 alone (Kershaw 1997)! The economist George Akerlof received three rejections for a journal article that later won him the Nobel Prize (Gans and Shepherd 1994). Indeed, studies of Nobel Prize winners found that editors had rejected many early versions of their award-winning work (Campanario 1995, 1996). If you write, you will be rejected. This is unavoidable. The important thing is not to let it stop you.

Although it is tempting to let others’ criticism be the measure of your writing or even your own worth, don’t let it be. The business of reviewing is a subjective process rife with bias and carelessness. Work rejected by one journal is often embraced by another. The only difference between much-published authors and unpublished authors is often persistence and not worthiness. Published authors just keep submitting their work. If one journal rejects their article, they send the article to another. They keep a positive attitude. A professor I know has fond memories of her dissertation advisor, who papered his office with his article rejection notices. To see him working away amidst the negative notices of a lifetime, she says, was inspiring and encouraging.

Several of my students have exemplified the usefulness of persistence. In one of my classes, Carrie Petrucci revised her wonderful article arguing for introducing the apology into the criminal justice system. She knew that resistance to her argument would be high, but felt committed to demonstrating that criminal apologies provided some real benefits for victims and perpetrators. So she was very disappointed, but not surprised, when the first journal rejected her article. Petrucci stopped everything she was doing and took two days to make changes based on the comments she had received from the editor and previous readers. She then sent it right back out again to another journal, this time to a social science journal rather than a law journal. After that second journal also rejected her article, she again devoted two days to making changes. Making writing social helped her persevere. “What kept me going through two rejections,” she e-mailed me, “was the fact that I had had several people read it prior to my submitting it to any journal and a handful of those people, who had nothing to gain by it (including yourself), had given me the impression that it was strong. . . . Believe me; I clung to those comments as I got some pretty negative feed- back on rounds one and two.”

So, she sent it out a third time, to an interdisciplinary journal in law and social science. A few months later, she got a message from that journal accepting her article for publication and stating that the reviewers were extremely enthusiastic about the piece. “Congratulations,” the editor exclaimed. “It is quite unusual to have a manuscript accepted without requiring any changes. But yours is a high quality product. Good job.” Her persistence paid off. She later won the first Nathan E. Cohen Doctoral Student Award in Social Welfare in 2002 for this article and then got a job working to improve the criminal justice system (Petrucci 2002).

One of my students told us the story of a friend who was more faint-hearted. When she received a response from a journal, she opened the letter with trepidation. The first paragraph included the sentence: “The reviewers’ reports are in and both agree that your article is severely marred by poor writing.” Upset, she flung the letter aside and spent an hour in bed ruing her decision ever to enter academia. When her husband got home, he picked the letter off the hallway floor, read it, and entered the bedroom saying, “Congratulations, honey! Why didn’t you tell me your article got accepted?” Upon actually reading the letter through, she found that the editors had accepted the article pending major revisions. She hired a copy- editor to work with her on her prose and resubmitted the article. When starting out, harsh criticism can stop you in your tracks, but if you persist, you often find that things are not as bad as they seem at first.

Writing Obstacle No. 9 – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

I’m afraid of writing because my idea is very controversial or emotional.

Again, this is a very real concern. As one of my students put it, “sometimes I’m afraid my idea will come back and bite me.” One student had done a study on earnings and ethnicity, hypothesizing that salaries would be lower for a minority group in a certain profession. Her analysis of the data revealed that there was no significant difference. This finding went against her own experience and was disturbing to her advisor. Whenever she thought about writing, she felt shut down. Even if her initial findings were true, were they what she wanted to associate her name with? She felt an obligation to the truth, but also to justice and her career. How could she write when she was caught between such hard places?

As is so often the case, she found her way out through writing. She used the discussion and conclusion section of her article to suggest some alternative approaches to understanding the findings. She then used them as a platform for extending her future research to incorporate a more detailed investigation of earnings by adding qualitative in-depth interviews to her previous quantitative approach. In other words, she used an obstacle to become a better scholar. If you find yourself in a similar position, talking and writing can be the cure.

Or do you have trouble getting started on your writing? Click here to seek help.

Writing Obstacle No. 8 – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

I just can’t get started.

Many students find sitting down at the computer and starting to write to be the most difficult challenge facing them. Indeed, the horror of the blank page is a frequent theme of literature. The literary scholar Richard D. Altick talked about “First Paragraph Block” (1963, 190). Francoise Sagan described writing as “having a sheet of paper, a pen and . . . not an idea of what you’re going to say” (Brussell 1988, 618). Getting started is painful. One of the reasons for this, as one of my students put it so well, is that “if I never start, then I never fail.”

An excellent way of dealing with the difficulty of getting started is to make a preferred task contingent on a non-preferred task, as the behavior management experts put it. In this case, writing is the non-preferred task you have to complete before you get to something you prefer. For instance, do not allow yourself to read the morning newspaper or check your e-mail before you write for thirty minutes. Tell yourself that you will call a friend or watch a favorite television program after writing for an hour. Most students flip this and tell themselves “I’ll watch TV for an hour and then write.” But it is better to make the pleasurable activity a reward. Turn your procrastination tactics into productivity tools.

One warning on this tool. A friend of mine, when invited to socialize, always told us that she couldn’t get together because she had to write. When we called her the next day, however, she usually admitted that she had just watched bad television. It’s better to feel guilty about really enjoying something than to feel guilty about misspending your time and not writing. Denying yourself a real pleasure in order to force writing rarely works. Delaying a pleasure does.

Another method is to start by writing something else. Some students begin by typing a quote from their reading. Others write a plan for what they would like to do in that writing session. If you really feel shut down, it is useful to start by writing down the thoughts of your inner critic. You know, “It’s hubris for me even to pick up a pen, I haven’t a prayer of actually finishing this article in time,” etc., etc., etc. When you get bored with this inner critic and think, “Oh come on, things aren’t that bad,” then you can start writing your article. Eventually you get bored with this voice. It’s not very good company and writing becomes preferable to whining.

Another method is to focus on writing badly. If you can’t get started because your first sentence has to be perfect, this method can be useful. For fifteen minutes, write down every thought you have about your article without stopping to edit. Just let it all hang out. This is writing what Ann Lamott has celebrated as “a shitty first draft.” I could use the more alliterative word fecal, but shitty gets at the real feelings of shame and revulsion many have about writing. If you set out deliberately to write something horrible, this roadblock is erased. Again, eventually you write a sentence or have an idea that, despite your best efforts at producing ghastly work, sounds pretty good. And then you are on your way.

Still another method is to have a phone or e-mail partner. Arrange with another prospective author to agree to write at the same time. Check in by phone or e-mail when you are supposed to start, encourage each other, and then get started writing, knowing that someone else is going through the same horrible suffering, I mean, wonderful process that you are. Lots of my students have found this really helpful. It seems to be more helpful than the plan of meeting at someone’s house to write together, which often ends up being a talking session rather than a writing session.

A final method is to plan the agenda for your next writing session at the end of the last one. That way you will know what to do when you sit down to write. This will also help you stay focused on your article as a series of small tasks. Some authors even recommend that you always stop in the middle of a sentence, so that you have somewhere to pick up. I prefer to recommend pushing a bit into the next section.

Want more tips on writing obstacles? Click here.

Writing Obstacle No. 7 – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

I have to read just one more book.

Many of us tend to bog down in research. We find it difficult to get to writing because we are lured into the forest of no return, otherwise known as the library. Each article leads to another and then another, especially online. We wander deeper and deeper into this forest, rarely finding a path out. Why do we do this? While we remain in the forest, we are safe from the perils of writing. The idea that just one more article is going to give us mastery is an illusion. If such a thing as mastery is possible, it comes from writing not reading.

The best way I know to get out of the research bog is to do your writing and research at the same time. Do not take endless notes and underline huge sections of books, and then feel overwhelmed because you have to go back through all of those notes and texts. Read and then write an actual paragraph, however loose, about what you have read.

The point here is that you do not have to “finish” research before you start writing. You do not have to complete your literature search or finalize your data analysis or even read your advisor’s book. You do not have to know everything on the subject. Start writing and find out what you must know. As Boice puts it, “Writers who learn to leave holes in manuscripts to be filled later master valuable skills in writing: they learn to proceed amid ambiguity and uncertainty” (1997, 29). I know a graduate student who claims that she finished her dissertation by posting this quote on her computer and looking at it every time she wanted to reach for another book.

Erich Auerbach’s masterpiece Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature is a good example of this principle of research. Discharged from his university position in Germany by the Nazi government, Auerbach emigrated to Turkey, where he wrote Mimesis from 1942 to 1945. In his epilogue, Auerbach explains that the book lacks footnotes and may assert things that “modern research has disproved or modified” because the libraries in Istanbul were “not well equipped for European studies.” Then he adds a fascinating note. “It is quite possible that the book owes its existence to just this lack of a rich and specialized library. If it had been possible for me to acquaint myself with all the work that has been done on so many subjects, I might never have reached the point of writing” (1953, 557).

Don’t feel bad about not having done enough research. In the twenty-first century, it is no longer possible to be comprehensive. As knowledge expands and ways to communicate that knowledge explode, accelerating ignorance is an inevitable state. The best future researcher will be someone who learns to make a path through this immensity without getting overwhelmed.

What else is common writing obstacles ? Click here to find out.

Writing Obstacle No. 6 – Wendy Laura Belcher
Belcher Journa Article in 12 Weeks

This month of #AcWriMo we’re featuring heaps of advice from the book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. She’ll offer a wealth of information on carefully planning your writing and getting over obstacles – practical and emotional.

I couldn’t get to my writing site.

“Living in limbo” is the graduate student’s theme song. One is always standing in some line, stuck in some meeting, stranded in traffic, lingering for delayed public transportation, or sitting around until someone shows up for an appointment. Whole days can be frittered away in waiting. If you find these times useful for planning your day or just relaxing, then all power to you. Most people, however, waste this time on feeling frustrated. It can be useful to carry a draft of your article everywhere. You can review the draft and make notes to yourself on improvements or do line editing. Many students I have worked with get their fifteen minutes a day done during these down times. There is nothing like doing two things at once to give you a marvelous feeling of efficiency!Perhaps this is also the obstacle you are facing.