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Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: Week Four
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.

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!

 

Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: Week Three
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 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!

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 #41 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.

HAVE AN EMAIL SIGNATURE. Make sure your email contains a short signature detailing your current job and the main place people can find you online. You might even consider regularly updating this signature with a link to your latest piece of work, whether that’s a journal article or a blog post. Just like an online bio/image combo, this consolidates and re-enforces your persona and area of expertise. It is also a way to get your work under the nose of new people whose curiosity in link-clicking will be satisfied in spates.

This tip also can help you with your thoughts.

How to be a Hackademic #34 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.

BE ADAPTABLE. You’re going to need expertise in more writing styles than just thesis/dissertation writing. When we write academic dissertations, we are learning how to write for a very niche academic audience. Now you need to adjust your writing style for a new audience (the one that isn’t examining your PhD). For example, if you are writing for a more popular or generalist audience, you’ll want to use a lot less jargon. When writing a dissertation, we laboriously chose and qualify our terms, such precision ensuring the intricacies of our argument are clear. The typical dissertation is very different in tone and structure from the typical academic book. While a dissertation is usually directed toward a very small audience, a successful book must be accessible to a wider audience. This modulation of tone may take time to master so it is worth practicing early on.

What else does it take to be a Hackademic? Click here to find out.

When is a Hashtag a Journal Article? by Charlotte Frost
picture by my Dadpicture by my Dad

hashtag in a squareRight that’s it, I’ve done it, I’ve gone and put my money where my mouth is. Or rather, I’ve put my open access politics where my REFables should be.

I’ve written a journal article on the nature of art historical knowledge and its philosophical relationship to its physical archives. But rather than present that article all nicely peer-reviewed and in a high impact journal, I’m publishing it free online and inviting anyone and everyone to peer review it – publicly. I wanted my first full-length academic journal article to be in line with the online areas of art history that I research, where art and art history are freely shared. Because I am interested in the on- and offline networks that create and support our ideas about art, I wanted other people’s opinions to be integral to the piece. And as I run an academic book series that experiments with the relations between the form and content of art history books, I wanted to dig my own publishing sandpit (or rather, extend the one I already built when created PhD2Published).

As it’s not enough that I’ve gone all open access on art history’s ass, I also wanted to consider – along with the media-aware ideas in my article – what post-digital art history might be. Partly this is reflected in the fact the article is not print-published but it is also reflected in my decision to work with media artist Rob Myers to manifest what might be best described as a physical version of the article. Embedded within the text itself are links to a project where you can order your own version of a 3D printed hashtag of the phrase ‘art history’. This draws attention the fact all art historical writing takes some sort of physical form – whether it’s printed words on pages or tweeted hashtags on Twitter – and re-enforces my argument that art historians need to better understand our own media. It also allows the article to generate a number of new research objects. That is, as #arthistory is interacted with beyond the space of the article itself, it can become new things – crowdsourced things – which also (if not quite directly) support the article’s theories about the value placed on participative modes in online art contextual activity.

So here’s what happens. To read the article itself you can go here: http://www.gylphi.co.uk/artsfuturebook/

Or if that’s too long winded, you can also get the gist of the #arthistory component here: http://hasharthistory.net/

Ideally you’ll then either offer your peer review comments on the article and or you’ll purchase your own hashtag and start sharing photographs of it in use.

And then let’s all meet back here or on Twitter (I’m @charlottefrost) and discuss what we think of this as a project. Does it represent a step in the right direction for open access scholarship, the digital humanities and new forms of publication and research, or does it try to do too much at once? Does the theory at the heart of the article suffer due to the playfulness of the #arthistory project? Should such projects be evaluated and if so, how?

OMFG! I just got re-tweeted by Justin Beeber!?!?! Social Media Academia by Ben
Image from Mochimochiland.comImage from Mochimochiland.com
Image from Mochimochiland.com

Image from Mochimochiland.com

This blog post by Ben (author of the Literature HQ blog) is part of a series that asks after new forms of scholarship and demonstrates how academic out-put is changing in the digital age.

From blogs like the Thesis Whisperer to Twitter communities like #PhDchat there are a number of ways in which academics are harnessing digital communication technology to support each other and their work within and without institutions. And some are even outright reinventing what academic scholarship might be. We are well beyond the early phase of academic listserves and blogs and into a – perhaps third wave – of digital discourse design.

In this series I’ve invited the people responsible for these types of projects to share what their intentions were when they established them. How their projects have changed the way they (and we, as participants) work, research, share, support and interact with each other as global colleagues. And how they might describe what the emerging skill-sets are and their benefits and pitfalls.

Today’s celebrities are more accessible than ever before. It’s not uncommon for me to see my friends gushing after being mentioned by a minor (or sometimes major) celebrity on Twitter. While this may seem trivial, for me it’s amazing. I think it represents the shrinking of oceans between us and people who we thought were totally inaccessible. This includes vacuous celebrities, but more importantly, it also includes the greatest minds of the 21st Century. This incredibly powerful phenomenon has become the new focus of my growing blog.

So where did it all begin? Well, I suppose my site is first and foremost an experiment. Now I have some idea of how I want it to progress but at the start I certainly didn’t. I just wanted to make a “complete” resource for people doing an academic literature review. By complete I mean that I didn’t just stop half way through but made it into something that someone could ultimately use to succeed with their own project.

Based on my early goal and the vision that I had the site has far surpassed my initial expectations. However, as the site has grown so have my ideas hopes for the future of the project. It has been a great vehicle for me to experiment and learn about communicating useful information through digital media such as Twitter, You Tube and Webinars.

Initially it was just me rattling around on the blog, not much of a community or input from others. Now I think that the community and the other contributors are the most important part. Perhaps the most influential section of the blog is a podcast that I use to talk to experts from all different academic fields to try and help my readers/listeners with their literature review. This was popular when it first started but I’ve recently been hosting the podcasts live with input from the audience which has been a huge success. I think it highlights the changing tide of media in general. It is no longer acceptable to just preach to crowds from a pulpit. Our audiences expect to be engaged by the people who are providing them with information.

Is this novel? Am I feral, hybrid and outstitutional? When Charlotte asked me this I couldn’t help but smile. I’ve never really thought about it before but yes, this is how I feel at the moment. I feel that what I do is provide an alternative to the way that a lot of skills training (especially writing) is done in universities. I feel like I’m providing an education that I needed myself about 3 years ago! I’m ok with this. It’s certainly not that the academic institutions are doing a bad job, but it’s very difficult to cater to everybody. That’s why I like what I do and I like providing an alternative resource and an alternative point of view. I think it’s ok to be feral as well. This way we are all a little bit leaner and meaner, ready to adapt to the ever-changing tides as larger institutions simply can’t be.

How would I describe Literature Review HQ now? Well I’d say deep down it hasn’t really changed. I still want to make a “complete” resource for anyone doing an academic literature review. However my definition of “complete” has changed. Now it’s not just about me sharing my experiences and advice. I feel like now it is my responsibility to find the very best experts in the world and to try get them to impart their wisdom to my audience. In the future I also want to focus even more on engagement. I think it’s really exciting how we can deliver information online. I also think it’s exciting how accessible people genuinely are. We really have the best information within reach. If we want we can talk to experts and learn an awful lot. I feel that it is my responsibility to use my blog as a platform to aggregate all this information for the benefit of anyone who wants to really write an amazing literature review.

How to be a Hackademic #26 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.

FIND AN AUDIENCE. Without an audience, you have no real motivation for writing. Your work becomes an exercise in speaking to an empty room, which is – to be fully honest – kinda crazy. So first it is a good idea to really think who you are aiming your work at? Who would you like to speak to and why? And then think about building this audience more literally. For example, students can be an excellent audience for rough pieces of writing and early ideas. Blog posts and conferences are other great platforms for building an audience for your work as you’re writing. Of course you need the writing to really win an audience, but building an audience one step at a time works really well. Then, once you have an audience, the demands of that audience will keep you writing.

 

Want more tips on Hackademic? Click here!

Writing for a non academic audience by Marcia Hughes
boulders_02

Today’s post is about writing for non academic audiences. Marcia Hughes, the post author is one of the founders of the Boulder Group Ltd, a communications consultancy founded in 2007, dedicated to working with universities and higher educational institutions in the delivery of knowledge to wider audiences.

If you’re passionate about communicating your research with as wide a public as possible, then the chances are you’re already presenting your ideas clearly and simply to diverse audiences outside of academic walls. Hopefully, you’re also benefiting from your public engagement.

As a journalist and reporter with the BBC for nearly 15 years, I had to ensure my ideas ‘educated, informed and entertained’ the public. I found it rewarding making programmes for a general audience to absorb and appreciate.  Working mainly for Business and Financial News and Current Affairs, I had to turn quite complex issues into accessible listening and viewing for TV and Radio. I quickly learnt some important steps for engaging a general audience:

  • Developing a clear and simple narrative for the audience to follow
  • Choosing interesting case studies (voices) with relevant human interest or experiences
  • Making sure interviews with experts outlined key themes in a straightforward way
  • Removing any jargon or specialist speak
  • Using simple and concise language and using short sentences

Of course, it wasn’t always plain sailing. At times, appealing to this unknown “general audience” felt like being in the firing line from a group of people with the same “Am I bothered?” attitude as the infamous teenage girl played by Catherine Tate. Reaching out to the world beyond my like-minded BBC peers and financial experts took me out of my comfort zone. It constantly challenged me to think more simply and develop a much more open mindset every time I thought of a new programme idea:  Why am I making this programme; Who am I really trying to reach? What do I want to say?

These questions centre on two key areas: Audiences and Messages. They are as important and relevant to an academic individual writing for ‘non-academics’ as they are to a journalist.  What are the potential audiences are out there for you? What are their needs? What are their interests and values?  What are your key messages? Why does your research matter to them?

The more you ask yourself these sorts of questions, the sharper your focus. The more straightforward your communication, the more likely your research will resonate with a non- academic audience.

At the Boulder Group Ltd we are committed to supporting individual researchers, academic professionals, and post-graduates in their communication with the wider world. Our founding belief is that the knowledge created in our universities and HEIs, and the great ideas of researchers deserve a much bigger audience and greater appreciation.

Our service Researcher AM focuses on Audiences and Messages. It gives one-to-one help in audience engagement and current thinking on public engagement in order to help you define your research’s key audiences and choose the most appropriate means of communicating with that audience.

Contact Marcia: marcia@bouldergroup.co.uk

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.