If you’ve taken part before, you know the drill: get your reading done now, stock up on your favourite coffee [insert other productivity enhancement products here] and cancel what you can, because November means ‘write like there’s no December!’
If you’re new to AcWriMo here’s the deal:
Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo for short) 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).
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:
- Think about how we write,
- Form a valuable support network for our writing practice,
- Build better habits for the future,
- 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.
2. Declare it! Sign up on the AcWriMo 2014 Writing Accountability Spreadsheet and fill in the sections on what you’d like to achieve and keep us updated on your progress. Being accountable is key to this working for you. You need to feel a bit of pressure to get the work done.
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. 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!
We will have a team of AcWriMo Ambassadors supporting you at every. And if you have time, blog posts are a great way to reflect on your writing strategies with your peers (we always gather all the posts created during AcWriMo season here)
This guest post is from Mark Rubin, a senior lecturer in social psychology at the University of Newcastle, Australia. You can visit his ImpactStory profile at: http://impactstory.org/MarkRubin or follow him on Twitter @MarkRubinPsych.
I’ve recently conducted an “Introduction to Academic Publishing” seminar for PhD students at the University of Newcastle and the University of Canberra. During the seminar, I spend some time explaining to students the new emphasis on publication impact. Publication impact is the influence that scholarly publications have on other scholars and the general public, and it is becoming more and more important in academia. Below, I consider some of the ways in which publication impact is making an impact in the research world.
The quality and quantity of a researcher’s publications provide a key measure of their research productivity. Consequently, publication track records are often used to determine whether or not researchers get hired, promoted, or funded for their future research. In addition, at the institutional level, the quality and quantity of a university’s publication output help to determine its international reputation and the amount of funding that it receives based on national research performance reviews. So, there are several reasons why researchers find themselves and their research outputs to be objects of measurements.
© Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity, Tape Measure, Creative Commons
The ethos of “publish or perish” has been around for a long time. However, in recent years, this message has become more articulated, and it now takes into account the impact of researchers’ publications. In particular, researchers are now told that they must not only publish their research but also get their publications acknowledged by other researchers and society at large. In practice, this means that researchers need to get their publications (a) cited in the work of other researchers and (b) discussed in traditional and online media. To help achieve a greater scholarly and public impact, researchers must promote and advertise their work as much as possible. In this respect, the message has now become “publish and publicise, or perish!”
Publications Need to Make a Big Splash!
© Nathan Rupert, A Little Trick, Creative Commons
Measuring Publication Impact in the Scholarly Literature: The H Index
The concern about impact in the scholarly literature explains the growing popularity of the h index, a metric that is used to quantify not only the number of articles that a researcher has published but also the number of citations that these articles have accrued in other scholarly work. My own h value is currently 12, meaning that 12 of my 33 research publications have each been cited at least 12 times in other research articles.High impact researchers are expected to have h indices that are at least as large as the number of years since their first publication. The h index is not without its critics, and some have argued that a more comprehensive assessment of publication impact should take into account a broader array of alternative impact metrics, or altmetrics, that include more than just citations in scholarly work.
The H Index
© LEOL30, Wooden Brick Letter h, Creative Commons
Altmetrics platforms such as altmetric and impact story count the number of times that scholarly articles are mentioned in both the scholarly literature and online social media and websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia.They can also measure the number of times that online articles are viewed, bookmarked, liked, and downloaded on document managers such as Mendeley and Citeulike. Like the h index, altmetrics has its critics. However, if used wisely, altmetrics can provide a useful tool for assessing publication impact.
© A J Cann, Altmetrics, Creative Commons
“Facebook for Researchers”
In an effort to increase their scholarly impact, researchers are now advertising their work on professional social networking websites such as Academia and ResearchGate, which have over 12 million researchers signed up between them. Researchers can follow other researchers in their area and be notified about their activities, including when they publish new articles. These sites also allow researchers to publish self-archived versions of their research papers that other users can then access, further increasing their citation potential.
By ResearchGate [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Funnelling News of Research Outputs: Research Blog Aggregators
Modern researchers are also blogging about their work. I do this myself and, although it takes a bit of time to prepare each post, I really enjoy turning a dry research abstract into a more accessible and appealing piece for my blog. Like many other researchers, I feed my posts through to research blog aggregators like ScienceSeeker and ResearchBlogging. These platforms funnel posts from many different research blogs into a single stream of the latest research.
© Marsmettnn Tallahassee, I think therefore I blog,Creative Commons
Open-Access = Greater Impact
The drive to publish lots of highly cited and publically-acknowledged articles also helps to explain the rise of open-access journals. Unlike traditional journals, open-access journals publish articles 100% online rather than in print and, without the associated printing costs, they are able to accommodate a greater number of journal articles. For example, PLOS ONE published 23,464 articles in 2012, making it the largest journal in the world!
Importantly, the appeal of open-access journals is not only their ability to publish more publications, but also their ability to make those publications more accessible to readers. Unlike traditional journals, which tend to hide their content behind subscriber-only paywalls, open-access journals make their content freely available to everyone with internet access. This has the effect of increasing publication impact by increasing citation rates among scholars as well as online discussion among the general public.
© Research and Graduate College Graduate Studies Office, Open_Access_PLoS, Creative Commons
Hello? Can Anyone Hear Me!?
If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no-one around to hear it, then does it make a noise? I can’t answer that one I’m afraid. But I do know that, nowadays, if a researcher publishes an article in a journal and no-one views it, downloads it, cites it, or Tweets it, then it certainly doesn’t make an impact!
© Sue Langford,Trees, Creative Commons
LOVE WRITING. A friend of Charlotte’s who finished her PhD a couple years before her once talked about the strange pleasures of the final writing stage. Charlotte thought she was mad when she told her about an unparalleled pleasure derived from delving deep into her thesis and thinking and writing intensely for hours. She spoke of a level of focus that was like nothing she’d experienced before and a connection with her work that was all-consuming and effervescent with ideas. Charlotte figured this was some strange state she’d invented to compensate for the final weeks of PhD work where bodily hygiene and a balanced diet would go out the window. But, later, as her own work reached that same stage, Charlotte discovered her friend was right. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t find some kind of pleasure in thinking and writing, but deadlines and writer’s block often loom large and eclipse those moments of personal-writerly-discovery. Quite the best way to approach writing projects is to embrace the real joys of writing and keep them foremost in your mind throughout all the low points. As with relationships, all too often we tend to share the pain and anguish, but if we talk more about what is good, we’ll soon foster a better attitude to writing.
Want more tips on Hackademic? Click here!
Hybrid 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.
DRINK LESS ALCOHOL. Or maybe this should be: ‘don’t drink and write!’ Having too much alcohol while working will make you think you’re invincible – at least in academic terms. It really isn’t worth all the editing you’ll have to do to the sentences you write under the influence. Similarly, drinking heavily between writing sessions will only make them harder to endure – you’re not in college now kid! So where has being abstemious got you exactly? How about taking this option, oh, and bottoms up.
Also, this tips can help your hackademic life!
In the first #acwri live chat of 2013 we talked about a range of things relating to academic writing. Much of the discussion was focused on making plans for the year to come in the form of New Years Resolutions, but from this, lots of interesting tips emerged in relation to how to make 2013 the most productive academic writing year yet. As well as declaring New Year’s Resolutions and plans, we discussed a range of practical tips that can help to improve writing and increase motivation, suggestions were made about how to make the most of a sabbatical and there was also a short discussion about where best to make notes for writing. A selection of the Tweets from the chat are included below:
Todays post is written by Peter Roberts on behalf of Academic Knowledge, who specialise in freelance writing jobs for graduates. He reflects on how freelance writing can not only bring in some pennies, but also aid in the writing process.
The contemporary academic environment presents ECR’s with a range of challenges; the 2014 REF is fast approaching, there is increasing pressure to publish or perish and there is a requirement to reskill and to adapt to new forms of publishing in more traditional ways, but also online. The idea of doing freelance writing on top of all this may seem like an added pressure. In this post I attempt to debunk some of these myths and outline how freelance writing can not only make you a little extra cash, but also help you in the world of academic publishing.
Freelance writing for PhDs and Postdocs?
Freelance writing is something, which many PhD or postdoc students may have thought about as a way to help make ends meet. It can bring in a little extra cash here and there, and if you have got good writing skills and an area of specialist knowledge, then there’s a reasonable chance you’ll find work. But freelance writing can help in ways that go beyond the financial. If you do choose to take on freelance jobs, you’ll be forced to write in a range of styles to fit various different audiences. And if you are planning to turn your PhD into a book manuscript, having a good awareness of audience is absolutely essential.
As PhD students know very well, writing a thesis can be at times a solitary activity, and in most cases, the only people who read the finished piece are supervisors and examiners. Within the confines of a PhD, this isn’t a really big problem. The thesis is written for the benefit of the external and internal examiner to pass the viva and secure a doctorate. In this sense, a PhD is really only written for two people. But writing a book manuscript is a very different process, and you need to consider your audience more carefully. Do you want to write an academic book or produce a text more appropriate to the popular market? If you do intend to write for the popular market, it’s particularly important that you breakout of the mindset of writing for just two examiners, but after three to four years of intensive writing specifically for that purpose, this can be a daunting challenge. This is where freelance writing can come in.
If you do take on some freelance writing jobs you’ll immediately have to start writing for new audiences and in very different styles. This can be great practice, and can help broaden your horizons and give you a better awareness of who you are writing for. For example, you may need to produce work ranging from simple web copy to specialised reports. You will have to alter your style of writing. It’s certain that your prose will need to be simplified and you will have to write succinctly, and make your point quickly and clearly. You’ll have to sacrifice words and make decisions about what content is relevant to the particular job. Going through this process will undoubtedly help you convert your PhD into a book. A PhD thesis may need to go through fundamental changes to be finally accepted for publication. For the popular market, these changes will be even starker. But if you have some experience in writing for different audiences already, by the time you do start editing your thesis it may seem much less of a daunting task. You will already have more developed skills and a better understanding of how to write for a new audience. Of course, this alone will not secure a book contract, but it will go some way to improving your chances.
In this respect, freelance writing is worth considering not only for the financial assistance it can provide. If you want to broaden your writing skills, it’s an easy way to achieve this. If you are interested in finding out more, take a look round some well known freelancing sites and see if you think any are right for you – www.elance.com, www.academicknowlege.com, www.freelancewriting.com.
Tomorrow I have the pleasure of representing PhD2Published at the Society for Research into Higher Education Conference 2012. I am taking part in a symposium organized by Professor Pat Thompson of the Patter blog called ‘Feral spaces? Social media as higher education practice: Blogs, wikis, and twitter feeds with a pedagogical intent’. Pat herself will be talking, as will Andy Coverdale, a PhD student at Nottingham Trent University, UK and Dr Jeremy Segrott, my Acwri partner in crime. In the paper I am presenting, I will talk about the online participatory culture that has been created by feral spaces such as PhD2Published and that is representative of a now well-established online academic movement that is shaping new practices of knowledge production. Being online has created feral spaces like PhD2Published that are borderless and unregulated and that bridge social differences and disciplines. I reflect on this and how this movement is transforming academic knowledge production by creating a community of ‘prosumers’ (or the wonderful academics who write blogs, or share news, knowledge and ideas via social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook). I will explore the role of PhD2Published in generating pedagogical content concerned with academic publishing from the perspectives of an expert community of academics of different career stages and will argue that PhD2Published is a unique platform that can be used by its Managing Editors (currently me) to engage in this participatory culture, with the guidance of its founder Charlotte Frost, to reskill and share expertise. I will also reflect on my own involvement with PhD2Published and the way in which it has allowed me to respond to the fast paced, ever-evolving and increasingly competitive academic environment.
I will report on the outcomes of the symposium when I return,
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 too depressed to write.
This is a very real problem and should not be underestimated. Depression among graduate students and faculty members is a common reason for under-productivity. Depression is variously defined, but some causes are useful for academics to remember.
Depression is an emotional disorder usually triggered by environment. Some researchers believe that continuous stress over a long period tricks the brain into responding to all events as stressful, which in turn triggers depression (Blackburn-Munro and Blackburn-Munro 2001). Since there may be no better description of graduate school than operating continuously in stress mode, it is not surprising that depression is such a common problem in academia. Although the trigger is environmental, the effect is chemical—an imbalance in the neurotransmitters called dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Low levels of these natural brain chemicals prevent the nerve cells in the brain from transmitting signals normally. This slow down makes people feel that performing daily activities is like struggling to walk through mud.
The terrible curse of depression is that it impairs the very faculty you need to solve that problem. So, if you suspect that you are depressed, go to your campus clinic and ask for an appointment with a doctor. If you don’t have such access, e-mail a few people for references and make an appointment with a doctor. This is the easiest step I know of to start moving beyond depression. The doctor can then refer you to a counselor, whose services are often provided free for graduate students, or can recommend an antidepressant. Taking any medication is a serious step, but antidepressants aren’t designed to make you feel euphoric or to take away your blue feelings. They are designed to help you get up in the morning and complete tasks. They are about escaping that feeling of moving through mud; they are not about escaping your life. The doctor may also recommend exercise, which has been found a good antidote to mild depression.
If you are depressed, I know how hard it can be to take the steps to take care of yourself, but you simply must. Your academic future and maybe your life depend on it.What is better than to set up some goal for your writing.
The latest #acwri live chat was held on Thursday 7th June 2012 at 6pm on Twitter, chaired by PhD2Published. This week the community voted for the topic ‘Tools for academic writing’. The chat was well attended and lively and has created a great resource for all academic writers (and indeed writers!). Included are some fantastic links to different websites and software that can be used to boost writing processes and productivity including Scrivener, Mendeley and 750 words.com. Dr Jeremy Segrott has now Storified the chat (below).