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

    February 26th, 2013

    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.

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    How to be a Hackademic #23 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel

    February 25th, 2013

    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.

    GET A LIFE. Remember to have a life too; sometimes it’s the time spent away from your work that is the most beneficial. This is easier said than done when you have a deadline looming or you’ve got limited time to work but here’s the thing, the work will take twice as long if you don’t have a clear head. Ever noticed how you can sit down to work one week and it takes most of the day to get a paltry amount on a page but after a weekend away you can fit a week’s work into one day? Remember that. Take adequate amounts of time off from what you’re doing to enjoy everything that isn’t academia.

    For more information on becoming a Hackademic , click here !

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    How to be a Hackademic #22 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel

    February 18th, 2013

    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!

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    How to be a Hackademic #21 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel

    February 11th, 2013

    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.

    EAT GOOD FOOD. Don’t eat junk food, especially when writing. Well, at least don’t eat junk food all the time. If you’re working to a deadline then it’s a good idea not to over-think these things and just grab what’s easy and handy and get the work done. However, where possible, it’s a better idea to get into a habit of eating (and writing) healthily. Aside from the fact that if you eat junk and sit at your desk all day all those sugars and fats will make you fat and unhealthy (and the last thing you need is to struggle with health issues on top of having to cope with the usual level of work an academic lifestyle involves) it might also make you a bad writer. Junk food will likely give you bursts of unsustainable energy, meaning you write in fits and starts and easily lose the thread of the argument. Too much sugar also makes you crash pretty badly, meaning your productivity will sink to a soul-crushing low and you might resort to too much caffeine, creating a perpetual cycle of peaks and troughs. Pay attention to what works for you. As a general rule, too much carbohydrate at lunch can make you sleepy in the afternoon. Instead try vegetables and protein at lunch time and save the carbs for dinner. You might also find that eating little and often keeps you charged up and that lots of green tea rather than one giant coffee keeps you energized in a more balanced way. And if you get coffee jitters, make sure you eat something while you drink your coffee.

    What else does it takes to be a hackademic ? Click here to find out.

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    How to be a Hackademic #20 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel

    February 4th, 2013

    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 MORE ALCOHOL. If you’re stuck at your desk writing the same paragraph over and over again, lost in a recursive loop of editing that takes your work neither forwards nor back, take a break, call a friend, grab a beer. If you find yourself having to stay in on a Saturday night to finish that book chapter or journal article, there’s really no need to feel like you’re in prison. Why not pour yourself a lovely glass of wine and actually enjoy your writing. Yes, we did just say ‘enjoy’ because oddly enough, writing can be enjoyable and if you allow yourself a few treats along the way, the journey to submission can really be rather jolly. Some very famous writers were also raging alcoholics, although we’re certainly not advocating that.

    Want more hackademic tips ? Click here!

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    PhD to Publishing: It’s all just a game really! by Ellen Spaeth

    January 30th, 2013

    * Acknowledgements at bottom of blog

    Today’s post is by Ellen Spaeth, a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology and Music. Her research concerns how listening to music could help people with anxiety disorders. She has an excellent blog about academic writing, productivity, technology, and music psychology and Tweets about those things, and her ukulele as @ellenspaeth. In today’s post she creatively uses a video gaming metaphor to consider ways of developing motivation for writing a PhD; an approach also relevant to the academic publishing journey post-PhD. 

    When I was 13, I spent hours playing Super Mario on my Nintendo 64. I would try again and again to get something right. My dad asked me why I was happy to work so hard to make Mario wall-kick off ice cliffs, but had no patience when it came to practising the clarinet.

    Last year, the answer just popped into my head: motivation. Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out what it is about video games that motivates me to play them, and how I can use those things to make my PhD more fun and productive. What did I find? Here are 4 things…

    1. Big goals are divided into manageable chunks

    If you divide a big goal up enough times, the goal becomes tasks, and tasks become instructions.

    Can you imagine a 3-or-4-year video game where your only instruction was “Complete the game”? Make sure you don’t view “Complete the PhD” as your only goal. For more advice on this, see my posts on identifying, scheduling, and reviewing tasks.

    2. Cost/benefit analyses are easier

    In a video game, you’ll usually be told what you need to do (cost), and what you’ll gain (benefit). A quest, or task might be necessary for the game to progress. Or it might get you a great, rare, item. It might get you something that you didn’t even want.

    But if you know in advance what you stand to gain, you can make the decision of whether the amount of work involved is worth it. Is it worth doing the tedious, lengthy task for the unwanted item? Probably not. Is it worth it for the great item, or to continue the game? Almost certainly.

    Try to think about your PhD that way. If you’re finding something really difficult and distressing, think about what you’ll gain. Is it worth it? If not, don’t do it. If it is, focus on the thing you’ll gain. It should motivate you more.

    3. If you’re stuck, someone can help you

    Video games are popular. That means there are a lot of people talking about them on the Internet. Some of those people have made “walkthroughs”, which are step-by-step instruction guides for video games. So if you have no idea where you’re going, and have run out of patience, you can look at the walkthrough.

    After you’ve looked at the walkthrough, you can make an informed decision (as per step 2). If you decide you’re not getting anything out of the game, you can choose to stop playing. But at least you’re making an informed decision.

    So if you’re stuck with your PhD, look for help. Go on a development course. Have coffee with a friend. Read a book or a blog post by someone else who’s experienced the same problem as you. If you still decide it’s not worth it, you won’t be making the decision blindly.

    4. Achievement is built in

    When you’ve completed a task, you are rewarded. Maybe you’ll get an item, or a new area will be unlocked, or you’ll be given a star for completing the level. The game is teaching you to value small achievements. If you were never rewarded for any of your actions in a game, how long would you play for?

    Do you value small achievements in your PhD? It’s something that I find difficult. On completing a task, my brain is less likely to say “Fantastic! Good job!” and more likely to say “Oh. Well. That wasn’t much of an achievement. I’d better do some more work.”

    To me, completing a task for my PhD feels a bit like putting money into an overdrawn bank account – the money just disappears into a hole, leaving you feeling even more panicked to make up the difference. I think this happens because we don’t stop to notice when we achieve things. So stop, and take notice!

    And finally…

    In an attempt to apply some of these ideas, I’ve written a short series of blog posts on trying to create frequent bursts of achievement within my PhD. The first post looks at using free writing and doing lists (with Scrivener, a pad of paper, or another word processing tool) to identify specific and achievable tasks. The second discusses how to schedule those tasks using a diary or task management app (such as Producteev). The third post shows how reviewing your progress each week can improve your feeling of achievement and your ability to judge how long a task will take. If you have any experiences, suggestions, or tips to share (or nice things to say), I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

    * The following tutorials aided in the drawing of the blog image. (C) Ellen Spaeth

    How to Draw Mario and How to Draw Tutorials

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    How to be a Hackademic #19 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel

    January 28th, 2013

    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.

    HACK YOUR TIME. Some weirder tricks here: 1) If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, rather than tossing and turning in bed, get up and write. 2) Give yourself bizarre and unrealistic deadlines, and make yourself stick to them. 3) Ask friends to join with you on bizarre and unrealistically-deadlined projects for moral support. 4) Never stand in a line without a mobile device and work you can do on it. 5) Get hands-free bluetooth in your car, so you can make phone calls while driving. 6) Get a dictation app for your smart phone, so you can write while driving. 7) Do work for friends (preferably work they loathe doing) and then ask them to do work for you (work you loathe doing). 8) Use the dead time in between other things to do work – take shower, work while hair dries, call taxi, work while waiting for it to arrive, etc. 9) Keep written summaries or mind maps of major projects handy at all times and review them often. Newer and better ideas will occur to you at the strangest moments and you’ll find it easy to share these ideas and get useful feedback in chance encounters. 10) When you have no work implements at hand, work in your brain (train rides are good places for this).What else do you need to hack ? 

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    #acwri live chat 24.01.13

    January 25th, 2013

    The #acwri live chat this week focused on the value of Twitter for supporting academic writing. Some of the key Tweets from the discussion can be viewed below but the following briefly summarises the discussions.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a lot of support for using Twitter to help with academic writing. Those who took part in the chat are established Twitter users and already use the #acwri hashtag to discuss writing. However the reasons why Twitter is considered useful were more varied and may even persuade the novice Twitter user to give it a try. People like that it can be used to link to informative resources (such as blogs), that it challenges them to write concisely and to break down key messages. They also like that it is accessible and facilitates a network of individuals from diverse backgrounds, all who share an interest in academic writing. They also think that it helps to improve their other forms of academic writing.

    There was also a critical discussion about the value of Twitter for academic writing. Some discussed lacking confidence in Tweeting opinions and points and felt that being accountable was important. Others discussed the challenges of negotiating and presenting identity through Tweeting. It was felt that disagreeing with people’s points was more difficult. It is much easier to agree with others through this medium, possibly limiting debate.

    Finally, not included here, was a discussion about how the use of social media continues to be blamed for the poor writing styles and writing abilities of students. A summary of this discussion will be posted soon.


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    How to be a Hackademic #18 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel

    January 21st, 2013

    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.

    VALUE ACADEMIC FRIENDSHIPS. Your academic friends are the ones who will most understand when your book pitches are rejected or job interviews go wrong. Having good friends in academia is worth just as much as tenure. There will always be departmental politics and though it’s sad to admit, you’ll also have times when you turn your critical eyes on yourself and feel inadequate. Having people who understand both the essence of your research AND the lifestyle you lead as an academic is what will help you through some of the more difficult times. You can share everything about what is working and what isn’t, in terms of career progression, but you can also have a laugh over the sillier parts of being in academia and keep yourself grounded in an environment that can really mess with your head. Of course academia can feel like a small world at the best of times, perhaps you need a bit of perspective.

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    A short note about article conclusions by Linda McPhee

    January 16th, 2013

    In keeping with the writing theme, Linda McPhee of Linda McPhee Consulting, who contributed to the Guardian Higher Education chat on academic writing with me in July 2012, has written us a post about article conclusions. There are some interesting insights here that may be of use to those writing their own article conclusions.

    A few of my classes in the past year have been looking at the strategies writers use in the conclusions of published articles. The published papers we took as a sample sometimes had separate concluding sections, and sometimes incorporated these into the previous section, although it was not really possible to see any difference between the two in content or strategy beyond presence or absence of a section heading.

    One conclusion started by listing the authors’ assumptions and describing the problem that had been addressed. Another used a time structure: summarising the past, how this is now changing, and how the findings show the important factors in that change. The overwhelming majority began with a very brief summary of the most important findings – not a complete rehash of the findings, but a quick trip through the high points. Most were very brief and selective, though a couple provided more extensive summaries and examples from the paper.

    The next part of the conclusion was more variable. Several explained how the paper fit into a larger, ongoing process (either a research process or in the actual case being researched). A few summarised the limitations of the work (all of which had been mentioned earlier in the papers at the relevant spots). One discussed why addressing the limitations could not supply enough data to change the findings, and ended with the implications of the findings. Several mentioned implications, either practical or for ongoing research. One that ended with long-term implications first discussed short-term implications. Similarly, one pointed out that although they had not found what they were looking for, the result was real and would change their research in particular ways.

    The final part almost always included a sales pitch for the research. This could be its uniqueness, why it was special, its implications, or its practical value. For a few papers, the ending described what the authors saw as the logical next step to be researched. Our small sample (about 30 published papers) seemed to group around three broad scenarios, each with several variations.

    Could any one of the three serve as a basic model for the conclusion of the paper you are now writing?


    Restatement of the problem & its importancePast to present of problem

    Brief summary of most important findings

    More extensive summaries of implications of each result, including its history, examples and assumptions

    Summary: research question and processHow this fits into a larger, ongoing process

    Summary of limitations (all  mentioned earlier)

    Why limitations did not change researcher’s mind

    Overall implications of results

    Immediate implications

    Sales pitch for the research, its uniquenessImplications

    Practical value

    Next step


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    How to be a Hackademic #17 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel

    January 14th, 2013

    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.

    ESTABLISH ROUTINES. One of the things we’ve found most noticeable about the whole PhD process is that it forces us to be very resourceful and find our own ways of doing things. This ranges from the cover sheets Charlotte attaches to all her notes (so she can see the essence of a book or article and her own thoughts on it at a glance) to how we structure our day. The seemingly random and ad hoc ways you invent to do things are actually very important. By inventing your own systems you are often responding to the way you research and write up ideas. One afternoon’s quick solution can turn into a tool you use again and again throughout your career. Look at the way you do things. Think about what you’re not great at and find a better approach. Share your systems with your peers and see if they have other ways of doing things that are better than yours and speedily establish your own systems. Ultimately, you want to make sure you have ways of doing things that work for you and that you can stick to.It is also important to Hack your time too!

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    Summary of the first #acwri live chat of 2013; Thursday 11th January

    January 11th, 2013

    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:


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    Can freelance writing help turn a PhD thesis into a book? by Peter Roberts

    January 9th, 2013

    (C) Follow These Instructions http://www.flickr.com/photos/followtheseinstructions/

    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.


    How to be a Hackademic #16 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel

    January 7th, 2013

    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.

    VALUE NON-ACADEMIC FRIENDSHIPS. Your non-academic friends are the ones who will most help you to forget the horrors of academic life. When all is said and done (and footnoted) the people you’ll crave are the ones who won’t ask you about tenure, your next book or your latest student feedback. They won’t ask you to serve on a committee, write a recommendation letter or peer review an entire manuscript. Nope, the people worth their weight in gold are the ones who hand you a beer and ask you if you saw the latest game. Or they’re the ones who watch bad television with you without asking for a critique of the use of stock characters. And they’re probably the ones who will be proud of you no matter what. Just try to be as good a friend to them as they are to you – for example, correcting grammar and pronunciation are not considered generous acts outside the academy!

    Maybe you need some of what this tip has to offer?


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    Learnings from #AcWriMo Part 7: A Storify by Charlotte Frost

    December 20th, 2012

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