The Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA) provides professional development resources, events, and networking opportunities for textbook authors and authors of scholarly journal articles and books. Established in 1987 by math author Mike Keedy, TAA is the only national, nonprofit membership association dedicated solely to assisting textbook and academic authors.
This week our collection of articles from around the web begins with advice on staying informed about scholarly communications and the opportunities existing in the global e-book market. We then found support for your writing with The Monthly Weeklies online group for goal setting and project management, ten steps for doing a literature review, and advice on writing research questions. Closing out our list this week are two posts regarding research ethics, including a list of Open Access ethics resources for researchers.
As you continue researching and writing, consider this advice from Anna Quindlen — “I’ve discovered that sometimes writing badly can eventually lead to something better. Not writing at all leads to nothing.” This week, write something. It might just lead to something better.
Back in October of 2014, we asked the Chefs how they stay informed about scholarly publishing. Since several years have passed, we were curious if any of the Chefs had found new channels of information or new ways to effectively digest all that is going on around us. We also thought that it was past time to broaden the question and consider all of scholarly communications, not just publishing.
The report on Global E-Book Market provides a comprehensive analysis and industry insights from experts. The report analysis is based on a systematic and detailed segmentation of the Global E-Book market. Furthermore, the E-Book report also covers the sub-segments, if applicable. The report includes details such as region-wise leading E-Book markets and the emerging markets, along with E-Book market growth statistics in terms of revenue during the forecast period.
What are you working on? What do you want to achieve by the end of the month? And what do you need to do this week to reach those goals? Many people are familiar with this approach to time and project management. But sorting out what you need to do is one thing, while actually following through is quite another!
“A literature review is not necessarily the easiest thing to do,” says Dr. Zina O’Leary, “but it is something that you can tackle if you’re systematic.” And so in this video O’Leary, a senior fellow at the Australia and New Zealand School of Government and author of several SAGE Publishing texts including The Essential Guide to Doing Your Research Project, offers 10 tips for systematically addressing this fundamental if sometimes unsexy part of the research process.
Writing a research question is hard. And it takes time. Often much more time that you might think. The research question is really important as it underpins your research design. And your design allows you to find an answer or answers to the question(s) you have posed. And that of course is what matters. You’ve been enrolled on a PhD and/or funded to find the answer(s).
It’s the middle of the semester. You want to spend all your time writing but you have to grade midterms. You’re not nearly as far along in your articles as you want to be – that manuscript you said you’d submit in February is still sitting on your desk. There’s no end in sight – completing it seems like a distant goal. What do you do?
Good news…You’re not the only one who’s feeling discouraged because you didn’t finish a project when you thought you would. People grossly underestimate the time it takes to complete a project, and this is especially the case for complex projects. Psychologists refer to this as the planning fallacy, and it happens to everyone. Yet, while knowing you’re not alone is comforting, it doesn’t exactly help you get that manuscript off your desk.
You’re looking forward to the end of the semester, when you think you’ll finally have time to write. Yet, you have some projects you have to move forward now, and you’re feeling the pressure. You might be asking yourself, “what have I been doing since January?” It seems like you’ve gotten nothing done. This was the year you made a resolution to write every day and it’s not exactly working out. Naturally, you’re feeling discouraged and anxious.
How do you regain your motivation and develop a realistic plan for getting back on track? After all, you don’t want to succumb to the same mistakes you made before. You also want to feel good about your writing – not like you’re crawling towards the finish line that’s the end of the semester.
I suggest a two-prong approach that is both introspective and forward-looking. You first identify where your plans went awry, then you create a better plan based on the data you collected.
First, look back at the appointments in your planner or calendar to identify when your planning went astray (Of course, this assumes you are diligently documenting how you spend your time, so if you aren’t, you should start!). This will help you determine if your plans were delayed, and how.
I think that the delays that undermine our planning generally fall into three categories.
There are delays you can eliminate with a bit of willpower. For instance, a preventable delay is you chatting with colleagues every time you try to write in your office. You can eliminate this delay by finding a new writing location.
There are delays that are unforeseeable, like catching the flu and needing to rest, then catch up on your work.
There are delays that are you know are going to happen, but are inevitable– like the faculty meeting that always runs late. Because it’s predictable (albeit frustrating!) you can plan accordingly.
Build a Better Plan
Now that you have this data, you can focus on setting yourself up for success for the rest of the semester. That starts with a concrete, specific plan.
Write out every task you must complete in detail, and then schedule the tasks.
This second part, scheduling, is vital – making the commitment to yourself makes you more likely to follow through. When I say schedule, I mean enter the task into your calendar the way you would an appointment.
Scheduling has a benefit beyond enforcing a time commitment: you’ll be better able to estimate how much time you have, and how much time you need. For instance, “finally finish this article” is certainly an important goal, but for your to-do list it’s a vague task. In contrast, “read and annotate three articles for my literature review on Wednesday from 1pm to 4pm” is a specific task to be completed at a designated time. Plus, at 4pm you’ll know whether you gave yourself enough time! This is especially useful if there are certain components of your project that turn out to be more time-consuming than you anticipated.
Perhaps you didn’t experience any of the delays I described above, and the project is still taking longer than you thought it would. If that’s the case, this scheduling information will be important for making better estimates in the future. You’ll be able to compare your prediction to the actual amount of time you spend, as well as the amount of time you spent on similar tasks in the past.
By giving yourself specific tasks you’ll be able to celebrate your accomplishments as you’re working. Instead of fixating on the delayed gratification of a manuscript submission that might be weeks or months away, you can have the satisfaction of checking items off your to-do list regularly. This simple act can significantly improve your mindset.
Here’s what’s most important for getting back on track: focus on the future. Don’t spend time blaming yourself for missing deadlines or making unrealistic plans. Think about what went wrong only as much as it helps you plan to do better next time. Discouragement and guilt will not put you on the path to greater productivity. Remember, the best strategies to stay on track include a combination of motivation and organization. It’s easier to implement your plan if you’re enthusiastic about it.
Jane Jones, PhD is a developmental editor and writing coach. She has worked with scholars at all stages of their careers to develop better writing habits, bring their projects to completion, and publish work that they’re proud of. Her clients have published with presses including Oxford Press, University of California Press, and University of Chicago Press. You can find her at www.upinconsulting.com or on Twitter @janejoann.
Why write? The old adage, “publish or perish” is alive and well, and there can be negative career consequences resulting from not publishing. In addition, writing and publishing bring career-enhancing rewards, visibility among our peers locally, nationally, and, even, internationally, and, as Boice (1990) underscores, writing is a form of “self-education.”
The expectation that faculty write and publish presents a number of challenges, not the least of which is fitting writing in with the other consistent and persistent demands of the job. Often times these urgent demands and very important tasks jump to the top of the “to do” list, causing the important but not urgent task of academic writing to fall off.
In my first years as an assistant professor, my department-assigned mentor told me, “just write.” However, the “just write” advice was not enough. Like most of us, because I never received any formal training in academic writing (Cameron, Nairn & Higgins, 2009), I lacked confidence. In addition, I realized that writing and getting myself to write might be more complicated than just sitting down to write.
Where might I learn more about academic writing to not just get the next conference proposal out the door, but to also create a sustainable writing practice? The purpose of this article is first, to describe the context that led me to develop the five key principles of academic writing, and, second, to describe the five principles that undergird a sustainable and satisfying writing practice.
As a new professor, I tried to puzzle out how to find time to write. It was not easy. One day I dipped into the literature on academic writing to help my doctoral students, and, at that moment, I had a revelation: I could be a student of academic writing. Certainly, I knew how to study phenomena. Just like my other scholarship, I could study academic writing. I could make a place in my personal library for books on academic writing. I could glean insights from the literature and my own reflective practice. From that time on, my scholarship on writing led me to a variety of strategies with which I could experiment. My own academic writing became more reflective, and my writing practice became more deliberate, using strategies from the literature and from my own busy brain. The more I learned about writing and the more I wrote, the more I began to develop an identity as a writer. Best of all, I learned that by studying academic writing, I was developing the strategies, habits, and motivation to persist and publish.
Fast forward 25 years, and I am about to publish my fifth academic book, Write more, publish more, stress less! The five key principles for a creative and sustainable scholarly practice (2018, Stylus Publishing). In this book, I distill what I have learned through my study of academic writing into five key principles that offer a solid foundation for a successful writing practice.
Principle One: Know yourself as a writer. To know yourself as a writer requires that you observe how you practice your writing. Where do you write now? What is the best time of day for you to write? How do you feel about writing? What are your past highlights and challenges with writing? This is exploratory work designed for you to uncover your background and current experience with academic writing. Antoniou and Moriarty (2008) argue that:
Writing is intricately linked to a sense of Self (personal and professional), and is a way of expressing that Self. Therefore, writing cannot only be taught in technical terms. Any support and guidance for academic writing must address personal experience and emotional processes. (Antoniou & Moriarity, 2008, p. 166)
Uncovering your feelings and writing patterns can lead you to experiment with more fruitful, less stressful, and rewarding practices.
Principle Two: Reveal the craft of academic writing. While the first principle focuses on self-assessment, Principle Two turns the writer’s head outward to the genre and craft of academic writing: How is academic writing structured? The key idea for Principle Two is to “read like a writer”. That means when you are reading the literature, while you are gathering disciplinary knowledge, you are also looking for the underlying text structures and using them to shape the work that you submit.
Principle Three: Be mindful. Be strategic. Rather than the reflective approach found in Principle One or the analytical process used in Principle Two, Principle Three focuses on when you write and what you do during those writing sessions. By engaging in deliberate practice strategies, you will write more. Being strategic includes strategies designed to help monitor your progress, set new short and long range goals, and manage the flood of emails. After being strategic, being mindful means that you reflect on the value of the strategies in meeting your goals. Just like any other practice from sports to music, committing to a regular schedule, and showing up to do the work even though you don’t feel like it, improves your skills and builds a more deeply rooted and sustainable practice. What makes this principle powerful is that these strategies can lead you from an ineffective writing practice into building a regular and productive writing routine.
Principle Four: Be social. Principle Four acknowledges that academic writing is a conversation where ideas are exchanged and in that process, the work improves. Sometimes the conversation is in the question and answer period at the end of a conference presentation. Other times the conversation is one-sided in the introduction of a manuscript where the author is bringing in the voices of other scholars who have done work on this topic. The reviewers of the article then add their voice (comments) to the conversation. Another aspect of the conversation is local, that is, with your peers in a writing group. The group can offer support as well as feedback and a place to be accountable in accomplishing your goals.
Principle Five: Be creative. Be reflective. Principle Five brings us back full circle to you and focuses on your voice as a writer in your manuscripts. By using several creative strategies you can add more of your own voice to your work as well as find ways to approach the work from a new vantage point. One very effective strategy to assist in this process invites you to write a reflection on why you care about your topic and why others should care about your topic too. In so doing, you may find new ways to make sure the reader knows that. Another strategy is to write out an imaginary dialogue with the participants in your study. Changing your perspective on your work can give you fresh insights on why your participants responded the way they did.
Conclusion: Taken together the five principles underscore a holistic view of academic writing. The focus is not solely on the text that is written nor is it solely on the challenges facing writers. The five principles embrace the emotional (I), intellectual (II), behavioral (III), social (IV) and creative (V) aspects of academic writing. All in all, the five principles are designed to summarize key bits of knowledge the writer needs not only to write but to write consistently and in the process build a sustainable and satisfying writing practice.
Dannelle D. Stevens, Professor Emerita at Portland State University, has co-authored four books. Her fifth book, Write more, publish more, stress less! Five key principles for creative and scholarly writing is due out in fall 2018. TAA members receive a 20% discount: http://bit.ly/2naXt8D, Code WMPM20
As digital technology continues to redefine the market for instructional materials, one thing remains constant: students with disabilities must not be left out. While products evolve, the concepts of equal access, and the legal obligation of educational institutions not to discriminate, remain.
“I haven’t finished writing my book, but it’s on top of my list” says Celeste Alexander. If you’re struggling with finishing a writing project, our first couple articles in this week’s collection of posts from around the web might help you find the means to move forward. Of course, according to our third article choice, “you should be writing!” and the shame that accompanies this rebuke are worthy of consideration as well.
In addition, we have found insight into word choice, the use of preprints in citations, theoretical frameworks, and peer review processes to support your writing efforts. Finally we round out our collection this week with two service platforms: DeepDyve and Skyepack that pursuer ways to reduce costs of journal articles and educational materials. Wherever your writing projects take you this week, we hope you feel a sense of accomplishment, even if you haven’t “finished”.
Today, many academics feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. They’re under huge pressure to write and publish but an ever-growing mountain of teaching and admin is stopping them doing just that. Our research finds that whilst nobody is immune to these pressures, some academics cope better than others – and that’s because over the years, they’ve developed personal “systems” to help them write.
Efficiency is something that can come and go during your PhD. It’s normal to have a few weeks buzzing with productivity, and then weeks where you barely seem to cross more than one task off of your to-do list. ChengCheng talks about her struggles with maintaining efficiency in her research and the methods that have helped her to maintain a regular work pattern…
This popular tongue-in-cheek rebuke has been a humorous, if not a durable universal higher educational meme, familiar among graduate student researchers, academic faculty, and other writers. It softly shames us for engaging in activities unrelated to advancing and publishing our research–namely, the laborious and intensive writing part. Oh, the indignity of us partaking in something other than our scholarly writing!
In the latest doctoral writing group, we blitzed words that were the cause of inaccuracy, often because the tone they added was too informal. This post gives our list of words that are treacherous. We welcome comments or offers of posts that identify more words that might be tricky. Here are words that we think should be used with caution by doctoral writers.
While the use of preprints (public posting of an early draft of a paper before it’s submitted to a journal for formal review) has long been established in fields like physics and the social sciences, recent uptake in the biomedical world has raised some concerns. When clinical treatment and public health are involved, extra care must be taken to ensure that it is clear to the reader that the work being described has not been peer reviewed. Most preprint servers handle this well, watermarking their preprints and clearly labeling them as preliminary. But little thought seems to have been given to how we cite preprints. Should we treat them the same way that we treat reviewed and published material?
Not every thesis has a section or chapter devoted to a theoretical framework. But a lot do. (It’s the Ph in PhD after all.) And these ‘theory chapters’ can be very tricky to write – and are often tricky for the examiner to read. Before starting to write your theory section/chapter it can be good to think about what the examiner wants to see.
While there is a steady stream of journal articles criticizing peer review, a recent publication, “Comparing published scientific journal articles to their pre-print versions”, has a number of major problems. It’s perhaps ironic that a paper finding no value in peer review is so flawed that its conclusions are untenable, yet its publication in a journal is itself an indictment of peer review.
DeepDyve and Oxford University Press today announced that Oxford University Press (OUP) has agreed to make over 400 journals available via DeepDyve’s innovative scholarly journal rental platform. The collaboration follows a successful pilot program dating back to 2012 whereby OUP made a subset of its titles available via DeepDyve.
While traditional textbook publishers have been hiking their costs in recent years, a Purdue-affiliated company is changing that story. Skyepack works with professors to curate their educational material for their course. With the help of open educational resources, they aim to provide it to students for just $35.
According to the American Psychological Association’s Summary Report of Journal Operations, 2016, the 29 journals included in the report received a combined total of 12,166 submitted manuscripts with an overall rejection rate of 71%. This means that on average less than 3 of every 10 submitted manuscripts is accepted for publication.
To better understand the common reasons journal articles are rejected, we sought the insight of several TAA members experienced in the academic journal article publishing process.
Katie Van Heest, an editor at Tweed Editing, identified a common error leading to rejection by journals as “not following submission guidelines!” Noting the routine provision of guideline information on journal websites, Van Heest says, “Complying with a publication’s formatting and style preferences shouldn’t be considered a tedious matter of jumping through arbitrary hoops: it’s an opportunity to help the editors and peer reviewers envision the article fitting right in with their journal! It’s effort well spent.”
Michael Greer, editor of Research in Online Literacy Education (ROLE) – a peer-reviewed digital journal published by the Global Society of Online Literacy Educators, says that “the most common error is submitting a manuscript that is not a good fit for the journal.” Echoing Van Heest, Greer says: “Usually, this is caused by a failure to read submission guidelines,” adding, “or lack of familiarity with the focus of a particular journal.”
“Be a fan of a journal before you submit” is the advice of John Bond, a publishing consultant at Riverwinds Consulting, with more than 10 years of journal publishing experience. Noting the same issue mentioned by Greer caused by a lack of familiarity with a journal, Bond says that “many potential authors did not read or know a journal prior to submission and therefore did not understand its mission.” Being a fan before you submit – or at least reading the journal beforehand – will, as Bond says, “prevent you trying to put a square peg in a round hole.”
Greer adds the following advice: “As a journal editor, I encourage authors to contact me with a short email, to propose a topic and start a conversation very early in the process. This avoids the problem of an author going too far down the road with a topic or approach that is not a good fit.” Ensuring that your work is a good fit with a particular journal prior to submission improves the potential of acceptance upon review.
However, even if your manuscript follows the submission guidelines and is a good fit for the journal to which you are submitting, there may be other reasons a reviewer might reject the article. JoAnn Barbour, professor and department chair in the Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University, has served as a reviewer for at least nine different journals or groups in her tenure. She shared some insight into the role of a reviewer and additional reasons for rejecting article submissions.
As a reviewer, Barbour says that her job is to “follow the review guidelines/criteria for acceptable submissions.” From this perspective, she says, “I really try not to reject a submission. Rather, I review as a ‘friendly critic’ with suggestions that might get the article a second look in a re-draft with updates.” Minor revisions and resubmission may produce different results.
A common problem that may be easily fixed for resubmission, according to Barbour, is when the “purpose of study and/or of article is not specific, so the findings or conclusions are somewhat suspect or ambiguous.” Barbour says, “sometimes, it is a matter of asking the author to revise a bit and place a purpose statement in the first paragraph or so.” She adds, “Usually works.”
Other problems, notes Barbour, that have caused her not to accept a submission include: flawed methodology, thematic issues where the submission is not fitting to the theme of a particular edition of the journal, and poor writing with grammatical errors and lacking flow, organization, or cohesion. Her response, as a reviewer, is different for each, and always fits her role as a “friendly critic”. For example, she may suggest resubmitting with the use of a different methodology, or submitting to a more appropriate journal for the work.
Based on the insight from these members and their experience in the academic journal publishing process, hopefully you are prepared to avoid some of the common errors leading to journal article rejection. However, if you find yourself on the receiving end of a rejection from a reviewer, look for suggestions from a “friendly critic” who may have really tried not to reject your submission in the first place. Then revise accordingly and resubmit.
When you hire a professional to do any work, you not only expect them to have the knowledge and experience necessary for the job, you also expect them to have the right tools. For example, if a carpenter showed up to the job site without a saw, you might question their abilities. By the same token, there is more than one type of saw available and having the right saw for the job is equally important.
In this article, I offer eight categories of tech tools you should have in your writer’s toolbox, with different options for each. You certainly don’t need all of these tools, and there may be other tools that are more appropriate to your style of writing, but these tools can help in building a solid foundation for most of your writing jobs.
1) Mind mapping: Before you begin writing, you will have ideas. Those ideas connect to other ideas and one of the best ways to see your finished product is with visualization tools that produce mind maps. Key features to look for in these tools are simplicity, flexibility, and ease of use. Four apps worth considering in this category are Mindnode, Mindmeister, Scapple, and SimpleMind.
2) Note-taking/organization: After the initial idea generation and visualization process is complete, the expansion of ideas through research and note-taking efforts, the organization of information into logical sequences, and the management of those various resources becomes the focus in this category of tools. Some apps for consideration are Microsoft OneNote, Evernote, Index Card, Trello, and Vizual Einstein.
3) Distraction-free writing: Once the writing process begins on the manuscript, for many of us it’s easy to be distracted by other programs or websites on our computer. To minimize the distractions, programs such as Scrivener and Jotter Pad provide for a clutter-free writing space. If you want even more control over your distractions, apps like SelfControl, StayFocusd, and Cold Turkey will let you block your own access to websites, email, or other apps for specified amounts of time.
4) Time/resource management: While writing, managing your time to meet goals is important. Many writers find benefit in the Pomodoro technique of writing in 25-minute intervals with a short break in between. Two apps, Pomodoro Timer and Marinara Timer, are favorites for supporting this technique. For a more intense way of motivating yourself to meet writing goals of time or word count commitments, check out the Write or Dieapp – in Kamikaze mode it will even erase work you have done if you don’t maintain momentum. For managing multiple projects with various journals, the Story Tracker app is an essential tool for knowing the status of all your submissions.
5) Reference: Whether focused on style, word choice, or proper application of industry-specific acronyms, a good reference app or two is important to even the most experienced and disciplined writer. In this category, I offer three suggestions. WordBook provides a comprehensive, online dictionary and thesaurus. Purdue OWL – the Purdue University Online Writing Lab – is an essential resource for all things writing, including MLA, APA, and Chicago style guides. The Acronym Finder app contains over 1 million acronyms in categories of medical, technology, science, business, and more.
6) Proofing/review tools: After the first draft (or final draft) is complete, the tools in this category can help polish your writing, correct grammatical errors, and improve readability. Tools like Grammarly, Hemingway, and ProWritingAid provide grammar checking features to improve the quality of your manuscript. The GoodReaderapp allows you to edit any PDF file with ease. Focused on length? Check out the Word Counter app. Targeting a specific reading level? Use the Readability Score app to analyze your writing style. For a wide array of feedback on any piece of text – checked against databases including Google Books and Google Scholar – check out the Writefull app.
7) e-Book publishing: Once you have polished that final manuscript and are looking at publishing options, e-book publishing should not be overlooked. Online tools such as ToePub and Calibre make conversion of PDF and other documents into common e-book formats quick and easy.
8) Collaboration: Technology has also made it easier to network, collaborate, and to build a support community. Through sites such WritersNet, authors can collaborate on projects and participate on discussion forums about writing life and the business of writing. Social bookmarking tools, like Diigo, make it possible to bookmark, highlight, annotate, and share online resources.
You are all set. The approach to your topic is inspired. A firm table of contents has been finalized. Your book proposal is great. And you now have a contract with a respected publisher!
But, who is going to do all this writing? You have probably carved out specific chapters that you will write. You may have spoken with some colleagues that like the project and said they would be glad to help out. You have a list of likely people to write other key chapters, but you will need more contributors. How do you go about identifying and asking people to contribute to your book?
Some of the initial points to consider are:
Would I rather have fewer contributors with each writing several chapters or more contributors writing just one each? The first means easier logistics but less diversity of opinions. The second means more running around but a more impressive list of contributors associated with the work.
Is it better to ask a more junior person who will likely meet your deadline and show greater enthusiasm for the project, or to ask a senior colleague who may not produce or may simply recycle old work?
Will you ask only people known to you or will you take suggestions from colleagues about people who you may know only from a literature search?
What will be your policy when someone who has agreed to write a chapter either goes MIA or does not deliver? When will you pull the plug?
Finding the right people on a contributed or edited textbook can make all the difference to the final work. Here are some ideas for finding possible contributors:
Your personal connections will be your best source.
Next are your close colleagues and friends.
After this, turn to related textbooks and look at who contributed to those books.
Look at speakers at national meetings.
A literature search on your topic will likely yield a laundry list of possible contributors.
Posting on a Listserv or Discussion Board should give some possible volunteers.
Don’t forget to consider related professions as possible contributors.
Review faculty listings at leading institutions in your area for potential writers.
When you issue an invitation to write, be very specific. Give the exact details of your project, the exact topic you want them to cover (but also indicate a willingness to consider modifications), an exact submission date, specific word and figure counts, and formatting expectations. Also, make sure you outline when you need to hear from them about the invitation. If possible, make the invitation personal. In fact, a phone call would be best (followed up with an email), but that may not be practical for all invitees. If you sense any hesitancy, particularly with the deadline, explore their concerns.
An All-Star lineup in a textbook can add muscle to the marketing. But non-producers can slow down a book to the point of endangering its coming to fruition. Think through your plan ahead of time. You, your publisher, and the reader will be glad you did.
While it is understandable that most writers would prefer to concentrate their time on their writing, writing is a business and you need to make sure you’re taking care of all of the tax deductions that you should be.