Monthly Archives: November 2016

Done all that work – but has this thesis really got anything to say?!: Strategies to regain perspective on research contribution

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Excellent post by Claire Aitchison on how to pull out the significance of your thesis at the point when you are probably too exhausted to see the value of your research.

DoctoralWriting SIG

By Claire Aitchison

What have I got to say? This is the terror moment that strikes every doctoral student: the fear that perhaps there isn’t anything of worth to show for all the years of work.

I’ve never met a student who hasn’t experienced this kind of self-doubt – in part fuelled by exhaustion during the final stages, and in part this anxiety is an almost natural outcome of being too close, too fully immersed in the project to be able to objectively assess the merits of the work. However it is essential that researchers do make such judgements accurately since convention demands that the thesis clearly identifies the contribution and significance of the research.

Over the years I’ve collected a few strategies for helping students gain the perspective needed

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The slow academic

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When I first joined our faculty, a group of newcomers got together to form a writing group to help us to be more productive and to cope with the stressful tenure process.  We started with eight members and now have seventeen some 7 years later.  Right from the start, we realised that the only way we could survive was by not being competitive with each other.  In an academic environment that feeds off competition this was very hard to do.  We persevered and we have published papers on our experiences. We’ve been productive without being competitive.   (I’ve posted references below if you are interested). Our group has fundamentally changed the way we experience academia but we are ever conscious of the pressures to perform, to be measured and to be competitive individuals.  Recently we decided to actively think about ‘slow scholarship’ and examine what this could mean in our lives.  Here’s one post  and another and yet another that I found  very useful.  We’re only beginning to explore the idea of being ‘slow’, so if you know of other sources on slow scholarship, please send them this way.

Papers our group has published:

Badenhorst, C.M., McLeod, H., Vaandering, D., Li, X., Joy, R., Penney, S., Pickett, S. and Hesson, J. (2016) The journey between there and here: Stories of a faculty writing group. Canadian Journal of Education, 39(1), 1-26.

Penney, S., Young, G., Badenhorst, C., Goodnough, K., Hesson, J., Joy, R., McLeod, H., Pelech, S., Pickett S. & Stordy, M. (2015). Balancing family and career on the academic tightrope. Canadian Journal of Higher Education. 45(4), 457-479.

Badenhorst, C.M., Penney, S., Pickett, S., Joy, R., Hesson, J., Young, G., McLeod, H., Vaandering, D. & Li. X. (2013). Writing relationships: Collaboration in a faculty writing group.  AISHE-J, 5 (1), 1001-1026.

Young, G., Penney, S., Anderson, J., Badenhorst, C., Dawe, N., Goodnough K., Hesson, J., Joy, R., Li, X., McLeod, H., Moore, S., Pelech, S., Pickett, S., Story, M., & Vaandering, D. (forthcoming, 2017). Women reflect on becoming an academic: Challenges and supports.  In T.M. Sibbald & V. Handford, (Eds.). The academic gateway: Understanding the journey to tenure.  Ottawa, ON: University of Ottawa Press.

Badenhorst, C.M., Joy, R., Penney, S., Pickett, S., Hesson, J., Young, G., McLeod, H. Vaandering, D. & Li, X. (2016). Becoming an academic: Reflective writing and professional development. In G. Ortoleva, M. Bétrancourt, & S.T. Billett (Eds.). Writing for professional development. Leiden, The Netherlands:  Brill Publishers.

McLeod, H., Penney, S., Joy, R., Badenhorst, C.M, Vaandering, D., Pickett. S., Li, X. & Hesson, J. (2015). Collaboration and Collaborative Knowledge Construction through Arts-Based Representation: Explorations of a Faculty Writing Group. In D. Conrad & A. Sinner (Eds.), Creating together: Participatory, community-based and collaborative arts practices and scholarship across Canada. Wilfrid Laurier University Press: Waterloo.

Faculty of Education writing group (2016). Faculty Writing Groups as communities of practice. University Affairs, May, p. 56.

Badenhorst, C.M., Hesson, J., Joy, R., McLeod, H., Penney, S., Pickett, S., Li, X. & Vaandering, D. (2012). Faculty writing group helps to build bridges in academia.  Women in Higher Education, 21 (1), 30.

Slow scholarship

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Here’s a superb blog post about writing productivity, the neo-liberal academic subject and why the slow scholarship movement is growing. Definitely worth a read.

“How to Become a Prolific Academic Writer”

Feminist Nuances

 Or: How to Become a Model Neoliberal Academic Subject.

If you’ve met me recently, online or offline, you’ll know that I’m in the middle of finishing my PhD dissertation. That’s to say: I’m in the middle of finishing a manuscript, a book, the largest piece of writing I’ve ever written. Some 90.000 words, excluding bibliography.

So it should not come as a surprise that writing and everything related to it have been on my mind these past months. How to reduce procrastination time and be more effective in my time management? How to overcome writer’s blocks and deal with the anxiety that comes with trying to finish up a project like this? How to edit your own text and how to be satisfied with what you’ve written?

Because I’m nerdy like that, I also love reading, thinking, talking and even writing about writing. Yeah, that’s some ‘meta’ stuff! The genre of…

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Data visualisation

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Have any of you seen the utterly fabulous Dear Data by Giorgia Lupi and Stephanie Posavec?  These two data designers undertook a project of collecting weekly data on aspects of their lives (how many times they became irritated with their spouse, for example).  Each week they converted that data into a visual form and sent a postcard of it to each other.  On the cover is the visual data and on the back was an explanation of the thought process that went into it.  Have a look at their story:

I think this is such a fabulous idea to teach students how to see data, how to think about collect it and how to visualise ways to represent the data.  For me, it combines the best aspects of research: interesting stuff to collect and creativity.  Visit their site here, if you want more.  (I’ve begun collecting data on how many times I give my dog some loving.  The data reveals what she has indicated all along: Not enough!)

Qualitative data

Today I came across this blog on qualitative data visualisation.  In the blog, author Jennifer Lyons begins with this: “Visualizing qualitative data is like making homemade risotto. You are standing over the stove (aka hunkered down with your computer), waiting patiently for the magic to happen. It’s slow and sweaty, but in the end SO worth it. There is a reason you can’t order risotto at McDonalds, and there is a reason you can’t display your qualitative findings in a nice neat dot plot. I am going to share some resources and ideas that will help give your audience a taste of your rich qualitative findings.” Qualitative researchers, are you salivating yet?  Go and read the blog!  She has a whole crayon box full of ideas.