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.

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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.

Making time for writing

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Finding time to write is always a struggle.  The question of time is the No. 1 issue that comes up in workshops and classes:  “I just don’t have time to write!”  I’m sympathetic because I don’t have time either.  Yesterday, I had email notifications popping up so quickly and what should have been the occasional ‘ping’ sounded like a continuous (ear-jarring) symphony. I’m teaching, collecting data, writing a major grant proposal, supervising many masters and doctoral students, chairing comittees… Just listing all this makes me feel exhausted.  But alongside the busyness, I have a growing frustration about not being able to engage with writing as much as I would like to.  So finding time to write is a ongoing struggle. I’m sure you can relate to this litany of woes.  So what to do?

I mentioned in my book Productive Writing that in research we conducted with research-writing workshop participants, three groups of writers emerged.  The first group were those people who identified as writers. These were faculty and graduate students who saw themselves as writers. They kept regular journals, wrote poetry, research articles, blogs, published on teaching, and generally wrote about anything.  These writers would prioritize writing because they saw the world through writing.  The second group were scholar-writers. These were writers who only wrote to publish and communicate their research.  For these writers, research was the focus and writing the mechanism.  This group also prioritised writing since it was a way to access further grants and to be part of the scholarly conversation in their areas.  For both these groups, they used the tools provided in the workshops to springboard them out of whatever stuck place they found themselves in.

The third group we called the ‘I have no time‘ writers.  These writers wanted to write but could not and lack of time became the reason.  I was fascinated by this group (having been there myself at one point) and have my own theories about procrastination and writing in academic contexts. If you identify with this group, you can read my views and possible strategies here and here.  Here’s a video as well.

Of course, these identities are not fixed – people change – and there may well be other identities but I think it’s useful to think of your writing identity, then to think about time and what you value in the time that you have. The point is not to beat yourself up about it (“I’m the worst person on earth because I can’t find time to write”) but to think about where you can make time to write if it really is important to you. And if you can’t, perhaps other things are more important at this point in your life, and that’s ok.

If you do want to make time to write, listen to the podcast below.  I found it helpful and encouraging – she has sensible, do-able and kind ideas (no bootcamps here!):

Mary Allen — Harnessing Time: The Key to Writing podcast

Questioning ‘productivity’

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The last two posts from me have been about writing productivity apps and how they can help to keep up a regular writing practice. While I see the value in using them (and I have been using one for two weeks now), I find the focus on ‘productivity’ unsettling.   This may seem at odds with an academic life where producing texts is seen to be core business but I know that if I focus on ‘outputs’, I almost always end up writing-paralysed.  Yet, if I focus on the message, who I want to reach, and just keep the writing process going, the product happens anyway but with less stress and angst. This morning, I listened to a podcast on this issue (see below) and although Lorsung is not talking about academic writing specifically, what she says makes so much sense to me.  One final caveat:  we all write differently.  While the focus on productivity makes me want to hide in bed, it may energise you.
Éireann Lorsung — ‘Productivity’ and ‘Failure’ for Writers
Wed, 16 Jul 2014 11:33:14 -0500

Listen

Over and over I hear my students, my peers, and my own interior voice talk about failure as writers. Often this is linked to an idea of ‘productivity’, and in particular to a perception of others as ‘more productive’. As publication online increases the speed at which writing can appear in public, the distance between writing as a process and writing as a product closes. Consequently, the concept of productivity is measured more and more in terms of visible, finished objects, muddling the relation of publication to the act/process of writing. I’ll question the usefulness of these ideas—failure and productivity—for writing, and suggest ways of reframing our writing processes to accommodate work that ‘fails’ or is not visibly ‘productive’. In addition to talking about how what seems like ‘failure’ is an integral part of making writing that’s worthwhile, I’ll offer strategies and concepts—the multiple, the telescope—that help me keep writing despite unhappiness with my work or the feeling that others are ‘better writers’ (meaning ‘more productive’) than I am.

Tracking research

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There seems to be a theme emerging in the blog- and Twitter-shpere on tracking writing productivity. Read this blog for more…

DoctoralWriting SIG

Dr Abigail Winter is a transdisciplinary independent scholar, whose day job is working at the Information Coordinator in QUT’s Reporting and Analysis section. Her research interests vary broadly around the higher education sector, including organisational change management, journalism, student employability, research methods, and teaching and learning. She is an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK) and can be contacted at a.winter@qut.edu.au. Susan Gasson is the Manager of the Research Students’ Centre at QUT. She writes on research methods and HDR issues, including student mobility and internationalisation, and is currently planning her own doctoral research project. In this post they write about their use of Excel to track research writing and reading.

By Abigail Winter and Susan Gasson

I began 2016, as so many previous years, with the intention of becoming more productive. As a bibliophile since the age of about 4 years old, my first place to go was…

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What makes a successful writing group?

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Here is a different take on motivating yourself to write – using some of the apps available to writers.

The Research Whisperer

angeladobele02-smallDr Angela Dobele is an academic at RMIT University in Melbourne. Her teaching and research practices seek to make vital contributions to resolving the social, environmental and wicked problems of our times.

In her scholarly practice, Angela aims to be grounded in real-world problems, critical in theoretical and marketing orientation, and andragogical in her approach to student performance.

Her thesis topic and subsequent research considers word-of-mouth (at the intersection of relationship marketing and communication theories), both online (viral) and traditional referrals. Her other research topics concern academic workloads and research on student performance. Angela can be found on Twitter at @AngelaDobele.


Photo by Mark Asthoff | unsplash.comPhoto by Mark Asthoff | unsplash.com

An Organiser’s Perspective of Writing Groups: Dr Angela Dobele (@AngelaDobele)

It’s really hard in a crowded academic life to make time for your own research writing and spend time with your colleagues.

To create a great foundation for doing both, I introduced a writing program at my…

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Where to get my books

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Thank you to all of you who comment, follow this blog and subscribe to my videos.  I really appreciate hearing that they help you.  Many of you have asked where you can get my books.  This is a tricky question since they were published in South Africa and are not on Amazon.  However, the publishers have assured me that international buyers can get my books from Adams Books.

As far as I know, you can get both hard copies and the online versions from this bookseller.

Cecile

Apps that help writing productivity

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These days just about everyone has a FitBit or a walking app to count how many steps they take in a day.  Well, if you look here,  and here you’ll find blog posts that list a number of online apps that can help you keep on track with your writing.  They range from helping you to keep focused, counting words written to blocking distractions.  I haven’t tried any of them myself but I think I will.

Mmmm, I wonder if there are apps I can use on my phone…