Tag Archives: academic writing

The slow academic


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.

Data visualisation


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


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

Writing processes


Although I firmly believe that writing is a social practice (we write to be read and in response to contextual conditions), a good portion of our writing time is often done alone.  Many of you will know that I’m very interested in ‘procrastination’ in academic writing and what this means.  Often procrastination is touted as a lack fo self-disicpline and I honestly think that poor self-disicpline is not a characteristic of most graduate students.  The graduate students I see are, in addition to studying, working, looking after families, volunteering on student and other committees, and generally leading exceptionally busy lives. I think procrastination has less to do with individual personality traits and more to do with the nature of academic writing.  I’ve made this argument several times – in my book “Productive Writing” and in various presentations.

Recently, I’ve become interested in what individual writing processes look like and what this can tell us about procrastination.  By chance, I came across this YouTube video made by a student on his writing processes.  It has made me think about the way I write:  when do I pause?  how often do I edit? when does writing flow? Have a look and see what you think.




Article on publishing in peer reviewed journals


Here’s an article a colleague and I have just published on writing and publishing in peer-review journals: http://www.preprints.org/manuscript/201607.0035/1

This is the open access article before peer review.  The final article will be published in the journal Publications. The reviewers gave substantial feedback so the final version is a much better one.

Here’s the final verson:  PDF Version: http://www.mdpi.com/2304-6775/4/3/24/pdf

We hope you enjoy it and would love to hear your thoughts.


Inspiration for writing


You may be feeling jaded and worn with your own academic writing.  You want to produce so much, you set high standards for yourself and somehow you feel you are never able to achieve those goals.  There are always other demands on your time and your enegry reserves are not unlimited.  If this is you, at the moment, take a break and read the following series of blogs on the materiality of writing.  In these essays, the authors talk about the wonderfulness of academic writing.  How it is at the same time tangible (because we sit in seats and physically write) and at the same time intangible (because we are creating form from ideas) and how the process is far from easy, linear or straight forward – but can be satisfying.

This is my favourite by Ninna Meier, but I also really enjoyed her other article. This blog by Katie Collins may help you understand writing in a completely different way.  Charlotte Wegener, in her blog post, writes: “Writing makes sense, not because writing produces a coherent life-story but because the act of writing makes it all overlap – feelings and thoughts, private and professional, pleasure and pain. Body and intellect. The inventing, re-inventing and combining of the real and the imagined becomes the only available tale.” Helen Butlin writes about writing as poetic resistance amidst the craziness.

Take some time today to read these blog posts and I promise you will feel revivied.

Badenhorst Humans 2


Two new papers to share


Hi everyone

Just a quick note to post these two papers.

Both of them will be published soon by Brill in an edited collection that I co-edited with Cally Guerin from the University of Adelaide.  I thoroughly enjoyed working with Cally and we were able to form a friendship through Skype and emails while working on this manuscript.

This process highlights what I enjoy most about academic work.  All the authors were collegial, helpful and committed to the book.  Everyone worked together really well.  The editorial review and production process also went smoothly and was conducted very professionally with both the editors and the publishers doing all they could to help us along.   (This is proof that academic writing and review work doesn’t have to be painful!)

Anyway – here are the two papers.  The first is the introduction to the book where we use memes as an entry point.The second is a paper from a project on graduate research writing that I’ve been working on with colleagues and it’s about using visual tools (mind-maps, sketching) as a way of thinking through research before writing.

Brill I.1_BadenhorstGuerin_completed

Brill V.1_Badenhorst_completed


Reading critically and contemplatively


As many of you know, reading is absolutely key to academic writing.  It’s where we gather things to say and springboard into new ideas. Many students see reading as a chore or a punishment.  I find reading is a way to nourish my thinking.  So I’m always trying to encourage students to look at reading kindly.  Those of us who teach writing are often quick to say ‘read critically’ without explaining what this means.  While it does mean critiquing  the paper, it also means reflecting on it in terms of your own views.  Here’s a paper I came across today that does a great job of explaining reading: Corrigan 2014 Attending-to-the-act-of-reading.  He even has a tool so that you can assess if you are reading actively or not.


Free writing


Academic writing is demanding. It is easier to think brilliant ideas than to write them – especially in an academic way. Constructing a paper or chapter is difficult. One way to develop fluency in writing is to use writing in other ways, for example, to extend thinking or to create ideas. In other words, think through writing.

Writing to extend our thinking

Writing is a way of knowing. Most of us were taught to write only once we have something to say. But writing is a dynamic creative process linked to thinking and formulating ideas. “I write because I want to find something out,” says Richardson (2000:924), “I write in order to learn something that I did not know before I wrote it”. Keep a notebook, journal or even a file on your desktop to write down your thinking.

Writing to create ideas

When we write from in an uncritical freely associative state, we write to discover. Writing without criticism is focused on the message and is often lively and metaphorical. We find we want to write. Writing with our internal editor’s critical eye picking out errors makes writing a heavy, negative and grueling experience. At first, it is tough to let go of that critical voice.


Free-writing is a key technique to get your writing to become fluent and easy to do. The basic principle is that you set a timer and write quickly for a set amount of time (10 mins), without referring to sources, or censoring your thinking (Elbow, 1973). Do not cross out words, correct punctuation or grammar because that indicates your internal editor is still casting a critical eye. You suspend judgement during free-writing. You write to see what you think. No-one will read these pieces of writing but you. Once you have a collection of free-writes, you can gather them into a draft to revise.

Free-writing to generate ideas: Free-write to find out what you know about a topic or an article you’ve read. These are not notes but thoughts. You may want to begin with a vague idea and see where the writing takes you.

Directed free-writing: When you want to write a section of a paper. Free-write it first then revise and add in sources and quotes. Begin with what you know and then build in the references and authorities.

(Source: Badenhorst: Researchj Writing)


Richardson, L. (2000). Writing: A method of inquiry. Handbook of Qualitative Research. N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln. Thousand Oaks, Sage: 923-948.

Elbow, P. (1973). Writing without teachers. London: Oxford University Press.

You might want to watch these videos: