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Sabbatical (Open Polytechnic) - Faculty as Scholars: Tips for Becoming Effective Researchers and Writers


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Barbour, M. K. (2011, April). Faculty as scholars: Tips for becoming effective researchers and writers. An invited presentation to the Open Polytechnic, Lower Hutt, New Zealand.

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Sabbatical (Open Polytechnic) - Faculty as Scholars: Tips for Becoming Effective Researchers and Writers

  1. 1. Faculty as Scholars: Tips for Becoming Effective Researchers & Writers Michael K. Barbour Assistant Professor Wayne State University
  2. 2. Academic whostudies the writingprocess of otheracademics
  3. 3. Writing Advice1.Slow down! Its ironic, but it works. Think about what you are about to do and plan for the most efficient way to accomplish the task.2.Work in brief, daily sessions lasting one-half hour to ninety minutes.3.Begin before you feel ready.4.Stop! After a reasonable amount of time, put the work aside whether or not it is finished.5.When writing, balance preliminaries such as collecting material, organizing and conceptual outlining with actual writing.
  4. 4. Writing Advice6. Talk back to self-defeating thinking and habits.7. Manage your emotions: work in a relaxed mood at a moderate pace.8. Moderate attachment and reactions to your work. (Procrastinators tend to become attached to their ideas quickly. Think of your work as a work in progress. Give yourself time to let ideas germinate rather than drawing conclusions too early.)9. Let others, even critics, do some of the work.10.Limit wasted effort. (For example, if you sit down to work and find yourself distracted, stop and take care of whatever is bothering you.)
  5. 5. Come to understandyourself as a writer...➡ where do you write best?➡ when do you write best?➡ under what circumstancesdo you write best?➡ etc.
  6. 6. The first section of the book is an autobiographymainly concerning Kings early exposure to fictionand his childhood attempts at writing. Hedescribes his early attempts to get published, hissuccess with his first novel Carrie, and hissubsequent development as an extremely popularauthor. King also discusses his problems withdrugs and alcohol.The second section is practical advice on writing,from tips on grammar to ideas about developingplot and character. King describes it as a guidefor how "a competent writer can become a goodone." He stresses his beliefs that a writer shouldedit out unnecessary details and thoroughly avoidthe use of unnecessary adverbs.The third section is also autobiographical, inwhich he discusses the 1999 automobile accidentin which the writer was struck by a vehicle whilewalking down an isolated country road. Kingdescribes serious injuries, his painful recoveryand his struggle to start writing again.
  7. 7. King’s Writing Advice1. Be talented. For the purposes of the beginning writer, talent may as well be defined as eventual success - publication and money. If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didnt bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.2. Be neat. Type. Double-space. Use a nice heavy white paper, never that erasable onion- skin stuff. If youve marked up your manuscript a lot, do another draft.3. Be self-critical. If you havent marked up your manuscript a lot, you did a lazy job. Only God gets things right the first time. Dont be a slob.4. Remove every extraneous word. You want to get up on a soapbox and preach? Fine. Get one and try your local park. You want to write for money? Get to the point. And if you remove all the excess garbage and discover you cant find the point, tear up what you wrote and start all over again . . . or try something new.5. Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft. You want to write a story? Fine. Put away your dictionary, your encyclopedias, your World Almanac, and your thesaurus. Better yet, throw your thesaurus into the wastebasket. The only things creepier than a thesaurus are those little paperbacks college students too lazy to read the assigned novels buy around exam time. Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.
  8. 8. 6. King’s Writing Advice Know the markets. Only a dimwit would send a story about giant vampire bats surrounding a high school to McCalls. Only a dimwit would send a tender story about a mother and daughter making up their differences on Christmas Eve to Playboy ... but people do it all the time.7. Write to entertain. Does this mean you cant write "serious fiction"? It does not. Somewhere along the line pernicious critics have invested the American reading and writing public with the idea that entertaining fiction and serious ideas do not overlap.8. Ask yourself frequently, "Am I having fun?" The answer neednt always be yes. But if its always no, its time for a new project or a new career.9. How to evaluate criticism. Show your piece to a number of people - ten, let us say. Listen carefully to what they tell you. Smile and nod a lot. Then review what was said very carefully. If your critics are all telling you the same thing about some facet of your story - a plot twist that doesnt work, a character who rings false, stilted narrative, or half a dozen other possibles - change that facet. It doesnt matter if you really liked that twist of that character; if a lot of people are telling you something is wrong with you piece, it is. If seven or eight of them are hitting on that same thing, Id still suggest changing it. But if everyone - or even most everyone - is criticizing something different, you can safely disregard what all of them say.10.Observe all rules for proper submission. Return postage, self-addressed envelope, all of that.
  9. 9. If its bad, kill it!When it comes topeople, mercy killingis against the law.When it comes tofiction, it is the law.
  10. 10. Research Advice1. Avoid making a major piece of research your first effort at scholarly research. You’ll be smarter and better in your research if you gain skills and refine your insights beforehand.2. There is no "easy" way to complete a research project; accept the need for a temporary but significant shift in your life. Fighting the process increases stress and can make it unnecessarily unpleasant.3. Dont wait until youre absolutely sure to develop your thoughts; if you wait, its probably no longer worth saying. Your thoughts are likely pithier than you credit them—even if they’re not, others can help shape and refine them when they are public.4. Spread the risk, responsibility, and credit among your colleagues, but not the blame. Gain ideas and perspectives, but know that you have to defend your work, not them.5. Confess to ignorance when you really dont know. It’s smarter to simply concede what isn’t known than to amplify ignorance through detailed elaboration.
  11. 11. Research Advice6. Optimize the yield of your research effort. Write “through” your project-- research effort demands are substantial, so plan to get more than a publication.7. Never defend the indefensible. The process is as much about assessing the candidate’s ability to recognize their own faulty thinking and decisions as it is about confirming their quality.8. Never give poorly edited work to your colleagues. It diminishes the face validity of your ideas and indicates a lack of diligence on your part (or, worse yet, an assumption that they either won’t detect poor work or that you assume it is their job to ensure compliance with basic language, spelling, and syntax conventions). Enough said.9. Write "through" your project to accomplish higher purposes. Your audience includes broader professional and academic individuals than only your immediate circle of influence.10.Become convinced of the appropriateness of recommended changes, dont simply acquiesce to them. Make sure you understand why changes are requested/required so you’ll learn from them.
  12. 12. Research Advice11.Develop interests intuitively, but develop written argumentation deductively. Rely on your interests to guide your selection of a problem, but make sure you’re able to persuade others as to the nature and significance of the problem.12.Understand the implications of your research. Step back from your specific methods and findings and consider their potential meaning more broadly. Enough said.13.Understand the limitations of your research. It is perhaps more important for researchers to analyze their own work critically as it is to critically analyze the work of others.14.Impose and adhere to a structured timeline. It will help you to manage the demands of the research process as well as provide others (and family) a concrete guide for planning and supporting your work. If you don’t establish structure for yourself, no one else can or will.15.Seek input often, but provide concrete written information when seeking the input. Conversation may the means for clarification, but your ideas must eventually be formalized—best to do this early and often to facilitate communication. Chats are nice, but formally developed ideas--even incomplete and formative in nature--are best.
  13. 13. Research Advice16.Understand ALL that you have written; verify that others understand as well. If you’re unclear as to what you mean, it’s a good indication others will as well.17.The second word cannot be written until the first word has been written. The process must begin somewhere; stop thinking, planning and designing--start writing.18.Never stop until finished. The road to publication heaven is littered with the carcasses of folks who needed to take one month, quarter, or term “away from this.”19.If you wait till you have time to write, youll never write. Make time to write and use it for writing.20.When confused, write; when tired, write; when hungry, write. If you don’t, no one else will do it for you. Don’t legitimize bogus reasons to avoid writing.
  14. 14. “Thirty years ago my older brother,who was ten years old at the time,was trying to get a report on birdswritten that hed had three monthsto write, which was due the nextday. We were out at our familycabin in Bolinas, and he was at thekitchen table close to tears,surrounded by binder paper andpencils and unopened books onbirds, immobilized by the hugenessof the task ahead. Then my fathersat down beside him, put his armaround my brothers shoulder, andsaid, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just takeit bird by bird.’”        -Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
  15. 15. YourQuestions andComments
  16. 16. Assistant Professor Wayne State University, USA mkbarbour@gmail.com