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WRITING A LONG
NON-FICTION CHAPTER By Shalin Hai-Jew
OVERVIEW
Long nonfiction chapters are not in-style and may never have been. Where average
chapter lengths of nonfiction book chapters are about 4,000 – 7,000 words in
length, some may be several times that max range number. The explanation is that
there is some irreducible complexity that that chapter addresses that cannot be
addressed in shorter form. This slideshow explores some methods for writing longer
chapters while still maintaining coherence, focus, and reader interest…and while
using some technological tools to write and edit more efficiently.
2
WHY GO LONG?
3
A NEW IDEA
Sometimes, an animating idea is wholly new and valuable.
It is important to know the field or discipline so well that it is obvious to the researcher
whether the idea is new or not.
It also helps to follow up with a thorough environmental scan to see if others have
engaged the topic before.
There is value in staking out new ground.
There is value in challenging current paradigms.
Rehashing old ideas does not result in any traction in academia.
4
THE TOPIC DEMANDS IT
The most common reason for writing a longer chapter is that the conceptualized topic
is too ambitious to go any shorter.
 There is plenty of ground to cover.
 To go shorter would require refocusing the topic to omit parts that are relevant.
A zoomed-out view (a higher level of generality) of the topic is more apropos than a
zoomed-in one.
5
THE RESEARCH QUESTIONS DEMAND IT
The primary research question(s) may involve a range of sub-questions.
To answer questions as fully as possible, the work itself may have to go longer.
The research methods may be complicated.
The data may need deeper exploration and explication.
6
EARLY INDICATORS THAT A WORK WILL GO LONG
Early indicators of a long work include the following:
 Ambitious objectives
 A broad and deep academic literature needed for context
 Broad and ambitious research questions (and sub-questions) that are demanding and interrelated
 Complex research methodologies
 Data visualizations
 Data tables
7
PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS EARLY ON
Will the new research work contribute to the discipline? The academic literature?
Is there sufficient interest by the researcher? Sufficient background?
Does the researcher have access to the relevant research? The necessary software?
Equipment? Travel?
The needed extended energy? Time? Resources?
Can the research be set up to pass muster from the regulatory authorities?
Can the research participants be seated in time?
8
PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS EARLY ON(CONT.)
What are the odds of being published or not? Will it “land” and find a home if
finished to standards?
Will the anticipated readership emerge and make the work worthwhile?
9
IMBALANCED VALUE PROPOSITIONS
It is important that one goes in with clear understandings.
The risks are all on the researcher’s side. The researcher is working without a
contract.
There is often no directly payment for work.
If the researcher presents at a conference, that person or his / her institution will have
to foot the bill.
The benefits of the research are maybe more ephemeral, in terms of knowledge and
staying limber in terms of skills.
10
WHAT LONGER WORKS REQUIRE
11
THOROUGH REVIEWS OF THE LITERATURE
A longer work requires a thorough review of the literature.
The thoroughness will never be complete (no N=all), per se, given that subscriptions to
databases are prohibitively expensive…given that research is done in a number of
languages (only some of which one has access to)…and given that time and attention
are limited resources.
A read-through may involve line-by-line reviews…some skims and some scans (the
latter usually of doctoral dissertations and master’s theses). Anything cited directly,
anything quoted, should be read in depth.
12
IN-DEPTH PRIMARY RESEARCH
The primary research will need to be achieved at a high level.
The necessary data need to be collected with care.
The data analytics need to be accurate and well documented.
The analytical work will need to be thorough.
13
VISUALIZATIONS
The data visualizations need to be legible and informationally meaningful.
Maps, data tables, photos, and data visualizations…all make a chapter longer
because the visuals take up space.
The text of the chapter will need to refer to the respective visualizations for value-
added analysis.
14
MAKING LONGER WORKS READABLE
15
A SENSE OF ORDER
Longer academic works require all the textual and visual (and informational)
elements to be in their correct places.
 A basic structure of a chapter includes abstracts, key words, introductions, reviews of the literature,
research methods, data analyses, discussion, conclusion, and bibliography.
Remember that non-fiction chapter and article “templates” have a preset structure
and defined categories of information.
Deviations from conventions detract, and they require some spending of working
memory and attending.
16
A SENSE OF ORDER(CONT.)
There should be a descriptive title.
 There should be headings and subheadings to help organize the text in a structured way.
All figures and tables should be properly captioned and referred to from the body
of the text.
If there is a visual aesthetic element, that should be consistent, with proper color
palettes, for example.
Ideas should be carried through from their point-of-introduction to the end.
17
TIGHT LOGICAL REASONING
Logic is an important connective tissue in a chapter. The logic should be air-tight and
clearly addressed.
Leaps in logic, if any, should be explained and defended.
Qualifiers may have to be explicated, too.
18
POINT-OF-VIEW, TONE
The point-of-view should be consistent (usually from the third-person POV.
The tone should be professional and generally neutral.
19
CHECKING SOURCES AGAIN
It is not unusual to double back to check quotes and information.
If one’s quality of annotations and notetaking are lacking in any way, going back to
ensure accuracy is critical.
20
SMALL BUT IMPORTANT FIXES
Once a chapter is drafted, it should be revisited for various points of revision and
editing.
 Is the bibliography method properly used in terms of in-text parenthetical citations, capitalization,
seriation, captioning, the bibliography list, and so on?
 Is everything punctuated correctly?
 Are block quotes correctly represented?
Inconsistencies should be addressed.
Each part of a chapter needs to be assessed for standards: labeling, data, visuals,
and others.
It is not unusual to have incremental updates and fixes over time.
21
SMOOTH READING
Does the work read smoothly?
Are there effective transitions between each section?
 Is there clear transitioning?
Does the logic help propel the work forward?
Is there sufficient interest in the topic to propel the work forward?
22
SOURCE CITATIONS
Web-based bibliography tools and other supports for source citations should be
checked for accuracy. There are inconsistencies that may crop up. (But at least these
tools do not “hallucinate” imaginary sources the way some generative AI systems do.)
23
SOME WORK PROCESSES (and) Using Technology to Write
and Edit More Efficiently
24
OUTLINES TO ORGANIZE REVIEWS OF THE
LITERATURE
After reading and annotating digital research, it is helpful to collect the cited insights
in a Microsoft Word document.
Then, it helps to outline the review of the literature.
Then, cluster similar or related information until all the insights are in their respective
locations.
25
AUTONUMBERING
Set up autonumbering for longer works especially for the headings, sub-headings,
and sub-sub-headings.
Use the captioning tool for proper formatting.
Use alt-texting to ensure that the figures include metadata, such as alt-texting.
26
REVIEW BY MS WORD, BY GENERATIVE AI
It helps to run spell- and grammar-checks out of an abundance of caution. These
tools are excellent to catch typos and other mistakes.
Generative AI can also provide some suggestions. These tools require requests for
what one wants the generative AI to review for…and then the posting of the work.
(Sensitive articles should not be posted to such tools because humans will review some
of the prompts…and it is not clear how various companies (mis)use the prompts.)
27
EDITORS, PEER REVIEWERS, AND
LONGER CHAPTERS
Getting a Longer Work
Published
28
EDITORS
It is important to write a memo of interest to editors once it is clear that a work will
be a longer one…to explain the topic and work and to provide an estimated word-
count length.
Editors are often very busy people, and they have to assess whether they have the
interest in the topic and the available time and energy to engage.
They have to consider how a longer work might balance against the other works in
the edited collection.
Some will reject such works out-of-hand.
29
PEER REVIEWERS
Peer reviewers are expected to review chapters in a double-blind setup.
A few will read deeply and provide helpful insights. Others will do a sweeping read
and just assign assessment numbers.
Peer reviewers are less motivated to fully review a longer chapter.
Some will go in and try to reorganize or rewrite the whole thing. Some will suggest
cutting the chapter in half or in thirds.
30
COHERENCE, FOCUS, AND READER
INTEREST
31
WORKING TO INCREASE READER INTEREST
A solid work will “sell” itself in the academic research space.
The effort towards coherence and clear focus will make a work more consumable by
readers around the world.
As seen with altmetrics (alternative metrics), researchers may publicize their works on
social media (web logs / blogs, microblogs, social media platforms, and others) to
spark reader interest.
They may post information on research sharing sites (but not contravene copyright by
sharing the published work).
 There is always interlibrary loan for people to use to access copies of published works.
32
ARCHAIC? OUT OF STYLE?
33
RARITY OF LONGER CHAPTERS
Longer chapters are not so common.
In the current era, there are notes on articles published online that a read-through is
only 4 minutes or 7 minutes.
The level of complexity of journalistic articles is said to be at the 5th grade level to
reach as wide of an audience as possible.
Longer chapters are somewhat archaic, even out of style.
Fewer and fewer researchers want to take on that level of work. The cost-benefit
equation is not balanced.
34
REFRESHING THE SELF
35
REFRESHING THE SELF
It does take years to acquire the necessary skills and to acclimate to the academic
research space.
It takes a lot of researcher interest to invest in work that does not involve much in the
way of direct payment.
It seems pretty natural to “forget” how hard the work is, sufficiently, to take on the
work again.
 After all, it is important to stay in-practice.
 It is important not to burn out.
A small celebration is in order with each publication of a long chapter. Low-cost art
supplies? A fun activity? A road trip? A healthy snack?
36
CONTACT
Dr. Shalin Hai-Jew
 Grant Writer
 Hutchinson Community College
 HaijewSh@hutchcc.edu
 620-694-2453
37

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Writing a Long Non-Fiction Chapter......

  • 1. WRITING A LONG NON-FICTION CHAPTER By Shalin Hai-Jew
  • 2. OVERVIEW Long nonfiction chapters are not in-style and may never have been. Where average chapter lengths of nonfiction book chapters are about 4,000 – 7,000 words in length, some may be several times that max range number. The explanation is that there is some irreducible complexity that that chapter addresses that cannot be addressed in shorter form. This slideshow explores some methods for writing longer chapters while still maintaining coherence, focus, and reader interest…and while using some technological tools to write and edit more efficiently. 2
  • 4. A NEW IDEA Sometimes, an animating idea is wholly new and valuable. It is important to know the field or discipline so well that it is obvious to the researcher whether the idea is new or not. It also helps to follow up with a thorough environmental scan to see if others have engaged the topic before. There is value in staking out new ground. There is value in challenging current paradigms. Rehashing old ideas does not result in any traction in academia. 4
  • 5. THE TOPIC DEMANDS IT The most common reason for writing a longer chapter is that the conceptualized topic is too ambitious to go any shorter.  There is plenty of ground to cover.  To go shorter would require refocusing the topic to omit parts that are relevant. A zoomed-out view (a higher level of generality) of the topic is more apropos than a zoomed-in one. 5
  • 6. THE RESEARCH QUESTIONS DEMAND IT The primary research question(s) may involve a range of sub-questions. To answer questions as fully as possible, the work itself may have to go longer. The research methods may be complicated. The data may need deeper exploration and explication. 6
  • 7. EARLY INDICATORS THAT A WORK WILL GO LONG Early indicators of a long work include the following:  Ambitious objectives  A broad and deep academic literature needed for context  Broad and ambitious research questions (and sub-questions) that are demanding and interrelated  Complex research methodologies  Data visualizations  Data tables 7
  • 8. PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS EARLY ON Will the new research work contribute to the discipline? The academic literature? Is there sufficient interest by the researcher? Sufficient background? Does the researcher have access to the relevant research? The necessary software? Equipment? Travel? The needed extended energy? Time? Resources? Can the research be set up to pass muster from the regulatory authorities? Can the research participants be seated in time? 8
  • 9. PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS EARLY ON(CONT.) What are the odds of being published or not? Will it “land” and find a home if finished to standards? Will the anticipated readership emerge and make the work worthwhile? 9
  • 10. IMBALANCED VALUE PROPOSITIONS It is important that one goes in with clear understandings. The risks are all on the researcher’s side. The researcher is working without a contract. There is often no directly payment for work. If the researcher presents at a conference, that person or his / her institution will have to foot the bill. The benefits of the research are maybe more ephemeral, in terms of knowledge and staying limber in terms of skills. 10
  • 11. WHAT LONGER WORKS REQUIRE 11
  • 12. THOROUGH REVIEWS OF THE LITERATURE A longer work requires a thorough review of the literature. The thoroughness will never be complete (no N=all), per se, given that subscriptions to databases are prohibitively expensive…given that research is done in a number of languages (only some of which one has access to)…and given that time and attention are limited resources. A read-through may involve line-by-line reviews…some skims and some scans (the latter usually of doctoral dissertations and master’s theses). Anything cited directly, anything quoted, should be read in depth. 12
  • 13. IN-DEPTH PRIMARY RESEARCH The primary research will need to be achieved at a high level. The necessary data need to be collected with care. The data analytics need to be accurate and well documented. The analytical work will need to be thorough. 13
  • 14. VISUALIZATIONS The data visualizations need to be legible and informationally meaningful. Maps, data tables, photos, and data visualizations…all make a chapter longer because the visuals take up space. The text of the chapter will need to refer to the respective visualizations for value- added analysis. 14
  • 15. MAKING LONGER WORKS READABLE 15
  • 16. A SENSE OF ORDER Longer academic works require all the textual and visual (and informational) elements to be in their correct places.  A basic structure of a chapter includes abstracts, key words, introductions, reviews of the literature, research methods, data analyses, discussion, conclusion, and bibliography. Remember that non-fiction chapter and article “templates” have a preset structure and defined categories of information. Deviations from conventions detract, and they require some spending of working memory and attending. 16
  • 17. A SENSE OF ORDER(CONT.) There should be a descriptive title.  There should be headings and subheadings to help organize the text in a structured way. All figures and tables should be properly captioned and referred to from the body of the text. If there is a visual aesthetic element, that should be consistent, with proper color palettes, for example. Ideas should be carried through from their point-of-introduction to the end. 17
  • 18. TIGHT LOGICAL REASONING Logic is an important connective tissue in a chapter. The logic should be air-tight and clearly addressed. Leaps in logic, if any, should be explained and defended. Qualifiers may have to be explicated, too. 18
  • 19. POINT-OF-VIEW, TONE The point-of-view should be consistent (usually from the third-person POV. The tone should be professional and generally neutral. 19
  • 20. CHECKING SOURCES AGAIN It is not unusual to double back to check quotes and information. If one’s quality of annotations and notetaking are lacking in any way, going back to ensure accuracy is critical. 20
  • 21. SMALL BUT IMPORTANT FIXES Once a chapter is drafted, it should be revisited for various points of revision and editing.  Is the bibliography method properly used in terms of in-text parenthetical citations, capitalization, seriation, captioning, the bibliography list, and so on?  Is everything punctuated correctly?  Are block quotes correctly represented? Inconsistencies should be addressed. Each part of a chapter needs to be assessed for standards: labeling, data, visuals, and others. It is not unusual to have incremental updates and fixes over time. 21
  • 22. SMOOTH READING Does the work read smoothly? Are there effective transitions between each section?  Is there clear transitioning? Does the logic help propel the work forward? Is there sufficient interest in the topic to propel the work forward? 22
  • 23. SOURCE CITATIONS Web-based bibliography tools and other supports for source citations should be checked for accuracy. There are inconsistencies that may crop up. (But at least these tools do not “hallucinate” imaginary sources the way some generative AI systems do.) 23
  • 24. SOME WORK PROCESSES (and) Using Technology to Write and Edit More Efficiently 24
  • 25. OUTLINES TO ORGANIZE REVIEWS OF THE LITERATURE After reading and annotating digital research, it is helpful to collect the cited insights in a Microsoft Word document. Then, it helps to outline the review of the literature. Then, cluster similar or related information until all the insights are in their respective locations. 25
  • 26. AUTONUMBERING Set up autonumbering for longer works especially for the headings, sub-headings, and sub-sub-headings. Use the captioning tool for proper formatting. Use alt-texting to ensure that the figures include metadata, such as alt-texting. 26
  • 27. REVIEW BY MS WORD, BY GENERATIVE AI It helps to run spell- and grammar-checks out of an abundance of caution. These tools are excellent to catch typos and other mistakes. Generative AI can also provide some suggestions. These tools require requests for what one wants the generative AI to review for…and then the posting of the work. (Sensitive articles should not be posted to such tools because humans will review some of the prompts…and it is not clear how various companies (mis)use the prompts.) 27
  • 28. EDITORS, PEER REVIEWERS, AND LONGER CHAPTERS Getting a Longer Work Published 28
  • 29. EDITORS It is important to write a memo of interest to editors once it is clear that a work will be a longer one…to explain the topic and work and to provide an estimated word- count length. Editors are often very busy people, and they have to assess whether they have the interest in the topic and the available time and energy to engage. They have to consider how a longer work might balance against the other works in the edited collection. Some will reject such works out-of-hand. 29
  • 30. PEER REVIEWERS Peer reviewers are expected to review chapters in a double-blind setup. A few will read deeply and provide helpful insights. Others will do a sweeping read and just assign assessment numbers. Peer reviewers are less motivated to fully review a longer chapter. Some will go in and try to reorganize or rewrite the whole thing. Some will suggest cutting the chapter in half or in thirds. 30
  • 31. COHERENCE, FOCUS, AND READER INTEREST 31
  • 32. WORKING TO INCREASE READER INTEREST A solid work will “sell” itself in the academic research space. The effort towards coherence and clear focus will make a work more consumable by readers around the world. As seen with altmetrics (alternative metrics), researchers may publicize their works on social media (web logs / blogs, microblogs, social media platforms, and others) to spark reader interest. They may post information on research sharing sites (but not contravene copyright by sharing the published work).  There is always interlibrary loan for people to use to access copies of published works. 32
  • 33. ARCHAIC? OUT OF STYLE? 33
  • 34. RARITY OF LONGER CHAPTERS Longer chapters are not so common. In the current era, there are notes on articles published online that a read-through is only 4 minutes or 7 minutes. The level of complexity of journalistic articles is said to be at the 5th grade level to reach as wide of an audience as possible. Longer chapters are somewhat archaic, even out of style. Fewer and fewer researchers want to take on that level of work. The cost-benefit equation is not balanced. 34
  • 36. REFRESHING THE SELF It does take years to acquire the necessary skills and to acclimate to the academic research space. It takes a lot of researcher interest to invest in work that does not involve much in the way of direct payment. It seems pretty natural to “forget” how hard the work is, sufficiently, to take on the work again.  After all, it is important to stay in-practice.  It is important not to burn out. A small celebration is in order with each publication of a long chapter. Low-cost art supplies? A fun activity? A road trip? A healthy snack? 36
  • 37. CONTACT Dr. Shalin Hai-Jew  Grant Writer  Hutchinson Community College  HaijewSh@hutchcc.edu  620-694-2453 37