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Showing posts from October, 2007

How to be an academic original

My newsletter for October 10 will be on "Six Steps to an Original Contribution." Of course, the way to be original is to think creatively. In Barbara Lovitts' new book Making the Implicit Explicit: Creating Performance Expectations for the Dissertation , she clarifies what the 270 faculty members who took part in her focus groups indicated went into an original contribution. So what is an original contribution? The description starts out: "Something that has not been done, found, known, proved, said, or seen before that results from:" I won't write out the rest of her description -- the book is worth reading in its entirety, plus I don't have permission! But I want to note the actions that cause the "something new" to be created: Asking or identifying Applying Developing Inventing Creating Finding Coming up with Producing Combining Synthesizing Clearly these are all actions that demand creativity. Let's assume that you are trying

Jerry Seinfeld's Productivity Secret

A tenure coaching client just sent me this link describing Jerry Seinfeld's advice on how to become a successful comedian . It is remarkably similar to my advice on how to become a productive academic. The secret to his success was that he put a big red "X" on his wall calendar each day that he worked on writing his jokes. This is just like our Writ ing Club format, only we use little green checkmarks. It's amazing how reinforcing it can be to have your row of x's or checkmarks, especially if you're sharing your data with someone else, as we do in the club. So if you don't believe me, listen to Jerry. He knows how to be successful.

Write your dissertation faster or I'll take away your funding

Graduate schools are always looking for ways to help their graduate students finish their dissertations in a timely manner. In a recent N.Y. Times article, " Exploring Ways to Shorten the Ascent to a Ph.D. ," by Joseph Berger, one method is emphasized -- taking away the students' money. What bothers me about this article is that he concludes that the main reason that Princeton supposedly has a faster rate of graduate is that the students' funding is cut off at five years. As a secondary note they mention that it "has developed a culture where professors keep after students." Hopefully, they do more than "keep after" students, although the example given is in the lab sciences , where the exigencies of grants demands that there is adequate oversight of progress. I wish that graduate schools and departments would realize that it is the frequency and type of attention that advisors and departments give to graduate students that is an incredibly im

Don’t Borrow Time

Do you procrastinate? I do. We all do. Procrastinating is especially common for academics when it comes to working on their long term writing projects. It's probably the main reason that people contact Academic Ladder about dissertation coaching or tenure coaching. If you procrastinate, it’s like living on credit, way above your means. You can buy and buy, but eventually you’ll have to pay up, with interest. And it won’t be any easier to pay it later, if you’re living above your means. The same is true of time. When you procrastinate, you’re borrowing time from the future. You’ll still have to do the dreaded chore eventually, when you’re less fresh, less able and more miserable. That misery is the interest payment for having borrowed time. If, on the other hand, you live within your means, you don’t assume that tomorrow will have 25 hours, or that there is a magical hour in the day that is more pain-free on Tuesday, and you’ll wait until then to do your dreaded work.