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Waiting for your dissertation advisor's feedback

I like to ask people who sign up for the "Dissertation Writer's Toolkit" what the biggest challenge is in writing their dissertation. Here is what one wise responder wrote:

Feedback. Writing something, say a chapter, and getting feedback from the supervisor on it. Somehow it always goes on the 'to do' pile ....and you wait and wait. I found it was much more helpful to agree to a deadline, and push push push (in a nice way) to have my supervisor look at it. It doesn't work long distance; you have to be right under their noses and booked on an airplane and out again 10 weeks later. Somehow the whole thing will be done, written, corrected and finished in that time. Worked for me.

Sometimes students are just too 'in awe' of their supervisors to expect action, and politely sit back and wait for the feedback. I have friends who waited 6 months for chapters to be returned. I waited too long, too (I was 20,000 km away), then I just got fed up, shipped the kid…

A New Year's Toast (that fits my life)

This is from Louis Schmier, professor and philosophizer extraordinaire. He describes how he will toast the new year. (To read his whole blog post, go here.)
"I'll pour a quiet glass of champagne then or on 2010 January's first day and lift it to this coming year's surprises, to all the coming unawares, to the inevitable reshuffling of the deck, to the complexity of it all, to what I cannot now know, to what I cannot now guess, to what I have no clue, to what I cannot now control, to what I cannot now guarantee, to the out-of-the-blue bolt of lightning, to the unpredicted, to the unexpected, to the unfamiliar, to the without warning, to the out of nowhere, to the unforeseen, to never stepping into either the same river or class, to all the twists and turns in life's road that will keep me from falling asleep at the wheel, to the unplanned interruptions that like an earthquake will shake me from the doldrums of routine, to the as yet unknown challenges that will ke…

In case you follow the writing plan from the previous post...

In case you decide to follow the options in the writing plan in my previous post, I wanted to remind you that we now have gift certificates to the Academic Writing Club. Ask for membership to the Club as a holiday gift, and get something you really need, for a change. The Club will help you implement your writing plan on a daily basis.

Or maybe some nice dissertation advisor or department chair will realize that the Academic Writing Club will increase their graduation rate and decrease time to degree, and give all the graduate students a gift. Well, I can dream, can't I?
The Academic Writing Club Gift Certificate!
Give the gift of peace of mind . . . Now you can give (or ask those who love you to give you) a gift certificate to the Academic Writing Club. You can give 1, 4, or 12 sessions, each consisting of 4 weeks of membership in the Academic Writing Club. To learn more, go to (or tell your loved ones to go to): http://writinggift.notlong.com Or …

Write or Rest During Your Break? Here’s a Plan!

Aaah – The holiday break. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s time to sail away to an exotic location*, or more likely to collapse and then visit relatives.

But many academics are torn about whether and how much to write during the holidays. On the one hand, they’re exhausted from the semester, and need a rest. They want to spend time with family and friends. Yet they know that the holiday break may be the best time to get some writing done.

As usual, I’m talking about the long-term writing projects that must be done in order to advance your career – either finishing your dissertation or writing articles/books towards tenure or promotion. These are the projects that get pushed to the back burner because their completion really only matters to you.

Write or Rest -- How about a Compromise?

Which should you do during your break -- write or rest? Well, here’s a compromise plan (with a 9-step or 10-step option) that has worked for many people.

Give yourself some time off. The…

How to Shut Off the Overly Busy Mind

When you try to write, do you find that your mind races -- jumps from thought to thought and you just can't seem to settle down and write productively? Well, you're certainly not alone -- my mind simply won't rest.

Our wonderful Writing Club Coach, Rene, has some great ideas for those of us who have an overly busy mind. I think you'll enjoy her tips for how to regain your focus and be more productive with your writing.

Enjoy!

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How to Shut off the Overly Busy Mind
by Rene Hadjigeorgalis, Academic Writing Club Coach
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Have you ever been in a situation where you just could not shut your brain off? This is our tendency to not let it go mentally and to insist on analyzing and re-analyzing something until we have done it to death.

The busy mind is not a good thing. Continuously and obsessively thinking about something to no end doesn't get us our solution. Just like our body, our brain needs rest to function well…

Learn how to run regressions and ANOVAs in SPSS GLM accurately and efficiently

I am no statistics expert, but I'm frequently asked if Academic Ladder can help with statistical problems. The best I can do is refer you to specialists who know what they're doing. I believe that The Analysis Factor, a web site that specializes in helping people with the statistical aspect of their research, has a lot to offer.

Here is an announcement that I just received from Karen Grace-Martin, the owner of The Analysis Factor. For those of you struggling with running regressions and ANOVAS in SPSS GLM accurately, I suggest you check it out.

Here is the registration page for those who just want to sign up: Learn how to run regressions and ANOVAs in SPSS GLM accurately and efficiently.

Imagine understanding your statistical software well enough to just write the program, choose the menu options you need, get the right output, and be able to read it easily. Think of the time and frustration it would save!

I am inviting you to my Running Regressions and ANOVA in SPSS GLM Work…

Just Say No to Negativity

As shared in my last newsletter, the tendency to think negatively about yourself is common among academics.

If you're unable to stop your negative self-thoughts, then you will be hampered in your ability to write.

And so I just had to share this article with you, compliments of our very own Writing Club Coach Rene.

Enjoy!

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Just Say No to Negativity (Part I)
by Rene Hadjigeorgalis, Academic Writing Club Coach
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I'd like to address the idea of positivity, how you may resist being positive, what negative self-talk can do to you (without even realizing it), and how you can teach yourself to be more positive.

First of all, let me say that with the exception of a few people who just light up the room when they smile, most of us have to make a concerted effort to be positive. For some reason, the human condition is such, particularly in academia, that it defaults to negativity and catastrophic thinking. "I will never get this paper done." "I will …

Forming the Daily Writing Habit

Are you in the habit of writing daily?

In our experience of working with over 1700 people in the Academic Writing Club over a number of years - writing daily is the one habit that is most likely to ensure your success
in completing your writing projects. Daily writing also increases creativity and makes you enjoy the writing more (or in many cases, hate it less).

Habits, at least good ones, aren't created overnight. It takes time and persistence to create a new habit.

Read on for some tips to forming a daily writing habit, compliments of our very own Academic Writing Club Coach, Rene Hadjigeorgalis.

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Forming the Daily Writing Habit
by Rene Hadjigeorgalis, Academic Writing Club Coach
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1. Start small.

Habit formation is most effective when you start small and build up over time. Most habits that we have were formed gradually over time - we didn't even realize that we were establishing them in the first place.

For example, at one point in time, I was a heavy …

"Clarity" -- great insights from a Writing Club member.

Today, I found out that my book needs to be done for my third-year/mid-career review, 11 months from now. “As close to being done as possible” is an option there in the wings, but if I want to take my place in this department, it needs to be done and to represent the very, very best work I can do. THEN the senior faculty put a jaw-dropping amount of time and intellectual engagement and discussion and writing into critiquing what I’ve given them (my book, as best I can conceive it), and THEN I write a better book.

This knowledge, while terrifying, has brought with it an amazing amount of clarity:
My book needs me. It needs my heart and mind and time. It literally will not exist without me. And I want more than anything for it to exist.
This is not a game. I can play games on myself all the live-long day, but not with the writing, not with the book. I have worked long and hard for this, given many years, garnered the investments of many brilliant people. It’s not time to toy with this; it’…

The First Annual "Inspirational Quotes for Writers Contest!"

I'd like to thank my readers for the great response we received on the quotes that we shared in our last newsletter. Many of you told us how much you enjoyed the quotes, and how they inspired you to get writing. A few of you even shared you printed them off to post on your wall. And one amazing reader wrote me from Ireland to tell me she had created a poster of the quotes, which she was happy to share with others. You might like to have a copy yourself, so just click here to get your own copy of this lovely, inspiring poster.

This strong response got us to thinking… wouldn’t it be great to create a huge list of inspirational quotes for writing? If the few quotes we shared with you made such a difference to so many, then a bigger list of them would provide that much more inspiration and motivation to keep on writing.

So I hereby announce the first annual (well, we'll see if there's ever a second one) "Inspirational Quotes for Writers Contest!"

In order to enter, all …

Why procrastinate when you can perendinate?

Wordsmith's newsletter, "A Word a Day," brings us a word that academics need to know.

perendinate

PRONUNCIATION:
(puh-REN-di-nayt)
MEANING:
verb tr. : To put off until the day after tomorrow.
verb intr.: To stay at a college for an extended time.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Latin perendinare (to defer until the day after tomorrow), from perendie (on the day after tomorrow), from die (day).

NOTES:
The word procrastinate is from Latin cras (tomorrow). So when you procrastinate, literally speaking, you are putting something off till tomorrow. Mark Twain once said, "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow." In other words, why procrastinate when you can perendinate?

USAGE:
"In Peterhouse the Master and Fellows might now allow a stranger to perendinate for more than a fortnight unless they were certified of his moral character and of his ability and willingness to do the College some notable service."
Thomas Alfred Walker; Peterhouse; Hutchinson & C…

Quieting negative voices -- hints from stand-up comedy

A blog post recording by Beth Lapides, the "High Priestess of Alternative Comedy" gives some hints as to how you can quiet negative voices and keep on writing (although in her podcast she was actually talking about how to quiet the negative voices when you're onstage doing stand-up comedy). Here is what I gleaned -- you can see how it applies to writing.
Remind yourself of your motivation for writing the piece -- what was the point in the beginning?
Engage with the audience -- try to talk directly (in your mind) to the people who will be reading your work
Re-connect with the core thread of your argument -- write it out to remind yourself if necessary
Figure out your "take" or point of view -- what is your unique angle?
Become clear about your "entry point" into the material. Where does your part of the story begin?I don't know if your writing will make 'em laugh, but at least you can keep on writing and ignore those negative voices.

You can think poorly of yourself, but don't tell a man

This posting from the Tomorrow's Professor listserv, sent out by Rick Reis, summarizes a study on how males perceive females' tendency to admit weakness. Women: forewarned is forarmed. Sigh.

_________________

The posting below looks at the impact of communication styles on male and female students in engineering team projects although the results have implications for all gender-mixed work groups . The article is by Joanna Wolfe and Elizabeth Powell and is from theJournal of Engineering Education Selects "Research in Practice" section of ASEE Prism, March 2009. © Copyright 2009, American Society for Engineering Education, reprinted with permission, 1818 N Street, N.W., Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036-2479, Web: www.asee.org

Rick Reis
reis@stanford.edu
UP NEXT: Testing and Grading

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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He Said, She Said: Gender-Typical Sp…

10 Steps for Growing a Backbone

This is the continuation of my March 18 newsletter. If you're not a subscriber, sign up now! (Go here to see the first part of this article.)
Here are suggestions culled from How to Grow a Backbone by Susan Marshall, along with examples that I’ve inserted to help you relate it to the academic environment.
Observe and assess your environment. Know the lay of the land.
If you’re a graduate student, take an active role in finding out what it takes to get your degree. Talk to more experienced students and to all the professors that have time for you, in order to develop a cognitive map. What is the power structure in your department? Who will be most supportive of you? What professor has a reputation as a good advisor? Don’t wait for others to share this kind of information with you, and don’t assume you know it all. Wendy Carter’s Ta-Da software (see right hand column) is excellent for giving new students a mental map of the dissertation process.
Professors: find out exactly wha…

How many of you can relate to this dissertation writer?

Every once in a while I come across someone who describes the agony of dissertation writing so well, that I ask for permission to use their words. I know that when other academic writers read what others are going through, it helps them feel that they are not alone, and makes it a little easier for them to tackle their writing.

I received an email today with just such a well-written description of the dissertation-writing struggle. In this case, the writer is also the mother of a young child. Here are her words, with permission.

But really I'm not sure HOW to make my argument make sense and I have TOO MANY tacks to take in making my argument. I know no one has written what I plan to write in just the way I'm thinking about it--so there I feel okay. I think what holds me back really is the fear of the enormity of the thing. Each time I have written a paper in the past it has taken such incredible spiritual, emotional, psychological, mental/intellectual, and physical energy out …

Interview with a productive professor

This interview with a well-respected, productive professor of information and process management illustrates that the principles of writing and research that we suggest at Academic Ladder apply to academics at all levels. To top it all off, Professor M. Lynne Markus seems like a nice person. I like how she forgives herself for the days that she's not as productive as she'd like to be, and the flexibility with which she adapts to changing circumstances.

A sample (fun?) writing microschedule

You might like to experiment with how to schedule your writing sessions within each day (that's why I called it a "microschedule"). I always recommend relatively shorter sessions, alternating with breaks if you want to write more. Of course, you will need to read and research also at some point. For many, it works to research later in the day, since this more passive activity is easier for most than is writing. But reading sessions could also be scheduled alternately with writing sessions.

A current client was trying to figure this out, plus struggling with anxiety and resulting writer's block. We had her free writing where she wrote about her fears and confusion about the work, then we had her moving into very short "focused writing" sessions. Here is how she scheduled her sessions recently:

1. 8-min block freewriting
2. 18-min focused writing
3. 15-min background research
4. 18-min focused writing
5. 15-min background research
7. 8-min freewriting/re…

Here's what I've been saying...

Here's a word cloud of my blog, courtesy of wordle: