Studying at the Library of Congress Main Reading Room

I was in Washington, DC for a conference this week and had a little free time in the afternoon.  I had some writing to get done as it is always hard to keep up when you’re traveling.  After thinking of a few neat places to write in the city, I decided to head down to the Library of Congress to study in the Main Reading Room.  I strongly encourage anyone in town for an academic conference to take a few hours for studying at the Library of Congress Main Reading Room.

My little spot in the foreground in the Main Reading Room

Some spaces are just conducive to writing and the Main Reading Room is one of them.

Learn about lines of inquiry by studying individual researchers

One of the most challenges aspects for graduate students is learning various lines of inquiry. Inside every field of study are schools of thought, methodologies, theories, and research approaches for particular topics. How do you quickly and efficiently learn about a new topic? In today’s post, I suggest that you learn about lines of inquiry by studying individual researchers.

Photo credit: youn-sik kim

When I have students that seek to learn about a new area of research, I often recommend that they look up an individual researcher that publishes extensively on the topic.  Often, I’m even able to give the name of someone to help get them started.

I recommend pulling the researcher’s CV and reading all of their publications on a topic. 

Practitioners need to learn scholarly writing

My entire career has been spent teaching and working with graduate students who are also practitioners. I’ve worked with college presidents and vice presidents far along in their careers as well as new master’s students just starting theirs. During this time, I’ve had many conversations with colleagues and students regarding how to best prepare practitioners in practice not focusing on research . Common questions include the necessity of theory, teaching technical skills, and the value of case studies for offering a glimpse into “real life.” One of the most common questions that come up in these discussions is the role of scholarly writing. Do students need to write a dissertation? What should that look like for practitioners versus future scholars? Should class assignments mirror real life problems or the abstract world of scholarship. In today’s post, I want to explain why I think practitioners need to learn scholarly writing.

Photo credit: A. Birkan Caghan

Scholarly writing is hard. It is easy to say some students can do it and other can’t. This simply isn’t true.

How to kickstart your writing

It seems everywhere you look these days someone is running a Kickstarter campaign. I love the premise of Kickstarter. The idea is that someone can crowdsource the funding to make their idea become a reality. While we can’t exactly kickstart writing exactly the same way, there are some tips we can do to get moving and improve our writing quality.  In today’s post, I will share four tips for how to kickstart your writing.

Writing is hard work. Sitting around and waiting for inspiration just won’t get you where you want to go. Moreover, working to improve writing is a lifetime endeavor.

Why I Declared War on Be Verbs

The only thing more difficult than learning scholarly writing may be trying to teach scholarly writing. Very few if any of us are well trained to teach writing skills or how to successfully navigate the writing process.  For many years, I did what I think most professors do. I had a long list of do’s and don’ts for students. However, I ultimately decided this way of teaching writing simply didn’t work. Even if students used the list, they didn’t learn how to improve their writing. Instead, I boiled the list down to a single item and declared war on be verbs.

Photo credit: kanegen

The last iteration of my writing do’s and don’ts list was 27 items long. It was out of hand.