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Monday, September 10, 2012

Tomorrow's Professor Blog: Want to Publish More? Then Train Like an Athlete (Rick Reis)


#1191 Want to Publish More? Then Train Like an Athlete (Rick Reis)



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The posting below has some great advice on making regular, sustained progress in research writing. It is by Brian Martin, a professor of social sciences at the University of Wollongong, Australia. He is the author of twelve books and hundreds of articles on nonviolent action, dissent, scientific controversies, democracy, education, and other topics. Email, web    





Rick Reis

UP NEXT: Helping Faculty Members Sharpen Their Focus



Tomorrow's Research


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Want to Publish More? Then Train Like an Athlete.

For many years, I have observed new faculty members devote enormous time to their teaching, neglecting their research. When I recommend putting a greater priority on research, they listen appreciatively but postpone action until ?things aren?t so busy? ? a time that never comes.


Then, in early 2008, I came across a short, punchy book by Tara Gray titled Publish & Flourish (Gray, 2005). It spells out a 12-step plan to become a prolific academic author and cites research to back up the plan. Gray?s plan enabled me to support faculty and graduate students to become much more productive.


The foundation of Gray?s 12-step program is quite simple: write for 15 to 30 minutes every day. Yes, that?s it: the core requirement is daily writing, at least five days a week, preferably seven.


Gray draws heavily on the work of Robert Boice, who studied the habits of productive new academics (Boice 1990, 2000) and found that daily writing is the key to success. Should this be surprising? Coaches expect their athletes ? swimmers, runners and so forth ? to train daily. Junior athletes are expected to show up for training every day, at the same time. Swimmers put in the laps and runners put in the miles. This sort of training enables dedicated high school athletes to achieve times better than world champions a century ago.


So what were top athletes doing back then? Those were the days of amateurs, usually from the upper class with spare time and access to facilities, who trained when they felt like it, typically on weekends. Very gentlemanly. But their performances weren?t outstanding by today?s standards.


What about writing? Most academics seem to be operating like the gentleman athletes of the past. They wait until they feel like writing. That usually means when they have a big block of time, or are forced to meet a deadline.


Boice found that aiming to write in big blocks of time is not a good approach. The first problem is finding a big block. An earnest academic might say, ?I?ll wait until the weekend ? or until teaching is over ? or until I?m on sabbatical.? Some never get started at all. Then, when the putative writing times arrive, it is all too hard to actually write.


The second problem is that a big block of time for writing makes the task seem onerous. Some writers are able to overcome their inertia ? often when a deadline is looming ? and push themselves into a marathon session of frenzied writing. This is exhausting. When finished, there?s little energy left for writing on following days. It takes a while to recover before mobilizing the mental strength for another lengthy session. Weeks can go by with only a few days of actual writing.


This pattern is analogous to a weekend athlete who is physically exhausted after a long workout and takes days to recover. Boice calls this pattern binge writing. It?s analogous to drinking or eating too much ? you feel terrible afterwards.


Most academics learn binge-writing from doing assignments in high school or undergraduate years. Bingeing becomes increasingly dysfunctional as tasks become larger. Writing an essay overnight is possible, but completing a 300?page thesis requires planning and sustained work.


Boice?s alternative is simple: brief regular writing sessions. For academics, the easiest regular pattern is daily. A daily writing session might be for half an hour, or even less.


Many academics, as soon as this option is proposed, begin a series of objections. ?It takes me quite a while to get started ? to get myself immersed in the subject.? ?I can?t just turn on inspiration at will.? True enough. If you write infrequently, it does take a while to get back into the topic. If you write in binges, you won?t feel like doing it again soon.


Regular sessions provide a solution to these obstacles. When you get used to writing every day, you don?t need as much start-up time because you were dealing with the topic yesterday. The result is greater efficiency, as memory is primed and maintained more easily.


As for inspiration, Boice (1984) found that waiting for good ideas simply doesn?t work very well. Writing is the crucible for sparking ideas, rather than ideas being the trigger for productive writing.


The core of Boice?s and Gray?s prescription for productivity is daily writing ? but not too much. The idea is to make writing so inoffensive, over so quickly, that doing it doesn?t seem like such a big deal. When expectations aren?t so high, it?s easier to overcome your internal censor, that little voice that says to you, ?What you?re writing is no good. In fact, it?s crap. Give up and wait for a better time.?


Perfectionism is a deadly enemy of good performance. It?s like being judged every time you write a sentence or paragraph. It?s far better to go ahead, make mistakes and learn from them. Rather than expecting great output from a burst of frenzied inspiration, the idea behind Boice?s brief regular sessions is to work with moderate daily expectations, knowing this will lead in time to better results.


Writing programs


My next step was to encourage others to adopt the Boice-Gray writing program. I started with my PhD students, most of whom were highly receptive. Six months into the program, one of them, Jody, wrote ?It is just wonderful and I know if I keep it up I will get better and writing will become easier for me.?


I also set up programs with faculty and graduate students in the Arts Faculty. One of the participants, Nichole, wrote that the program has ?provided me with a non-threatening way of untangling my messy thought process, thread by thread.? Running these programs enabled me to learn much more about obstacles to writing and what helps to overcome them.


Boice and Gray recommend that writers make themselves accountable to someone, as this will help sustain the habit of writing regularly. I asked my students to send weekly totals to me listing the numbers of minutes they had written each day and the number of new words produced. That way I could assess how they were doing and discuss, in our weekly phone calls, ways to fine-tune the program.


In helping others use the Boice-Gray writing program, I make some specific recommendations. I suggest making notes about the points to be covered in your new writing, doing this a day or week beforehand. I recommend that when you sit down to write, you close or remove all books, articles and other polished text. Why? Because reading the polished text switches your mind into its flaw-noticing mode, the enemy of creating your own new words. I also recommend not reading yesterday?s writing, but instead using just your notes to provide guidance to today?s writing.


I also recommend closing the door, turning off the telephone, closing email and web applications and generally removing all distractions. Producing new words, for many writers, is a delicate process. Interruptions are temptations to do something else.


Some academics say they are so busy they have no time to do 15 minutes of daily writing. What this usually means is that they have put writing too low on their priority list. These busy academics spend hours preparing lectures, marking essays, attending seminars and committee meetings ? and checking emails, surfing the web, and gossiping with colleagues. Devoting 15 minutes to writing at the beginning of a nominal eight-hour working day can?t make much difference to getting other things done, can it?


The title of chapter 4 in Boice?s 2000 book Advice for New Faculty Members is a single word: ?Stop.? If the first principle of productive writing is to start, the second is to stop ? before doing too much. For regular writing, you need to feel fresh when you start. If you feel worn out from too much writing yesterday or the day before, then you may postpone your session until tomorrow, starting a cycle of boom and bust, namely binge writing. So, Boice says, stop sooner rather than later.


Gray in her 12-step program made the advice more specific: write for 15 to 30 minutes per day. This means stopping when you get to 30 minutes. That may not seem like much, but it?s only the writing part. There?s a lot of additional work required before this becomes publishable prose: studying key texts, obtaining data, running experiments, seeking comments on drafts, submitting articles, and perhaps revising and resubmitting. Writing is the core activity, something akin to the highest intensity part of an athletic training program, but it has to be supplemented by a lot of other work.


I added one tweak to the Boice-Gray program. I ask participants to begin each 15?30 minute session by writing new words, for 5 to 20 minutes, and only doing other writing activities, such as taking notes or editing previous text, after the new words have been produced. I request this because composing new text is, for most writers, the most difficult task they face and the one most commonly postponed.


One of the common laments of people using this program is ?I don?t know what to write,? often accompanied by ?I?m not ready. I need to do more reading, or thinking, or investigation.? This is an indirect expression of the familiar formula of researching first and then writing up the results. Boice and Gray want to turn this on its head. Their motto: ?Write before you?re ready!?


This means starting writing even though you don?t know enough about the topic, you haven?t read all the background material and haven?t done the experiments or fieldwork or interviews. Indeed, you?re just starting work in a field that?s entirely new to you. How can you write about it?


One approach is to write about what you?re going to do. Describe the things you know and the things you need to find out. Tell about the experiments you?re planning and how you?ll set them up. Tell how you?ll analyze the data.


Another approach is pretty similar: start writing the paper that you?d normally write at the end of your research. When you come to any part that you don?t know or don?t understand, just do as well as you can and keep going.


This feels very strange at first. Here?s how it works. By writing, you stimulate your thinking. In order to make progress on your project, you need to think about it ? and writing is an efficient way of making this happen. Even after you?ve finished writing for the day, your unconscious mind will be working away at the topic, trying to address the matters you expressed.


Of course it?s quite possible to think about your topic without writing about it. Writing is just a reliable way of sustaining and focusing the thinking process. How many people schedule 15 minutes per day of concentrated thinking about a topic? If you?ve tried it, you?ll know it?s not easy to sustain.


Unconscious mental processing ? during the time you?re not writing ? is one thing that makes daily writing more efficient than bingeing. When you do a long stint of writing, you?re attempting to do all the thinking in one burst. This intensive effort can be exciting, but despite appearances it?s not as productive as harnessing the mind over longer periods. The brain is like a muscle: it responds best to sustained, incremental training.


There?s another, more practical reason why writing first ? before doing all the research ? is more efficient than writing only at the end. Let?s say there are ten major books in the area you want to write about. The normal approach is to read them first, and probably you?ll want to read even more books and articles just to be sure you understand the topic.


When you write first, before doing all the reading, you find out exactly what you need to know. You find gaps in your argument, points where you need examples, and places where you need a reference. So when you turn to the ten books, you don?t need to read them in full. You know exactly what you?re looking for, so you can just check the relevant bits.


Does this mean you learn less? Not at all. When you read a book or article with a purpose, you?re much more likely to be able to remember crucial information because it fits within a framework you?ve developed.




Regular writing is a powerful tool, but for many it is extremely challenging. The temptations of procrastination are powerful. Therefore, rather than relying on willpower every day, the key is to establish conditions in your life that help develop and maintain a habit. These include finding a dedicated place and time for writing, keeping tallies of minutes spent writing, and reporting to a mentor. The task of undertaking writing sessions that are brief and regular helps reduce psychological resistance to starting, which is often the greatest barrier. Putting these steps into place can make it far easier to establish and maintain a habit that leads to high productivity.


However, only a few writers find themselves in the fortunate position of being encouraged and supported to make these sorts of arrangements. The wider social circumstances are not particularly supportive ? indeed, they are at the foundation of bingeing behavior. Boice says that established writers and editors are actually unsympathetic, as they think people who aren?t publishing don?t have anything to say. He quotes one editor as saying, concerning a writing program, ?Why bother? Too much is already being written and good writers don?t need help.? (Boice, 1990, p. 126). This sort of view, which Boice calls ?elitist,? assumes that writers are born, not made.


The Boice-Gray program challenges this sort of elitist attitude. It is based on the assumption that with the right conditions, just about anyone who wants to become a much better writer can do so. The program is also a challenge to every academic ? you can do better too.




Boice, R. (1984). Contingency management in writing and the appearance of creative ideas: implications for the treatment of writing blocks. Behaviour Research & Therapy, 21, 537?543.

Boice, R. (1990). Professors as writers: A self-help guide to productive writing. Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press.

Boice, R. (2000). Advice for new faculty members: Nihil nimus. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Gray, T. (2005). Publish & flourish: Become a prolific scholar. University Park, NM: Teaching Academy, New Mexico State University.



I thank Sharon Callaghan, Don Eldridge, Ian Miles and Kirsti Rawstron for helpful comments and Tara Gray for inspiration and encouragement as well as detailed advice. This is an edited extract from Brian Martin, Doing good things better (Ed, Sweden: Irene Publishing, 2011),    


TCU eLearning: Smart Suggestions for Using Google in Teaching and Research




Smart Suggestions for Using Google in Teaching and Research

First, here's a lovely graphic all about the suite of Google tools and their potential use in the classroom and beyond:
Chart of various uses of google products (docs, scholar, youtube, android, picasa, reader, etc.)
More concretely, here are some more detailed ways to use Google tools to boost productivity and student engagement:
1. You can use Google Forms to create all sort of questions (we've previously written about about Google forms and student self-reflection). For our purposes, though, you can also use Google forms to collect quick homework / reading check answers, poll students on their technology experience or ownership as a set-up for class activities, or ask students to briefly share their understandings of or questions about key concepts. If you create a question on your form that asks for the student's name, there's no need for your students to have their own Google accounts to complete the form (you can set up your form as a public or public with link form and allow anonymous submissions). This is a great primer on the benefits of using Google Forms for online surveys.
2. The way in which Google displays search results has changed recently; Google has added a Knowledge Graph panel to the right of the returned search results. This panel leverages Google's powerful analytics about what information users are usually seeking when they search for a given term and which pages they generally end up reading. While perhaps shepherding users toward easy and common information, the Knowledge Graph is also helpful by providing ready-made contextualization of information. If one doesn't know a particular term or personage provided in the Knowledge Graph, discovering the meaning or relationship is but a click away. This is a nice piece about Knowledge Graph and Deeper Searching.
3. Are you a Google Scholar user? Did you know that Google Scholar can integrate with the catalog of your local library, telling you whether material you've found is available nearby? Likewise, when paired with your work in Google Docs, Google Scholar will actually locate and then format your references in APA, Chicago, or MLA  format. this approach is a little clunkier and not as robust as one of the paid citation / reference programs, but, hey, the price is right! Last, Google scholar can tell you not only the number of citations a certain piece has, but also produce a list of them. Read all about these tricks in this post about Three Things You Probably Didn't Know about Google Scholar.
4. If you're using (or considering using) Google+ as a social networking or video conferencing option in your class, this post has some suggestions about how Google+ can help you get the most out of virtual office hours.
Also, writing about Google products is nothing new around here. Here is a list of past Google-related topics.
Last, if you have a favorite way to use Google or a favorite Google tool that helps your research or teaching, we'd love to hear about it in the comments!



CFP - Action-Research and Action Learning

Please consider to participate in, and/or to inform your colleagues about, the Special Track on "Action-Research and Action-Learning" ( which submission deadline is on *September 14th, 2012*.

It will be held jointly with the International conference on Knowledge Generation, Communication and Management: KGCM 2012 (

Suggested non-exclusionary topics for ARAL 2012 are the following:

   Concepts, Theories, and Methodologies of Action Research

   Specific cases of Action Research, Action Learning or Action Design

   Cases Studies and Action Research

   System Approach and Action Research

   Information Systems and Action Research

   Operations Research and Action Research

   Soft Operations Research

   Action Research in Production and Operations Management

   Systems Methodology and Action Research

   Soft Systems Methodologies

   Ethnography and Action Research

   Collaborative Action Research

   Interdisciplinary Action Research

   Inter-Cultural Action Research

   Action Research, Critical Thinking, and Reflective Student Engagement

   Action Research and Community-Based Organizations

   Action Research and Student Learning

   Action Research and Social Change

   Development of Action Researchers

   Participatory Action Research (PAR)

   Action Research for Sustainable Development


IEPEC Submit Abstracts; Work in Europe; White Certificate Workshop Materials Posted


In this E-Note
Call for Abstracts now open
Renaissance Hotel Chicgo
It's Chicago for August 2013!
Conference August 13 -15, 2013
Workshops on August 12 
Topical ideas for 2013 include: 
Green Button Programs
Closing the Loop--Integrating Evaluation into Planning
Consistency and Compatibility for Data and Methods
Consumer Marketing and Intelligence
Evaluating Energy Products and Services
Understanding Customers and Customer Behavior
Process Evaluation
Monitoring and Evaluation of Markets and Market Transformation (MT)
Energy Efficiency in the Context of Sustainability
Evaluation of Demand Response (DR) Programs
Evaluation Designs, Implementation, and Results
Regulatory Issues
Evaluation Standards and Guidelines
Public Policy Issues
International Energy Program Evaluation
Chicago!--The Renaissance Hotel on the river at 1 West Wacker Drive, Room rate will be $189/night plus taxes (includes in room WI-Fi).  As is our mission, it is a hotel committed to improving profit margin through efficiency. 
Mondays June 12th White Certificates Workshop
 PowerPoints Posted
Tuesday June 12 through Thursday June 14 Conference's
On Our Website-New RFP's and Job Opportunities Posted
Opportunities posted also for Europe
  • Database for Energy Efficiency Resources (DEER) and Ex Ante Regulatory Support
  • Independent Consultant for Evaluation and Market Characterization of Energy Efficiency Programs
  • Energy Engineer
  • Senior Consultant - Energy Efficiency, Demand Side Management
  • Conservation Planning, Implementation and Evaluation Manager (Mgr 3 - Utils)
  • Project Manager - Energy Efficiency Program Evaluation
  • Senior Consultant - Energy Efficiency, Demand Side Management (Seattle, WA)
  • Energy Efficiency Assessment in Buildings - Ispra, Italy
IEPEC Conference
800 University Bay Drive
Madison, Wisconsin 53705   608.216.7164


Innovative Educators Webinar: Teaching Critical Thinking For Academic Success, Career Readiness & Personal Development

Wednesday, October 3 ~ 3:00-4:30pm EDT  
Free Resources
Webinar Overview
Business and university studies consistently cite the absence of critical thinking in graduates' workplace readiness and lifelong learning skill set. We know critical thinking is important-but perhaps we have become so immersed in the why of critical thinking that we have forgotten about how to do critical thinking. This session examines how to use video, music, text, and exciting interactive activities to foster your students' critical thinking skills across the curriculum for academic and personal success.

This workshop goes beyond why. It provides practical information you can use immediately on how to teach critical thinking for academic success, career readiness, and personal development with understandable, approachable, and applicable classroom strategies. Participants will learn how to apply an effectively simple model for critical thinking and recognizing cognitive biases and traps.
Webinar Objectives
Participants will:
  • Understand how to apply a simple-to-use critical thinking model across disciplines
  • Practice the skill of recognizing assumptions using multi-media sources (video, song, text, and interactive activities)
  • Identify common cognitive biases and emotional traps that hinder critical thinking
  • Apply the critical thinking model in academic and personal contexts
Webinar Speaker    

Steve Piscitelli has dedicated himself to the processes of teaching and learning for more than three decades. An award-winning teacher, Steve is a tenured professor at Florida State College at Jacksonville. Steve earned degrees from Jacksonville University, the University of North Florida, and the University of Florida.

In addition to his ninth book, Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? 3rd edition (Pearson Education, 2013), Pearson Education published Choices for College Success (second edition, 2011). Steve has published a weekly blog for more than two years. His YouTube Channel (including a "Study Skills Playlist") has had more than 10,000 views. Steve has also written, recorded, and produced two music CDs. He uses the music with his in-person programs and with his students in class. His nationally-known workshops combine interaction, practicality, music, and humor to connect participants with practical strategies. More information is available
Innovative Educators

3277 Carbon PL
Boulder, CO 80301
Free Offerings
Conference:   Leveraging Technology to Support Students, Faculty & Staff - October 12

Upcoming Webinars