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30 Writing Tips Revisited and Expanded a Decade Later: Ten Years After and Before
Tuesday, November 08, 2016
Writing anyone? How about publishing? I was at a conference last Friday at the University of Houston. It was titled "Education 20/20: Innovative Teaching and Learning at a Distance." My talk slides are posted. I did the opening keynote as well as a breakout session right after it and a discussion session.

Prior to the conference, my colleague, Dr. Mimi Lee, asked me to speak about writing and publishing to doctoral students in curriculum and instruction at the University of Houston last week. So I did. I also spoke on forming solid research questions. I crafted a two-page handout of these tips and suggestions which was handed out to the budding scholars in the audience. It is recapped below.

Question: Why did I label this part "Ten Years Before." Well, now, you will just need to read to the end, won't you? Aha.

Part 1: Ten Years Before
Tips on Writing and Publishing for Doctoral Students

You can find these 30 writing tips about a decade ago at my blog. I add explanations of each one and some pictures. Curt Bonk (2007, January 27). A Quick 30 Writing Tips for the Start of an Academic Career. TravelinEdMan (Blog), Note: This blog post was later re-published in: Curt Bonk (2010, April 2), 30 Writing Tips: Curtis J. Bonk offers advice for thestart of an academic career. Inside Higher Ed.

A Quick 30 Writing Tips for the Start of an Academic Career

  1. Edit your papers a lot (but, in truth, better to be a Combiner than a Mozartian or Beethovenian).
  2. Get feedback.
  3. Stay current.
  4. Be part explorer.
  5. Be part bumblebee in gathering ideas from different places (and later part butterfly, moth, or bird).
  6. Be a voracious reader (and ponderer).
  7. Persist like an ant.
  8. Be creative in your figures, models, frameworks, charts, and graphs!
  9. Try to publish the paper or as a chapter before presenting at a conference (but after your conference proposal is sent in and accepted--i.e., do not scramble to write your conference paper at the last minute).
  10. Maintain a list and network of potential research and writing collaborators.
  11. Share your publication efforts.
  12. Find emerging areas to research that you are passionate about or at least interested in.
  13. Think ahead about the publishing potential of each project.
  14. Treat graduate students as colleagues.
  15. Find international and national colleagues to work with.
  16. Schedule time for writing.
  17. Have a plan or direction for the next few years and beyond--Goals are critical.
  18. Read a paper on how to create a writing plan.
  19. Organization.
  20. Use presentations as starter material.
  21. Get paid to write and research.
  22. Find professional balance.
  23. Find personal balance.
  24. Do not design too many new courses.
  25. Find a niche or direction for your research and drill down.
  26. Write all the time.
  27. Avoid high quality journal fixations.
  28. Quantity matters as well as quality (sometimes more so).
  29. Prioritize.
  30. You are just a grasshopper, so get a mentor and use him/her.
Again, read my original blog post from January 2007 for more details on the above.

I then brainstormed 20 more writing and publishing tips since I first wrote that blog post (and article) about a decade ago. See below and let me know what you think. I labeled this part "Ten Years After" since the original list came "Ten Years Before."

Part 2: Ten Years After (do you remember the rock band from the 1960s and 70s? And their song, "I'd love to change the world?" (longer live version).
More Tips on Writing and Publishing for Doctoral Students
Professor Curtis J. Bonk, Indiana University, IST Dept, Thursday November 3, 2016

Another Quick 20 Writing and Publishing Tips
  1. Find good people to work with: life is short - avoid egomaniacs and people who lie.
  2. Form research questions: Record gaps in research, find creative opening, keep tweaking,
  3. Mark days in your planner when you will be writing. Find or create chunks of time.
  4. Find, save, and use starter text where possible. Helps to overcome writer's block.
  5. Save research articles for a rainy day (i.e., create file folders of articles on different topics).
  6. Make both short term and long-term plans and goals. Review and revise those goals often.
  7. Perhaps draft a timeline or multiple timelines for your publications with flexible goals.
  8. Make a list of prominent journals (e.g., SSCI journals) and go after them one by one.
  9. Look for special journal issues that you might contribute to.
  10. Organize conference symposia which could lead to special journal issues and books.
  11. Get to know the journal editor(s). Write to the journal editors with questions.
  12. Look at the available journals and decide on the best 3 or 4 for your article.
  13. Always look at the reference section to see where people are publishing similar articles.
  14. Sponsor visiting scholars who want to work with you; they often have writing plans.
  15. Become second or third author sometime in order to spread your limited time.
  16. Listen to your colleagues and team and shoot for the journals to which they aspire.
  17. Recap the reviewer points and how you have attempted to address them.
  18. Be polite and thankful to the journal or book chapter editor(s).
  19. Review your CV/resume: check in process, in review, in press, and published articles and chapters. Remind yourself of your annual accomplishments. Remind yourself of your shortcomings.
  20. Celebrate your writing accomplishments with friends. These do not happen often enough.
Ok, that is 50 total writing tips. What do you think about them? Which are the best 2-3 tips? Which are the worst ones?

Do you want more? If so, my splendid friend and colleague from graduate school days at the University of Wisconsin in the late 1980s, Dr. Cecil Smith, detailed a bunch of writing tips back in 2004 in a paper for the AERA conference in San Diego. I helped him out for some of them...see below. People interested in this paper can contact Cecil via email for a copy. Cecil is now the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education and Professor of Learning Sciences and Human Development in the College of Education and Human Services at West Virginia University (where I worked a quarter of a century ago).
See also: Cecil Smith (2004, April 12). Advice for new faculty members: Getting your writing program started. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Conference (AERA), San Diego, CA.

1.     Assistance, Or Getting by with a Little Help from My Friends.
  1. Find a writing mentor-someone who is honest, direct, and quick with feedback.
  2. If you form a research team, commit to a time and place for weekly or monthly meetings.
  3. Identify good writing models in your field.
  4. Be careful being lured onto the research projects of others and senior faculty.
2.     Organization is the Key.
  1. Do your research and writing prior to your teaching and class preparation.
  2. Use bulletin board with push pins and index cards of writing projects to indicate progress.
  3. Set small writing goals for each week.
  4. If you must teach in the summer for the $$$, teach short or intensive courses.
  5. Try to familiarize yourself with the journal and the manuscript style and format.
  6. Find a direction for your writing. Rework dissertation to the gleast publishable unit.h
  7. Do not be afraid to call a senior person in your field for advice.
  8. Think about multiple papers from one project; e.g., publish both the research AND the model.
  9. If you find a niche area, keep publishing in it; go deep! Applied and theoretical articles is fine.
3.     Persistence + Priorities = Productivity.
  1. Try not to ever give up on a piece of writing. Persistence and grit wins the day.
  2. But still be willing to cut your losses and move on when needed.
  3. Avoid doing too many conference presentations. Finish your papers first.
  4. Get an effective laptop, tablet, or writing device for writing on planes and in airports and cafes.
  5. Try not to feel guilty declining a committee or other service or requests.
4.     Money, It's a Hit.
  1. Get grants and inquire about other sources of funding to give you time off to write.
  2. Attend workshops on grant writing.
  3. Find small pots of money from university for small projects and start-up research.
Ok, that is enough writing tips for one day...especially on election day. Ug! I hope that they help and perhaps provide a little ray of hope in this sea of mad madness.

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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