Flourish: An Electronic Newsletter for Scholarly Writers
March 2009

vol. 5, no. 3

Which academics write more and why? Here is a quick review of some recent research.

Students sometimes worry that if they are working on more than one article or project at a time, they are spreading themselves too thin. But recent research suggests otherwise. A 2007 article in the Journal of Higher Education finds that scientific faculty with multiple research projects produce more publications. By contrast, “Respondents working on a single project at any particular time reported fewer numbers of publications.” So, if you are working on several projects at once, don’t worry that you are doing something wrong. The more you do, the more you produce.

Less surprising is research finding that faculty mentoring makes a difference. A 2006 article in Research in Higher Education found that graduate students who received strong mentoring are more productive as junior faculty. Interestingly, it helps faculty as well. A 2005 study in Economics of Education Review found that faculty members who supervised many PhD students were more productive than those who didn’t. So, mentoring is good for everyone!

The research on whether teaching helps or hinders research productivity continues to be contradictory. One answer appears in a 2005 study in Economics of Education Review, which found that the quality of the student body is negatively correlated with faculty productivity at research institutions. That is, better students (as measured by SAT scores only) correlates with lower faculty publications, unless the faculty are at liberal arts institutions. The conjecture is that better students are more demanding. I think the jury is still out on this issue.

Finally, four women just published a chapter in Learning Communities in Practice on how they set up a dissertation support group to overcome the obstacles that graduate students face in completing dissertations. They provided each other with “conceptual, personal, and bureaucratic support” as well as help in developing an academic voice and finding a job. Such a group must be based in a “care for the practice of others” and a shared commitment to ideas and learning, they conclude.

Productivity Tools

Do you get on your computer to write and then come to yourself several hours later to discover that you have spent the whole time watching pets on YouTube or reading the Huffington Post? Perhaps the following might help. It’s a free program found at Rescuetime that logs the amount of time that you spend on each task at the computer. It helps you identify your weaknesses and, presumably, enable you to combat them. You can also set goals, like “spend less than one hour per day on blogs” or “spend at least one hour a day writing.” There are more drastic tools—Codejacked will cut you off from the web entirely (you have to reboot your computer to get access again)—but perhaps self-awareness is more important. Of course, it seems that these tools were developed for bosses to check on their employees time and, as one Flourish reader commented, we may not be wanting to support such big brotherish activitites. Maybe it depends on how desperate you are to detox?

Writing Workbook Updates

The workbook has been out a little more than a month and has been selling great! (Of course, it is difficult to name another industry where four-digit sales in one month would be considered spectacular, but in academic publishing, that is a huge success.) Thanks to all those who ordered the book and who keep suggesting it to friends! I am deeply grateful to you.

I published two articles related to the workbook in the past month. One was in the Chronicle of Higher Education, my favorite periodical, and titled “Parsing the Decision Letter: Why is it so difficult to determine whether a journal editor has accepted or rejected your article?” It circulated some in the blogosphere. I also published an article in the Journal of Scholarly Publishing a personal essay titled “Reflections on Ten Years of Teaching Writing for Publication to Graduate Students and Junior Faculty.” Those of you who took my writing workshop might be interested in reading about how the workshop originated and my conclusions regarding what about it works or doesn’t work. It can also be read here. (Access to both articles may depend on whether you or your library subscribes to the journal.)

UK Discount Code. Those outside of the Americas (or those wanting their order to be shipped to the UK, Europe, Africa, or Asia) should order through the Sage UK site.

News from the Editor

I am enjoying teaching African literature this term (click here to see a syllabus and list of recommended African books). Meanwhile, I recently joined a gym after finding out that they have joined the simulated reality revolution. Life, as usual, imitates art, and I can now walk into a scene out of The Matrix, a room full of people hooked up to machines with straps and headphones, each watching their own television in silence. Apparently, exercise will be televised and we will not be rising up to throw off our chains any time soon.