Graduate school and advancing the field

19 08 2011

I wrote earlier about the notion that the pressure to generate lots of data and publishing many articles early in the academic career may not be conducive to generating big ideas. A recent article in the APS Observer by Travis Riddle and Jeff Craw spoke to the possible detrimental effects of pressure to publish as a graduate student. There are good arguments in favor of and against getting lots of data into the literature, even if it’s not of the best quality.

I think the goal of graduate school is to practice being an academic while under the tutelage of a mentor. Practice, yes, but publish 8 articles, of which 4 are first author? I think that leads to a kind of single-minded focus that might not be the best for training a scholar who can think broadly across the discipline and even across disciplines. I agree with the authors of the article:

“the relatively short duration of graduate school and the demands of publication usually pressure students to publish early and often; consequently, students may approach research in a manner that is antithetical to fostering a great research mind.”

You might even apply a similar reasoning to the tenure clock.

Scrivener overview tutorial

18 11 2010

I am using a writing program called Scrivener for my academic work lately. It is a very compelling program for academic writers, because it allows for the construction of documents in a very non-linear, non-top-down approach. As I research for an article or chapter or paper for class, I can add parts of the document and not worry about how those parts are connected to the rest of the parts. After I have all the parts laid out, I then start to see connections and can begin to assemble the piece in a way that provides a sensible narrative.

A fellow academic has produced a tutorial outlining some of the features of Scrivener and why it makes sense for academic writibng over a more linear approach such as a word processor. Word processors are great for 2 things I think: relatively short documents such as letters or short papers where there aren’t lots of pieces that have to be interconnected. They are also great for the final assembly and polishing of a manuscript. I like Scrivener for the ability it has to produce the manuscript from bits and pieces of thoughts.

Here’s the tutorial: Five Essentials Tutorial