Tag Archives: academic writing

The Pomodoro Technique


I have discovered a simple yet effective technique to increase my productivity when writing. I started using the site http://www.mytomatoes.com a few weeks ago, and have been more writing done since. This is how it works:

Each “tomato” is 25 minutes long. When you click on “Start Tomato,” you start working/writing. And that’s all you do for 25 minutes. No washroom breaks. No facebook breaks. No e-mail. When the 25 minutes is up a bell rings, and you earn a 5 minute break. The site prompts you to document what you did for the 25 minutes, so you can track how you are spending your time. When the 5 minute break is up, another bell will ring and you are back to work!

I have found this technique so effective, and fun. I like “collecting tomatoes,” and I find 25 minutes is a good length of time to stay “in the zone.”  I would highly recommend it to any writers out there! Below is a link to a short video explaining the pomodoro technique in more detail.


Happy Writing!!!

Raising the risk threshold

I (Clare) found this amazing website, The Research Whisperer, and their blog today is so relevant and wise.

The Research Whisperer

Sumo! (Photo by Tim Ellis: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tim_ Sumo! (Photo by Tim Ellis: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tim_ellis)

When you get rejected from a journal or conference, or your grant doesn’t get up, do you retreat to your cave?

Do you have a bit of a tantrum and declare ‘What’s the POINT?’ to innocent passers-by?

I’ve done my fair share of this, and it’s all perfectly normal and healthy for a time. But you have to eventually leave the cave and stop yelling at passersby.

I was talking to a colleague about academic resilience recently – the ability to ‘bounce back’ after papers are heavily criticised or rejected, grants not awarded, or promotions not given.

I’ve seen people respond so differently to these events, though they all start with the same fallen expression.

Some take the entire process as an indictment on their work and position within the field, swear off wasting their time with it all, and disengage.

Others revisit the critique and feedback…

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Can you understand what I am saying?

In the New York Times on the weekend, Nicholas Kristof wrote a stinging criticism of academics. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/opinion/sunday/kristof-professors-we-need-you.html?ref=nicholasdkristof
He notes that when someone utters the phrase “That’s academic” it is a very loaded comment. That retort implies scholars are irrelevant. He quotes Anne-Marie Slaughter who observed that “disciplines have become more and more specialized and more and more quantitative, making them less and less accessible to the general public.” He feels that the PhD programs “have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience.” Although I (Clare) found his comments a bit harsh there is something sobering about his analysis. Often I find myself reading a journal article on teacher education (my specialty) that I simply cannot understand. The jargon overwhelms the central points and the writing so turgid it is inaccessible. As academics our many masters (tenure review committees, funding agencies, journal reviewers) expect our work to sound “academic” so we are almost forced to employ an unnatural writing style. There is no easy solution. We may not be able to do anything in the short term but in the long-term I hope that our research can be used to inform general discourse about teacher education and public policy. Writing for different audiences is difficult but hey, we academics are quite smart. Let’s take up the challenge to make our work more accessible to many readers.

Perils of Proofreading

We had a wonderful Christmas and now back to work. Clive and I have the proofs for our upcoming tClive and Clareext Growing as a Teacher: Goals and Pathways of Ongoing Teacher Learning. This step of the publishing process is mixed: it is so exciting to see the page proofs but then there is the painstaking step of proofreading. Clive is the best proofreader – me, I am the worst. I think this is because I read so quickly that I skim over the mistakes. I just do not pick them up. When I was a classroom teacher, I used to teach my students strategies for proofreading knowing full well that there are readers like me who just do not see the errors. Thankfully Clive is such a careful reader that he spots each one. Next we will place electronic post-it notes on the manuscript flagging each correction. This step I find nerve-wracking because this process is quite finicky. Sometimes I get the post-it note placed in the exact spot, other times, I fiddle and fiddle with the placement of it.

We want to give a shout-out to Sense Publishers https://www.sensepublishers.com/catalogs/authors/auth-clare-kosnik-/who are publishing this book. This is the third book that I have done with them and they are an absolute joy with whom to work. Consistently, they have great project managers and the page proofs tend to be fairly clean. Wish us luck! Clare

Writing = Thinking

Pooja DharamshiAs a doctoral student, learning to write academically has been a challenging process. My doctoral supervisor shared a piece of wisdom, but it was not until I began writing on a daily basis that I understood what she meant. “Writing is thinking,” she often said. As a novice writer, a blank page was a daunting and, often, an overwhelming sight. Through practice, I have learned that getting my ideas out on paper as soon as possible (without worrying about style, grammar, or clarity) is an invaluable strategy for me as it kick-starts the writing process. Once I see my ideas on the page, I begin to make more sense of them and begin the revision process. I have come across two helpful books related to academic writing: 1) Style: Lessons in clarity and grace (Williams, M. & Colomb, G., 2010) and 2) The clockwork muse: A practical guide to writing theses, dissertations, and books (Zerubavel, 2001). Both  booka emphasize and articulate my supervisor’s advice that writing is thinking. Zerubavel notes: “One of the most common misconceptions inexperienced writers have of writing is that it is simply a mechanical process of reproducing already-formed ideas on paper. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In reality, writing is virtually inseparable from the process if developing our ideas.” (p. 48).  Pooja