Strategies for Reading the Literature, Filling the Page, and Finding Your Academic Voice With Heidi Rivers Marshall, MFA January 2010
Objectives • Examine the relationship of critical reading and thinking to quality scholarly writing. • Review why audience matters so much to everything you write. • Share strategies for note-taking, annotating, and synthesizing the literature • Discover ways to find a comfortable scholarly voice. • Embrace ways to overcome writer’s block.
Purpose of Scholarly Writers Your job is to show that you know what you’re talking about, that what you’re writing is true, and that what you’re writing matters (i.e., “so what?” and “who cares?”). You can best achieve these goals by using doctoral-level evidence in the authoritative style and voice of a scholarly writer, all of which must pass the critical eye of your reader.
Job of a Scholarly* Writer To show, not tell; demonstrate truth to your reader through evidence To distinguish useful evidence from that which is simply a crock. To present as objectively as possible all sides to your audience.
Use evidence to show, not tell, the truth He was strung out. versus
Use evidence to show, not tell, the truth All day long on a bad day there is a knot in his stomach, a sour bow of anxiety that tightens and loosens and tightens again as the hours slowly pass. Sometimes it shakes itself free and flows upward to his chest so he cannot fill his lungs with breath. . . . By the end of a bad day, his stomach is a tight hot drum of gray worry and black bile. It appears slightly distended and he carries it before him like a volatile barrel of toxic waste. [From “Body Language” by D. Schoemperlin]
Use evidence to show, not tell, the truth Studies have shown statistical evidence that proves that, in fact, students enrolled in online programs do not earn as a high a salary after graduation, do more poorly on the GRE and other writing assessments Carillo (2008), in a comparative study of 200 students who graduated with an MBA from an online, for-profit university and a traditional state university, found that the students enrolled in the state institution earned $10,590 less upon graduation blah. Carillo discussed the limitations. Indeed, Smart (2009) noted that Carillo did not consider . . . Other evidence
Use evidence to show, not tell, the truth funda But the so-called educational reforms of the late 20th century, blurred by multiculturalism and muddied by relativism, have led to a curricular black hole that embodies everything and nothing. This is particularly acute in the public school system. Students in nonpublic high schools (which it’s safe to say often attract a less-talented student body) perform better in reading, civics, and history than their public school counterparts. • Bloom (1987) argued that attention paid on multiculturalism resulted in students’ lack of knowledge of the classics—and thus a morally relative view of ethics and values. . . • The Rhode Island Department of Education (2007) compiled data showing that private school students outperformed public school students in… Schmendrick (2008) countered that populations. . . .
As a reader Remember: As a reader I want to enjoy the experience and understand you, and I really want to agree with you. • I don’t want to correct you. • I don’t want to stumble over your language. • I don’t want to edit your work. Because if I do. . .
As a reader • It ruins the reading experience. • It makes me doubt your credibility. • It makes me look for more problems and not give you the benefit of the doubt because I may not believe you are worthy. • It shows a lack of respect for the process and can be seen as offensive.
Your Reader Is your cheerleader Can be a bit grumpy and overly critical Cares how well you show—but not tell—the “truth” Does not want you to just regurgitate the literature. Does want you to analyze, evaluate, compare, contrast, interpret, and synthesize the literature
What to expect from the reader • Criticism. • Corrections. • Questions. • Comments that ask you to better explain, elaborate on, and complete your thoughts. • Rejection . . . of the document, not you.
A synthesized paper “…is an integrated, critical essay on the most relevant and current published knowledge on the topic.” – Walden’s rubric
The Most Common Blunder Author A Author C Author B Synthesis is NOT: • Organization based on solely on authors, not ideas.
A synthesized paper B C A theories trends B A C A C B methods • “…is organized around major ideas or themes and subconcepts of all aspects of the study.” – Walden’s rubric
Synthesis Combines your analysis, comparisons, contrasts, and evaluations into a cohesive, holistic picture of your topic.
Lit Review Matrices Literature matrices→ Helps avoid plagiarism, too! Compliments of Dr. Gary Burkholder, School of Psychology
Marshall McLuhan Alvin Toffler Everett Rogers Compare and contrast how theorists think social change takes place. Write Across Compare how theorists define and explain how social change takes place in an education system. Read Down Read Down Read Down Compare how theorists would bring about social change to integrate technology in educational institutions/schools. Communication technology as a strategy for social change.
Then, Synthesize Get authors talking with each other. Be aware of bias, and make sure you can cite ideas! Weave their conclusions together by: 1. Comparing and contrasting a common theme. 2. Pointing out strengths and weaknesses among the articles.
Synthesis One section of the literature review might read: Zuckerman (2008) has suggested that X is true. Patterson (2009) has also argued that X is true, but has pointed out that the effects of X may be different from those suggested by Zuckerman. X
Synthesis Subtopic X is the main idea covered in these sentences. Zuckerman and Patterson agreed that X is true, but they disagreed on X’s effects. There is both agreement and disagreement, but what links the two arguments is that they both concern X. X
Evidence of synthesis “In line with these findings…” “The results of X are consistent with Y…” “Although X suggested ___, Y reached a different conclusion…”
Evidence of synthesis But a synthesized paper is more than one that includes those synthesizing phrases. A synthesized paper should leave a reader with a HOLISTIC SENSE that the writer has conveyed his or her own new ideas, and has drawn on a chorus of support.
Evidence of synthesis Research has shown that the arts, when integrated with other subjects, revitalizes teaching and learning in schools (Darts, 2006; Gajda & Dorfman, 2006; Levin, 2008; Lynch, 2007). Barnes and Shirley (2007) identified that the arts can be used to motivate students to learn in all subject areas. Lynch (2007) also concluded that when the students learn though the arts, the whole child is developed. Reeves (2007), however, pointed out that a challenge policymakers may face is how to provide all students with rewarding arts experiences without reducing their other academic needs. One potential solution is to infuse the arts into the core curriculum. This process of adding the arts to the core curriculum is termed arts integration. This is a strikingly well synthesized paragraph.
Other Common Blunders Synthesis is NOT: Two or more sources in a paragraph—period. The effects of dark chocolate have been found on mood (Hershey, 2004); namely, the more dark chocolate one eats, the more cheerful one tends to be. White chocolate has little effect on mood (Ghirardelli, 2005). Synthesis does not mean simply having two or more sources. Having more than one source is an excellent first step, but real synthesis isn’t happening unless a relationship between the sources is apparent.
Other Common Blunders Synthesis is NOT: Random synthesis words thrown in for good measure One reason that chocolate should be on every elementary school lunch menu is that it makes students feel good. Rita Dove, president of Dove Chocolate, agreed, stating, “Chocolate is the perfect end to a satisfying luncheon” (Hershey, 2009, p. 18). Use words deliberately. A word like agreed should be reserved for occasions when a real relationship is being explored.
Other Common Blunders Synthesis is NOT: Quotes upon quotes “Dark chocolate contains antioxidants” (Ghirardelli, 2008, p. 3); “antioxidants protect cells from free radical damage” (Oz, 2009, p. 27). “Dark chocolate can be incorporated into many snacks or meals” (Crocker, 2002, p. 22). Always ask yourself: are you interpreting quotes and furthering your own ideas, or are you just piling quotes one on top of the other?
Other Common Blunders Synthesis is NOT: Too much of one source Hershey (2005) has found that chocolate can boost one’s mood… Hershey (2005) has discovered a relationship between happiness and consumption of chocolate… Hershey’s (2005) study revealed that women eat significantly more chocolate than men… One source shouldn’t be driving your study.
Other Common Blunders Synthesis is NOT: Starting or ending a paragraph with a direct quote. “Potato chips are tasty treats but leave your fingers feeling greasy,” (Smith, 2005, p. 267). Potato chips are a favorite snack food among Americans (Wise, 1997, p. 23), but researchers have documented how they tend to leave your fingers, arteries, and intestinal tract with a Vaseline-like substance (Edwards, 2006). “There is a big problem for people who eat potato chips while typing on a laptop” (p. 19). “Another snack food with potential problems is the corn chip,” (Jones, 2008, p . 45). According to Wise (1997), potato chips are a favorite snack food among Americans (p. 23).
This sounds difficult. How can I stay organized? The synthesis matrix www.zotero.org TAKE NOTES AND STAY ORGANIZED!
Scholarly? The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.
http://www.denisdutton.com/bad_writing.htm “We are pleased to announce winners of the fourth Bad Writing Contest, sponsored by the scholarly journal Philosophy and Literature. Judith Butler, a Guggenheim Fellowship-winning professor of rhetoric and comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley, admired as perhaps `one of the ten smartest people on the planet,’ wrote the sentence that captured the contest's first prize. Professor Butler's first-prize sentence appears in ‘Further Reflections on the Conversations of Our Time,’ an article in the scholarly journal Diacritics (1997).”
Scholarly? What Makes Nutrition So Good? Making good food choices is key to feeling great. Proper nutrition and smart eating build the solid foundation for the healthy lifestyle we all want. Eating a variety of foods provides energy, plus the basic essential nutrients you need to keep you looking and feeling your best. Many people eat when actually they are thirsty. Drinking eight glasses of water each day maintains body fluids and helps control one’s appetite.
Finding Your Scholarly Voice All you must do is show you know what you’re talking about and it’s “true.” Do so by letting the evidence do the work for you. A 2-yr low-carb, high fiber diet with 546 g per day of dried plums decreased incidence of obesity by .75 (p = .05) (Skinner, 2007). In a similar study Cuckold et al. (2008) compared reported weight loss but noted a 22% morbidity rate. Psychological effects included higher self-esteem and irritability. Adding 2 gal of water to the Skinner diet, King and Burger (2008) reported increased appetite control. The authors did not, however, measure ensuing urinary infections, which, as Visine (2006) noted, can result from excess water intake. Making good food choices is key to feeling great. Proper nutrition and smart eating build the solid foundation for the healthy lifestyle we all want. Eating a variety of foods provides energy, plus the basic essential nutrients you need to keep you looking and feeling your best. Many people eat when actually they are thirsty. Drinking eight glasses of water each day maintains body fluids and helps control one’s appetite.
How Do I Start? First and foremost: Writing is a process, not an event And, as with most events, you need to plan and you need to prepare
Writer’s Block Tips Tip 1: Stop trying so hard. Tip 2: Take notes on what you read and use outlines to organized your ideas before you write. Tip 3: Drop your ideas of perfection; you will never achieve it. Tip 4: Think of your work as The paper, not my paper.
STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS • Know your audience • Be prepared • Have a plan • Don’t edit yourself • Embrace the “shitty first draft.” • If you get stuck: walk, stretch, change locations, stand on your head, talk to your cat, anything to give your brain a break! • Use the writing specialists at http://writingcenter.waldenu.edu/ • Have fun. You are here at Walden because you want to be!
Know Your Audience For Whom Does Your Bell Toll? • Pick someone for whom you write: • Visualize talking to that person about your research and really wanting to impress him or her • Visualize that person reading your paper • Write to impress
Don’t Edit Yourself Don't get caught up in the way your paper sounds. If you find yourself reading and rereading what you do have, listening for the ways that the words dance on the page, stop, take a breath, and move on. If you don't, you're going to lose sight of the bigger picture (the essay as a whole). You can always address issues of precision during the revision process.
Embrace the Shitty First Draft Remember that you're not working with stone tablets. You can commit anything to paper and delete it later. Go ahead and write something, anything, even if you know it's a placeholder. You can always go back and change, delete, or revise what you've written. At the very least, this'll keep the process moving. It might even help in just getting a few ideas on the page.
Questions? Thank you for your time today!