You Should Have an Academic Social Network Profile (and Maybe a Website): Here’s why and how

Reality check: if I am not automatically notified of your research, I’ll almost certainly never know about it. And if I can’t find you online, you might as well not exist beyond your classroom, office, or lab. So if you’re an academic who wants people to actually read your work or even know that you exist, then read the following 250 words. They explain how to make your research followable and visible. It’s really, really easy. Don’t believe me? Check out the video below where I make a website in less than 10 minutes. So stop making excuses. In the words of the great philosopher, Shia Lebouf:


Continue reading You Should Have an Academic Social Network Profile (and Maybe a Website): Here’s why and how

The Moral Argument Against Footnotes and PDF

Once upon a time, I loved footnotes and PDF documents. Now I don’t. I prefer eBook format and endnotes. I admit that footnotes are handy sometimes. For example, when I read visually, it’s nice to have the notes on the same page as the body text. However, footnotes are not so handy for auditory reading. Neither are PDF documents. For instance, footnotes wreak havoc on auditory reading. They interrupt the audio stream of the main body of text — sometimes mid-sentence. And since many people have to rely on auditory reading to consume academic research, this means that PDF documents and footnotes decrease the accessibility of research. That’s bad. If we can avoid this bad, we should. And we can avoid it. So we should.

1.  Books vs. Articles

Sometimes academic books are available in an eBook version that is amenable to auditory reading — e.g., Amazon’s Kindle format and Apple’s iBook format. And some academic books have a proper audiobook version — e..g, Amazon’s audiobooks. This is great, but… Continue reading The Moral Argument Against Footnotes and PDF

Research Questions & Mental Shortcuts: A Warning

Daniel Kahneman talks extensively about how we make reasoning errors because we tend to use mental shortcuts. One mental shortcut is ‘substitution‘. Substitution is what we do when we (often unconsciously) answer an easier question than the one being asked. I find that I sometimes do this in my own research. For instance, when I set out to answer the question, “How can X be rational?” I sometimes end up answering easier questions like, “How does X work?”. In an effort to avoid such mistakes, I will (1) explain the question substitution error, (2) give an example of how we can distinguish between questions, (3) give a personal example of the substitution error, and (4) say what we can do about it.

1.  Substitution

In case you’re not familiar with Kahnemen’s notion of ‘substitution’, here is some clarification. In short, substitution is this: responding to a difficult question by (often unintentionally) answering a different, easier question. People use this mental shortcut all the time. Here are some everyday instances:

Difficult QuestionEasier Question
How satisfied are you with your life?What is my mood right now?
Should I believe what my parents believe?Can I believe what my parents believe?
What are the merits/demerits of that woman who is running for president?What do I remember people in my community saying about that woman?

For further discussion of mental shortcuts and substitution, see Part 1 of Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow (2012).

Now, how does this mental shortcut apply to research?  Continue reading Research Questions & Mental Shortcuts: A Warning

Visual Brainstorming on Whiteboards for Posters, Slides, and More

A whiteboard is pretty versatile. It can be used many times for many purposes. I use it during meetings and while working alone. In this post, I’ll explain how I use a whiteboard for creating visual aids.

1. Visual Brainstorming

I am very committed to the digital workspace. My library, papers, notes, handouts, etc. are in the cloud (more about that in this post). I do all of my reading and writing on a computer or a smartphone. But very occasionally a physical workspace trumps my digital workspace.

Visual brainstorming is one task for which a physical workspace outshines the digital counterpart. By ‘visual brainstorming’ I just mean  Continue reading Visual Brainstorming on Whiteboards for Posters, Slides, and More

Peer-review: should we get rid of it?

There are way more manuscripts than opportunities for respected peer-reviewed publications (Sinhababu 2016). So many good manuscripts might never be properly reviewed (or published). This would be bad. In this post, I’ll mention a few potential solutions. Then I’ll briefly evaluate one: eliminating compulsory peer-review altogether. 

1.  Peer Review Is New

I learned from Kate Norlock that peer-review is a relatively recent thing.†

… the surprisingly short history of what we now think of as peer-review [Times Higher Ed.] … the Google ngram on peer-review: [Google ngram article] …. suggests that academics have only been so fixated on it as the measure of our worth since the 1970s.

2.  The Current Form of Peer Review Isn’t Obviously Optimal

One reason for peer-review might be that it inhibits bias. And there is some evidence that anonymous peer-review reduces bias (Budden et al 2008). However, a review of 17 studies Continue reading Peer-review: should we get rid of it?

Peer-review: on what basis should we reject papers?

When you peer-review a paper, you can make one of a few basic recommendations to the editor. One option is this: do not publish the paper.

So what criteria should you use to make such a recommendation? In this post, I argue that some criteria are better than others.

1. Is the paper convincing?

A friend of mine mentioned this criterion the other day: “…[philosophy] papers ought to be convincing.” Call this the Convince Me standard or CM.

Maybe you think that CM sounds like a reasonable standard for peer-review. I don’t.  Continue reading Peer-review: on what basis should we reject papers?

Podcasts …for research?

In a recent APA blog post historian of philosophy and pun-loving podcaster, Peter Adamson, floated the idea of using podcasts for teaching. Sounds like a good idea, sure. In this post, I’d like to focus on the idea of using podcasts for research. As I see it, podcasts could be AMAZING for research! Yeah, like, all-caps amazing! Continue reading Podcasts …for research?