I recently signed up for and attended a writing retreat. I got a lot of writing done even though I was essentially doing the same thing that I always do: sit at a desk and try to write my papers—I didn’t even talk to anyone, really. I was puzzled about why a group working retreat could be more productive for someone than working on their own. As I thought about it, I came up with three hypotheses based on research on precommitment, scheduling, and work environment. I shared and explained them on Twitter (see below).Continue reading Working Retreats: 3 Productivity Tips?
Early in graduate school, I attended a writing workshop that began with a Writing Bloopers activity: in small groups, outline a really bad paper on a topic with which we’re all familiar. Unsurprisingly, the activity was fun. But the activity was also instructive. I learned how some of my writing habits can annoy my readers. And more importantly, I realized just how easy it is to write badly.
1. Modified Writing Bloopers Activity
I sometimes wonder if the Writing Bloopers activity would work with high school or college students. When I pitch the idea to other teachers, they are sometimes skeptical. The skeptics worry that the students do not sufficiently understand what makes writing good or bad. After all, students sometimes turn in papers that contain comically bad writing.
I take the skeptic’s point. However, I wonder if the activity could be modified to work for less experienced writers. For example, perhaps I could present examples of bad writing and let students explain how they are bad. I find that this works well for teaching students about arguments. So it perhaps it would work for teaching students about writing as well. If you’ve done a Writing Bloopers activity, then feel free to share your experience in the comments.
2. A List of Writing Bloopers
Here’s a (growing) list of writing bloopers that could be used for the activity. Feel free to add writing bloopers in the comments.
“From the beginning of time, philosophers have argued about abortion.”
“Since the beginning of time, there has been American history.”
“Since the dawn of time, man has wondered whether computers can think.”
“Since the dawn of time the sun has risen in the East. (Well, that first dawn? The sun may have risen all over at once, but after that things settled down.)”
“Throughout history, man has wrestled with the concepts of cyclic versus linear time.”
“Since the invention of the Nintendo game controller in the 1980’s, scientists have been increasingly worried that computers will take over the world…”
“Throughout the ages, women have been the cause of trouble for men. I, personally, have seen this.”
When my students ask about how to write a philosophy paper, I tell them to aim for three or four criteria. And if they want more guidance, I give them writing tips. Below are the four criteria — in order of importance — with a few tips for each criterion.†
What this means: It should be difficult for me to misunderstand you.††
So don’t waste time crafting long sentences with big words. Instead, aim for a 6th- to 9th-grade reading level. Yes, I know: that’s not how many academics write.††† Do as we say, not as we do.
1st Writing Tip: Continue reading How To Write A Philosophy Paper: 4 Criteria, 9 Tips
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
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?
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?