introducing dr deluded

Meet Dr Deluded. Dr Deluded is angry. Very angry.

marina-khrapova-670759-unsplash.jpgDr Deluded just can’t get published.

It’s not that he doesn’t try. Dr Deluded writes a lot and submits to journals. In fact, he is so keen to get his work out into the world that he sends his manuscripts off as soon as he is finished with them. But he is consistently bothered and bewildered by the number that are desk rejected. He is convinced that Editors are out to get him.

Dr Deluded is making a few key mistakes which are contributing to his continued lack of publication success. Here’s five of the most important. He:

  1. doesn’t research the journal he is submitting to

Continued desk rejects suggest that Dr Deluded is not doing his journal homework. Dr Deluded assumes that if the title and mission statement of the journal have some synergy with his topic that means he will automatically get accepted. But journals are quite particular knowledge communities and they have different expectations about what they will accept. They each have their own implicit rules and conventions too. As the first line of decision-making about “fit”, Editors usually look to see whether the paper sits neatly within the journal, and meets expectations. If it doesn’t, well, it’s curtains for you Deluded. Editors regularly report that the major reason for desk rejection is that the paper has been sent to the wrong journal, but Dr Deluded hasn’t read that advice. Poor chap, he just hasn’t worked out that he is writing for a different reader than the readers of the journals he’s chosen.

2.  thinks that a written paper is a done paper

Dr Deluded suffers from premature satisfaction syndrome. Revise?  It ain’t me babe. He believes that it’s best to get the paper off to the journal to get reviewer feedback which will help him do the revisions. He doesn’t let a paper sit for a few weeks so that he can come back to it with fresh eyes. He doesn’t have any particular strategies for revision. In fact, he doesn’t think about revision at all, he thinks it’s all just a matter of a teensy bit of editing – correct a few typos and sentences and that’s it. Dr Deluded would certainly never consider giving a paper to a colleague to get their response. No, if it’s written, that’s good enough.

3. writes everything in his own inimitable way

Dr Deluded has a strong critique of academic journals. He thinks that they are stuffy, pompous and hard to read. Well, he may well be right. But that doesn’t mean that his writing will have an easy ride. It doesn’t mean that book publishers will fall over themselves to publish his PhD and journal reviewers will love his eccentric syntax. Dr Deluded either needs to find academic outlets that will accept his particular approach to writing, or tone down what he does just enough to make it through the reviewing process. Or get together with a group of like-minded others and start his own open access publication.

4. wants to write all of the things

Dr Deluded is very flattered by requests to contribute. He says yes to every special issue, every book chapter and every op-ed piece, regardless of whether they are directly in his field or not. He is afraid of missing out on something – that conference that his best friend keeps talking about but is really out of his field? Why not, it’s just a paper. He seriously overcommits – that edited book that brings this year’s chapter total to ten? Ooh go on then. Dr Deluded knows that he can write fast, so hell to the yes.

5. likes turning a project into shed loads of papers

Dr Deluded thinks that it is more than OK to write fifteen articles from one small piece of research, each taking a slightly different angle. His papers often make the same argument over and over again and use the exact same set of references. Sometimes he even cuts and pastes from one paper to another. Dr Deluded hasn’t quite cottoned on. He doesn’t get that a significant contribution to knowledge is not an emaciated one. And that, in reality, he is better served in the long run by fewer and more substantial papers than a lot of rather meagre ones.

Dr Deluded has a quality problem.

Dr Deluded doesn’t know how to ensure that his work is as good as it can be. And he also doesn’t do the work that means readers will see the quality in, and of, his research and writing. He may occasionally luck out and get a paper through the reviewing process. But he is actually wasting a lot of his own and other people’s time by not doing his homework, rushing things and salami slicing his work.

Less haste more speed, and all that means, might help Dr Deluded quite a lot.

Other posts that might be of interest:

Revision not editing

Tactics for proof reading

Creative revision

Image: Marina Khrapova on Unsplash


Posted in academic writing, conference papers, journal, publishing, revision, revision strategy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

not letting go of the text


A couple of weeks ago I was asked if I had any advice for someone who struggled to let go of their writing – they wrote but then it was really difficult to send the writing off to their supervisor. And clearly, this was an issue. Sending the stuff off is part and parcel of doing the doctorate, and part and parcel of any subsequent scholarly work too.

So I’ve been mulling over this not-wanting-to-part-with-the-words feeling.

And I must confess, letting go of a text wasn’t an issue I had thought about much. So I did what I always do when in doubt, I googled to see what might already be out there.

Well, there was nothing particularly appropriate. A lot of stuff about giving up on relationships. But I wondered whether this angle had anything to offer.

The giving up on relationships advice largely seemed to focus on sorting yourself out: checking that your expectations are realistic, understanding that you can’t control other people, avoiding getting fixated on particular outcomes, being open to change, not being afraid of negative emotions, doing what works for you and so on… Well, all very well, and I am sure that some of this is very good advice.

And I am sure that letting go of the words could be to do with negative emotions like fear, and worry about being scrutinised. But you know, I’m a social scientist and I know that emotions and behaviours are formed over time, and they are generally also relational and structural. Feelings come from somewhere and that somewhere often matters a great deal.

Thinking more about the social aspects of academic writing, I began to jot down some alternative lines of thinking about reluctance to part with writing:

In general, writing is high stakes academic work. We are judged on the apparent quality of our writing by examiners, referees and our institutions. So being concerned about how our writing will be seen has a firm and rational basis in the realities of academic life.

And just as important is the nature of supervision. Pedagogical relationships, particularly those in supervision, are evaluative. The job of the PhD supervisor is to offer constructive critique which will help the PhDer achieve their floppy cap and gown. But this relationship can, depending on the person and their individual life experiences, feel a lot less than supportive. For example –

  • If you are used to getting the equivalent of all gold stars then getting the supervisory track changes treatment can feel a lot more like never being good enough.
  • If you are used to being critiqued, then it’s just more of the same and maybe you just wish it might be different.
  • If you haven’t experienced this kind of evaluative pedagogical practice before, or for a long time, then it might feel like an unwanted belittling of what you know and who you are.
  • Or maybe you just want the text to be so perfect nothing can be said about it – and that really isn’t going to be the case, ever.

And of course, supervisors can be more or less skilful, and more or less patient, in what they do.

All those possibilities suggest an open conversation, between PhDer and supervisor, about the best way to deal with critique. This might be needed sooner rather than later in the supervision relationship – and certainly if things are going wrong. But conversation is often easier said and done because of the power relationship embedded in supervision. However, discussing the issue of not wanting to let the writing go might be easier than discussing critique per se. And worst might come to worst – it may be that it’s just not possible to change interaction patterns and you have to find ways – preferably in the company of other PhDers – to deal with the process of critique.

But maybe there is something else going on – some other combination of history and relational-structural issues that I can’t quite imagine in the not wanting to send off the writing feeling.

And it does seem that whatever I imagine might be going on ultimately still needs the reluctant text writer to do something themselves. Ultimately it appears that the PhDer who hangs on to the text has to decide to do something. (Yes, all very 12 steppish!)

So what might there be other than just sucking it up?

Well, I do wonder if finding a writing partner mightn’t be a useful thing to do. Get someone you trust to read through what you have to send off, before you decide to step away from the send button. Or perhaps you could set up some kind of reward system for yourself when you send off the text when you don’t want to.

But I confess, I really don’t have a lot of advice that is helpful for this problem. So, in the classic social media move, I now want to say – maybe some of you reading this post, might have things to add. If you have experienced not-wanting-to-send-off-the-writing, what worked for you? What did you do – or do you do- in order to deal with this problem?

Related posts:

Finished your first draft? Now it’s cut and come again

On not writing from the PhD.

Image credit: Jakob Owen on unsplash.

Posted in academic writing, critique, supervision, text, text work/identity work | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

why​ is writing a literature review such hard work? part two

Yes, some examiners do ask doctoral researchers to change their literature review to show how they are “located” in the text.

OK, let’s pretend this is you. What do those pesky examiners mean exactly?

At one level this is a simple task. You are being asked to say

What key concepts and interpretations you have taken from the literature to inform the design of the study. Because no one does a project entirely from scratch – we all use other people’s work as building blocks – we have to specify exactly what we have borrowed. And you are also being asked to show how you have used concepts, approaches and/or interpretations. (This may well mean for instance that you have to refer back to the literatures when the methods are being explained. For instance, surveys almost always use literatures that have been introduced and explained earlier.)

What key concepts and interpretations from the literatures you will use to  analyse your data. A deductive analysis – working from a general theory to the particular – and an abductive analysis – putting the general and the specific together to form an explanation – require extensive use of literatures.  The concepts and/or approaches that are used in analysis must appear first in the literatures review, may then be taken up in the methods chapter, when the analytic approach is outlined, and are referred to again in the chapters which report the analysis. Inductive analysis – working from the data – also uses literatures, and these also appear first in the literatures chapter and then again during the analysis report and discussion. Even if you read “stuff” after you finished your preliminary analysis, you generally still introduce them earlier. The exception to this rule is if you are writing a chronological thesis, as you might if you are doing action research.

What general approach to the topic that you have taken and where your work sits within the field. Maybe your work sits neatly within an established area. You just need to explain this. You might want to situate yourself in opposition to work which addresses the same topic, but takes a different approach. Both of these options –  work that is like yours, and work that is not – situate your study in the field and show where your contribution will be made. Your research will add something to work that is like yours, and say something to the work that is not. But some research brings multiple strands of research together, so you need to explain what strands you are using and how they fit together. And then you need to locate that in your field alongside the research that yours seeks to inform.

This ‘situating’ work is not easy. If you were to assume that the literature review is a summary or synthesis, then you will have trouble doing this locational work. The problem comes from thinking that the literatures review is simply about saying what is already known about the topic.  But it’s not…

If you think of the entire locational exercise as an argument, you get that the writing is about reasoning. About making a case. Not reporting. Not describing. You use the literatures to argue why your work has been designed as it has and why it is conducted in a particular way. You  use the literatures to help you make the case for your research.

So when you locate, you must move through the review reporting as you go how your work connects with the literatures – or summarise at the end of each chunk how the literatures inform your research.

UnknownSome scholars refer to this kind of intellectual work as the transformation of knowledge. You shift from simply restating other people’s knowledge to presenting your own version of the “stuff”. Joseph Harris describes transforming knowledge as making four integrated moves:

(1) coming to terms with the substantive content, ideas and arguments in the literatures

(2) forwarding – using the literatures to support your argument

(3) countering – thinking against any particular argument that might be made against yours

(4) taking an approach – using the same approach as another scholar (or group) as a stepping stone to somewhere new.

When you take your own perspective on the literatures, and use it to make your case, you can be said to have transformed knowledge. In sum then. Literatures work is a process of locating your work – situating it in the field, and showing what you build on and talk with – and this means that you have been, and are transforming knowledge to position and explain your own study.

51rBglFYB7L.jpgBut wait there’s even more to locational work than this.

Locating your work also requires you to imagine yourself and your work on an equal footing with that of others. You have to have the chutzpah to use the work of others, who are more experienced and expert, to make your own. You can’t be in awe of the literatures. Equally, you don’t need to cut other people’s work into ribbons. You simply have to use it critically and appreciatively. After all, that’s why the literatures exist – to inform and to support further knowledge building.

And thats sometimes easier said than done. There is scholarly-identity work going on when you locate your own work in relation to that of other scholars. Locational literatures work require you to adopt the rhetorical position of a fully-fledged scholar able to hold their own in a scholarly conversation. In transformational and locational literatures work, you are asserting and explaining your selection and interpretation of other people’s work, and laying claim to using their ideas in particular ways for your own ends. It’s all about you, not them. Barbara and I call this text work/identity work.

It is this complex combination of sophisticated argument and authoritative writer that is so hard to do. You are simultaneously transforming knowledge – using the literatures as a resource from which you make the argument for your study – while also establishing yourself as a bona fide researcher able to make a worthwhile and worthy contribution to the literatures.

Posted in academic writing, Joseph Harris, literature review, text work/identity work, transforming knowledge | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

on acting, interpreting and academic writing

What do actors do. Really. What do they do. And what does anything they do have to do with writing?

On Friday I was in Stratford upon Avon, at the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre. I wasn’t going to a play, but at a conference for school leaders who work with the RSC. My colleague Chris and I were there to present some results from a current research project which we are doing in partnership with the RSC and Tate.

DaOKbmTV4AApn77.jpg-largeOne of the conference events featured the actor Niamh Cusack performing the Lady Macbeth soliloquy. You know, the one where she’s summoning the courage to kill the king. It starts off with the lines “The raven himself is hoarse which croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan under my battlements…” I’m sure you’ve heard it, if not studied it.

Cusack performed the speech as a devoted wife (the way she’s currently playing the part). She was then asked to improvise two alternate Lady Macbeths, a woman eager to make mischief with the spirit world, and a woman terrified of summoning up spirits.

Each of Cusack’s three performances were startlingly different.  (And wonderful.) After a minute or so pause at the start of each speech, she really became a different person. She changed her location on the stage and her body positioning, as well as the speed, rhythm, cadence, emphasis, volume and pitch of her words. The audience were able to see how her acting decisions were realised through her actor’s repertoire. She varied how she used voice, space, time, gaze, movement.

Afterwards, our research colleague Jacqui O’Hanlon, director of the RSC  Education programmes, told the audience that what we had seen was interpretation. Interpreting was a key life practice, she said, and one that the arts explicitly use – and teach.

And of course, interpretation is a key to academic research. Every academic discipline interprets. Whether we are trying to define a problem, make sense of numbers or understand phenomena we observe, we interpret. The texts that we read, the fragments that we collect, are made sensible through interpretation.

The job of the academic is to use research processes, research regimes that make our number, text or image work systematic and careful. And we do this data and analytic work thoroughly and to the very best of our ability. We try very hard not to make a mess that can be avoided.


But we interpret. We interpret all the way though.

And we attempt to put our interpretation into writing. Sometimes we might work in image, or movement or sound as well as words – but essentially academic interpretation is spoken and written. Words are our interpretive tools.

This means that we need to develop a writing repertoire that is as flexible as that of the actor. Depending on what we want to say, and who to, we choose from our academic writing repertoire. We decide and select.

Our writing repertoire includes the genre we take up – journal article, blog post, op-ed piece – this determines whether we are writing argument, portrait, report, story. An academic writing repertoire also includes our choice of words – how technical, how matter of fact, how unexpected, how colloquial. It includes putting sentences and paragraphs together. It includes how we use metaphor, simile, and whether we use adjectives and adverbs sparingly, or a lot. It includes exercising our wit and imagination through naming and framing.

Our academic writing repertoire isn’t static, fixed in time. It can be something that we consciously add to over time. That, like the actor, we continue to hone and develop.

As we approach the academic summer in the northern hemisphere – although this still looks way off for me – it is important to gather together the reading that is going to nurture our writer’s interpretive repertoire. This might be in the form of academic monographs or that bundle of unread PDF journal articles. Or it might be non-fiction, poetry or fiction.

And perhaps, taking another leaf from the actor, perhaps summer is a time for some rest – as well as a little rehearsal, and some play. A time for small moments of pleasurable trying things out, a time for experimenting with writing interpretations that may or may not end up in a public performance of some kind.

But not of course at the expense of recovering from the year.

Rest. Read. Interpret. Write. Rest.

Links: Interested in the RSC Education programme? Or our research project, Tracking Arts Learning and Engagement – TALE?

Images: Niamh Cusack and Christopher Ecclestone as the Macbeths –  RSC.

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writing for publication – some beginning strategies​ …

This week – in fact, as this post publishes – I’m running a workshop on academic writing. I do run these kinds of workshops relatively often.

And I do really like an opportunity to have a bit of fun. Always. Writing is so often seen as hard work, so it’s important to try to make at least some of it seem a bit on the playful side.

So for this workshop, at the Undisciplining conference, I’ve gathered together some strategies that work well with a group that’s up for a bit of serious messing around. The strategies are ways of setting yourself up to write a journal article. They are designed to help you to clarify what you want to say before you start the really serious head down text work.

You might want to try some of these things out for yourself, or perhaps organise to do them with a friend.

Posted in academic writing, journal, journal article, journal publication, writing workshop | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

why is writing a literature review such hard work? part one

simson-petrol-110900-unsplash.jpgYes, a literature review means reading a lot. Yes, a literature review means sorting out how to bring the texts all together, summarising and synthesising them. And yes, there are lots of ways to do this.

But this post is not about any of these important and essential literature processes. No, this post is about the knowledge work that underpins the processes, knowledge work that makes your literature review successful, or not.

The literature “review”, as it is called, is not simply about reading and sorting and then writing. It’s not really a “review” per se. It’s critical evaluation, categorisation, and synthesis. And using writing to help. And then constructing the text. Authoring. This is all about thinking – and writing. And thinking and writing are not two distinct things.

In literatures work, writing and thinking are inseparable. Just as it’s hard to separate out the colours in a marble cake, it’s the same with thinking-writing about literatures. Thinking and writing are melded.

When you work with literatures and write your “review”, you are doing very difficult conceptual and authoring work – you are extending and consolidating at least six domains of knowledge. Yes, six. They are:

  • Substantive knowledge from your discipline, or disciplines. This is sometimes called subject or content knowledge and it refers to the actual topic of your research – history, physics, psychology, geography and so on. When you read, you are building on what you already know about your subject, reflecting critically on it, adding to it, and perhaps reframing the ways in which you think about it. Knowledge about your discipline also means learning its language, the very specific terminology that is used to shorthand concepts. Knowing your discipline may also require you to learn particular ways to write – see (3).
  • Knowledge about your readers – supervisors and examiners – and the scholarly community that they belong to. Disciplines have particular ways of explaining what they do, have been, and are, to themselves and others. There are key texts, writers and moments which are generally taken as important. Your readers are familiar with these texts, people and events, and they expect that you will be too.
  • Knowledge about the kind of text that you are writing – often called genre. You are expected to follow the conventions of writing about, and with literatures to suit the genre you are working in – a paper, report or thesis. The conventions may be shaped in part by your discipline – see (1). But in essence the literatures “review” is where you locate your study in its field. You aren’t writing a long book review or an essay showing everything you know. It’s usually an argument.
  • Knowledge about the kind of rhetoric that you have to use. Rhetorical knowledge is not the same as knowing about grammar, it is a given that your work has to be grammatically correct and your citations accurate. Knowing about rhetoric means understanding the ways in which language is used to construct an argument for your work, through explaining the work of others. There are some traps here, the most common is writing a laundry list. A long listicle of your reading is problematic because lacks the kind of meta-commentary that is needed to guide the reader through your interpretation of the field, and the texts most relevant to your research. You have to know how to write without laundry-listing.
  • Knowledge about the process of writing. Writing process knowledge is built up over time, as you develop your own set of strategies to diagnose issues with your texts, and to revise and edit. You build up a set of strategies that work for you, as well as a set of criteria that you can use to judge the quality of your own work. You come to understand that writing a thesis or paper may also very well involve un-learning some processes that have up till now, worked OK.
  • Knowledge about scholarship and you as a scholar. Writing about and with literatures is part and parcel of forming an identity as a scholar – you make yourself as this or that kind of researcher through who you cite and how you write about them. But you also build your understandings of the ways in which the academy functions, and take up an ethical stance, through writing yourself in relation to the work of others. And you develop a writing “voice”.

So it’s no wonder that writing a literatures “review” is so tricky. There’s a lot going on. You are learning, using what you already know and authoring at the same time. This is complex work which can’t be rushed.

And understanding what’s involved, what you need to know, the six domains you’re working with, can be helpful.

Part Two, on why literatures reviews are hard, looks at locational work. That’s coming next week.

Further assistance:

See more on literatures work on my wakelet collection.

Graf and Birkenstein’s They say, I say, is a very helpful introduction to the rhetoric of writing about other people’s texts.

Image by Simpson Petrol on Unsplash

Posted in academic writing, knowledge domains, literature review, literature reviews | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

writing a bio-note


Dr F. E Line is researching which humans are attracted by a fixed gaze.

Most of us have to produce bio-notes. The bio-note is a little verbal selfie that goes with a book chapter, a journal article, or sometimes a conference presentation. Book authors also have to provide brief bio-notes which might go in their book as well as on the publisher’s website. The bio-note tells the reader some key information about you, the writer.

Most bio-notes are short. They often have a word limit of 100-150 words. So there is not much space in a bio-note to communicate a lot about you. And there’s not much room to be creative with them either.

Many doctoral and early career researchers struggle with bio-notes – they think that they have nothing to say about themselves that is particularly noteworthy.

But quite often, when you look at bio-notes, say in the beginning of an edited book where all of the contributors are listed, it is the early career researchers who write most. The more experienced researchers write less about themselves. This is perhaps because they don’t feel anxious, or maybe they figure a lot of people already know who they are.

However, those newer to publication, the people who write all the words, can be read by mean readers as trying too hard to make something out of not much, or of elevating publications or activities to a level of prominence they don’t quite merit. (Am I making this up? No, I’ve heard this said, a lot. There’s a lot of mean out there.) But I think that the problem of not knowing what to write is not about this. I reckon it may be related to understanding the bio-note.

So what’s the bio-note actually about?

Bio-notes do lots of work, but they’re not primarily about self-promotion. They’re not an opportunity to tell people everything you’ve done and how good it all was. They are not the best place to peddle your wares, if you are so inclined.

The bio-note serves multiple purposes including being (1) a small service to the reader and (2) a way of adding ‘street cred’ to published writing.

Let me explain:

  • Bio-note as a service to the reader. The bio-note helps the reader to situate the writing – be it chapter or paper or book. When the reader understands key points about the writer, they have an idea of where the argument in the text is coming from, and perhaps something of the reasons the text has been written. In finding out the writer’s motivations and experiences, the reader can, if they choose, see the text as something that is located in time, space and an ongoing research agenda.
  • Bio-note as a service to the publisher. Publishers like to show that the books that they publish are written by reputable people who have conducted research in a real university or social research organisation, or they are a legit independent researcher. One way for publishers to do this is to use the bio-note as a kind of assurance – as a way of showing the provenance of the text.

And of course, thinking about the reader additionally points to the fact that there might be different bio-notes for different readers.  Bio-notes not only change over time, as the work you do changes. They also change because different readers may be interested in different things and it may be important to foreground some things and not others.

I’ll just make this personal as a way of illustrating this point.


Professor Quokka has been studying tourist behaviours on Rottnest Island for several years.

While all of my bio-notes start much the same way, with my name, what ‘s in and comes after varies. For instance, when I am presenting at a conference or writing about academic writing, I always mention my blog in my bio-note. If I am writing about schools, I sometimes mention my former life as a headteacher. And if I am writing about the arts, then I signal the ongoing research I have been doing and the arts organisation partners I have been working with.

Here’s three of my bio-notes, to show what I mean, written for different readerships and to different word lengths.

  • Conference keynote about the doctoral contribution, for a postgraduate audience which included a lot of part-time professionals.

Pat Thomson PSM PhD FAcSS FRSA was a headteacher in Australia for twenty years. After a brief stint in a senior public service position she hightailed it into higher education. She has been a Professor in the School of Education at The University of Nottingham for the last fourteen years, researching entanglements of school and community change, the arts and creativity and alternative education. She also researches and writes about academic writing and doctoral education. She has twenty-one published books, a further four in various stages of completion, and she dreams of her very own library bookshelf. She blogs at and tweets as @ThomsonPat.

So here I’ve highlighted my qualifications and esteem factors to show that the university I am speaking at invited someone who knew what they were talking about. And I talk about my own professional history as a means of connecting my experience with that of the audience, but I also say I’ve been in higher ed for quite a bit of time too. And I’ve tried to be a bit lighthearted to indicate that the presentation might not be completely dull.

  • Edited book – editor – book about alternative education – publisher’s website

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education at the University of Nottingham, UK. Her work centres on the ways in which educational practices can be made more equitable; her research currently focuses on arts and cultural education in schools, communities, galleries and museums. She is a former school leader of alternative and disadvantaged schools.

Again as this is a book about practice, I am saying that I know about this topic from both research and practice perspectives. And that while alternative education is not my main area of research it fits with my broader agenda.

  • Edited book – description in a book about arts and creativity, in-text bio-note.

Pat Thomson is a Professor and Convenor of the Centre for Research in Arts, Creativity and Literacy (CRACL) at the University of Nottingham, UK.  Pat is known for her interdisciplinary engagement with questions of creative and socially just learning and change.  Much of this work has been in collaboration with Professor  Christine  Hall.  Pat has had a long-term research partnership with Professor  Barbara  Kamler with whom she writes about academic writing.  Her academic writing and research education blog  ‘patter’  is archived by the British  Library and posts are frequently republished elsewhere.  She tweets as  @ThomsonPat  and has an academic writing  ‘patter’ facebook page. Her research activities can be seen on a range of websites  –  the TALE  project,  the  Signature  Pedagogies project,  I  worked at  Raleigh,  the Get Wet project, Performing  Impact,  Cultural  Value and  Live  Art, and Quality in Alternative  Education.

More words here, but written in anticipation of a reader who might also be interested in academic writing as well as arts and creativity. I’ve established my street cred by listing a research centre and a number of research projects. I’ve also laid claim to inter-disciplinarity, again like the reader I imagine buying the book And there’s talk about long-term collaborative work, something that is key to a lot of arts activities.

I’m sure you can see in my three bio-notes that I’ve deliberately selected some things to say and some to leave out. You’ll also see the difference in the formality of the writing.

But how does knowing this help you, if you are wondering about writing your first bio-note?

Well, first of all you need to concentrate on a bio-note which helps the reader. Forget the publisher, forget self-promotion. Think about your reader.

The reader wants to know a bit about where you are, and perhaps how this particular text is related to your research track record and your general research and/or professional interests. They may be interested in other things you do that are related to what you’ve written. Or they may like to know about your long-term research agenda.

The conventional bio-note format meets these readers’ interests. It says who you are, your stage of career (position) and any institutional affiliation you have. Then there is something about how this text relates to other work – your research interests, current projects and any other publications. The bio-note signposts all these things – but it doesn’t explain them in great detail.

So what’s the content you need if you are an early researcher writing a bio-note?

  • name, maybe qualifications if it’s relevant and /or expected
  • current institutional affiliation if there is one, and what your work is. If you are working casually 😦 then say what the work is you’ve done and are doing – researching, teaching, administration etc.
  • your doctoral research and its topic, together with where it was done
  • your wider research interests.
  • your previous professional history if it’s relevant.
  • a publication, if there’s more than one, list the best one or two. (If this is your first publication, don’t feel bad. We all have to start somewhere. And we all had a first publication. Pat yourself on the back and move on.)
  • social media – put that down too!

String that information together in a few sentences and that’s it. Bio-note done.

And because the bio-note is just headlines, it doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to take up all the words. It’s not all there is. It’s not all you’ve done. It’s not all there is to you. It’s just a verbal selfie taken on a particular day to do a particular job.

Image: cat – Frederica Diliberto; quokka – Natalie Su, both on Unsplash.

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