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Why is academic inquiry and writing so


Literature review also descriptive and sample/case study either decontextualised ... INTERPRETIVE LINGUISTICS VS DESCRIPTIVE LINGUISTICS (e.g. discourse analysis) ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Why is academic inquiry and writing so

Why is academic inquiry and writing so
difficult? Getting an effective focus and
design to resolve the key missing link- Cameron
Richards UTMcameronkrichards_at_gmail.com 
Focus questions
  • How to produce effective research and
    publications? (both in quantity and quality?)
  • Why is effective academic writing so
  • What is missing from all the workshops and
    books focusing on all the elements of good
    writing and research for possible publication?
  • What is the most effective, productive and
    meaningful approach to solving the problem
    (overcoming the missing link)? And how does it
    differ from what most people are presently doing?

two ways of increasing research/ publications in
an academic department (response to increased
pressure on academics)
  • We think there is ultimately only really one way
    to do this on a sustainable long-term basis
  • To link research/publications to PD needs and
    aspirations (also research to teaching OR
    academic interests)
  • Create a community of practice where people
    share ideas, support each other, and are
    genuinely interested in improving what they do
    for relevant, useful and interesting purposes.
  • hence the great opportunity of the chautauqua
    to encourage sharing, support, feedback and also
    the balanced and open exploration of new ideas,
    techniques and practices
  • True story of the academic leader who increased
    dept publications (for a short time)
  • His secret or strategy was to make threats to
    sack staff if they did not publish more
  • Worked for a short while but not sustainable
  • This leader only lasted a short time and then
    reverted back to old levels

  • Part A. Presentation
  • General advice about developing an effective
  • Tips for targeting publications
  • Developing a supportive strategic culture for
    increased publications etc. (Departmental/institut
    ional level)
  • Frozen into passivity syndrome (the problem?)
  • Causes?
  • Solutions?
  • A closer look at what is needed to improve
    academic writing (a strategy to overcome the
    missing link?)
  • Overview of focused, emergent process and
    integral aspects
  • The central importance of getting a focus and
    direction from the start
  • Part B. Workshopping ways of overcoming the
    MISSING LINK (i.e. getting a useful focus and
    translating this into foolproof design)

General tips for writing academic articles(a )
sustainability lies not in top-down requirements
but bottom-up support PLUS relevant techniques
  • Staff who do not publish can be threatened in
    order to make publish can even be made to
    attend special workshops or presentation ? but
    this is NOT SUSTAINABLE difficulty of overcoming
    strong passive resistance
  • Key is to provide BETTER SUPPORT which might
    include a culture of sharing ideas, and
    confidence in leadership interested in individual
  • Hence, suggest a range of related strategies
  • Not just writing workshops but program of
  • LEADERSHIP support for emerging academic
  • CULTURE OF mutual support, ideas-sharing,
    proacive profiling of both individuals and
  • STRATEGIC PROFILING and related publication
    strategies (including collaborative
    research/writings, anthology textbooks, research
    applications, postgraduate research supervision,

  • In addition to above have come up with notion of
    informal ideas-sharing colloquia (Chautauqua)
    where each staff member takes in turn to think up
    and explore one idea for potential publication
  • Everyone should come up with one ideas every
    twelve months (will be two weighted publications
    in next year or two
  • Should be of interest to both individual and
    others in dept.
  • In an informal non-threatening format bringing
    together experience and inexperienced staff
  • Need to come up with a format of central and
    supporting focus questions (not only a structure
    for informal presentation but also a pretext for
    mentoring, workshops, etc.)
  • Promote a culture of discussion, sharing,
    mutual support (in an interesting and relevant
  • Important in missing link in departmental
    culture for publications

the main insight of a study undertaken of a uni's
professional development needs (NIE/NTU -
Richards, 2002)
Institutional focus tends to be on immediate or
short-term needs, and apply a top-down view
which ignores or frustrates the needs or
aspirations of many
There is a convergent window of opportunity to
better link the convergent top-down and bottom-up
interests of academic staff - which can be
harnessed with strategic leadership
Top-down requirements
Bottom-up needs interests
Individual academic staff focus is really more
interested in long-term career trajectory and/or
enduring interests and substantial issues of
General tips for writing academic articles(b)
Targeting journals and/or 'topics' (top-down)
  • Targeting journals
  • Identify main area/s of interest and then
    relevant journals
  • Prioritise relevant journals and look at their
    key topics of interest (especially the top
    journals in the field), publishing formats and
  • Question should an unpublished academic try to
    publish directly in top weighted journals and
    ignore the smaller less important journals?
  • Targeting topics
  • Reading to find topics can be useful but people
    often get lost in trying to find the right
    topic or the latest/cutting edge focus
  • What we would recommend is that you start with
    your own more immediate interests and focus and
    then strategically read to assist in
  • (a) translating concrete inquiry issues and
    problems into a relevant academic language and
  • (b) also in order to academically situate ones
    proposed focus of inquiry (the key role of
    literature review)

General tips for writing academic articles(c)
Getting a focus and translating into a design or
  • Most people have too GENERAL or SPECIFIC an
    idea for research or publication (need to LINK in
    terms of some particular interesting ANGLE or
    PERSPECTIVE on a general problem or sisue
  • Academic papers should have meaningful
    structure either directly or indirectly linked to
    a central question or problem (not JUST AD HOC,
    academic writing and inquiry genres derive from
    responses to a meaningful question
  • For those wanting to convert a PhD into
    publishable articles
  • Main focus and supporting questions might all
    inform distinct academic articles
  • (If this is not explicit in PhD) then can be
    retrospectively derived or framed
  • The important technique of linking a particular
    issue/method/problem to a general area also
    presupposes how one might look to write up
    several articles for different target audiences

Main initial obstacles to academic writing and
research inquiry?
  • Obvious restraints/complaints (time, work vs
    other commitments, health, stress levels)
  • Not feeling confident to the task
  • Not being able to recognise that ones prior
    knowledge or work experience can usefully link to
    a legitimate and even innovative focus
  • Waiting for the big topic or clear direction
    before starting (i.e. never really starting but
    always about to) perfectionism, wanting to be
    told what to do, belief in magic bullets etc.
  • LOST - Not able to see a way through obstacles
    frozen in the spotlight syndrome?... knowledge/
    learning passivity what might be reasonably
    simple is perceived as traumatic, difficult and

  • OVERALL guidance in journey from frozen
    passivity to strategic reflective practice and
    active knowledge-building
  • Translating an interest into a viable topic (make
    a connection) target a goal/audience (dont get
    it right, get it written relevance a key to
  • Transforming a topic into a focus and structure
    which can make the task easier and more direct
    (an explicit plan for direction and successful
    completion also for meaningful inquiry) THREAD
  • Provide ongoing support and direction (so not to
    get lost)
  • Better appreciate different elements of a
    thesis/paper and stages of planning development
    (let the paper /thesis write itself)
  • Revision for integrity, clarity, and improved
    chances of success/ publication (overcome
    blindness with distance strategic direction)
  • USING DESIGN principles to let a focus/purpose
    emerge and inform a structure - HENCE see
    workshop notes

A closer look at what is required
Elements of a thesis/academic paper
  • ELEMENTS of thesis
  • Abstract/Intro
  • Literature review
  • Methodology
  • Data analysis
  • Findings/interpretation/discussion
  • Pulling it all together (conclusion)
  • FORMATTING STYLE requirements
  • Start writing immediately (not at the end)
  • Writing IS the PhD/paper (not just a report on)
  • Writing techniques for showing integrity of all
    parts ( so will read as a story of
    problem-solving or question answering)
  • Key to address an imagined audience (and then
    communicate with them)
  • Reflective practice/PD (also exercise in

The emergent approach an antidote for
ineffective approaches to writing/ research
  • Non-relevant model
  • No key focus question general topic or vague
    perspective (and/or too many conflicting
  • Literature review also descriptive and
    sample/case study either decontextualised or
  • All stages of research process and elements of
    thesis/project defined in isolation (write-up of
    research is ad hoc or disconnected
  • Methodology merely descriptive (i.e.
    retrospective or non-relevant evaluation)
  • Overall, an ad hoc, retrospective and ultimately
    hasty or superficial notion of the inquiry
    process, and contribution to human knowledge
  • Antidote (based on more effective language-use)
  • Focus question or problem grounding
    exemplary/particular relevance re some area of
    human knowledge (may be mixed but in this way
    fundamentally qualitative)
  • Exemplifying relation to both (a)
    literature/theory and (b) sample/case
  • Personal, social and institutional realms of
    relevance are meaningfully linked in terms of
    design which also links different
  • Methodology appropriate to focus question
    response (informs methods, interpretation of
    evidence/findings, and critical discussion)
  • Overall, represents an explicit strategy and
    content of coherent focus and structure
  • links individual performance with social
    knowledge in a way which can add to our general
    knowledge transferable to particular contexts

The art and science of composing a relevant
inquiry focus question
General area/topic
  • Locates, prioritises and structures a
    particular exercise in knowledge-building
  • Helps to avoid twin errors of
    vagueness/wideness and
  • Exercise encourages and requires both innovation
    and discipline (and a convergent attitude)
  • Promotes an emergent or dialogical view of

The central role of a relevant focus question in
human inquiry
Dialogue/ perceptions (talking doing link)
Focus of analysis Interpreting patterns of
Key challenge gap between what people say and
do (deep level analysis needed)
Reflection (general principles)
Threshold of temporary vs perpetual frustration
PROJECT DEVELOPMENT Plan --- Processs Outcome
(overcome any obstacles to a successful outcome)
Evaluation of project, inquiry re initial aim,
Key aim, purpose
(vision of possibility)
intervention (in a local
Key challenge active/local response for further
development (not just passive acceptance of
top-down aspects)
Cycle 1 (initial/pilot) Cycle 2 (refinement)
Focus of analysis Actual change improvement
(from passive observers to active participators)
  • Part A. Presentation
  • General advice about developing a strategy
  • Part B. Workshopping session

1. Setting a context surface vs deep learning
(and language-knowing)

Deep  Surface 
Focus is on what is signified  Focus is on the signs (or on the learning as a signifier of something else)
Relates previous knowledge to new knowledge  Focus on unrelated parts of the task 
Relates knowledge from different courses  Information for assessment is simply memorised 
Relates theoretical ideas to everyday experience  Facts and concepts are associated unreflectively 
Relates and distinguishes evidence and argument  Principles are not distinguished from examples 
Organises and structures content into coherent whole  Task is treated as an external imposition 
Emphasis is internal, from within the student  Emphasis is external, from demands of assessment  (based on Ramsden, 1988)    
(e.g. discourse analysis)
(Content analysis, etc.)
KNOWLEDGE-BUILDING (deep learning, generic
skills, life-long learning etc.
  • The concept of deep learning and associated
    policy turn in global education towards
    generic skills (not just content acquisition)
  • Generic skills e.g. problem-solving, pattern
    recognition, critical reflection, communication,
    collaboration, information synthesis, etc.
  • From mere data/info (also learning) acquisition
    to knowledge (and beyond)
  • Language a key to both generic skills and
    deep learning

Effective learning/knowing using language for
understanding, application, and problem-solving
QUESTION (inquiry-based learning/knowing)
PRODUCTION/PROCESS (project-based learning)
PROBLEM-SOLVING (problem-based learning)
includes both action learning and critical
Includes both simulated and authentic contexts
(e.g. both situated or practicum and case-based
Explanation (reflective practice)
An example of design
  • Main Focus question Will greater support and
    encouragement of academic colleagues PD
    interests and needs significantly assist with
    increasing departmental research, publications
    and related outputs?
  • Key supporting questions
  • What are the department goals for research and
    publications and how might these be even more
    effectively linked to career aspirations, work
    interests and perceptions, and current practices
    of colleagues?
  • How might the aspirations, interests and
    perceptions of colleagues be further supported
    and encouraged by management? and how much
    individual initiative, experimentation and
    reflective practice might be reasonably
  • How might colleagues be assisted in recognising
    and undertaking professional development
    opportunities in their current work and other
    academic activities with a view to undertaking
    either (a) professional reflective practice and
    experimentation for change and improvement and
    (b) formal research and scholarship for

Setting a context surface vs deep learning (and
Deep Learning versus Surface Learning Deep Learning versus Surface Learning
Attributes of Deep Learning Attributes of Surface Learning
Learners relate ideas to previous knowledge and experience. Learners treat the course as unrelated bits of knowledge.
Learners look for patterns and unrelated principles. Learners memorize facts and carry out procedures routinely.
Learners check evidence and relate it to conclusions. Learners find difficulty in making sense of new ideas presented.
Learners examine logic and argument cautiously and critically. Learners see little value or meaning in either courses or tasks.
Learners are aware of the understanding that develops while learning. Learners study without reflecting on either purpose of strategy.
Learners become interested in the course content. Learners feel undue pressure and worry about work.
Source adapted from Entwistle, 2001, quoted in Weigel, V.B. (2001) Deep Learning for a Digital Age Technology's Untapped Potential to Enrich Education. Source adapted from Entwistle, 2001, quoted in Weigel, V.B. (2001) Deep Learning for a Digital Age Technology's Untapped Potential to Enrich Education.
(e.g. discourse analysis)
(Content analysis, etc.)
  • Why most short workshops (and also textbooks)
    about academic research and writing can be a
    waste of time?
  • Often miss the key problem which is the lack
    of a relevant focus (question/problem/issue) and
    a design for writing up.
  • Our approach emergent approach article and
    other academic (e.g. PhD) writing ( should be a
    relatively easy process of getting a focus and
    structure for a paper to write itself
  • Hence many approaches around the wrong way and
    therefore many academics get lost, confused and
    rendered passive.
  • Vital importance of a critical friend or
    mentor to draw out or emerge peoples hidden
    interests and help translate into an appropriate
    academic format
  • Doing this as a mentor and supervisor is BEST
    next best is to try and reproduce this in a
    workshopping or course format.
  • This session THEREFORE introductory BUT MOST
    IMPORTANT part of a series of four workshops or
    COURSE framework

(No Transcript)
The key missing link?
  • - Presently working in a department where
    many academics teach academic writing to students
    (therefore should be a productive academic dept
    for publications?)
  • However few of them publish academic articles
    themselves and also students are learning a way
  • Teach all the elements of academic writing but
    something missing what is it?
  • How to get a CONCRETE focus. And also how to
    link some PARTICULAR problem or issue with a
    GENERAL area of academic interest or relevance
  • As will discuss.in academic writing the
    missing link is a RELEVANT FOCUS QUESTION for
    Academic inquiry and problem-solving able to link
    to recognisable and legitimate areas of

two ways to see in one's position or
workopportunites for PD innovation or
research/publication output?
  • Can only see few if any opportunities
  • Not able to or not allowed to explore new
  • Even if could, not appropriate methodologies
    around to legitimise effective research and
  • All the common complaints (no time, waiting for
    big topic,
  • Would have to do a big project then just report
    on this at end
  • Opportunities everywhere and anywhere
  • New policies are meant to encourage new more
    productive approaches
  • just as new encourage active learning, so too
    new paradigm of design experimentation and action
  • The most effective and authentic inquiry is
    developed as a focused writing process (let the
    plan writ itself into a publishable paper,
    substantial PhD, etc. )
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