Thread: Alma Mater-nity Ward: an academic support thread Board: All Saints / Ship of Fools.

To visit this thread, use this URL:;f=4;t=006181

Posted by Wesley J (# 6075) on :
It seems that there is currently no thesis or other academic support thread. Thus, methought, I might start a new one.

This is NOT about 'doing the homework' or 'writing the thesis' for someone else, but rather, like the decluttering thread, perhaps about how can we declutter our own minds in order to perform reasonably well in academia (and assorted animals).

Sometimes, there seems to be the need for a bid of helpful midwifery from others, who are more experienced or have become experts, perhaps through trial and error. Giving birth to any sort of piece of writing, a few hundreds or a few 1000s of words, and mostly with a strict deadline, ain't always easy and staightforward.

So be it waterbirth or homebirth, prolonged or quick, let's try to breathe deeeeeeply, in, out, manage our pain, have hands held, and whoops, there it is, the babe of our own labour. And may it be acceptable in thine eyes, oh tutor, oh institution.

I hope this will [Help] and inspire for a start, and that discussions and hints may be useful for some!

Thanks in advance to all participating.
Posted by Japes (# 5358) on :
Fortuitously timed!

I find myself in a somewhat ridiculous situation of having to do the course in this Diocese which is a 30 week gallop through the basics of Old Testament, New Testament and Christian Life related stuff - and the emphasis is on learning for those who don't necessarily do traditional academic. I have done this kind of course in least 3 different Dioceses, I have taught parts of these kinds of courses in 2 others. Despite this, there currently seems no way round this.

At the end of week 3 it is abundant clear I am going to learn absolutely nothing. The "teaching" style is not one which works for me, neither is having to pretend I'm learning in a non-academic style when I have consistently read theological books and biblical study books as a relatively intelligent general reader for the last 30 years.

So, I'm currently devising a new reading list for myself which will cover all the material, and am still trying to decide if I ask the main course tutor to read anything I might write as a result of my reading, or whether I should blog what I write.

Maybe not traditional academic learning, but I will still be doing this alongside the course I've got to do, which might give me the impetus to join in at the level it's based at, without me losing the will to live and learn in the process.
Posted by Jengie jon (# 273) on :

How about starting a research project on the ways these sort of courses are presented? You might even get an academic paper out of it in perhaps the Journal of Perspectives on Christian Education.

Jengie [Two face]
Posted by Wesley J (# 6075) on :
Japes, haven't you got any sort of certificate or confirmation for the courses you did before, and even more so, those you taught?

The way they treat you is pathetic!
Posted by Japes (# 5358) on :
Certificates have been shown and two people who I taught alongside have offered references. It was to no avail.

I like the idea of a research paper, Jengie - it's more productive than the jargon bingo I was playing, along with bets as to who was going to be whinging about missing the Great British Bake Off.
Posted by Curiosity killed ... (# 11770) on :
Japes, I feel your pain. I managed a term before giving up when I was supposed to do what sounds like exactly the same course that you are suffering where I live to be able to do various things in this Diocese, despite having already done it all elsewhere in a much more academic way. And there was no alternative. The guy who was going for ministry had to do it. The only thing that would have got him out of it was a theology degree.

Sitting through exercises I was using with toddler church in a group of adults did not engage me. Because I knew and liked the tutor I didn't start subverting the whole damn thing and just left, but ... If you want a comparative experience from another two dioceses, just ask.
Posted by Chamois (# 16204) on :
Japes, I had a similar experience about 4 years ago when I started a new teaching job and my employer required me to complete a teacher-training course. Over the years I had already completed two teacher training courses and had three accredited teaching qualifications (two from the courses and one by portfolio). But there was no escape - to pass my probationary period I had to do their course. I won't say that I learned nothing, but I learned very little.

To keep myself sane I conducted a little action research project on my own teaching, and after the course I wrote it up for publication and it got published in an academic journal. That was fun. So, as other people have said, I would recommend you do something similar. Think of it as an opportunity to do some research that will interest and benefit you on your Diocese's time.
Posted by Jack the Lass (# 3415) on :
I was a regular on previous incarnations of this thread, but my thesis feels like an eternity ago (I graduated 5 years ago; started the thing 10 years ago). Since then I have gone backwards and forwards and backwards again - back to clinical practice while writing up the thesis, then (eventually) a postdoc, and now back in practice again (a bit begrudgingly, but at least I have something vaguely occasionally meaningful to fall back on and don't have to flip burgers). My postdoc experience convinced me that I do not have what it takes to be an academic, and that's fine - and although I am looking to be less involved in clinical practice and start freelancing, I'm basically OK with the choices I've made.

However. I recently got the chance (which I have accepted) to co-write a book chapter in a V Important and Influential Book (updated edition - very relevant to my clinical area) with a very eminent academic. Even though it's just a few pages in a much larger tome, it's an amazing opportunity, so I knew I couldn't possibly turn it down, particularly as the very eminent academic asked me to collaborate in writing the chapter rather than me touting for it (it wouldn't have entered my head to put myself forward for it). I know that once it's done I will be really proud of it, and myself. But, I am experiencing absolutely colossal Imposter Syndrome, not helped by the fact that one of my main issues from my postdoc is that my confidence in my writing ability took a really massive knock, and it led to some pretty debilitating anxiety. I feel woefully unprepared, inadequate, and terrified of being found out.

I'm not after any advice, I know what I have to do and how to do it, but all prayers and general crossing of body parts gratefully accepted! [Smile]

Posted by Lothlorien (# 4927) on :
That is wonderful news, Jack.Congratulations.
Posted by Doone (# 18470) on :
Jack - you can do it [Axe murder] [Votive]
Posted by Jengie jon (# 273) on :

First congratulations.

Second writing with others is different from writing alone.

Thirdly, what she probably would like from you is someone to keep the chapter writing on track. Your job is to basically to pull together a research report on the topic (another literature review) and then you bounce around the ideas and themes.

The transition from boring literature review to leading article takes place between you and then the final polish is down to the senior author and your job is to remind her it needs doing.

Posted by Alan Cresswell (# 31) on :
I have my name in the authorship list of a chapter of a book on stone circles of northern Scotland. We did work that contributed about 15-20% of the chapter (the chapter was on Brodgar, and we'd done work dating the ditch around the circle). I don't think a single sentance of our original contribution made it through to the final copy intact. Since none of my carefully crafted sentences made it to the final copy I feel a bit of a fraud being listed as an author. On the other hand, it's the only thing I've done that's been published in a glossy book anyone can buy from Amazon (other retailers are available), even if edited beyond recognition as my words.
Posted by Jack the Lass (# 3415) on :
Thank you so much, everyone. It is nice to have people rooting for me, when I feel so very inadequate!

I think my terror is down to a. the first draft has to be in pretty soon, and I still have so much reading to do (turns out I haven't lost my skill at advanced procrastination), b. my previous experience of joint authored work was a bit weird (positive in parts, but also really not in others. Coming from my PhD discipline where single-authoring is the norm, and more than two authors almost unheard-of, I found multiple authoring a strange and not entirely satisfactory experience), and c. they're going to find me out!!! This chapter is supposedly more of a joint and equal effort than I'm used to in joint writing (we are each writing half of the chapter, relating to our own clinical specialities), which is where the 'they're going to find me out' is coming from, as my co-author does this all the time and I haven't written anything more substantial than a ship post or facebook status for ages. If I were just adding in a bit of "well we'd do X" into a more general text I could cope with that!

I think I just posted here because the anxiety I am feeling is honestly getting quite overwhelming. It is confirming to me (not that I needed it confirming) that leaving academia was absolutely the right thing for me, and there's no way I'm going back! This is still an amazing experience and I'm so grateful for the opportunity, but I'll be glad when it's over [Big Grin]
Posted by Piglet (# 11803) on :
Prayers ascending, JtL - I'm sure you can do it, and do it well. [Votive]
Posted by North East Quine (# 13049) on :
Congratulations, Jack.

You will feel wonderful once it's done!
Posted by Jengie jon (# 273) on :

Might this help.

Secondly, in my experience, all* academics end up doing things at the last minute whatever their personality type. A combination of, once not PhD** students, they have multiple timetables to balance and the fact that deadlines are relatively malleable.

Thirdly, it is your specialism, nobody knows it like you do so who else should they ask.


*There might be exceptions but in over twenty years of advising them these are few and far between.

**excluding part-time PhD students. Some of these make Academics look like amateurs at timebalancing. One case I think worked and looked after a disabled partner as well as doing a PhD.
Posted by Alan Cresswell (# 31) on :
Originally posted by Jack the Lass:
Coming from my PhD discipline where single-authoring is the norm, and more than two authors almost unheard-of, I found multiple authoring a strange and not entirely satisfactory experience

Coming from a background where multiple authoring is the norm, two authors unusual and single author almost unheard-of ... actually I've virtually no experience of single authoring to decide if that's strange.

Multiple authoring as an experience depends very much on your co-authors. Most 4+ authored papers have probably got several almost silent authors, they may have had virtually no input to the text excepting an initial draft ("you made a contribution to this work that I'm just writing up, are you OK with being an author?") and possibly the final version ("I've now finished the manuscript, if you have any comments let me know ASAP as I'll be submitting it at the end of next week"). It isn't easy having two (let alone more) authors having a significant contribution to the text, it's far easier for one author to take the lead in drafting a manuscript, which the co-authors then go over carefully making comments and suggestions (as noted, in 4+ authored papers you probably wouldn't have all the co-authors doing that) before the lead author re-drafts taking them into account. Unless there's a major disagreement among authors that usually doesn't take more than a couple of iterations. The worst is a co-author who basically re-writes the manuscript, often reflecting a very different understanding of what is being presented, which can hold things up for ages. Or, a co-author who insists that they have a very good read and comment on a manuscript before it's submitted, and then sits on it for months doing nothing - and then finally quickly skims it, makes small suggestions and then wants to make substantial changes when the reviews come back recommending minor amendments.

With good co-authors, a paper is better for having had that scrutiny and input from differing viewpoints. With poor co-authors it can be a very slow and frustrating business. I hope your co-author falls into the first category.
Posted by Wesley J (# 6075) on :
Due to special circumstances, I've been allowed to do my course mentioned on the prayer thread, and which would have run from early September to early December 2016, in two instalments! Phew...! [Hot and Hormonal]

So the first part is scheduled as originally intended, and the second part will be from early February to May 2017. (After all, there's my day job as well, which even though part-time, has got to be done as well!)

Part of the course is distance, part at my place of work. Thanks to Skype, I had a one-hour-long tutorial on Saturday with the tutor who is in charge of most of the written work. He's given me quite a few good hints, tips and tricks on how to proceed and work within the new, adapted time frame.

So, thankful for this already! Also, I have submitted a first 1000 word essay, which now only needs a few minor changes to be validated. I'll do this tonight.

Until next weekend, I am supposed to write another 2500 word essay on a related subject, which draws on the initial piece of work. - Never a dull moment!

I'd appreciate your occasional burst of prayer for this undertaking. [Smile]

The whole course consists of 3 modules, one of which I've already done (so far postponed the final 3-hr exam for that one, but it can be taken every few months really, so less pressure there). This here is module 2, highly practical because directly work-related. After successful completion of all 3 modules, this should get me 30 UK Higher Ed credits/60 ECTS on MA level.

But as my tutors say, take it step by step, task by task, and no need to look too much into the future and panic. Just do what has to be done. [Eek!]

Which I pray I might be able to! Already been inspired a lot by the tutorials, talks with other candidates and experienced professionals, and having observed some of them.


Hope everybody else on here is doing ok?
Posted by Jack the Lass (# 3415) on :
That's good news, Wesley - sometimes people are galvanised by pressure and do their best work, and other times overwhelmed by it and 'shut down'. I seem to be a mixture of both, depending on whether there's a 'y' in the day or not [Biased]

I am feeling a bit better about my chapter writing, in that the anxiety I was feeling is less overwhelming currently, but am procrastinating from actually writing anything. From my PhD experience, I think this is very normal for me. Unfortunately I have to get something written and sent to my co-author by Friday, so that he can work on it while I am on holiday next week (we are then actually meeting the following week to have a writing day, when our first draft of the chapter will be firmed up ready for submission to the editors). So, also from my PhD experience, there may be an early morning flurry coming on (I am not a morning person at all, but occasionally if I have just one day where I get up at 3 or 4am I can be fantastically productive. And at least I will have a week's holiday to recover this time!).
Posted by Jack the Lass (# 3415) on :
I feel I should add, that although I am procrastinating from writing, I have been doing a lot of reading, so everything that needs writing down is in my head percolating. Even I'm not *that* last minute!
Posted by jacobsen (# 14998) on :
A thousand years ago, long before computers or word processors, when I was writing my 1000 word A level Eng. Lit. essays, I used to write a first draft, using one side of the paper only, then lay the sheets - usually 4-5 A4s - out on the living room floor. Number the paragraphs in the order I now felt they should go, cut them out and lay the thing out again in the new order. Copy it out and repeat the process, making sure I'd created the new links to the latest reordering of the paragraphs. The most you could say for this method is that it was possible to see the whole document at once, so there was no danger of copying and pasting the same paragraph into two places, or even accidentally deleting it.
Posted by Baptist Trainfan (# 15128) on :
I did that with my MA dissertation, which WAS done on a computer ... I printed out the sheets and cut them up.
Posted by Wesley J (# 6075) on :
Ok, so what do I do, oh wise and fellow academians?

Basically, I am absolutely able to manage my workload for studying and writing up. But, for a very strange, weird reason, I hesitate. It's not so much procrastination, but sheer panic.

Very very strange. Utterly mystifying. Everybody who knows me says, you can do it. You won't have a problem with this. Indeed, I've proved myself as an expert through many years in my profession, am accepted and normally well-liked. But why this panic of just sitting down and getting something reasonable onto paper (or the puter) - even more so as it is closely related to my work and thus reality?!

Honestly, folks, I'm at a loss here!

Why do I start to 'hate' the subject, the books, even the tutors? Grr...! - Let it be known that I do have local advisors here, and the tutors are very helpful too.

How did you overcome a confusing situation like this, if it ever happened to you? (Frankly, I don't think I'm the only one here!) What's the trick that makes me do some decent work, and more or less on time? Where's the switch in my mind?

Just back from a nice 2-hr walk, which has helped. But still...!?

[Confused] [Confused] <--me
Posted by ThunderBunk (# 15579) on :
Wesley J, I don't know what to say, but I remember that feeling so well. I'm a complete albatross in this sort of context, in that it all ended horribly badly for me, and I can only wish you well in finding a way through this impasse.
Posted by Wesley J (# 6075) on :
Thanks very much, ThunderBunk. Sorry to hear it didn't work out for you. - Hm... right now I'm wondering if I'm not beginning to laugh at myself here...! How silly I am!

This might actually result in some writing. Well, after a deserved breakfast, that is.

Coz normally it's me telling others what to do - I guess I oughta be able to tell it to myself. Pure comedy, really. [Big Grin] [Roll Eyes]

Stay tuned.
Posted by Tukai (# 12960) on :
Wesley J:

My suggestion: think what you'd say to someone about the subject you have to write about (which if I understand you correctly is what you do much the time so should not induce too much panic). Then write that down. It may not be the most polished presentation, but it should be a reasonable draft which you can then polish up , e.g. adding formal references, changing a phrase or tow to sound more academic (if that is required).

And for JtL:

If big-name-in the field thinks that you are the person she wants to co-author an article, then that probably means (in her professional opinion) you are know more about that subject than anyone else. So take heart from that thought, and go to it!
Posted by North East Quine (# 13049) on :
Wesley J, I know that feeling! I always manage to convince myself that I need to do a little more research and procrastinate that way. I really wish I could get over the anxiety that I haven't done enough research.

I have about six conference papers which I intended to work up into journal articles, but I haven't done any of them. The advantage of conference papers is that I have a deadline. I wish I could create deadlines for the subsequent writing up.
Posted by Qoheleth. (# 9265) on :
On a previous incarnation of this thread, I sought and received much wise advice before embarking on a distance learning Master's degree in theology, after some 45 years' engineering during which I had never written an essay.

At the end of four years blood, sweat and tears I graduated with a Distinction* last week. My supervisor enquired '... and what about a PhD?'. 'But I've got four years' ironing to do!' More realistically, I've also been invited to re-work a couple of dissertation chapters into papers.

Good luck to those who were as hesitant as I was!


*Border-line. My aggregated marks left me two points below the grade boundary, but I was nudged over the line at the Exam Board. How usual is that?
Posted by Jengie jon (# 273) on :
Originally posted by Qoheleth.:

*Border-line. My aggregated marks left me two points below the grade boundary, but I was nudged over the line at the Exam Board. How usual is that?

More common than you would think. Internal examiners tend to be strict in the hope that the external will nudge people over rather than pull people down.

Posted by Lothlorien (# 4927) on :
Well done, Qoheleth, and congratulations.

[ 31. October 2016, 20:45: Message edited by: Lothlorien ]
Posted by Piglet (# 11803) on :
Congratulations Qoheleth! [Yipee]
Posted by Wesley J (# 6075) on :
Ok, update: the 2500 word essay went in last night. Detailed feedback, and next piece of work awaiting. No rest for the wicked. The 1000 word thingy I did earlier has been accepted.

I feel I've actually learned more about the subject matter, as well-known and well-engrained it may be to me really, which pleases me!

Onwards, upwards. [Smile]

[ 07. November 2016, 11:05: Message edited by: Wesley J ]
Posted by Lothlorien (# 4927) on :
It is the end of the academic year down here and I hope all are going well with last minute assignments etc. If it is not the end of your year, the same good wishes still apply.
Posted by Wesley J (# 6075) on :
*bump* [Smile]

Any news out there from anyone?
Posted by RainbowGirl (# 18543) on :
*Waves* may as well join in. I somehow ended up talking myself into the lunacy of using the summer break from theological college to go back to law school and complete a short course at the request of my employer. I'm not having fun. I keep swearing that this theology degree is the absolute, most definitely, last university course I ever do, and that I absolutely, most definitely, will never go back to law school again. I've been saying the same thing for the last three degrees. I have issues.
Posted by Lothlorien (# 4927) on :
How is the research and assignments going. New academic year not long started down here.

© Ship of Fools 2016

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classicTM 6.5.0