Best Advice: Writing [From the Hey Jane archives]

March 24, 2009 at 2:38 am | Posted in Dissertation, Hey Jane Column, Publishing, Writing | Leave a comment

Hey Jane! is a monthly advice column on the SWS listserv that addresses issues of interest to feminist sociologists and sociologist-activists. The name honors Jane Addams, a feminist sociologist not always recognized enough. This Q&A is hosted by the Career Development Committee, who solicits anonymous questions and responses from multiple SWS members.

Column 23 (January 2008)

For this month’s Hey Jane! Column I asked you to send me your “best” piece of advice.

Buy and use the book Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day (so that you don’t become paralyzed at the enormity of the project).

Regarding my dissertation, my mother (who is an academic) said to me, “Your dissertation is a brick, not a castle. Finish your dissertation and then spend the rest of your career building your castle.”

“Nothing, absolutely nothing substitutes for high quality publications — you can never make a ‘trade-off’ of this against anything else.  Period.”

“One idea per article,” meaning pace yourself in terms of articles.

My graduate school advisor told me to publish often – book reviews, instructor manuals, anything to get my name out there and lines on my vitae.  This was great advice – and if you can find a mentor to help you create such avenues for publication, all the better.

The best advice I think I ever got was to apply for every competition you see – campus syllabus competitions, theses, published and unpublished papers, books, and on and on.

Volunteer to be a reviewer for a journal in your area of study early in your career (ideally during graduate school).  Reviewing journal articles and book manuscripts has helped me to become a much better writer.

One time after multiple revisions requested by the editor of a journal, I found that I no longer recognized my own ideas.  A mentor advised me to “never let reviewers hijack your work.” In trying to appease several different reviewers, I had lost sight of what I wanted to say.  Use the feedback of reviewers and editors to help make your ideas better, but don’t let them turn your ideas into something you’re not comfortable with.  Rather, make the changes you find appropriate and then explain to the editor why you have decided not to make some of the suggested changes.

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Best Advice [From the Hey Jane archives]

March 24, 2009 at 1:49 am | Posted in Dissertation, Graduate School, Hey Jane Column | Leave a comment

Hey Jane! is a monthly advice column on the SWS listserv that addresses issues of interest to feminist sociologists and sociologist-activists. The name honors Jane Addams, a feminist sociologist not always recognized enough. This Q&A is hosted by the Career Development Committee, who solicits anonymous questions and responses from multiple SWS members.

Column 23 (January 2008)

For this month’s Hey Jane! Column I asked you to send me your “best” piece of advice.

My personal top three “best” pieces of advice include:

  1. Learn how to say no.
  2. You will be the smartest person in the room during your dissertation defense.
  3. Done is better than perfect.

As for number one on my list – I’m still learning the art of saying no.  I’ve gotten to be pretty good at it when I’m asked to do something that does not seem interesting or useful to me at all.  I’m still working on saying no to people I like and respect and when the task is compelling.  The last two on my list probably require a bit of elaboration.  They both worked well for me because of my own personal demons.  When I was approaching my dissertation defense I was experiencing a lack of confidence.  The person who told me I’d be “the smartest person in the room” meant that I would know more about my topic and my data than anyone else in the room.  And it was true!  Of course the people on my dissertation committee were all highly intelligent, but I needed to hear that I could hold my own with them.  This probably wouldn’t be a piece of advice you’d want to give to a student who has a tendency toward arrogance.  “Done is better than perfect,” is not intended as an excuse to turn in sloppy work.  However, this bit of advice works well for people who are frozen by the desire for perfection. You’ll notice that some of the pieces of advice below directly contradict each other.  So, take what is useful for you and take some time to think about the person you are giving the advice to – is it the right advice for that person at that time?

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