How Do We Make Time? Faculty Share Their Research and Writing Advice

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A lot faculty struggle to find time to keep up on their research agendas during the semester.  Between meetings, teaching, and all of the other things that add up to a faculty member’s work life, time often gets away from us.  So, how do we make time for our research and writing?

A number of faculty from various institutions and disciplines shared their thoughts about writing and research productivity in an article for the The Chronicle of Higher Education.  We thought that we would share some of their advice to help you think about making time for your writing and research:

  • Rachel Connelly advises self-awareness: “One of the most important ways to increase your productivity is to know yourself.”  She suggests structuring your writing around the time of day when you know you are productive.
  • Richard M. Felder offers advise that writing faculty often share with their students: “Do your creating and editing sequentially, not simultaneously.”  Writers often get bogged down when they focus on production and polishing simultaneously.  Felder’s advice to get the ideas out first is effective.
  • Shelley Fisher Fishkin prefers long span of time to write, but she recognizes that “those half-hour chunks of time are not to be squandered either.”  Theresa MacPhail adds, “The truth is, none of us have time enough to write. Those of us who write regularly make time, fitting small chunks of writing time into our schedules wherever and whenever we can.” This advice resonates with research on the habits of productive writers who take advantage of the few free minutes they have in-between meetings and classes.
  • Kristen R. Ghodsee adds to Fishkin’s  and MacPhail’s advice: “Look at some of the more substantial items on your schedule and see if you can break them into smaller bits. Keep a running ‘to do’ list of things that require between five to 20 minutes of your time, and then only do those things in your moments of time confetti.”
  • Several faculty suggested simple technologies or workflow processes that assist their productivity: Melanie Nelson uses a Kanban board, Theresa MacPhail uses Google Drive on the go, and Tim Slater emails himself “ideabank” emails when he is away from his desk.

One other practice many faculty find helpful is to join a writing group or participate in a writing retreat.  Groups and retreats often provide supportive networks that facilitate productivity and hold people accountable.  Mason hosts weekly write-ins and biannual retreats in January and May; applications for May’s retreat are due May 3rd.  If you are interested in participating in either, visit the WAC Program’s webpage for more information.

Helping Students Revise

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In our last post, we discussed the qualities of good feedback.  But as many writing teachers know, giving good feedback is only part of the equation; students still need to use that feedback in order to revise their drafts and develop as writers.  And this second part of the equation can be a significant challenge for many writing teachers and students alike; as Katherine Gottschalk and Keith Hjortshoj note, drafts can sometimes become “like concrete:” once they begin to set, they aren’t likely to see changes deeper than the surface.  So, the question becomes: how do we help students use our feedback and revise their writing? Continue reading

Characteristics of Effective Feedback

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Writing intensive courses are built on the concept that students improve as writers when they are given frequent opportunities to revise their writing based upon feedback from faculty.  While providing feedback can seem simple, many writing teachers recognize that the task is complex, and it’s common for faculty to feel unsure of how best to provide feedback on writing.  In consultations and informal conversations, faculty often ask us: how do I provide effective feedback, and what should I be mindful of as I provide my student’s feedback? Continue reading

WAC Mason Hosted Its 10th Faculty Writing Retreat

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On January 9th and 10th, Mason’s WAC Program held its 5th winter faculty writing retreat and its 10th overall.  Mason’s WAC Program began hosting retreats in May 2014 to provide a distraction-free environment for faculty to work on scholarly projects.  Since that time, the retreats have garnered a steady interest, but this retreat was our largest one yet: a total of 48 energetic writers convened in Fenwick Library for two productive days. Continue reading

Reading Research as a Process (in the Sciences)

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As we have written throughout this semester, many challenges that students encounter with writing stem from difficulties with reading.  These difficulties range across disciplines, but each discipline might face its own set of challenges.  The problem many faculty in the sciences experience, writes Laura Davies in her article on teaching reading in science courses, is that often “students regard scientific texts as collections of facts.”  Thus, Davies says, students engage articles purely for content and can overlook how that content engages in broader disciplinary conversations and practices, which are often critical for entering into a disciplinary community.  So, how do we help students read for more than facts? Continue reading

Reading Like a Writer


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Earlier in the semester, we shared some resources that focused on using annotations and other strategies to support reading.  The general intent of these strategies is to prompt students to engage more deeply and mindfully with their reading.  In our post on “mindful reading,” we mentioned that effective readers often read for specific purposes that shape the way they engage the texts they are reading.  For instance, if readers want to gain a general understanding of a text, they might skim it by noting the title, reading the introduction and conclusion, and browsing the main sections.  But what if we have a different purpose?  What if we are engaging a text not for its content but for its structure? Continue reading

Scientists Talk about Reading Research

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Earlier in the semester, we shared a few resources to support the ways in which faculty teach reading in (writing-intensive) courses.  While literacy scholars and reading teachers suggest a variety of useful strategies to help students engage with their reading more deeply, one of the most commonly offered recommendations urges faculty to talk and model productive reading practices.  That is why today we are sharing an article that does just that: interviews scientists about their reading practices.  Continue reading

Join Professor Gesa Kirsch and WAC Mason Tomorrow

Dr. Gesa Kirsch, Professor of English and Media Studies at Bentley University, will join WAC Mason for a discussion of “The Advocacy, Activism, and Rhetorical Savvy of Dr. Mary Bennet Ritter, MD, and her Contemporaries.”  Dr. Kirsch will explore Dr. Ritter’s life and legacy, trace her cohort of women physicians, and examine the role of the Woman’s Medical Journal in creating and sustaining a large professional network of early (mostly white) women physicians.

The talk will be held at 2:00pm in Johnson Center Room F on Mason’s Fairfax Campus.  It will be followed by a reception at 3:30 and a coffee hour for graduate students at 4:00pm.


Kirsch Colloquium - Advocacy, Activism, and Rhetorical Savy

Study: Peer Review Increases Impact of Published Scholarship

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Tomorrow afternoon, the WAC Program is sponsoring a talk at Fall for the Book on “The Future of Academic Writing and Publishing.”  The talk will feature five panelists who will consider how academic publishing is currently evolving and how scholars and editors might respond to that continuing evolution.  One facet of this evolution concerns the prevalence of metrics that quantify the “impact” of a given article or journal.  While impact metrics have been critiqued for a number of reasons, their use has remained prevalent, perhaps increasingly so.  And that prevalence lead researchers John Rigby, Deborah Cox, and Keith Julian to wonder what impact factor metrics might reveal about academic writing beyond the circulation of a particular text.  Continue reading

Join WAC at Fall for the Book


Writing Across the Curriculum is proud to sponsor “The Future of Academic Writing and Publishing,” a special event at George Mason’s annual Fall for the Book festivalPanelists Adam Winsler, Emily Green, John Warren, Laura Poms, and Doug Eyman will consider how academic writing has changed to reflect digital landscapes, diverse audiences, and new publishing platforms.  This multidisciplinary panel will also contemplate recent challenges to definitions of academic writing and how we might anticipate further changes in coming decades.

Please join us Thursday October 11, 2018 at 4:30pm on the 3rd floor of the Johnson Center in Meeting Room G.

FftB Flyer - Academic Publishing