How I Self-Revised My Dissertation, a Video Presentation

Today, I’m proud to share with you a project that’s been on my mind for a long time now: a video presentation detailing the steps I took to revise my own dissertation. Sometimes it’s difficult to dive right into revisioning and redrafting (the components of revising) because there’s no clear first step. Every PhD has found a way through the mire; as I’m in a position to share my approach, I’ll do just that. Revising from the Standpoint of a Developmental Editor To bypass the hemming and hawing that can accompany the academic revision process, I ultimately drew on my training and experience in developmental editing. That approach allowed me to accomplish several important tasks all in one phase: solidifying the argument from the ground up and restructuring accordingly sharpening the thesis and its many permutations addressing faculty feedback polishing the writing adding almost 100 pages of content I emerged from this process with a defense draft of my dissertation that was stronger than the previous version in every way. To accomplish such a total overhaul, I had to have a way in; otherwise, it would have just been too daunting to start. Sharing My Revision Experience I surprised myself with how much I was able to improve my dissertation in a span of two months, so I have for some time known that I wanted to dissect and relate my experiences for others’ benefit. It’s what we all do: having accomplished, we look back and extend a hand to those who are following the same path. The resulting twelve-minute video presentation details the process I used so that...

Concentration Tips from Your Media-Saturated Academic Editor: Part Two

Last time, I shared with you a couple of hard-earned, concrete tactics that I deploy in my quest to remain productive, focused, and fulfilled. As a result of those and other habits, I’m mostly successful in reaching my work objectives. I promised that I’d explain the overarching, undergirding system at work in my methods of concentrating and being productive. That makes up the second half of this post, but first I think it prudent to explain how I measure the first downs of my working routine. (The painfulness of that metaphor relates directly to my superficial knowledge of sports, especially American football. Bear with me, folks. I’d never leave such a clumsy figure of speech in a manuscript, but the imagery seems to fit this topic.) Work toward Output, Not Time Lots of productivity guides suggest setting time goals. The very influential Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day is one of them, and I do suggest that dissertators check out that book. The logic is this: once you get started on an unintimidating, timed goal (e.g., fifteen minutes of writing), you’ll keep going and achieve your big dreams. This is undeniably much better than never starting a project because it is too daunting when taken as a whole. At times, that strategy has worked for me. Usually, however, I have to work toward an output goal: writing two hundred fifty words, editing five pages, drafting one blog post, emailing three university presses. Working toward output instead of time keeps me project focused, which allows the work itself to motivate me. And that means that I enjoy myself...

Concentration Tips from Your Media-Saturated Academic Editor: Part One

I edit for psychologists, but I’m not one of them. I’m also not a productivity guru. But lately I’ve realized that I do have my own tricks for staying on task and getting things done. Let me address the big picture. I’m pretty in touch with the fact that I have a life of some luxury. I may not have monetary wealth, but I’m overeducated and a member of the creative class. Most of my clients and colleagues are in similar situations. This means that, by and large, I work on projects that I enjoy on some level. I decide what work I do and when I do it. With that freedom come the known dangers of derailment and avoidance, and I’m not above either. Media—all kinds, but especially the at-my-fingertips, online variety—is what tempts me. We talk about our media-saturated culture; I’m a media-saturated citizen. My curious, sponge-like spirit is the same that led me to pursue a life in scholarship and research, so I expect many of you academics reading this share the propensity to seek out and consume news, culture, and even asinine Internet babble. Search it out though I have, effective anti-procrastination advice is hard to find. Realistically, I suppose, not all productivity devices work for everyone, and the trick is to find the ones that fit my particular personality and circumstances. Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the concrete methods that I use to keep on task and stay happy. As a result, I’m pretty darn productive. The following tactics work for me, but I make no bones about my idiosyncrasies. Prioritize Two Very Different...

Style Sheets for Academic Writers

Tweed provides a style sheet with every completed editing job. The writer can use the style sheet as a guide to the edits I’ve made and as a crib sheet for cleaning up future documents even before they’re edited. But What is a Style Sheet? A style sheet is a record of types of changes made during the editing process and often covers the following aspects as they pertain to the document at hand: capitalization hyphenation use of italics spelling punctuation formatting Usually, a style sheet only includes decisions that differ from or are more specific than what can be found in the prevailing style guide (in publishing, it’s often The Chicago Manual of Style). For Tweed’s purposes, however, I include not just a list of terms and ad hoc rules but also some guidelines that I think will benefit the writer as he interprets my edits and goes on to other writing projects. Sample Style Sheet for Academic Editing This is a sample style sheet (PDF), mocked up from work I’ve done on a wide variety of projects. Despite the disparate content, this sample gives you a sense of what a style sheet is and what it can do for you as a writer. I usually phrase entries as sentences so that they are most useful to writers. It must be said, however, that no style sheet is a replacement for a style guide or mastery thereof. I don’t list every editing decision that I make; I focus on the ones most important for the document and hand and that I think a writer could rather easily understand,...

Trade Tool: Hyphenation Tables

Many of the tools I use as a professional academic editor could be used (and well!) by thoughtful writers and revisers, so I’ve decided to start featuring some of the handier implements and resources that are part of my editing routine. This first one I actually keep in my dock. (That’s the menu bar across the bottom of my Mac’s desktop.) It’s The Chicago Manual of Style’s hyphenation table. Found in chapter seven of the big orange book, the chart summarizes Chicago’s logic regarding compounds and provides very specific examples. Let me back up for a second: Chicago has a few foundational guidelines for the treatment of compounds (to hyphenate or not?). First, recognize that compounds tend toward closure. As it becomes more common, a term that’s open (“data base”) will probably become hyphenated (“data-base”) and then eventually close completely (“database”). Second, a compound modifier appearing before the term (usually a noun) that it modifies tends to be hyphenated: “at-risk students” versus “students at risk.” Those are the most important general trends to be aware of in order to treat compounds according to Chicago style. The hyphenation table itself contains four main sections: compounds according to category compounds according to parts of speech compounds formed with specific terms words formed with prefixes So you want to know how to handle a fraction? Section 1 includes “fractions, compounds formed with” and “fractions, simple.” There, we find examples such as “one and three-quarters” and general rules. Compounds formed with fractions (“quarter-hour session”) are open in noun form and hyphenated as adjectives. Simple fractions are hyphenated all the time unless the second...

Scholarly Resolution Certificate

Happy new year! Envisioning a productive 2011 is ever so much easier when a bit of pomp and circumstance is involved. Award yourself this certificate upon making a resolution. Then post it, scrapbook it, bedazzle it—whatever will keep the goal at the forefront of your mind until you complete it. Print and complete the Scholarly Resolution form, which will help you brainstorm on a number of levels. Get in touch with your reasons for adopting the goal. Break it down into smaller steps, each with a target date. Identify resources that will help you accomplish the goal. Decide on a reward to give yourself upon completion. I’m actually going to go fill out a few copies of the certificate myself. It and other resources for academic writers are available in the TWEED Library. Happy resolving! (Have you signed up for Annotations, TWEED’s email periodical? It’s an easy way to be reminded of the tools I make available to scholarly writers. Please...