Doodling for Academics

In recent weeks, I have been slowing down a little in an attempt to find some of that ever-elusive ‘work-life balance’. Amongst other fledgling self-care efforts, I have started exercising again (following an unintentional but extensive hiatus) and reading more. Now, I am adding colouring to my list of relaxing activities, and here’s why.

A few months ago, I was contacted by University of Chicago Press asking if I’d be willing to take a look at a new book, Doodling for Academics by Julie Schumacher. This sounded like a lot of fun and the book is awesome, so I was happy to provide a blurb:

The wonderfully weird illustrations in Doodling for Academics brilliantly capture the bizarre highs, and arcane lows, of academic life. Full of fun activities to pass the time at staff meetings, this book will be a quirky addition to any academic office.

In Julie’s own words:

The original idea for Doodling for Academics came from University of Chicago Press editor Christie Henry. When she proposed it to me, my first instinct was to dismiss it, but then I found myself laughing while day-dreaming through a few possible images. I had never collaborated on a writing project before, so the matching of concept, illustration, title and caption for the forty different panels was initially overwhelming. Illustrator Lauren Nassef and I exchanged hundreds of emails and drafts, and had several very long conference calls, but never met until after the book was finished.

As soon as copies became available, my department chair held a coloring party. We stuck our finished artwork on the staff fridge when we were done.

I loved the book so much I asked the publisher if I could post a few free pages for fellow academic doodlers to print out and colour in. Three free doodles are provided below, and you can click here to get your hands on the full book, which contains 40 of these wonderfully silly and snarky illustrations.)

 

Julie Schumacher is professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of the best-selling Dear Committee Members, winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor. Lauren Nassef is a freelance illustrator and artist living in Chicago.

Full disclosure: I didn’t get paid for the blurb, but I did get a free copy of the book. I also didn’t get paid for this post, I just wanted to share the fun so I reached out to the publisher for the free pages. I did however set up an Amazon affiliate account (an idea I had only when finding a link to buy the book for this post), which I believe means that if you by the book after clicking the link above I will get 3 cents or something.

This Study is Subject to Certain Limitations: Overly Honest Academic Caveats

Alison Edwards is an independent researcher, translator, editor, writer, and lover of tennis, infrastructure, and collared shirts done all the way up. This post originally appeared on her blog The Rogue Linguist. Follow Alison on twitter @rogue_linguist

This study is subject to certain limitations. For starters, it is imperceptibly different to the last six studies we salami-sliced into articles. Just as with those papers, we tortured something out of one and the same dataset and had a copyeditor repackage the intro so that it looks sort of newish.

***

One possible objection to our work may be that it appears to have insubstantial theoretical underpinning. That would be a correct, if mild, assessment, given that it has no underpinning of any kind at all.

***

The literature review can at best be described as thin, as we read exactly none of the papers referred to. Instead we pursued the following three-pronged information-gathering strategy. 1) We took what Author X said about Author Y’s work and passed it off as our own interpretation without bothering to cite Author X. 2) We perused the reference lists of previous papers and intuited the content of seemingly relevant articles from their titles alone. 3) On a few rare occasions we were compelled to hunt down a paper ourselves; a shout-out to Sci-hub and internet piracy is in order here. In such cases any direct quotes come from the abstracts, as that is as far as we got in terms of actually reading them.

***

The results of the study are tempered somewhat by the fact that we plucked the methodological technique out of thin air, neglected to validate it in any way and described it in as deliberately vague terms as possible. As a consequence, future researchers trying to replicate the study will almost certainly get entirely different results.

***

This study requires the reader to ingest a good dose of LSD before reading.

***

The generalisability of the results is limited due to the sample size of exactly N=1, namely my three-year-old daughter. Oh sure, I’ve dressed it up as a qualitative, longitudinal study of child language development, but Blind Freddy can see I’ve just recorded my kid at random, cherry-picked a few select utterances and even mimicked her myself when her actual developmental process didn’t align with the fictional one I invented for the paper. Oh, and I don’t have a daughter.

***

At this point in time our conclusions necessarily remain tentative, as we came up with them at the tail end of a heavy night of drinking long before actually having conducted the study. Only by a great leap of the imagination could one accept that they genuinely follow from the results.

***

The device tested in the study was developed by the same body that funded the research. In this sense, should one wish to be all pedantic about it, one could speak of a so-called “conflict of interest”.

***

Arguably, this is actually a pretty solid study in terms of execution; it’s just that the entire underlying premise is wildly wrong. In our view, the traditional imperative to come up with something both well-considered and well-executed falls beyond the scope of the present study; we leave it to future researchers who are more masochistic than ourselves to rectify this minor shortcoming.

6 Phrases that Should be Banned

By Dr George Gosling

Academia, whether that means teaching or studying, is ultimately a matter of communication. Our words are the lifeblood of what we do. So I regularly find myself stuggling to suppress my inner pedant when I read phrases that I know simply don’t do what they’re supposed to. So, if for no other reason than to release the build up of pedantry, here are my top six offenders. Of course, these are things for which I’d never dream of marking down a student, but I might counsel them against. If you use them all the time, it’s nothing personal.

  • It could be argued that…

This is one that gets used endlessly in student essays, and it’s hard to blame them when it’s used so frequently in academic texts. Unfortunately it is absolutely meaningless. Anything could be argued. I could write a blog post putting forward an argument for the sun being The Great Mother Satsuma, but I’d struggle to make the case convincingly. One of the things students find hardest to master is acknowledging complexity while still putting forward a strong argument. For me, this is the wrong side of the line. Arguably, starting a sentence by sitting on the fence like this is a bad habit to get into, as you can easily find yourself opting for this over and over, and miss the fact you haven’t actually argued anything. If you’re not convinced, attribute it to someone who is.

  • On the other hand…

There is a simple way to structure an essay: argument, counter-argument, conclusion. It is easy, but I tend to advise against it. This is often a shock to those students who’ve had it drummed into them at A-Level. Structuring an essay this way is not wrong. It’s actually a straightforward way of producing an acceptable essay. However, it’s a really difficult way of writing really good essay. This is because it creates a number of traps – forcing you to simplify the discussion into two sides when it’s probably much more complex, and making it all too easy to avoid actually having an argument of your own until the closing sentences. No. Start with the argument and then make the case.

  • a biased source

In fact, in my seminars I recommend students ditch the term ‘bias’ altogether. There is no person, no document (no historical witness or source) that is not biased in some way or another. Again, it’s meaningless. The problem here is that labelling a source as biased sounds like you’ve actually said something when you haven’t, making it all too easy to move on to the next point without actually having made one at all. Instead, identify the perspective from which a source is written, or from which they see events. That really can tell us something.

  • some historians

What happened is history (the past). How we interpret, explain and debate the cause, impact and meaning of what happened is History (the scholarly discipline). This wouldn’t be possible if all historians agreed, so there is some sense in distinguishing between the ideas and opinions of some historians and others. The problem is the obvious question it prompts: which ones? Not specifying implies historians are interchangeable, that the positions we take are random. We’re not and they’re not. This is why labelling historians as traditionalist and revisionist likewise falls short – suggesting it’s a fluke of timing. Once again this phrase only does half the job.

  • …but then she is a feminist historian

The objective historian is a myth. Once we recognise we are all biased commentators it can serve as a useful myth – giving license to rigorously question our own assumptions against both the available evidence and the wisdom of the crowd. This is a good thing, yet it’s often cut short by the negative connotations of bias. Labelling the premise of the historian’s assumptions should be a helpful way of engaging with their perspective on the past, but instead is often used to dismiss alternative interpretations rashly. Most typically I see this dismissal – sometimes this bluntly – to reject the arguments of feminist historians. Although I’ve never encountered this said of a male historian.

  • as to

I used to use this all the time about a decade ago, and there’s no zealot like a convert. The reason as to why I turned against this unnecessary flourish is that it’s pretentious. I’ve never used it when speaking, so why when writing? It’s the over-compensating that comes from not feeling you have the authority to write about a given subject. There will always be an element of fake it ’til you make it, but this is too transparent a disguise it be any use. Good academic writing is a matter of saying complicated things as simply as possible. Decide what needs saying. Say it plainly. Then stop.

This post originally appeared on Dr George Gosling’s blog. It is reposted here under the terms of Creative Commons license BY-NC 4.0. Dr Gosling is a Historian of medicine and charity in modern Britain and beyond. Follow him on twitter @gcgosling.

Sample Cover Letter for Journal Manuscript Resubmissions

By Roy F. Baumeister

Dear Sir, Madame, or Other:
Enclosed is our latest version of Ms # 85-02-22-RRRRR, that is, the re-re-re-revised revision of our paper. Choke on it. We have again rewritten the entire manuscript from start to finish. We even changed the goddamn running head! Hopefully we have suffered enough by now to satisfy even you and your bloodthirsty reviewers.

I shall skip the usual point-by-point description of every single change we made in response to the critiques. After all, it is fairly clear that your reviewers are less interested in details of scientific procedure than in working out their personality problems and sexual frustrations by seeking some kind of demented glee in the sadistic and arbitrary exercise of tyrannical power over helpless authors like ourselves who happen to fall into their clutches. We do understand that, in view of the misanthropic psychopaths you have on your editorial board, you need to keep sending them papers, for if they weren’t reviewing manuscripts they’d probably be out mugging old ladies or clubbing baby seals to death. Still, from this batch of reviewers, C was clearly the most hostile, and we request that you not ask him or her to review this revision. Indeed, we have mailed letter bombs to four or five people we suspected of being reviewer C, so if you send the manuscript back to them the review process could be unduly delayed.

Some of the reviewers’ comments we couldn’t do anything about. For example, if (as review C suggested) several of my recent ancestors were indeed drawn from other species, it is too late to change that. Other suggestions were implemented, however, and the paper has improved and benefited. Thus, you suggested that we shorten the manuscript by 5 pages, and we were able to accomplish this very effectively by altering the margins and printing the paper in a different font with a smaller typeface. We agree with you that the paper is much better this way.

One perplexing problem was dealing with suggestions #13-28 by Reviewer B. As you may recall (that is, if you even bother reading the reviews before doing your decision letter), that reviewer listed 16 works that he/she felt we should cite in this paper. These were on a variety of different topics, none of which had any relevance to our work that we could see. Indeed, one was an essay on the Spanish-American War from a high school literary magazine. The only common thread was that all 16 were by the same author, presumably someone whom Reviewer B greatly admires and feels should be more widely cited. To handle this, we have modified the Introduction and added, after the review of relevant literature, a subsection entitled “Review of Irrelevant Literature” that discusses these articles and also duly addresses some of the more asinine suggestions in the other reviews.

We hope that you will be pleased with this revision and will finally recognize how urgently deserving of publication this work is. If not, then you are an unscrupulous, depraved monster with no shred of human decency. You ought to be in a cage. May whatever heritage you come from be the butt of the next round of ethnic jokes. If you do accept it, however, we wish to thank you for your patience and wisdom throughout this process and to express our appreciation of your scholarly insights. To repay you, we would be happy to review some manuscripts for you; please send us the next manuscript that any of these reviewers submits to your journal.

Assuming you accept this paper, we would also like to add a footnote acknowledging your help with this manuscript and to point out that we liked the paper much better the way we originally wrote it but you held the editorial shotgun to our heads and forced us to chop, reshuffle, restate, hedge, expand, shorten, and in general convert a meaty paper into stir-fried vegetables. We couldn’t, or wouldn’t, have done it without your input.

Sincerely,

25 PhD Feels All Doctoral Students Have

Mairi Young is a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, researching why people are scared of the dentist (sort of). She is also a foodie and self-confessed junk food lover, blogging over at The Weegie Kitchen.

  1. Having to explain to your Mum, for the fiftieth time, no you’re not writing an essay.
  2. Having to explain to your Mum, yet again, that a Viva is not just an exam.
  3. Having to explain to your Mum a PhD is a real job.
  4. Asking your Mum to just stop asking about your PhD.
  5. Sneaking out Leaving the office at 6pm and feeling guilty.
  6. That twinge of guilt over the sheer amount of paper you print on a weekly basis.
  7. Feeling sad that you’ve single-handedly destroyed a rainforest by doing a Systematic Literature Review.
  8. Bringing your laptop and papers home for the weekend/holidays/trip abroad (tick all that apply) but never actually opening the bag and feeling its judgmental glare the entire time so you can’t fully relax.

    Source: PHD comics

    Source: PHD comics

  9. Batch cooking on a Sunday for the week ahead and feeling like you have won at life because you’re so organised.
  10. Eating microwaved lasagne for lunch and dinner for the 4th day running and wondering why you ever thought batching cooking was a good idea.
  11. Quietly loathing the postdocs who can afford fancy ready meals for lunch.
  12. Hating compulsory seminars.
  13. Attending compulsory seminars because offer free sandwiches and it’s an escape from microwaved lasagne for the 5th day running.
  14. Stocking up on free sandwiches at free seminars.

    PHD Comics

    Source: PHD Comics

  15. Feeling flush when you buy prosecco from Aldi.
  16. Eating crisps in the office by placing each crisp on your tongue and patiently waiting for it to dissolve because you don’t wanna be that person.
  17. Feeling super smart when you use words like epistemology and ontology.
  18. Feeling like a dunce when you have to explain the meaning of these words.
  19. Writing your acknowledgements page and wiping away a tear because it’s very Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars circa 1999.
  20. Watching as your office uniform goes from suit jacket to hoodies swiftly in the final six months (or the first six weeks).
  21. Its 3 months till completion and you can’t remember the last time you ate a vegetable.

  22. Applying for post-doc positions with a 37.5-hour working week and realising (very soon) you will no longer have to work an 80-hour week.
  23. Daydreaming about all the productive things you’ll do with these extra 40 hours a week.
  24. Realising you’ll probably just use it to catch up on sleep and your laundry pile.
  25. Realising that postdocs work an 80-hour week too.

Campus Chaos as Pokemon Go Goes Viral

Credit: Burdie

Credit: Burdie

Campuses across the country are facing chaos today as the viral video game Pokemon Go continues to grip the student body.

Dr. Samuel Oak, a professor of zoology at Celadon University, took the drastic step of failing all of his students after they refused to pay attention in class following the release of the hit new game.

“Around the second week of class I noticed many students had stopped paying attention completely and were just staring at their phones”, he lame, “Every class has some inattentive students, but when they began walking around the room I started to get irritated”.

“One day a student pointed their phone at me and exclaimed that they had caught a Butterfree”, he explains, “I just lost it”.

Professor Elm, a biology professor at Johto University said that she had an influx of students interrupting her class on Monday asking if they were in the right place for the Magikarp giveaway.

Elsewhere campus gyms have been designated as a Pokemon gyms, resulting in a number of unfortunate accidents, while the library at Straiton City University is receiving visitors in unprecedented numbers after first year student Ash Ketchum claimed to have spotted a Pikachu in the aisles.

campus

Campuses nationwide have been affected.

Pokemon Go is the latest in a string of distractions that are leaving lecturers helpless – just last year a student was marked absent after spending her class taking selfies and googling pictures of golden retriever puppies in party hats.

But Oak and others argue that this is an entirely new breed of distraction, more involved and insidious than the selfies and emojis that have previously plagued their pedagogy.

Unsure how to manage the crisis, one university is cancelling the semester altogether to allow the hype to die down.

Professor Takao Cozmo, Dean of Fallarbor University, announced the closure today in a brief statement: “We recognize that attempting to teach in this environment is pointless, so all classes are cancelled until further notice” he told the small group of journalists that were all staring at their phones.

Cosmo also announced that research efforts would be redirected to capturing and identifying all 150 of the curious creatures before cutting his speech short and rushing to the door to chase a passing Pidgey.

5 Out of this World Star Wars Papers

it's a trap

1. It’s a Trap: Emperor Palpatine’s Poison Pill external-link

Abstract: “In this paper we study the financial repercussions of the destruction of two fully armed and
operational moon-sized battle stations (“Death Stars”) in a 4-year period and the dissolution of
the galactic government in Star Wars.” 

Highlights: The whole thing is excellent. Estimating a “$193 QUINTILLION cost for the Death Star (including R&D)”. Concluding that “the Rebel Alliance would need to prepare a bailout of at least 15%, and likely at least 20%, of GGP1 in order to mitigate the systemic risks and the sudden and catastrophic economic collapse”.

galactic bailout

Distribution of the losses caused by the destruction of the second Death Star.

2. Using Star Wars’ supporting characters to teach about psychopathology external-link

Abstract: “The pop culture phenomenon of Star Wars has been underutilised as a vehicle to teach about psychiatry… The purpose of this article is to illustrate psychopathology and psychiatric themes demonstrated by supporting characters, and ways they can be used to teach concepts in a hypothetical yet memorable way… Characters can be used to approach teaching about ADHD, anxiety, kleptomania and paedophilia.”

Highlights: Stating that Jar Jar Binks is the “low-hanging fruit of psychopathology, serving as an easily identifiable example of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)”. Overanalysis of Luke’s familial relations.

star wars table

3. Evolving Ideals of Male Body Image as Seen Through Action Toys external-link

Abstract: “We hypothesized that the physiques of male action toys…  would provide some index of evolving American cultural ideals of male body image… We obtained examples of the most popular American action toys manufactured over the last 30 years. We then measured the waist, chest, and bicep circumference of each figure and scaled these measurements using classical allometry to the height of an actual man (1.78 m)… We found that the figures have grown much more muscular over time…”

Highlights: The accompanying image showing how buff Luke and Anakin became between 1978-1998. “Luke and Hans have both acquired the physiques of bodybuilders over the last 20 years, with particularly impressive gains in the shoulder and chest areas”

Luke & Hans

4. Darth Vader Made Me Do It! Anakin Skywalker’s Avoidance of Responsibility and the Gray Areas of Hegemonic Masculinity in the Star Wars Universe external-link

Abstract: “In this essay, we examined the interactions of Anakin Skywalker during moral dilemmas in the Star Wars narrative in order to demonstrate the avoidance of responsibility as a characteristic of hegemonic masculinity. Past research on sexual harassment has demonstrated a ‘‘gray area’’ that shields sexual harassers from responsibility. We explored how such a gray area functions as a characteristic of hegemonic masculinity by shielding one male, Anakin Skywalker, from responsibility for his immoral and often violent actions. Through our investigation, we found three themes integral for the construction of a gray area that helped Anakin avoid responsibility: phantom altruism, a clone-like will, and the guise of the Sith.”

Highlights: “Other characters within contemporary popular culture—such as Rambo and Jason Bourne—all avoid responsibility for any crimes or violent actions they take when confronted by moral dilemmas within their respective narrative because they all demonstrate themes similar to the three that arose in our analysis of Anakin Skywalker: (a) an altruistic past, (b) threats and deceptions that rob them of their autonomy, and (c) a dark guise that can be blamed for their most egregious actions”

5. The Skywalker Twins Drift Apart external-link

Abstract: “The twin paradox states that twins travelling relativistically appear to age differently to one
another due to time dilation. In the 1980 film Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, twins
Luke and Leia Skywalker travel very large distances at “lightspeed.” This paper uses two scenarios to
attempt to explore the theoretical effects of the twin paradox on the two protagonists.”

HighlightsCapture d’écran 2015-12-18 à 14.46.34 Luke is calculated to be 638.2 days younger than Leia.

  1. Gross Galactic Product