Quote of the Day — Alan Sokol

“If the texts seem incomprehensible, it is for the excellent reason that they mean precisely nothing.”

Terms that have different meanings for scientists and the public

From: Words Matter

Statistics Resources for Social and Behavioural Sciences: SPSS, R, Maths, and Writing

Here is a newly discovered blog with lots of useful articles about practical statistics.


From: Jeromy Anglim’s Blog: Psychology and Statistics

Recommended Fonts for Presentations

  • Baskerville – cultured, dignified and just and admirable
  • Bodoni – elegant, subjective, both classic and modern
  • Caslon – dignified, formal, vigorous but graceful
  • Franklin Gothic – classic sans serif
  • Frutiger – strong, readable, simple, smooth
  • Futura – elgante sans serif
  • Garamond – classically elegant, adult
  • Gill Sans – sans serif font with a strong, warm and friendly personality
  • Helvetica – neutral without being boring, simple, contemporary
  • Optima – smooth, refined, calming, elegant, in my view, however, partially limited line width for presentations
  • Rockwell – owned, bold, confident

From: Warum ignorieren Sie Typographie in Präsentationen? Die wichtigsten Regeln!

Guidelines for Writing Summaries

Read the passage carefully. Determine its structure. Identify the author’s purpose in writing. Make a note in the margin when you get confused, or when you think something is important.

Reread. This time divide the passage into sections or stages of thought. The author’s use of paragraphing will often be a useful guide. Label, on the passage itself, each section or stage of thought. Underlying key ideas and terms. Write notes in the margin.

Write one sentence summaries, on a separate sheet of paper, of each stage of thought.

Write a thesis: a one or two sentence summary of the entire passage. The thesis should express the central idea of the passage, as you have determined it from the preceding steps. You may find it useful to keep in mind the what, who, why, where, when, and how of the matter. For persuasive passages, summarize in a sentence the author’s conclusion. For descriptive passages, indicate the subject of the description and its key feature. Note: in some cases, a suitable thesis may already be in the original passage. If so, you may want to quote it directly in your summary.

Write the first draft of your summary by (1) combining the thesis with your list of one sentence summaries or (2)combining the thesis with one sentence summaries plus significant details from the passage. In either case, you eliminate repetition and less important information. Disregard minor details or generalize them. Use as few words as possible to convey the main ideas.

Check your summary against the original passage and make whatever adjustments are necessary for accuracy and completeness.

Revise your summary, inserting traditional words and phrases where necessary to ensure coherence. Check for style. Avoid a series of short, choppy sentences. Combine sentences for a smooth logical flow of ideas. Check for grammatical correctness, punctuation, and spelling.

Behrens, L., Rosen, L. J., & Beedles, B. (2002). A Sequence For Academic Writing. New York: Longman.

Books That Provoke Our Thanks

APA Style Blog: Books That Provoke Our Thanks

Writers in psychology and the social and behavioral sciences reach for the APA Publication Manual first when they have style and usage questions. But inevitably, some topics are outside its scope, while others are covered in less detail than one might like.

At APA, there are a few resource books we turn to in gratitude on a daily basis. You’ll find them on the desk of almost every editor here, and they just might have the answers you’re looking for.

Grammar, Usage, and Style

The Publication Manual contains valuable basic information on writing clearly and correctly but by no means covers all the bases. When I’ve been wrestling with a thorny sentence for the last half hour and it still looks wrong, I reach for Words Into Type. If you’re looking for guidance on coordinate conjunctions or collective nouns, this is the place.

Some issues may arise infrequently in psychology and the social sciences (e.g., “In what context should I capitalize Platonic ideas?” “Where can I find a conversion chart from Wade-Giles to Pinyin?”), but they do arise. For questions with a humanities slant, the Chicago Manual of Style can be helpful. It has extensive information on foreign language references, titles of historical persons, and other topics that are beyond APA’s purview.

Finally, a lighter approach sometimes helps when you’re trying to get your head around language problems. In The Elephants of Style and Lapsing Into a Comma, Bill Walsh offers tips on contemporary usage in a humorous and thoroughly approachable way. Another classic in this vein is The Careful Writer, by Theodore M. Bernstein.

Spelling and Word Division

For everyday spelling issues, APA uses Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. But when you need to know whether it’s “Alzheimer syndrome” or “Alzheimer’s disease,” we (naturally) recommend the APA Dictionary of Psychology: a thousand pages of terminology specific to the psychological sciences.

Legal References

Appendix 7.1 of the Publication Manual gives a good introduction to the use of legal materials in APA style. For most authors, this is all you’ll ever need. But researchers in some fields, such as forensic psychology, may need a more comprehensive guide. In that case, go straight to the source: The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. (Then head over to the nearest law school librarian for help, because legal citation is an art unto itself.)

Writing and Style Guides

The Internet Public Library has lots of really useful links. I find this set particularly useful when writing.

Internet Public Library:  Style & Writing Guides

Key Sentences

Research as a Second Language

Tara Gray’s Publish and Flourish performs one of its essential ideas in its table of contents. If we restate the subtitle as a question, the section headings, taken together, constitute the answer, and the chapter titles constitute its elaboration.

Q: How does one become a prolific scholar?

A: You become a prolific scholar by managing your time and then writing often, revising often, getting help from others often, and letting go of your work (to let it be reviewed) often.That’s what Tara would call her “thesis”, and which she no doubt had posted on her wall as she wrote the book. Notice what happens if we just put her chapter titles together in a single paragraph, using elements from this “key sentence” to frame it:

You become a prolific scholar by managing your time and then writing often. Differentiate the the “urgent” from the important. Write daily for 15–30 minutes. Record time spent writing daily–share records weekly. Write from the first day of your research project. But writing often is not enough. Becoming prolific requires that you revise often, get help from others, and learn how to let go of your work. Post your thesis on the wall and write to it. Organize your text around key sentences. Use them as an after-the-fact outline. Share early drafts with non-experts and later drafts with experts. Learn how to listen. Respond to each specific comment. Read your prose out loud. Then kick it out the door and make them say “No”.I’ve tried to keep the editing to a minimum to emphasize the point that when you use key sentences as an outline, stringing them together should make immediate sense. It should provide an overview of your argument.

This idea was first suggested to me at a seminar by Walter Friedman of the Business History Review. After accepting an article for publication, he said, he would work with authors on the basis of what Tara calls an “after-the-fact” outline. That is, he would send them a document containing one sentence from each paragraph (that he had selected as “key”) and then they would have a conversation about how those sentences could be sharpened and arranged for optimal effect. I’ve always wanted to use that method in my own dialogue with authors, and I take Tara’s book as a reminder to follow up on that.

The idea is not be altogether new to readers of this blog. No matter how long it may be, you should be able to summarize your text in a single clear sentence. This goes for each chapter and each section as well. And it goes for each paragraph, too. Knowing what those one-sentence summaries are—indeed, ensuring that they actually appear in your text, will make a world of difference in your writing. It’s a simple but effective method. Though it may appear insurmountably time-consuming, Tara is undoubtably right to suggest that “the work [will] pay off handsomely for you—and your readers” (48). Very true.

Cory Doctorow's Writer's Guidelines

Locus Online Features: Cory Doctorow: Writing in the Age of Distraction

The single worst piece of writing advice I ever got was to stay away from the Internet because it would only waste my time and wouldn’t help my writing. This advice was wrong creatively, professionally, artistically, and personally, but I know where the writer who doled it out was coming from. Every now and again, when I see a new website, game, or service, I sense the tug of an attention black hole: a time-sink that is just waiting to fill my every discretionary moment with distraction. As a co-parenting new father who writes at least a book per year, half-a-dozen columns a month, ten or more blog posts a day, plus assorted novellas and stories and speeches, I know just how short time can be and how dangerous distraction is.

But the Internet has been very good to me. It’s informed my creativity and aesthetics, it’s benefited me professionally and personally, and for every moment it steals, it gives back a hundred delights. I’d no sooner give it up than I’d give up fiction or any other pleasurable vice.

I think I’ve managed to balance things out through a few simple techniques that I’ve been refining for years. I still sometimes feel frazzled and info-whelmed, but that’s rare. Most of the time, I’m on top of my workload and my muse. Here’s how I do it:

101+ Web Resources for Students

101+ Web Resources for Students | studenthacks.org

Here is a collection of over 150 web resources for students that you might find useful.

How to write a thesis

From the tutors of the Writing Center at Harvard University:

Developing a thesis

How to Write Abstracts

How to Write Abstracts | studenthacks.org

The last step in any research proposal is to write a comprehensive summary (or abstract) about what you’re about to propose.

This might sound easy, but I find that this is sometimes the most difficult part.

How do you condense all your research into a brief paragraph?

It can be mind-boggling — I know.

Free Writing Courses Online

10 Universities Offering Free Writing Courses Online — Education-Portal.com

Whether you are a current writer or looking to break into the craft, formal writing courses can help you hone your skills. If you don’t have the money or the time for a campus-based course, there are plenty of universities that offer free writing courses online.

Writing checklist

Your 10-point checklist before sending off that manuscript « Getting Things Done in Academia

Preparing a manuscript is a complex task. Your career ultimately depends on producing successful manuscripts. The last thing you want to do is send out a manuscript prematurely. It wastes your time, your editor’s time, and the time of your anonymous colleagues. So here’s a ten point checklist toward making sure that every manuscript you send out allows your work to shine.

Publishing Advice for Graduate Students

SSRN-Publishing Advice for Graduate Students by Thom Brooks

Graduate students often lack concrete advice on publishing. This essay is an attempt to fill this important gap. Advice is given on how to publish everything from book reviews to articles, replies to book chapters, and how to secure both edited book contracts and authored monograph contracts, along with plenty of helpful tips and advice on the publishing world (and how it works) along the way in what is meant to be a comprehensive, concrete guide to publishing that should be of tremendous value to graduate students working in any area of the humanities and social sciences.

How to complete your PhD

Academic Productivity » How to complete your PhD (or any large project): Hard and soft deadlines, and the Martini Method

Having recently completed a PhD, Shane shares three indispensable nuggets of advice for how to get the monster vanquished: use hard deadlines, soft deadlines, and the Martini Method. With a small amount of imagination these can be applied to any large project.

How to edit your paper

Study Hacks » Blog Archive » Monday Master Class: How to Edit Your Paper in Three Passes or Less

Paper editing is a tricky task. It has to be done well. Nothing scuttles a paper faster than obvious mistakes or sloppy construction. You must, however, be careful. Too many editing passes can bloat the paper-writing process. In Straight-A, a simple three-pass system is presented that finds this balance between effective and efficient. It casts a critical eye on your structure — and your mechanics — without unduly burdening your schedule.

How to Write a Fascinating Thesis Statement

How to Write a Fascinating Thesis Statement | studenthacks.org

No professors or teaching assistants want to read a boring paper. They want to read a paper that engages them; a paper that is compelling and clearly articulated.

So how do you write one of these papers?

Well, the most important part of writing a fascinating paper is to develop a great thesis statement.

11 Things You Could Start Doing Today for the Benefit of Your Students’ Writing

Tomorrow’s Professor Blog: 824. 11 Things You Could Start Doing Today for the Benefit of Your Students’ Writing

This posting describes a list of simple practices that, if even one were implemented, might transform the way a professor assigns, discusses, and responds to student writing. Originally created as a faculty development resource for use in workshops on teaching writing, it is co-authored by Jane Kokernak, M.A., Writing Center Supervisor, Mount Ida College and Lowry Pei, Ph.D., Professor of English, Simmons College.

Kansas University Writing Center

KU Writing Center

KU Writing Center is a service provided by the University of Kansas for its students. The website offers advice on essay writing, avoiding plagiarism, critical thinking, writing up research and referencing of documents. The advice is tailored for undergraduates and postgraduates, with a special section on writing up original research, which is of particular relevance to social scientists. In addition to its own guides (which are available as web pages or PDF documents), the website provides links to other sites on related topics.