Category Archives: Academic Tips

If Two Women Work Together, Does the Work Exist?

OnTheShouldersofGiantsI’ve been thinking a lot about that recent economics study regarding women as co-authors not fairing as well as their male counterpart co-authors and single authorship… and the huge catch I’m having is that even if you have two female co-authors the inference then becomes that no one did any work which is completely unsensical, but in context…if say looking at an application of one woman’s work you discredit it, and in another application process or evaluation of the other woman/co-author’s work is then discredited too… it’s like the article/work isn’t even real and didn’t happen. Yet it is there, and did.  ‪#‎iftwowomenworktogetherdoestheworkexist‬?

Stories about gender bias such as the one mentioned above When Teamwork Doesnt work for Women, There’s no XY (shouldnt this be XX?) in Team, and others like Female Scientists Told to Add A Male Author to Their Study further support fears and career concerns of women, and of myself.

I’ve never cared about who’s name comes first in authorship of equal contributions…but as of late I have been wondering if this was a mistake. Perhaps, I should have requested reverse alphabet more or not have let others in front since they were going up for tenure or on the job market…in many cases it was even my idea–wanting to be a good colleague and friend, or being in a higher status position. I do ideally believe all the good work would be recognized and those who matter would know.  Over the last year or so I have spent a decent amount of time wondering if this has hurt me career-wise… according to this it hasn’t in my equal collaborations with females (which is most of my collabs) so that is something…rather it has just hurt us both possibly… but we do know if you are never sole author it definitely seems to have consequences for women. And what does this mean for first or lead authors? Can there be a lead author if two women work together? #nextstudy

While I think we have always known sole authorship is of course weighed most heavily,  I do not think we realized this biased disadvantage in partnering-up. I love collaborating. I will continue to collaborate as I think it spurs microcreativity, can be efficient (particularly when you have a high teaching load and few resources), and above all, we all [stand] on the shoulders of giants.





A Graduate School Supply List

It’s back-to-school time, my favorite time of year! And, with this time of year comes lots of advice and talk regarding everything from how to make the most of your education to where shop for school supplies. Recently, a number of posts and advertisements have come across my screen related to school supplies. There have even been hashtags for Twitter and Instagram for “school supply porn” and Tumblr and Pinterest have pages and boards dedicated to school supplies and educational aesthetics and workspaces year round. Some of our favorites include Tumblr’s #studyblr and #pencilporn.

In lieu of this, the GA’s (the amazing Tristen Kade and incredible Izzy Notter) and I decided to offer our contribution with a Graduate School Supply List. Of course, each person is different and should feel free to edit or add to this list as they feel necessary. It is not an exhaustive list by any means. However, we would strongly encourage you to give extra consideration to anything on our list that causes the following reactions: any lol-ing, “wtf”s, or “what is that?”

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 2.15.56 PM

Other suggested supplies for added luxury include:

  • StarbucksCard$500 Starbucks card
  • 25$ I-tunes gift card Spotify app and yearly subscription
  • Laptop keyboard cover
  • Costco “Gold Star” Membership
  • Artisanal Pencil Sharpening Plan
  • Vintage Coffee Mug
  • Meditative Coloring Book
  • Knitwear Beanie, sweaters, and fingerless gloves-to-mittens

On a tad more serious note, what is it about school supplies that people love even as we age? Perhaps, there is an over-representation of people who like school, or the culture of learning, that like the aesthetics of supplies. On more practical points, school supplies are necessary for our work. We need resources to educate, and to learn. Further our resources–the amount and type–play a significant role in the amount of energy and potential we are capable of achieving—from types of questions we can answer to our own personal health.

School supplies also make us feel productive and possibly a little in control. Just having them all laid out as a ritual to begin our work gets the productivity wheel rolling and makes it a little harder to walk away. Purchasing supplies at the beginning of the year (and throughout) allows us to feel that we have accomplished at least one task that day, and it was not all that unpleasant—ideally. In fact, we were likely to be excited about the task and are now off to a good start. We may even be more excited after the task feeling ready to take on the world.

Lastly, supplies may have a latent function as cultural markers for us to display and recognize allowing us to feel part of a greater community that is typically quite individualistic and involves a great deal of solitude. In any case, for academics supplies are essential and can be fun. And who doesn’t need a little fun in our high stress atmosphere?

Professor Pet Peeves and Water Cooler Talk

I recently shared a tweet about Sociological Images’ Professors’ Pet Peeves. The tweet got an unprecedented number of favorites and retweets. I found this quite amusing as it clearly illuminated my twitter audience and offered a moment of professional “in solidarity.” As the pet peeves listed were so true and (stereo)typical. Lisa Wade did a great job with this list.

keepcalmreadsyllabusThe pet peeves listed are very common and always incite commentary among my colleagues. I would even go as far to say that these pet peeves are commonly known and discussed by professors around the globe. However, upon closer consideration, I began to questions the frequency of these offenses in my semester. The one that occurs most often in my world is by far the “unprofessional correspondence” and followed closely by what I would refer to as “stuff that’s on the syllabus.” I realized in thinking about how much I interact with students and the sheer number of students, it is actually fairly rare that more than a couple of theses offenses occurs in any given semester. Meanwhile, my water cooler talk, Facebook, and Twitter do “blow-up” quite frequently with incidences every month. I guess when you have one or two instances a semester across a large group of people it does make the problem seem rampant.

In my case, these incidences may not happen very often but in most cases when they do it is memorable. I would also say that there has been a definite shift in the last few years related to student-professor interactions in which those interactions have felt more casual and students seem bolder. I say this as a mere observation and do not mean to suggest this is either good or bad. I do also have to admit I wonder quite frequently if its me—did I not explain something adequately? Is it a change in student culture, perhaps a cohort effect related to the Millennials?  Or could something else be going on?  At times, it feels very hard to grasp as I, as a student, would never have thought to tell a professor I wasn’t going to be in class or point out that I missed a day. I definitely would not own up to not having read the syllabus, and I rarely went to the professor directly for information outside of the substantive material covered in class.

Perhaps, we have been indoctrinated into an academic culture in such a way that these skills seem so innate to us and when someone doesn’t know them it almost seems like an issue of common sense or this at times is how it is talked about. We think students should know or find it disrespectful if it is ignored or time was not take to learn these skills. After all, most of us spend the entire first day on our expectations, the syllabus, and if you are like me our individual pet peeves, preferences, and so forth. Thus, the annoyance when offenses occur because it is as if we were not heard.

But what if we also consider that not all students get everything covered in every class. In fact, few do.  While I do largely agree that many students do fully utilize their syllabi, I would also suggest that current students come from a culture of available information at the tips of the fingers and they ask questions. Not only do they ask questions, and some even operate by going directly to the source with their questions and concerns—aka the professor. All things I would appreciate/commend if it were about content or substantive coursework material. So why is it so annoying to us when it is about the logistics of the course?

We know how much work we put into our courses and classrooms. We hear how often we say these things, perhaps the annoyance. I often have to explain p-values, for example, a number of times to various students and often times I know I have explained it multiple times to the same student and will likely explain it multiple times more. I rarely get frustrated or consider that the student is being disrespectful or not listening in those cases, merely that they have not grasped the concept yet. Maybe we are creating a hierarchy of what is consider to be easier or harder concepts to grasp. Logistics we may take for granted as concepts to be taught. Also, logistics vary greatly across courses and professors and maybe inconsistently enforced from setting to setting or professor to professor. Nevertheless, we expect to explain multiple times content to our students…shouldn’t we expect to explain the logistics too?

watercoolertalkI don’t have a solution to offer beyond patience and setting clear expectations from day one (and possibly being prepared to reiterate those expectations), but I will say that one great latent function that comes from all of this for the professor and academic culture is the water cooler talk and social bonding.

It’s OK to Slack on Blogging



Blogging is not very impactful toward making tenure…thus I occasionally slack on it.

and, that’s ok.

How I Used Twitter and Ended Up Learning to Write

With Kate Drabinski

We write all the time. We’re academics, so it’s sort of our job. And then there’s twitter. Why bother tweeting? It isn’t real writing, and it will never make it in our tenure or promotion files, so isn’t it a waste of time? Not at all, we say, and here’s why.

1. Twitter keeps us thinking and learning. Real time online conversations keep us moving and going and thinking and seeing others being productive. It is a place where academics can feed for ideas and spurs our micro-creativity. Compared to the traditional academic timeline in which feedback and interests can be months or even years—let’s be honest, Twitter real time conversations enables real time feedback. This feedback and interest in what we, and others, are thinking about inspires our writing.

2. Twitter keeps our offline writing projects moving. Because of those real-time conversations, we stay motivated to keep writing and thinking when we log off. It can also help us to make decisions we might otherwise stew over. Twitter keeps us productive and can jolt us out of those negative phases when we get blocked or discouraged. Sometimes it just takes a single tweet to help get out of bed. Also, a response or favorite from a follower can help us to not feel so alone when we are discouraged or moving slower—to recognize it all as part of the process.  “@drcompton @kdrabinski I feel this!”

3. Twitter forces us to think about audience, something academics are notoriously bad at doing well. We both tweet to multiple audiences–academics, sure, but also activists, students, personal friends, family members, Ashley Judd, Dr. Ruth, fellow bicyclists in the case of @kdrabinski, and fellow sneaker enthusiasts in the case of @drcompton. Tweets go out to all these followers, and part of tweeting well is remembering this and writing in clear ways that will resonate with these different audiences at different times, but never with everyone at all times. These are important skills to remember as we write offline for similarly diverse audiences, and twitter makes us practice on a daily basis.

4. That tiny character count makes us be precise in our writing, another thing academics are notoriously bad at. We’ll leave it at that, for precision’s sake.

5. Being precise means revising, deleting, rewriting, and revising again, the very most important parts of writing well, and the parts too often left for later until forgotten altogether. 140 characters isn’t a lot, and rarely is our thought fully formed the first time we try to force it into that tiny space. We must focus, focus, focus—focusing on what is really necessary and important. We find ourselves deleting, trying again, figuring out what can be saved for another tweet, and what our central point really is. Twitter forces us to revise on the spot, and real skills are developed that translate to our offline writing. After all, a first draft is simply writing to the starting line. The real work is in the revision, and twitter won’t let us forget that.


Your Professor has Moods, Deadlines, Bad Days, and Feelings too

It’s common for us to attribute doing well to ourselves and doing poorly to others and or the circumstances around us.  However, something it seems to me that students often fail to fully realize is that professors are people too. Which means we have feelings, moods, and just as many life disruptions as our students.

In college prep courses and tips online it seems to be common knowledge that students should let their professors know what is going on in their lives–when they are having a hard time, and so forth. This way the professor makes less assumptions and often times may have ideas that can help or contribute to easing a students negative emotional state.  In my view, if you are at a state where you are crying in a professor’s office, then there are bigger things going on…and those things really should be the central focus for the student over my class. This is one reason I offer a drop assignment, and for the big life events, we have Withdrawals, Drops, and Incompletes. I know to students these seem like the enemy and as bad things, but they really shouldn’t be viewed that way unless they are being abused. No one is perfect and everyone is affected by life at some point.

It is rarely talked about among academic circles and I would go as far as to suggest that it may even be faux pas for a professor to let students know about their issues.  While, I do let me students know when I will be traveling or have big deadlines, I generally try to distance any negativity going on in my personal world from my professional life and definitely from my students. I am sure my RAs can predict my moods and know when the best times are to approach me about various things…and when to not. Just off of the top of my head I know I can be “short” or what I consider to be task focused if Im on my way to the restroom/coffee, headed upstairs (which is equated with class or Deans and other faculty), or need to leave for an off campus appointment.

I know a professor (not at my school) who currently hates a particular day of the week because of a mandatory meeting s/her has to attend in the afternoons. It would be easy to imagine that this professor’s morning classes on this day are a different experience than on a different day of the week.  Likewise, this is why I strongly encourage making appointments for meetings even during office hours. If you want to have a 100% focus from your professor, it is good to let them know you are coming and what you are going to want to talk about. This way they can be prepared to fully help you out and schedule the appropriate time to interact with you.  I often have students show up in the last few minutes of my office hours, more so than at the beginning. I use to schedule my hours prior to my classes, but I found that I felt as if I had to rush the students.  Now, I put in a break, but this too is then often eaten into. I also worry about if it is a disservice to stay into “my time” for the student who now expects me to be accessible 24-7.  I know it is a disservice to my writing and family life.

This brings me to a conversation I overheard  at our student union this past week.  A group of caring students were extremely upset about a test they had just taken. They had prepared for the test studying notes, the book, etc. and from their perspective, very little of this was on the test.  These students, (students who worked and expected to make A’s) felt they had failed.  Additionally, they were very upset at the professor.  How could s/he do that to them?  So they were brainstorming their angry emails–which would surely have an accusatory tone.

For me it was clear there were a number of assumptions being made.  The first and most obvious was that they had failed.  I encouraged them to at least wait 48 hours and see if they felt the same after 2 days.  We can get a great deal of new information that really affect our feelings and understanding of situations if we can be patient for just 48 hours. Sometimes, issues can even be entirely resolved.

Or, to even give the professor a chance to return the exams and see what the situation really was–did they in fact fail? In my mind as a professor, there are a ton of things that could be going on or have gone wrong not at all related to the student. It brought to mind this one time when I accidently gave the wrong exam to a class–I had updated and changed a number of questions around specifically for their class and class discussions but then managed to print of the exam from the previous semester that had not been changed. I of course caught my mistake quite quickly and figured out an appropriate way to fix the scenario.  I am so thankful this test was on a Friday, it must have been on a Friday, because I was able to get out ahead of the issue before any students had emailed with concerns. Now, this was a rare case. However, I did make it right.

Often times space, time, and patience can answer questions and ease our concerns.  For me the most tragic assumption is that professors are out to get the student. I find this to be the most tragic, because I know this as a complete myth. Never have I witnessed or heard of this being the case.  I would believe in unicorns first.  I can reconcile that more easily over the above increasingly more common assumption. I have at least scene a goat at a circus that had one horn growing out of the center of his head or they may just be really good at hiding. But above all, believing in unicorns doesn’t put me on the defense, create more obstacles in my life, or waste my emotional energy.





Building Writing Skills from Day 1: Or How I Learned to Stop Assuming What Students Should Know

By J. Wheeldon*

September is the beginning of the school year and another chance for those of us who teach the next generation of scholars to think about what we might do differently this time around. As Profs finalize syllabi and update lectures, I want to suggest that the first few weeks of class is a good time to get a sense of how students understand the basic building blocks of writing. In my opinion these building blocks include: sources, structure, and citations.

Academic honesty has been much in the news of late. Whether it students at well-known schools or evidence of plagiarism by journalists and television personalities, a debate of sorts has emerged on the issue. Some see plagiarism as a function of technological advancements. Students today can copy and paste things from multiple sources, change a few words around (and the font!), and pass it off as their own. Others suggest stealing the work of others is hardly new. While technology may make it easier to cheat, the decision to cut corners amounts to a basic ethical lapse. For these commentators, it this moral question that must be confronted.

Based on a project I conducted while at George Mason University, this resource provides some more details on a step-by-step approach to assist students to plan, research, draft, and review academic papers. For now, I want to focus on the question of how to help students properly cite sources and integrate material into original work. In my experience teaching in multiple countries, states, and universities, one major issue is that students do not know what standard is expected of them. Should they use APA or MLA? Does the Prof want Chicago style or some other strange and/or personal approach to citation? The lack of clarity for students is a function of the lack of consensus among disciplines and the seemingly endless infighting that is a historic feature of the academy.

Punishing students for plagiarism requires first that Profs clearly articulate the standard required. This means including policies, tips, and techniques on syllabi and in lectures. It may include other approaches as well. For the last 4 years I have been using a citation quiz in the first week of all my classes. Students complete it, and we then talk about what the “best” answers might be and why.

The quiz is below and I encourage you to read through it and think about if and how it might be useful to your teaching. No doubt you will need to adapt it and I would love to see how you improve it. My biggest suggestion is this: Don’t assume. Yes, students should have learned this stuff in high school. Yes, their required writing course or some other departmental specific course should have prepared them. I assure you, however, most do not know as much as you think they should. A quiz is a good way to start a conversation about writing. In my experience, investing in this early in the term pays off later when the endless mountains of essays arrive to be graded.

Let’s help students learn about proper citation practices instead of blaming them for not knowing. Remember, once you build this into your coursework, no student can say they didn’t know how to properly cite sources, and/or that no one taught them. At least not in your class.

*Dr. Johannes Wheeldon (LL.M, Ph.D) holds degrees from Dalhousie University, the University of Durham, and Simon Fraser University. He worked at the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada between 2002-2005 and has since worked for the American Bar Association, George Mason University, and the Center for Justice Law and Development.

He is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Washington State University and teaches Philosophy to inmates at the Coyote Ridge Correctional Center. He can be reached at

You can also follow Dr. Wheeldon on Twitter @JusticeLawDev


Additional Resources

Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices is available here:


Self Administered Citation Quiz

Part 1 Source Selection (True or False)

1. ___ Academic sources include articles from peer-reviewed journals, articles from University web sites, non-fiction books or chapters from those books.

2. ___ Its ok to use non-academic web pages, TV shows or movies, and wikipedia as academic sources as long as you cite them.

3. Rank (1 – best, 5- worst) the following sources in terms of academic reliability:

___  Newspapers and magazines

___  Peer Reviewed Journals

___  Wikipedia

___  Non-Fiction Books

___  Government funded websites


Part 2 Citations (True or False)

4.  ___ Copying a sentence or two without crediting the source is not plagiarism.

5. ___ It is not plagiarism if you use information or ideas without crediting the source as long as the exact words are not used.

6. ___ Using specific terminology used by someone else, even a unique word or two, must be set off with “quotation marks.”

7. ___ The author and year of any source used must be included in cases when you summarize, paraphrase, or directly cite the work of another.

8. ___  Page numbers must be provided whenever you paraphrase or directly cite the work of another.


Part 3 Bibliographies (True or False)

9. ___ All sources used in an academic paper do not have to be listed in a bibliography.

10. ___ The information provided in a bibliography should allow a reader to find the source you have used.

Part 4 Read through the Writing Website

Go to:

  1. Based on the website what points on structure, citations, and style did you all ready know?
  2. What points did you not know?
  3. What aspect of the points raised will be the most challenging for you?