Faculty may find the following ideas useful for enhancing scholarship skills. Obviously, no one is expected to pursue all these suggestions; nevertheless, engaging in even one activity each semester will steadily improve skills over time.
- Discuss ideas for research and creative works with colleagues.
- Network with scholars and professionals at other institutions.
- Set aside a regular time (each week/month) to stay current on the literature or the latest creative activities in your discipline.
- Read in a new area or on a new subject.
- Share key parts of your research in your classroom teaching to help you clarify your thinking and generate new ideas and perspectives.
- Join a new professional association, attend different professional meetings, subscribe to new journals.
Research & Data Analysis
- Regularly involve graduate or undergraduate students in research and/or creative works.
- Apply for a Mentoring Environments Grant or encourage students to apply for ORCA scholarship grants.
- Develop your ability to use more complex data analysis techniques or institute tighter systems for data collection and analysis.
- Learn to use the Center for Statistical Consultation and Collaborative Research.
- Learn to access databases relevant to your discipline. The Harold B. Library offers access to hundreds of databases, including some fee-based services.
- Develop a new research technique (or apply an old technique from one field into a new field.
- Read a book on Improving Writing.
- Set aside daily blocks of time to write or work on creative activities-- at least 15-30 minutes each day. Don't wait for huge blocks of time!
- Write/create in a setting away from your office and phone (at home, in the lab or studio, in the library, etc.).
- Have "writing office hours.” Don't answer the phone, email, or the door during your writing hours. Post a sign on your door so visitors will know when you will be available. Turn off the lights if it will dissuade people from knocking on your door during your writing office hours.
- Begin writing as soon as you begin a project. Don't finish the literature review or research first: write as you read and research.
- Note names of established scholars in your research area and develop strategies for initiating conversations with them regarding areas of common interest. Attend their conference sessions and introduce yourself, seek their counsel, ask them to review sections of your pre-publication materials, send them reprints or other representations of your scholarship, etc.
- Share early drafts of your work (even at the outline stage).
- Commit to having a number of colleagues review your work as it progresses.
- Hold yourself accountable to a supportive partner. Report regularly.
- Meet regularly with peers (and research assistants!) to share drafts and get feedback.
- Send drafts to Faculty Editing Service for review and feedback.
- Read a book on Increasing Productivity and on Getting Published.
- Talk to a potential editor/publisher/producer about a work you are proposing. Find out if it will be suitable for that venue and explore ways to make it more appropriate for that audience.
- Submit cover letters, abstracts, sample chapters, or plans about your research to several publishers/producers.
- Don't wait until you have "perfected" your piece. Get it into an editor's (or publisher's) hands as soon as you can. Set deadlines.
- Have a back-up plan in case a piece is rejected. Have envelopes prepared and ready to send to the next potential venue.
Collaborative Scholarship Activities
- Collaborate on a research project or creative activity with a colleague.
- Invite colleagues (on- and off-campus) to review your written work and give suggestions for improvement. Offer to review your colleagues' work and provide helpful feedback.
- Establish a regular time to discuss specific disciplinary readings with colleagues.
- Regularly discuss your current research interests with colleagues in your department or college.
- Collaborate with a colleague in presenting scholarly work.
- Organize a monthly departmental "brown bag" to share current works-in-progress.
- Sponsor a lecture or workshop to bring experts in your field to campus.
- Develop organizational skills: prioritize, simplify, identify tasks to delegate to others.
- Regularly review calls for proposals from external funding agencies.
- Plan a professional development leave.
- Apply for a fellowship grant.
- Cultivate a form of scholarship conducive to mentoring undergraduates.
- Take a fresh look at familiar scholarship topics or questions (e.g., from an LDS or faith-based perspective)
Generated by the staff of the BYU Faculty Center.
The Office of Research Development at BYU is the authority on helping researchers identify funding opportunities, connect with external funding officers, develop competitive proposals, and create effective research teams. Please visit their page for access to their resources.
College and Department Funding
Capital Equipment Fund: Administered through the department, these funds are earmarked for computers, software, and equipment. Request funds through the department chair.
College Research Support Funds: Research grants are available to faculty for any type of scholarly activity. The university grants each college a significant amount of money in this category, which then is directed to the departments. The advantage of these funds are that they are very flexible—readily available and not restricted in their use. Funds may be used for travel, supplies, or salary for a research assistant. Consult with your department chair on accessing these funds.
Department Funding: The normal department budget covers many areas that may be used for faculty scholarship efforts, such as research assistants, travel, equipment, books, and supplies. Request funds through the department chair.
Research Administration Office (RAO): The RAO mission is to support faculty, students, staff and university administration in efforts to encourage and support research, creative activities, and other expressions of academic scholarship.
The Faculty Center has a limited amount of matching funds available for promising researchers to attend national grant writing seminars, such as NIH, NSF, NEA, etc. If you are interested in applying for these funds, please contact the Assistant Director and/or your Department Chair.
Interdisciplinary Learning Groups provide BYU faculty an opportunity to engage in an interdisciplinary study of a particular topic or subject matter. Experience has shown that collaborative learning among a diverse group of faculty members enriches the discovery experience, especially when the subject of conversation is broadly interdisciplinary.
Toggle ItemContent FocusThe intent of an ILG is to facilitate the exploration of shared scholarly interests among BYU faculty. Interdisciplinary Learning Groups explore a topic reflecting their members’ shared interests in a research subject, a research methodology or mode of inquiry, a teaching subject or approach to learning. It is anticipated that each ILG will identify one or more interdisciplinary learning objectives related to their area of focus.
Toggle ItemMembershipGiven the interdisciplinary focus of this initiative, it is anticipated that membership in these groups will be open to all interested BYU faculty and that efforts will be made by each group to encourage broad participation. Successful groups range in size from 6-15 members.
Toggle ItemOrganizationIt is expected that each ILG will be self-sustaining and self-directed. Each group will designate a leader for a period of time (typically an academic year, with the option of serving multiple years). The principle responsibility of this individual is to assist the group in identifying and accomplishing specific interdisciplinary learning objectives. Typically, the group will meet at a regularly scheduled time (groups are expected to meet at least four times during a semester) at which a group member will lead a discussion of an assigned reading, present a recently completed paper, etc. The leader will also be responsible for logistical responsibilities such as, scheduling meetings, making room arrangements, reporting attendance, facilitating communication among group members, etc. The Faculty Center will provide limited ongoing logistical support, including online support.
Toggle Item2022 Active ILG Groups
ILG Name Description Facilitator Contact Information Teaching Large Enrollment Sections The objectives of this group are to:
- Share current practices specific
to large-enrollment courses.
- Share current research on learning
practices related to large-enrollment courses.
- Brainstorm new interventions or practices
to improve the student experience in
Open Badges Open Badges are a flexible technology for issuing stackable, shareable, and open digital credentials to students that recognizes student learning, engagement, and accomplishments. Many universities have open badging initiatives. At BYU, we do not have a centralized plan for open badging/microcredentials, but many different groups and faculty have been issuing badges. This faculty development interdisciplinary group is designed to bring all of these groups and faculty together to share ideas and strategize partnerships to maximize the benefit of teaching with these open badges/microcredentials. Rick West
Educational Philosophy Reading Group A reading group based around contemporary educational philosophy, or philosophy with
educational applications with the intent to develop a community of faculty who will support each other as they learn rigorous ideas related to teaching and learning, and attempt to improve their own teaching practices.
Open Pedagogy This group is open to faculty from all disciplines interested in learning more about using open pedagogy in instruction through the readings and discussion within the group.
Interprofessional Education Collaborative for Health Targets appropriately assessing and addressing healthcare needs of patients, supporting team approaches to communication with patient families, and delivering care that is safe, timely, efficient, effective and equitable.
Interdisciplinary Computational Health Science Addresses student mentoring, suicide prevention, dissemination of health interventions for both physical and mental health.
Teaching & Leadership Colloquium Addresses teaching leadership in mentoring and the classroom setting. Includes book readings.
BYU Indigenous Studies Focuses on the study and advancement of indigenous scholarship at BYU. Holds monthly book club, and hosts panels and speakers. Mike Taylor
- Share current practices specific
Toggle ItemFinancial SupportUpdated 3-12-19
Use of ILG Funds
The Faculty Center will provide a grant of $1,000 to each group per academic year. These limited funds should be utilized for the purchase of materials and supplies that would further the work of the ILG. Be mindful that the funds cannot be used for capital equipment purchases.
Unused funds may be rolled over for use for the following year on condition of renewal of the application. Any additional financial support required for group activities should be requested from the departments or colleges of group members.
To ensure that university purchasing procedures are followed, all uses of these funds must be approved before commitments are made. As there is no provision in policy that university funds may be utilized for refreshments for meetings, these funds are not meant to be used for food purchases with this possible exception:
“University funds may be used for business meals when a meal is necessary to conduct university business. …Business meals must be properly documented (participant names and relationship to the university, business purpose for the meal, date, and receipts detailing the expenses claimed).” (BYU Meals and Hosting Policy: This policy applies to all meals and hosting paid for with university funds from all sources.)
Use of Facilitator Funds
The Faculty Center will also provide $500 per academic year for the group leader (facilitator). This money ($500) will be transferred to the facilitator’s research account and is to be used in accordance with the following guideline:
"Money is to be spent on activities/materials with an academic purpose and in compliance with policies governing expenditures of university funds. Money may not be used for personal expenses. Materials, non-consumable supplies, and equipment acquired as a result of these expenditures remain university property."
Faculty Center funding decisions are made each year and grant renewals are based on how well a group is meeting the faculty development needs of its members.
Toggle ItemGetting StartedFaculty members wishing to organize an Interdisciplinary Learning Group should contact Assistant Director Jenith Larsen, BYU Faculty Center a month or more prior to the beginning of Fall or Winter term. Follow these guidelines for the group and complete the online proposal form and email it to her. The proposal will specify:
- The topical focus of the group
- The kinds of specific learning activities envisioned for the group
- A list of faculty (name and department) who have expressed an interest in participating
- The name of the group facilitator(s) for the first year
- A brief statement from the group facilitator’s department chair expressing support for the individual engaged in this role
Toggle ItemAnnual Report and Grant RenewalBy the end of April of an academic year, each ILG facilitator should submit a brief report to the Faculty Center outlining the following:
- How the group’s learning objectives were met;
- The level of faculty participation in the group’s activities (attendance);
- How these activities generally impacted the teaching, scholarship, or citizenship of its members;
- Any impact this group had on students;
- Any papers, research, etc. that was generated because of the group.
Toggle ItemAttendance AcknowledgementDepartment chairs of active ILG participants (75%+ attendance) will receive written notification of faculty participation from the Faculty Center during the summer following each academic year.
Toggle ItemA Word Of CautionIt is important to keep in mind that ILGs have no official status within the BYU community. Hence, they should not be used as a forum for lobbying the university to change current policies and practices, or as a vehicle for speaking on behalf of the university or for addressing the broader BYU academic community. Faculty who wish to affect change within the university should pursue these objectives through other means (e.g., submitting a proposal to a chair or dean, a curriculum committee, or the Faculty Advisory Committee).
- Candid (Candid's mission is to get you the information you need to do good.)
- Grantsmanship Center Site (Source of grantsmanship training and grant information)
- GrantFoward (Sends funding alerts via e-mail to users)
- The Federal Register (Publishes information from federal agencies daily)
- Chronicle of Philanthropy (Publishes weekly information from nonprofits)
- Council on Foundations (Promotes philanthropy through more than 2,000 grantmaking foundations and giving programs worldwide. Provides leadership expertise, legal services and networking opportunities—among other services)
- National Endowment for the Humanities
Ten Tips for Academic Writers
From the BYU Faculty Editing Service (2010)
- Trim nominalizations. Many sentences contain actions that have been converted into abstract nouns (called nominalizations, marked in bold in the example that follows):
- Our lack of data prevented evaluation of UN actions in targeting funds to areas most in need of assistance.
- Sometimes this is useful or necessary, but converting some or all of these nominalizations back into verbs (in italics in the following example) and adding identifiable actors makes for easier and more interesting reading:
- Because we lacked data, we could not evaluate whether the UN had targeted funds to areas that most needed assistance.
- Don’t be afraid to use the first person: “I reviewed the literature.” Even the conservative APA style manual recommends this use over “The author reviewed the literature” or “The literature was reviewed.”
- Unpack noun strings. Nouns can be used effectively to modify other nouns, as in “strategy committee.” But a long string of nouns modifying each other makes the reader slow down to decipher what is really meant:
- The marketing department strategy committee formation meeting was changed to 2 p.m.
- Is the meeting’s purpose to form a committee, or is it to form strategy? Usually readers can figure out the meaning, but they have to do quite a bit of work. The solution is usually to unpack the nouns and use prepositions or other connectors to clarify the relationships; it is usually best to start at the back of the string:
- The time of the meeting to create a strategy committee for the marketing department was changed to 2 p.m.
- This takes more words, but it is faster to read.
- Make the point of your paper very clear. You probably remember your high school or junior high English teacher telling you that you needed a thesis statement. That is still good advice for scholarly writing. One sentence can’t introduce all of the evidence or make all of the necessary arguments and qualifications or clarify all of the limitations. But that is what the rest of the paragraph and the rest of the paper are for. Somewhere in the first paragraph (or two), make a bald statement of your thesis:
- But of all Peter the Great’s accomplishments, none went as far to modernize Russia as his reform of the Orthodox Church.
- Use headings to show the bones of your organization. Headings can act like the skeleton of the paper—they need flesh added to really reveal your meaning, but they show the outline of where you are going.
- Place modifiers carefully. Words and phrases that are intended to modify elements in a sentence can lead readers astray if they are not placed carefully, because we tend to expect that such modifiers modify the closest element:
- He was unhappy that he failed to break the record by a narrow margin.
- Readers will eventually understand that he was unhappy that he failed by a narrow margin to break the record, but at first they may wonder why he was unhappy that he broke the record by too large a margin.
- Trim, trim, trim. Let each word carry its own weight without being bogged down with unnecessary adjectives or redundancies:
- Future productivity can actually be predicted on certain factors that basically involvepsychology more than on any particular technology.
- Make it easier for your editor to like your paper. Editors are human, and they may sometimes decide to accept your paper as much because it will require little work as because of the quality of your ideas. So make their work easier by learning and using the standards of the style manual they follow. You don’t have to memorize the whole thing, but you should at least pay careful attention to how references should be presented, both in terms of required content and in terms of style (punctuation, capitalization, etc.). You will be glad you made the investment of time.
- Ignore any writing tip or “rule” that keeps you from saying what you want to say. Don’t obsess over how you are saying it, at first—just say it. You can go back and use tips like these later to refine and clarify what you have said, but don’t let your concern about saying things just right keep you from getting a first draft down on paper.
- Get help. Most good writers ask colleagues or even non-specialists to read their papers and give advice and criticism. It is hard to know whether you are communicating well until someone reads what you have written. And the Faculty Editing Service can help; for a small fee, we will edit your paper to help you reach your audience. Just send your paper (or your questions) to email@example.com
Toggle ItemGetting Started: Establishing a Meaningful Program of Research or Creative ActivitiesSteven E. Benzley, Professor of Civil Engineering; Associate Dean, General and Honors Education
I. Establishing and being flexible in your area of focus
There is an interesting statement about success that I believe applies directly to those of us in the academic world. The statement comes from Gordie Howe the well-known professional hockey player. When asked to explain why he was so successful, Gordie candidly replied "I skate to where the puck is going to be." I believe the same advice applies to successful research programs. Stated differently, successful research programs involve knowing what topics are going to be of interest (to funding agencies) and positioning yourself to take advantage of that interest. In considering my own experience, I have changed focus about 5 times in the last 25 years, from "fracture mechanics," to "ground subsidence," to "Computer Aided Engineering Integration," to "finite element mesh generation," and now I am in the process of beginning an emphasis on "engineering ethics." Each of these changes came quite naturally, most generally because both a research sponsor and I had an interest in the topic. In all I have had sixteen different agencies sponsor research. Each of these changes also brought a new beginning and the associated excitement of becoming involved in a fresh (but related) area.
II. BYU Resources
In a university environment, some researchers may work best in an individual focused effort. Others find that the formation of research groups, with two or three principal investigators, is often a satisfying and mutually beneficial way to function. Larger based research efforts, such as Laboratories or Centers, are often excellent ways for new faculty to become affiliated with established programs. Needless to say, the university has excellent support systems and facilities to enhance the success of research and creative activities in all of the above situations.
BYU students are second to none in academic credentials and are superior research assistants. However, we suffer somewhat at BYU in that we have a smaller graduate school thus a smaller pool of graduate students available for assistants. However, a resource that may not be fully utilized at this point, is the significant number of undergraduate honors students with their honors thesis requirement. These students, particularly if they are recruited as juniors and have a chance to become intimately involved with research, provide an excellent source of research assistants. These students can also obtain university funding through the Office of Research and Creative Activities to support their research.
III. External Resources
I recommend a visit to the Illinois Research Information Service (HUS) World Wide web site. This is an excellent database, organized by discipline, to identify funding opportunities. Since BYU has a license for this facility, you must be on a BYU server to properly access the site. Below is a portion of a search for "Civil Engineering."
Search criteria: all "civil engineering" and dl before 01/01/98Records found: 99Sorted by: Sponsor
Record Number: 3158American Society for Engineering Education Awards
ACTIVITIES SUPPORTED: Prize or Award
ACADEMIC BACKGROUND REQUIRED: Doctorate/Equiv Professional
DEADLINES ANNOUNCED: 01/15/97
Toggle ItemAttracting Interest/Support for Your Scholarly WorkWilliam Bradshaw, Professor of ZoologyGary Hooper, Associate Academic Vice President-Research; John Lamb, Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry; Brent Webb, Office of Research & Creative Activities
BYU has an approach to scholarship that is both similar to other universities and, at the same time, carefully crafted to address our own mission. It is explained in the booklet A Model for Directing Scholarly Work at BYU. A copy is available at the Office of Research and Creative Activities (ORCA) upon request.
We encourage research and creative work, both that supported by internal resources at BYU and that supported by external sponsors. We applaud faculty accomplishments that add to individual development and to the image of the university. We likewise recognize the contributions made by our research to the overall experiences of our students. This includes classroom experiences and special faculty-student projects that occur outside of the classroom with both undergraduate and graduate students. Generally speaking, scholarly work at BYU should involve and benefit students. Thus, projects that include student participation are favored over extraordinarily large efforts that are entirely staffed by research associates or other non-student personnel.
Financial Support of Scholarship/Research
There are a number of sources of financial support of your scholarship, both inside and outside the university. You are encouraged to seek both as you get started at BYU. It is not likely that you will receive funding in support of your work if you do not propose. Some of these sources are outlined below:
- The university, through colleges and departments, assists faculty through special research appropriations funds. You are encouraged to approach your chair/dean about these funds.
- Travel funds in support of scholarly work are also available, and are administered by departments and colleges.
- The university provides generous equipment support annually, and you will have an opportunity to request funds for capital equipment, computers, and similar supporting apparatus.
- A number of scholarships are available to support student scholarship.
- Some limited departmental/college scholarships are available. Each department/college manages these funds independently.
- The Office of Research and Creative Activities works with academic administrators to make a number of special awards to encourage undergraduate student-faculty projects. An application form, Undergraduate ORCA Scholarship, is available at ORCA.
- The Graduate School offers annually graduate student fellowships designed to encourage scholarship. Inquire at the office of Dean Addie Fuhriman, B-380 ASB.
The Office of Research and Creative Activities will assist you in seeking outside support and in managing external research funding. The Seeking External Research Funding handbook gives a step-by-step outline for proposal conception and writing.
Perhaps the best source of information regarding external funding to support scholarship/research in your discipline is your academic colleagues both at BYU and elsewhere. Seek the help of seasoned colleagues in identifying these sources. In addition, the Office of Research and Creative Activities in A-261 ASB maintains current information on funding opportunities:
- Federal Grants and Contracts Weekly
- NIH Guide
- The Foundation Directory
- Commerce Business Daily
- The Federal Register
The university is committed to the concept that quality instruction and research can and must be accomplished by our faculty as an integrated set of activities. It is recognized that the primary focus for planning your overall assignment is at the department level, but the university administration will work to assist you.
Toggle ItemGetting PublishedLynn C. Callister, Associate Dean, School of Nursing
WRITE a MANUSCRIPT, PUT it in an ENVELOPE, and MAIL IT!!! Remember that writing for publication is like giving birth: It is HARD WORK and VERY REWARDING!
Maximizing time to write
- Establish priorities: BLOCK OUT TIME. Treat writing to publish as an important and significant appointment or commitment. Put a "do not disturb" sign on your door, don't answer your phone, work at home if your home environment fosters quiet contemplative thought. If you do, resist the temptation to do household chores. Some of us will do anything to avoid the HARD WORK of writing!
- If possible, avoid scheduling classes at times in the day when you're a productive writer and thinker
- Use a teaching or research assistant to do routine tasks
- Create a file of "writing" ideas
- While attending professional meetings, invest time at the book exhibits and search out publishers interested in the same topics and approaches that you are.
- Network with others in your discipline at professional meetings to determine the potential for collaborative work
- Watch for "special topic" issues of journals --nothing like a good deadline to force you to finish a project
- Read widely in your discipline and related disciplines
- Include in your vita titles of some unpublished papers (separately from published ones). Provide copies to anyone who asks. Dialogue with colleagues and graduate students.
- Use an outline! Pay CAREFUL ATTENTION to detail: It pays off!
- Be professional but be yourself in the manuscript
- Access information for authors published in journals or available from the publication's editorial office
- Letter of inquiry may or may not be helpful. For a book, rather than send an unsolicited manuscript, send a title page and table of contents accompanied by a letter explaining why you have chosen the publisher and describing the status of the manuscript.
- Adhere to journal/publisher guidelines: Be rigorous in doing so.
- Submit for review to peers in your department or college with journal guidelines attached.
- Make revisions as suggested, then submit for review to only one journal at a time.
- Manuscripts that are original and timely or manuscripts that address controversial topics often get a high rating on peer review.
Rejection and Revision
No one appreciates rejections, but know the referee process of professional journals can seem capricious and subjective. A rejection should not lead to the premature conclusion that a manuscript is unworthy.
- Pay attention to any specific suggestions or criticisms offered with a rejection. Commonly cited weaknesses in journal articles include:
- Overly formal or pedantic writing
- Poor organization
- Absence of introduction and summary
- Poor sentence structure
- Poor or fabricated documentation
- Use of jargon
- Share the rejection letter with close colleagues; subtle messages between the lines sometimes escape sensitive author egos!
- Read the manuscript afresh as though you were a reviewer rather than the author.
- Make suggested revisions made by reviewers and try again with another journal. Writing is more re-writing. Sometimes it is just a matter of finding a "home" for your manuscript, or a place that has a "fit" with your manuscript.
Brigham Young University Faculty Center. (1998). Teacher-Scholar Report: Findings Based on 1997 Brigham Young University Faculty Focus-Group Discussions. Provo, UT: Author.
Clanin, N. & Kennedy, C.W. (1991). Publishing. In M.A. Mateo & K.T. Kirchhof (Eds). Conducting and using nursing research in the clinical setting, pp. 233-239. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.
Wolcott, H.F. (1990). Writing up qualitative research. Newbury Park CA: Sage Publications.
Toggle ItemTips on Publishing and PresentingLynn C. Callister, Associate Dean, School of Nursing
RESEARCHERS HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO COMMUNICATE THE RESULTS OF A STUDY, THE FINDINGS RELEVANT TO PRACTICE, AND IMPLICATIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH.
- Look at the Call for Abstracts for professional meetings, which are received in your college/department.
- Submit your abstract, after review by a colleague or colleagues in your department/college who has been successful in doing professional presentations.
- Remember that a podium presentation is generally considered "stronger" on your vitae than a poster presentation, although a poster presentation may be utilized for research in progress.
- Learn Power Point: this will enhance your presentation. But remember that such technology may or may not be available at the meeting at which you are presenting. Request funding for slides. Slides should be limited to 8 lines or less, with 6 or less words/line. Only major points are presented on visuals. The use of color can increase clarity and appeal to the audience.
- It may be helpful to develop a typed script for presentation and include visuals. Load slides and view them on a screen. Mark the top right of each slide with a felt-tip pen to identify the correct position for quick and accurate reloading. Carry on your slides/copy of presentation: don't check it with your luggage!
- Time is the most important factor in developing a presentation, since many presenters are limited to 12-15 minutes with 5 minutes for questions. As a time guideline: 10% introduction, 20% method, 35% results, and 35% discussion. The shorter the presentation time, the greater the preparation time that is needed. Depending on the pace of delivery, approximately 250 words are spoken in every two minutes.
- Consider what sections of the presentation can be omitted if time is reduced.
- Know your audience—researchers or clinicians or other professionals—and make your presentation applicable and relevant to them.
- Anticipate questions that may be asked and rehearse your answers. You could do a dress rehearsal with colleagues, who might be asked to raise questions. Questions asked by the audience may be useful in preparing a manuscript for publication or developing your next research study.
- Arrive at the presentation room early. If your abstract has been updated since submitted, additional handouts may be helpful. Business cards are helpful for participants who want to contact the presenter after the conference.
- Consider the time of day. Use a livelier presentation style when the audience may be less than enthusiastic (like after lunch or late in the afternoon).
- Use your presentation as a basis for writing an article for publication.
- Consider dividing your dissertation/thesis into several publishable journal articles rather than publishing a book or monograph. Less may be more.
- Know your audience and professional periodicals in your specialty area. Start your own personal file of author guidelines for important journals in your discipline. Guidelines may include (a) directions for manuscript preparation, (b) discussion of copyright, and (c) guidelines for submission of the manuscript.
- Select journals with care and demonstrate awareness not only to scope but to all stated requirements for submission (listed under "Information for Authors"). Careful attention to detail is essential!
- Manuscripts that are original and timely or manuscripts that address controversial topics often get high ratings on review.
- Have a colleague or colleagues in your department/college who has been successful in publishing review your manuscript for organization, completeness of content, and writing style. This kind of "insider" peer review can be very helpful.
- Submit to only one journal at a time. Avoid plagiarism, which involves "using or closely imitating someone else's writing without obtaining their permission, acknowledging, or compensating them and representing it as [one's] own" (Sheridan and Dowdney, 1986, p. 184).
- Review of the manuscript results in one of four possible decisions: (a) acceptance of the manuscript as submitted, (b) acceptance of the manuscript pending minor revisions, (c) tentative acceptance of the manuscript pending major revisions, and (d) rejection of the manuscript. DO NOT incorrectly interpret the request for revision as a rejection!
- A rejection or two should not lead to a premature conclusion that a manuscript is unworthy. Pay attention to specific suggestions or criticisms offered with a rejection. When it is returned, read your manuscript afresh as though you were a reviewer rather than the author. Revise and submit to another journal!
- The commonly cited writing weaknesses include: (a) overly formal and pedagogic writing, (b) poor organization, (c) absence of introduction and summary, (d) poor sentence structure, (e) poor or fabricated documentation, and (e) use of Jargon (Mateo & Kirchhoff, 1991, p. 238).
- When attending professional meetings, invest time at the book exhibits and search out publishers interested in the same topics and approaches that you are. Often senior editors are also attending these meetings. Talk to publishing house representatives when they are here on campus in your college/department.
Mateo, M.A. & Kirchhoff, K.T. (1991). Conducting and using nursing research in the clinical setting. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.
Sheridan, D. R. & Dowdney, D.L. (1986). How to write and publish articles in nursing. New York: Springer.
Toggle ItemDeveloping a Research AgendaMartin Fujiki, Professor of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences
First of all, let me say that I have no comer on the market for ideas as to how one should develop a research agenda. I do know what has worked for me, and I have listed some of these ideas below. However, as we meet to discuss these ideas I would welcome your thoughts and ideas as well.
Think about Big Questions
I would begin by looking for a topic that interests you and where you feel you can make a contribution. Try to formulate a large question, and then plan a series of smaller, well-organized questions that will ultimately lead you in the direction of answering the larger question.
As you pursue important questions, try to stay focused. Don't chase a topic here and then a topic there. Try to develop an expertise in an area and work within that area. If you plan to publish in top tier journals, you will find that your work will be reviewed by individuals who work extensively in the topic area in which you have written. These individuals will know the literature, and they will immediately recognize how your work fits into that literature. If your expertise is shallow, they will know that as well. If your expertise is solid, they will offer helpful insights and suggestions.
One area where it can be a challenge to stay focused is in directing student research. Students often approach us with ideas that have caught their interest. These ideas, while of merit, may be far afield from our own expertise. Although there are exceptions, I believe that it is a mistake to "chase" these interests. Students should be guided by the research interests and expertise of the faculty. Ultimately, students are better served if they can be directed by someone with a deep expertise in an area. This is much more likely to result in a solid piece of work that demonstrates the care and depth of knowledge needed to produce a publishable product.
In focusing, it will be necessary to make choices. What is most important? As in our personal lives, it is not possible to do everything. We need to decide what is most important and concentrate on those aspects of our work. If you have several potential projects, which one will help you answer the bigger question? Which one will further your overall research agenda?
Balance Quality and Quantity
Try to strike a balance between quality and quantity. We all know individuals who fall to either side of this balance. Some individuals will send out anything, regardless of quality. Others will not send out anything because it is not ready. Clearly, sloppy work can damage an academic reputation. However, not sending anything out is problematic as well. It may be difficult to determine when a manuscript is ready for submission. I have found that colleagues can be very helpful with this.
Learn from Others
I would listen carefully to the input of colleagues and reviewers. None of us enjoys criticism. Further, all of us know that sending out our work for peer review can be a painful process. To thrive under the peer review process, you need to learn to recognize that receiving a negative review (or a plethora of negative reviews) does not mean that you are a worthless human being. (It only feels that way momentarily.) It is possible to learn a great deal from others. All of us have had reviewers who are spiteful, opinionated, or just plain wrong. Still, in my own experience, I have found that almost all of the time, reviewers provide invaluable feedback.
Consider Working on a Research Team
I have found that I do my best work as part of a research team. I enjoy batting ideas back and forth with a colleague. My long-time research associate and I constantly question each other's work and refine each other's ideas. Hopefully it will be possible to develop a relationship with colleagues in which it is possible to speak frankly.
Working as a member of a research team can be especially beneficial for new faculty. You can receive support, survival tips, and ideas from other team members. You can learn quickly about the research and publication process.
I hope that these ideas will provide a starting point for our discussion. I look forward to meeting with all of you.
Toggle ItemPublish & Flourish: Become a Prolific ScholarThe following excerpts come from the book by Tara Gray, Publish & Flourish: Become a Prolific Scholar.
A Summary of the Book
The myth persists that prolific scholars are born, not made, but research suggests otherwise. Much is known about how to become more prolific—and any scholar can.
These steps will show you how.
- Step 1. Write daily for 15 to 30 minutes. Many scholars believe that writing requires big blocks of time. They’re wrong. Research shows that scholars who write daily publish far more than those who write in big blocks of time. The problem with big blocks of time is that they’re hard to find. In contrast, when you write daily, you start writing immediately because you remember what you were writing about the day before. This leads to impressive production. In one study participants who wrote daily wrote only twice as many hours as those who wrote occasionally in big blocks of time but wrote or revised ten times as many pages (Boice 2000:144).
- Step 2. Record time spent writing daily, share records weekly. Writing daily increases your productivity as a writer. But to write daily you will need to keep a daily record of your writing, and share those records with someone weekly. What difference does keeping records make? Robert Boice led a series of workshops for scholars who sought to improve their writing productivity. Boice stressed the importance of writing daily, keeping a record of the minutes spent on writing, and being accountable to someone weekly. Participants were divided into three groups: (a) The first group (“controls”) did not change their writing habits, and continued to write occasionally in big blocks of time; in 1 year they wrote an average of 17 pages; (b) the second group wrote daily and kept a daily record; they averaged 64 pages; (c) the third group wrote daily, kept a daily record, and held themselves accountable to someone weekly; this group’s average was 157 pages (Boice 1989:609). Without records and someone to share them with it is too easy to convince yourself that you will write “tomorrow.” But “tomorrow” never comes—or at least it doesn’t come very often.
- Step 3. Write from the first day of your research project.Write from the first day of your project—as soon as you have a research idea—and keep writing throughout the project. Don’t finish the research first; research as you write, and write as you research. Not all writing must be formal and polished. Some writing is done simply to generate thought and to keep a record of ideas, however crude, so they can be reviewed and revised later. The roughest draft can be valuable precisely because it can be saved, reviewed, and revised. Physicist Dallin Durfee (Brigham Young University) explains how writing this way improved his research and saved time:I’ve begun to write about my physics experiments while they are still in progress, allowing me to see weaknesses in our experiments and realize what data will be most useful in making cohesive arguments early on, before research time has been wasted on unfruitful ideas
- Step 4. Post your thesis on the wall, then write to it. When you sit down to write, take a stab at describing what you are going to write about. Don’t make this difficult by trying to write the perfect sentence. Just jot down a word or a phrase; you can develop it later. Treat this as a working thesis: You can and should change it later. Better theses will almost invariably arise from this writing process. Eventually, you will want a short, memorable sentence that tells your reader what is at stake, what problem you are trying to solve, what claim you are making, or what your result or conclusion is. Just assert your point; don’t burden the thesis with trying to prove it—you have the rest of the paper to do that. Post your thesis on the wall. Then define, refine, and write to your purpose. Keep coming back to your thesis. Work back and forth between your thesis and the rest of your paper, revising first one and then the other.
- Step 5. Organize around key sentences. Readers expect nonfiction to have one point per paragraph. The point of the paragraph should be contained in a key or topic sentence, located early in the paragraph and supported by the rest of the paragraph. A key sentence is to a paragraph like a street sign is to a street: it helps the reader to navigate by showing what is to come. A key sentence announces the topic of the paragraph (Williams 1990:97-105). It must be broad enough to “cover” everything in the paragraph but not so broad that it raises issues that are not addressed in the paragraph. To test this idea, ask yourself the (key) question: “Is the rest of the paragraph about the idea in the key sentence?” The key sentence should announce the topic without trying to prove the point—the rest of the paragraph serves that function. It should include the key words; that is, if the paragraph is about Napoleon, then “Napoleon” (rather than “he”) should be the subject of the key sentence.A key sentence differs from what many people were taught about topic sentences because a key sentence need not be the first sentence in a paragraph (Williams 1990:90, 101). The later the key sentence appears in a paragraph, the longer the paragraph tends to be. When writers take longer to warm up to the key sentence, they also take longer to explain, support, and qualify it (Williams 1990:92-93). How long writers take to warm up is mostly a matter of tradition, and various disciplines have various traditions. In most scientific disciplines, key sentences tend to be the first sentence in the paragraph; in other disciplines, key sentences appear as the second or third sentence in the paragraph.
- Step 6. Use key sentences as an after-the-fact outline. To examine the organization of your writing, list the key sentences—and headings—to see an after-the-fact outline (Booth, Colomb and Williams 2003:213, 188). Now, read the list and question yourself about the purpose and organization of the writing:How could the key sentences better communicate the purpose (thesis) of the paper to the intended audience?How could the key sentences be better organized? More logical? More coherent?Once you have viewed your key sentences as an after-the-fact outline a few times you will discover how valuable it is to see your prose through this new lens. You will also discover there is no point in waiting to view your paper this way until you have a full draft of a writing project. Instead, you will find it useful to begin each writing session by viewing only the headings and key sentences of the section you worked on the previous day.
- Step 7. Share early drafts with non-experts. The biggest communication problem is overestimating what your readers know. After all, you have thought about your research problem for months or years, but your readers probably haven’t. To find out what your readers know and don’t know, flick the imaginary reader off your shoulder and find some real readers—actual humans you can talk to. Caution: The more expert your readers are on the topic, the less likely they will be to tell you what they don’t know and need to know. So find readers who don’t know very much about the topic: colleagues in different disciplines, family members, undergraduate students. These are the people who will point out problems of organization and clarity without fearing that they will appear to be uninformed. Prod these non-experts to think about clarity and organization: “What passages were hardest to understand?” “Where did you feel unsure about where you were going?” Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no,” such as “Is the paper clear?” Such questions do not invite dialog. Instead, ask questions that start a dialog with your non-expert readers.
- Step 8. Share later drafts with little-e experts and Capital-E Experts. Little-e experts include anyone trained in your discipline; Capital-E Experts include the biggest experts in your discipline or your sub-discipline. Share middle drafts with experts who can help you in some of the ways that non-experts can help you—as well as some of the ways that Capital-E Experts can help you. Little-e experts can help you with clarity and organization as non-experts can, but only if you make it very safe for them to ask questions about those topics. Because you have written this paper, you will know far more about the topic than they do. So you must make it safe for them to ask you questions. Some experts can also help you by giving you ideas for what you should read and where to send your article and they can help you get better known in your field by referring your work to others and so on. That is to say, some little-e experts can help you in many of the same ways that Capital-E Experts can help you. For that reason, you should approach them in much the same way you approach Capital-E Experts, as discussed next, except that you can share earlier drafts with them because you know them better and know more of them. Strive to get about half your feedback from experts.Share near-finished drafts with at least two Capital-E Experts. Why do you want to send near-finished drafts to Experts, when you could wait for them to read the final copy in print? Because they are far more likely to read—and engage with and cite—something that lands on their desk with a letter addressed specifically to them than with something that they find “in the literature.” So approach the Experts by tailoring an e-mail or letter that explains how their work has informed yours and by asking specific questions aimed at the intersection of your work and theirs. Explain that you are asking only for a “quick read” and would be delighted if they would spend even 20 minutes with your work. Then ask, “What articles should I read and cite that I haven’t?” and “To what journal would you send this manuscript?” Don’t be bashful; ask for a turnaround of 2 to 3 weeks.
- Step 9. Learn how to listen. Remember, when it comes to clarity, the reader is always right. “Clarity is a social matter, not something to be decided unilaterally by the writer. The reader like the consumer, is sovereign. If the reader thinks something you write is unclear, then it is, by definition. Quit arguing” (McCloskey 2000:12).
- Step 10. Respond to each criticism. The paper is usually read by several reviewers. Don’t expect reviewers—or other readers—to make identical comments. It’s tempting to conclude that, when reviewers don’t make the same suggestions, they disagree. When researchers examined scholarly reviews, they found that reviewers gave good [specific] advice and did not contradict each other (Fiske and Fogg 1990:591-597). Generally, one reader will criticize the literature review, another will find fault with the methods, and yet another will take umbrage with the findings. If you make changes in response to each of these reviewers, you will improve the paper and reduce the chance that other readers will find fault with the manuscript. Think of each specific concern as a hole in your rhetorical “dam:” the more holes you plug, the better your argument will “hold water.”
- Step 11. Read your prose out loud. To polish your prose, read it out loud to someone, or have someone read it out loud to you. You can hear when the prose is awkward and least conversational. And, you can listen for excessive precision. If you just can’t bring yourself to ask someone for help with your whole paper, ask someone for help with the abstract, introduction, and conclusion. If you can’t find someone to help you, read it out loud to yourself.
- Step 12. Kick it out the door and make ‘em say “No.” You are almost ready to send your paper out, but two obstacles remain: perfectionism and fear of rejection. Expect rejection and plan for it. Select three journals for every manuscript. Address three envelopes—and stamp them. By choosing three journals, you have a long-term plan for your paper. If your paper is rejected at the first journal, you are prepared to send it to the second journal without the usual delay. And, keep your perfectionism in check. You may say that your paper is not really done. It could be better. That’s true today, and it will be true 10 years from now. It’s tough to know when “enough is enough.” As a writer, you must find the balance between “making it better and getting it done” (Becker 1986: 122). You’ve written it. Trusted colleagues have read it. You’ve responded to their criticisms—it’s time to kick it out the door (Becker 1986: 121). Artists are encouraged not to over-paint a picture, and bury a good idea in a muddy mess. And so it is for writers: don’t overwrite your paper and bury a good idea in a muddy mess (Becker 1986: 131). Don’t worry—if your writing needs more work, you’ll get another chance. Anonymous reviewers are not known for being over kind. Your job is to write it and mail it. Their job is to tell you if it will embarrass you publicly. You’ve done your job so make 'em do theirs: Kick it out the door and make ‘em say “YES!”
Becker, Howard S. (1986). Writing for social scientists. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Boice, Robert. (1989). Procrastination, busyness and bingeing. Behavior Research Therapy, 27, 605-611.
Boice, Robert. (2000). Advice for new faculty members: Nihil nimus. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, & Joseph M. Williams. (2003). The craft of research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Fiske, Donald W., and Louis Fogg. (1990). But the reviewers are making different criticisms of my paper! Diversity and uniqueness in reviewer comments. American Psychologist, 45, 591-598.
McCloskey, Deirdre. (2000). Economical writing (2nd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
Williams, Joseph, with Gregory Colomb. (1990). Style: Toward clarity and grace. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Toggle ItemPublishing and Presenting as a BYU Faculty MemberAlan J. Hawkins, Professor of Family Sciences, Family Studies Center Director
Brigham Young University has an important stake in its faculty being known, respected, and appreciated by other scholars, policy makers, and opinion leaders. We are of greater influence for good to our students, to the Church, and to the world when we excel in our scholarship. Publishing our work in high-quality outlets and presenting at first-rate conferences is the primary way faculty become known, respected, and appreciated. Accordingly, the university expects its faculty to publish and present, and properly makes this a significant factor in faculty evaluations.
My experience has been that the university expects consistent efforts over time to publish high-quality work. Because of BYU’s emphasis on first-rate undergraduate teaching and substantial citizenship responsibilities, the expectation for quantity of publications is a little lower than other good universities with which I am familiar. This is a nice balance for me. I think there are some strategies that can improve both quality and quantity of publication. First, get focused. Early in an academic career I think we do better work and more of it if we stay focused on a specific area. We are more likely to do work that impacts the field and establish good connections with colleagues at other universities. These connections will lead to more publication opportunities. And what our peers at other universities think of us and our work is a contributing factor in rank and status decisions. Accordingly, I think young scholars should be cautious about deciding to broaden their areas of expertise and pursue research in another direction. Broadening is something that should occur, but developmentally, it is best when done by full, rather than assistant, professors.
A second strategy for improving both quantity and quality of publication is collaborative work. There are some fields that don’t appreciate collaborative work, but many do, and I think it makes sense, especially for young scholars here at BYU. Our dedication to teaching and citizenship restricts the amount of time devoted to scholarship. Collaborating with another scholar here or elsewhere can double the amount of publications. Be a first author on about half of these publications to establish yourself as able to lead, not just contribute. But collaboration doesn’t just affect quantity; it improves quality, as well. Most scholars, young and old, will find their thinking and skills enhanced by on-going collaboration, and this will be reflected in their scholarship.
A third strategy is to constantly work on the craft of writing. My experience suggests that the most significant barrier to publication is the ability to communicate an idea effectively. There are two issues here. First, academic reviewers have little patience for material that is not well written. Even if a manuscript is basically readable, reviewers are a bunch of folk who are not easily impressed. To impress an academic reviewer, you need to be a good writer who works hard at the craft of communicating ideas effectively. Second, the craft of writing is a valuable process that clarifies and refines our thinking. As we strive to write things more clearly and persuasively we have to think harder and deeper about our ideas.
Presenting at first-rate conferences also is expected of BYU faculty so that we can be of greater influence. In my experience, presenting at conferences is a primary way I have become integrated into the academic community and the profession. In my own mind, I do not view presentations as publications. Rather, I view them as a part of the academic process that helps me publish. Hence, conference presentations are important and expected, but they are not an end product for the most part. I see presentations as evidence of active involvement in the profession and the scholarly process, but I do not “count” them as a publication. I suspect that most individuals who sit in judgment on rank and status committees have similar views.
The process of getting a publication accepted is hard work and can be frustrating. But the scholarly process that leads to publication should be fun and exciting. And it is the primary way that we influence our fields. The effort required for publication is worth the work.
Toggle ItemGetting Started: Establishing a Meaningful Program of Research or Creative ActivitiesBart J. Kowallis, Professor of Geology, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, BYU
I. Do Something You Love To Do
One of the great benefits I have here at the university is that I actually get paid to do things that other people have to pay to do! For example, over the past few years I have become very interested in geologic time—determining the ages of geologic events. This research has on many occasions taken me to fossil "digs" where I will collect datable materials to try and help the paleontologists get a handle on how old the fossils are. Invariably, some of the people helping at the fossil sites are people who pay to come because they love to help dig up dinosaur bones or prehistoric mammals.
As you start into your professional research career, make sure you find something to study that fascinates you, something that keeps you awake at night thinking, something that you can't wait to get back to school for on Monday, or that you have to come in for on weekends. Study something that you are passionate about. If you have this passion for your subject, you will be successful.
II. Learn To Ask For Help
New faculty often feel that they need to prove their independence, that they should not ask for help from existing faculty or colleagues. This will usually not lead to success in a program. Good research programs thrive on collaboration and good constructive criticism.
If you want to succeed, seek out faculty colleagues who you can depend upon to give you an honest opinion, and have them critique your research proposals and papers before they are submitted. Listen to their comments and use them to make your proposals and papers better.
Also seek out faculty who have similar interests and develop cooperative programs with them. The old adage really is true: “Two heads are better than one!” During my first few years at BYU, I continued to collaborate with my Ph.D. advisor. We published a number of papers together and had several research grants funded. This collaboration was critical to the development of my research here at BYU.
I continue to seek the advice of my colleagues in the Geology Department and to actively look for ways to collaborate with them. Yes, it is possible to be successful as a loner, but it is much more difficult and not nearly as much fun.
III. Don’t Be Discouraged and Be Persistent
My perception is that obtaining external funding for research is becoming more difficult. Government budgets have not increased as rapidly as have the number of researchers. The quest for research dollars will not, therefore, be an easy one. For example, the Earth Sciences Division of the National Science Foundation ( where most of my external research funding has come from) now funds only about 15% of the proposals submitted.
It takes a lot of effort to write a good proposal and it can be discouraging when it is not funded. Still, it is worth the effort. Every faculty member should go through the process of writing a grant proposal about once each year. The process of writing the grant has benefits for your research even when the grant is not funded. It sharpens your focus on the critical research problems you want to deal with, it forces you to organize a research plan, and it often shows you where there are flaws in your ideas.
In this process, don't get discouraged when you fail to obtain the desired grant or get the paper published. I know that when reviews come back from a rejected paper or proposal it can be a difficult time. I usually only look at them briefly when they arrive and then put them aside for a few days until I have calmed down and can evaluate the merits of the criticism. Usually the criticisms are valid and I can then go back and write a better proposal or a better paper.
Be persistent and submit proposals and papers on a regular basis. You will be much more successful if you do. Don't get out of the habit or practice of writing. It is not something that comes easily for most of us and if we do not practice it can become almost impossible.
IV. Be Careful with Good Ideas
By this, I don’t really mean that you need to be overly cautious in sharing ideas with friends and colleagues. I have never had a problem with someone stealing my ideas (that may be because they haven’t been all that great to begin with). What I mean here is that you need to be ready to write down your good ideas whenever they come to you. Don’t just assume that you will remember them. The best ideas often come when you are in the shower, or lying in bed trying to go to sleep, or out taking a quiet walk. Keep a notepad handy on these occasions so that good ideas, which may only come once, are not lost.