Category Archives: ask a scatterbrain

ask a scatterbrain: writing goals

A colleague of mine has set up a writing accountability group for the summer. They’ll check in once a week to see how the past week went and to map out the coming week. The group is not explicitly about reading one another’s work, but about ensuring that such work is accomplished. I thought some of her questions and concerns would be a worthwhile discussion to have with a wider audience and something that others who might plan such groups could benefit from.

  • Should these groups be about encouragement, measuring progress, evaluating goal achievement, all of the above, or something else?
  • If the group is about encouragement, how can one balance encouragement with enabling? What happens if someone always has an excuse for why they’re not writing? Should they continue to be part of the group?
  • If the group is about progress, what are some of the ways that we can measure progress on intellectual work when it’s not always clear-cut (e.g., an argument is developing, even if I haven’t written the introduction, the paper might not be getting longer, but it’s getting more polished) ?
  • If the group is about setting and evaluating goals, what type of goals are most effective? Is it better to say, “I’ll finish the data and methods section of Paper A this week,” or to say, “I will actively work on Paper A five days this week,” or something in-between?
  • Are there ways for fellow group members to motivate progress and goal achievement? Gold stars worked in grade school, but what works in grad school or on the tenure-track?
  • If someone is working on a number of projects, should they work on each of these a little each week, or focus on them one at a time? Is it possible for people to move projects forward in tandem, in ways that are mutually beneficial, or does multitasking come with too much of a cost?

Finally, are there other things that readers would suggest about such groups? Do you have good success stories, things to be wary of? Any feedback is welcome.

(grad)student-faculty interaction

Notre Dame loves to make videos. They are currently working on a series about graduate students’ experiences on campus and I had a meeting with the production company today to discuss one of the videos, a segment focused on (grad)student-faculty interaction. As great as the meeting was, I left feeling incredibly discouraged about the state of (grad)student-faculty interaction and wondering what, if anything, can be done to change it.

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becoming a master student.

I often tell my students that the course that changed my life was Introduction to Sociology. Today I realized that I’ve been lying to them, or to myself, all this time. The class that truly changed my life was Human Development 100.

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ask a scatterbrain: post-review changes not suggested by reviewers

On behalf of an anonymous reader:

After submitting an article to a journal, I have received a revise & resubmit decision along with two reviewer reports. The changes suggested by the reviewers and the editor seem reasonable and doable. However, it has occurred to me after I received the reports that the statistical model I used has limitations. These limitations had neither occurred to me before, nor were they noted by either of the reviewers or the editor. I think the sound thing to do would be to change the model and the data for this are available, but I am concerned about how this will look to the reviewers and the editor.

latex beamer is failing me – help!

I know some scatterbrains use LaTeX and the beamer class to produce lecture slides and notes. I have done so for years, using the following syntax at the top to produce the handouts:

\pgfpagesuselayout{2 on 1}[letterpaper,portrait,border shrink=5mm]

\setbeameroption{show notes}

But just today it’s freaking out on me, producing output with the page size clearly wrong such that pages don’t contain even the full slide, much less the accompanying notes slide. Anybody care to offer help? An example of the bad output is at http://perrin.socsci.unc.edu/stuff/badbeamer.pdf.

ask a scatterbrain: sharing code and data

This from an anonymous correspondent:

Making data and code available for other researchers is an important tool for promoting replication, discovering errors, and advancing research agendas. However, how to handle the ownership situation? In this case, a junior scholar who worked for a long time on a tricky piece of code, using publicly available data, was asked to provide a copy of the code. A while later, an original piece of research appeared using the code, with appropriate citation to the original work. However, if the two researchers had been colleagues surely the programmer would have been a co-author on the work. What is the best way to handle this in general? Is there some way to communicate reasonable expectations at the point the code is shared, or should one reserve the right to review and join the work later, or what?

are you looking for this?

In scanning the recent search terms that have landed people at scatterplot, I think some readers might be gearing up for fall transitions (or hoping for future transitions) and are interested in finding:

The current (and last year’s) sociology job market rumor mill/forum.

Advice for assistant professors.

Advice for your first time teaching.

A thorough discussion of turning one’s dissertation into a book.

Those a bit earlier in their career might be in search of:

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a brave new world.

This weekend the NY Times ran a story on 32 innovations that will change your tomorrow. Some are cool, others are a little scary, and more than a few are completely unnecessary (e.g., a Jetson-esque machine exclusively for washing and drying your hair). This weekend I also got an email from a textbook publisher telling me about their own innovation, or at least efforts to advance one: computer-graded writing assignments. Here are relevant excerpts from the email: Continue reading

ask a scatterbrain: self-citation in works in progress

Is there a standard way to indicate that an author has cut and paste a chunk of text from an earlier work into a work-in-progress?

As I move from one part of a larger project to another, I like to plunk down chunks of text as placeholders to frame the argument, provide theoretical or historical context, etc. I italicize this text as a shorthand to myself. As I share my work-in-progress with others attending a small conference, would it be bad to leave it in italics with a note that it is copied from my other published and unpublished work? Is there a norm for (or against) doing this?

bleg: favorite network visualization software?

I am beginning an analysis that involves network visualizations. I’m in good shape with respect to the statistical analysis of the networks, but am in less good shape with respect to visualization. If it matters, this is a network of texts as nodes and the ties are co-occurrences of topics and themes. I’d like to draw graphs that highlight cliques in the data.

The ideal software will be open-source, run under linux, and produce pretty pictures, but I’m willing to entertain options that don’t meet all these criteria.

 

professors unplugged.

I just received my invitation to participate in the 4th Annual “Professors Unplugged.” While it sounds to me like it’s an evening of professors who have gone off the deep end, it’s also actually a talent show hosted by the College of First Year Studies – a forum for faculty to “showcase their talents that are not usually seen by students.” The email suggests “singing, poetry or short story reading, dancing, and the like.”

If I sign up, I promise to tell you what I choose to showcase. In the meantime, what’s your hidden talent?

ask a scatterbrain: too few papers for my asa session

A reader writes:

I agreed to organize a Regular Session for Denver. Disappointingly, there are only three papers submitted, and one of those was transferred in from a Section.

  1. Is there a norm of recruiting submissions to one’s session? If so, I wish I had known. And more importantly:
  2. Now what? I am considering accepting the three papers, almost without regard for their quality or their relationship to each other.

reading and annotating on iPad

I am mulling the possibility ofmoving to iPad for use in reading, marking up, and filing PDF articles. For the past few years I’ve used a tabletlaptop which lets me write comments on the PDF and save the comments without printing out. I would like to be able to do that on the iPad. Does anyone out there in scatterland use an iPad for this purpose? Any recommendations fr best apps for this purpose?

scatterbleg: income and altruistic wishes

My wife is working on a project that demonstrates, among other things, that lower-income adolescents report “wishes” on a survey that are more for themselves, such as housing, cars, etc., where higher-income adolescents report more wishes that are altruistic for the world, e.g., the end of global warming or poverty. She is looking for sociological references to back up this (unsurprising) finding and/or to document mechanisms for it. Any thoughts?

 

ask a scatterbrain: training grads in research ethics

One of the many wonderful sociologists I chatted with in Vegas was Iowa’s Mary Campbell, a loyal scatterplot reader. She asked me to pose a question to you (and I’m hoping in my post-Vegas/ASA/first-week-of-classes haze I remember its essence – if I don’t, I blame Andrew Perrin pushing appletinis at the bloggettogether):

Apparently the University of Iowa has asked departments to ensure that graduate students are trained in research ethics. We’re not just talking about IRB certification, but moving well beyond this. Are others schools requiring such?  How are others approaching the issue? Or, if you’re not, do you have ideas of how to best do this? Of course the ASA has a guide on such concerns* that could certainly be a place to start, but what else is out there? A quick search on Amazon brings up various options, but surely faithful blog readers can provide a more personal recommendation.

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