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All scholarly genres are not the same. Let’s dismiss at the outset the fantasy that a dissertation is basically no different than a monograph. Both require many of the same skills, but the variables of voice, audience, and purpose diverge radically. To offer only one example, the immediate audience for approval of a dissertation is one’s supervising committee of three or four professors, whereas in the case of a publishable book it encompasses a more numerous and far-flung cohort of specialists, not all of whom will be receptive to your project’s conceptual orientation.
That variance admitted, certain qualities are bedrock in all academic prose. At the risk of reducing them to a perhaps familiar litany, I’ll enumerate four of them.
Ditch the gobbledygook
The sterility of “dissertationese” is deadly. This caveat includes the penchant for anthropomophisms and jargon, absolutely lethal when combined (e.g., “My study argues that the essentialism of this author’s reconstructionist agenda, which defies the strictures of Edward Said’s cautions about the phenomenon of Orientalism, unintentionally reverses the subaltern’s plight in neocolonialist and post-Ghandi India, thereby inscribing a rhetoric of retrenchment”). No one communicates this way. You shouldn’t indulge in such gobbledygook either. If you’re not sure of your work, seek the assistance of a good dissertation editing service.
Don’t depersonalize yourself
Avoid like cholera the crippling poses of depersonalization. Such artifices as “The author proposes,” unfortunately rampant in the social sciences, and its disguise through clumsy use of subjunctive verbs and the passive voice always raise red flags. The first-person pronoun “I” is permissible, if not overused, in scholarly discourse. Don’t try to efface yourself as author by becoming a textual cipher or ghost.
Be precise, engaging, and direct
Nothing is more annoying than academic writing that proclaims repeatedly, as though it were a badge of honor, its intention to “tease out” or “problematize” its subject. Cut to the chase. While doing so, however, try to project a lively style that avoids a mind-numbing repetition of key words. Listen to your diction. Along the same lines, don’t lard your introductory paragraphs with extensive quotations. Apprise your readers of a significant gap in the relevant field of research and take it from there.
Wrap it all up with a precise but succinct conclusion. Nothing is more wearisome than a ploddingly summative coda that rehashes already established points. Draw out genuine inferences from what you have demonstrated rather than resorting to the lame formula that “Further research is needed.” Moreover, as we urge entry-level students, be sure to answer the “So what?” question. In this as in all dimensions of effective academic discourse, eschew the narrowly conventional or prescriptive.
It all comes down to what we look for in any piece of well written exposition: clarity, concision, and lucidity. The fogs of trendy scholarly fashion notwithstanding, I doubt whether these modest proposals will steer any prospective academician wrong. If you’re not absolutely certain of your work’s quality, seek the help of a good dissertation editor.
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Another one of literature’s great prose stylists, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote darkly beautiful and haunting stories about sin, guilt, and personal redemption earned through humiliation under the glaring gaze of the hypocritical and self-righteous, the “pure and innocent” accusers. Writers have great material like that all around them.
Who hasn’t “sinned”? Who doesn’t have some secret they don’t want anyone to know about?
Go to any church where congregations consider themselves the “saved” and holy ones. Not that they aren’t. Many of those folks are truly good. Perhaps I go to one of those churches too. But a closer look at everyone’s life reveals sin and bad stuff they’re guilty of doing that makes for universal and timeless tales.
Here’s just a Hawthorne handful of ways to mine and develop great story ideas.
#1: What’s your haunted history?
Hawthorne’s great‑grandfather was a judge in the Salem witch trials. So that led him to write symbolic tales about the guilt of sin as a psychological burden. He had a Puritan heritage. So the strictures of that rigid religious sect troubled and informed his stories.
Everyone’s a haunted house. What ghosts and goblins haunt your mind or your family? How is the past still alive in you or your characters’ present?
#2: What are your dark secrets?
His friend Melville said that Hawthorne’s works have the “power of blackness” about them—a dark secret past or present dominates everything.
- Is there any “blackness” in your life or world?
- Any conflicts of disturbed moral and psychological conditions?
- Any hidden depravity?
- Any rebellious impulses?
- Any morbid thoughts?
#3: What’s your psychological tension?
Hawthorne’s stories are tense and suspenseful because of the psychological forces ripping and tearing at the characters’ hearts. Read any of his books or short stories and you’ll be gripped by their oppositions, their conflicts, their ambiguities, such as:
- Between wanting solitude and wanting company
- Between dependence and independence
- Between secretiveness and disclosure
- Between talking and silence
- Between forgiveness or vengeance
- Between accepting or rejecting
Craft characters and stories that resonate with readers because tensions are explored.
#4: What’s your lonely and solitary disposition?
Do you ever feel out of place, like a stranger in your own world? This sense of isolation and alienation—where does it come from? Is it real or imagined? Are you actually being ignored and talked about behind your back—excluded and ostracized—or are you paranoid and delusional?
Hawthorne—and all of the mid-19th century writers—dwelt long and deep on these subjects.
- Hester and Goodman Brown lost in the forests—both real and of their own imaginings
- Poe’s Pym in the caverns near the South Pole
- Melville’s Ahab in his stark lunacy, madly pursuing the white whale across the 7 Seas
- Whitman on the westward trail seeking himself
- Twain’s Huck Finn drifting on a raft down the mighty Mississippi
- Thoreau in self-imposed hermitage on Walden’s pond
#5: Your life comes down to this question: “What would happen if…?”
Here’s a gem of a story-starting tip: many of Hawthorne’s stories are plotted around an outlandish, outrageous, even bizarre event or set of circumstances. Something happens or something is a certain way. The characters are thrust into it or create it for themselves somehow. Then, the rest of the story takes place as a reaction to these events or circumstances. Just as if Hawthorne had dreamed it up by thinking to himself: “Hmm….I wonder what would happen if…?”
Wow. We jump in before looking. We go for it when don’t even know what it is, really. Damn the consequences when we want something.
#6: Who’s the allegorical you?
You are an allegory. Yes, you are. Don’t try to deny it. You have attitudes and ideas, don’t you? You live in the material world but have some kind of spiritual side, right? At least occasionally, you spout off about moral truths and lessons of life, right? If so, you’re a living, breathing allegory. And so is everyone you know.
Make your characters stand for something.
Symbols are related to allegory: they’re things that stand for something else. Back to the mid-19th century we go for classic examples:
- Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter “A”
- Melville’s white whale Moby Dick
- Poe’s Raven
- Twain’s Mississippi River
- Whitman’s Leave of Grass
- Thoreau’s pond at Walden
There are symbols all around you. In my own dark and distant past, I sold cars. Car lots symbolize my hardcore salesman side. I also played hard rock music in hard rock bands—even today they symbolize my wild side. What do you do? Where do you hang out? What material objects mean something to you? They’re all symbols you can infuse with resonant meaning.
#7: Where’s your Romantic side?
Here’s Hawthorne’s classic definition of a Romance: “…a neutral territory somewhere between the real world and fairy‑land, where the Actual and the Imaginary may meet…” (from “Custom-House”, his preface to The Scarlet Letter).
You’ve got a room in your brain just like that. Unlock it and use it in your writing:
- Explore the realm midway between the objective world and your private thoughts.
- Let your imagination run wild on the page by writing fast and getting into a zone, perhaps by starting with something that really happened and letting what you wanted to happen or fantasized about happening actually happen on the page or screen.
- Live large through your writing.
- Dig deep into the depths of your characters’ reasons and motivations for doing what they do.
- Show life in all its complexity and ambiguity.
Ah, Hawthorne. What a writer: haunted, dark, tense, alienated, wondering, wandering, allegorical, symbolic, and romantic. Just like you.
1. Talk with your professors about areas of need or research gaps in your field. Your professor may have a topic he is hoping that a student will research. This is an ideal situation because of the aid and encouragement he will naturally give you along the way. If you can agree upon a topic early in your program, you will, of course, want to take as many courses as possible with that professor to address topics related to your dissertation.
2. Ask your professor to connect you to likeminded professors. Professors who think in likeminded ways, even if in another discipline, will help build your base of contacts and may serve on your dissertation committee later. They can also give you new models and paradigms for examining your work from a different perspective that will prove helpful.
3. Talk with fellow students about their projects. Find the scope and sequence of those dissertations being written in your field. Decide where you fit in to the conversation. Identify the student who is most likeminded or has a related topic and connect with him from the beginning of your work.
4. Start with questions. If you aren’t sure of your topic, or don’t have a professor who will help identify these gaps in the research, take note of the questions others are asking. Those questions will help you identify where the research gaps are and engage you in the conversation that exists in your field.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask your professor if you can focus an assignment toward your interests. For example, request to do a project in a different way in order to meet some of your research needs. Professors like for you to connect with the subject matter of their course and often will be impressed with your vision how to integrate a course into your work.
6. Compile a bibliography as you go. This will serve not only as a bibliography for your dissertation but also likely your resource list for comprehensive exams. Keep this research close at hand throughout your course work. This bibliography can be foundational for your literature review as well. Having the major books of your research reviewed ahead of time can take one of the biggest chunks of time out of your dissertation writing.
7. Have a clear vision moving forward. Go ahead and write your abstract or thesis statement so that it will not only guide your research and writing but also your course selection and thinking toward your dissertation.
8. Take advantage of opportunities to present your research at professional meetings. There is no greater way to get to know your work and bring focus to it than to teach or present to others. The comments and critique will most certainly prove helpful as you write and develop the direction your writing will take.
9. Work with each professor. This is the beginning and end of successful class work as well as dissertation writing. Good relationships make working together easier. This will benefit you not only as a student but also later when you are officially a peer!
— Dr. William, Edit911 Staff
As a start-up entrepreneur, one of the many lessons I’ve learned in business is to start marketing your product as soon as possible, even before it is ready for customers. Marketing creates demand and you should start building awareness early.
When a few of my colleagues mentioned I should write a book, I had no idea what I would write about. I just knew it would be about start-up companies because that’s what I’ve done for years and the stories always seem to fascinate people over lunch. So instead of starting with the book, I started a blog and shortly afterwards, I started article marketing.
I wrote about a lot of different aspects of start-up companies, everything from product development to humor about employee antics to advertising. I watched what attracted readers, and there seemed to be three topics that were the most appealing to them – funding, marketing, and customer engagement.
Fourteen months later, I held my first book in my hands.
I knew marketing and promoting my book would not be easy and quick. I reached out to all sorts of people, investigated many different types of marketing approaches, and I have tried a few different ones. You’ll find authors who swear by one or two methods, but no two authors do the same.
Virtual Book Tours
These are online book promoters. They use their network of contacts to get you placement in blogs, in online magazines, and on blog talk radio shows. They may even do Facebook advertising and press releases too. Some are specific to different geographic locations across the globe. I engaged several of these services and I found each one to be quite good. Each one has their own set of contacts. You can exhaust their contacts within a couple of months and so I needed to use more than one. These services suit my personal schedule as they do all the leg work, and I just need to be available or provide the content.
Traditional Public Relations and Publicists
This is one of the more expensive options and many of these firms have gone to a la carte service model, so some part of their services is affordable. The trick is going to the right firm, one that deals in your subject matter. These firms have contacts into the mainstream media from news organizations to television to radio to magazine. In six months, my firm secured more than 25 placements and they focus on media engagements with large audiences.
I hired a guest blogging consultant, who recommended doing four guest posts per week. In his experience, this really builds an audience like nothing else. He recommended researching the blogoshere to find the appropriate blogs, spending 2 to 4 hours getting to know each blog and its audience, and then proposing a guest post. Finally, he suggested spending 8 to 10 hours writing each guest post. It didn’t take more than a minute to figure out that this would consume more than 40 hours per week of my time, and it just didn’t fit into my personal schedule.
Next I met a highly successful Internet guru, who swore article marketing works to build an audience. This is how she built an audience of millions. I was already doing some articles, but not with structured intent. Steve Shaw, the founder of SubmitYourArticle, said it takes 6 months before you can see noticeable results from article marketing and recommends at least 8 articles per month for each article website that you use.
Email and Internet Marketing Campaigns
One of the techniques many authors swear by is joint venture marketing campaigns. The trick bestselling authors use is to concentrate all the promotion is a short time period such a one day and to build a group of authors that all cross-promote to each other’s fans. In brief, you contact bloggers, social influencers, website owners, newsletters providers, bestselling authors, and anyone with a substantial online presence and ask them to promote your book to their audience. These are your joint partners. They suggest gobbling together an email list of at least 500,000 people and a million person list is preferable. I tried this for about six weeks before I gave up, it was consuming all my time. I know authors who have done this method and it took them months to organize all the necessary joint partners. You can hire services to do this on your behalf, but as I found out, these services are specific to a particular genre and reader demographics.
Book Reviews and Book Contests
I have reached out to podcasters and other authors with complimentary books to review my book. I search Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Lulu for possible authors to contact. iTunes is a great place to find podcast candidates. I have also paid for sponsored book reviews and entered independent book contests. I got the most traction from those that I contacted and secured their help for free. One day I may win one of those book contests, but the winners (at least in my non-fiction business category) tend to be serial authors from the smaller publishing houses.
The Internet is full of advice about authors building social platforms. This includes a website, a blog, a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, Twitter and LinkedIn. There are services that will offer to build this platform for an author, but that’s the mechanics. The real work is in generating the content, interacting with the audience, and building your fan base – and I have not seen a service yet that will do this part. You may ask yourself why building a fan base is important. What I’ve learned is the media will check you out online before committing to having you appear in their publication or on their show. Even joint partners will search for you online.
For Facebook, I set aside a small monthly budget to advertise my fan page. On LinkedIn, I share links to my blog posts in groups that are related to me topic. This brings readers back to my website. For Twitter, I use the free version of socialoomph to queue up tips that I tweet to my followers. I also send out links to my blog posts to send readers back to my website.
My advice to authors is not to take on more than two marketing services or efforts at a time. I find I can’t handle too many requests. I may have to spend 20 to 60 hours setting up of a new marketing service. One week I had to write 15 guest posts and articles, and everyone wanted unique and different topics.
The lead time to just get into the line-up for many of these marketing services can be four months. The shortest lead time I’ve experienced was 8 weeks.
There are consultants and services for just about everything for authors. You need to pick and choose what you want to do and how much you want to spend. I’ve been quoted fees from $500 to $50,000. There are service firms who arrange for speaking engagements, virtual conference events, Facebook parties, and just about everything imaginable.
For me, it is a matter of how much time I can spend promoting my book. Yes, you can do-it-yourself, and on my own I’ve managed to land articles in such publications as Entrepreneur magazine. But my time is limited and I need others to help me promote my book.
About the Author
Cynthia Kocialski is the founder of three tech start-ups companies. Cynthia writes the popular Start-up Entrepreneurs’ Blog and has written the book, ““Startup From The Ground Up – Practical Insights for Entrepreneurs, How to Go from an Idea to New Business”.
Dr. John Ke Says: Procrastination
I found that procrastination was probably the greatest pitfall in my efforts to complete my dissertation. All of my past projects had been created on strict deadlines of one sort or another. I could procrastinate for a while, but eventually the deadline would begin to approach, and I would be able to buckle down and push through the procrastination and writer’s block to finish whatever the assignment was.
I was always very good at finishing work when I had short, clear deadlines.
With my dissertation, for the first time, there was no clear deadline, just a massive project stretching out interminably before me, with no clear end date.
While some of my friends had hands-on advisors who kept on top of them and made sure they were making progress, my advisor generally assumed that his students would figure things out on their own.
At first, this was pretty hard for me to manage. I procrastinated endlessly, because there seemed to be no consequences to it; why work today when I could put it off until tomorrow with no consequences? Whole days, even weeks, would go by when I was theoretically working on my dissertation, but had, in fact, accomplished nothing of note.
I could be productive when I actually went to the archives to transcribe my primary source materials, but otherwise my project moved incredibly slowly.
Eventually, I realized that this vicious cycle of procrastination would have to end. I would have to set deadlines for myself, make sure to do at least several hours of real work every day, and keep a tight leash on my tendency to use internet surfing as a way to avoid writing.
I found that doing my work in a public location (I went to the school library, but I’m sure other places would work just as well) helped me remain focused. Being somewhere where other people could see me, and thus, perhaps, know whether I was actually working or goofing off, somehow kept me honest. It also helped to firmly distinguish “working time” from “leisure time.”
I could still watch TV or movies, or surf the internet, or hang out with friends. I just couldn’t do it in time I had set aside for working.
Once I got a handle on my procrastination, I was able to make an enormous amount of progress on my dissertation in a very short time.
Getting control of my habits and establishing better working habits was almost certainly the main key to my ability to finish the project and earn my PhD.
Dr. William Says: The #1 pitfall is worrying over details that aren’t crucial to your research and writing.
• The things people worry about tend to make the perception of a problem grow much larger than the actual problem.
• Deal with issues that need to be dealt with by tackling areas of conflict, asking questions of your professors, and getting some help from reliable experts. For example, hundreds of grad students every year who know they have issues with proper grammar, sentence structure, and style errors run their dissertations by an editing service for this peace of mind.
• It is okay to bracket parts of your research to deal with later. You will want to save something for your follow up research.
Dr. Dan Says: Put down the books.
Seriously. I’ve seen many PhD candidates fall into the habit of putting off the actual writing because there’s just one more book to read, one more study to follow through on, and then one’s view of the field will be complete and the dissertation will satisfy everyone.
This, though, can cause the writing of the dissertation to be continually put off, often because there’s a real hesitation at putting down the thoughts into words. You can always erase later, but get into the habit of writing a few pages a day.
Another suggestion regards the committee: be very careful for personality conflicts can make dissertation committees a nightmare.
• It may seem a bit mercenary, but remember “the path of least resistance” when forming the committee in your mind: you want to get the dissertation finished and receive your degree.
• Listen to the gossip: do faculty have an active dislike for each other?
• Do the relative research interests of the scholars complement each other or might they lead to philosophical conflicts?
Dr. Rachel Says: Just Begin!
So, you’ve passed your qualifying exams and submitted a dissertation proposal. That proposal’s been accepted. Hurray! Now all you have to do is sit down and write a full-length book of original and exquisite scholarship. From scratch. No problem, right?
One of the biggest problems grad students face when they begin the dissertation-writing process is that they just don’t know how to begin. For most of the first few years of grad school, you’ve been writing short and intriguing papers (maybe 25 pages tops), and accomplishing intense but finite tasks, like MA exams. As a grad, you’re used to working really hard for short bursts of time. You’re also used to creating work according to limits and structures set up by other people, like time frames and due dates. Now, when you start the dissertation you’re suddenly all on your own, facing what seems like an enormous and insurmountable task.
Face it, a dissertation is a huge project, so huge that it can be almost paralyzing. It sounds overpowering. The idea of even starting a dissertation give you the worst case of writer’s block you’ve ever had. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way: here are some suggestions to combat the paralyzing element of a giant project.
First, don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture. If you keep worrying about how you’re going to finish, you’ll never be able to start. Stop thinking about the dissertation as a cohesive whole all the time. Sure, all the parts have to fit together and continue an overall argument. But when you’re working, you can’t keep deferring to the finished product. So, break the dissertation into small, doable chunks that you can tackle one at a time. These chunks could be chapters or even sections of chapters. Find the unit of writing you’re most comfortable with, and work around that. Before you know it, the writing will start piling up, and you’ll be making progress.
Second, make your own due dates for these writing chunks. The dissertation usually has a single, unknown due date. The project’s not done until it’s all done. Without setting up some due dates along the way, it’s easy to fall behind or stop writing all together. Find a way to hold yourself responsible for a writing schedule, whether it’s by giving yourself periodic due dates or telling your advisors when you plan to turn chapters in. Then, stick to your schedule. Think of your own self-assigned due dates as every bit as important as the paper deadlines or exam requirements you fulfilled a few years ago.
Finally, know when to stop working. There’s always going to be more research you could do, more revising you could push through, and more changes you could incorporate. If you work too hard for too long, though, you’ll burn out and you might not have enough energy to come back the next time. Pace yourself. Limit the amount of writing you do each day, or take short breaks between big sections. Let your mind rest sometimes so that you can tackle this big project, and tackle it well.
–by the Staff of Edit911, Inc. & Baldwin Book Publishing
Michael Stelzner’s new book Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition has fired me up and helped me launch a couple of my own new ventures.
How? Because Mike’s been there, done that.
Mike’s Got Street Cred
I always like to know who’s doing the work. If I’m building a new house, who’s my contractor? As a baseball fan, I love to check out the players’ stats. And I never miss a new U2 or Newsboys CD because I know they always do good work.
In the case of a book, I like to know something about the author.
Mainly, is he an authority in his field?
In 2007, Mike authored a white paper entitled Writing White Papers that landed him universal acclaim and assignments writing white papers and consulting for over 100 corporations. His work launched his career into the stratosphere.
Not one to rest on his laurels, in 2009 Mike launched Social Media Examiner, which in less than 5 months was declared the #1 small business blog in the world by Technorati.
I read SME faithfully because its articles and resources are always a big help to me and my businesses.
So Mike writing a book about launching is like Ted Williams writing about hitting, F.L. Wright writing about architecture, or Picasso about painting. Mike knows launching.
A Book of Principles
The principles in Launch will give you and your ventures more
- clarity and direction (what to do);
- efficiency (how to do it better);
- synergy (how the steps and ingredients can complement one another); and
- joy (how putting other people’s needs before your own ends up making everyone happier—both others and you yourself).
How can this claim be true and why is it essential to your success? Simple, really.
Being principled works—both in your business life and your personal life. Good, honest, generous, selfless principles make people successful and happy.
What a concept, right?
The Elevation Principle
Mike’s main marketing principle is counter-intuitive: don’t market and don’t sell. Instead, meet “the core desires of prospects and customers by helping them solve their basic problems at no cost.”
Talk about a principle.
His EP formula is Einsteinian elegant: GC + OP – MM = G. That is, great content + other people – marketing messages = growth.
Makes such beautiful sense.
- Write great stuff that people can use. Inform and teach them. Show them you know what you’re talking about. And give it to them for free.
- Get other people involved. Welcome them into your world, your sphere of knowledge. Help them. “If you lift people up, they’ll lift you up.”
- Don’t sell! Don’t be pushy! Shift your emphasis from “What can we sell you?” to “How can we help you?”
- That formula will result in growth. Not just for your business, but for you too—growth as a person of principles.
Consider Others Before Yourself
Mike never preaches in this book. Never stands on a soap box. That’s not his style, thankfully.
But the subtext, the really beautiful, inspiring, implied message is this: life’s really all about living for other people.
When you get yourself out of the center of the universe and realize that your main purpose—and most enriching and rewarding strategy— in life is to live for other people, those people benefit and so will you.
Because people usually reciprocate. Especially when they sense genuine good will coming from you.
Igniting the Elevation Principle
So how can this principle be activated and used to launch you and your business? Back to the EP:
- Help people solve their problems. Write how-to guides. Show them what you know. Show them you’re there for them.
- Don’t push, manipulate, or pressure people into buying what you’re selling.
- Give gifts—freely and without any expectation of getting one back. What gift can you give? Your knowledge. Your time. Your friendship and good counsel.
What’s the payoff for paying it forward? Business, likely. Possibly lots of business. Because people like to do business with people who are low key, caring, giving, and knowledgeable.
Your bottom line—and your life—will benefit from following this principle of putting others first.
Not many people are like that. So you’ll be different—as a business and a human being.
“Helping people ensures your business will stand out from the competition.”
Sound Business Sense
Mike’s wisdom about putting people first would be enough reason to read Launch. But there’s plenty more great advice about many subjects. Such as these practical, action steps to take to launch your business and yourself:
- Crafting and measuring “SMART” goals
- Implementing specific social media marketing strategies
- Inspiring yourself by “looking outward”
- Finding role models
- Working with experts
- Attracting and engaging “firestarters”—people who can help launch you
The Primary & Nuclear Fuel: Great Content
The first part of the EP equation is GC (good content). Why does Mike place such great emphasis upon GC?
Because great content sells. Its persuasive. It explains what you know and shows what you can do. All at once.
And, as the great French poet Jean de La Fontaine said, “By the work one knows the workman.”
As a teacher of writing and literature for 38 years, I’ve read a lot of books, poems, articles, essays, dissertations—you name it. Mike’s work contains all the elements of good writing.
For just one example, his metaphoric motif (getting literary now!) of the launch and the rocket, its fuel and trajectory, are all poetically persuasive. Poetry persuades. Its rhyme, rhythm, figurative language, and compression unconsciously convince us. Mike’s a poet and he may not even know it!
Launch is a living demonstration of good content: it’s clear, crisp, fun and easy to read, and packed with rocket fuel to propel you.
All you have to do is ignite its principles and watch them rocket you up, up and away!
We Have Lift Off: Read Launch!
Once in a while the planets align perfectly: things are happening in your life that link up magically and wonderfully with outside forces or events.
That just happened for me. Launch just launched at the same time I’m launching a novel and a new startup business.
Could the timing have been any better for me? Nope.
And the timing is right for you, too. Because there’s no time like the present.
Launch is a winner: its solid gold principles and inspirational mission plan couldn’t make more sense or work any better.
So, Launch yourself now! Get on board and take your dreams for a ride straight to the stars!
Dr. William Says:
- Don’t overlook the basics. Pay attention to what name your professor asks to be called by. If he introduces himself as Dr., then by all means call him Dr. If she asks to be called by her first name, then it is okay to take her up on that.
- Professors desire students to be engaged in class. It draws other students into discussions and adds a great deal to the effectiveness of teaching.
- Professors enjoy hearing how students integrate what they are learning into their lives. It does not mean you have to agree with your professor. Just grappling with issues raised brings about a new level of understanding.
- Professors like to be kept in the loop about your progress. If you are at a phase when you are out of classes and writing on your own, don’t go for long periods of time without contacting your professors.
- Professors don’t mind questions, especially regarding your writing, direction, and problem spots. The worst thing you can do is spend lots of time on your best educated guess when you could have asked a question and saved yourself lots of time.
Dr. Gordon Says:
If you’re having problems in class, the most important thing to do is acknowledge the fact and seek help.
Bottling up problems does you no good, and does nothing to resolve them. It’s quite likely that if you are having difficulties, others are too. There are a number of strategies you can use.
First, talk to the professor one on one, and try to get him or her to explain things more clearly. Do this gently and tactfully, but make sure you get across that there is a problem.
You may wish to consider a follow-up a few weeks later, to acknowledge that things have improved or to indicate that the problems persist.
It may also be helpful to talk to other students to try to find out if they are also having problems. If they are, you may be able to form a group to help each other work through the problems.
If this does not work, you can try student services.
Many colleges and universities have tutoring services, and even if yours does not, they will be able to offer help, and suggest practical things you can do to help resolve the difficulties.
Another option is to talk to departmental administrators or other professors, who may also be able to suggest ways forward. Whether doing this resolves the difficulty or not, the department will then be aware that there is a problem.
The ultimate step is to go to the dean or another senior official, but this step should not be taken lightly, and should be regarded as a last resort, as it may have far-reaching consequences. Once again, it needs to be done tactfully.
Above all, be respectful and constructive at every stage. Getting angry is likely to be counterproductive.
Many universities ask students to fill out a survey at the end of the course so that the department and the professor receive feedback on how well the course went. If your problem is not resolved, you may wish to indicate this and explain why. This may lead to improvements, which may be helpful to future students.
Dr. Dan Says:
Maintain a certain amount of distance.
No matter how much a professor sees a grad student as a fellow seeker-after-the-truth, the reality is that the terminal degree and the publications do make a difference that they don’t easily let go of.
In grad school, I worked with a professor who would play basketball with us every Friday (he was good, too) and allowed us to call him “Jake.” However, he still gave grades and supervised independent studies, and I could tell that, while he enjoyed the exercise and the bonhomie, he enjoyed the role of mentor just as much.
That’s the simple advice, of course. The “Jakes” of the department are easy. How does one deal with the prof whose academic credentials suggest that s/he can crush cars with brain power alone or the bitter prof who seeks every opportunity to take out grievances on others?
- Be sure to know exactly what you want. When you approach them with a project or are looking for advice, have as much settled, decided or known as possible. Have the list of books ready. In short, this will keep personality from entering your relationship as much as possible. Professors’ time is valuable and they’ll appreciate if you respect this.
- Likewise, keep appointments. If you can’t make it to a meeting, give plenty of notice. And if you skip a meeting, don’t make the mistake of being someplace where you can be seen without a good alibi.
- And, for heaven’s sake, if you use electronic communication of any kind, be professional! Use a salutation (“Hey” doesn’t count; use “Dr.” or “Professor”) and a signature.
Okay, but, what if the professor wants to hijack the work, creating a kind of proxy of his/her own interests? There’s no easy way around this one.
I’d recommend appealing to the integrity of your work: your research/thesis appears to need your particular approach and anything else would fundamentally change your project into something that it’s not.
–by the Staff of Edit911, Inc. & Baldwin Book Publishing
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