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UWC writing for publication retreat

I’m just finishing up the first day of a 3 day “writing for publication” retreat, hosted at the Mont Fleur conference centre just outside of Stellenbosch. We spent the first half of today covering some of the underlying ideas and concepts around the first sections of an article, which was useful for me because I write what I think sounds good, rather than having a more nuanced understanding of what exactly it is that I’m writing.

After this we spent a few hours getting everyone signed up to Google Docs and sharing the articles we’re currently busy with among our respective group members. We’ll be using Docs over the next few days to provide feedback to the other participants. Even though I’ve done this at a few workshops now, I’m still amazed at how there are always a few more complex cases that take up the bulk of the total time spent.

I’ll be writing an article based on a presentation given at the HELTASA conference in December last year, which was based on a survey I conducted of my fourth year students following a wiki based assignment I’d given to them earlier on in the year.

Here are my notes from the day’s session.

Identify a journal

Identify your journal early on in the process of writing, rather than trying to force an article into a journal

Publication = joining the conversation

  • Who is already participating in the journal (reviewers, editors)?
  • Who decides who can join in?
  • Do you know anyone who is participating?
  • Who has been excluded and on what grounds?
  • What is under discussion?
  • Who do you need to know in order to join

Know the aims and scope of the journal. Does your material suit the journal’s agenda

Email the editor to ask what the interests of the journal are

Finding an argument could involve responding to another publication by another author

Genre = type of expression which has features that all examples of this type share, they shape the thoughts we form and the communications by which we interact

Browsing articles in different publications may give you an idea that’s more creative than you might be used to

Argument = trying to convince your readers of a particular point that you’re trying to make

Abstracts

This was a short exercise where we were asked to “Write your abstract as a bedtime story”. Here’s mine (the underlined sections were provided as cues):

Once upon a time researchers believed that the use of emerging technologies in clinical education would magically create better teaching and learning practices.

But I began to wonder what this magical process was, and if it was as simple as everyone made it out to be.

So what I did was to conduct a small experiment in one of the classes I teach, where students used a wiki to collaboratively construct articles on paediatric conditions.

I discovered that there was little difference in student behaviour as a result of using the wiki, and that the technology wasn’t the problem.

This changed the way I think about integrating technology into my teaching practice.

It was just an idea to begin thinking about the abstract in a different, slightly more creative way.

Make your abstract, concrete. It’s an advertisement for the rest of the work. Is it going to make your reader follow through?

Your work isn’t only about the content and form, it’s also about establishing your identity as an academic. What does this work say about who I am?

Questions to ask about the abstract:

  • What conversation is the researcher in?
  • What is the researcher’s stance?
  • Does the voice sound “expert” enough?
  • Is the research clear?
  • What is the argument? Can it be made stronger?
  • Is the “so what/now what?” question answered?
  • Will the reader want to read the rest of the article?

Begin by establishing a context and / or a conventional idea, and then challenging it.

Identify areas where you should be tentative, and areas where you can be definite.

Some characteristics of an abstract:

  • Locate – what is the relation of this paper to the bigger picture
  • Focus – what questions or problems that will be explored
  • Report – summarise the major findings
  • Argue – open out the argument and indicate a point of view, returning to the angle e.g. the theoretical framework → closing the circle

Introduction

Introductions tend to follow a set pattern, regardless of the discipline. But, be careful of sticking too closely to any one formula or pattern

Create-a-research-space (CARS) model:

  • Establish a territory → highlight work already done in the field
    • Claim centrality
    • Make topic generalisations
    • Review previous research
  • Establish a niche → what are my questions / comments on the topic?
    • Counter claim
    • Indicating a gap
    • Identifying a gap
    • Continuing a tradition
  • Occupy the niche →
    • Announcing present research
    • Outlining the purpose of the present research
    • Announcing principal findings
    • Stating the value of the present research
    • Indicating research article structure

Peer review

A critical friends asks provocative questions and takes time to fully understand the context

Giving feedback:

  • Provides an audience
  • Direct and explicit questions and comments
  • Constructive, rather than destructive
  • Look for meanings, but don’t take over
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education physiotherapy social media Uncategorized

Medpedia: collaborative medical knowledge base

I got this link about Medpedia off Twitter from Jeff Nugent.  It’s a “collaborative, interdisciplinary, transparent” approach to sharing knowledge about health and medicine.  Content control is by only allowing registered users to contribute, with the general public able to suggest changes to an article.  Registration requires being approved by an editor, and only medical doctors or those with doctoral degrees can actually edit content.

It offers a “Plain English” version of each article, as well as a “Clinical” view for healthcare professionals, which is a great way of filtering content for users.  I haven’t looked deeply enough to tell how much of a difference there is between the two, but it’s an interesting idea to separating out content.

I’ve only had a brief look at the site so far but the interface is clean and user friendly, even though it’s still in beta.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes from this.  I’m interested to see how this compares with OpenPhysio, not so much in structure and content but in ideology.

Here’s the link:
http://medpedia.com

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On Wikipedia as a reference

I’ve only just gotten around to reading the January 2008 edition of “Hands on”, the newsletter of the South Africa Society of Physiotherapy (SASP) and it was with interest that I noticed a citation by the editor (Editor’s note, page 2) for Wikipedia. Unfortunately, only the name of the website (Wikipedia.org) was mentioned and not the full URL, so I couldn’t check to see exactly what had been referenced. It was in relation to a discussion about WHO, the Declaration of Alma Ata and “Health for all”.

I’ve always used Wikipedia as a reference point, a place to begin researching a topic. It often gives a useful summary of the topic and if it’s a well researched article (a key point), will include citations and external links to sources. The controversy surrounding the use of Wikipedia among teachers and students is, in my opinion, largely because of misunderstanding. Misunderstanding by academics of what Wikipedia is and what it isn’t, and misunderstanding by students on how to use this great resource.

I don’t think that the use of Wikipedia in itself as a reference is the problem. I believe that the problem is more likely that we don’t teach students a better way to search for and recognise credible articles online. There are fantastic articles on Wikipedia that are as good as those of other encyclopedias (both online and in print), but there are also extremely poor ones. We need to begin teaching students how to recognise the quality of an article, to take from it what is useful and to disregard the rest.