Germany’s scholars in international relations

The data orientation in social sciences sometimes even covers a self-analysis. This is currently the case for a study about scholars teaching or researching in international relations, the TRIP faculty survey. To put it short: Who is creating knowledge at the faculties around the world about piece and war, negotiations and the interdependences of communities, people and societies beyond the nation state?

The German politics journal just published an article about the German data, based on 234 (out of 518) replies from German scholars. What is important?

  • Not different from other disciplines: female junior scholars and male professors. The gender composition in general is around 40% women, but among the professors they are make up less than 30%.
  • Not surprising either: English is more important than German as publishing language in the largest non-English IR community. Most of the researchers publish in English and take German journals as the 2nd best choice.
  • Research areas differ from the global comparison: German faculty is more engaged in international organisations and in theory than in security studies, reflecting the specific institutionalism approach in German that “big names” stand for (e.g. Czempiel, Haftendorn, Rittberger).
  • This specific shape is contrasted by an mainly US-orientation of both the researchers and the institutions that are considered high in diverse ranking lists (or “beauty contests” how the authors call them).

Seems as if the German IR is still somewhat particular and historically rooted but at the same time oriented towards the anglophone mainstream.

I detest writing

I hate writing. What sounds like a strange confession of a person that spent her entire professional life by shifting letters and word across a screen is actually something I detected over the course of this work. Writing means that the thoughts that seemed to be rather clear in my mind need to be streamlined in a clear and understandable manner. Usually without getting feedback during the course of writing.

But what is the difference between writing and speaking (which I do not detest)? As I am usually not speaking to myself, I get a reaction that show me whether I made myself clear. Whether my thoughts make sense. Whether I express them in a way that someone else can follow. Having a presentation about my work means actually having a starting point for a discussion, even if it is highly controversial. But writing, especially in academia usually means to write and get — if at all — a written response and no or only little chance to handle misunderstandings and the lack of further explanation.

“Make writing a habit.” It is difficult to even find the source of this sentence. It is spread all over academic writing guidebook, and each and every serious mentor in academia will tell you that writing is not an art but a handcraft that you need to learn. I truly believe that this is true and there is a lot to learn about writing and organizing the writing process. But there is a certain thing about writing that causes a general feeling of malaise.

And in the end, it is a bit like running*. In the beginning, it seems awful and almost impossible. You look around and see people doing it on a much higher level than you could ever image, while you do not understand how it is possible at all. The more you are doing it, the more you get used to it, but the best feeling is actually the one you feel once you are done.


* Merits go to one of my favorite running weblogs ichhasselaufen.de. Even though I spoke out the sentence “I detest writing” a myriad of times, only skimming through her website made me thinking that I have (had) similar feelings for writing and running.

Managing your writing pipeline

In the ”publish or perish” (or, as some would call it: publish and perish) culture of academia, publishing is essential for surviving in the system. However, there is usually little discussion about how to structure the own publishing process. Academic writing guidance has increased enormously in the past, but the process of publishing and keeping track of conference papers, journal submissions, revisions and work in progress is usually hidden in each researcher’s computer and brain.

Matthew J. Lebo from Stony Brooks made an effort in a recent issue of Political Science & Politics to streamline the process of researching, writing and publishing in 7 stages. He gives a practical advise on planning research and deciding on priorities during the process of the publishing timeline. Additionally, there are good comments on how to deal with different results in the process, such as prioritising an revise and resubmit (R&R) paper. The paper is available on google docs.

Von Statistik und Propaganda

“Die Demografie ist eine Zauberformel zur Durchsetzung von rücksichtslosen Einschnitten ins Sozialsystem, ein Deckmantel für die Politik.”

Prof. Dr. Gerd Bosbach, Mathematiker an der Hochschule Koblenz stellt die gängigen Erklärungsmuster in Frage, mit denen soziale “Reformen”, aka. Kürzungen als notwendige Reaktion auf einen angeblich einmaligen, fast apokalyptischen demografischen Wandel begründet werden. Auch hier gilt das alte Sprichwort: Trau keiner Statistik, die du nicht selbst gefälscht hast. Oder: deren Bezugsjahr du nicht selber ausgewählt hast. In einem älteren Artikel der tageszeitung beschrieb Bosbach seine Erfahrungen, die er machte als er Zahlen und angebliche Fakten hinterfragte. Immer wieder aktuell. Nicht nur in der Demografie, auch in der Medizin, zum Beispiel kürzlich gezeigt in einer “die story”- Ausgabe der ARD.

herr*krit: Herrschaftskritische Summerschool@Uni Kassel

„Herr Professor, vor zwei Wochen schien die Welt noch in Ordnung…“ Adorno: „Mir nicht!“

Kritische Gesellschaftstheorie wird seltener an Hochschulen und in öffentlichen Auseinandersetzung, wenn an der einen Stelle scheinbar neutrales, technisches Wissen produziert wird und an der anderen Stelle komplexe Zusammenhänge auf kurze Schlagzeilen und leichte Kost reduziert werden. Umso wichtiger ist das Zusammenkommen von Wissenschaftler/innen, die sich mit gesellschaftlichen Verhältnissen kritisch – also nicht nur affirmativ (oder positivistisch) auseinandersetzen wollen. An der Universität Kassel findet hierzu vom 25.-29. Juli 2016 die Herrschaftskritische Sommeruniversität statt – für Wissenschaftler/innen, Studierende und Interessierte.

Wissenschaft als Teil von Gesellschaftskritik und als Teil, der Gesellschaft herstellt: In diesem Sinne gibt es im Programm Workshops und Crashkurse, neben klassischen Workshops vor allem zu materialistischen Ansätzen in der Staatstheorie und im Feminismus. Dabei sind einige aktuelle Themen zu finden, die im wissenschaftlichen und medialen Alltag nicht allzu viel Beachtung finden: Was steckt hinter der Metarmorphose von Portugal vom PIIGS-Problemstaat zum “Musterknaben” der Währungs-, Wirtschafts- und Finanzkrise? Welche ökonomische Bildung wird Schüler/innen an deutschen Schulen vermittelt und von wem erhalten Lehrer/innen ihre Informationen und Materialien? Ein politisches Kulturprogramm rundet die Woche ab.

 

12 week writing challenge – weeks 3-8

It has been some time since I wrote the last writing challenge article. This is actually a good sign because the writing worked out quite well. The last six weeks have been full of reading, revising and developing a full set of writing skills. What have I done?

Developing the literature review of the article: The literature review was the least developed part of the whole article. This is probably often the case for empirical papers that are presented on conferences and all preparation is devoted to the data analysis. I started to disaggregate the literature review in small pieces or arguments and went through all existing literature in the paper. To add substance, I searched relevant journals for each piece of argument. Even though I ended up with the same article for several parts of the literature review, this strategy helps to scale down the task of argument elaboration.

The search tool that I use is google scholar. Despite several debates about the usage of professional databases like Web of Science et al., I do not see an added value in those more complicated search tools. Since now almost all online sites of academic journals provide links to citations and references, google scholar helps speeds up the literature skimming process enormously.

Restructuring the article: The next task in the writing process is to work on the structure. The #12weekwritingchallenge book asks to outline a model article that we find particularly good. Outlining means that each paragraph should be summarized in its function and/or content in one sentence.  I did that and I just realized HOW good the article was and why. It became my guiding article for restructuring my own work. The next step was to outline my own article. This again was very good to see where additional work was needed.

The outline is easily done on paper. I printed the article with a 5cm margin and line numbers and summarized each paragraph on its side margin. If you cannot summarize it in one sentence, it is not a paragraph! (How to write paragraphs / by Patrick Dunleavy) Additionally, I wrote a new article outline in note form on a blank paper by hand.

My current task is now to apply the revised structure to the paper. The main work still is in the data analysis part. This get along well with the next task: Revising evidence. I will revise evidence and the conclusion until the end of next week.

12 week writing challenge – week 2

So this was the second week and it went worse than the first week. It was more difficult to get up on time and start early. I learnt that I had toreduce some other activities to be able to get enough sleep. But I managed to draft an elaborated argument and I sent it out for some comments. Even if I did not keep up with the schedule regarding revising my article around the main argument, I could find out more about how I write and why some things work and others do not.

Even though I updated my abstract and became really aware of my main argument, I found it difficult to write it up first. I did not want to update the abstract only, but aimed to put more flesh on the bones. This turned out to be a difficult task because I started writing a piece that will not be part of the article as such. The argument elaboration will just serve to get it more focused. Later I saw that it could serve well to update the introduction as well as to structure the whole article better. This was the point when I felt being closer to the finish line of the second week.

The next week is scheduled to be about finding a journal. Since I already have decided on the journal and also 2nd and 3rd options, I will continue on revising the article around the argument. This needs some more work. So, let’s start and have a good week!

12 week writing challenge – week 1

It has been the first week of the writing challenge “Writing my Journal Article in 12 Weeks”, and that means that today will be the first day of reflection how it went so far. I do not follow the flow of weeks in the books exactly, since I already did the first week tasks within a day as preparation. But since I will have some traveling throughout the 12 weeks course, I will be back on the schedule at some point.  My first week was about what Belcher takes as the second week in her book.

My general writing flow went very well. I planned to spend two hours every morning on the project. In the end I spent a whole 15 hours on the project this week. While the daily working time changed between 1h and 6,5h, it was very helpful working on it every day, but it was also good to change to another project in the afternoon. I think I can work well with this sort of split day.

This week’s tasks focused on the abstract of the article and writing habits. I spend the first day reading through the advises about abstracts and finding my writing partners. My call for writing partners has been really successful, I found two writing partners that follow a similar schedule in finishing articles and others that are willing to give feedback. Even though this task was the one I was most resistant to adopt, I think it IS one of the most important parts in succeeding. Not only does it force me to follow my schedule, but the discussions have so far been very enlightening for myself and make me re-thinking things that seemed so clear …

Abstract writing is usually done at the very end of the writing process. The results are often accordingly (bad). Belcher reminds us in her book not only about the main structure of an abstract. When starting with working on the abstract, we become aware of what we really want to say. If you don’t have a story you cannot write an abstract. After one week I can say that I now have a rough idea what my story should be and how I will connect it to scholarly discussions. This is a good start for the next tasks.

Next week will be about elaborating the argument. Stay tuned…

12 week writing challenge – take off

This Monday I will start with a writing challenge in which I plan to finish a paper within the next twelve weeks. I  recently took part in a writing class where the facilitator highly recommended one book: Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success by Wendy Laura Belcher. Belcher promises that you can finish a journal article in that time if you just spent a small amount of time every day. 15 min should be enough as long as you do it every day. She provides us with a workbook that has a weekly schedule for all 12 weeks, including some weekly time to go through her advises in the book. Even though some of her premises seem to be a bit more advertising than reality (she talks about 15min each day but all weekly schedules involve about 1h per day), I will use her ideas to make a writing plan (and hopefully fulfill it;).

I use my current stay as a guest researcher at the University of Oslo to test the concept without much interruption from other appointments and duties. My writing schedule involves two hours of writing from Monday to Saturday and one hour on Sunday. Additionally, I planned for one hour to wrap up the week and write a blog article each Sunday. This said, I will spend 14h on writing in a regular week, additional time will be spent on data analysis for further work. If the concept works out, I should be done at the end of November.

The basic idea of the writing plan is to start working on the paper everyday, no matter how long. It sounds reasonable: Everyone who ever got stuck in the loop of not starting to write because there is not a whole spare day for it and find themselves on that particular day not in the right mood for writing knows what I am talking about. Another important task of the challenge is to find a writing partner. This means that there is someone that is willing to comment on parts of the paper during the writing, but also someone who might ask some results and kicks up the backside. … I will use the weekly blog writing to sum up and discuss what worked and what failed. So if you are interested in following and maybe rethink your own writing behavior – stay tuned!

Writing academic english and a small solution

The writing style is one of the more cumbersome things that you have to learn once you decide to publish any research in English (as a non native speaker). Despite knowing English quite well, understanding everything and no trouble in almost any everyday situation, the specific writing is different. English articles follow a well defined structure of chapters and paragraphs that makes texts differ from those in e.g. German or French. Each paragraph has a particular structure by itself. Writing good English requires a lot of training and the awareness about rules that make good paragraphs differ from bad ones.

There are numerous resources online to help learning how to write in academic English. The market on books and training is huge. Blogs and even Twitter accounts like Write4Research provide a lot of short and long pieces on different aspects of writing. There are MOOCs available, for example on edX.  Help can be found easily as well on the paid side and for free.

Today I want to recommend one particular article about the issue of paragraph writing. Medium.com is one of my favorite resources about writing in academia. The texts are usually well written and easy to read as well as the right amount to skim through them in a writing break. They have a very good piece on How to write paragraphs in English that provides us with the basic concept of a paragraph and common mistakes. This is all you need for a good writing. Get started!