How to Brand Yourself as a Researcher

February 14, 2018

Recently I was invited by the Werklund School of Education’s Writing Group, which is co-hosted by the Office of Research and the Office of Teaching and Learning, to offer a workshop on branding yourself as a researcher. I’m pretty excited because this gives me a chance to combine my passion for research with my entrepreneurial spirt that led me to have a successful career as an educational consultant before I entered academia full-time.

Branding comes from marketing, but that doesn’t mean academics should feel any disdain towards it. Think of it as learning to share your expertise with people in your field, and beyond, to a wider public audience.

Here are the 5 key points I shared during the workshop:

Specialize.

It is easier to brand yourself as a specialist than it is as a generalist. It is normal for novice and emerging researcher to have multiple areas of interest. This works while you are still figuring out who are you are professionally, but specializing shows you are developing as a researcher. Have a clear research topic that you focus on intently.

Articulate your expertise.

Marketing experts recommend being able to state your focus in 7 words or less.  Here’s mine: “I research academic integrity and plagiarism prevention.” Don’t be that academic that has to ramble on for 38 minutes non-stop to say what it is you are researching. Get to the point and make it easy for others to understand. Practice writing out and saying your research focus until it feels natural.

Develop your plan.

Plan what grants you’ll apply for and when. Develop a writing schedule and target specific journals in your field. Ensure every element of your plan aligns with your area of expertise. Mapping out your research and writing activities will help to ensure you make time for them. Once you execute this plan, you’ll be on your way to having a fully developed research program in your area of expertise.

Stay focused.

There are so many interesting research ideas out there it is easy to get distracted. Stay focused on your own research program. The most successful researchers do not jump on every project that comes along. Choose the projects you want to be involved with carefully and ensure they align with your expertise.

Mobilize your knowledge.

Have multiple channels, but one message. Think about sharing findings in both peer reviewed scholarly journals, as well as plain-language articles targeted to the general public. Think about videos, podcasts and other ways of distributing your knowledge.

The point of all this is to position yourself as an expert in both an academic audience and the public. Ensure others know you are the “go to” person on your topic. Becoming known an expert authority on a key topic not only helps you get noticed in your field, it helps you get hired, and may help you get promoted, too.

Branding yourself as a researcher

References and recommended reading.

Marshall, K. (2017). Branding yourself as an academic. ChronicleVitae. Retrieved from https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1681-branding-yourself-as-an-academic

Mutum, D. S. (n.d.). Social media for researchers and online personal branding.  Retrieved from https://warwick.ac.uk/alumni/services/eportfolios/bsrfbr/dilip_social_media_academics_ebook2.docx

Mizenmacher, M. (2010). Branding your research (and yourself).  Retrieved from http://mybiasedcoin.blogspot.ca/2010/06/branding-your-research-and-yourself.html

Tregoning, J. (2016). Build your academic brand, because being brilliant doesn’t cut it any more. Times Higher Education, (February 24). Retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/build-your-academic-brand-because-being-brilliant-doesnt-cut-it-any-more

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

 

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What is the difference between a dissertation, a thesis and a capstone project?

February 6, 2018

A former student and I were talking recently, and she mentioned the thesis she completed as part of her Master of Education degree at our university.

“I’m going to stop you right there,” I said. “You didn’t do a thesis. You did a capstone project.”

“What’s the difference?” she asked.

It is a common question among students. Students also ask what the difference is between a dissertation and a thesis. Three things they all have in common are:

  • Completed in partial fulfillment of an academic degree.
  • Intended to showcase the student’s knowledge on a particular topic.
  • Approved in some way by the institution that grants the degree.

But that’s about where the commonalities end. Here are some of the differences:

Dissertation

This is usually completed as part of a doctoral degree. The work is overseen by a professor, who is often call the advisor or the supervisor. Often, there is a committee that also supports the work. Students are often required to pass a rigorous exam upon completion of their dissertation. Then, the examiners can make suggestions for further revisions based on their review of the work and the outcome of the exam. A doctoral dissertation is often a few hundred pages long. When it is completed and approved in its final version by all the examiners, it may become publicly available through the university library digital repository or another public database. Sometimes people use the term “thesis” when they really mean “dissertation”. The reason for this may be that the word “thesis” is shorter to say.

Thesis

This is usually completed as part of a research-based master’s degree or an undergraduate honours degree. The length may vary, depending on whether it is completed for the undergraduate or master’s level, but often they are about a hundred pages. The work is overseen by a professor, who is often called the advisor or the supervisor. Upon completion of their thesis, students must often pass a rigorous exam. The examiners can make suggestions for further revisions based on their review of the work and the outcome of the exam. When it is completed and approved in its final version by all the examiners, it may become publicly available through the university library or another public database.

Dissertations and theses often have many elements in common such as being supervised by a professor and requiring an exam to pass. Capstone projects, on the other hand, are a bit different.

Capstone Project

This is a project completed as part of a course-based master’s degree. It is often overseen or guided by a course instructor. Sometimes students present their work in some way, but the capstone does not usually require an examination to pass. The length and format of a capstone project can vary and some are presented as multimedia projects instead of a written report. These kinds of projects can go by different names. At our university we call them a “Collaboratory of Practice” project, but the general idea is the same.

Here’s a handy infographic to highlight some of the key ideas.

Difference between dissertation, thesis & capstone project.

It is important to remember that these are simplified definitions to help you understand the basic differences only. When you talk about your own academic work, it is important to represent yourself accurately. You want to learn the correct term to talk about the work you have completed as part of your degree.

These explanations may not apply to every institution. If you are not sure, talk to a faculty member from your own university to get more details about how things work at your institution.

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


Why you shouldn’t post your teaching dossier online

January 30, 2018

Students and colleagues sometimes ask me if they should post their teaching dossier or portfolio online. My answer is immediate: No!

Those who know me know that I am a big fan of developing a strong online professional presence. I encourage students and colleagues to keep their LinkedIn, Twitter, and other online professional profiles current. But there’s something about a teaching dossier that’s different. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I read an article by White & Conrod (2016) where they tell the story of how their teaching philosophies were plagiarized.

Your teaching philosophy is a key element of your dossier. Developing it is hard work. It involves some deep reflection, brain work and soul-searching. You dig deep into yourself to figure out who you are as an educator, what matters to you and why it matters. Honestly, articulating your teaching philosophy may be the single most difficult element of putting together your teaching dossier. When it’s done, it should be a reflection of who you are and what matters to you as an educator.

Other people may have similar philosophies, but in the end, your statement is about you and your values. It is yours and yours alone.

If you post it online, it becomes easy for others to cut-and-paste what you have shared. These may not be bad people. They may be too afraid or too intimidated to engage in the deep reflection required to develop a philosophy of their own. Who knows? My point is, don’t make it easy for others to steal your teaching philosophy.

Share your dossier selectively, with those who need it, such as employers or those evaluating your teaching. You might also choose to share your dossier with those who would benefit from it, such as students or junior colleagues. That does not mean you have to post it publicly online. You have other options:

Alternatives to posting your teaching dossier publicly online

  1. Share print copies of your work. This may sound old fashioned, but if someone does not require digital access to your dossier and a paper copy works just as well, why not? You might choose to add “Confidential” to the header or footer to make it clear you do not want it to be shared widely.
  2. Save a copy of your work in a digital format that is hard to copy. An protected .pdf isn’t foolproof, but it is an option. Another option is to save your work as a .jpg., but if you choose this route, be sure that the .jpg is high quality and easy to read.
  3. Save your work as a password protected or “read only” online document. Share the password or link with caution.

Again, share selectively and make it clear that your work is not for distribution.

I suspect that some people who are vehement believers in open access or the sharing culture may disagree with my stance on this issue. There are plenty of websites that offer tips about how to post your entire dossier online. Don’t get me wrong. I share lots of my work online, free of charge in an open access format. It may be OK to share parts of your teaching dossier publicly online, such as your previous teaching experience, but not all of it. The key is to think critically about what you want to share and how you choose to do that.

It is important to understand that the more publicly you share, the easier you make it for others to copy-and-paste your deep thoughts, rather than engaging in their own soul-searching journey. If you want to offer others a short-cut and do the hard work for them, that is an option. But if you’d rather not, think twice before posting your entire teaching dossier publicly online.

The point is for you to think critically about who you want to have access to your inner most values about teaching. In my view, your teaching philosophy is a key element of your identity as an educator. Don’t make it easy for others to steal your professional identity.

Reference:

White, M. A., & Conrod, J. D. (2016). Is nothing sacred? Our personal teaching philosophies have been plagiarized. University Affairs. Retrieved from https://www.universityaffairs.ca/opinion/in-my-opinion/is-nothing-sacred-our-personal-teaching-philosophies-have-been-plagiarized/

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


21st century definition of plagiarism

January 23, 2018

Not long after I started getting interested in academic integrity, I began wondering how different universities defined plagiarism in their official policy documents. That led me to do an analysis of policy documents from 20 Canadian higher education institutions, and the results were published in the peer-reviewed scholarly journal, Interchange. Basically, what I found was that there was no consistent definition of plagiarism across Canadian post-secondary institutions. In other words, we don’t agree about what actually constitutes plagiarism.

This makes it confusing for students and for professors, especially considering that students might attend one school to do their undergraduate degree and another for their graduate degree, or that professors sometimes change jobs, leaving one institution for another.

It used to be that the definition of plagiarism was simple: literary theft, but it is a lot more complicated than that in the 21st century, where digital outputs account for as much, if not more than, printed products. Students and professors have asked me, “So, how do you define plagiarism in plain and simple terms?” The answer is actually quite complex and a bit messy. But in the interest of demystifying the issue, here is a straight forward infographic that may help.

Let me say that this resource is simplified — perhaps overly so. My goal here isn’t to be reductionist and I fully acknowledge that not everyone may agree with these simplified explanations. But sometimes it can be easier to wrap your head around something simple to start and then tease out the complexities once you are more comfortable with the basic concepts.  I offer these not as the be-all-and-end-all definition, but rather as a starting point to help educators and students clarify and demystify basic concepts and also to engage in productive conversations about how to cultivate academic integrity and reduce plagiarism.

Definition of plagiarism (jpg)

Here is a free, downloadable .pdf of this infographic that you are welcome to use with your students for teaching purposes. Feel free to use it as a conversation starter to help students understand what plagiarism is and how to prevent it in their own work.

Related post:

Comparative Analysis of Institutional Policy Definitions of Plagiarism: A Pan-Canadian University Study https://wp.me/pNAh3-1LD

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning (Infographic)

January 16, 2018

A few years ago I started exploring the differences between formal, non-formal and informal learning. The result was a couple of research reports and blog posts, including this one which has been viewed over 250,000 times. For those who like their information in bite-sized pieces, here is a quick synopsis of some of the key points for you in a handy infographic:

Formal, non-formal and informal learning.jpg

Here’s a free, downloadable .pdf of this infographic that you can use for your own research or teaching purposes: Formal, non-formal and informal learning.compressed

It is important to note that this infographic is intended to give a quick snapshot of some of the most basic differences. A quick snapshot like this gives you a quick picture, but not the whole picture. There are more differences than what one infographic can show. Also, the lines between formal, non-formal and informal learning can be blurry sometimes. Understanding the differences deeply will probably require more reading. To help you learn more, I’ve included a number of other posts, some of which link to full-length reports.

Check out these related posts:

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Avoiding Predatory Journals and Questionable Conferences: A Resource Guide

January 9, 2018
Cover art - Avoiding Predatory Journals and Questionable Conferences

Download a copy of the full report for free from the University of Calgary: https://prism.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/106227

Not long ago, a graduate student was lured in by a conference in his precise field of study and wrote to me to let me know of his acceptance. I had never heard of the conference. I had never even come across the name of it in passing. I have worked in higher education for almost a quarter of a century and I’ve heard of many legitimate and credible conferences in my field, so I became skeptical.

I asked numerous colleagues, as well as our resident librarian. No one else had heard of the conference either. Kudos to our education librarian at the University of Calgary,  since he went to significant effort to determine if the conference was legitimate. In the end, we decided that it was not a wise use of the student’s money or time.

As a result of that experience, I started investigating the topic of predatory conferences and journals in more depth. I started this guide thinking of other graduate students and junior academics who might be at risk of being seduced into spending valuable resources on taking part, while doing nothing to advance their own learning, professional development, scholarly experience or reputation. The stakes are high for academics and the pressure to produce can be overwhelming at times. This guide is intended to help scholars make wise decisions about how to spend their time, money and resources, while simultaneously protecting and preserving their professional reputation.

The goal of this guide is to provide a clear overview of the topics of predatory journals and questionable conferences and advice on how to avoid them. This guide intentionally adopts a plain language approach to ensure it is accessible to readers with a variety English language proficiency levels.

Download a copy of the full report for free from the University of Calgary: https://prism.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/106227

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Understanding Language Register

January 2, 2018

A few years ago I wrote a post on language register. It has become one of the most popular and often viewed posts on my blog. It is a long and fairly involved post, so for those who like their information in bite-sized pieces, here is a quick synopsis for you in the form of an infographic:

Language ReGISTER

It is important to understand the differences between registers so you can use language that is appropriate for a particular situation. If your register is too high, you may come across as being snobby, pretentious or arrogant. If your register is too low, you can come across as being inappropriately informal or too friendly.

It is not only English language learners who need to understand the difference between registers, but native speakers do too. One of the things I have observed in my work as a professor is that students sometimes write in a register that is too casual. Sometimes students do this because they do not want to come across as “stuffy” or pretentious. But casual writing in academic and professional papers can backfire. Writing that is overly casual is often not considered professional or terribly credible by the reader. It is important for students, professionals, scientists and academics to know the formal register for writing papers, theses and reports.

Here’s a free .pdf of this infographic that you can use for your own research or teaching purposes: Language Register (.pdf).

Check out these related posts:

Teaching formal and informal language register to native speakers of English http://wp.me/pNAh3-jV

Language Register and Why It Matters (Or: Why You Can’t Write An Academic Paper in Gangsta Slang) http://wp.me/pNAh3-1pr

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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