Monthly Archives: October 2012

Ashley R. Kelly, ABD

We imagine Ashley’s dissertation will take more than one day to write.

Sincere congratulations are in order: CRDM’s Ashley R. Kelly passed her oral and written exams with flying colors. Her committee is chaired by Carolyn Miller, with Nancy Penrose, Bill Kinsella, Jordynn Jack from UNC-CH, and Randy Allen Harris from University of Waterloo, Ontario.

Her dissertation topic is “Hacking Science: Emerging Parascientific Genres and Public Participation in Scientific Research.”

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Another Look at Seminar Papers

I was looking at the infographics on “moving from seminar paper to publication“ and was reminded of another visualization technique that helped me during my time in NCSU’s CRDM program.

In Chris Anson’s infographic he mentions creating a flowchart as a way to visually map your ideas. When I was in my second year in the CRDM program I found it really useful to create Wordles of my seminar papers. While they don’t show the progression of the paper from seminar to article, the visual representation of my ideas helped me to discover my own interests as a scholar and see larger connections that I wasn’t initially aware of within my own work. It’s a great way to use existing word cloud software to gain new insights about your own scholarly interests and ideas (which, as it turns out, is one of my broad interests – how people use technologies in new and different ways).

Carolyn Miller offers excellent advice on positioning your papers within the “national disciplinary context” in order to join (and expand) the conversation. I challenge you to ask yourself, how might your all of your seminar papers broadly position you as a scholar in the academic market? Are there additional conversations you might want to join? Maybe you have underlying connections within your seminar papers that can help answer that vexing question. To get at those underlying pieces however, we might need another way to process the information. For me, the answer is visualization of the text-based information.

Creating word clouds of your seminar (and final) papers is a great way to visualize possible answers to my questions. Even classes that you feel on the surface have no connection to one another might provide you with some surprising insight when you look at your ideas and words through a visual lens. Before we look at a few word clouds of my seminar papers, I need to mention that my prior background is in broadcast journalism, documentary work, and multimedia advertising. For me, all of these are different forms of visual storytelling, my primary interest. In the wordles however, we see different themes, interests, and connections that I hadn’t noticed prior to my time at NCSU.

Below you’ll find four wordless I created from seminar papers written for the CRDM capstone courses that we all take during the first two years of the program:

Rhetoric and Digital Media capstone course. “The blueprint posting: form and style in an online discourse community.”

Technology and Pedagogy. “Teachers’ critical evaluations of dynamic geometry software implementation in 1:1 classrooms”

History of Communication and Technologies capstone. “Video Games in Hospitals: A Historical Overview and future research agenda”

Interdisciplinary Issues in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media seminar paper entitled “Tracing Similarities in form and process: Repko, Ceccarelli, and Dobzhansky”

To create a word cloud, I simply paste the text of my paper (not including the works cited) into a field at and the software processes the information. While I can pick the color scheme and shape, the word sizes are determined by their frequency within my papers.

Within each word cloud right away we see the biggest is word “technology” or forms of technology (book, video, game). This makes sense. As a CRDM student my work most likely would have some broad focus on technology. But what I didn’t realize until stepping back and looking at the visual representations of my papers was that I have a broad interest in how people integrate new technologies into existing networks or how existing technologies are used in new or novel ways (like video games used as a distraction during chemotherapy treatments instead of simply for pleasure, or teachers using visualization software to teach math students how geometric shapes move). I also discovered that I like to trace conversations between users of technologies, to explore types of discourse and how communities talk to one another (my paper on online discourse communities and language use in cancer communities, another paper on revisions in book editions based upon community responses in articles and journals). Finally, while we see broadly the focus on users of technologies, I also have several connections to health related issues and community discussions of illness.

At the time, while trying to figure out how to expand my papers into potential articles, I was too close to my papers and focused on the individual classes as separate and distinct from one another to see the larger thread of connections between my writing for classes that had different foci on rhetoric, communication, pedagogy, grant writing and interdisciplinary issues. Making the wordles during my second year helped me explore my own writing in greater depth. Now I recognize these commonalities immediately as I use technologies in new ways for workshop events (see my recent Enculturation article on using light painting to explore our own text-based writing and revision processes) and, very broadly, the focus of my dissertation on how broadcast journalists use online platforms to repurpose existing television based materials.

As you move from seminar paper to article submission stage, consider making word clouds of your papers. It can help you see new connections between your larger body of work, and might also broaden your publishing opportunities. Once I noticed some of the larger themes in my writing, I made it a point to search for CFPs and journals that published works on those topics. I also frequently use those themes in keyword searches within journals in order to discover ongoing scholarly conversations. It’s almost like data mining and a reflective essay coexisting within a visual. As a visual storyteller, I find that very intriguing.

– Dr. Jennifer Ware is a CRDM graduate and Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Josh Reeves, ABD

Congratulations to Josh Reeves for passing his preliminary exams and officially earning the coveted ABD.

Josh’s committee is co-chaired by Jeremy Packer and Hans Kellner, with Matt MayVictoria Gallagher, and Mark Andrejevic (of the University of Queensland) serving as members on his committee.

His dissertation is tentatively titled “If You See Something, Say Something: The Rhetoric of Surveillance in American Life.”

Fascinating dissertation project–we look forward to watching it progress.

Literally. We’ll be watching, Josh.

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CRDM Advice: Dr. Jason Swarts on Scholarly Publications

I recently caught up with Dr. Jason Swarts of the CRDM program to get his thoughts on the art of scholarly publication. Here is his advice:


And here is the “source code” for the infographic (aka Dr. Swarts’s original answers):

What would prevent a seminar paper from being publishable?

Two things come to mind. The first is that seminar papers frequently address an audience of fellow classmates, all of whom share a common understanding and awareness of the readings and the importance of the issues they raise. This common understanding is reflected in seminar papers which tend to have weaker stated exigence because the importance of the topic is taken for granted. The second thing is that many writers tend to approach the literature review in a seminar paper as an occasion to demonstrate a comprehensive awareness of the literature read. Published papers take a much more strategic and selective approach to the literature review, organizing the sources chosen to reveal a gap in our knowledge.

What is the most important element of a publishable paper?

For me, it is that you need to make a clear argument about why your research needs to exist. What is the exigence driving the paper? How does it fit in with what we (in the field) already know and need to know? It is often not enough simply to say “nobody has studied this before” because that is true of many topics — sometimes with good reason.

How do you go about *beginning* the process of writing an academic paper?

I usually pick a topic first and decide what it is that I want to say about it. Then I try to fit the topic to a journal. After selecting a journal, I always read a few recent articles to get a sense of the audience that the authors are addressing.

Any other advice or suggestions about the topic of academic publishing? 

Academic publishing takes a long time, and if you want to get a piece in print and on your CV before you go on the market, there is no time to waste. A realistic timeline to publication would be something like 19-20 months. This assumes 3-4 months for the review of your initial manuscript, 1 month to work on revisions (for a revise and resubmit), 3-4 months for review of the revised manuscript, and 1 year waiting in the journal’s publication queue.

The other piece of advice is to keep in mind that it is exceedingly rare that an article is accepted for publication “as is.” Most articles that a journal editor feels are capable of being worked into publishable shape will come back to you as “revise and resubmit.”



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Jordan Frith, PhD

Congratulations to Jordan Frith, CRDM’s newest PhD. Dr. Frith successfully defended his dissertation, “Constructing location, one check-in at a time: Examining the practices of Foursquare users” to a packed house on Friday, October 12. Jordan’s 380-page tome studied how superusers of the mobile application Foursquare appropriated the technology for a variety of purposes, including social connection, exploring new places, privacy control, and memorializing their life. His dissertation committee members were Adriana de Souza e Silva (chair), Steve Wiley, David Berube, and Jason Swarts.

Jordan is the co-author of Mobile Interfaces in Public Spaces: Locational Privacy, Control, and Urban Sociability with CRDM faculty member Adriana de Souza e Silva. He has also published in the journals of Mobilities and Communication, Culture, and Critique.

Best wishes to Dr. Frith, as he is now in his first year as Assistant Professor of Technical Communication in the Department of Linguistics and Technical Communication at the University of North Texas.

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CRDM Advice: Dr. Chris Anson on Scholarly Publications

I recently caught up with Dr. Chris Anson of the CRDM program to get his thoughts on the art of scholarly publication. Here is his advice:


And here is the “source code” for the infographic (aka Dr. Anson’s original answers):

What would prevent a seminar paper from being publishable?

Here are some common reasons why submissions (from anyone, not just students) are not accepted or sent back for major revision:

–Not enough familiarity with the journal or context of publication

–Shallow lit. review or some indication the writer doesn’t know what has preceded his or her idea, theory, research, etc.

–Poor methodology or poorly described methodology

–Too localized a study (e.g., when someone does a study that’s very specific to a program or institution and it doesn’t generalize to other contexts)

–Poorly structured or stylized writing, writing that’s trying too hard to sound sophisticated, writing that’s filled with errors and not carefully edited and proofread, or writing that shows the writer doesn’t understand the conventions of the community

What is the most important element of a publishable paper?

It needs to contribute to and advance existing knowledge.

How do you go about *beginning* the process of writing an academic paper?

I’m usually engaged in an investigation of some sort, and then I begin thinking about contexts where my work might be of interest to readers. I also keep a notebook of ideas that could yield studies or research that’s potentially publishable. Also, putting in a proposal for a conference paper (if it’s accepted) forces you to complete enough work to make your ideas presentable, and the results are then more easily transformed into a publishable piece.

Any other advice or suggestions about the topic of academic publishing? 

–Once you start a project, keep it open on your screen. Never close it. Every time you look at the screen, the text is there, inviting more work. Even if you reread a bit and then write for five minutes, or just revise and edit, you’re moving it forward.

–Set aside a modest amount of time every day to work on your research agenda, then stick to it.

–Create a flowchart of ideas, seminar papers, conference papers, and the like, and literally map their way to publication. If a piece is rejected, add to the flow chart (e.g., revise and submit to another journal). The visual nature of the chart helps you to keep track of what’s in the hopper and what you need to do next.


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CRDM Advice: Dr. Susan Katz on Scholarly Publications

I recently caught up with Dr. Susan Katz of the CRDM program to get her thoughts on the art of scholarly publication. Here is her advice:


And here is the “source code” for the infographic (aka her original answers):

What would prevent a seminar paper from being publishable?

In recent years, I have noticed several recurring problems with manuscripts that I have reviewed. Note that these are not necessarily ms. that were written by grad students! (1) Poor organization. (2) Insufficient research (inadequate literature review). (3) Minor grammatical and typographical errors that interfere with comprehension (PROOFREAD!). (4) A general lack of consistency and cohesion.

What is the most important element of a publishable paper?

Implications. The readers have to see the value in what you have written about. Ideally, the study will have implications for teaching, future research, and practice, but it MUST have implications for at least one of those areas.

How do you go about *beginning* the process of writing an academic paper?

I’m a serendipitous researcher, which means that I just pay a lot of attention to what’s going on around me. I listen to colleagues for the possibilities of collaborative work, respond to suggestions that arise from reading or discussion from courses I teach, and get involved in various groups around campus that are of interest to me. I also just try to pay attention to what I find really interesting and see if there is something that I can contribute to the conversation on that topic. When I actually start writing, I’ll try to tailor the project to a specific journal. I will, on occasion, discussion the paper with the journal editor first to see if they would be interested.

Any other advice or suggestions about the topic of academic publishing? 

Don’t get discouraged if an initial draft is rejected. When I was a graduate student, the first paper I submitted to a journal was rejected. I read the first paragraph of the rejection letter, and then stuffed the whole thing back in the envelope (this was before electronic submissions). I never even looked at the feedback to see what I might have done to revise the paper or if they had suggestions about other venues that might have been more appropriate! Learn to take criticism as something helpful–most reviewers are going to want to help you improve, they’re not just being mean. And just keep at it.

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