Monday, May 6, 2013

The Neglected Third Factor: An Article by Robert Boice

I frequently advise my students that a good literature review means looking into recent publications and, God forbid, writing from "the good ol' days" (in many of their eyes, more than five years old!!).

So, listening to my own advice, I reread an article I have not looked at in some time: Boyce, R. (1985). The neglected third factor in writing: Productivity. College Composition and Communication, 36(4), 272-480.

This is one of the seminal, foundational articles on writing and faculty life. Of course, you may not be as excited about the literature on faculty writing as I am, and may just wish for a distillation of a few lessons that I learned.

Here are a few, but certainly not all.

First, this article was based on a small, experimental design that tested the relationship between writing productivity and creativity. It used three groups: scheduled faculty writing with contingency (potential punishment), unscheduled writing, and a control group.

So, a few lessons.

1) Scheduling writing sessions beats unscheduled writing for production and creativity.
2) Creativity depends on writing and production; it is not based on inspiration alone.Good ideas come from your butt being in the chair, slugging it out, day after day, year after year.
3) Regular writing beats binge writing.

These are all things I have written about in depth, but it is important to go back and look at the source of your ideas, even if you are not conscious of where that source was from. Boice has been one of the (perhaps the) most important scholars in the area of faculty writing and production- I suggest you read some of his work. Good research builds off of the work of others; be generous in your acknowledging the work of others. It is a good writing practice.

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