I feel intrigued by this idea of “deep work” and limiting distractions, and the cognitive cost of those distractions. From experience in PhD world, it is certainly true that interruptions and distractions, including those tasks like email, can reduce work quality. But, I have also always found small “shallow work” to be important to start with as it builds momentum in the work process, sometimes. The tricky part though is to build that momentum and actually move into “deep work”: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/13/smarter-living/how-to-actually-truly-focus-on-what-youre-doing.html#
I found this blog post about writing peer reviewed research to be very useful. The idea of building “deep work” writing into your schedule everyday has been really transformative for me in this dissertation process, and greatly reduced my anxiety around writing. I definitely went from binge writer to everyday writer in the past few years, or as this post puts it binge vs. incremental writing. Some days are just 30 minutes of “low hanging fruit” tasks like citations, writing a summary of a useful paper, etc, while other days are many hours of planning, writing, formatting, or doing metrics work. A research log is crucial- it is where I plan out my work, reflect on my work, log what I have completed, and look ahead. I also really like the advice of one paragraph per subject. It’s easy to get lost in academic writing, and spend several paragraphs just trying to prove you know one small particular thing, but being succinct usually means you actually understand what you are writing and can convey it simply: http://phdtalk.blogspot.com/2018/02/lesson-learned-writing-peer-reviewed.html?m=1
Take away points
- Expect rejection, and rejection is okay!
- Also expect to wait….
- Know your journal, its aim and scope, who publishes and what is published
- Craft not just good analysis, but also a good story
- Place your research within the literature, filling a gap or expanding on an outstanding question
- Sell your question, and answer
- Write with style and flow
- Dial in the elevator pitch, and turn this into your abstract and introduction
- Don’t bury the question
- Make tables and graphs readable, and meaningful
- Focus on the question and the contribution
- and look at the following……
- A good boiler plate model
- Hook, question, antecedent, value-added, road-map
- Summary, limitations, relevance to policy, future research
- Clear question
- Preview the findings
- THEN, go into detail, but spare the boring details about processing data
- Present a clear and explicit model
- …”no pauses unless you really want to stress something”
- Use tables strategically
Here are some things I’ve read or am reading recently (somewhat) related to my research topic, that I have really enjoyed. I’m calling it Econ of Ed even though these are all written by sociologists (and one journalist), but this just speaks to the point that if economists really want to understand inequality behind the numbers, read sociology!
What an informative, critical, and cathartic read\ Jack follows a group of students at an elite college coming from distinctly different backgrounds and educational experiences: the upper-income students, lower-income students who attended a private or elite high school, and lower-income students from less resourced schooling backgrounds (the “doubly disadvantaged”). For anyone wanting to understand the transmission of inequality, even in the empirical “best” of circumstances”, this is a must-read and illuminates so many flaws in our higher ed system. Read Jack’s take on the admissions scandal as well.
I can’t rave about this book, this author, and her writing enough. Tressie McMillan Cottom is a force. I actually read this when it first came out a year or so ago. McMillan Cottom shows us how for-profit institutions exacerbate inequality by preying on the marginalized. A lot of the findings of this book also speak to issues of credentialization outlined in this Roosevelt Institute report on student debt. On a personal note, I felt very validated as a budding economist reading this book, since a few years ago I recall noting in the NCES data the startling racial and gender segmentation in the for-profit sector (think trade schools vs. cosmetology and nursing assistants).
Again, a force of a writer! In the depths of my imposter syndrome, I often forget why studying public schools is important. Not just important, but should be at the forefront of any progressive research agenda. Ewing reminds me in discussing why it matters to study Chicago’s school closings: “The people of Bronzeville understand that a school is more than a school. A school is the site of a history and a pillar of black pride in a racist city. A school is a safe place to be. A school is a place where you find family. A school is a home.” (155-6) Alongside preserving history, family, community, and home, schools are a massive and formative interaction that we all have with the state, and one we still feel ownership over. Schools hold the possibility of a space of progressive transformation.
Okay, this isn’t really economics or dissertation related at all, but everyone should read this if you want to understand racism, inequality, capitalism, patriarchy, and so on and so on. Here’s an emotional and painful excerpt on her experience with medical racism.
That’s all for now. What else should I read?
As I complete my dissertation research, I am going to post regularly on this blog with my $0.02 on happenings in economics.
I used to do this more regularly as an undergraduate student including this cross-post written with Mark Paul on student debt, this post on for-profit colleges, and more.