Book review – Advice for new Faculty Members – Robert Boice

Boice’s book was published in 2000, but remains as relevant as ever. It is well known in the United States where some universities used to issue it to all new staff. The book is divided into three sections:

  1. Moderate work at teaching.
  2. Mindful ways of writing i.e. how to produce research papers.
  3. Socialising in your new university.

I am going to focus on the second of these which relates to research and writing of papers.

Boice is a psychologist and was very heavily involved in the induction of staff and follow up processes at his University. This gave him plenty of opportunity to run different experiments and approaches with new staff and to see what worked. He was taking about mindfulness and moderation even back then and despite my strong initial doubts whilst reading the chapters his results are staggering. Ever wondered if you have been doing things wrong? Or rather is there a better way? – well this should make you think.

Boice looked at the exemplars in his study group and compared them against the other staff.  Essentially Boice found that successful academics:

  1. Wrote daily even for a short period (often up to 30 minutes maximum).
  2. Knew when to stop.

These sessions he terms brief daily sessions (BDS) and he contrasts them with binge writing and also discusses the feelings and emotions associated with both approaches. Chapters 10 and 11 give detailed practical guidance on how to get your writing going (and the results at the end of those two chapters will make you think this is at least worth trying). Chapter 14 also deals with letting go of negative thoughts which is useful especially for perfectionist type academics.

What effect has it had on me? Well I am going to try this approach for the next paper I am writing, it is never too late to try a something new .

If you haven’t come across Boice before then I strongly suggest you have a read, especially if you are a new member of staff, or new to research and writing.

Three copies are now in the Staffordshire University library and you can find excerpts online.

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