Tag Archives: quick tips

How to Survive Your First Year of College Teaching


Teaching psychology for the first time can bring up a lot of emotions: excitement, fear, trepidation, eagerness, rage, feelings of inadequacy, and even nervous laughter. When 50 pairs of starving hyenas’ eager undergraduates’ eyes are staring at you for the first time, expecting words to come from your mouth, and more than that, infallibly factual words… it can be a little intimidating. Couple that with a strong imposter syndrome (I’m still learning too, you know!), and it’s a wonder we’re not all incapacitated by bind attacks from a Bulbasaur (ah Pokémon, how I missed you).

No matter your reasons for getting into teaching (having a TA-ship, being forced/encouraged by your advisor, having a martyr complex, or a genuine desire to teach), the first time might feel more like drowning than teaching. However, with some quick tips, compiled and condensed here by yours truly, you’ll be on your way to swimming like Michael Phelps in no time! (marijuana optional).

In the beginning…
1. Prepare! Utilize resources.
Why do more work than you need to? Sign up for an instructor account with the publisher of the textbook you’ll be using, and you can get a FREE desk copy and access to online resources (premade lectures, interactive activities, and even exam questions). Experienced instructors who have taught that class before can be a great resource as well. Many universities also have teaching centers that have an army of people ready and willing to help you out.

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5 Tips from Finding Nemo for Completing Your Dissertation

FINDING NEMO 3DThis past weekend, as I stumbled upon “Finding Nemo” on cable (ok, I’ll confess, I wanted to watch it again), I reflected on how Marlin’s journey could be similar to the dissertation process. In the movie, Marlin is a clownfish who sees his son Nemo captured from the Great Barrier Reef by a diver. He embarks on a long journey to Sydney to rescue his son. Here are my lessons learned from Finding Nemo that I believe can apply to the dissertation process (seriously).

1)      Be prepared for a long journey. Marlin swims hundreds of miles in search of his son. Be ready for all the work that can go into completing the dissertation, which also takes lots of time. It’s helpful to know that you’re on a long journey, and give yourself plenty of time to do all the assigned tasks.

2)      Friends can help you along the way. Marlin gets help from numerous friends: Dory reads the address on the diver’s mask; Crush the sea turtle gives Marlin directions to Sydney via the East Australian Current; Nigel the brown pelican rescues Marlin and Dory and takes him to Nemo. Your friends and peers in graduate school can help you as you finish the dissertation. They can encourage you, help you solve problems that you encounter, and then celebrate with you at the end.

Fish Sydney Opera House3)      Listen to the advice you’re given. A school of fish advise Dory to avoid jellyfish. Marlin didn’t listen and ended up getting stung. On your journey, you may get advice from your colleagues and professors. It’s helpful to listen to what they say, particularly when it’s about making your path easier. While you might want to add some more measures to your dissertation, if someone is suggesting that you streamline your study to make it easier to finish and analyze, that is good advice to listen to!

The-sharks-in-Finding-Nemo4)      Watch out for the sharks. Marlin encounters 3 sharks, one of whom eventually tries to eat Marlin and Dory. You may encounter different sharks along your dissertation journey. For example, a professor who is really difficult to work with could be a shark if you pick him to serve on your committee. If you do end up with a shark on your committee, don’t bleed like Dory! Do your homework, prepare for what kind of questions he might ask, and don’t give him any reason to eat you.

5)      Just keep swimming. Of course, the final, and most important lesson, from Finding Nemo is just keep swimming. When you find yourself overwhelmed with the amount of work you have in front of you, keep slowly chugging away. Work for small amounts of time, even just 10 minutes a day, to keep your momentum. If you keep swimming, you might be able to build some momentum and work for longer bits of time. However, if you stop swimming, it might be harder to restart. Swimming every day is the best path to finishing the dissertation!

Just Keep SwimmingThe dissertation is a long journey, so best of luck while you dissertate, and when all else fails, stay calm and just swim on!

How to Ace Your Internship Essays

If you are a clinical, counseling, or school psychology doc student and you’re at bat for the internship application process this fall, you naturally want to knock your AAPIC essays out of the park. Great — we’re here to help!

Set aside 25 minutes and watch this narrated friendly-professor webisode from Dr. Mitch Prinstein, co-author of the APAGS internship workbook Internships in Psychology Hot on the heels of our annual Internship Workshop at APA Convention, this video will walk you through the DO’s and DON’Ts for each of your four essays.

Also, be sure to see #internship on this blog for more videos, articles, and other resources.

Writing for publication: Lessons from the trenches

Not too long ago I had a conversation with a recent PhD. graduate about career issues and the struggles we go through to get established in the competitive environment that is academic psychology. Having climbed a steep learning curve myself as a junior faculty, I’ve always enjoyed passing on the lessons I’ve acquired along the way. As is the case with many young PhDs and junior faculty in general, this young colleague described extremely common struggles with writing for publication and the accompanying pressures that we feel to produce when it seems that everyone around us is lapping us with their published work. After talking with this young colleague, I thought it would be useful to share some of the lessons I have learned about professional academic writing. My hope is that it will help other colleagues who, like me, have encountered many writing frustrations and have begun to feel as if they have lost their way.

I think the key issues plaguing writing productivity among junior faculty and new professionals fall in six areas.

They are:

(1) lack of confidence about writing

(2) lack of knowledge of one’s personal rhythm/preferences with respect to writing

(3) lack of skill in writing for publication in scientific journals

(4) lack of familiarity and experience with the peer review process

(5) time management struggles and….

(6) lack of an extensive professional network.

I’ll address writing confidence and writing knowledge/skills in depth. I will also provide the names of resources I have found helpful along the way.

Becoming a Professional Writer
Lack of knowledge about how to write for publication in academic journals and other outlets is a common barrier to publishing for junior faculty. In my journey and those of my young colleagues, I learned that several issues with respect to the young scholar’s identity as a writer must be addressed. This will lay the foundation for the novice writer to develop the thick skin needed to endure the peer review process and to make it work for her. Learning about the peer review process can be mastered, but only after the writer has resolved some of the other issues first involving confidence and knowledge of personal rhythm and preferences as they relate to the writing process. Until these underlying issues are identified and addressed, academic publishing will always be a frightening, demoralizing process that derails many an academic career. I think that many young scholars struggle with publishing because of fear of rejection, not due to lack of capacity to learn the skills needed to publish successfully.

Young academics must first recognize that being an academic means being a professional writer. This idea was first presented to me in a book called, The Craft of Research by Wayne Booth, Gregory Columb, and Joseph Williams. It seems like an obvious point to me in retrospect, but hindsight is always 20-20. I don’t think everyone views it that way at the time they decide to pursue a doctoral degree. I certainly did not. If you fundamentally do not enjoy writing, academia may not be for you. This may seem like a harsh statement, but in my opinion you must derive some intrinsic joy from the challenges of writing or it is not worth some of the sacrifices. There are many wonderful ways to be happy in your career. Why spend your days doing something you hate?

If you know that academia is indeed for you and you simply need some help figuring out how to be a productive writer, spend some time identifying your attitudes about writing. Write them down. Are they generally positive or negative? Also spend some time thinking about the experiences that have shaped your attitudes about writing. Do you dread the writing process? Or do you dread the critical feedback on your writing from colleagues, mentors, and the peer-review process? Or is it both?

As cognitive-behavioral theory tells us, attitudes about writing can be changed once they are made explicit. If you are struggling with your writing productivity, it can be helpful to sit down and disentangle any negative beliefs that may impede your writing efforts as manifested through procrastination, writer’s block, and other common writing challenges. There are many myths that surround successful writing that may infect your writing experiences and productivity. Robert Boice addresses many of these issues and provides exercises for young academics to address them in his book, Advice for New Faculty Members.

One critical habit to successful writing is finding and sticking to a regular time to write in your schedule. Make it a regular, preferably daily, appointment in your date book. Do not give that time away to other demands on your time. In his book, The Art of Writing for Publication, Dr. Kenneth T. Henson advises writers to keep the tools of a serious writer nearby in all of the places where you write regularly. The obvious tools are a dictionary, thesaurus, any reference material, and your trusty APA manual.

  • Have a good writing handbook available that addresses each stage of the writing process, including outlining, paragraphing, revising, and proper usage of grammar and punctuation. Such a handbook will help you break down writing projects into manageable pieces and also help you respond to feedback you receive from your mentors and colleagues about ways to improve your writing and to edit your own work. Having these tools on hand will also reduce loss of precious time actually writing by eliminating the need to hunt them down during every writing session.

Revising Prose by Richard A. Lanham helps writers deal with the structure of the writing on the page so that it is clear and pleasing to the reader. It helps writers evaluate whether the sentences and paragraphs in the work address a single idea clearly and successfully. Why is this an important resource? Have you ever been asked to review a manuscript or grade a paper littered with 2-sentence or page-long paragraphs? These types of writing problems are always a signal to reviewers that the authors are inexperienced. Professional scientific writing must be technically accurate and meet the standards of polished professional writing of any published work. The more polished your initial manuscripts are when you submit them, the more likely reviewers are to take seriously the scientific findings you wish to convey in your document. Poor writing mechanics irritate reviewers almost immediately and undermine the persuasiveness of your work, no matter how exciting your research findings may be. It requires more work for the reviewer to wade through a poorly constructed document to figure out what you did and what you want to say about it. Given the time pressures reviewers are under, poor writing can aggravate reviewers and, in some cases, lead them to critique your work more harshly. Revising Prose will help you to evaluate your writing systematically in prior to submission and in response to critical feedback.

The Guide to Publishing in Psychology Journals by Robert J. Sternberg is an excellent volume on professional writing for psychologists. Sternberg invited several prolific academic psychologists to write a chapter addressing each type of product an author might produce (e.g., empirical journal articles, book chapters, review papers) along with strategies for documenting your research, writing for your audience (e.g., reviewers), and handling the revise-resubmit process. I found the chapters on writing introductions to journal articles and on writing compelling results sections extremely useful as I made my way up the publication learning curve. I refer to the Guide regularly and assign chapters to students working on various writing projects.

Developing Writer’s Confidence
Many students and young PhDs find writing aversive because of negative and/or erroneous beliefs about writing and a tendency to engage in negative self-talk during the writing process. In talking to others and reflecting on my own experiences, writing confidence is the biggest hurdle to clear for young PhDs (or students) who are serious about publishing their research. As one of my major professors said to me during my earlier struggles, writing confidence comes in part from believing that you have “something to say to the field.” You have interesting, innovative ideas and findings that you want to contribute to the field and have them shape the way the field evolves.

Writing confidence can also come from gauging the support and interest you receive about your work when you present it at various conferences. Think about it for a moment. You know when you’ve generated meaningful findings. The audience is excited about your work. You receive great feedback and interesting questions about your presentation. Members of your audience encourage you to publish your findings. You feel energized by the presentation and know you’ve connected with your audience. This feedback is authentic—it is a preliminary peer review process that helps you gauge the relevance of your work. Trust that feedback, sit down at your computer, and write. Turn that conference paper or poster into a manuscript. Try not to focus on issues related to publication at this stage. Just write. And keep writing until the paper is done. (Now there are issues related to selection of journal outlets that have to be considered, but the unsure writer needs to simply gain confidence that he can express his research findings clearly and persuasively first.)

As you deepen your knowledge about the mechanics of writing and revising your work, you will become more confident about your writing. This will help you figure out how to revise the early drafts of your paper and respond to critical feedback about your written work. With experience, you will be able to tell if: (a) your ideas or findings are compelling but need clearer, compelling writing to communicate them, (b) your research ideas need more work or development, or (c) whether someone is simply hostile to your work no matter how strong the findings are or how well you explain them in your writing. In any of these cases, the feedback will probably sting, but hopefully not for long. And hopefully, it won’t keep you from moving forward with the necessary revisions in the appropriate areas when you have a chance to process the feedback with a clear head.

Life as tenure-track faculty member can be a significant challenge because of the pressures to produce a fairly large amount of published work in a short period of time. In order to develop as a professional writer, you have to be regularly engaged in the writing process. Write regularly and submit your work for review. Over time, you will figure out your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and improve on these using tools such as the ones I am outlining here. Rejection can be scary, but take a deep breath and submit your work anyway. You will learn more quickly and meet success earlier if you fully engage the process. As any published author will tell you, there are fewer sweeter professional rewards than seeing your name and scholarly work in print.

There is so much I could say about the writing process, but I hope there is something useful here that will help you move forward.

Happy writing!
[Editor’s note: This post was written Mia Smith Bynum, PhD; Associate Professor of Family Science; School of Public Health; University of Maryland. It originally appeared on the Multicultural Mentoring blog by the Society of Clinical Psychology’s Section on the Clinical Psychology of Ethnic Minorities. (APA Division 12, Section 6). It is reposted here with generous permission. Over time, you will see all eight original posts on gradPSYCH Blog.]


Tips for Interviewing for Internship by Dr. Mitch Prinstein

If you’re applying for internship this year, you’ve probably submitted most of your applications for internship by now and are anxiously awaiting emails and phone calls from internship training directors inviting you for an interview.

While you’re waiting for those emails, here are some great tips by Dr. Mitch Prinstein, co-author of the APAGS internship workbook Internships in Psychology.  This is a PowerPoint slideshow with Dr. Prinstein speaking over the slides.

If you want more information on interviewing, the workbook has more details.