Strategies for Improving Workplace Behavior and Performance

From Leadership Expert Dr. Diane Hamilton

What is a Peer-Reviewed Journal?

Today’s Ask Dr. Diane:  My professor told me I have to cite using scholarly, peer-reviewed journals.  What does that mean?

College students are often asked to include scholarly peer-reviewed journals as sources for citations.  If the school offers an online library, it can be easy to search for these journals by simply marking the box under the search line that lists something like “search for peer-reviewed journals only” or “scholarly peer-reviewed”.  By marking this box, anything that comes up in the search should be appropriate to use for college-level assignments.

A peer-reviewed journal insures that the article is of the highest quality and reflects sound research.  Library.usm.main.edu does a nice job of explaining the peer review process:

  • Articles submitted by authors are evaluated by a group of peer experts in the field.
  • The reviewers recommend whether the submitted article be published, revised, or rejected.
  • This review process is often performed “blind”, meaning the reviewers do not know the names or academic affiliations of the authors, and the authors do not know who is reviewing their work.

Ulrich’s Periodical Directory Online is a link where the journals’ title can be submitted to get a report about whether the journal is actually peer-reviewed. 

What is meant by scholarly journals?  CalPoly explained, “Scholarly journals contain articles written by, and addressed to, experts in a discipline. They are concerned with academic study, especially research, and demonstrate the methods and concerns of scholars. The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report original research or experimentation and to communicate this information to the rest of the scholarly world. The language of scholarly journals reflects the discipline covered, as it assumes some knowledge or background on the part of the reader. Scholarly journals always rigorously cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies. Many scholarly journals are published by professional organizations.”

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How to Publish or Self-Publish Your Book

Today’s Ask Dr. Diane:  I am thinking about publishing a book.  What do I need to know about finding a publisher or trying to self-publish?

It can be quite challenging to get your first book published through a large publishing house.  Many new authors find that they must end up self-publishing.  Some are choosing to self-publish now because of the way that the industry is changing as well.

Seth Godin, is a well-established author who used to use the big publishing houses, recently decided to self-publish.  Godin decided to do this because he had enough customer relationships and felt he no longer needed the publisher.  Publishers can offer a lot of advantages for a new author.  However, once an author is established and has identified their audience, they may not be as necessary.  According to the Wall Street Journal Godin is quoted as saying, “Publishers provide a huge resource to authors who don’t know who reads their books. What the Internet has done for me, and a lot of others, is enable me to know my readers.”

If you decide to go the publisher house route, here are some things you must keep in mind.  There is a very high probability that publishers will turn down you book unless you have an agent, a strong proposal, a very unique book idea, and most importantly a strong platform.

The word platform gets tossed around quite a bit in the publishing world.  What they mean when they say they want you to have a strong platform is that they want you to have a “following” of people that will probably already want to buy your book once it comes out.  They would like to see you have a popular blog, a TV show, a radio show, are a celebrity or have written previous books, etc.  If you don’t have a platform, there is a good chance that they will turn you down.

If you do have a platform and want to use a publishing house, you will need to start the process by finding an agent.  To do this, you must develop a query letter.  Once you develop a good query letter, you will send this to agents that handle the type of writing that interests you.  I suggest reading Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents.

Once you send your query letters to agents, you may get some that respond.  If so, you must be prepared to have a strong book proposal to give them.  There are plenty of books about how to write a book proposal based on the type of book (fiction or nonfiction). There is a very specific format about how to write a proposal and it is important that you stick to that format.  The proposal will contain several things including some brief information about the proposed chapters.

Many people think they need to have written the complete book prior to finding an agent. This is not true.  It is good to have one solid chapter to send to the agent, though, in case they do like your proposal.  Do not send this chapter until it is requested though.  It is important to start with the query letter. If there is interest, then you would send the proposal.  If there is interest, then you would send the sample chapter.

 

If you cannot get a publishing house to publish your book, many people go the route of self-publishing.  There are some very simple ways to self-publish including using Amazon’s CreateSpace. Sites like this have made it easier and less expensive than ever before to get your book published.  The nice thing is that the days of having to print large amounts of books that require storage are gone.  With sites like Createspace, books are printed as they are ordered.

Self-publishing has changed the publishing industry.  Because of sites like Amazon, many stores like Borders have had to close their doors.  People have enjoyed the ability to have a variety of book choices and the ease of ordering online.

If you do decide to self-publish, be sure that you have a good editor and an indexer.  Createspace and others like them, offer help with a lot of things like cover design and more.  The more things that you need help with, the more it will cost.  However, these sites have made self-publishing a much easier and more realistic choice for authors than anything offered in the past.

How to Teach Online Classes

I’m testing doing some radio podcasts.  This initial show has issues with the music in the first few seconds but it is just a test . . . Anyone interested in learning how to teach online courses may want to listen to this for helpful information though. Click on the picture to hear the podcast or click here.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/btrplayer.swf

Listen to internet radio with DianeHamilton on Blog Talk Radio

Bloggers and Social Media Junkies: 5 Tips to Improve Your Writing

Today’s Ask Dr. Diane:  What are some things I can do to improve my blogging and writing skills?

The Internet has turned lot of people into writers.  Bloggers and social media junkies may have great ideas to share but may lack some writing skills that could help improve the message they want to convey.  I know I make a lot of mistakes when I write.  I try not to, but when you blog as much as I do, it is inevitable.  I never intended to be a writer.  However, I found that I liked sharing information, so writing became a means to an end.  When I write my books, I use a professional editor.  Not all of us can be editing experts. It could be very expensive and inconvenient to have to use an editor for every blog and social media posting.  However, there are some simple things that can help to improve writing skills. 

1.  Don’t End Sentences in Prepositions. The problem is that many people have no idea what a preposition is.  Susan Thurman, author of The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need, claims there is a trick to helping recognize a preposition.  “Look at the last eight letters of the word preposition; they spell position.  A preposition sometimes tells the position of something:  in, out, under, over, above and so forth.”  My seventh grade teacher suggested we think about a box.  For example:  in the box, over the box, and so forth. The following are the most common prepositions according to Thurman.  Try to avoid ending a sentence with any of these words:

  • About
  • Above
  • Across
  • After
  • Against
  • Along
  • Among
  • Around
  • At
  • Before
  • Behind
  • Below
  • Beneath
  • Beside
  • Between
  • Beyond
  • But
  • By
  • Concerning
  • Despite
  • Down
  • During
  • Except
  • For
  • From
  • In
  • Inside
  • Into
  • Like
  • Of
  • Off
  • On
  • Onto
  • Out
  • Outside
  • Over
  • Past
  • Since
  • Through
  • Throughout
  • To
  • Toward
  • Under
  • Underneath
  • Until
  • Up
  • Upon
  • With
  • Within
  • Without

2.   Learn to Spell without Spell Check. If you rely too much on a spell checker, you may find that words you meant to write are replaced with words that have entirely different meanings.  I can’t count how many times that a student has sent me a note saying to “please excuse the incontinence”.   It is best if you take the time to learn to spell correctly so that you don’t have to rely on a device that may change your intended meaning. The following are fifty of the most commonly misspelled words according to author Gary Provost of 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing:

  • Acceptable
  • Apology
  • Appetite
  • Architect
  • Assassinate
  • Autumn
  • Calendar
  • Changeable
  • Conscious
  • Correspondence
  • Criticism
  • Deceive
  • Discernible
  • Embarrass
  • Eminent
  • Existence
  • Fascinate
  • Grateful
  • Hygiene
  • Imaginable
  • Immediately
  • Irrelevant
  • Jewelry
  • Judgment
  • Lovable
  • Miscellaneous
  • Mischievous
  • Mortgage
  • Necessarily
  • Occasionally
  • Occurrence
  • Omission
  • Orchestra
  • Potatoes
  • Professor
  • Pseudonym
  • Quarrelsome
  • Religious
  • Reservoir
  • Rhythmic
  • Scissors
  • Syllable
  • Tragedy
  • Umbrella
  • Vanilla
  • Vengeance
  • Weird
  • Wholesome
  • Youthful
  • Zealot

3.  Vary your sentence length.  Some of my students like to write in either really long run-on sentences or overly short monotonous sentences.  Try to vary your sentence length.  Notice how the first sentence in this paragraph was longer and more complex.  That was followed by a shorter more succinct sentence.  It makes your writing easier to read if you vary the sentence length and mix it up a bit. 

4.  Ask yourself some questions once you have finished your draft.  Does the initial paragraph let the reader know what your paper, blog or article is going to contain?  Do you have needless repetition of ideas?  Is your tone and tense consistent?  Does one paragraph advance to the next in a smooth fashion?  Does each of your paragraphs contain a topic sentence that conveys the thought you have developed throughout that paragraph? 

5.  Work on expanding your vocabulary.  Rather than learning overly complicated words to express what you want to say, try varying the way that you say things by using a thesaurus.  If you are talking about a house, perhaps refer to that house as a dwelling or a building in the next sentence.  If you find that you are using the same word over and over, check out some alternatives words in a thesaurus to add dimension to your writing.

I know I am guilty of making some of these mistakes.  Through practice, we can all improve our skills. 

What is the Difference Between a Citation and a Reference?

Today’s Ask Dr. Diane:  What do professors mean when they say to include citations and references?

Students are often required to have both citations and references when creating their college assignments.  There can be confusion as to what the difference is between a citation and a reference.  Cornell explains, “a citation occurs when you use a specific source in your work and then follow up with the proper bibliographic information; plagiarism issues arise when you use a specific source, but fail to indicate what you have borrowed, and/or fail to provide proper bibliographic information a reference is the bibliographic information that guides readers to your source.”

It may seem easier to understand when given examples of each.  Here is an example of a citation:

“Canadians can celebrate that smoking rates have dropped dramatically in Canada in the past three decades” (Reutter, 2001, p. 13). 

You may also paraphrase what others have written.  Here is an example of how to do this correctly:

According to the Canadian Lung Association (2008), most people who quit smoking use a combination of methods. 

These should be included within the body of the document. They should not be confused with references.  References should be included on the separate Reference Page.

An example of how to list references on a Reference Page is listed below.  Keep in mind that formatting will not show up correctly on a blog.  The first line of each reference should be at the left margin and each following line should be indented 1/2 inch.  Here is an example without the indentations showing up:

References

Canadian Lung Association. (2008). How to quit. Retrieved May 26, 2008, from http://www.lung.ca/protect-protegez/tobacco-tabagisme/quitting-cesser/how-comment_e.php

Reutter, L. (2001). Health and wellness. In P. A. Potter, A. G. Perry, J. C. Ross-Kerr, & M. J. Wood (Eds.), Canadian fundamentals of nursing (2nd ed.) (pp. 2-30). Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Harcourt Canada.

It is important to note that many students think they should just include references to show the sites they visited or read to complete the assignment.  This is not correct.  References should be listed to explain where the citation information was obtained.  If a citation was not listed within the document, it doesn’t make sense to list a reference.