Pack Hacks for Faculty: Creating Your Scholarly Writing Plan

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Welcome back to Pack Hacks for Faculty. Each month, a member of the NC State faculty will provide quick tips, advice and other insight to facilitate your teaching, research, scholarship or engagement activities. If you are interested in making a submission for a future Pack Hacks for Faculty, please review our submission guidelines and contact provost-communications@ncsu.edu if you have questions.

This month, Joy Gaston Gayles, senior advisor for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the College of Education and professor in the college’s Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Human Development, provides insight into best practices for developing a scholarly writing plan.

Creating Your Scholarly Writing Plan

Joy Gaston Gayles

Joy GaylesDeveloping a scholarly writing plan is vital to university faculty for several reasons. It helps avoid falling into the trap of scheduling the workday using never-ending to-do lists that don’t prioritize what’s most important to long-term success. Moreover, to-do lists usually consist of urgent tasks at the top and important tasks at the end. When this happens, faculty end up spending their time and energy day after day on what feels like urgent tasks, and the important tasks get pushed off to the next day, and then the next day, and then the next day. It’s no surprise then when faculty look up a year later and find that they haven’t made much progress on the important tasks, such as research and writing. Developing a scholarly writing plan and updating it every semester can help faculty avoid falling into this trap.

When to Create and Update a Plan

I spent most of my career in the trap I described above. I learned about the type of planning I’m going to suggest to you here when I was a mid-career faculty (associate professor with tenure). Practicing planning and having accountability systems for making sure I prioritized my research and writing were game-changers for me. For the first time in my career, I made solid progress on my research and writing during the academic year, even amid teaching and service duties. I often wonder what my career would look like had I learned this early on in my career, but it’s certainly better late than never. 

Once you learn how to create a plan, my advice is to do it every semester, including summers (hence the title of the suggested webinar: Every Semester Needs a Plan). Over time you will see the long-term range of your plan and have a solid idea of where you’ve been, which can be extremely helpful in figuring out where you want to go next.

What to Include

Your scholarly writing plan should be specifically focused on research and writing. One of the biggest challenges for faculty is finding time for research and writing. This issue is also a structural issue within the academy (Rockquemore & Laszloffy, 2008). Tenure-track faculty are evaluated based on performance in teaching, research and service. At NC State, tenure-track faculty will agree that research and writing are typically weighted more heavily than teaching and service; yet, it’s the one aspect of their work that has little to no accountability. Because of this, your plan should include your research and writing priorities for the semester. 

Your priorities should then be broken down into smaller tasks that all lead to the completion of your goal, whether it’s writing a manuscript, submitting a grant proposal or writing a book. The plan shouldn’t be simply “finish the book.” The plan should consist of what you’re going to work on over a 15 week period that will eventually lead to finishing the book. I include personal goals in my plan as well. When you’re writing about complex topics and engaging work that speaks truth to power, you have to have a plan for taking care of yourself emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc. 

Taking Advantage of Resources

The National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD) teaches academics how to plan. Lucky for us, we have an institutional membership which means everyone here at NC State can learn for free. You’ll need to sign up for an account through the NC State membership (but NC State has already covered the cost for you). Once you have an account, you can access the webinar called Every Semester Needs a Plan. In this webinar, you will learn a unique planning strategy and create a strategic plan for your writing and research AND personal goals. Developing and implementing a strategic plan is powerful because it will help you learn more about yourself regarding how much you can get done in 15 weeks. When you go through the same planning process the following semester, you will have a much better idea of how much you can accomplish, which will help you plan more effectively. 

NCFDD is an invaluable resource to our university community. Make sure you sign up and activate your account today! There is another webinar called How to Align Your Time with Your Priorities. This webinar teaches you how to do what we call weekly planning. This skill is also a game-changer. 

The Office of Faculty Development here at NC State also has a plethora of resources to help faculty manage teaching, research, and service, as well as navigate faculty life. Additionally, your professional organizations may have resources for planning and building your mentor network. 

References
Rockquemore, K., & Laszloffy, T. A. (2008). The Black Academic’s Guide to Winning Tenure—Without Losing Your Soul. Lynne Rienner Publishers Boulder, CO. 

Joy Gaston Gayles is the senior advisor for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as a program coordinator and professor of higher education in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development in the College of Education. She can be reached at joy_gayles@ncsu.edu. 

This post was originally published in Provost's Office News.