Thursday, November 16, 2017

#NCA17 Poster Share

"Would you care to dress our professor?" At #NCA17, my co-presenters and I tried something a bit different with our #ILookLikeaProfessor presentation. We asked passersby to "dress" our professor.

Our research, More than Tweed Jackets and Beards, looked at tweets from the #ILookLikeaProfessor hashtag campaign from 2015. Participants posted about their frustrations, diversity, appearance and themselves, in an effort to broaden the concept of what a professor looks like, and open a larger conversation about the professoriate.

While people decorated our professor with pink high heels, tattoos, and clothing options (mentioned by real profs in the tweets), we were able to chat about our research. The interactive element was a plus, and one I'd like to try again in future poster presentations.

A big thank you to Dr. Tracey Holley for her mad paper doll clothes designing skills and Doug Hanna at Tarleton's CII for his gracious poster printing service.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Squeezing into a 250-word abstract

Serving as a reviewer for a journal or conference gives you a glimpse behind the curtain of decision-making. Recently, I served as a reviewer for a conference that required a short abstract submission. Yes, it's hard to squeeze everything into 250's also very hard to judge a paper's potential in that amount of words.

How authors handled the 250 words was illuminating. Some made great use of the space and others wasted too much time on introductions. This brings me to my list of tips/observations about submitting an abstract (especially a short one) for a conference's paper competition:
  • Don't waste too many words on an introduction. If you end up with words to spare, you can add a short sentence that introduces your topic. Have you ever been to a presentation where the "introducer" spends more time speaking than the speaker she is introducing?
  • Lit Review. Include some sense that you have reviewed the literature and have a strong understanding of where your study fits. Mass cites and "e.g." can help save you some words. Here's a sample: "This work adds to the foundations of framing theory (e.g. CITE) by expanding..." You can do this in 1-2 sentences.
  • Theory in a nutshell, a tiny one. Quickly mention the theoretical foundation for the study. You can weasel this in an introductory phrase like "Based on XYZ theory" or "Using ABC theory." That only takes 3-4 words from your 250 words.
  • Research question(s). This is a short-form way to get to the heart of your study/project.
  • METHODS. This is where I would spend a few more of your precious words. This particular reviewer (me) is looking for the strength of design. Were the methods suitable to address your research question(s). At the least, give reviewers words like "case study, experimental design, qualitative, quantitative or mixed method."
  • Use shorthand when possible. To explain your sample size, (N=124) does the trick.
  • Why it matters. End with what the study will offer to the public, readers, practitioners, academics, etc. 

So, my list is 243 words. It can be done. As always, read the instructions. Some writers neglected to hit the three questions the instructions specified. If it's a study in progress, you can say that.

How do you squeeze into a 250-word abstract?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Listening Online - What do you expect?

Image of ear
Dr. Chris Gearhart and I are working on a research project about how organizational social media accounts display listening traits online. This led us to questions about expectations of listening (and response) from corporate social media accounts.

We would love to have your input. You must be 18 or older to participate. Thank you in advance!

Survey Link

Official recruitment info from our IRB documentation: Researchers at Tarleton State University invite you to take a brief survey (less than 10 minutes) regarding your perceptions of appropriate listening behaviors and responses in a social media context. You will be asked to answer questions about your listening habits and demographic information. You will be provided with some hypothetical social media posts and are asked to rate how you would prefer to be responded to. Information concerning the study, such as any risks, benefits, and safeguards for your privacy and well-being, is presented on the first page of the survey. You must be 18 or older to participate. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Toddler Tips for Media Relations

If you have spent time with a toddler, you've practiced some key skills for media relations.

picture of toddlerNo, you can't have that toy, but you CAN have this one. You're a master at bridging. This is moving the conversation or interview to the messages you wish to convey.

Always be prepared. For the toddler, that might be an extra pair of pants in the trunk of your car or a coloring page in your bag. For the PR pro, that's a mental list of story ideas in case a reporter is on the prowl for a good article.

Think before you speak. Do you really want to bring up THAT topic? A toddler and a reporter ask a lot of why, why, why. Think your comments through to the follow-up question and its follow up.

Words matter. When talking with my toddler, I try to choose words carefully and select the word that best describes what I really mean. When I get lazy with word choice, I must do a LOT of explaining. Journalists appreciate precision, too.

Their vision may not be what you expected. When I think I know how my toddler might approach a toy or puzzle, she sometimes surprises me with an innovative approach. When you pitch a story idea to a reporter, he or she might take that story seed and grow it into something you didn't imagine. Not necessarily good or bad, just different.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Partnering on research

Partnering on research projects can be a way to maximize your time and efforts, learn new methods/approaches yourself, and add a layer of accountability. Some institutions and tenure/promotion committees want to see single-author publications, and others accept and value collaborative works. You can see from my vitae, the little girl who hated group work in grade school has learned how to co-author and co-present.

So if you're ready to partner up, let me offer these thoughts:
  1. Test run. Pick a small project to start. This could be a co-authored guest blog post or regional panel. You will be able to see how each other works. And it's OK if it's not a good fit.
  2. Consider your threshold for deadlines and procrastination. Before my little one arrived, I was up for late night writing sessions that pushed deadlines to within seconds. Now, I can't guarantee you that kind of window of work. I work much more in advance because I must.
  3. Find partners with complementary skills sets. Maybe you have a great network for survey solicitation, and your partner is a strong statistician. Find someone to strengthen your gaps and vice versa.
  4. Cross disciplines. Find ways to bridge the silos and connect with colleagues in different departments. This also opens your work to more publication options.
  5. Communicate. Discuss openly issues like order of authorship and timelines before beginning a project. 
  6. Going separate ways. You're kind of like a band. Play while it works. Strike out for a solo tour when you need, and be open to the reunion project. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Listening in social media

My colleague and I just published a piece on listening and social media. It was a fun collaboration because Dr. Chris Gearhart, Tarleton State University, is a listening guy and I'm a social media gal. We combined forces to apply listening principles to social media.

I have some free e-copies if you are interested:

Abstract: Researchers apply Bodie, St. Cyr, Pence, Rold, and Honeycutt’s (2012) model of listening competency to social media messaging for organizations. The article provides examples of how organizations and their social media managers, as de facto “listening agents,” can incorporate important verbal listening behaviors that represent active-empathic listening—pertinent responses, elaboration, offering advice and opinions, and answering and asking questions—into their social media profiles. In addition, guidance is provided to social media managers and organizations for how to adopt listening skills that will foster dialogue between organizations and their online publics. Potential areas for future research are also examined.

Citation: Sarah K. Maben & Christopher C. Gearhart (2017): Organizational Social
Media Accounts: Moving Toward Listening Competency, International Journal of Listening, DOI:

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Quilting Adventure Update

Two mini-quilts down and I'm learning what I like, and don't. I'm also remembering what it's like to be a new learner. After the initial excitement of a new challenge wore off, I put the project on the back burner. It's the same stall-out I see with our students who pitch a great story idea or research topic and then peter out in the middle.

Picture of quilt
Doll bed quilt: A reminder of being a new learner 

I used this quilt for doll bed as a way to test different techniques and supplies. For example, I learned that I needed a wider border and made the adjustment for the larger quilt. I tried machine quilting and hand quilting. Discovering my talents and likes was valuable and something we can offer students with low-stakes projects. In my classes, I encourage my students to experiment with a new writing style or design. We need to create the safe spaces in our courses for students to use trial and error to make discoveries.

How would I grade my quilt? Average. C. I met the learning objectives, but my technique could use some work....OK, a lot of work. But I learned along the way, and that's our main goal as teachers, right?!