Monthly Archives: March 2015

Coming Attractions

It’s already been an exciting year, with lots of new ideas and initiatives. In this post I’d like to try to provide an overview of the activities that Liv and I will be running from early April to early June. Most of these activities will be running again in the fall, so if you can’t join us now, there are plenty of chances. In general, we plan our activities in 8-week periods on either side of Easter and either side of the fall break in week 42.

It will once again be possible to join a coaching group that meets every Thursday from 13:00 to 13:54 in the Library. The aim of these sessions is to help put you in control of your writing process, so that you can plan your work one paragraph at a time and secure yourself the time your need, both to get your writing done and develop your skill as a writer.

Also, I will be hosting a weekly “masterclass” on Mondays, in which you will be able to get feedback on your writing and listen to other people get feedback on theirs. Most of the time will be spent editing the individual paragraphs that participants bring to the session, for language and argumentation, clarity and structure.

On Thursday afternoons, immediately after the coaching session (but not otherwise related), Liv and I will continue our weekly Craft Colloquiums. We have selected seven topics and booked them into the calendar, but are still open to suggestions, so please do keep your ideas coming. Our aim is not to just tell you what we find interesting, but also to learn about your interests and how we might help. We take requests.

If you’d like to get a comprehensive introduction to my approach to academic writing, why not sign up for my six-hour (2 x 3 hours) seminar called Writing Process Reengineering, which will run on June 2 and June 4, 2015, from 13:00 to 16:00. It consists of two parts: one on the organization of the writing space (the structure of an article), the other on the organization of writing time (the structure of the process). Though they can each stand alone, I recommend attending both. Together we can help you turn a famously unmanageable process into an orderly series of moments.

Finally, do note the ongoing series of courses about the Library’s resources, where you can get a quick and effective introduction to the manifold ways in which we can help you locate the information you need for your research.

To get a better overview of the support that the CBS Library provides to researchers, we have created a calendar of all these events, which will be updated as new activities are planned. Keep posted there, here at the blog, or (also coming soon!) at CBS Share.


Colloquium: Thursday, March 19, 14:00 to 16:00  in room A 2.35 (inside the CBS Library at Solbjerg Plads)

We’ve got some thinking to do around here. Liv and I met today discuss how things are going in our Craft Colloquiums and we have to admit that attendance hasn’t been so good lately. There are of course two main areas in which to look for explanations. Either we’re not saying anything very interesting, or we’re not getting the word out properly. Feel free to let us know in the comments, but I suspect that one of our problems also has to do with how few people even know this blog exists.

That is, I’m leaning toward the “marketing failure” end of the explanatory spectrum, though I’m entirely willing to discuss content as well–both the content of the colloquiums and the content of this blog. We’ve already devoted this week’s meeting to “miscellany”, and we’ve decided to turn it into a full blown brainstorming session. What does the phrase “craft of research” mean to you? Is there a common, underlying set of craft skills that is shared by all scholars? What would that skill set include? What can a modern university library do to support the development and maintenance of those skills? Are they amenable to improvement through training and instruction?

Tell us in the comments, or come tell us on Thursday. We’re listening.

“The Huge Impossibility of Language”

Poetry, said Robert Graves, is a struggle with “the huge impossibility of language”.

When Roland Barthes announced the “death of the author” it was as a consequence of his views on writing (a term he preferred to “literature”). He distinguished the act of writing, we might say, from the fact of language, from which “the writer literally takes nothing”. The language does not shape the content of the writing; it only establishes a horizon for it. Language, says Barthes, “is a field of action, the definition of, and a hope for, a possibility”. But writing is ultimately a Utopian gesture. Its freedom lies beyond a “frontier”; it is almost “supernatural”. In that sense, Graves was right. Language is the impossibility of poetry. The drama of a poem is precisely to exist in the face of that impossibility.

In this regard, I suppose, scholars sometimes feel a bit like poets. But we have to remember that a scholar doesn’t, properly speaking, work within a language, but within a discourse, and a discourse is not a so much a “huge impossibility” as a particular difficulty. Indeed, as I have said before, discourse is what makes it possible for us to attain a particular degree of precision on particular topics. While the language doesn’t, as Barthes rightly notes, provide the writer with a “stock of materials”, the discourse does exactly that. And more. Foucault has argued that discourse shapes the objects and the subjects, the concepts and the strategies of research, and thereby makes it possible to form statements, i.e., claims about what is going on in the world.

Now, discourses can express themselves in several languages. Here in Denmark, most scholars will speak of what they know in Danish as well as English, and sometimes also in French or German, or any other national language. In each case, the tiny possibilities of discourse are exposed to the huge impossibility language.  It is difficult sometimes, but that difficulty is worth facing. It the essential difficulty of scholarly writing.

And, Or, Not: Adventures in Boolean Searching

Colloquium: Thursday, March 5, 14:00 to 16:00  in room A 2.35 (inside the CBS Library at Solbjerg Plads)

This Thursday we’re going both “old school” and “hard-core” in the Craft Colloquium. We’ll be talking about Boolean searches of the Library’s databases, i.e., searches that partition the articles that are indexed into distinct, if often overlapping, “sets” of search results, and then connect them with logical operators like “and”, “or” and “not”.

Consider an imaginary database that indexes every article in the management literature. Each entry will identify the title, author and journal (including date and issue number), and will provide abstract and keywords. Many databases today will also include the reference list of the article and will, additionally, be able to identify all the articles on the reference lists of which this particular article appears. These are all “facts” about the article. And we can group the articles into sets according to those facts.

Now, there will be millions of articles, thousands of authors and perhaps hundreds of journals. There will be a set of all articles published in the Administrative Science Quarterly and another set of articles published by the Academy of Management Journal. Probably many thousands in each journal. Since an article is only published in one place (republications get a separate entry in the databases) the sets are completely distinct from each other. There is no overlap. In Boolean terms, this means that, while there are thousands of articles that are published in ASQ or AMJ, there are exactly zero articles that are published in ASQ and AMJ.

Unlike titles, keywords and authors are not unique to articles. This means that the set of articles that are about finance and organization is not necessarily empty. Nor is the set of articles that are written by Jones and Smith (since, in addition to the papers they’ve written separately, they may written some together). But the set of articles that are “about finance or organizations” and the set of articles that are written by Jones or Smith will often be much larger. (There will be rare cases of author “teams” that never publish separately.)

The ramifications of this basic logical approach to searching are, of course, endless. And Liv will help us work through the possibilities in our session. What is the set of all articles that are written by Smith and published in AMJ? Notice the difference between this and the completely unwieldy set of articles that written by Smith or published in AMJ. Or, what is the set of articles that are written by Smith or written by Jones and published in the AMJ? Here we have to take pause. Consider the difference between the set of articles that are written by Smith (and published anywhere) or written by Jones and published in the AMJ, and the set of articles that are written by both Smith and Jones and published in the AMJ. Here Boolean notation will often use brackets to ensure that the right result is produced.

The basic logic is simple. But its application can be very complicated. If you want to try it, please come on Thursday. As always, bring examples from your own research that we can work with. That will ensure maximum relevance.

We’ve also decided on what our themes will be up to Easter. On March 12, we’ll talk about problem of language, i.e., the status of English in scholarship and the difficulties associated with alternatives. On March 19, we’ll open the floor for whatever issues people want to talk about, either because we’ve left some hanging from a previous session, or because we haven’t gotten to it yet. This will also be a kind of brainstorming sessions for our topic for after Easter. We’d like to have a full calendar of topic for April and May.