Quick fix: Unfreeze Endnote when entering CWYW citations

Posted: April 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Mac, random tech tips, writing | Comments Off on Quick fix: Unfreeze Endnote when entering CWYW citations

I have been experiencing a particular problem with Endnote X5 recently, and from what I’ve read it’s connected to OSX 10.8.2.  Specifically, when I open Endnote and start using the CWYW feature to enter citations into my document, Endnote freezes up and gets endlessly stuck on the “format bibliography” part of its process.

Here’s a quick fix, courtesy of facop78 on MacRumors.

  1. Go to Applications : Utilities
  2. Run the Activity Monitor found there
  3. Set the “Show” option at the top of the window to All Processes
  4. Click the column header “Process Name” to sort alphabetically
  5. Highlight the appleeventsd process
  6. Click the “Quit Process” button

The only extra thing I did was to shut down and restart Endnote at the end of the operation.  Worked like a charm!

Click here to read the entire thread.



Strategies for ensuring validity and reliability in ethnographies of communication

Posted: October 28th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: research work, theory, writing | Comments Off on Strategies for ensuring validity and reliability in ethnographies of communication

When you are engaged in doing an ethnography of communication, how do you ensure that you are assessing your key concepts accurately?  How do you make certain that your readings of the data are correct? There are a number of strategies that can be used to test the validity and reliability of work done under the aegis of the ethnography of communication.

First, does the researcher make it a point to use key terms, concepts, descriptions, and explanations used and/or provided by the people under study?  (Philipsen, 1982, p. 49) One excellent model for this approach is an article on an Osage community by Pratt and Wieder (1993).  In this article, Pratt and Wieder provide readers with a step-by-step description of the speech events under analysis, including detailed information on who (gender, age, experience, role) can speak for others (and why); who participates in these speech events (speaking for others) and how; how these events start, proceed, and end; how they are regulated; how/where people sit/arrange themselves; how stages of the events are ordered; the underlying reasons for the events; how people prepare for the events; what expectations govern the events; may and may not be said; how listeners comport themselves; and the delivery (eye contact, gaze, volume, tone) of speakers.  In this way Pratt and Wieder use informants’ terms and also describe very carefully, down to the smallest details, how informants see these speech events playing out.

Second, does the report expound on something that the people under study would actually acknowledge as a facet of their lives?  In other words, would community members recognize the findings as something real and true about their world? (Philipsen, 1982, p. 49) One great example of this is Manning’s (2008) analysis of online forums for Starbucks baristas.  In the forums the baristas let off steam about “SCOWs” (stupid customer of the week), a local concept.  Manning uses the baristas’ own words to elucidate what, exactly, stupid customers are (what they do, say, etc.)

Third, does the researcher produce an analysis that actually helps people from the community under study to “better to understand [their] own social world?” (Philipsen, 1982, p. 49)  When sharing your work with your informants, do they report back that it helps them to analyze, understand, or deal with the issues better, more effectively, or more successfully?

Fourth, (how) does the researcher seek out checks and/or validation of the findings from members of the community under study?  (Lindlof & Taylor, 2002)  Such checks can do a great deal to validate the accuracy of the findings, because ultimately an ethnographer of communication seeks to discover the meanings and understandings of the informants themselves.  Two model studies of this are Baxter (1993) and Bailey (1997).  In both of these cases, the researchers test their findings by sharing them with informants, asking them if they got things right, and having them provide further explanations where necessary.

Fifth, having multiple researchers on the project can function to ensure validity.  Pratt and Wieder (1993) are a good example of this, with Pratt’s inside knowledge as a member of the Osage community working in combination with the experience of Wieder.

Sixth, another good strategy is to have comparative data at hand. Bailey’s (1997) article is a good model for this because he shares transcripts of typical service interactions from multiple perspectives.

Finally, intercoder reliability checks can be a very effective way of ensuring reliability in the data analysis.  To do this, one must engage a second (or third, etc.) person to look over the data not only to make sure that the codes and categories seem logical, but also to test whether or not they code it consistently with the primary researchers.

What methods do you use to ensure the validity and reliability of your qualitative work?


Bailey, B. (1997). Communication of respect in interethnic service encounters. Language in Society, 26(3), 327-356.

Baxter, L. (1993). “Talking things through” and “putting it in writing”: Two codes of communication in an academic institution. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 21, 313-326.

Lindlof, T. R., & Taylor, B. C. (2002). Qualitative communication research methods (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Manning, P. (2008). Barista rants about stupid customers at Starbucks: What imaginary conversations can teach us about real ones. Language & Communication, 28, 101–126.

Philipsen, G. (1982). Linearity of reserach design in ethnographic studies of speaking. Communication Quarterly, 25(3), 42-50.

Pratt, S., & Wieder, D. L. (1993). The case of saying a few words and talking for another among the Osage people: ‘public speaking’ as an object of ethnography. Research on Language and Social Interaction 26(4), 353-408.

Interacting with texts: Adobe Acrobat Pro

Posted: August 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: research tools, writing | Comments Off on Interacting with texts: Adobe Acrobat Pro

Today I’m plugging one of my favorite applications, one that I’ve found to be indispensible both in my work as a researcher and my day-to-day life as a seasoned grad student:  Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Most everyone is familiar with Adobe Acrobat, the free, gold-standard tool for reading pdfs.  Well, the Pro version is the superstar older sibling of Acrobat.  You can use it not only to read pdfs, but also to:

  1. create pdfs (from Word or Excel documents);
  2. set the security level of the pdfs that you create, such that they cannot be copied or altered;
  3. mark up and annotate pdfs (highlight text, insert comments and graphics)
  4. copy passages from a pdf to insert elsewhere (such as into Endnote, a great tool for creating and managing bibliographic references);
  5. combine multiple pdfs into one;
  6. convert pdfs into Word (or Excel);
  7. compare versions of a pdf document;
  8. create fillable pdf forms.

The main thing that I use Adobe Acrobat Pro for is the third point above – marking up and annotating texts.  In fact, Adobe Acrobat Pro has (for me at least) revolutionized the process of how I interact with texts.  Let me explain.

In the old days I’d build up massive collections of books and articles for my research – enough to fill a small library.  Each one of those books and articles would be covered in my handwritten jottings, highlights, sticky notes, and flags.  To retrieve those notes (and the thoughts that went along with them) I’d have to revisit each one of those texts, flip through it, decipher the jottings, and then do something with them.  Traveling was a hassle because it meant the agony of choosing the most necessary texts and then schlepping them around with me.

Not anymore.

These days I have everything I can get my hands on in electronic format.  I can carry thousands of texts around with me, safely contained in the hard drive of my laptop or in a virtual safe deposit box in the cloud.  Using Adobe Acrobat Pro I can easily mark up those texts electronically with all the virtual highlights, sticky notes, flags, scribbles, and jottings that my heart desires.  All of these are also easy to modify and even delete.  Remember flipping through your old library books and diligently erasing all your pencil marks?  Remember your dissatisfaction in knowing that you could never remove that ugly highlighting?  With electronic texts these little problems simply don’t exist.

The other thing that’s so useful is that all of the typed comments I insert into a pdf can easily be copied and then pasted into other documents and programs.  For example, I sometimes start composing parts of my own writing into the texts that I’m reading.  With a few clicks I can lift my compositions out and paste them into Word.  When I’m jotting things down about the text itself, I lift and deposit those into Endnote, where I store all the bibliographic information for each book and article that I read.  (Note to grad students – this is extremely useful in preparing for your general exams, as well as preparing your literature reviews.)

The only pain point about using Adobe Acrobat Pro is that it’s pricey, but the good news is that students and educators can get a substantial discount.

What programs do you use for marking up text, and what do you like about them?

How to write a dissertation: Tips and tricks

Posted: June 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: writing | 1 Comment »

Recently I was chatting with some of my fellow grads about how intimidating it can be to get started with – and continue – writing a dissertation.  In fact, it can be so intimidating that many postpone it, sometimes indefinitely.

Eleven months ago I started drafting my dissertation.  To date I’ve written seven chapters totaling roughly 90,000 words, or 200 pages of text.  This isn’t a fast work pace – colleagues of mine have written as much in far less time.  It’s not an especially long manuscript, either.  In fact, I’d say it’s about average for a qualitative/ethnographic study of communication.  I’m now getting ready to revise and finalize the manuscript.  I can finally see the finish line looming ahead.

Looking back my assessment of the writing process is that it was surprisingly manageable.  How so? How do you get started writing a dissertation and then keep going until it is done?

These are the tips and tricks that have worked for me.  They aren’t very original, and they may not work for everybody, but they’ll give you an idea of potential strategies for tackling the process of dissertating.  At the very least, I hope they’ll show you that writing a dissertation can be a much more approachable task than you might imagine.

  1. Have a model. What do completed dissertations written under the direction of your committee chair look like?  How long are they?  What sort of chapters do they have?  How many pages are dedicated to the literature review, the methods, and the findings?  What sources did they cite?  How did they present their data?  What strategies did they use for writing persuasively about the findings?  I spent about a week reading dissertations that had been successfully defended by students in my department working with my chair.  It gave me a very good idea of would be expected from me.  I don’t think this is a substitute for talking directly with your chair about his/her expectations, of course, but it’s a good preliminary step.
  2. Have a plan.  Before drafting a single chapter of the dissertation I sat down and wrote up a project plan.  The format I used was very simple – at the top of the page I wrote my desired defense date.  I then worked backwards to the present day, noting the milestones leading up to the target defense date and the dates by which I wanted to reach each milestone.  Under each milestone I noted the various tasks involved.  As I figured out how long the entire project would take I took into account how many hours I’d have per week for writing, the amount of time my chair would need to read each chapter draft and provide me with feedback, the time I’d need to incorporate feedback into my manuscript, time for additional revisions, time for additional data analysis, time lost (over holidays, during periods when my extra work duties would prevent me from writing, etc.), and so on.  Not only did this project plan help me organize my attack on the dissertation, it also helped me devise a realistic and feasible idea of how long it would take me to complete it.  This gave me a lot of confidence in the project even before I started writing.  Although I didn’t use a formal template for my project plan, I think that these ones here look useful.
  3. Think small.  Remember that project plan?  I often wrote up mini plans for each academic quarter, each week, and sometimes each day.  It helped me tremendously to see my project as a large collection of many small, manageable tasks rather than one monumental job.  I never sat down at my computer and thought, “now I need to write a chapter.” Instead, I asked myself what little things I’d need to do to get that chapter done.  These would be things like:  organize my notes; read more sources on topic X; write up the chapter outline; write the first section of the chapter (as noted on my outline), made of paragraphs addressing a, b, and c.  Being able to focus on and complete these small components was also a confidence-booster.
  4. Be consistent. Once I had my plan I was very diligent about working regularly, even it if was only for a limited amount of time each day.  I quickly noticed that if I spent long periods of time away from my dissertation I lost touch – the gist of my arguments faded, my citations went stale, and I’d have to spend extra time re-familiarizing myself with my work.  By spending time with my project each day, it stayed fresh in my mind, and I could dive in much more easily.  I even went so far as to schedule writing times into my calendar.  Not only did this help me maintain a consistent working pace, but it also helped me allot priority to my writing time.
  5. Be accountable to someone. When you’re writing a dissertation there aren’t any external deadlines to follow.  Nobody breathes down your neck, telling you when to hand each piece in.  This may sound liberating, but for some it can actually slow or even halt productivity.  This is why I think it’s a great idea to be accountable to someone.  Remember that project plan?  Share it with someone – your chair, a fellow grad, a writing partner, a friend, a family member, a colleague.  Tell people when you are planning to have things done, and ask them to check in on you, even informally, to see that you’ve followed through.
  6. Get extra writing support.  It can be very beneficial to talk through your writing with someone, whether for feedback or simply a pep talk.   For these purposes, writing groups can be a great resource.  My impression is that writing groups are best when structured.  For more information see the Phinished website as well as this article written by Chris Golde.
  7. Choose your workplace strategically.  Think about where you can write productively, and under what conditions.  I know that I can’t write any old place – I need somewhere very quiet with minimal external distractions, so I make sure that I get to these places for my writing hours.
  8. Fight distraction.  Even in the quiet, semi-isolated places I search out for writing, I still find myself bombarded by distractions.  To fight temptation I keep my phone and sometimes even my wifi switched off.  I use a stopwatch and make myself write for blocks of 45-50 minutes before taking a little break.  I also keep a notepad and pen next to my computer, so that I can jot down any ideas and/or tasks not related to writing that suddenly pop into my head.  At the end of the day I allow myself to go back to that list and follow up on what I’ve noted down – half of which turns out not to be very important after all.  One of my colleagues goes so far as to maintain multiple desktops using Spaces (he’s a Mac user).  On his work desktop he has no access to his personal email account, no Internet browser, and no documents except those related to his project.
  9. Finally, keep on keeping on.  Every little bit of work that you do gets you that much closer to the goal.  At some point it’s more about stamina and determination than anything else.

I’ll finish with the best words of advice I got from my friends and colleagues when I announced that I was starting to write my dissertation.

Kate D. said:

This is the stage where I reminded myself that it’s not about being smart, it’s about the will to hit the next key.

ML said:

One page a day. That’s all you need to do. Once you’ve done that, amp it up to two. It’s like exercising. A marathon seems less impossible once you’ve managed a mile.

Dale C. said:

Remember that the best dissertation is a *done* dissertation.

And Tom G. said it best of all:

Fight that blank page. You can do it! Choose words. Make sentences. Build paragraphs. Construct chapters. It’s a sinch…it’s a cinche…it’s a singe… It’s easy.

A little motivation for daily writing

Posted: October 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: writing | Comments Off on A little motivation for daily writing

Part of any researcher’s work is writing — writing proposals, writing applications, writing reports, writing up findings, and so on.

The best advice I’ve ever had on writing is this:  Don’t put it off.  START NOW.  It’s never too early to begin drafting your work.  All the same, it can be a slog to set one’s mind to writing, and to accomplish one’s writing targets.  It’s something that you really need to get into the habit of, and that takes time, repetition, endurance, and determination.

I’ve recently begun to use an online tool that is helping me develop a writing habit.  It’s called 750 words, and it’s a site worth trying if you are interesting in getting motivated to write on a daily basis.

Here’s how it works.  You set up a profile on the site, and, at your request, the site will send you a daily reminder to log in and write.  The writing that you produce is private — nobody sees it but you. You are held accountable for writing 750 words or more a day.  When you meet that goal, you get various virtual high fives from the site.  After a certain number of days/words, you also begin to get little (virtual) badges.  You can also set up your own private goals and rewards for yourself.

There’s something very pleasant about seeing your daily goals met, and getting that instant recognition (of sorts) of the accomplishment.  If you simply need a bit of a prod to sit yourself down and get those words out of your head and onto your computer screen, then I highly recommend it.