Truth in Society

November 24, 1994

Prompt #41

Some suggestions about collaboration

In the prompt for Tuesday we advised you to begin thinking about what work needed to be done in order to prepare a completed text by the 29th, and how to divvy up that work. Since you may well have already done this, what you read here may prove redundant. In that case simply disregard it. If, on the other hand, your focus group has not begun to consider the kinds of tasks necessary for publishing a text, these suggestions may be useful.

Any sustained piece of academic writing needs to have:

In addition, any piece of writing undergoes intense copy editing so that readers who are so distracted by misspellings and funky grammar that they can't read to understand, will be able to read and understand what the authors want to convey. Copy editing also includes making sure that there's a list of contents with accurate page numbers, and that authors' names are correctly listed. Checking for typos and formatting the text still require careful attention (but infinitely less time and effort than in the pre-computer era).

Since not everyone in the focus group can work on every task, we suggest you consider forming ad hoc committees to deal with the ones your group still has to accomplish by Tuesday. Thus, for example, an intro committee might take on the task of drafting and re-drafting the introduction, consulting with the whole group with each revision.

Similarly, a conclusion committee might conduct an inkshedding session on conclusions about truth and how people come to believe what they believe. Perhaps a better way to do it would be to have all members of the focus group participate in intensive inkshedding, reflecting on the whole text to see what conclusions about belief can be drawn. Then these inksheds could be handed over to the conclusion committee, which would work them into drafts and revised drafts of the conclusion, returning periodically to the whole group for feedback and advice.

Our general suggestion should be clear by now: as the push to publish gets intense, it is essential that your focus group carefully identifies the various tasks that need to be completed, and that everyone explicitly agree on a division of labour that is both efficient and equitable.

Reflecting on the acknowledgements

One of the things we hoped to achieve by doing the colleague acknowledgement process in November as well as at the end of both terms was to help people reflect on what a useful acknowledgement is. We saw a lot of them as we sorted, edited, assessed and distributed them; we hope you saw at least a few, too.

To help make this a learning experience for everybody, please go through the acknowledgements of your work and pick out the one (or two, if you must) which you consider to be the most helpful to you -- the one that told you the most about what you were doing or weren't doing, that will make the most difference to what you do in the rest of the year. If you didn't get any that you consider really helpful, pick the best of those you did. Then send it to TRUTHFAC with a note saying why you think your choice is an example of an acknowledgement we could print out as one of a set of examples of good ones (we'll edit them so they're anonymous). Explain what made the acknowledgement particularly helpful for you.

Here's how to do that. (Take this sheet with you to the lab when you do it. You may already know a way to do this, but this one is the simplest we're aware of.)

  1. From the Main Menu choose Mail.
  2. Browse your already-read messages until you find one with the subject line "November evaluations, phase one."
  3. Highlight it and press {enter} to read it.
  4. From within the message press {R} to reply and make sure that there is a Y after the first line in the box that opens up, the one that says "Include message: [Y]"
  5. Change the To: line from parkhill to TRUTHFAC; in the subject line put "Good one."
  6. Delete most of the message, leaving only the acknowledgement(s) that you consider really helpful. (You can delete a whole line by pressing {ctrl}{Y}), and/or you can delete whole blocks by marking them using {ctrl}{K}{ctrl}{B}, the up or down arrow keys and the Del key. [{ctrl}{K}{ctrl}{B} means {ctrl}{K} first, then {ctrl}{B}])
  7. Add your note saying why your choice is an example of a helpful acknowledgement which should be printed.
  8. Send the message as usual.

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