Felicia Mensah is a Professor of Science and Education at Teachers College and the chair of the Department of Mathematics, Science & Technology. Dr. Mensah’s scholarly interests include social justice, identity, multicultural education, feminist poststructuralist analysis, qualitative research methods, and STEM education.
Dr. Mensah framed tonight's book talk as not only a book talk but a workshop as well. Her presentation was welcoming, informative, and constructive. During the book talk portion of the session, she gave an overview of her book and the three sections that make it whole. The first section of the book is about the process of writing, what to do, how to do it, and resources to help you. I found it rather helpful how Dr. Mensah includes workbooks and assignments that the readers can follow to guide them through the process. The middle section of the book is about her academic life. She also included personal pieces of herself in this section. She emphasized that one of her biggest goals for this book was to write it in a non-academic way, and to make it fun, light, and have part of her weaved into the text. Dr. Mensah wanted to make her book accessible to a larger audience and for readers from all types of writing backgrounds and stages of the process. The last section of the book focuses on writing for publication. In this section, she writes about what publications are looking for and how to get your writing accepted by publications.
During the workshop portion of the session, Dr. Mensah had her audience practice some of the assignments in her book. One of the assignments was looking through the Time Management Checklist. Dr. Mensah created a checklist which consist of sixteen statements which related to time management, for example, "I start my day early," "I prioritize my tasks," "I use calendars or daily planners." The more check marks you had the better you were at managing your time. The less check marks you had the more time managed you. She also discussed her four Scholar Actions for productivity. First, prioritize your writing. Just as one prioritizes a doctors appointment, you should prioritize your writng in the same light. Dr. Mensah makes writing appointments for herself twice a week for two hours! One point that she made that I found important to note was how there are many aspects of the writing process (researching citation, collecting your thoughts on paper, oranizing your writing) that you can do during this time. Second, develop your process, to write you have to physically write (or in some cases speak what you're writing), but overall you have to put your thoughts to paper. Everyone has a different process (some like to take notes before formally writing, other like to write their thoughts out and go back to edit afterwards), the only way you can discover your process is by writing and trying different methods to see what works for you. Third, set goals and deadlines for yourself and your projects. Always set goals ahead of time before it's actually due. Life happens. You need to know how to focus during the time that you allocate for yourself and manage your priorities. Lastly, keep track of your thinking and writing. Whether you prefer voice notes or writing your thoughts/ideas in a journal, write down your ideas. You can't keep all of your thoughts in your head all the time, there's just not enough room. Dr. Mensah suggests writing thoughts about your writing down, so then you can see patterns in your thinking which can highlight the way you're thinking about your topic and can take you in a certain direction.
When it comes to writing through the lens of a researcher, the question words (who, what, when, where, why, and how) are your favorite. Where are your questions coming from? Dr. Mensah had the audience think about their research topic and gave five minutes of free flow where they were tasked to write down nothing but questions they had about their research topic. After this activity, the writer will be able to see themes in their questions. By looking at all the questions you accumulate, the underlying question will be your research question. If you are unfamiliar with research questions or overarching questions, Dr. Mensah suggests looking at published work or looking at articles that you are using in your classes to see how other scholars are questioning and how specific are the questions. You can also look in literature!
The final section of the book and the book talk was titled celebrate. Celebrate all of your accomplishes! celebrate the small and big moments. Whatever you accomplish celebrate and it will encourage you in your writing process and your writing ability. Take a moment to acknowledge what you’ve done and keep going.
Dr. Mensah's book Like Words Falling onto the Page: Demystifying the Academic Writing and Publishing Process is 20% off this week! Her book can be purchased on Amazon (paperback) and kindle.