Saturday, November 30, 2013

Six Differences Between Thesis and Book Chapters

text books
Text books (Photo credit: Simon Shek)
by , Patter:

This post is in response to a question about chapters in books and dissertations. I do try to answer questions, although it sometimes takes a while!

There ARE some key differences between a thesis and a book chapter - here are six of the most important.

(1) The reader

The thesis chapter reader is the examiner, while the book chapter reader is someone who has either picked up and is browsing, or has bought or borrowed, an edited collection because they are generally interested in the topic.

While you can rely on the thesis examiner to read the whole chapter, you have no such luxury with a book chapter reader - you must hold their interest from start to finish.

The examiner has particular expectations about chapters and their form, while book chapter readers do not necessarily have firm ideas about what they will encounter. I explain this difference through the next five points.

(2) The point and the angle

Thesis chapters often deal with more than one big idea at a time. However, like a journal article, a book chapter generally deals with only one big idea and has one major point to make. Readers of book chapters will not know what you are trying to say if you try to say too much.

And again like a journal article, the book chapter must have a slant that is potentially new, different, interesting. This is not the case with thesis chapters.

An empirical thesis chapter for example might end up reporting much the same set of results as can be found in other people’s work, but this doesn’t matter in the overall scale of the thesis because more interesting material is found elsewhere.

But it’s good to remember that the thesis chapter with the familiar material may well be able to be reworked for a book chapter if you simply take another angle … but keep reading for the caveats about doing this.

(3) The place in the text

The thesis chapter is not stand-alone; it can rely on work done in other chapters to make sense of the context.

Depending on what the thesis chapter is about, it might depend on other chapters to locate the topic in the literatures, and establish the trustworthiness of the process used to generate the chapter material. The book chapter must do all of this work itself.

Just as with a journal article, the book chapter has to situate the topic in a way that will connect with a reader no matter where they are in the world.

The book chapter writer must also establish the topic’s location in the relevant policy/ practice/ debates/ literatures (which ever is most relevant to the book) and say something about the basis on which the writer makes a claim for ‘truth’ for the argument. Then they can get on with the chapter argument proper.

(4) The connection with other chapters

Thesis chapters typically have extensive signposting at the beginning and end which signal how the self-contained internal chapter argument connects with the longer larger argument being made in the whole text.

The examiner is set up, in the introduction, to understand how each chapter advances the argument overall, and what they will find as the writing proceeds. At the end, they are reminded of the key points of the chapter and given some indication of where the text goes next.

The book chapter on the other hand has none of this to deal with. The writer is free to make their own connections to the overall focus of the collection, and while you may refer to other chapters, your chapter is intended to stand on its own merits.

It is worth remembering that book chapters are often used for teaching purposes, and thus you can anticipate and answer the usual questions that readers will have - why this topic, what is it relevance, where does it come from, where is the argument going, so what?

(5) The length

Now this might seem like a trivial thing, but it is actually very important. Typical thesis chapters are 10-12,000 words long. Book chapters can be quite short - say 5,000 words - and are rarely much more than 8,000.

Given that there is additional work to do in a book chapter (see 4 above) this means that there is much less in your word budget to use to make the point.

It is thus important, no crucial, for you to plan the book chapter very carefully, choose examples judiciously, use quotes only where necessary, cite economically and above all else - don’t try to do too much.

And don’t forget, it might seem logical that a thesis chapter can be simply converted into a book chapter, but the length issue alone means this isn’t so. Just trying to reduce a thesis chapter to book length is rather like trying to jam a week’s clothes into an overnight bag … it doesn’t fit.

(6) Conventions about tone, style and genre

While it is not uncommon for thesis writers to use non-standard forms of academic writing - autobiography, interview, extensive use of images, fiction and poetry - these are much more common in book chapters.

In a thesis the writer has to explain and justify - generally quite extensively - the use of a more creative approach. However, quite often book chapters can just BE in a different genre, or provide a very brief orienting explanation of the style for the reader.

Editors often appreciate the variety that is offered in a collection by having one or two chapters that ‘break the mold’; it makes it more interesting overall for readers. This is why book chapters can offer the opportunity to try out new approaches, to experiment with ‘voice’ and to write about topics that don’t fit into the thesis very neatly.

So, six reasons why the book chapter is not the same as the thesis chapter.

It might seem reasonable to think that chapters from the thesis can be effortlessly turned into book chapters, but this is not necessarily the case.

Good book chapter writers very often take a part of a thesis chapter as their raw material and then do a fresh version - or at the very least, a very substantial rewrite.
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Friday, November 29, 2013

Deep Web Research For Politics and Social Sciences

Info Iceberg
Info Iceberg (Photo: Eleni Zazani)
by Akash Goreeba

Many of you may have already heard of the ''Deep Web'' or the so called ''Invisible Web'' and whilst it is quick and easy to log on to popular search engines to research information online, the deep web offers results that popular search engines do not index.

Researching the deep web does not have to be an arduous endeavour and can provide researchers with a host of information that may have otherwise been left undiscovered.

To make the most of the deep web, a few steps must be taken to ensure an effective search that will provide clear and accurate results.

Search term

What 'exactly' are you searching for? Do not settle on one search term, create a list and look at synonyms. Question your search term, a search for ''The Communist Manifesto'' will retrieve a plethora of results.

Ask yourself ''what exactly am I looking for?'', the original publication? (include dates e.g. 1848), a draft? (e.g. Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith). What else relates to your search? (Bourgeois and proletarians, class struggle).

Type of data

What type of data are you looking for?
Data (numerical).
Library materials/Texts.
Research results.


Adding extensions may help to narrow your search by limiting results to specified file types. For example, adding .ppt .pdf or .jpg to your search.

Where to search

There are a number of search engines which allow users to search the deep web depending on the type of information you are searching for. Search Google (or other search engine) for links to websites listed:

1. Infomine:

Infomine was built by a pool of United States universities. It allows users to search for journals and articles by field. Particularly useful, is the social sciences and humanities section which allows users to search for material by subject, author, title and keywords. It also allows users to limit search results to free or fee based material.

2. Infoplease

Infoplease allows users to search through a host of encyclopaedias, almanacs and biographies. It is primarily focused towards the USA.

3. Internet Archive

The internet archive offers a search engine built around a vast internet library. It allows users to search specifically for texts from sources like American libraries, universal libraries or ''Project Gutenberg'' (a digitised collection of over 42,000 free ebooks, including many political works).

Waybackmachine; The internet archive also allows use of the ''WayBackMachine'', an archive of cached pages that are no longer visible on the internet. Providing that users know the full URL of the website they are trying to reach, cached copies of deleted pages may be available.

4. Jurn:

Jurn is a very good search engine that indexes over 4000 free academic journal articles. Jurn is particularly useful for searching for articles in the field of humanities and social sciences.

5. Google Scholar (search for Google scholar)

Google scholar is great for searching through a fairly broad range of academic literature. Academic articles, abstracts and books are all available to search. In general, Google has a vast array of books available online, some are paid, some are free and many have chapters which are free to preview.

Specifying your search

This section relates to research via the deep web as well as popular search engines. A large amount of research is available from academic institutions and websites. To access this information, specifying your sources will retrieve the best results.

.edu and

It makes sense that a number of academic articles and journals can be found on the servers of universities and academic institutions.

By specifying search locations users can retrieve material from specific types of servers. This is easily accomplished by adding an extension to your search and does not require the use of specialist search engines.

To search .edu or websites, use the site command available from most popular search engines. For example, to search .edu websites only, type "site: edu" (without the quotation marks). For sites, simply add the site extension to your search e.g. ''site:".

Article Source:

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Back to the Drawing Board on Gonski: No Logic in Abandoning School Reforms

Gonski infographic
Gonski infographic (Photo credit: Greens MPs)
by Emma Rowe, Monash University

Education minister Christopher Pyne says it’s necessary to go “back to the drawing board” on schools funding and abandon the previous government’s funding reforms - commonly known as the Gonski model.

After calling the Gonski model “unimplementable”, Pyne said that by the end of next year, the Coalition will develop a new funding model.

It is unclear what this “flatter, simpler, fairer” policy Pyne is advocating will really look like.

Yesterday, he ruled out a return to the Howard SES model but in previous interviews, he has remained ambiguous.

There certainly were flaws in the Labor government’s interpretation of the Gonski review’s recommendations, including the way it distributed funds and sourcing the money from the higher education sector.

But Minister Pyne, before we go “back to the drawing board”, let’s have another look at why the Gonski Review was initiated and why we allegedly need further debate on funding models.

Why was the Gonski Review initiated?

The Gonski Review cost taxpayers thousands of dollars, consisted of six expert panelists, met with hundreds of professionals and stakeholders, and compiled more than 7000 written submissions from the public.

The review came about because ever since the existing funding model was introduced by the Howard government in 2001, known as the socio-economic status (SES) model, a large volume of peer-reviewed academic research concluded that the funding model was “unhelpfully complex and exceedingly opaque”.

The socio-economic status (SES) model funds schools within the private sector. A large part of this funding is based on the number of enrolments within a school. Or in other words, cash for customers.

Schools also receive money as based on their socio-economic status (SES) score. This “score” measures the cohort of students, not the individual, and bases a score on the residential address of the cohort.

As Gonski panelist Kathryn Greiner commented, this score lacks accurate data and leads to inefficient funding.

There are three different streams of funding within this SES model and it is almost impossible to tell where funds are coming from or going to.

Hence, one of the primary aims of the Gonski Review is to achieve transparency of funding. This cannot be understated. Surely, we want to know where our taxpayer dollars are going?

Due to recurrent grants based on average cost measurements and confusing indexation arrangements, it is not always clear which level of government is providing funding.

Indeed, our current funding system completely lacks coordination and this leads to a duplication of funding efforts. In other words, some get more, some get less.

This matters because Australia is not hitting the A grade when it comes to educational achievement. The global ranking system - the Programme for International Student Assessment - shows that Australia has recorded consistent declines in educational achievement for the last ten years.

The gap between our high and low achievers is increasing. What’s more, Australia demonstrates a stronger relationship, when compared with our OECD neighbours, between educational achievement levels and socio-economic status.

Funding advantage, not disadvantage

This is the primary point to consider when thinking about our current funding model and comparing it to the proposed funding model. Currently, Australia spends more on advantage and less on disadvantage.

In comparison to other OECD countries, Australia spends above-average on private schools, meaning the Independent and Catholic sector.

Australia also spends less taxpayer dollars on public schools in comparison to what the average OECD country spends, even though this is where you’ll find most of the disadvantaged students.

There is no other country in the OECD world that funds independent schools as favourably as Australia does. The majority of OECD countries retain an independent sector that is truly “independent”.

Our independent school is government-dependent, in that it garners almost half of its net-recurrent income from taxpayer subsidies - 45% in total.

The Gonski model

Of course, the Gonski funding model is contentious. It proposes to attribute more money to where it is needed. It adds funding loads to individuals with a disability or students who live in a remote area, possess lower English language proficiency, amongst others.

The Independent school sector feels threatened by the proposed model and are scared of losing funding (which increased under the Howard SES model).

The Abbott government has absolutely no interest or intention in modifying the current funding system. Previously, Abbott declared that the Gonski reforms were unnecessary, as there is nothing fundamentally wrong with our funding system.

They will continue to delay the Gonski funding for as long as they can, and Minister Pyne will continue to claim outlandish claims, entirely lacking in research-based evidence.

They will do whatever they can to delay and disrupt the Gonski funding model. Their purpose is to increase the scope of education privatisation and the Gonski funding model will do the opposite.

Keeping in mind that the most successful systems are those that “combine quality with equity”, we need to ask ourselves, which model is fair and equitable?

If the government doesn’t acknowledge the underlying problems that the Gonski model sought to address, it’s hard to see how a fairer system can develop.

Emma Rowe does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.
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Thesis Writing: The Paradox of Same, Same but Different

The cover page to Søren Kierkegaard's universi...
Søren Kierkegaard's thesis (Wikipedia)
by Deborah Laurs, Doctoral Writing:

Irrespective of institution, the definition of a PhD is universally recognised as ‘a body of independent and original research,’ generally evidenced by a dissertation of ‘up to 100,000 words’.

Hence, while the research is original, the form in which it is presented is, inevitably, a ‘cookie-cutter one-size-for-all approach’.

Any Google search of ‘thesis structure’ pulls up the same ingredients - Introduction, Lit Review, Methodology/ Research Design, Findings, Discussion, Conclusion.

Doctoral writing, then, by and large, entails a process of presenting original ideas in a markedly unoriginal form.

Sure, the actual packaging may differ, depending on whether you’re within the Humanities, Sciences, or creative arts, but the basic ingredients, and - more importantly - the expectations of your audience (read: ‘examiners’) are identical.

Even though Hugh Kearns succinctly summarises the thesis chapters as ‘what I know,’ ‘what I’ve read,’ ‘what I did,’ ‘what I’ve found’ and ‘what I reckon,’ it may be difficult for students to sustain confidence in the merits of their research and writing abilities when surrounded by exemplars that are ‘same, same but different’.

‘How to write’ handbooks offer firm guidelines about the requisite ingredients and ‘moves’ each section of the thesis requires in order to lead the reader (the not so gentle examiner) logically through to the conclusion.

Yet, frequently, issues associated with attempting to reproduce an original version of a pre-ordained format crop up in the very first tasks, typically the Literature Review and Methodology chapters.

Clearly, surveying the existing body of knowledge is crucial in order to justify the ‘gap’ that the student’s original research seeks to fill.

However, the task in itself is highly formulaic, requiring students to appraise a body of knowledge that every other scholar in the field has already reviewed, but to do so from the fresh and unique perspective of how it relates to their own research.

Similarly (particularly in the social sciences) a student must establish her ontological and epistemological positioning, rejecting (or espousing) assorted research paradigms in the process.

This intellectual journey is likely to result in writing that closely mirrors the writings of the likes of John Cresswell or Yvonna  Lincoln and Norman Denzin, and takes on different voices, usually awkwardly, like an unconvincing ventriloquist.

It is very difficult for emerging researchers to find their own authoritative voice in their writing.

The imitative nature of these tasks is exemplified by the existence of resources such as ‘academic phrase banks’, which contain pre-packaged expressions such as ‘It was decided that the best method to adopt for this investigation was to ….’ or  ‘Previous research tended to suffer from limitations/ weaknesses/ disadvantages/ drawbacks [take your pick] such as …’.

Although undoubtedly a useful tool, such templates reduce the thesis to the equivalent of a cloze test, with students needing only to ‘fill-in-the-blanks’ appropriate to the discipline.

As novice thesis writers put their literature reviews together, it’s no wonder that first drafts of lit reviews more often resemble summaries of ‘what I’ve read’ than ‘what these works mean to me’ and research design chapters sound unconvincingly stilted.

In many cases the plethora of voices - and jargon - within the literature overwhelms the student entirely, further exacerbating the paradoxical expectation that their writing demonstrates original thought.

Similarly, the spectre of plagiarism looms large. Early attempts to assimilate other people’s ideas and a sense of being overwhelmed often result in the student not daring to claim any ideas as her own.

Prefacing each sentence with ‘According to …’ or ‘Research by …’, or over-reliance on quotations may seem the only safe way to demonstrate sources have been correctly acknowledged. Often first drafts are overly tentative.

Paraphrasing and synthesis are higher order cognitive skills, requiring a thorough understanding of the concept.

For many students, this understanding may not transpire until well into the analysis stage, several years hence, which frequently necessitates an associated overhaul of the initial ‘kitchen-sink’ lit review chapter.

Setting novice writers a largely formulaic task with the aim of producing original thought requires careful scaffolding.

Original writing requires original thinking, which in itself requires considerable confidence and a clear sense of direction, preparatory to entering into conversation with the biggest names in the field.

As with all writing matters, the main solution is talking - with one’s supervisor, fellow students; even better, talk with family and friends as far removed from the project as possible in order to help the student find her own voice because outsiders will have respect for her expertise compared to their own.

But I wonder if others have ways of dealing with the writing tension underpinning the ‘same, same but different’ genre of the thesis.

Deborah Laurs is a senior learning advisor at Victoria, University of Wellington, New Zealand, where she runs research skills seminars and thesis-writing workshops, as well providing one-to-one support to students at all stages of their doctoral journey.

In 2010, she was recognized as ‘most influential staff member’ by her university’s postgraduate students’ association, and in 2011, received a  ‘staff excellence’ award. She is co-author of Developing Generic Support for Doctoral Students (in press, due April 2014), Routledge.
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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Curriculum & Resources: The No Impact Project

No Impact Man
No Impact Man (Photo: Wikipedia)
by Yes! magazine:

For the past four years, No Impact Man, Colin Beavan, and his family have inspired a nation to swap their old consumer habits for new environmentally-friendly ones.

The No Impact Project believes that deep-seated behavioral change leads to both cultural change and political engagement.

Success for NIP means engaging people who are not already “tree-hugging, bicycle-riding, canvas bag-toting eco-warriors” to adopt lifestyle changes that have a positive impact on the planet and simply make them happier and more satisfied.

No Impact Curriculum

The No Impact Curriculum includes five stand-alone 50-minute lessons on consumption, energy, transportation, water, and food. These lessons are a terrific combination of compelling information and positive action.

Each lesson explores the effects your students’ everyday behavior has on the environment, their health, and their well-being.

The curriculum also challenges them to think about how the systems in our present society influence our lifestyle choices in ways that often are not good for the environment.

Though the lessons are free, you will need to register in order to access them on the No Impact Project site. YES! For Teachers does its best to provide educators with easily accessible teaching tools.

EXPLORE: No Impact Curriculum

No Impact Project Banner

No Impact Experiment

The No Impact Experiment is about what you get, not what you give up: a happier you that will make a happier planet.

For one week, beginning and ending on a Sunday, your eco-conscience will be heightened by altering your energy usage, water usage, and food habits. It’s not about feeling guilty or deprived, but about making change your way, no matter how big or small.

Once you sign up you will receive a user-friendly How-To Manual. Read the No Impact Experiment frequently asked questions for more information and inspiration. NOTE: There is a small fee to register. Fee reductions available.

EXPLORE: No Impact Experiment

YES! Archive

The above resource accompanies the November 2013 Education Connection Newsletter.

READ NEWSLETTER: "Story of Stuff" Resources :: 20 Ways to Express Gratitude
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Government Dodges Schools Funding Guarantee

Road to 2015: Sturt 7
Christopher Pyne (Photo credit: Make Poverty History Australia)
by David Barber, 21st Century News:

The coalition won’t guarantee that no state or school will be worse off when its new education funding model is released next year.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne sparked outrage from the states, territories and the federal opposition when he announced on Tuesday the funding and reform package set up by Labor would only apply in 2014 and a new scheme would be negotiated for 2015.

The so-called Gonski scheme had become a “shambles”, did not involve every state and funding had too many strings attached to be effective, Mr Pyne said.

Faced with accusations of a breach of trust, Mr Pyne moved to play down concerns on Wednesday.
“Nobody should assume that they will get less money over the forward estimates, which is exactly the promise that we took to the election,” he said.

However, when asked if he could guarantee no signatory state would be worse off, Mr Pyne replied: “Well, those details will be released when the new school funding model is released early next year.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott echoed Mr Pyne.

Before the September election, Mr Abbott said the coalition would “match the offers that Labor has made. We will make sure that no school is worse off”.

However, when asked on Wednesday if he could guarantee no individual school would be worse off, Mr Abbott said: “No. What we’re saying is we will absolutely honour our pre-election commitment.

“And our pre-election commitment was that there will be exactly the same quantum of funding under the coalition as under the Labor party.”

Federal Labor frontbencher Jason Clare said the government had broken an election promise. “There’s a reason why everyone is calling Christopher Pyne `Pyn-occhio’ today, and that’s because he is lying to the Australian people,” Mr Clare said.

The former Labor government secured the backing of NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT, as well as independent and Catholic schools earlier this year for the new funding model based on student needs.

The current government is arguing that because Labor returned to general revenue some funding earmarked for the states that did not sign up, the amount now available had been cut by $1.2 billion.

Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory did not sign up, but the Abbott government says it will claw back an extra $230 million for their schools for 2014.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said his state had secured $130 million next year. “We now need to work with them to establish what funding will be available in subsequent years,” he said.

SA Premier and Treasurer Jay Weatherill said discussions about school funding during a treasurers’ meeting on Wednesday were deferred to Mr Pyne.

“(Federal Treasurer Joe) Hockey was very keen to handball that back to Christopher Pyne and I think he wishes him all the best at his education ministers’ meeting coming up later this week,” Mr Weatherill said.

Mr Pyne said he was looking forward to the meeting. “I’m not intimidated because we’re all friends and we’re all trying to achieve the same outcome,” he said.

Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said in the space of 10 days Mr Pyne had gone from fully committed to Gonski to calling it an absolute shambles. “This is policy making on the run of the very worst kind,” he said.
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Inspiring Prose in Academic Writing?!

English: Statue of David Hume in Edinburgh, Sc...
Statue of David Hume in Edinburgh (Wikipedia)
by Rachael Cayley, Explorations of Style:

In a recent workshop, a student objected to my approach to academic writing on the grounds that I was neglecting the role of great writers as a source of inspiration.

I admit that I was initially unsure how to respond to this critique.

While I absolutely find good writing to be inspirational, I’m not sure how widespread that sentiment is among academic writers.

In other words, it’s one of those ideas about the writing process that I generally leave out for fear of seeming flaky.

I’ve talked on the blog before about my enthusiasm for writing and the way I try to temper my own inclinations with a more sober approach in order to reach a wider range of writers, many of whom don’t feel overwhelmed by a love of writing.

But this question made me wonder if I was doing some students a disservice by underselling this source of inspiration.

After all, in academic writing, we can all stand to find more sources of inspiration. Most of the time, we are either just plain uninspired or, on a good day, inspired by new ideas about our content.

Often this inspiration comes from a great lecture, a meeting with a committee member, a conversation with a peer, or an unexpected article.

It can also come from those amazing moments (usually in the shower or on the subway or at a yoga class when our mind is otherwise engaged) when we suddenly see things differently:

‘A is actually more like Z than like B.’
‘What if I put B before C and then divided D into a series of examples?’
‘I’ve been using X as the way into this issue, but I may wish to use Y as the way in, leaving more time for Z’.

These moments of inspiration - if we don’t forget them before managing to write them down - are invaluable.

But what about the inspiration that simply comes from experiencing great prose? Such writing can inspire us, just by being an example of how good writing can be.

If you are attuned to good writing, you will see it in all sorts of places: unexpected little gems that make you stop and think about the expert or felicitous construction rather than the ideas.

Pausing to be aware of those moments is a good idea. Why not catch academic writing being good?

All the negativity about academic writing starts to make it seem as though it’s a thoroughly flawed enterprise, rather than an intrinsically challenging activity.

I’m not saying that academic writing doesn’t often end up as flat and lifeless as its critics suggest. But that absence of vitality is neither inevitable nor universal. Observing the good bits shows us that we can’t let ourselves off the hook; stultifying prose is never a necessity.

It can, however, be a natural outcome of inexperienced writers tackling topics that resist coherence. Observing good writing reminds us that we need to keep striving towards the reachable goal of lively and engaging prose.

Observing good writing can also inspire us more directly to start to write. In this case, we are not necessarily writing because we need say something in particular, but rather because of the pure creative pleasure of putting words together.

My favourite source for such inspiration is the philosopher David Hume. Although my philosophy days are long behind me - maybe this blog needs its own version of an ‘I quit’ post - I have never lost my love of the subject of my dissertation. Take this famous sentence, for instance:

Disputes are multiplied, as if every thing was uncertain; and these disputes are managed with the greatest warmth, as if every thing was certain (Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, Introduction).

In addition to its evident - and apparently timeless - wisdom, the sentence itself is lovely: the repetition of disputes and of as if every thing; the use of uncertain and certain as a contrasting pair; the similar sound of multiplied and managed; and the semicolon to act as a hinge between the two halves of the comparison.

But the specifics of this beautiful sentence aren’t really the point (and your source of inspiring prose may well be something other than an 18th century Scot).

The point is that beautiful writing can give us itchy fingers, make us want to create that sort of elegant, proportional text for ourselves, even when we’re not exactly sure what we want to say.

Since writing is often the one thing that can help us figure out what we want to say, writing for its own sake can be very beneficial. Anything that inspires us to write has to be a good thing, this month or any month.
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

GAMSAT Essay Preparation

110711-O-ZZ999-024 (Photo credit: Royal Australian Navy)
by Michael Joseph Johnson

For those who are interested in working in one of the medical schools in the area, you need to start your GAMSAT preparation because this is an exam that determines if you will be able to study to become a doctor or not.

The exam has three major sections and one of the areas that most students have problems with is writing essays. This is part of the Written Communication section of the exam. The section includes two essays and each of them is supposed to be written in half an hour.

The one hour that is provided for this section can appear to be very limited for some people but it is possible to write two great essays within this period.

During your GAMSAT preparation, you need to practice on how to come up with two coherent essays in the allotted hour. A lot of practice is required to come up with an essay that stands out.

To write an essay that stands out, you need to start working on the structure. This means that your ideas need to be broken down. The structure should include an introduction, body and then conclusion. Once you have outlined your structure, it is easy for you to know where each idea will be placed.

In the exam, students are provided with quotes to respond to. This means that you should read the quotes carefully to determine what you will base your argument on.

During your GAMSAT preparation, you need to know how to come up with strong arguments when you are writing your essay. Weak arguments will not earn you the kind of marks that are required to get into medical school.

In academic essays, strong one-way argumentation is usually discouraged but when it comes to this type of exam, you need to support your views with a very strong argument.

Make sure you have a well laid out plan before you begin to write the essay. This will make it more coherent.

At the beginning of the essay, you should state your position very clearly in response to the statement. The introduction is very important because this is what determines if someone will continue to read it or not. It may also be effective to include some news about an event that has taken place recently when you are writing your essay introduction.

GAMSAT prep includes practicing various essay writing styles. Just use the provided link to learn more about how to write a great essay during your GAMSAT prep.

Article Source:

If you are after a GAMSAT essay writing tutor, look no further than Dr Robert Muller at: Robert works with people all over the globe in preparation for the Australian and UK GAMSAT exams via Skype and email.

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We Cannot Afford to Get Science Education Wrong

Young women participate in a conference at the...
Young women at science conference in Argonne (Wikipedia)
by John Holman, University of York

Science gives young people the tools to understand the world around us and the ability to engage with contemporary and future issues, such as medical advances and climate change.

That is why science should be taught to students up until the age of 16.

However, Ofsted’s recent report on the state of school science reports worrying trends in the way science is being taught.

A particular worry is the status of practical science in our schools. Studying science without experiments is like studying literature without books.

Experiments are an inherent part of science and are vital for further study and employment. They bring theory to life, nurturing pupils' natural curiosity, teaching them to ask questions and helping them to understand phenomena such as magnetism, acidity and cell division.

Practical work gives them valuable skills and abilities, such as precise measurement and careful observation.

Ofsted reports the ways in which the best schools use practical investigation to teach and inspire students.

However the report also found that many schools provide pupils with “limited opportunities to work independently, particularly to develop their individual manipulative skills in practical work” and that many practical skills are “underdeveloped”.

It is worrying then that Ofqual, the independent regulator of examinations and qualifications, has proposed that in the future, practical assessment will not form a part of students’ A Level science grades.

Ofsted and Ofqual have both reported that assessment criteria strongly dictate what is taught in schools. If practical skills do not count towards A Level grades, there is a real danger that schools and colleges will give students even fewer practical experiences than they have now.

Declining standards

Universities and employers are concerned. Recent research from the Gatsby Foundation found that 57% of university science staff surveyed believed that practical skills of new undergraduates had declined in the past five years.

This is a large proportion - nearly twice the proportion who felt that scientific knowledge had declined. Many said that they assume that undergraduates will come in with little or no practical skill, and need to be trained accordingly.

Ofsted’s survey also notes that science is a declining priority in English primary schools, with nearly half of those visited not setting targets or monitoring pupils' performance in science.

The findings suggest that many primary school teachers are failing to recognise science as a core subject alongside English and mathematics.

There are some positives. Ofsted notes that the best science teaching is driven by skilled leaders who set out to sustain young people’s natural curiosity.

According to the Wellcome Trust Monitor, an independent nationwide survey the most commonly selected factor that 14- to 18-year-olds identified as having encouraged them to learn science was “having a good teacher” (58%), and the most commonly selected factor for discouraging them from learning science was “having a bad teacher” (43%).

That is why I fully support Ofsted’s recommendation that school leaders should ensure science-focused development of teachers.

Initiatives like the Primary Science Quality Mark and National Science Learning Centre are helping to develop and celebrate the quality of science teaching and learning in schools. They must be encouraged, but the report shows that much more needs to be done.

The future of science depends on the quality of science education today, and we cannot afford to get it wrong.

John Holman is Senior Education Adviser to The Wellcome Trust and former Director of the National Science Learning Centre.
The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.
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10 Top Tips on How to Succeed in Interdisciplinary Research

Interdisciplinarity (Photo credit: romaryka)
by , Prof Serious:

Here are the @profserious tips for success in interdisciplinary research. I have done quite a bit of this, most recently in systems biology, whether successful or not, you can judge.

In any event, many of these tips are derived from observing and discussing successful interdisciplinary collaborations with my cleverer colleagues.

- Confront your fears, of mathematics, chemistry, whatever. In particular expect to feel, and occasionally look, foolish, just do not worry about it. Ask 'dumb' questions and expect them to be just that, dumb.

- Be prepared to see the odd, ridiculous or absurd sides of your own subject and to laugh at them.

- Accept that interdisciplinary collaboration has a high up-front cost and that pay back is not either immediate or even sometimes immediately evident. Do not be a tart, make a few relationships and work at them.

- Start talking about outcomes, specifically publication venues, norms and expectations, at the outset of an interdisciplinary collaboration.

- Question methodologies. Do not casually assume that differences in approach arise either for good reason or alternatively for no reason.

- Build trust, be prepared to show your skills, make yourself useful. Be ready to teach, patiently and supportively.

- Be conscious that different subjects have different 'timelines' (and particularly when working across modelling and experimental subjects). Discuss this and what it might mean for the way the work is organised.

- Build new networks, go to different conferences, expect to spend time feeling socially awkward. Leave your office, abandon the typical physical setting of your work. Drink lots of coffee. 

- Do it because you are drawn to it, intellectually compelled, not because it is a fashionable demand of funders.

- Sharpen your research with a real problem. Good work will probably not emerge from an ungrounded common room discussion that, however stimulating, is not ultimately focused, perhaps initially over-focused.
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A Decision-Making Process Every Student Can Use

Think (
by Dr Bruce Johnson

Almost every action taken by a student is the result of a decision.

Some decisions are made quickly, others are a reactive response, and some decisions are complex and require purposeful thought.

Every aspect of a student's progress in class is also the result of a decision.

Students decide what their involvement in class will be, the amount of time they will allocate for their studies, and how much effort they will put into their academic skill set development - and the result will be their grades and progress in class.

The outcome of these decisions may produce a result that was hoped for, where everything went according to plan, or the result may have been less than what was expected. If you want a better outcome, you need to make well-informed decisions through a focused decision-making process.

Break It Down

Many students approach their work, which includes assignments and class discussions, from a reactive perspective. This means that they begin crafting their response or paper as soon as the instructions have been read, and it is based upon their knowledge and/or opinions. But that is only a starting point.

When you decide to make an intentional decision about your school work or participation, you have to consider if there are any internal filters such as biases or beliefs that can influence your perspective.

You should also consider if you are having an emotional reaction to what you have read or observed as that can also influence any decision you are going to make and any action that will be taken.

In addition, you may want to consider the result of prior decisions made and break down the steps that were taken.

Build from Your Foundation

If you have decided to make better decisions for any aspect of your school work, start by writing down what it is you need to address. Try to determine what the real issue is and the result you hope to accomplish.

For example, if you have a written assignment that is due and your past performance has not been its best, start by conducting a self-assessment.

Take into consideration what you are expected to demonstrate with this assignment, your current level of knowledge about the topic, and the skill sets that will be required to complete it.

From that point you can then make a decision about the amount of time this assignment will require, the need for additional research, and the academic skill sets that will be needed.

As you build from your foundation do so from a positive perspective and remember that you always have an ability to make better decisions.

Intentional Processing

Making a well-informed decision is an ongoing process. As you consider perceptual filters and internal factors that may influence how you approach the decision-making process, you can also determine if there is anything else required to make a sound decision.

In other words, it is possible that you can make a quick decision based upon what you know or your gut reaction; however, if you want to improve your results and make better decisions it is possible that you may need additional information.

You can utilize higher cognitive functions or critical thinking and process your thought process intentionally by analyzing and evaluating the situation.

For example, if you find that you are not working on an assignment until the due date, then a better decision needs to be made concerning the use of your time. Analyze your activities each week and establish priorities for your tasks and responsibilities.

Every aspect of a student's involvement in the learning process requires sound decision-making skills through careful and intentional reflection prior to taking action.

It requires understanding what internal factors can influence the process, an examination of the foundational knowledge held related to the topic or issue, and a willingness to gather additional information or research as necessary to become well-informed.

This is an ongoing process because decisions must be made almost daily and the more time devoted to making purposeful decisions, the more likely the outcome will be aligned to your expectations or needs.

Dr. Bruce Johnson has had a life-long love of learning and throughout his entire career he has been involved in many forms of adult education through his work as an educator, trainer, career coach, and mentor. Dr. J has completed a Master in Business Administration (MBA) and a PhD in Education, with a specialization in Postsecondary and Adult Education.

Presently Dr. J works as an online college professor, faculty developmental workshop facilitator, faculty mentor, faculty peer reviewer, and professional writer. Dr. J's first eBook, APPRECIATIVE ANDRAGOGY: TAKING the Distance Out of Distance Learning, is available for sale now in paperback, and also available for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo devices. Learn more by visiting

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Giving and Receiving Critique: A Virtuous Cycle

This is a photo taken of a peer revision comme...
Peer revision comment from writing group (Wikipedia)
by Cally Guerin, Doctoral Writing:

As we approach the festive season, some of us are encouraged to believe that the giving of gifts is more rewarding than receiving gifts.

When it comes to critiquing writing and providing feedback, I think it is certainly true that giving is at least as valuable as receiving feedback.

Caffarella and Barnett (2000) have made a strong case for this.

Their insights are particularly useful for doctoral writing, where providing critique on other authors’ work in progress can be a powerful way for PhD students to learn about their own writing.

I’ve explored the idea of feedback in doctoral writing groups as gift exchange (Mauss 1950/1969) in a forthcoming chapter (reference below), where I found this metaphor a useful tool for understanding the social dynamics of writing groups.

Here, however, I want to consider the act of giving on an individual level, rather than in the context of a group.

The value of giving critique was brought home to me recently at a great workshop on peer reviewing run by Rosemary Deem at the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) for early career researchers.

During the session, our conversations about how to provide useful and effective peer review returned again and again to reflections on the participants’ own writing.

The distinction between reviewing and learning about writing was constantly blurred. It seems that everything we want to advise others to do will also inform how we go about doing our own writing. A virtuous cycle is thus set up between giving and receiving - we give good advice that we can then take on board ourselves.

There is no doubt that everyone learns something about writing from receiving feedback (even if it is to provoke us to defend our choices rather than to change anything in our writing).

Many of us have also learnt a great deal about writing from marking essays and being put in the position of having to explain just why that paper should get a B grading instead of an A.

Through articulating precisely why one word choice or argument structure is better than another we start to understand what makes writing effective.

On the other hand, it can - very importantly - reveal whether that advice is based on what is ‘correct’ or simply our own personal preferences. ‘I just think it sounds better this way’ isn’t a reasoned critique!

Reading and critiquing someone else’s writing is a time-consuming job, however. There may well be occasions when what is learnt is fairly minimal in that it simply serves to remind us of what seems blindingly obvious. In those situations, perhaps the most useful lesson is to confirm that we are on the right path with our own writing efforts.

Nevertheless, the benefits of giving feedback provide a strong enough reason for us to encourage emerging researchers to donate their time to reviewing conference abstracts and journal articles as an important pedagogy in doctoral education (see Michelle Maher on this in a DoctoralWriting blog on 13 September 2013).

It’s also yet another very good reason for encouraging doctoral students to join a writing group in which participants give and receive feedback (then again, it’s hard to think of a reason NOT to join a writing group!).

Have you found yourself changing your own writing, or becoming aware of how you might improve your own work, through the process of giving someone else feedback? Has it been a useful exercise for you? What did you learn?


Caffarella, R.S., and B.G. Barnett. (2000). Teaching doctoral students to become scholarly writers: The importance of giving and receiving critiques. Studies in Higher Education 25(1): 39-52.

Guerin, C. (forthcoming 2014). The gift of writing groups: Critique, community and confidence. In C. Aitchison & C. Guerin (eds), Writing Groups for Doctoral Education and Beyond: Innovations in Practice and Theory, Abingdon: Routledge.

Mauss, M. (1950/1969). The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies, trans. I. Cunningham, Cohen & West: London.
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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Students, Professors Share Thesis Tips

Some "light" thesis reading
Some "light" thesis reading (Scoobyfoo)
by Samantha Costanzo, The Heights:

No college essay is more daunting than the senior thesis.

For many students, it represents the pinnacle of their college careers, requiring intense research, insightful ideas, and seemingly endless pages of writing.

While the process may be difficult, take a few words of wisdom from those who have been there, done that, and will soon have the thesis to prove it.

“The beauty of writing a thesis is that you can research and write about any particular topic that interests you, which makes working on it so much easier,” said Lindsay Crane, history major and A&S ’14. “Hours in the library go by much faster when you enjoy what you are reading.”

Narintohn Luangrath, an international studies major and A&S ’14, credited her two Advanced Study Grants and Harry S. Truman scholarship with helping her discover her interest in migration issues.

“While competing for a Harry S. Truman Scholarship as a junior, I was forced to think more seriously about my policy interests and goals within migration and the type of schooling and work I’d have to do,” Luangrath said.

The internship she held at Georgetown University doing research on forced migration issues after she won the scholarship solidified her interest, and her thesis is now centered on that topic.

Choosing a topic, however, is only half of the battle. Students must also secure an advisor: a professor who they feel comfortable spending a significant amount of time with during the year, and who they feel will provide good feedback throughout the process of writing a thesis.

“Secure an advisor before heading abroad, or at least before the start of senior year,” said Sarah Malaske, history major and A&S ’14. “Advisors can be hard to find.”

A prospective advisor, however, does not always have to be an expert in your topic.

“Always go with a professor who you know and have worked with before over the professor who is an expert but whom you do not know,” said Mark Hertenstein, theology major and A&S ’14.

“The depth of knowledge in general about an area is essential, but the relationship is the most important part of the thesis writing process.”

While having taken a few classes with a prospective advisor can be helpful, more individualized contact is often key.

“Do an undergraduate research fellowship or something similar the summer before you start writing,” said Stephanie Ger, math major and A&S ’14. “If you do well over the summer, that professor might be more inclined to work with you … and it’s a cliche, but go to office hours.”

Ger said that she found her advisor, Rennie Mirollo, because a professor she knew well recommended him.

Similar to choosing an advisor, beginning the research and writing for a thesis should not be held until the last minute either. While finding free time during the year and using weekends wisely is important, procrastination could easily ruin a project.

“Believing that Winter Break will be the best opportunity to start the real writing or analyzing of the research or creative ideas is delusional thinking and the results are often painful,” said Susan Michalczyk, a professor in the Honors Department.

It’s best, then, to get started over the summer, Hertenstein said, when there is more time to do research and more flexibility in terms of what your final topic will look like.

“You will not have that kind of relaxed research time ever again, and you never know what the scope of your project may be,” Hertenstein said. “Mine has grown, and if I had started in September, I would never finish this thesis project.”

In addition to solid preparation, a support network that is not limited to just your advisor can make all the difference.

Elizabeth Graver, a professor in the English Department, said that she usually advises students whose theses will take the form of short stories or novellas and encourages her students to sign up for courses that will inspire them.

“This could be anything from a course in history or biology, to one on the contemporary short story,” she said.

Graver also said that meeting with a small group of other seniors doing similar projects has often been helpful, especially due to the solitary nature of writing a thesis.

“Finding community, structure, and ways to fill the well of creativity can be a great help,” she said. This support network is especially helpful when the entire project begins to seem overwhelming and you find it necessary to take a break for a little while, which does not necessarily mean that the project has been derailed yet.

“All part of the process,” Michalczyk said. “Be sure to schedule blocks of time throughout the week, so that you can develop a rhythm and strengthen good work habits.”
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Should Academics Adopt an Ethic of Slowness or Ninja-Like Productivity? In Search of Scholarly Time

Both Oregon and Washington States Led the Nation in Reducing Driving Speeds to Conserve Gasoline before Federal Limits Were Passed. A Speed Limit Sign and a Reminder Are Shown Along Interstate #5 11/1973
D Falconer (U.S. Nat. Archives)
by Filip Vostal, Impact of Social Sciences:

Filip Vostal is postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Sociological Studies, Charles University. 

His research interest lay on the intersection between sociology of time, history of speed and transformation of the university.

When viewed in the broader context of late modernity, responses to the increasingly frenetic academic workload can be more clearly understood, argues Filip Vostal

Rather than choosing between the regressive ethic of slow scholarship on the one hand, or the time management productivity trainings on the other, academics may benefit from a more level-headed approach that emphasises autonomy over their use of time.

There is little doubt that proliferating audit cultures, rampant managerialism and ubiquitous metrics transform the life of the university.

One of the frequently reported implications of such change is excessive workload which, in turn, results in the experience of time-shortage and hurry sickness.

Additionally, academics often seem to complain about the meaninglessness of the little bureaucratic tasks (‘time thieves’) that they need to perform, endless form-filling and useless meetings to attend.

This rising culture of haste assuming constant speed-up is also accompanied by the rise of ‘bite-size science’, academic ‘speed-dating’ and the emergence of so-called ‘business accelerators’.

For many, the intuitive downside of such a shift is evident: rushed or fast scholarship would potentially end up as incomplete and/or irrelevant - fast scholarship lacks scholarly quality and has a fairly short shelf-life, due to its hastiness.

There are two reactions to these predicaments. Let’s begin with the first one - calls for slowness.

Some authors argue that in the present academic situation some form of academic slowness needs to be reclaimed. Notwithstanding its appeal and attractiveness, slowness remains a deeply problematic rival to the culture of speed, due to how speed has been perceived throughout the modern era.

Regardless of the widespread intellectual unease with speed, the will to accelerate has comprised one of the constitutive features of modernity.

As Enda Duffy, Stephen Kern and John Tomlinson incisively note, speed was a particularly important motive throughout early modernity’s belle époque. Speed has often been chosen, desired, appreciated - either as an instrument or as a goal in its own right.

Think about a diverse spectrum of ‘speed craftsmen’, such as the artistic movements such as the Cubists and the Dadaists; Muybridge and Marey’s invention of the motion picture.

Or consider the bicycle, steam engine, automobile, telephone, electricity; FW Taylor’s ‘scientific management’; and even the connection between the idea of progress and realization of the better future - all of these were, in one way or another, driven by the commitment to speed.

Of course speed has its dark and problematic side, which is apparent in the openly fascist Futurist movement or as famously reflected in Georg Simmel’s essay on metropolis and mental life.

Some scholars, such as Hartmut Rosa, convincingly demonstrate that the positive virtues of speed have metamorphosed into a new form of social evil in the present conditions of oppressive ‘acceleration society’.

And yet on a more capillary level it also appears that the commitment to speed - either expressed by desire or by necessity - remains a powerful motivational force even today; a force profoundly entrenched in the modern individual’s calculating and strategizing mind-set.

The logical flipside of this historical legacy of speed perception, then, is that slowness has traditionally tended to be understood as regressive, idle and reactionary (as Walter Benjamin noted in the case of flâneurs who, in the mid-19th century, protested against increasing ‘industriousness’ by taking turtles - that set up the pace for them - for a walk).

Slowness appears somewhat remote from the disciplined and path-dependent organizational tactic postulated by modernist speed-up.

Is it therefore conceivable to imagine it as an organizational principle of academic life? Now I want to draw attention to the second proposed - and connected - remedy for academic busyness.

University senior managers seem to understand the busy academic and offer the typical managerial solution: attention and time management training.

However, rather than questioning the very causes that lead to and co-produce the conditions of hurry sickness, academics are advised to adapt by keeping up, going faster, press ahead, be resilient and agile, boost productivity.

Using the uncanny #HigherEdBiz Newspeak, staff development departments encourage academics to clench their teeth and become undestroyable time warriors.

Training sessions such as ‘How to be a productivity ninja’ and courses offering time management techniques to enable regular academic writing, effective reading and to help handle information overload emerge.

Not only that: these initiatives present themselves as cures for hurry sickness - as newage-ish zen-like ‘time therapies’ for ever-busier academics: ‘A “Productivity Ninja” is calm and prepared, but also skilled and ruthless in how he or she deals with the enemy that is information overload’ we can read in the ad for this training.

The key problem with such programs is that, next to producing a group of fast-moving response-able ‘speed winners’, they also render the increasing academic workload and associated time-shortage, alienation, burnout and demotivation (experienced diversely at different institutions; variables such as gender and academic rank dramatically affect this experience) as a personal and individual issue - rather than stressing their origin in the structural transformation of the academic environment.

When asked, many academics do not like either option: Neither sluggish turtles nor a fast ninja-style of work seems compatible with preferred tempo of work. Instead they seek something akin to scholarly time autonomy, enabling them to determine how temporal resources should be used.

What are the parameters of such scholarly time?

Even though scholarly time needs to be conceived as unhasty in principle, the current calls for slowness do not seem to be viable avenues - largely due to the modern perception of speed.

Scholarly time is not slow by default as it needs to accommodate ‘accelerative’ moments of inspiration and intuition (consider eureka and aha moment) and attend to practical features of academic work such digital search engines and scholarly databases.

Simultaneously, scholarly time would ideally account for a counter-strategy against reported haste resulting from the structural and institutional transformation of academic work - currently dealt with by productivity trainings originating from the world of business.

In this sense scholarly time autonomy would probably need to be categorically conceived as a critical resource for academic work and therefore as a measured instrument resisting the convergence of the university, corporate culture and managerial rationality.

Democratic decision-making, deliberation, will-formation and policy implementation need to be underpinned, as Robert Hassan says, by natural unforced rhythms (which do not have to be slow).

This principle seems entirely salutary - if not straightforwardly necessary - in the academic environment. However, if academics and universities are not taking the lead in such a program, one wonders whether anyone at all can resist oppressive nature of late modern fast time.

In order to resist academic hurry sickness, it would perhaps have to be those academics holding senior administrative positions who need to legislate the principle of scholarly time autonomy as an explicit political demand - and perhaps as an ethical principle integral to the education and science governance.

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Impact of Social Science blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our Comments Policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.

University of Oxford’s Black Pioneers

by , Times Higher Education:

Alain LeRoy Locke
Alain LeRoy Locke, the first African-American Rhodes Scholar (Getty)
George Frederick Hall, the mixed-race son of a runaway slave from Tobago who had jumped ship to Australia, came to the University of Oxford as Queensland’s Rhodes Scholar in 1910.

The locals in his Outback town clubbed together to pay his fare and provide him with a travelling rug. Although he began studying medicine, he switched to engineering and eventually worked on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Three years earlier, Alain LeRoy Locke was the first African-American Rhodes Scholar, although hostility from white racists in Oxford’s American Club led him to leave before completing his degree.

He moved to the University of Berlin before returning to the US to become the “father” of the movement known as the Harlem Renaissance.

Pioneers such as these, completely ignored in the Brideshead Revisited image of Oxford, are at the heart of cultural heritage scholar Pamela Roberts’ new book, Black Oxford: the Untold Stories of Oxford University’s Black Scholars.

Although there have been black students at Oxford since 1873 and many have gone on to become prime ministers and presidents, or to make major contributions in the arts, education and the law, Ms Roberts said a local government officer once “informed” her that “black people only arrived in the 1960s to drive the buses and work in the factories”.

She responded by creating a black heritage walking tour of Oxford, where many young black people and their parents express “anger that no one told them this before”, and then by writing the book.

In her quest to assemble a “selection of black scholars who came to Oxford and were successful”, preferably those with “quirky stories”, Ms Roberts had to rely on her own research efforts.

A visit to the Pitt Rivers Museum led to the story of the Antiguan James Arthur Harley, the first black student to take a diploma of anthropology at Oxford in 1909, and who went on to become a curate and councillor in Leicestershire. A local historian turned out to have a suitcase full of Harley’s papers under his bed.

Unsurprisingly, Ms Roberts unearthed many examples of prejudice and culture clashes.

Lady Kofoworola Abeni Ademola, who in 1935 became the first African woman to gain an Oxford degree, found “the more acute form of colour prejudice” less irritating than “being regarded as a ‘curio’ or some weird specimen of nature’s product”.

At one tea party, she recalled, her hostess said she was “not what she expected” and kept repeating: “‘How very interesting!’ at the end of all the remarks I made; I believe she even said ‘How very interesting!’ when I was saying ‘Goodbye’.”

In the 1930s, Kofi Abrefa Busia, a future prime minister of Ghana, decided to attend a formal college dinner in traditional Kente cloth, knowing that he was likely to be “sconced” - forced to drink a tankard of beer in one go unless he could defend himself in Latin.

He prepared his speech and was indeed greeted with cries of “Sconce him!” - only for the hall master to intervene: “Oh leave him alone, he’s just homesick!”

Walking past Blackwell’s bookshop recently, Ms Roberts spotted a poster of Oxford decorated with pictures of celebrated alumni such as Philip Pullman, Oscar Wilde and C. S. Lewis under the heading “Stand on the shoulders of giants”. None was black. Her book, she said, celebrates “the black giants whose shoulders we can stand on”.