Why I always get an ISBN for my research reports

Mooney-Somers, J, Erick, W, Brockman, D, Scott, R. & Maher, L (2008). Indigenous Resiliency Project Participatory Action Research Component: A report on the Research Training and Development Workshop, Townsville, February 2008. National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW. ISBN: 978 0 7334 2647 6.

See that bit at the end, that’s my first ISBN. I can’t recall where I got the notion from, and I wonder now at my presumptuousness. I don’t think it was standard practice in my research centre to get ISBNs for research reports. But I had just come out of a horrid job that I’d stayed put in to get publications (it didn’t really work). I was in a new job and determined to get as much on my CV as I could. The first output was a report on a training workshop. I was thoroughly engrossed in the methodology we were using (participatory action research) and genuinely interested in how it worked in practice. So writing about our process was something I was into, but it was also a publication. The ISBN though, that was kind of surprising.

I’m now the proud owner of 7 ISBNs.

For those who don’t know, an ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is a unique code assigned to your ‘book’. It is super easy to get one if you know how and a complete mystery if you don’t (typical university*). You don’t need one; I suspect most reports published by academics don’t have one. Let me tell you why you should use them.

An ISBN “makes your book more discoverable” says the Australian provider of ISBNs, Thorpe-Bowker. Unsurprisingly a unique code means no confusion about which title is your book if it also has its own code attached. Well. I’m not entirely convinced this is a big deal for academics (honestly, Google your intended title to make sure it is unique-ish).

The much more compelling reason?

An ISBN means your book exists, it gets listed in registries. In the case of the report above, I got a call out of the blue from a library network asking if they could buy (buy!) several copies. Seriously, how did they even know it existed? It had an ISBN.

And then there’s this…

Copyright Acknowledgement

And this

doc20150115200039_Page_1

You see an ISBN means your work is published and that makes it subject to legal deposit rules (a quick look at Wikipedia suggests this is an international standard).

Legal Deposit is a requirement under the Copyright Act 1968 for publishers and self publishing authors to deposit a copy of works published in Australia with the National Library and when applicable, the deposit libraries in your home state. Legal Deposit ensures that Australian publications are preserved for use now and in the future. National Library of Australia (for more read this http://www.nsla.org.au/legal-deposit-australasia)

In NSW a publisher (e.g. your university if they secure the ISBN) is required to send copies of published material to The National Library of Australia, The State Library of New South Wales and The NSW Parliamentary Library. And because the publisher of my work is The University of Sydney, I have to send a copy to them as well.

That’s an very easy way to get my work into the Parliamentary library.

A major struggle in one of my research area’s (lesbian, bisexual and queer women’s health) is the persistent charge that there is no evidence base. The charge is wrong; there is considerable evidence of disparities in health outcomes out there, but it is a hard perception to shake. So getting our biennial reports of the longest running (in the world) survey of lesbian, bisexual and queer women’s health on to the shelves of policy makers… That’s a win. You never who might stumble across them.**

*Your institution’s library should be able to help or look for the “Legal Deposit Officer”.

*I know, I know, policy-makers Goggle everything. I put them all online too – the University archive, this blog, and often twitter announcements. I’m all about covering the bases.

Putting my argument up front would have made my presentation better

I attended a workshop by Nick Hopwood on presenting qualitative research. It was full of tips and strategies – check out the storify – and useful frameworks; Hammersley’s framework for critical review of ethnography (reminding me again that I need to read Hammerlsey) and Kamler and Thompson’s framework for writing abstracts from their ‘Helping doctoral students write’ book (which I promptly ordered).

‘No’ by JDAC available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdac/15747357176 under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Full terms at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0.
‘No’ by JDAC available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdac/15747357176 under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Full terms at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0.

I’m a keen reader of Nick’s blog and have used his tips for conference presentations. For my last conference however, I failed to implement one: ‘turn it upside down’; that is, state my argument at the beginning rather than pull it all together at the end. This was because I love a good mystery novel and my co-presenter wasn’t keen.

At the workshop, Nick asked us to review a recent presentation in light of what we’d just learnt. I used this last conference presentation. And funnily enough, I could see how much better it would have been if I had turned it upside down. Here’s why.

The logic for turning the presentation upside down is that it helps you achieve your key motivation for presenting at all – give the audience a clear sense of your key take-home message. If someone pulls the plug on you 10 minutes in (maybe because the previous presenter rambled on), at least they know your argument. And Nick insists the audience is less likely to fall asleep. Luckily, I got the whole 12 minutes allotted at my conference presentation, and as far as I could tell, everyone stayed awake.

After the workshop three compelling reasons to ‘turn it upside down’ occurred to me.

First, if I’d made my big statement upfront then the audience might have been more engaged, curious as to how I’m going to convince them (i.e. the mechanism for ‘the audience is less likely to fall asleep’).

Second, it would have meant the rest of the content would be more likely to be relevant to that argument and not just self-justifying waffle about methods or demonstrations of how clever and well-read I am (no of course I didn’t do that).

The best reason I could think of? Making my argument up front would have given the audience time to digest it. Usually – and indeed in my case – the key argument is in the last slide or two. That gives them about a minute to catch it and process it before the chair calls for questions. This might be the reason for the measly post-presentation discussion at so many conferences. If I’d put it up front, they would have had a whole 10 or 11 minutes to think about my argument, in context, in relation to my data, and more importantly for engagement, in relation to their experience and knowledge of the phenomena. So I’m convinced by Nick’s advice.

But there is a problem. Putting your argument up front means you have to have one. I’m not being flippant here. How many qual presentations have you been to where the main game seemed to be to describe what participants said? You get to the end and think, well gee people really thought some stuff / felt some stuff / needed some stuff. But it can be a bit meh, you’re not sure what it all means, why it matters. I find this kind of qual research depressing; I am sure I have been guilty of it.

Making an argument is scary (people might disagree with you!). Arguments involve taking a stand, saying, this is how we should think about this phenomena. They require I work to persuade you, generally through presenting evidence, like my data analysis. If you think of it, data interpretation in basically an argument. I am claiming that mine is the best (or at least, most productive) way to understand what this participant means. Moving from description to interpretation can be a difficult things students to accomplish. It requires they develop confidence in their ability to interpret (not easy at all). Some tips I give my students:

Lyn Richards uses a great metaphor in her book ‘How to handle qualitative data’ for understanding the difference between data description and interpretation:

‘Somebody’s dead, they were shot and there’s a gun on the ground’ is the beginning of the detective’s questions. We hardly expect the enquiry to end with the facts of a dead body and discarded gun.

In her book ‘How to write a journal article in 12 weeks‘, Wendy Laura Belcher draws on a similar metaphor when talking about making arguments in papers:

Present evidence that supports your case, cross-examine evidence that doesn’t support your case, ignore evidence that is irrelevant to your case, and make sure the jury always knows whom you are accusing of what and why.

So, write the lawyer’s brief not the detective’s report. Can you imagine a prosecuting barrister standing up on front of the judge and jury and not telling them who they think did it? Or, to return to my topic, holding the punchline for the end? I would speculate that if you give the argument up front the audience starts doing some of the work for you – they know where you’re going so they are looking for the links. Hey’ that’s four reasons to put your argument first.

Last piece of advice from Wendy Laura Belcher to relieve you of some argument making anxiety:

Arguments don’t need to be unassailable or bullet proof, just interesting.

Tobacco-control project targeting lesbians, bisexual and queer women

The Cancer Institute NSW (the cancer control agency for NSW) awarded an Evidence to Practice grant to ACON (NSW’s leading health-promotion organisation specialising in HIV and LGBTI health). I’m delighted to be the research partner on the grant.

The grant is titled “Tobacco-control project targeting lesbians, bisexual and queer (LBQ) women” and will run until mid-2016. The grant was awarded on evidence from the research I’ve been doing with ACON (and colleague Rachel Deacon) in the SWASH project that shows lesbian and bisexual women in Sydney are smoking at twice the rate of their heterosexual peers, and that rates have changed little despite significant mainstream public health interventions.

This grant is a real win. It is a testament to ACON’s commitment to this area, their strategic plan for 2013-2018 outlined a range of commitments to addressing smoking in LGBTI communities, including:

“seek funding to use our considerable social marketing expertise to identify and address the current high rates of smoking in our communities.”

It is also a testament to the Cancer Institute’s responsiveness to an area that has long been neglected in Australia (compared to the US, for example). And I’ve really pleased that the SWASH survey was key to providing an evidence base for a lack of movement in smoking rates among lesbian and bisexual women in Sydney.

The project will use ACON’s expertise in community-based social marketing to develop a smoking intervention to be delivered online and through community spaces and events. Will update here as the project progresses….

The last outing for the Growing Up with Cancer project

In July, my Growing Up with Cancer (GUWC) project colleague Peter and I attend the 8th International Conference on Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Medicine. It was held at the Royal Society of Medicine in London and what a glorious venue for this project’s last outing!

The conference organisers staged a full exhibition of the Growing Up with Cancer self-portraits (experience all the artworks here) and featured the project in the conference programme.

GUWC self-portraits on show at the International Conference on Cancer in Teenagers and Young Adults
GUWC self-portraits on show at the International Conference on Cancer in Teenagers and Young Adults
GUWC self-portraits on show at the International Conference on Cancer in Teenagers and Young Adults
GUWC self-portraits on show at the International Conference on Cancer in Teenagers and Young Adults

We also presented three conference posters on the research process and the project findings. (If you’d like to quote or use these posters – please acknowledge them correctly)

What healthy young people think about youth cancer – Mooney-Somers, J & Lewis, P. “Little Annabel Harvey and her fight with cancer”: healthy young people’s representations of youth cancer. 8th International conference on teenage and young adult cancer medicine, London July 2104

Using creative methods in research with young people – Mooney-Somers, J & Smith, K. Beyond the Illustration of Research Data: Using professionally facilitated image making techniques to enable participants to describe, enhance and extend data originally captured using traditional text-based methods of research. 8th International conference on teenage and young adult cancer medicine, London July 2104 

Telling friends and partners that you had cancer – Lewis, P & Mooney-Somers, J. Becoming a survivor – young people disclosing cancer to new acquaintances and romantic partners. 8th International conference on teenage and young adult cancer medicine, London July 2104

 

ACON community forum on lesbian and gay drug trends – TUESDAY @ Oxford Hotel

Lesbian and Gay drug trends forum
Lesbian and Gay drug trends forum

Delighted to have been invited to speak at this community forum with Dr Toby and Miss Tokyo and community representatives… SWASH survey has a lot of data on alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. The main message from me will be: we need to talk about smoking… twice the rate. Still.

I’ll be interested to hear people’s sense of why this might be and – more importantly – what we might do about it. I’ll do a write up here. ACON have done a lovely design job on my slides, I’ll post them here after the forum.

Growing Up with Cancer Melbourne

I’m in Melbourne tomorrow with the Growing Up with Cancer team to run a self portrait workshop at the CanTeen offices. We have 8 young people who have had a cancer diagnosis coming along to work with our artist (Kris Smith) to create a self portrait. The documentary team (Virus Media) are coming along to film the workshop and chat with some of the young people about their experiences (check out the promo video for the documentary below)

Papua New Guinea 2

A very successful few day in a beautiful report on the east coast of PNG (Tawali Resort). The training was a great success, and the feedback from participants very positive. I was delighted to hear they have so much qualitative research happening, and there is much interest in participatory methods. I learnt a lot about PNG from the participants, and about bioethics in HIV research from my colleagues Bridget, John and Rob. Hoping for a return visit! 

The VELiM/NCHECR team and the training participants