AUTHOR: Monica Macaulay TITLE: Surviving Linguistics SUBTITLE: A Guide for Graduate Students PUBLISHER: Cascadilla Press YEAR: 2011, Second edition
Benjamin Schmeiser, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Illinois State University
The text under review concerns the most recent edition, the second, which aids the reader through graduate school (and beyond) in linguistics. Compared to the previous edition, the basic structure remains intact: there are nine chapters, followed by an 'Afterword', and a 'References' section. The text commences with a 'Contents' section, followed by an 'Exercises' section that lists all seventeen exercises found in the text, and a 'Preface' section that includes the changes and updates in the second edition. Each chapter contains a short introduction, followed by sections (marked by a slightly larger font and in bold) and their subsequent subsections (marked by the same font size as a section heading, but not in bold), and ends with an 'Exercises' section, which usually comprises two exercises, with Chapter 3 (contains three), and Chapters 6 and 9 (each contains one), as noted exceptions.
Chapter 1, entitled 'Graduate School: Before, During, and After', walks the reader through graduate school in linguistics; topics range from choosing the right program to the process of applying, obtaining funding, and what to do with a linguistics degree once you finish. In addition, the chapter includes insights on a more personal level with a section entitled, 'Imposter Syndrome', that helps the reader deal with insecurities with regard to his/her own knowledge and intellect. Finally, the chapter also contains a detailed section entitled, 'Book and Website Recommendations', that contains books and websites under the subsections of 'Graduate School', 'Research, Writing, and Publication', and 'Academic Careers'.
Chapter 2, entitled 'The Field of Linguistics', discusses a wide range of topics from the type of writing the student will do (e.g. MA thesis, grant proposal, conference abstract) to learning more about the field as a whole. The author gives an extensive list of books and electronic resources, which include websites, as well as email discussion lists, organizations on gender and orientation, sites that offer phonetic symbol fonts, and sites with software commonly used in linguistics. The chapter ends with advice on professional organizations and conferences, along with a few sites to find some humor in the field.
Chapter 3, entitled 'Writing Basics', offers instruction on the process of beginning a research paper in linguistics. The author guides the reader along in the process of research and writing in the social sciences, with sections ranging from finding a topic and valuable resources to use, to understanding the general structure of a paper and the proper way of making an argument, along with examples and explanation of mistakes one should avoid (e.g. 'Don't confuse the notion of making an argument with the notion of having an argument.'). The chapter ends by considering notions of respect (e.g. nonsexist writing), plagiarism (e.g. paraphrasing), and a separate section on human subjects and informed consent.
Chapter 4, entitled 'Mechanics: How to Write Like a Linguist', describes the format used for writing in linguistics. Whether it is an explanation on numbered sections, what to include in each section, how to present (and format) an example, what to include in tables and figures, or how to incorporate citations and references, the chapter covers all of the core components of a linguistics paper. The author concludes with a section entitled, 'My Personal Top Ten Least Favorite Writing Habits' that includes common mistakes and offers a suggestion for improvement in each area. To illustrate the format of each entry on the list, I offer point number two, 'Hedging', as an example. The author first defines what 'hedging' is: 'Hedges are a way of beating around the bush, and are usually intended to ward off potential criticism. Although it is very tempting to use them, they undermine your argument and claims.' (p. 69). The author then instructs the reader to avoid commonly-used expressions; in the case of 'hedging', she writes 'Instead of: In this paper, I will try to show that X' and follows with her suggestion, 'Use: In this paper, I show that X'. The author goes on to offer three more suggestions on how to avoid hedging. Other examples from the list include 'Describing the Process of Discovery' and 'Excessive Verbiage'.
Chapter 5, entitled 'The Process of Writing', offers strategies on the writing process itself. The author considers where one works while writing, how to get started, and outlining. She also discusses two methods by which the reader might work, namely the 'Bird by Bird Method' (i.e. little by little) and the 'Nike Method' ('Just do it'). Other sections that are particularly relevant to the writing process are perfectionism and battling writer's block. The chapter ends with a discussion on a topic that is very difficult for many, namely interpreting comments and taking criticism.
Chapter 6, entitled 'Conferences', is a guide through the process of giving a conference talk. The chapter includes everything from considering to which conference one should apply and how to get funding, to the general format and delivery style of the presentation and hand-out; the author even includes a section called 'I'm done now', which instructs the reader how to formally end the talk. The chapter ends with a section on hosting a conference.
Chapter 7, entitled 'Funding and Publishing Your Research', discusses grant proposals, working papers and conference proceedings, and publishing an article in a journal. The chapter contains a flowchart (Figure 7.1 Getting Published: 109) that illustrates the publication process. The author offers advice on manuscript preparation, discusses the submission process from the editor's side, and breaks down the four possible decisions that one will receive pertaining to publication. The chapter ends with a section dedicated to writing book reviews, including discussion on 'fairness and objectivity', 'sympathy', and 'scholarship'.
Chapter 8, entitled 'The Dissertation', considers the challenges of writing a dissertation. The introduction section contains references and writing center websites that should not be overlooked. The author then discusses the dissertation proposal, 'ABD' status, and addresses many of the difficult areas (e.g. time management, deadlines, and overcoming 'overwhelmedness') of the writing process. The chapter ends with a section on the defense, mentioning that it differs greatly across departments.
Chapter 9, entitled 'The Job Hunt', commences with advice on the transition from the dissertation to a job. The author then offers a section on the curriculum vitae, noting what to include, as well as what not to include. Another section considers the application process for academic jobs and presents another flowchart (Figure 9.2 Applying for Academic Jobs in Linguistics: 134) that starts from finding job announcements and ends with negotiating the offer and accepting the job.
Changes in the current edition include updates and new information that improve an already exceptional and highly practical text; new exercises are found in many chapters (Chapters 1-4, 8) and give the reader more opportunities to put into practice what they have learned. I point to Exercise 7, 'Human Subjects', as one that is particularly beneficial to the reader. In what follows, I discuss the changes in this edition by chapter.
Chapter 1, 'Graduate School', gains a subtitle ('Before, During, & After'), as well as a full section entitled, 'Before Graduate School'. This new section is highly beneficial to the reader, especially for the undergraduate, because it concentrates on the process of applying to graduate school, from the reader's previous undergraduate major, to the GRE and choosing a graduate program, and finally, to the application and visiting prospective programs.
In Chapter 2, 'The Field of Linguistics', the author adds a subsection under 'Learning about the Field', entitled 'Books', in which she includes excellent resources, such as The Language Instinct (Pinker, 1994), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (Crystal, 2010, third edition), Language Files (Bergmann, Hall, & Ross, 2007: tenth edition), and The Linguistics Student's Handbook (Bauer, 2007). I note two more welcomed additions, namely: i) under 'Electronic Resources', the author has a subsection entitled, 'Personal Webpages' which provides excellent sources for students to find out more about the field; and ii) under 'Sites of Great Interest', she has added 'The Linguist List Student Portal', which is very helpful and merits its own listing, apart from The Linguist List.
Chapter 3, 'Writing Basics', remains essentially unchanged, with the noted exception of a section heading change from 'Cultural Norms' to 'International Students and the Cultural Explanation'. The heading change is beneficial in that it is more representative of the section; that is, the section explores North American cultural norms in Academia as they pertain to plagiarism. Plagiarism is a big issue in graduate school and calling attention to the experience of an international student only serves to enhance the text.
Chapter 4, 'Mechanics: How to Write Like a Linguist' is arguably the text's greatest strength; I found the chapter to be exceptionally clear and instructional. In the chapter, there are minor revisions in the section entitled, 'Citations and References', which include the added subsections, 'Citing Online Materials' and 'Citations Managers'. Given the more common practice of using the internet to find sources, the 'Citing Online Materials' subsection is particularly beneficial to the reader; in this section, the author discusses how to cite online materials, which includes bookmarking the URL, including the URL in the citation, and mentioning the date one accessed the site. I particularly like 'Citations Managers' because many graduate students have never heard of software that aids the research process. Programs such as EndNote are highly beneficial in research, yet they are often not discussed in the classroom. The reader immensely benefits from this new section as it provides invaluable insight into the research process.
Chapter 5, 'The Process of Writing', evidences no changes. In Chapter 6, 'Conferences', the author has added two subsections, namely 'PowerPoint' and 'Funding Your Trip'. In addition, she has revised and updated the subsection entitled, 'Poster Session'. The 'PowerPoint' section discusses what to include in a PowerPoint presentation. For many of us, presenting with PowerPoint was never taught; we learned by seeing many presentations at conferences and adapted accordingly. The reader of this text learns the basic format of a PowerPoint presentation and could successfully do one after reading this text. In addition, 'Funding Your Trip' offers advice on seeking funding through the department and/or the conference itself. Finally, I note the addition of very helpful links on writing a linguistics abstract.
Chapter 7, 'Funding and Publishing Your Research', exhibits three new subsections that greatly improve the text, namely: i) 'Elements of the Project Description' (based on Chapin, 2004); ii) 'Writing a Publishable Paper'; and iii) 'Choosing a Journal'. Moreover, I note the above-mentioned addition of the flowchart on getting published (Figure 7.1 Getting Published: 109), which I found to be especially useful. In Chapter 9, 'The Job Hunt', the author has revised the illustration (Figure 9.2 Applying for Academic Jobs in Linguistics: 134) to be more appealing and increase comprehension.
Overall, this text is highly practical and beneficial to students and professors alike. It should be a staple text for all graduate students in linguistics and should be included in the 'Introduction to Graduate Studies' courses that many departments have. This text indeed fills a void in the field and greatly helps the reader through the trials and tribulations of graduate work in linguistics. The second edition, as previously mentioned, improves on an already much-appreciated text. Whether it is the resources, the guidance, writing instruction, help on conference-going and publishing, or landing your first job, this text is truly exceptional.
In terms of criticism, I offer three minor points that should not be seen as deficiencies of the current edition, but rather things to consider for future editions. First, I am a bit surprised that the text does not number sections (e.g. 1. Introduction) or subsections (e.g. 2.1 Books) as is typically done in linguistics papers and texts. I know the author has tried to use a more informal tone (e.g. using contractions); however, I do think the text would be improved by numbering each (sub) section.
Second, considering that writing a dissertation (or an MA thesis) is such an arduous task, I was a bit surprised to see no additions (besides an exercise) to Chapter 8, 'The Dissertation'. Though the author states in footnote 58 that many of the elements for the dissertation apply to the MA thesis, I still think that adding a section specifically on the MA thesis, and all elements involved in completing one, would be beneficial. In addition, some discussion on the timeline after the defense for formatting and officially turning in the dissertation (including the time the university needs to process the paperwork) should be included as well.
Third, in future editions of this text, the author might consider adding a section on appendices (including where to insert them into the paper and what an appendix typically includes) in Chapter 4, 'Mechanics: How to Write Like a Linguist'. Moreover, Chapter 5, 'The Process of Writing', might include a section on procrastination after sections on perfectionism and writer's block, along with a proposed timeline of writing a paper for a course, to give the reader an idea of how long writing a linguistics paper for a course actually takes.
To conclude, I first came across this text the year the first edition was released (2006) and it was about three months after I had finished my dissertation and started my first job as an assistant professor. As I read the text, I smiled at the irony, as I could only imagine how valuable this text would have been for me. When I teach with this text, I find the almost uncontainable urge to remind students how lucky they are to have it and to tell them that I did not have this text 'when I was a graduate student'. I do resist, though, but I will say now that graduate students will immensely benefit from this text, and yes, I do so dearly wish I had this text 'when I was a graduate student'.
Bauer, Laurie. 2007. The linguistics student's handbook. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bergmann, Anouschka, Kathleen Currie Hall, & Sharon Miriam Ross (eds.). 2007. Language files, 10th edn. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press.
Chapin, Paul G. 2004. Research projects and research proposals: A guide for scientists seeking funding. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Crystal, David. 2010. The Cambridge encyclopedia of language, 3rd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pinker, Steven. 1994. The language instinct: How the mind creates language. New York: William Morrow and Company.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Benjamin Schmeiser is an assistant professor of Spanish Linguistics at
Illinois State University. He earned his PhD in Spanish Linguistics, with a
specialization in Phonetics and Phonology, from the University of
California, Davis in 2006. His research interests include Phonetics and
Phonology, Pedagogy, Second Language Acquisition, Sociolinguistics,
Historical Linguistics, and Romance Linguistics. His recent publications
have concentrated on consonant clusters in Spanish, Portuguese, and Pali;
podcast usage in the classroom; and synonymy in Contemporary United States