Friday, 29 November 2013

Restricting the Quantity of Citations



Nowadays, so much academic writing is simply a rehash of other people's work. Textbooks, in particular, are prone to the vice of uncritical recycling.

Clearly, however, there is a virtue in building on the work of others. Work in the humanities has become very specialised (since the 1970s) and this means that we are standing on the shoulders of an army of scholars, not to mention the proverbial giants and geniuses of the past.

Nonetheless, excessive use of citation suggests perhaps a lack of confidence in your own thought and creativity. A literature review may be the starting point of a research project, but it is not the final destination.

I was led to these rather banal reflections having recently picked up a copy of John Russell Brown's engaging and thoughtful book: Shakespeare: The Tragedies (2001). This book has four citations, two of which refer to the work of Peter Clark, The English Alehouse: A Social History 1200-1830. (1983)

Now that's perhaps the limit to downsize your references: citation lite !


Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences (2013) ... also available on Kindle, or to downloadA bargain!

Top Ten Writing Problems - a list

That's my last sentence on this topic. Ever.

In your view, what are the TOP TEN problems that students experience in their writing?

Obviously, it depends quite a lot on the age group, their experience, and whether English is their first language. In this blog I'm thinking about weaker students, aged 11+.

It is clear, however, that many of the problems also affect the work of undergraduates and adult business people. And we're constantly striving to improve our writing, as earlier versions of this informal post would undoubtedly demonstrate.

In my experience, many common writing problems are persistent and recurrent.

Is a quick fix really that difficult? Do you make of a checklist for your students?

How do you empower your students to take more professional care and control of their work?

Any ideas?

Here is my draft list:

Many sentences that need a verb don't have one.

There is a tendency to use phrases, or sentence fragments, rather than sentences.

The flow of ideas is restricted by a lack of connectives and transitional phrases.

Paragraphs are not used at all.

Essays show an inability to compose an effective introduction or conclusion.

There is a failure to vary sentence length, for example, by using a range of simple, compound and complex constructions.

The vocabulary is limited and many words are repeated.

The style of writing is colloquial rather than formal; the style does not suit the target reader, or is inappropriate to theme and/or genre.

A monstrous flood of words has replaced the punctuation of sentences.


What's the best way to fix these issues, in your view?

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) ... also available on Kindle, or to download. A bargain!




Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Life Beyond Writer's Block

Building blocks, or Writer's Block ?
You do not have writer's block as such.

It's a myth!

It’s far more likely that you are stuck in an unimaginative rut, and that you are experiencing a shortage of stimuli, or a lack of variety in the brain and body soup that should be feeding and nourishing your creative mind. 

If the situation has been really bad for many weeks you may be depressed. The good news is that creative strategies may help to decrease the depth and frequency of your depressive phases. Increasingly, writing and other creativity strategies are being recognised as therapeutic techniques.
Why not change the sex of your main character, and/or make him/her drastically older or younger? Absurd tweaks should initially be treated as harmless fun; but they may, nonetheless lead you in an unexpected direction. 

Great art involves patterns and destiny, but the aleatory, random dimension deserves to be better understood. In this case, risk means experimentation with improbability. One effect of this process is that the initial elements of a composition are re-constituted. Again, the emphasis is on removing a creative blockage in the way that you have been working.

Why not try transplanting the action of your narrative to another country, and /or different timezone or historical period. With a word processor a Search and Replace is a quick solution to this issue. If you don’t like the result, it is very easy to undo.

Why not make your hero into a villain. Show a wicked streak in your virtuous heroine. Chill out! This strategy of blending good and evil, virtue and vice, also helps to prevent your characters becoming tedious predictable stereotypes.

Transformations of Genre
A popular exercise that many schools are now using in order to explore and develop style, and an awareness of a writer’s chosen linguistic effects, is to re-write a poem as a story, or a story as a poem, or a tragedy as a comedy, or to parody a fictional text using exaggeration of the stylistic effects. These can be seen as warm-ups to promote the parts of your brain that deals with words, thoughts and concepts.

In the Middle

Remember that you can start a story from the beginning, the middle, or the end. Many writers start in the middle (in medias res) in order to provide suspense. Then they explain how the characters came to be there (working backwards); finally they proceed to the end - which may involve another surprise.
e.g. car race; car hanging over a cliff; car falls (dull)
BECOMES
car hanging over a cliff;
feelings as the characters consider their selfish dull lives and learn to love each other for the first time;
they all die happy, unless there is a miraculous intervention, as their guardian angels intervene.
I often find that the opening is the last thing I write as it creates too much pressure to impress. Get your story down on paper and then select a new start by arranging your ideas in a way that is unusual and creative.

The Critical Voice and the Creative Impulse

Although I strongly recommend that you should distance yourself from negative thoughts, don’t be frightened of constructive criticism, or re-thinking how you theorise your practice.
Literary criticism is your creative friend, not your despised antagonist.

Other Common Solutions to poor creativity that you might wish to consider are:
  • Engage in a variety of activities that are uncharacteristic for you. This may involve taking up a new hobby. It almost certainly means moving away from the torture of staring into a flickering screen. (See my other blog on internet and social media addiction, here.)
  • Start a new project. Sometimes it’s your determination to stick at a dead project that explains why you can’t move forward. But you can always return to older projects in the future, equipped with a fresh mind and new ideas
  • Learn to meditate. Become human again. Sometimes you are blocked by having too many thoughts. Too much creative flow is exhausting, especially if it remains chaotic, or it lacks the sense of an emerging shape or direction.
  • Read a random page of a random book and underline three magic words. That wonderful eighteenth-century word ‘Serendipity’ involves the art of finding what you need while you are looking for something else.
  • Take randomness a step further by using Tarot Cards to build character, or like composer and inventor John Cage, use dice, or the I Ching, in order to explore patterns beyond conventional expectations, and to help you to move away from bland stereotypes.
  • Read some poetry. Even better, cut it up and rearrange the words. Poetry is the ultimate mind-gymnasium for the creative writer.

  • Take a long walk. Take a few words for a walk. Let them go wander. Many great writers such as Charles Dickens have employed walking as a way to compose and liberate their creativity.

Did you read 52 Examples of My Creative Writing Activities? Here.

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences (2013) ... 



Citations and references: the solution to the Kindle / ebook dilemma


If you own a Kindle, Nook, or other ebook reader you will be familiar with the problem that the majority of texts do not have fixed page numbers. They will also display the same text in different way. This means that the location of a quotation in one digital format will be different from another.

Obviously if you are downloading a pdf there will be fixed page numbers to refer to. Readers who want to locate and check your quotations can of course simply search for key words within the text. Also, you can indicate which section of the book you are referring to by including a chapter reference.

Therefore you ought to write in this style

McCormick (2013) outlines the art of disputation (ch. 7) and the art of the supplement (ch. 6).

and quotations like this


McCormick (2013) argues that 'the use of transition words is highly effective in logical thinking' (ch 1.5).

Note that in the example above, the reference helpfully also provides a note of the subsection 5 of chapter 1.

In fact, my epubs included page numbers based on the printed version of the book. These are printed in [square] brackets throughout the text. This means that it would be possible to be more specific:


McCormick (2013) argues that 'the use of transition words is highly effective in logical thinking' (p. 23).

Finally, the basic citation looks like this:

McCormick, Ian. The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences. Quibble Academic, 2013. Kindle file.

According to the MLA, it is even possible, with less information, to cite as follows:

McCormick, Ian. The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences. Quibble Academic, 2013. Digital file.

I'm still unsure how you deal with geographic location of the purchase as this may define the place of publication, e.g. a copy purchased in the UK comes under Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.; or in the United States as Amazon Digital Services, Inc. Does it really matter, if it is the same product? Any thoughts?

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Strategies to avoid exam stress and anxiety


As we have noted in earlier blogs on this site, exam stress and anxiety is built into this mode of assessment. That's partly because the exam is typically a two or three hour endurance test in which you are deprived of home comforts and familiar supports. For many students exams present an image of clinical discipline and dehumanisation. Sitting exams may also cause you to revisit similar occasions in the past that involved a traumatic sense of disempowerment, defeat and failure.

But despite the huge potential downside of exams presented in these terms they do mimic real life experiences where you may have to work under pressure, use your wits, or demonstrate that you can plan and manage your time. Exams are here to stay!

Nonetheless, it will be helpful to recognise that there are some common anxieties that exam candidates experience. They may fear that there isn't a question that they can answer, or they may fear being seized with writer's block as they stare at a blank page. In other common cases, students often fear that they have not written enough, or that they failed to complete a section of the exam.

If this type of situation has affected you it is essential to practise your timing, and to write model answers. You can also practise opening and closing paragraphs for essays. Familiarity with key words and phrases also helps to speed up writinng.  These techniques will save you a lot of time.

Don't copy other students who write a book in the exam. My experience has often been that the students who write a 9 page essay, often filling up an entire answer book in the first hour, are typically prone to verbal diarrhoea; they are simply writing down everything that comes into their head, without any sense of structure or agument. Such answers rarely pass! A concise and well thought out response is more likely to be rewarded by an examiner who is tasked with 600 scripts to mark in less than three days.

Several years ago I attended a self-defence course in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. After several weeks of training delivered by an ex-SAS officer it became clear that what we were learning was not how to fight back using martial arts, but rather to avoid conflict situations altogether. By planning and reading the signs of danger, we would avoid actual risk of harm to ourselves. This scenario is similar to exams. The first strategy is to plan your revision early, familiarise yourself with the format of the exam by looking at past papers, and by writing model answers. If there are topics that you do not understand you can check out the solutions with your teacher, if you have begun your revision at an early stage. This approach should allow you to ensure that you have covered a sufficient range of the topics outlined in the course syllabus.

By avoiding the disastrous and always risky 'night-before-revision-stay-up-all-night' policy you will already be on the road to cutting out by far the most common and most significant source of stress that affects those students who leave everything to the last minute.

Another kind of stress exists in the exam itself. By scrutinising past papers it is far less likely that the exam will harbour unpleasant surprises. Andat this point let me also declare that the old-fashioned policy deployed by examiners that involved catching you out seldom applies these days. Rather, examiners want to find out what you have learnt, and want to see you demonstrate your knowledge and understanding. Exams are generally designed as a fair and representative examination of the syllabus.

In terms of general health it is a good idea to practise positive thinking. Remember that there is no such thing as someone who is symptomatically, characteristically, or psychological bad at exams. But there is poor technique and inadequate preparation. As my other blogs have been demonstrating, techniques consist of skills that you can work on and improve.

Another health tip is to practise breathing exercises, light physical activity, and meditation. These will help to calm your mind and body.

Immediately prior to your exam it is not sensible to make sudden life changes. Don't start a new diet or stop smoking, or start learning to bungee jump, or parachute. Stick to sensible leisure patterns, avoiding excess and getting as much sleep as you need. Sleep has a noticeable healing function.

After the exam avoid the temptation with friends to undertake a forensic diagnosis of your performance in the exam. I often experienced a vague sensation that I had not performed well in the exam. Yet the reality was more that I was simply tired, having delivered a high level of concentration for three hours. Worrying about the exam you recently sat will cause more anxiety as your next exam approaches.

Finally, keep a sense of proportion. Often there is an opportunity to re-sit a failed exam. Sometimes 'failure' is a sign that you should change direction. Also many famous and successful people have not passed some exams during their time at school, college, or university. Many academic educational specialists have also argued that exams do not test your underlying academic ability or your potential. So don't let the grade achieved brand you for the rest of your life. It is also true that those who are brilliant at exams do not always fulfil their potential in life.

Just do your best, and do it for yourself. You might even enjoy it!


Dr Ian McCormick served as Professor in the Arts at the University of Northampton. He works as a teaching advisor in educational creativity and participatory methodology. He also enjoys reading literary fiction, and writing about disability and the grotesque. His PhD was in the field of English literature and cultural history.  

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences

(Quibble Academic, 2013) 


 

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Drafting a book on the Art of Description in Literature



Scotland 2013

The aim of this as-yet-unwritten book is to explore "description" in terms of 

(1) creative craft (2) critical analysis.


Proposed Contents



  1. The extinction/manipulation of vision

  1. Beyond visualization?

  1. Description before the era of photography and film

  1. The role of conventions and traditions

  1. How writers deploy ambiguity and contradiction for effect

  1. Making lists: enumeration

  1. The romantic description

  1. The aesthetics of the sublime

  1. The aesthetics of the beautiful

  1. Creating a sense of disgust

  1. Creating a sense of horror

  1. Description of character

  1. Employing multiple sensations

  1. Communicating mood and tone

  1. The Point of View

  1. Tilting and Panning

  1. The Panorama

  1. The Frame

  1. The use of zoom control

  1. The Guided Tour

  1. Towards Abstraction: generality and description

  1. Legality: the witness statement

  1. Scientific observation

  Any comments welcome! Ian

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.

Also worth a look: The PhD Roadmap: A Guide to Successful Submission of your Dissertation / Thesis.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Are you a connected learner?


A quick-reference list of the qualities and actions of a connected learner:

  1. Mindful of others’ beliefs and interests

  1. Able to step back from conflict and reposition debate

  1. Share what you find useful

  1. Adopts essential technical and hardware skills for interactivity and participation

  1. Updates knowledge of appropriate software and other interfaces

  1. Distinguishes between more and less relevant or reliable sources

  1. Builds networks

  1. Increases valued connections

  1. Foster community development

  1. Joins and connects in order to make meaning

  1. Filters and selects information

  1. Asks difficult questions

  1. Explores the opportunity to rethink

  1. Pushes solutions beyond initial proposal

  1. Fosters appreciative inquiry

  1. Open to new ideas rather than aloof and disengaged

  1. Takes delight in having a responsibility for the direction of your learning

  1. Values learning with and through others

  1. Enjoys the shared activity of creation

  1. Thrives on a healthy culture of collaborative critique

  1. Explores opportunities for distributed or shared leadership roles

  1. Discontented with the traditional status quo

  1. Constantly re-shaping and up-grading his or her skills base

  1. Thoughtfully reads and listens

  2. Suspends judgment in order to ponder paradox and contradiction

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)


Further Reading

Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design 

Anderson, Terry, and Jon Dron. "Three generations of distance education pedagogy." The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 12.3 (2010): 80-97.

Bell, Frances "Connectivism: Its Place in Theory-Informed Research and Innovation in Technology-Enabled Learning", International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Volume 12, Number 3, 2011,

Carson, Stephen and Jan Philipp Schmidt. The Massive Open Online Professor. Academic Matters: The Journal of Higher Education, May 2012.

Dawley, Lisa. "Social network knowledge construction: emerging virtual world pedagogy." On the Horizon 17.2 (2009): 109-121.

Downes, Stephen "'Connectivism' and Connective Knowledge", Huffpost Education

Downes, Stephen. "Learning networks and connective knowledge", Instructional Technology Forum, 2006

Kop, Rita, and Adrian Hill. "Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past?." The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 9.3 (2008).

Kop, Rita "The challenges to connectivist learning on open online networks: Learning experiences during a massive open online course", International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Volume 12, Number 3, 2011

McLoughlin, Catherine, and Mark JW Lee. "Future Learning Landscapes: Transforming Pedagogy through Social Software." Innovate: Journal of Online Education 4.5 (2008): n5.
McLoughlin, Catherine, and Mark JW Lee. "Mapping the digital terrain: New media and social software as catalysts for pedagogical change." Ascilite Melbourne (2008).

McLoughlin, Catherine, and Mark JW Lee. "The three p’s of pedagogy for the networked society: Personalization, participation, and productivity." International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 20.1 (2008): 10-27.

Ravenscroft, Andrew. "Dialogue and connectivism: A new approach to understanding and promoting dialogue-rich networked learning." The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 12.3 (2011): 139-160.

Siemens, George. "Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age." International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning 2.1 (2005): 3-10.

Siemens, George. "Connectivism: Learning theory or pastime of the self-amused." Retrieved February 2 (2006): 2008.

A Quick Guide to Writing an Abstract

But will your abstract fit inside the box?

If you have been reading my blog on The Art of the Abstract, are you now ready for the quick guide?

FORMAT

Use one paragraph.
Stick to the word length.
Check the format style guides for the journal or awarding body / institution.
Employ a professional style

STYLE

Use language that will be understood by readers in your field.
Consider also the needs of the general reader.
Think about the most relevant key words that need emphasis
Write short sentences. Very short.
Employ transitions between the sentences.
Use the active voice, rather than passive constructions
Use the third person singular. IT.
Choose the past tense in the main body.
Check your grammar
Avoid abbreviations.
Provide clear statements: avoid loose opinions.
Employ the present tense for the introduction and the conclusion.

PROCESS

Learn from other respected scholars in your chosen field.
Read journal abstracts in order to become familiar with the standard terminology.
Print out your draft abstract and check it again for errors, waffle and repetition.
Ask a colleague or associate to check your work.
Model your work on excellent examples of abstracts.

CONTENT

Employ an introductory statement and conclusion written in the present tense. (This research demonstrates that ...)
Answer the key questions: what, why, and how.
Follow your headings and subheadings in order to guide the sequence of  the abstract.
Don’t add supplementary information or ideas.
Do not cite the sections of the paper / article / chapter.
Avoid specific references to figures and tables included in your paper.
Avoid the repetition of information.
Check for accuracy of content.


Anything I've missed? Please add comments below.


Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.

Also worth a look: The PhD Roadmap: A Guide to Successful Submission of your Dissertation / Thesis.

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Art of the Abstract

 
' Supervisor, I found Yorick's Abstract. '


Do you hear, let them be well used, for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time. After your death you were better have a bad epitaph than their ill report while you live.” --- Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Nowadays there is more pressure than ever to publish often and early. Such is the plight of the doctoral student and the early career academic; such is the life of any career academic.

One of the tricks of the trade that every academic learns is how to write an effective abstract. Typically this activity was undertaken at the end of the third year of the Ph.D and was part of the processing of submitting your work for critical scrutiny.

But really we were abstracting all the way along. The ability to compose a quick summary of what you have been reading is the beginning of abstraction. It’s a useful habit to acquire early in one’s intellectual development.

What you find in the abstract will also be quite similar basically to the sorts of general questions that you will have been asked when seeking funding, or applying for a continuation of your research.

So when we are reading anything, we might want to be asking some questions.

What is this work about?
Why has it been written
What has been discovered?
How did the writer get there?

At first this can be quite bewildering because we are overwhelmed by the sheer plenitude and richness and depth of the writing. But God’s Gift to Scholars is the Abstract. This presents a ready-made solution to these probing questions. As I have pointed out in another post, How doAcademics Read so many Books? The abstract is the short cut for the overloaded, overworked, underpaid scholar-teacher. My intention was not to be cynical. In fact, more pragmatically, it is not possible to undertake wider reading and gain wider familiarity with a body of work without reading lots of abstracts. Abstracts help researchers to decide on what is most  and what is least relevant for their reading. While it may take three hours or more to comb through an academic paper, it will take less than ten minutes to skim and scan the contents. But I can survey the abstract in a matter of seconds.

Therefore, a well-written abstract allows readers to work out how relevant the research undertaken is to what they are trying to achieve. If it is highly relevant then there is a second virtue. The abstract becomes a useful reference point and benchmark for the longer and larger scholarship that follows.

If am I surveying the wider field, and therefore writing a literature review, the abstract is very helpful in providing a quick summary of the work that allows me to position it in relation to other work, either as a specialism, or a theme. The abstract tells me where the research belongs, as part of a cluster, and also, more significantly, provides a sense of its individuality or uniqueness. The sense singularity or originality of the contribution to knowledge is a valued aspect that the abstract must communicate effectively.

In this sense, abstract are useful signposts, they give me a sense of direction.

When I was writing my book The Art of Connection, I noted that one of the Nine Arts of Connection was the Art of the Summary. We are summarising all the time. Often this evident at the end of a paragraph or the end of an essay or speech. Summaries therefore have impact. In a very broad sense, we are already familiar with the art of the summary because we are doing it all the time in the process of reading and writing. Summaries are signposts and they help us to recall key points efficiently and effectively.

In the academic world the abstract is usually one paragraph consisting of about 200 to 300 words. It is situated just under the title of the paper or it appears at the end. It is very important to realise that this is not a supplementary introduction.

While the researcher may all along have had a vague idea of the summary of the work undertaken, the abstract is a precise and efficient of the published text.

The abstract offers a swift appraisal of the research. It is helpful to think in terms of the model that is generally followed. Typically there are four components:

1. An Introduction to the research

2. The Methods, or Methodology employed.

3. The Results of the research

4. The Conclusions reached.

It is useful to remember that the abstract should follow the key sections of your published research in sequence.

Specifically the abstract needs

  • To identify the main subject of the research and its purpose. This may point to the literature review element and provides a wider context for the work.

  • To outline the problem investigated and the approach taken. Explain your objectives and hypothesis precisely. Summarise your methodology.

  • To present your results. What was it that you found out?

  • To offer conclusions. This may involve policy implications.

These are the key words that the abstract-writer and researcher needs to think about clearly: problem, solution, example, evaluation/comparison.


It’s really worth spending a lot of time perfecting your abstract. 

Indeed it might be the only part of your work that most scholars in your field ever read. 

Perhaps it’s what you’ll be remembered by.
 
Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.

Also worth a look: The PhD Roadmap: A Guide to Successful Submission of your Dissertation / Thesis.


Wisdom is the abstract of the past, but beauty is the promise of the future.

--- Oliver Wendell Holmes
 

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Art of Connection: The Social Life of Sentences


Do you find that you waste time wondering how to start the next sentence?
Do you find yourself lost for words when you are required to link your ideas coherently and persuasively?
Do your sentences flow together and support the larger structure?
Do you want your writing to communicate more effectively and efficiently?

The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences is an innovative practical book that explains the Nine Arts of Connection: Location, Timing, Comparison, Contrast and Difference, the Supplement, Disputation, Sequence, Example and Illustration, and the Summary.

By following the easy to use guides and examples provided in this book, writers can learn how to write fluently and begin to enjoy the process of composition.

Whether you are a student or learning English for the first time, this book will assist you to write successfully to achieve your goals. By dividing the common words and phrases used to signal transition and connection into nine categories this book guides the writer through the principles of effective writing and outlines everything that you need to know about the Nine Arts of Connection. Two thirds of the book are devoted to tried-and-tested examples of practical usage. This approach enables the writer to identify the value and effectiveness of connectvity as an active principle in composition.

A thought-provoking critical introduction also outlines in detail how effective writing employs a balance between creative flow or spontaneity, and the need to provide coherence, logical and structure.


 The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences (2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.

Contents

1.0 Introduction

1.1 The Social Sentence
1.2 The Use of Connection
1.3 Understanding the Psychology of Transition
1.4 Style, Oratory, Elegance
1.5 The flow of spontaneity and passion
1.6 Power, Rhetoric and Repetition
1.7 The Philosophy of Association
1.8 Beyond the Logic of Connection
1.9 Écriture féminine
1.10 Openings: the genesis of this book

2. The Art of Location
3. The Art of Timing
4. The Art of Comparison
5. The Art of Contrast and Difference
6. The Art of the Supplement
7. The Art of Disputation
8. The Art of the Sequence
9. The Art of Example and Illustration
10. The Art of the Summary
Further Reading


About the Author

Dr Ian McCormick served as a Professor at the University of Northampton until 2009. He holds degrees in English Language and Literature (University of St Andrews (M.A.) and a doctorate awarded by the University of Leeds (Ph.D).

Ian's published work has been featured on BBC Radio and TV; in the Times Literary Supplement, The Observer, The Guardian, TimeOut (London), and in several academic journals. Awards and Prizes include the King James VI Prize (1989); the Lawson Memorial Prize (1985); British Academy Studentship (1990-93). Ian has also published and edited books on Gothic literature and Romanticism; sexuality and gender studies; modern and contemporary literature; teaching and learning strategies; drama education; and literary, critical and cultural theory.