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Environmental NGOs and strategic naming and shaming – Murdie & Urpelainen 2015 and Pacheco-Vega 2015

One of the things I have always wanted to do has been to engage in a dialogue with the authors of research papers whose work is along the lines of mine. This format of writing online commentary on other scholars’ research isn’t new (I was just invited to write a commentary on a colleague of mine studying water in the US/Mexico border), but to me, what is new in the way I want to write this blog post is how my own research “dialogues” with other academics’ work. The recently published paper “Why Pick on Us? Environmental INGOs and State Shaming as a Strategic Substitute” by Amanda Murdie (University of Missouri) and Johannes Urpelainen (Columbia University) fits the bill perfectly, as it is pretty much what I was trying to get at in my recently published book chapter, “Assessing ENGO influence in North American environmental politics: The double grid framework”. In the chapter, I posit a visual framework that attempts to evaluate which countries would be more amenable to be pressured through non-state actor mobilizations, and what would the domestic conditions look like in order to enable this pressure to function properly.

This framework is not quantitative, but could definitely be implemented using quantitative tools. With this chapter, I was trying to establish a conceptual model of NGO influence that simultaneously took into account domestic conditions and transnational activity (e.g. “is the country’s political climate conducive to being influenced by a transnational network of NGO activists?” and “is the NGO coalition highly skilled in lobbying?”). With the double-grid framework, I capture elements of political climate, networking capabilities, relationships with transnational organizations and lobbying strength (something I have lately come to call as the international-domestic nexus).

As I commented on Twitter, Murdie and Urpelainen basically wrote the paper I wanted to write, but never had the dataset to do. In their article, Amanda and Johannes analyze how and why do international non-governmental organizations strategically choose the target of their naming-and-shaming practices. It’s an important contribution not only because it focuses on an under-studied area, but also because they test their theoretical approach (country target as strategic choice) with a large-ish N. Knowing how non-state actors choose which countries to target helps understand what strategic choices these NGOs make and the factors that they take into account in making those choices.

Naming-and-shaming is a strategy that non-state actors use to put pressure on domestic governments through information dissemination. Because there is no overarching framework nor agency that could force countries to comply with (or enforce) specific regulations, soft-law approaches to domestic regulatory compliance such as non-state actor interventions are quite innovative. However, we don’t really know much about how do NGOs choose countries and why do they engage in specific strategic choices. What we do often tends to be quite context- and case-study specific. Thus the need for larger-N analyses, beyond the (still needed) case studies.

One of the things I liked the most about the Murdie & Urpelainen article is that, as they state, “[t]he environment is a particularly interesting area of study because there are virtually no statistical analyses of the naming and shaming activities of INGOs” (p. 354) Most of what I have read in this field is qualitative and case-study based. Even my own work (Pacheco-Vega 2015b) studying how North American environmental NGOs use first-order and second-order pressure transmission mechanisms to force Canada, the US and Mexico to comply with their domestic regulations is case-study based. In my published work, I have analyzed two cases, the Citizen Submission on Enforcement Matters mechanism and the North American Pollutant Release Inventory project (although I’ve also studied other initiatives within the North American context).

My research finds that Canadian, US and Mexican ENGOs often use intergovernmental institutions (e.g. the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America, the CEC) to put pressure on domestic governments (much along the lines of Keck and Sikkink’s work, the well-known boomerang model). The North American environmental policy case is an interesting one because the CEC Secretariat is overseen by the Council (aka the governments of all three countries, Canada, the US and Mexico) and thus has a complex relationship both with states and non-state actors.

Murdie and Urpelainen advance how we understand the ways in which, and reasons why in NGOs make strategic choices on which countries to name-and-shame. Their research also advances (even if collaterally) the double-grid framework I posited in Pacheco-Vega 2015a where I argue that environmental NGOs will target countries that have high-amenability to international pressure (using second-order pressure transmission mechanisms as I suggest in Pacheco-Vega 2005) and where the domestic political environment is also amenable to external pressures (both first-order or direct, and second-order or indirect).

While Murdie and Urpelainen 2015 doesn’t assess NGO effectiveness or degree of influence (something I do in my own work, and that can usually be better assessed using case-study, ethnographic and qualitative, small N strategies), their research does help us understand naming-and-shaming as a strategic choice and start developing more generalized (and generalizable) theories that evaluate effectiveness of non-state actor influence on domestic and international arenas. The design elements that Murdie and Urpelainen posit in their article shall not be overlooked either. Knowing why INGOs choose specific target countries can also shed light on what the best approach to tackle problems of global environmental governance. As Murdie and Urpelainen state in their conclusion (p. 368):

The empirical results show that environmental INGOs act as strategic substitutes for domestic activism in countries that lack political institutions (1) allowing environmentalists to hold their government accountable and (2) needed for good environmental governance. These findings shed light on how INGOs, considering domestic political conditions in different states, select their targets for naming and shaming. Instead of attacking easy or salient targets, in the environmental issue area their choice of targets is driven by the need to fill political gaps in global environmental governance.

I really enjoyed reading Amanda and Johannes’ paper and I think their contribution will help strengthen a growing research programme on NGO influence in the global arena.


Murdie, Amanda, and Johannes Urpelainen. 2015. “Why Pick on Us? Environmental INGOs and State Shaming as a Strategic Substitute.” Political Studies 63: 353–72.

Keck, Margaret, and Kathryn Sikkink. 1998. Activists Beyond Borders. Ithaca, NY, USA: Cornell University Press.

Keck, Margaret E, and Kathryn Sikkink. 1999. “Transnational Advocacy Networks in International and Regional Politics.” International Social Science Journal 51(159): 89–101.

Pacheco-Vega, Raul. 2005. “Democracy by Proxy: Environmental NGOs and Policy Change in Mexico.” In Environmental Issues in Latin America and the Caribbean, eds. Aldemaro Romero and Sarah West. Dordrecht: Springer Verlag, 231–49.

Pacheco-Vega, Raul. 2015a. “Assessing ENGO Influence in North American Environmental Politics: The Double Grid Framework.” In NAFTA and Sustainable Development The History, Experience, and Prospects for Reform, eds. Hoi Kong and Kinvin Wroth. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 373–389.

Pacheco-Vega, Raul. 2015b. “Transnational Environmental Activism in North America: Wielding Soft Power through Knowledge Sharing?” Review of Policy Research 32(1): 146–62.

Posted in academia, social movements.

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Organizing PDFs of journal articles, book and book chapters

As any regular reader of my research blog knows, I’m obsessive (and compulsive) when it comes to organizing. Organization is what makes my brain work properly. I schedule my life in very rigid ways, allocate and protect my time to research, teaching, service, meetings, following up with students’ work, office hours and also self-care time. I use old-fashioned methods to organize my research library, starting with my journal articles and book chapters and all printed material, and following with my books (which I organize by topic, as it can be shown in the photo below). Being organized is what helps me work properly given that I’m easily distracted and have too many research interests.

Raul Pacheco-Vega's personal library at CIDE

Raul Pacheco-Vega's personal library at CIDE

I am now sharing my process for how I organize my research library PDFs on request from followers on Twitter.

I hate having stuff out of order and feeling disorganized. It makes me feel discombobulated and unable to work properly, so yesterday I spent an hour sorting through PDFs that were already in my Mendeley library and that were in the root folder of my Dropbox. This happens (keeping PDFs in the root folder of my Dropbox) usually because I am downloading articles too fast and I don’t put enough attention into organizing them properly. But I had accumulated 574 and this week I decided I had had enough. Also, I work in three computers (1 desktop and 1 laptop at my CIDE campus office, and the laptop I use when I travel for research and fieldwork), so I need to have synchronized Mendeley libraries across all computers.

Organizing PDFsThis week, I decided I was done with this disorganization and thus started creating folders (similar to the ones I have in my Dropbox) with the titles of the general research area that I’ve been working on (Research Methods, Human Right to Water, Informal Waste Picking, etc.) As you can see, this structure is pretty simple and allows me to quickly access PDFs. I refined how I name PDFs with a tip from my coauthor Kate O’Neill (University of California Berkeley): I now file each PDF with the last name of the author(s), the year, and the full title (or a very descriptive title) (see below). Quickly glancing at the title of the PDF as I was sorting through the 574 files allowed me to decide and choose which folder I was going to move it to. I moved it to the new folder I had created in My Documents.

What I do then is merge the new library I have created in My Documents with my Dropbox library (whose structure you can see below). It is quite likely that I will already have a folder in Dropbox with the same name of research topic as my current one, so the merging makes it quite easy. If there’s duplication I just manually merge both libraries.

Organizing PDFs

You can see how I name the PDFs of each article. It’s quite likely that I will miss a few, but I often come back and rename the file. Doing this is particularly important because if you’re sharing your Mendeley or Dropbox library with someone, you want them to know easily which PDF to access. This is my Human Right to Water folder.

Organizing PDFs

I do the same with my Mendeley library: I organize by topic, and by paper I’m writing (see below).

Organizing PDFs

Doing all this organizing is painstakingly time-consuming, but the ease of access I gain from being organized ONCE saves me hours, and hours of time of trying to find the right file. Particularly since I’m attached to the Microsoft platform and the searching capabilities that you had in Windows 7 are no longer available in Windows 8.1 (heck, not even in Windows 10!). Thus I better keep it organized BEFORE I have a writing crisis (which I’ve already had a few).

Posted in academia, research, writing.

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Using tables as devices to organize concepts

One of the biggest challenges for me when I teach and when I do research is to ensure that what I am trying to explain can be clear. What I often do is abstract (and extract) the main concepts within each article and then build a comparative table that serves as an organizing framework (see for example my previous post on highlighting and engaging with printed material like journal articles and book chapters).

To provide an example of how I organize concepts using tables, here is how I presented different approaches to regional development in Mexico. In these readings, I wanted my students to see different strategies of regional development that were being used in Mexican case studies, and what were the main advantages, disadvantages, learning insights, etc. The citations for this week’s readings are below.

Week 4 (Sep 7th, 9th) Regional development theories II: Case studies in Mexico from transnational firms, tourism, migrants and science and technology policies

Jimenez Almaguer, Karla Paola, Jose Melchor Medina Quintero, and Nazlhe Faride Chein Shekaiban. 2013. “The Search for the Development of Clusters in Tamaulipas, Mexico: A Case Study.” Economía: Teoría y Práctica (39): 89–117.

Corona, Juan Manuel, Gabriela Dutrénit, Martín Puchet, and Fernando Santiago. 2014. “Science, Technology and Innovation Policies for Development.” In Science, Technology and Innovation Policies for Development, eds. Gustavo Crespi and Gabriela Dutrénit. Geneva, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 15–43.

Carrillo, Jorge. 2004. “Transnational Strategies and Regional Development: The Case of GM and Delphi in Mexico.” Industry and innovation 11(1/2): 127–53.

Delgado Wise, Raul, and Héctor Rodríguez Ramírez. 2001. “The Emergence of Collective Migrants and Their Role in Mexico’s Local and Regional Development.” Canadian Journal of Development Studies XXII(3): 1–18.

Once I chose the readings I decided to systematize them in a table so that the main insights I wanted them to gain from the readings were easy to read across all four readings. I used main categories in the rows, and each case study in the columns. My summary table for those learning points is posted below.

table on regional development strategies

As you can see, I chose four different readings where each one of them offered insight into one particular type of regional development strategy. I purposefully selected readings where the industries analyzed were different across, and where the main conceptual paradigm was different as well. Two of the case studies present exogenous forces and two case studies present endogenous development. This was also a deliberate and purposeful decision.

Overall, I find that tables are organizing devices that require us to think in pretty abstract ways, but also give us insight into how we can analyze data more systematically. I use tables not only in my research but also in my teaching.

Posted in academia.

Organizing journal articles and books

On my Twitter account, I often post photos of my writing process, or my home office, or my campus office, and sometimes fellow scholars make remarks on whether my actions make sense or are helpful to them. In response to one of them, I made a joke on Twitter that people might not be interested in knowing why I organize journal articles, book chapters and so on the way I do, and then I was told that some people might, so here is my rationale and process.

First of all, I am a bit of an obsessive compulsive organizer. I always like having everything sorted out, and accessible. That’s how my brain works. So from a very early age (when I was in junior high), I decided to organize my notes and books in such a way that it would be super easy for me to find them, read them, etc.

When I arrived to graduate school, I realized I had polymath interests. I wanted to read every single thing about everything and everyone. And the only way to keep myself sane was to be organized about which topics I studied (and I had to leave everything separated). So the method I adopted and still maintain to this day is the following:

1) I sort all the published material I own about a topic (journal articles, conference papers, book chapters, photocopies of materials) by topic. I also sort them out by manuscript I’m writing. So for example I am writing on the global politics of sanitation. I have a magazine holder with articles and book chapters specific for that paper, but I also make sure that I organize all published materials for a specific topic. This sometimes results in repetition because manuscripts will use papers from across disciplines or topics, but I don’t usually mind because normally I sort by paper I am writing rather than by research topic. What ends up happening is that once I create a magazine holder for a specific paper and I start drawing papers from other holders and moving it to the manuscript’s rack, some of them may run empty.

Clean office at CIDE

2) For each article, I organize it as follows: I use a plastic Post-It tab (2 inches, usually) to separate each article. I locate it at the top right, or middle, or bottom, so that I can read them when I see the magazine holder sideways. I write the last name of the author (in Harvard style) and year of publication.

My #AcWri #GetYourManuscriptOut process

3) Finally, I sort all magazine holders by alphabetical order in each one of the labels. So, the first one at the top of my bookshelf is usually A and the last one is Z.

Clean office at CIDE

I know this may be considered a bit too obsessive-compulsive, but this is how I organize my articles, book chapters and everything that is input for my research. I follow a similar model by organizing my books by topic (e.g. water, urban development, regional development, public policy theory, global environmental politics).

Posted in academia.

My lecture slide deck preparation process

As with everything I do, I’m pretty old-fashioned. I read (in advance), write my lectures by hand, and then I prepare the Power Point slides. While I did have a presentation coach (Janice Tomich, an excellent coach I can recommend who is based out of Vancouver), I recognize I’ve fallen back into some of my old habits (one of them, write lots of words in the slide deck). I do this particularly for theory-heavy lectures, which is the case in the first few weeks of both of my courses. Whenever I feel I’ve mastered the theory (usually after two or three iterations of this course), I start removing text and use only photographs to prompt and support my presentation.

The first thing I do is read twice each reading I assign. The first reading (usually a quick skim) lets me decide which theoretical points need to be highlighted. And then the second reading, I find those theoretical points and highlight them. I use different color highlighters and I write on the margins the main points I want to stress.

The second thing I do is write in my notebook the main points I want the lecture slide to contain. Here is usually where I decide how wordy the lecture slide needs to be. But I also connect other readings across with each other. I can’t do that while having only the PDFs open on my screen. I need to see them (physically), write Post-Its that connect each reading with each other, etc. Usually I make sure the text is well distributed so that it’s not text-heavy.

How I prepare a lecture

The third thing I do is simplify the slide deck as much as I can, usually with side-by-side comparisons and tables. For example, Jenna Bednar’s writing on federalism theory and the robust federation tends to be VERY theory heavy. So what I do to simplify the theoretical contributions she make is create a table that then I can explain in detail in front of the class (see below for examples of my slides, the first one is Regional Development on Amy Glassmeier’s view of economic geography and public policy, the second one is a summary of Jenna Bednar’s 2011 piece on the political science of federalism).

boundary mechanisms

economic geography slide

Overall, I am well aware that my process is time-consuming, if you teach more than what I teach and want to maintain a rigorous research program. Since I teach only 2 courses in the fall, I do schedule enough time to prepare my lectures. Bear in mind that these two courses, while I already have taught them, are entirely new preparations because I completely rewrote the syllabi to include more female and under-represented scholars’ writings. So, I am prepared to spend the extra amount of time that it would take me as opposed to say, Comparative Public Policy or Policy Analysis, both courses I’ve taught already quite a few times and I’m well prepared to teach in whichever variation I do. The courses I teach this fall, State and Local Government (third year) and Regional Development (fourth year) are interdisciplinary, area courses. So, preparing lecture slide decks takes way more time than you would think.

Overall, I like my process and I hope it’s of use to other professors, lecturers, etc.

Posted in environmental policy.

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Productivity (task-scheduling) apps for academics (a summary)

Whiteboard and corkboardI think I’ve made it pretty clear that, while I am really adventurous when it comes to computer-aided anything, I am always willing to learn and use it (see my post on how I use Evernote in teaching and research). But my task-scheduling? It’s totally old-fashioned. I WRITE LISTS. By hand. And then I cross them off, delete them, or write a red check mark besides them. I know, it’s slightly embarrassing.

So I decided to throw the question to my Academic Twitter followers, and here are their responses:


I haven’t tried Wunderlist, but it seemed nice in that multiple lists can be shared with others, as per Megan Hatch’s note.


This one took me by surprise, as both Will Winecoff and Christopher Zorn recommended it for lists. I usually just use it to file notes, field notes, and for my teaching. But apparently I could extend it to To-Do lists.

Google Keep

Everything I do is synchronized with Google (Gmail, Google Calendar), so it would seem to make sense that I try Google Keep. Never done it, might try it.


I think it was Janni Aragon (University of Victoria) who said that she used Todoist first. But then I got a few responses in support from other academics:


Jennifer Victor (George Mason University) suggested Timeful, which I also haven’t tried. But I will, although it seems it will be removed from the App Store, as it’s paired now with Google.

Remember The Milk

Emilia Tjernström (University of Wisconsin Madison) suggested Remember The Milk, which is one of the most popular To-Do list apps I have ever seen, even before there was an explosion of apps, this was one of the most popular (in fact, it was first a website!)

Kanban Flow

While I took project management courses in undergrad and during my Masters, and I do have *some* idea of what the Kanban flow technique is, this is totally new. Emily Senefeld suggested it and I might have to try it.


This was suggested by Ana Isabel Canhoto and I am looking forward to trying it too. I like that it seems simple and that it’s for iOS (which I use on my mobile devices).

Other apps… (OmniFocus, Any.Do and Due)

Ryan Briggs (Virginia Tech) suggested OmniFocus, and I have used OmniGraffle before to design website mock-ups and wire-frames. So trying another Omni Group app doesn’t seem too much of a stretch. And in response, Chris Parsons (University of Toronto) suggested and Reminders (the app, although I think it’s been renamed to Due).

And sometimes as Lenore Newman (University of the Fraser Valley) suggested, good time management works.

Posted in academia.

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Bottled water: Commodifying the human right to water

Water created for a baby GerberWhile I was trying to desperately finish two book chapters and two articles, I saw heated discussions around Nestlé fly by. Nestlé is the global, multinational company whose claim to fame goes well beyond producing baby food, and is one of the top bottled water producers. Some say that Nestlé controls 70% of the global bottled water market. Many of the protests that Nestlé faced occurred in two currently drought-stricken areas: California, in the United States of America, and British Columbia, in Canada (actually pretty close to my hometown of Vancouver). Even more so, alarming figures around how much water Nestlé was extracting practically for free in both regions circulated on social media, news sites, and newspapers, giving rise to a series of online mobilizations to rally against the multinational.

Given that all these discussions occurred when I was trying to get some of my research work published, I couldn’t comment nor provide meaningful analysis and discussions around whether Nestlé is actually the devil incarnate or not. What I can say, however, is what I have said before (which is based on my research): every time you purchase a bottle of water, you are contributing to the commodification of a natural resource, which has now been approved as a human right.

Some practitioners and industry folks who don’t seem to agree with my view (the one I posited on the tweet above) argue that in reality, bottled water is not all that water consuming, and that “there are other industries that consume even more water and why is nobody complaining about those?” Well, for starters, one would need to have accurate data on water withdrawals from aquifers, recharge rates, and a number of other figures that are not so readily available and often are not all that trustworthy. These data would be necessary at least to comparatively discuss the negative impact that the bottled water industry has on aquifers. We don’t actually have those data. All those numbers you see reported? Most of them are SELF-reported. And as any good geohydrologist will tell you, knowing how much water is available in an aquifer is not as easy as one would make it seem. Data on groundwater availability are sparse and not all that accurate.

Bottled water vs tap waterMoreover, one of my biggest beefs with discussions on the actual global bottled water market is that, unless you pay a pretty hefty price, you won’t get accurate data. At least, data that you can potentially analyze and use. If I wanted to purchase a copy of the 2015 Market Research Report on Global Bottled Water Industry, I’d need to pay $2,800 dollars. Very few granting agencies would be happy for me to spend that much money just to know how much bottled water is being marketed, sold and distributed. Obviously, Nestlé will tell you that it is a very small bottled water user. But interestingly enough, it is one of the top three market share holders (reportedly at 7.3%). Danone was ranked second with a market share of 10.1 percent, and the global market was estimated at 200.3 billion U.S. dollars.

Just think about that for a second.

200 billion US dollars.

Moreover, the campaigns to promote bottled water now reach stupidity proportions that are bewildering. I have seen “Smart Water” marketed (see tweet above), I’ve also seen “Light Water” (Bonafont, a Mexican subsidiary of Danone), artisanal water (Fiji and San Pellegrino). Ironically, when I visited Milan for the International Conference on Public Policy 2015 (ICPP 2015), every single restaurant where I ate offered me bottled water FOR SALE. Italians seemed quite proud of selling their own water, and of consuming (and paying for) bottled water, even though I saw plenty of public water fountains across Milan.

Warsa (Eritrean Restaurant), Milan, ItalyIn my own research, I have been studying not only the global political dynamics of bottled water consumption, but also the factors that drive increased consumption, given that Mexico has been touted as one of (if not THE) top consumers (measured in consumption per capita) of bottled water worldwide. I have also been analyzing the relative successes that tap water promotion campaigns have been having on US and Canadian campuses. My recent fieldwork has enabled me to inquire from people what makes them drink bottled water, and the driving factors aren’t always the ones I expect. For example, I always believed that ease of access drove much of the local bottled water consumption. Not surprising, but public health concerns seem to be the major driving factor so far (I am conducting a large scale survey and also preparing a couple of field experiments on this topic).

What I have found so far is that most people don’t seem to be aware of just how little water is available for human consumption. In my interviews I have also found that many bottled water consumers are unaware that water has been named as a human right (and that there is actual legislation in Mexico on the human right to water, Article 4 of the Mexican Constitution was amended to include a provision to this effect, in April of 2012).

In sum, while industry folks may think I am against bottled water just out of ideology, I am deeply concerned about the commodification and marketization of a resource as valuable and important as water is. Because as I have argued elsewhere, water becomes not only a natural resource but a political (and politicized) one. And THAT, precisely, is what makes the politics of bottled water so interesting to me. But moreover, I am concerned about increased bottled water consumption because it poses an intrinsic threat to the full implementation of a human right to water.

And that’s something I am not about to keep silent about.

Posted in academia, water governance, water stress.

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Highlighting and note-taking on journal articles as engagement

As I’ve made it clear in most of my academic writing blog posts, I do things the old-fashioned way. This means that I’m a fan of printing out journal articles and writing on the margins, or making photocopies of book chapters, and highlighting passages that I think are important. I’m not a cognitive scientist so I don’t actually know whether highlighting is good or bad for students and scholars alike, and whether it has any impact on our cognitive ability to learn. Nevertheless, I almost always have encountered folks who believe highlighting is good and practice it often. I love providing my students with resources on how to do their work more seamlessly.

Recently I found three blog posts that made me rethink my approach, and wonder why other scholars may not recommend that students (and fellow academics) highlight their notes: because it may make the student believe they are engaging the material while they are not. This is a point made in various ways by other authors. First, by John McMahon in his handout on Writing Summaries of Journal Articles and Critical Reviews. Second, not precisely related to highlighting but to the accumulation of photocopies, by Umberto Eco via Stephen Taylor. And related to the previous point, accumulating PDFs (the PDF alibi) may make us believe that we are actually doing the research, reading them and engaging with the work, as posited by Pat Thomson.

I promised John I would write a blog post on how I highlight and write on the margins to really engage with the reading. The first thing I do is that I use different colors of highlighters. In the example I am providing here I didn’t have my other colored highlighters available, but I had my colored pens, so I have used them in the example. I highlight important passages that then I spell out on the margins. For example, in this summary of Craig Jenkin’s 1983 piece, I analyze the section on how resource mobilization theories differ from other ones.

Summary and highlighting

The first paragraph of the page describes what are the contributions of this journal article, which I then summarize on the margins. Then I highlight the main ideas in the following paragraphs and spell them out on the margins. Notice how I don’t believe that the first sentence of a paragraph is the one that contains the main idea. I outline what I believe are the main ideas on the margins, with different colors (notice how I use red in some instances and purple in others). Where I think a table could make the ideas clearer, I posit them.

Here is my article summary of that section.



As you can see, from the second table, I could even make a simpler table out of Table 2, which would contrast both approaches based on Goal Design, Mode of Organizational Control, Outcomes and Role of Leadership. And this table would be a contribution in itself as it would require me to reorganize how Jenkins thinks about social movements and resource mobilization and then I could apply it to specific empirical case studies.

So, as you can see, I don’t highlight the entirety of the article, but solely I use highlighting to remind me of important passages and to help me break down the ideas I want to engage with. Hopefully this approach to reading and highlighting and writing on the margin is useful to others when writing their summaries!

Posted in academia, writing.

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Organizing child-friendly academic conferences and workshops

I’m not a parent, but both my brothers who are PhD holders have children (in fact, one of them went through the PhD already having two small girls, aged 7 and 3), and my Mom is also an academic, so I’m quite sensitive to the challenges that academic parents face. I just participated in the annual meeting of the Mexican Association for Labor Studies (don’t ask, a very good friend of mine asked me to help him moderate a few panels, and I never say no to good friends) and noticed a sizeable number of female academics bringing their kids to the conference. I made a comment on Twitter as to how important it was to enable parents who are academics to bring their children to the conference.

But some of the responses to my tweet really impressed me, particularly some professors who had the smarts to PLAN beforehand and make sure to make the workshop/conference children-friendly.

This is important, because the opposite (e.g. having someone escort you out because your child became slightly unruly) also happens (see tweet below by my friend Rachel Tiller).

While it’s hard for me to really understand all the challenges associated with balancing parenthood and academic life, I am well aware of them and I strongly advocate for those whose voices we often don’t hear enough.

I advocate for a kinder academia, and part of this advocacy includes, in my view, a children-friendly atmosphere at conferences. Luckily, it appears as though major learned societies like the Association of American Geographers (AAG) and the International Studies Association (ISA) are also responding too.

And my good friend Amanda Bittner has now put forth the challenge to the organizers of Congress 2016 in Calgary (I will be going, as it’s Canadian Political Science Association, CPSA, and it’s where my brother lives so I have plenty of reasons to come visit, including my two little nephews!). In fact, I may bring my nephews one of the days to CPSA.

EDIT – Amanda makes an important point: the challenge that not having “on-site” child-minding presents for academics who are nervous about leaving their children with someone else.

Posted in academia.

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Online resources to help students summarize journal articles and write critical reviews

The courses I teach tend to be very practical and applied. My teaching philosophy is founded on helping my students acquire employable skills. Writing solid, robust, concise and easy-to-read analytical summaries should be an acquired tool that they then can transfer to other fields. Politicians, bureaucrats and high-level people in government that I’ve talked to have always considered summarizing information a great tool that undergraduate and graduate education should provide. Yet, the online resources I found to help students summarize journal articles and write critical reviews left me wanting.

AcWri handwritten notes and journal article reading

There are, of course, plenty of resources. But reading a vast majority of them always left me with a feeling that either they were too long for students to get through (in addition to the relatively high reading load I am assigning for each of my courses), or too focused on the mechanics and too little on the routine-building strategy. So I took to Twitter and Facebook to ask whether someone had found an online resource that would help my students learn how to summarize journal articles. Here are a few suggestions:

a) Dr. Karen Beckwith (Case Western Reserve University) shared with me her handouts on critical reading. Professor Beckwith is incredibly generous and I’m sure she would share them with you if you requested them. They are very useful because they are tailored to each specific course she teaches. She also has a guideline on how to learn from movies.

b) John McMahon (CUNY) shared with me some of his handouts, which are posted online, including this one on critical reading and note-taking. John and I have a different view on highlighting journal articles, and I will write a blog post on this soon.

c) Tressie McMillan Cottom (Virginia Commonwealth University) shared with me her notes from a grad seminar with Regina Werum at Emory University. Professor McMillan Cottom’s notes are a summary of how to read a sociology article.

d) Dr. Neenah Luna-Estrella (NEU) suggested the following books to help students learn how to read and summarize scholarly (and not so scholarly) works. Not online resources, but still, very good ones.

Pyrczak, F. (2014). Evaluating research in academic journals (6th ed.). Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing.

Harris, R. A. (2011). Using Sources Effectively (3rd ed.). Glendale, CA: Pyrzak Publishing.

e) Online resources that I found valuable:
- University of the Fraser Valley Writing Centre’s guide to summarizing an article – this is particularly good because UFV is primarily undergraduate teaching.
- Donna Vandergrift ’s handout actually gives a guideline for students on which content should be written in each paragraph. This kind of detailed guidance is fundamental.
- This guide on how to read a journal article is a bit long, but it does have some additional references that you can look at.

f) Karra Kshimabukuro shared the guide to writing a Rhetorical Precis, which is a tool that others had suggested we should look at, and apparently, (what I call “analytical summaries” may be rhetorical precis too :) (thanks Theresa MacPhail for reminding me of this!)

I’m happy to continue compiling resources if you want to drop a comment on this post or send me an email (sometimes my commenting system isn’t the best).

Posted in academia, teaching, writing.

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