Overcoming writer’s block – Top 8 tricks that actually work

Writers often struggle with their writings because of a loss in concentration or a paucity of ideas. They seem to have come to a dead end with no idea what to write. It is as if they have hit a block in their thought processes–a writer’s block–with no clear indication what to include in their writings or how to continue writing.Writer's Block

Almost every writer faces this writer’s block at some point in their writing careers, and most of them have come out of it with a stronger intent to complete their writings. Here are some simple tricks that can help you overcome writer’s block.

Minimize distractions. Unnecessary distractions can cause writers to lose their focus and get stuck in the middle of their writing. For this, you need to minimize such distractions as much as possible. Some tricks to minimize distractions include switching off mobiles phones, disconnecting from the Internet if not required, creating daily routines for writing, and working in solitude if possible. These tricks can help you improve concentration and generate new ideas for your writing.

Focus on other things. Sometimes, focusing on things other than writing can help clear the blockage and spawn new ideas. You need to divert the mind away from writing so as to refresh it. You can opt to do something creative such as painting or cooking, or simply laze around by listening to music or reading books. Performing mild exercises also helps clear the mind. Walking or playing outdoor or indoor games can give you a fresh and new perspective on your writing.

Change your writing environment. Check whether your working environment is comfortable. Consider writing in another environment, such as a coffee shop, for a change. A change in the workspace can help you generate fresh and new ideas for your writing. You can also create or remodel your own workspace by adjusting few factors like changing the lighting or using brighter lights at the desk. You may also try changing your desk and chair or your room. Whatever trick you use, the basic point is that a new environment will help you clear your blockage and increase your focus on writing.

Spend time with loved ones. If you are stuck with your writing, the best thing you can do is spend time with someone who makes you feel good. You may call an old friend or hang out with your friends. You can also spend time with your family or go out for a walk with your dog. Whatever you do, spending time with your loved ones will definitely make you happy and help clear your blockage.

Do free-writing. Have you ever considered writing down your random thoughts? Spend 15–20 minutes writing freely on any topic you like. You can write on your frustrations or your views on current affairs. You can change the subjects, but make sure you write randomly without any care for punctuations. These free-writing entries can inspire you with new ideas for your writings and will also clear your blockage. You can jot down the ideas in bullet points for easy accessibility when needed.

Read some inspiring quotes before writing. Before beginning your writing assignment, try reading some inspiring quotes. Inspirational quotes can motivate you and help you develop fresh and new ideas to use in your writings. In addition, inspirational quotes can also help you with new topics or stories for your writings.

Set deadlines and keep them. Many writers find it difficult to set a deadline for themselves and complete their writing projects within the set deadline. To circumvent this problem, you might find a writing partner and agree to hold each other to deadlines in an encouraging, uncritical way. Writing groups or classes are also good options to jump-start a writing routine.

Take a break after completing a project. Writer’s block could be an indication that your ideas need time to develop. Idleness can be a key part of the creative process. After finishing a project, have some “me” time. Take a break between two projects so as to gather your thoughts and gain new experiences and ideas. You can spend time with your loved ones, or indulge in reading or other art forms before you start again.

A writer’s block is a temporary setback faced by most writers, regardless of how prolific they are in their creative output. At that point in time, it might seem to be too big a mountain to climb, but it is something that can be easily overcome. You must have self-belief to keep the creative flow going, and these tricks will go a long way in helping you achieve that.

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Beyond American English and British English

In late 2000, Domino’s Pizza ran an ad campaign with the tagline Hungry kya? which helped the brand penetrate deep into Indian homes and cities; so much so that this label continues to be associated with all tele-branding and billboard campaigns for the brand. The admixture (pun intended) of English and Hindi proved to be an appealing, innovative, and paying concept, and many other brands skewed their ad campaigns to incorporate Hinglish (combination of Hindi and English), the most recent example being the Hungrooo campaign for Maggie Noodles. English is therefore being “customized” to regional preferences. American English and British English apart, there are region-specific or country-specific variations of the language, and their vocabulary repository is constantly evolving and expanding; it’s Japanglish, Japlish, or Janglish in Japan; Konglish in Korea; Chinglish in China; Hinglish in India; Denglisch in German-speaking countries; Thainglish in Thailand; and so on.

Such variations of English are construed as the ‘misuse of English by non-native speakers’. Conversely, American English and British English are the recognized primary variations of the language, each with some elements of writing style and vocabulary that render it with a character of its own.

We’ll return to the regional adaptations of English in a later post, but first it’s important to dive deep into the points of departure between American English and British English.

American English and British English: The Beginnings

Life was different till about the first half of the 18th century, when English was yet to plateau out into clear regional standardizations. Arguably, Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) and Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language (1755) laid the cornerstones of American English and British English respectively. From then on, the clamour (or should we say clamor?) for reforms in the English language increased, with Webster himself leading the changes in the U.S., while Norman or Anglo-French speakers in England played a decisive role in the shaping of British English. Currently, a plethora of dictionaries service the needs of English speakers in U.S. and the UK, with most other countries adopting dictionaries from either group depending on their histories, while few nations like Canada and Australia follow both. With the increasing move to phones and tablets as the information source, it is not surprising to find tens of dictionaries for American English and British English lodged in micro memory slots. No more leafing through hefty volumes for a look up!

Spellings and More

Contrary to the general misconception, the difference between American and British English is much more than variations in the spelling of certain words; it is in fact a difference in writing style. So when an editor is asked to ‘migrate’ a document from British English to American English (or vice versa), it is important to realize that changing –our/–or, -ise/-ize, -re/-er, -ogue/-og (and so on) is addressing just one of the differences between American and British English. The other differences which an editor should take cognizance of include the use of the present perfect tense ‘have/has + past participle’ much more in American English than in British English, singular verb forms immediately after collective nouns in American English and usage-dependent singular or plural forms in British English, delexical verbs have and take in British and American English respectively (consider I’d like to have a bath and I’d like to take a bath as examples), auxiliaries and modals (for instance, needn’t and don’t need to), propositions at and on (at the weekend in British English and on the weekend in American English), and past tense forms (see Table 1).

Infinitive

Simple past
(Br)

Simple past
(Am)

Past participle
(Br)

Past participle
(Am)

burn burned/
burnt
burned/
burnt
burned/
burnt
burned/
burnt
bust bust busted bust busted
dive dived dove/
dived
dived dived
dream dreamed/
dreamt
dreamed/
dreamt
dreamed/
dreamt
dreamed/
dreamt
get got got got gotten
lean leaned/
leant
leaned leaned/
leant
leaned
learn learned/
learnt
learned learned/
learnt
learned
plead pleaded pleaded/
pled
pleaded pleaded/
pled
prove proved proved proved proved/
proven
saw sawed sawed sawn sawn/
sawed
smell smelled/
smelt
smelled smelled/
smelt
smelled
spill spilled/
spilt
spilled spilled/
spilt
spilled
spoil spoiled/
spoilt
spoiled/
spoilt
spoiled/
spoilt
spoiled/
spoilt
stink stank stank/
stunk
stunk stunk
wake woke woke/
waked
woken woken

After Kerry Maxwell and Lindsay Clandfield, “Differences in American and British English Grammar,” accessed at http://www.onestopenglish.com/grammar/grammar-reference/american-english-vs-british-english/differences-in-american-and-british-english-grammar-article/152820.article

This list of differences between American English and British English is by no means exhaustive, but only a representation of the editor’s predicament.

But Where is English Headed?

But the English language is a dynamic entity, constantly evolving and changing as it meanders through time and space. Regional variations are beginning to have a much more telling impact, and it will not be outlandish to imagine tailor-made dictionaries soon seeing the light of day. Hinglish, for example, is already an entry in some prominent dictionaries, which is perhaps a sign of things to come?

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Guidelines for Writing Scientific Article

Good design and simple writing style of a scientific article are very important for getting the work published in a scientific journal. Nowadays, all are busy in their work; they need something that is easy to read and understand quickly. Therefore, it is effective to write a scientific article in a clear and simple way, with as much information as can be provided in a straight-forward and concise style. Following are described the guidelines for writing scientific article in an effective manner.

Effective Guidelines for Writing Scientific Article

Writing the Abstract

  • Abstract is the brief report of the whole article. It should highlight the major and important points covered in the article.
  • Writing the abstract includes summarizing the whole article while providing as much information as possible.
  • Identify the chief objectives, results, discussions and conclusions, and gather them in a single paragraph.
  • Exclude background information, literature review, account of methods, and extra words and phrases.
  • Re-read and revise the abstract to ensure that it conveys only the vital information.

Developing the Outline

  • The idea of an outline is to separate and arrange the topics and arguments of the whole article into smaller tasks in a logical form before writing the final article.
  • Prepare a fundamental message of the article by summarising the paper in one sentence (20-25 words).
  • Describe the sampling method employed and the materials and methods used to conduct the study.
  • Identify the major results and findings. List them in note form.
  • Define the chief conclusions and implications arising from the study.
  • Identify the limitations of the study results. What changes in practice, approaches or techniques would you recommend.
  • List every key point separately. Organize them chronologically by order of importance. Organising method should be plain and coherent.
  • Identify the references pertaining to each and every key point.
  • Prepare the introduction by reading the notes made in the outline. Introduction should begin with the main message, describing the purpose/objective of the study, how the study was conducted, what were the results and their implications.

Preparing the First Draft of Article

  • Combine all the information, i.e., data, references, tables, figures, etc.
  • Decide the journal to which you plan to submit the article. Write and format the article according to the targeted journal.
  • While writing the first draft, include all the chief points and information. Ignore the incomplete sentences and incorrect grammar at this stage.
  • Express yourself clearly through your writing by writing what you understand and how you understand it.
  • Use the headings from the prepared outline. Attempt to write the article in parts. Treat each section as a short article.
  • Take a break from the work. Read the prepared first draft with a fresh approach and viewpoint.
  • Edit or modify or delete, but be prepared to revise the article several times to make the final draft.
  • Wherever possible and applicable, use short sentences, simple and clear words and phrases, small paragraphs denoting single idea.
  • Proofread for clarity and readability. Re-read sentences and paragraphs for lucidity. For a scientific article, paragraphs of about 150 words in length are considered most favorable.
  • Ensure consistency and regularity. An article with more than one author often shares the writing procedures. However, the writing style should be consistent and regular.

The above mentioned guidelines for writing scientific article provide the most basic and common guidelines used while writing any scientific article. By following these guidelines for writing scientific article, one can learn and know how to write scientific articles in an effective and attractive manner.

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Scale Classification Bases

Scale Classification Bases

The Scale Classification Bases can be categorized on the following bases.

  1. Subject orientation: In this, a scale is designed to measure the characteristics of the respondent who completes it or to estimate the stimulus object that is presented to the respondent.
  2. Response form: In this, the scales can be classified as categorical or comparative. Categorical scales (rating scales) are used when a respondent scores some object without direct reference to other objects. Comparative scales (ranking scales) are used when the respondent is asked to compare two or more objects.
  3. Degree of subjectivity: In this, the scale data is based on whether we measure subjective personal preferences or just make non-preference judgements. In the former case, the respondent is asked to select which person or solution he favors to be employed, whereas in the latter case he is simply asked to judge which person or solution will be more effective without reflecting any personal preference.
  4.  Scale properties: In this, the scales can be classified as nominal, ordinal, interval and ratio scales. Nominal scales merely classify without indicating order, distance or unique origin. Ordinal scales indicate magnitude relationships of ‘more than’ or ‘less than’, but indicate no distance or unique origin. Interval scales have both order and distance values, but no unique origin. Whereas, ratio scales possess all these features.
  5. Number of dimensions: In this, the scales are classified as ‘uni-dimensional’ or ‘multi-dimensional’. In the former, only one attribute of the respondent or object is measured, whereas multi-dimensional scaling recognizes that an object might be described better by using the concept of an attribute space of ‘n’ dimensions, rather than a single-dimension continuum.
  6. Scale construction techniques: This can be developed by the following five techniques.
  • Arbitrary approach: In this, the scales are developed on ad hoc basis. It is the most widely used approach.
  • Consensus approach: In this, a panel of judges evaluates the items chosen for inclusion in the instrument regarding whether they are relevant to the topic area and unambiguous in implication.
  • Item analysis approach: In this, a number of individual items are developed into a test that is given to a group of respondents. Post administering the test, total scores are evaluated, and the individual items are analyzed to determine which items discriminate between persons or objects with high and low total scores.
  • Cumulative scales: These are chosen on the basis of their conforming to some ranking of items with ascending and descending discriminating power.
  • Factor scales: This can be constructed on the basis of inter-correlations of items indicating a common factor accounts for the relationship between items.

 

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Scaling techniques for researcher

Scaling techniques for researcher

During research especially when the concepts we want to measure are complex and abstract and there are no standardized measurement tools available, we face problems of measurement. Alternatively, when we are measuring something which can lead to subject bias like attitudes and opinions, there is a problem of their valid measurement. A similar problem may be faced in a lesser degree while measuring physical or institutional concepts. Therefore, knowledge of some such procedures which may enable accurate measurement of abstract concepts is extremely essential.

Scaling techniques are immensely beneficial for a researcher.

Scaling is the process of assigning numbers to various degrees of attitudes, preferences, opinion, and other concepts. Scaling is defined as a procedure for the assignment of numbers (or other symbols) to a property of objects in order to impart some of the characteristics of numbers to the properties in question.

Scaling can be done in two ways: (i) making a judgement about an individuals characteristics and then placing him on a scale which is defined in terms of that characteristic, and (ii) constructing questionnaires where individual’s responses score assign them a place on a scale. A scale is a continuum, consisting of the highest point and the lowest point along with several intermediate points between these two extremities. These scale-point positions are hierarchically related to each other. Numbers for measuring the degree of differences in the attitudes or opinions are assigned to individuals corresponding to their positions in a scale. Therefore, the term ‘scaling’ implies procedures for determination of quantitative measures of subjective abstract concepts.

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Technique of Developing Measurement Tools

Technique of Developing Measurement Tools:

a)  Concept development: This is the first step. In this case, the researcher should have a complete understanding of all the important concepts relevant to his study. This step is more applicable to theoretical studies compared to practical studies where the basic concepts are already established beforehand.

b)  Specification of concept dimensions: Here, the researcher is required to specify the dimensions of the concepts, which were developed in the first stage. This is achieved either by adopting an intuitive approach or by an empirical correlation of the individual dimensions with that concept and/or other concepts.

c)  Indicator selection: In this step, the researcher has to develop the indicators that help in measuring the elements of the concept. These indicators include questionnaires, scales, and other devices, which help to measure the respondents opinion, mindset, knowledge, etc. Using more than one indicator lands stability and improves the validity of the scores.

Index formation: Here, the researcher combines the different indicators into an index. In case, there are several dimensions of a concept the researcher needs to combine them.

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Test of Practicality of a measuring instrument

Test of Practicality of a measuring instrument

The practicality attribute of a measuring instrument can be estimated regarding its economy, convenience and interpretability. From the operational point of view, the measuring instrument needs to be practical. In other words, it should be economical, convenient and interpreted.

Economy consideration suggests that some mutual benefit is required between the ideal research project and that which the budget can afford. The length of measuring instrument is an important area where economic pressures are swiftly felt. Even though more items give better reliability, in the interest of limiting the interview or observation time, we have to take only few items for the study purpose. Similarly, the data-collection methods, which are to be used, occasionally depend upon economic factors.

Convenience test suggests that the measuring instrument should be easily manageable. For this purpose, one should pay proper attention to the layout of the measuring instrument. For example, a questionnaire with clear instructions and illustrated examples is comparatively more effective and easier to complete than the questionnaire that lacks these features. Interpretability consideration is especially important when persons other than the designers of the test are to interpret the results. In order to be interpretable, the measuring instrument must be supplemented by the following:

  1. detailed instructions for administering the test,
  2. scoring keys,
  3. evidence about the reliability, and
  4. guides for using the test and interpreting results.
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Complex Random Sampling Designs

Complex random sampling designs are probability sampling done with restricted sampling techniques. They are also called mixed sampling designs as they tend to combine probability and non-probability sampling procedures during sample selection.

Some of the popular complex random sampling designs are as follows:

(i) Systematic sampling: The researchers sometimes select every ith item from a list, this is known as systematic sampling. The first unit is a random number and the next unit onwards they are selected at the same fixed intervals.

(ii) Stratified sampling: In a very diverse universe stratified sampling is used were the population is divided into several groups that are more similar and then items are selected from each strata as a sample. The strata is a subjective choice of the researcher based on his experience and judgment by using simple random sampling.

(iii) Cluster sampling: In cluster sampling within the population there might be similar groups these are divided into a number of small homogeneous subdivisions then some of these clusters are randomly selected as sample. Cluster sampling is highly economic. The difference between stratified sampling and cluster sampling is that in stratified sampling a random sample is drawn from each of the strata, whereas in cluster sampling only the selected clusters are studied.

(iv) Area sampling: In area sampling a large area is divided into smaller parts and then samples are selected randomly.  This is a type of cluster sampling were the cluster of units is based on geographic area.

(v) Multi-stage sampling: Multi-stage sampling is a complex type of cluster sampling. Multi-stage sampling is used in researches where the entire universe is very large, for example the entire country; the researcher selects samples in various levels. The researcher after selecting clusters from all universe than randomly selects elements from each cluster. This type of sampling is cost effective and easy to administer.

(vi) Probability proportional to size (PPS) sampling: Probability proportional to size (PPS) sampling: Sometimes cluster sampling units lack equal number of elements; in such cases the researcher uses a random selection process where the probability of selection of each sub group is proportional to the size of the cluster. The actual numbers selected are indicative of the clusters chosen and selected. PPS avoids under representation of any one group.

(vii) Sequential sampling: This is a complex sampling design was the size of the sample is not fixed earlier but is determined according the need of the researcher. In this type of sampling method, the researcher does his research on a particular sample if not satisfied takes another sample unit and so on. The researchers keeps fine tuning the experiment and decides only after doing the experiment whether more samples are needed or not.

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Characteristics of a Good Sample Design

In a field study due to time and cost involved, generally, only a section of the population is studied. These respondents are known as the sample and are representative of the general population or universe. A sample design is a definite plan for obtaining a sample from a population. It refers to the technique or the procedure for obtaining a sample from a given population.

Following are the characteristics of good sample design:

1. Sample design should be a representative sample: A researcher selects a relatively small number for a sample from an entire population. This sample needs to closely match all the characteristics of the entire population. If the sample used in an experiment is a representative sample then it will help generalize the results from a small group to large universe being studied.

2. Sample design should have small sampling error:  Sampling error is the error caused by taking a small sample instead of the whole population for study. Sampling error refers to the discrepancy that may result from judging all on the basis of a small number.Sampling error is reduced by selecting a large sample and by using efficient sample design and estimation strategies.

3. Sample design should be economically viable: Studies have a limited budget called the research budget. The sampling should be done in such a way that it is within the research budget and not too expensive to be replicated.

4. Sample design should have marginal systematic bias: Systematic bias results from errors in the sampling procedures which cannot be reduced or eliminated by increasing the sample size. The best bet for researchers is to detect the causes and correct them.

5. Results obtained from the sample should be generalized and applicable to the whole universe: The sampling design should be created keeping in mind that samples that it covers the whole universe of the study and is not limited to a part.

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Steps for Sample Design

The researcher must keep in mind the following points while preparing a sample design.

(i) Universe: While preparing a sample design, it is foremost required to define the set of objects to be studied.

Technically, it is also known as the Universe, which can be finite or infinite. In case of a finite universe, the number of items is limited. Whereas, in an infinite universe the number of items is limitless.

(ii) Sampling unit: It is necessary to decide a sampling unit before selecting a sample. It can be a geographical one (state, district, village, etc.), a construction unit (house, flat, etc.), a social unit (family, club, school, etc.), or an individual.

(iii) Source list: In other words, it is called the ‘sampling frame’ from which the sample is drawn. It comprises the names of all items of a universe (finite universe only). If source list/sampling frame is unavailable, the researcher has to prepare it by himself.

(iv) Sample size: This is the number of items, selected from the universe, constituting a sample. The sample size should not be too large or too small, but optimum. In other words, an optimum sample accomplishes the requirements of efficiency, representativeness, reliability and flexibility.

(v) Parameters of interest: While determining a sample design, it is required to consider the question of the specific population parameters of interest. For example, we may like to estimate the proportion of persons with some specific attributes in the population, or we may also like to know some average or other measure concerning the population.

(vi) Budgetary constraint: Practically, cost considerations have a major impact upon the decisions concerning not only the sample size but also the sample type. In fact, this can even lead to the use of a non-probability sample.

(vii) Sampling procedure: The researcher, at last, decides the techniques to be used in selecting the items for the sample. In fact, this technique/procedure stands for the sample design itself. Apparently, such a design should be selected, which for a provided sample size and cost, has a smaller sampling error.

 

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