How (and When) to Write the Background Section of a Manuscript

The related posts: How to Review a Manuscript, How to Write a Manuscript, How (and When) to Write the Background Section of a Manuscript.

The background of a paper may have different names depending on your field. It might be called the introduction, or the literature review, or the theoretical framework. Certainly, you should be familiar enough with existing research BEFORE you start a study to know that your work aligns with accepted studies and offers something new. However, WRITING the background should be your LAST step in writing a paper.

  1. As always, look at example papers from the journal you are targeting.
    • How many paragraphs are typical for backgrounds in this journal?
    • What is the purpose of each paragraph?
    • How many sentences are each paragraph?
    • Do backgrounds have subsections?
    • What is the purpose of each subsection? How long? ETC.
  2. Write the literature review backwards. Many people recommend the hourglass method for writing articles. I recommend it for the literature review and discussion. The hourglass starts broad, becomes narrow, and then broadens again. For the literature review, you are writing a broad and narrow piece. For the discussion you are writing narrow and then getting broad.
    • Write the narrowest part of the introduction first. What is your research question? This is the last paragraph of your background (or a separate section depending on the journal)
    • Who in your community cares about this specific research question and your specific findings? Focus in on work that speaks to your specific findings. Someone WITHIN your community has done something similar. Discuss that similar work. This is towards the end of your background.
      • For example, imagine you studied the role that the availability of LEGOS plays in shaping girls’ notions of gender roles. Someone in your community (the TOY-GENDER community) has likely studied LEGOS, or other types of toys, and their impact on gender role notions among girls and boys.
    • What other communities might care about this specific research question and findings? Focus in on work that speaks to your question and findings. Someone OUTSIDE OF your community has done something similar. Discuss that similar work. This is in the middle of your background.
      • Someone outside of your community (in the CAR-GENDER community or the TOY-ETHNICITY community) has likely studied different types of objects (e.g., cars) and their impact on gender role notions among girls and boys; or, the impact of toys on societal role notions among different ethnic groups.
    • In your discussion points, you should have thought beyond your specific question and findings to discuss the broader implications of your work. Other communities studying other concepts related to your work will be interested in the implications of your work. This is near the beginning of your background.
      • People who study TOYS or GENDER (but not necessarily both) or WORKFORCE or PLAY or IDENTITY-BASED PERCEPTIONS (but not necessarily of gender) would be interested in your TOY-GENDER findings in a broad sense. Describe this prior work.
    • The very first paragraph of your paper should set up why your work is so vital. This should be written like this: FACT, FACT, FACT, PROBLEM, HEY – I CAN SOLVE THAT PROBLEM! Like this (I am totally making this up, but in real life there would be references. And don’t judge me – again, I made this up as an example of a first paragragph): Many careers are outside of the reach of young girls, not because of ability, but because of societal expectations. Often, these expectations are transmitted when we are quite young, in the objects we encounter. For example, the toys we play with can instill a sense of how we – as gendered individuals – are expected to engage with the world as we age and begin to work. In the western world, toys are often labeled by the gender group we expect to use them, up to and including use of specific colors (pink, purple) for toys deemed appropriate for girls. This labeling can encourage unconscious bias among parents and children alike, and can shape how young girls view themselves as workers. Reshaping how children play, and what they play with, can have far reaching implications for women in the workforce.
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How to Write a Manuscript

The related posts: How to Review a Manuscript, How to Write a Manuscript, How (and When) to Write the Background Section of a Manuscript.

My personal opinion is that writing – especially technical writing – hinges on planning. Set very specific goals. Here is what I would do for an empirical paper; this can be adapted for theory/argument. Let’s say you need to write a journal article. Set a daily goal. Take about a week to dig into article structure and make your blueprint, and each subsequent day do one paragraph/table/figure. You’ll be submitting in 3 months.

  • Pick a journal.
    • Review all of the possible journals.
    • Check to make sure they are legitimate publication venues.
    • Look at metrics that other people might care about (impact factor, who is the publisher).
    • PICK ONE.
  • Examine the structure of articles in that journal.
    • Pick three example articles that you really like and which are similar to the kind of work you will be presenting.
    • Tear each article apart
      • How many sections?
      • How many paragraphs in each section?
        • What is the form and function of each paragraph?
        • How many sentences in each paragraph? ETC.
        • Tear the articles apart down to sentence structure if needed.
  • Based on what you have learned about articles published in this journal, develop a blueprint for the components of your paper. You can model the blueprint in as much detail based on example articles as you are comfortable with. Notice – this should be generic. You are going to drop the story of your research into this blueprint.
  • Once you have that blueprint, I recommend writing in this order:
    • Research question/hypotheses
    • Methods
    • Figures/tables.
    • Bullet points for each figure/table that articulate the information in the figures/table. If a figure/table is in the results section, also write bullet points for the SO WHAT? of each figure/table.
    • Write out bullet points for results not shown in figures/tables.
    • Bullet point discussion themes – these should convey the SO WHAT? of your research and connect to the literature (which you haven’t written up yet). Nail down discussion points – this is the hardest part.
    • The content of the background should be aligned with your discussion. The discussion should consist of:
      • 2-4 very specific findings linked to the work that most closely aligns with your study.
      • 1-3 broader implications that align with work that is linked with some, but not all aspects of your work.
      • 1-3 very broad implications that align with the most general community.
      • Then, and only then, do you write the background (this is the introduction or literature review or theoretical framework or whatever your field calls the background). As you write the background, your discussion points might adjust to accommodate any new literature that you discover. See this post for suggestions about how to write the background.
    • After finish your background, flesh out the discussion by weaving the literature you have cited into the discussion.

How to Review a Manuscript

The related posts: How to Review a Manuscript, How to Write a Manuscript, How (and When) to Write the Background Section of a Manuscript.

Reviewing a manuscript for a professional journal can seem like an overwhelming task, and can be time-consuming. I use this technique to help me dig into a paper quickly.

  1. Read the abstract and the title.
  2. Make a note of the central theme of the paper.
  3. Flip to the research question (usually at end of intro).
  4. Make a note of the connection or lack thereof between the research question and the theme as depicted by title and abstract.
  5. Flip to discussion.
  6. Does the discussion address the theme and question? Often, this is where a paper will fall apart first. Don’t read in great detail yet, just skim for alignment.
  7. If discussion, theme, and question do not align, then your review should focus on this. Do the next steps, but the authors either made a mistake, or didn’t actually do the work as they thought they had.
  8. If discussion, theme, and question all align, then go to methods. As above, check to make sure methods align with theme/question. Now, however, you get to decide if the methods are adequate. Not perfect. Adequate. You can note imperfections, but new reviewers are often too focused on minor details and then miss major errors. Look up any methods that you feel weak on – I do it all the time, especially for stats and even for things I’m an expert on. If I have any questions, I always double-check that my concern is legit.
  9. Dig into the results.
    1. Do the results align with the theme/question/method?
    2. Do the results need to push things further?
    3. Are figures/tables telling the story of the paper or are they difficult to follow?
  10. Dig into the discussion. The biggest mistake I see is a discussion that simply repeats results. A good discussion will tell a reader the SO WHAT of the paper. Seriously, why should anyone care enough to read it?
  11. Remember, you still shouldn’t have read much of the introduction or literature review. Read it now.
    1. Does the introduction link into the discussion?
    2. Does the discussion adequately reference both the literature they cite and the existing literature, in general? Often, people will have a misalignment between the literature they reference and their discussion. You might not know the literature well enough to know what’s missing, but GoogleScholar does.

Climate science education research: a short bibliography

More and more, scientists are becoming interested in understanding the ways in which the general public, students, and even scientists understand climate science. Here is a short – and thus incomplete – set of papers researchers might find useful for developing research questions around climate science in education, communication, or similar fields.

Andersson, B., & Wallin, A. (2000). Students’ understanding of the greenhouse effect, the societal consequences of reducing CO2 emissions and the problem of ozone layer depletion. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(10), 1096-1111.

Bodzin, A. M., Anastasio, D., Sahagian, D., Peffer, T., Dempsey, C., & Steelman, R. (2014). Investigating climate change understandings of urban middle-level students. Journal of Geoscience Education, 62(3), 417-430.

Boon, H. J. (2010). Climate change? Who knows? A comparison of secondary students and pre-service teachers. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 35, 104-120.

Bostrom, A., Morgan, M. G., Fischhoff, B., & Read, D. (1994). What do people know about global climate change? 1. Mental models. Risk Analysis, 14(6), 959-970.

Boyes, E., Skamp, K., & Stanisstreet, M. (2009). Australian secondary students’ views about global warming: Beliefs about actions, and willingness to act. Research in Science Education, 39(5), 661-680.

Center for Research on Environmental Decisions [CRED]. (2009). The Psychology of Climate Change Communication: A Guide for Scientists, Journalists, Educators, Political Aides, and the Interested Public. New York: Columbia University, CRED.

Cordero, E., Marie Todd, A., & Abellera, D. (2008). Climate change education and the ecological footprint. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 89(6), 865–872.

Corner, A., Markowitz, E., & Pidgeon, N. (2014). Public engagement with climate change: the role of human values. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 5(3), 411-422.

Corner, A., Roberts, O., Chiari, S., Völler, S., Mayrhuber, E. S., Mandl, S., & Monson, K. (2015). How do young people engage with climate change? The role of knowledge, values, message framing, and trusted communicators. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 6(5), 523-534.

Feldman, L., Nisbet, M. C., Leiserowitz, A., & Maibach, E. (2010). The climate change generation? Survey analysis of the perceptions and beliefs of young Americans. Joint Report of American University’s School of Communication, The Yale Project on Climate Change, and George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication. Retrieved from: http://environment.yale.edu/climate-communication-OFF/files/YouthJan2010.pdf

Francis C., Boyes, E., Qualter, A., & Stanisstreet, M. (1993). Ideas of elementary students about reducing the “greenhouse effect”. Science Education, 77(4), 375-392.

Grotzer, T., & Lincoln, R. (2007). Educating for “intelligent environmental action” in an age of global warming. In Creating a Climate for Change: Communicating Climate Change and Facilitating Social Change, edited by S.C. Moser and L. Dilling, (pp. 266-280). New York: Cambridge University Press

Guy, S., Kashima, Y., Walker, I., & O’Neill, S. (2014). Investigating the effects of knowledge and ideology on climate change beliefs. European Journal of Social Psychology, 44(5), 421-429.

Hamilton, L. C. (2008). Who cares about Polar Regions? Results from a survey of U.S. public opinion. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 40(4), 671-678.

Hamilton, L.C. (2011). Education, politics and opinions about climate change evidence for interaction effects. Climatic Change, 104(2), 231–242.

Harris. S.E., & Gold, A.U. 2017. Learning molecular behaviour may improve student explanatory models of the greenhouse effect. Environmental Education Research, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13504622.2017.1280448.

Hartley, L. M., Wilke, B. J., Schramm, J. W., D’Avanzo, C., & Anderson, C. W. (2011). College students’ understanding of the carbon cycle: Contrasting principle-based and informal reasoning. BioScience, 61(1), 65-75.

Kahan, D. M., Peters, E., Wittlin, M., Slovic, P., Ouellette, L. L., Braman, D., & Mandel, G. (2012). The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature Climate Change, 2(10), 732-735.

Kerr, S. C., & Walz, K. A. (2007). Holes in student understanding: Addressing prevalent misconceptions regarding atmospheric environmental chemistry. Journal of Chemical Education, 84(10), 1693-1696.

Khalid, T. (2001). Pre-service Teachers’ Misconceptions Regarding Three Environmental Issues. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 6, 102-120.

Khalid, T. (2003). Pre-service high school teachers’ perceptions of three environmental phenomena. Environmental Education Research, 9(1), 35-50.

Lambert, J. L., & Bleicher, R. E. (2014). Improving Climate Change Communication Starting with Environmental Educators. Journal of Geoscience Education, 62(3), 388-401.

Lambert, J. L., Lindgren, J., & Bleicher, R. (2012). Assessing elementary science methods students’ understanding about global climate change. International Journal of Science Education, 34(8), 1167-1187.

Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., & Hmielowski, J. (2012). Global Warming’s Six Americas, March, 2012 & Nov. 2011. New Haven, CT: Yale University and George Mason University, Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

Leiserowitz, A., Smith, N. & Marlon, J.R. (2010) Americans’ Knowledge of Climate Change. Yale University. New Haven, CT: Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Retrieved from: http://environment.yale.edu/climate/files/ClimateChangeKnowledge2010.pdf

Leiserowitz, A., Smith, N., & Marlon, J. R. (2011). American teens’ knowledge of climate change. Yale University. New Haven, CT: Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

Lenzen, M., & Murray, J. (2001). The Role of Equity and Lifestyles in Education about Climate Change: Experiences from a Large-scale Teacher Development Program. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 6, 32-51.

Libarkin, J. C., Thomas, S. R., & Ording, G. (2015). Factor Analysis of Drawings: Application to college student models of the greenhouse effect. International Journal of Science Education, 37(13), 2214-2236.

Libarkin, J.C., Gold, A.U., Harris, S.E. McNeal, K.S., & Bowles, R. (2015). Psychometric Principles in Measurement for Geoscience Education Research: A Climate Change Example. In American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting Abstracts, San Fransciso, CA.

Lombardi, D., & Sinatra, G. M. (2012). College students’ perceptions about the plausibility of human-induced climate change. Research in Science Education, 42(2), 201-217.

Lombardi, D., & Sinatra, G.M. (2013). Emotions about teaching about human-induced climate change. International Journal of Science Education, 35(1), 167-191.

Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., & Leiserowitz, A. (2009). Global warming’s six Americas 2009: An Audience Segmentation Analysis. Yale Project on Climate Change, Yale University and George Mason University, New Haven, CT.

Malka, A., Krosnick, J. A., & Langer, G. (2009). The association of knowledge with concern about global warming: Trusted information sources shape public thinking. Risk Analysis, 29(5), 633-647.

McCaffrey, M. S., & Buhr, S. M. (2008). Clarifying climate confusion: addressing systemic holes, cognitive gaps, and misconceptions through climate literacy. Physical Geography, 29(6), 512-528.

McCright, A. M. (2016). Anti-Reflexivity and Climate Change Skepticism in the US General Public. Human Ecology Review, 22(2), 77–107.

McCright, A. M., & Dunlap, R. E. (2011a). The politicization of climate change and polarization in the American public’s views of global warming, 2001–2010. The Sociological Quarterly, 52(2), 155-194.

McCright, A. M., & Dunlap, R. E. (2011b). Cool dudes: The denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States. Global Environmental Change, 21(4), 1163-1172.

McNeal, K. S., Hammerman, J. K., Christiansen, J. A., & Carroll, F. J. (2014). Climate change education in the Southeastern US through public dialogue: Not just preaching to the choir. Journal of Geoscience Education, 62(4), 631-644.

McNeal, K. S., Libarkin, J. C., Ledley, T. S., Bardar, E., Haddad, N., Ellins, K., & Dutta, S. (2014). The Role of Research in Online Curriculum Development: The Case of EarthLabs Climate Change and Earth System Modules. Journal of Geoscience Education, 62(4), 560-577.

McNeal, K. S., Spry, J. M., Mitra, R., & Tipton, J. L. (2014). Measuring Student Engagement, Knowledge, and Perceptions of Climate Change in an Introductory Environmental Geology Course. Journal of Geoscience Education, 62(4), 655-667.

Morgan, M. D., & Moran, J. M. (1995). Understanding the greenhouse effect and the ozone shield: An index of scientific literacy among university students. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 76(7), 1185-1190.

 

Ockwell, D., Whitmarsh, L., & O’Neill, S. (2009). Reorienting climate change communication for effective mitigation: Forcing people to be green or fostering grass-roots engagement? Science Communication, 30, 305-327.

O’Connor, R. E., Bord, R. J., & Fisher, A. (1999). Risk perceptions, general environmental beliefs, and willingness to address climate change. Risk Analysis, 19(3), 461-471.

Papadimitriou, V. (2004). Prospective primary teachers’ understanding of climate change, greenhouse effect, and ozone layer depletion. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 13(2), 299-307.

Porter, D., Weaver, A. J., & Raptis, H. (2012). Assessing students’ learning about fundamental concepts of climate change under two different conditions. Environmental Education Research, 18(5), 665-686.

Rebich, S., & Gautier, C. (2005). Concept mapping to reveal prior knowledge and conceptual change in a mock summit course on global climate change. Journal of Geoscience Education, 53(4), 355-365.

 

Shepardson, D. P., Niyogi, D., Choi, S., & Charusombat, U. (2009). Seventh grade students’ conceptions of global warming and climate change. Environmental Education Research, 15(5), 549-570.

Shepardson, D. P., Niyogi, D., Choi, S., & Charusombat, U. (2011). Students’ conceptions about the greenhouse effect, global warming, and climate change. Climatic Change, 104(3-4), 481-507.

Shi, J., Visschers, V. H., Siegrist, M., & Arvai, J. (2016). Knowledge as a driver of public perceptions about climate change reassessed. Nature Climate Change, 6(8), 759-762.

Smith, N., & Leiserowitz, A. (2012). The rise of global warming skepticism: Exploring affective image associations in the United States over time. Risk Analysis, 32(6), 1021-1032.

Steg, L., De Groot, J. I., Dreijerink, L., Abrahamse, W., & Siero, F. (2011). General antecedents of personal norms, policy acceptability, and intentions: The role of values, worldviews, and environmental concern. Society and Natural Resources, 24(4), 349-367.

Steg, L., Perlaviciute, G., Van der Werff, E., & Lurvink, J. (2014). The significance of hedonic values for environmentally relevant attitudes, preferences, and actions. Environment and Behavior, 46(2), 163-192.

Sterman, J. D., & Sweeney, L. B. (2007). Understanding public complacency about climate change: Adults’ mental models of climate change violate conservation of matter. Climatic Change, 80(3-4), 213-238.

Stevenson, K. T., Peterson, M. N., Bondell, H. D., Moore, S. E., & Carrier, S. J. (2014). Overcoming skepticism with education: interacting influences of worldview and climate change knowledge on perceived climate change risk among adolescents. Climatic Change, 126(3-4), 293-304.

Sullivan, S. M. B., Ledley, T. S., Lynds, S. E., & Gold, A. U. (2014). Navigating climate science in the classroom: Teacher preparation, perceptions and practices. Journal of Geoscience Education, 62(4), 550-559.

Sundblad, E. L., Biel, A., & Gärling, T. (2007). Cognitive and affective risk judgements related to climate change. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 27(2), 97-106.

Theissen, K. M. (2008). The Earth’s Record of Climate: A Focused-topic Introductory Course. Journal of Geoscience Education, 56(4), 342-353.

Tobler, C., Visschers, V. H., & Siegrist, M. (2012). Consumers’ knowledge about climate change. Climatic Change, 114(2), 189-209.

Viscusi, W. K., & Zeckhauser, R. J. (2006). The perception and valuation of the risks of climate change: a rational and behavioral blend. Climatic Change, 77(1-2), 151-177.

Wachholz, S., Artz, N., & Chene, D. (2014). Warming to the idea: university students’ knowledge and attitudes about climate change. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 15(2), 128-141.

Weber, E. U., & Stern, P. C. (2011). Public understanding of climate change in the United States. American Psychologist, 66(4), 315-328.

Wise, S. B. (2010). Climate change in the classroom: Patterns, motivations, and barriers to instruction among Colorado science teachers. Journal of Geoscience Education, 58(5), 297-309.

New Publication About Perceptions of Scientists with Disabilities in GEOSPHERE

The GRL is pleased to announce the publication of a new paper in GEOSPHERE, a journal of the Geological Society of America. The paper, Professionally held perceptions about the accessibility of the geosciences, is co-authored by Chris Atchison and Julie Libarkin. We discuss three related studies of scientists’ perceptions of people with disabilities, as well as the implications these perceptions have for moving the geosciences towards greater inclusivity and accessibility.

The abstract:

The geosciences are considered by many to be inaccessible to individuals with disabilities. Challenging traditional perceptions of identity in the geoscience community is an important step to removing barriers for students and geoscientists with diverse physical, sensory, and cognitive abilities, and to broadening entry into the myriad fields that make up the discipline. Geoscientists’ views of the extent to which a disability would inhibit access to a geoscience career were probed through three separate studies. Results indicate that although opportunities for people with disabilities are perceived to exist in the geosciences, the discipline is considered more accessible to people with some disabilities than others. Most notably, people with hearing impairments are viewed as the most capable of engaging in geoscience careers, visual and cognitive impairments are considered barriers to engagement in geoscience careers or tasks, and people with physical disabilities are perceived as capable of engaging in all but outdoor tasks. We suggest that these individual perceptions result in multiple barriers for people with disabilities: perceptual barriers, training barriers, and community-level barriers. Reducing these barriers will require action across multiple levels to change individual perceptions, training pathways, and social norms for professional engagement.

Paper Wins 2016 Outstanding Paper of the Year from Journal of Geoscience Education

A paper published by the GRL in 2015 has been awarded the Outstanding Paper of the Year by the Journal of Geoscience Education! The paper, Using the Lens of Social Capital to Understand Diversity in the Earth System Sciences Workforce, is available for free online as  special offer by the journal. The paper was co-authored by (former) GRL postdoc Caitlin Callahan, Julie Libarkin, Carmen McCallum, and Chris Atchison. Well done everyone!

The paper’s abstract:

In this commentary, we argue that social capital theory, the idea that membership in a group creates opportunities to acquire valuable information and resources from other group members, is a useful framework in which to consider ways to increase diversity in the Earth System Sciences (ESS) and in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields more broadly. Existing literature documents numerous barriers to underrepresented groups’ participation in the sciences. These include a sense of isolation, a lack of visible role models, and a lack of trust in mentors or teachers. We discuss how these challenges impact acquisition of social capital and how lack of social capital affects career success and satisfaction. We conclude with recommendations for increasing diversity in the ESS through careful attention to building trustworthy professional relationships. In particular, the community should (1) recognize that trust must be built in order for students to feel connected to the larger community; (2) provide explicit guidance to students on different types of ties, how to build each type, and the value of each type in career development; and (3) train professionals to recognize their own social capital and best practices for imparting capital to students.

 

GRL-Affiliated Conference Paper Wins Award

A paper recently presented at the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Conference was awarded the Second Place Research Award by the Entrepreneurship and Engineering Innovation Division!

The paper, Entrepreneurship Education for Women in Engineering: A Systematic Review of Entrepreneurship Assessment Literature with a Focus on Gender, was led by Christina Morton and co-authored by Aileen Huang-Saad and Julie Libarkin. Congratulations, Christina et al!

A synopsis of the paper:

The nation’s economic vitality and global competitiveness depends on the creativity and innovation of its citizenship. While institutions of higher education nationwide are being pressured to train and produce a highly skilled technical workforce, engineering schools are especially challenged with preparing their students to anticipate societal needs and translate their technical expertise into commercializable solutions. In response to this challenge, engineering schools have begun incorporating entrepreneurship education programs within their curriculums. Regardless of differences in size, scope, and student participation, generally, these programs are intended to provide students with fundamental business skills and foster an entrepreneurial mindset(Gilmartin, Shartrand, Chen, Estrada, & Sheppard, 2014).

While research has shown that entrepreneurship education programs do increase science and engineering students’ entrepreneurial intent (Souitaris, Zerbinati, & Al-Laham, 2007), potential differences in outcomes based on gender were not examined. Additionally, what is occurring within entrepreneurship education environments that might be influencing women’s entrepreneurial outcomes and experiences? Curious about how gender has been addressed in entrepreneurship education scholarship, we have conducted a systematic literature review of entrepreneurship education research to date as found in three databases (Scopus, API/INFORM, and ERIC) and extracted articles that specifically focus on gender. After applying inclusion and exclusion criteria, our search yielded 24 articles for this review.

In addition to synthesizing current entrepreneurship education research with an emphasis on gender, this review also provides recommendations for engineering education researchers who desire to examine how entrepreneurship education environments influence women. The purpose of this review is to guide future research on engineering entrepreneurship through a gendered lens. Further, this review serves to inform the development or improvement of existing engineering entrepreneurship education programs that seek to attract and retain more women.

Gilmartin, S., Shartrand, A., Chen, H., Estrada, C., & Sheppard, S. (2014). U.S.-based entrepreneurship programs for undergraduate engineers: Scope, development, goals, and pedagogies. Epicenter Technical Brief 1. Stanford, CA and Hadley, MA: National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation.

Souitaris, V., Zerbinati, S., & Al-Laham, A. (2007). Do entrepreneurship programmes raise entrepreneurial intention of science and engineering students? The effect of learning, inspiration and resources. Journal of Business Venturing, 22(4), 566–591. doi:10.1016/j.jbusvent.2006.05.002

The Media is NOT Reporting on University Sexual Harassment

Today is June 8, 2016. That means 22 weeks of the year have passed. In those 22 weeks, I have documented the reporting of 23 cases of sexual harassment and assault perpetrated by university faculty or administrators. These are only the cases I could find, and the number of actual cases is likely higher. In those 22 weeks, at least 12 lawsuits were also filed claiming harassment or assault by university faculty or administrators. Most of this harassment and assault occurred before 2016 – 2016 is the first time these cases were publicized. And the publicity usually occurred on a very local scale.

Here is a graph showing when the media first reported on the 23 confirmed cases of sexual harassment or assault:

June8_2016_SH

Here is the same graph with the names of the perpetrators included. Six of these names are likely familiar to you because of national press attention to their cases (black). I would guess that most of you are unfamiliar with the 17 names in red:

SH-names

What might explain the differences in press coverage? Let’s see:

1.Discipline. Maybe the media focus on specific disciplines over others. In 2016, we have seen well publicized cases in law, anthropology, astronomy, bioscience, and english. Doesn’t seem like much of a pattern, does it? Especially when you look closely at the disciplines of the less publicized cases and see that some of these disciplines experienced poorly publicized cases (Harwood is in bioscience, for example). You would also think that the media would want to publicize cases of people who really, really, really should know better – like the guy from criminal justice (Swindell). The media really, really, really needs to do a better job investigating and reporting on sexual harassment and assault committed by university faculty and administrators.

2. Type of harassment/assault. Well, you might say. Perhaps the perpetrators receiving national attention simply committed the worst offenses. Let’s see. This would mean that faculty/administrators who sexually assaulted students or colleagues would be at the top of the news page. Here are the perpetrators who were arrested or are being investigated for sexual assault. How many of these cases do you remember reading about? Sexual harassment is horrible in whatever form it takes, but the media sure isn’t reporting on the worst of the worst. 

2016: Mahmood G. Ghamsary, Loma Linda University. ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE FROM UNIVERSITY, ARRESTED. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-university-professor-arrested-sexual-battery-student-20160317-story.html

2016: Youssef Taleb, Northern Virginia Community College. FIRED/JAILED/SEXUAL ASSAULT CHARGES FILED. http://www.afro.com/northern-va-professor-charged-with-sexual-assault-on-students/

2016: Guo Ping Wang, Indiana University-Bloomington. FIRED AND POLICE HAVE OPENED INVESTIGATION INTO SEXUAL ASSAULT. http://www.southbendtribune.com/news/local/indiana-university-lecturer-fired-after-reported-sexual-assault/article_96457e37-aa93-5f20-afcd-95fefa8bf723.html

3. Type of institution. Let’s look at the schools where the sexual harassment occurred. The seven well publicized cases occurred mostly at elite institutions, both public and private. The remaining cases primarily occurred at community colleges, smaller regional institutions, and niche institutions. Oh, it’s elitism! Sexual harassment and assault committed by university staff is a problem no matter where it occurs! The media should do a better job covering all of the cases, not just an elite few.

  • Ott: California Institute of Technology, or Caltech
  • Slater: University of Arizona
  • Richmond: American Museum of Natural History
  • Lieb: University of Chicago (Princeton, University of North Carolina)
  • Latham: University of California-Riverside
  • Choudhry: University of California – Berkeley
  • Piterberg: University of California-Los Angeles, or UCLA
  • Wells: Kilgore College
  • Elsey: University of North Alabama
  • Swindell: West Virginia State University
  • Jones: Alabama A&M University
  • Lee: Grand Rapids Community College
  • Ghamsary: Loma Linda University
  • Markman: Ohio University
  • Harwood: University of Kentucky
  • Ellis: University of Iowa
  • Taleb:Northern Virginia Community College
  • Wang: Indiana University-Bloomington
  • Miller: Northern Kentucky University
  • Christensen: Columbus State University
  • Brule & Parker: Purdue University
  • Parisi: Texas Tech University

Hey, reporter! Yeah, you. How about doing your job? Stop following the easy stories, stop reporting on cases that only affect elite students. HARASSMENT IS A PROBLEM, AT ALL KINDS OF INSTITUTIONS. The media should be ashamed for falling down on the job. I don’t believe that the scale of the problem of faculty/administrator harassment will truly be felt until we have fair reporting that highlights harassment – wherever it may occur.*

*don’t get me started on the scale of the problem internationally. This is not just a problem for the U.S., but we have to start somewhere.