Self-Love Wednesday: Read!

It’s Wednesday, and I’m here to introduce you to a new way to refresh your week as we hit the “hump” day. There’s nothing more soothing than finding a few hours to yourself away from anything work related. Here’s a simple one — replace your social app with a book, or a magazine. It’s time to get lost in the reading realm, girlfriend! It is something so simple, yet hard for some of us to find time to do.

I have been an avid reader since I was a kid, I’m part of that study, yeah. And while this continues until today (a bit less these last couple years), this year I decided to give myself a number of books to read and indulge in. I would love to join a book club even — I used to host one myself, they are fun! So today as part of our weekly “Self-Love Wednesday“, I encourage you to find something you want to read, and dive in!

Not the book holding type? Try an audiobook! I haven’t tried that option yet but when I do I’ll make sure to share my thoughts. If it works, why not? I’m all for the intimate reading experience. I love to hold and smell books. I’m also a note taker. Keeping things minimal? Try a Kindle + Kindle app. I have an older gen of Kindle and it’s perfect for on the go and it saves money! I am still a book buyer, that will never leave me.

Here’s what I’m reading this month:

1: Thoughtfully Magazine

I love magazines, it’s no brainer I founded my very own last year. As I get back to my roots and dive deeper into wellness, and nutrition, I thought it would be great to find a publication that reflects just that. I love Thoughtfully Magazine, and can’t wait for their newest issue to it stands. As for now, issue 08 is the first issue I purchased (digital) and fell in love with. It truly captured my lifestyle and introduced me to some great new practices, and products.

Thoughtfully Magazine Issue 08 Cover. Image by Thoughtfully

Print Issues | Digital Issues 

2. Crazy Love —

As I get closer to God and build our relationship, this book is the perfect read for understanding His love for us. It’s funny, I purchased this book 2 years ago and started a couple chapters then but never finished it. I am glad that it happened this way because the woman I was back then isn’t the same as today. Today I understand more, and this book means a lot more to me. Francis Chan does a great job sharing God’s love with us.


Sample Chapter | Buy Here

3. How Not To Die: Discover The Foods Scientifically Proven To Prevent and Reserve Diseases —

I’m not going to lie, the title definitely took me by surprise! If there were a pill to avoid death I’m sure everyone would be on it. Well, how about our health? Have you ever thought about what you’re eating and how it is affecting your body? Dr. Micheal Greger, M.D and leading expert in nutrition and whole foods plant-based eating. He does a great job at sharing science-backed information on how healing plants are, on what to avoid and incorporate into your daily meals. How Not To Die Cookbook is now available, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

How Not To Die by Michael Greger, MD, and Gene Stone.

About | Buy Here

What are you reading?!?! Let me know, I’d love to check it out!


Do your figures tell your story?

When I review papers, I often read the introduction and methods, and then skip to the figures to see what I take away from them before reading the results. This can also be done the opposite way: read the results and imagine what they would look like in figure-form, then go look at the figures. I find this really useful when reviewing for making me get out of the passive reading of a manuscript and for encouraging me to think critically about the results. Sometimes, there’s a great match. Sometimes there isn’t and I realize I misunderstood something (which sometimes is just me messing up, but sometimes suggests something that is unclear in the paper). And sometimes I can’t figure out the reason for the discrepancy, which ends up being something I bring up in my review.

I was originally thinking about this as a tip for reviewing – as I said, it helps me think more deeply and critically about a paper. But, over time, I’ve realized it relates to a bigger issue: the accessibility of a paper. If you have a figure that clearly summarizes your results, your paper will be much more accessible to everyone from specialists in your area (the people who review your manuscript!) to non-specialists (including people who serve on search committees and award committees) and perhaps even to the general public.

As an instructor, I am always looking for interesting examples to use in class. Sometimes, there’s a figure that beautifully shows the results and that is accessible. I just read this paper and saw this figure and immediately thought that I need – need! – to add it to my lecture on food webs:

(Direct link to figure)

But, much more often, I see an interesting paper on a topic I teach about, but there’s no accessible figure that summarizes the results.

In 2001, Charles Krebs had a piece in the ESA Bulletin entitled “Why are my brilliant research findings not utilized in ecology textbooks?” In it, he suggests the following exercise:

Read a paper in Ecological Monographs (for example) that is not directly in your field of expertise, and try to extract a 1-2 sentence summary of findings reported in this paper, along with one figure to illustrate key results. You will find you cannot do this for most papers because the authors have not provided a succinct abstract or summary diagram to illustrate their findings. Now go back and look at your key papers and see if you have done the same thing.

I suspect that most people would not be able to do this for most of my papers, which suggests this is something I need to work on! And that’s even with having received this advice as a grad student. Back then, someone who read a draft of a manuscript I was working on said something along the lines of: “This could end up being a textbook example. Make the figure one that could go in a textbook.” As a graduate student, that was something I hadn’t considered, but it was good advice and made me think really hard about how the figure should look. Even if your work doesn’t end up in a textbook (and, as far as I know, mine hasn’t), it never hurts to have a clear, accessible figure!

So why is it so hard to find papers that do a good job of meeting Krebs’ target? In some cases, it might be unavoidable that there isn’t one key figure that tells the paper’s story – some results are more nuanced. But, even in those cases where there isn’t one key, broadly accessible figure in the paper, it should be possible to create a graphic that tells your story clearly. As one example, my postdoc Nina Wale recently had a paper come out based on her thesis work, and worked with the Penn State press office to create this visual synthesis of her work:


Making a synthetic figure like this takes time, but it also leads to more people reading your work. One journal found that adding visual abstracts to tweets led to 2.7 times more people clicking the link to read the paper. I find them useful for teaching, too – for example, I use this graphical abstract in my class:

as a way of setting up the experiment before showing them some data from it.

(Source: Goodrich et al. 2014)

So, I think I need to set myself a new goal for manuscripts: when making the figures for them, I should think harder about whether one of the figures can synthesize my story. And, if there isn’t one figure that I can point to, I should consider making a synthetic figure that can be used as a visual abstract. Krebs noted:

Graphical summaries or flow diagrams are particularly economical ways of communicating research findings, yet very few papers use them to encapsulate the discussion and synthesis of results.

This is a great excuse to use some of my #readinghour time this semester to read Edward Tufte’s Beautiful Evidence (which I’ve been wanting to read, but haven’t gotten to yet)!

Do you think your papers would meet Krebs’ target? When preparing a manuscript, do you think about making your figures textbook-ready? Have you used visual abstracts or created a graphical summary? I’d love to hear from readers about their experiences and tips!