Slaying Zombie Papers

jonathan downie - 200pxDr Jonathan Downie is a practising conference interpreter with a PhD in stakeholder expectations of interpreters from Heriot-Watt University (2016).

His first book, Being a Successful Interpreter: Adding Value and Delivering Excellence, was published by Routledge in 2016. He is also a columnist on research issues for two industry magazines and a regular speaker on the academic and translation & interpreting conference circuits.

He tweets at @jonathanddownie (personal/academic) and @integlangsbiz (interpreting/business).


We all have them. Somewhere in a desk drawer or a forgotten folder lies the zombie paper, waiting. For a year or more, they have lain dormant. They took your brains and now they are asking for more.

How does this tale of the zombie paper end?

Will you victoriously dispatch it to a grateful editor?

Will you release it (and you) from its misery by scrapping the whole idea?

Or will you leave it to lie dormant, ignoring its groans every time you clean your desk?

Zombie medical lab assistant

Melbourne Zombie Shuffle 173, by Fernando de Sousa, on Flickr.

I may have over-dramatised (just a bit) but perhaps not as much as you think. Recently, I returned to a paper I had first started drafting nearly two years ago. I began writing it in that strange space between the acceptance of my thesis and my actual graduation. Given that it is a paper on a key finding from my thesis, most of the ideas in it trace back nearly three years. That’s a lot of time from start to finish. Read more of this post

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A manifesto for better academic presentations

Dr Jonathan Downie is a practising conference interpreter with a PhD in stakeholder expectations of interpreters from Heriot-Watt University (2016).

His first book, Being a Successful Interpreter: Adding Value and Delivering Excellence, was published by Routledge in 2016.

He is also a columnist on research issues for two industry magazines and is a regular speaker on the academic and translation & interpreting conference circuits.

He tweets at @jonathanddownie (personal / academic) and @integlangsbiz (interpreting / business).


Academic presentations are broken!

Admit it – the average academic talk is a cure for insomnia. It goes a bit like this:

  • Speaker clears their throat and begins in a hoarse whisper by reading their name and presentation title from the screen, despite the fact that those words are shown on the screen in font size 36!
  • Next comes the pointless “contents” slide. It still amazes me that when people have only 15 minutes to summarise the work that has taken four years of their life, they feel obligated to spend a quarter of that time explaining that their introduction will be followed by a literature review.
  • By the time we get to the meat of the presentation, the presenter has run out of steam. The part of the presentation that should have the biggest impact – what they did, why they did it and what they found – gets forgotten about or rushed as the speaker realises that their time has run out.

Read more of this post