proof copy in my hands

proof copy in my hands

Writing Essays by Pictures is a fun and visual workbook for university starters (and maybe a reference for the rest of us), that applies a ‘painting-by-numbers’ approach to researching and writing a basic research essay. Step by step it uses easy to understand analogies to make academic conventions and processes accessible to students new to the academic environment. Since this is based on the principles of tactile academia, it also includes activities that develop the research process through hands-on making. Really this is a collection of analogies and activities that have previously been shared on this blog – in an order that provides step-by-step guidance to essay research and writing.

Order yours now here (or through your preferred retailer).




Review by Greta Friggens in Journal of Information Literacy

Writing Essays by Pictures made the Books of the Year 2016 published by Times Higher Education

Review by Emily Forster on the Writing PAD East Midlands Blog

Review by Steve Briggs in Journal of Pedagogic Development

Column by Kathie McInnes in The Sentinel ‘Woody Allen, the art of essays and academic fish’

Article by Kathie McInnes in The Sentinel ‘Staffordshire University Academic creates a picture book for writing essays’

Article by Chris Havergal in Times Higher Education ‘Essay Writing tips for students are all at sea’

Review by Zhandra Belgasmi in Innovative Practice in Higher Education


And here how this all came to be…

I have been making little ‘Tactile Academia booklets’ for quite some time, each focusing on one of the visual analogies to explain one aspect of ‘hidden’ academic practice. And while most of them were written and illustrated very much in a children’s book genre, they were basically meant as inspiration for colleagues and I gave them out when facilitating sessions at the Writing in Creative Practice workshops. But for quite some time now I have wanted to do something that is student facing, and stand-alone.

The existing Tactile Academia booklets

The existing Tactile Academia booklets

As part of the Tactile Academia community, we have often reflected on the usefulness of both visuals and of making (the tactile dimension alluded to in the title of the blog) in learning. And I have made some reference to the difference between ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ pedagogies. I wanted to create a set of resources that would take this into account, because really these two types of learning are very different, but they might complement each other nicely. The Writing by Pictures project is this student-facing, stand-alone development. I was asking myself whether it would be possible to use a Painting by Numbers approach – something step by step, but also very visual, to teach/learn essay writing to first year students. And I have come up with two parts…

There is the ‘fast‘ learning aspect, which I thought would be perfect for a new blog consisting of ‘visual soundbites’. A dip-in-and-out resource this is full of the tips and tricks that I share with students when I am teaching essay writing, but made more memorable through linking the short statements and explanations through an attached image. This Writing by Pictures blog is currently under construction here, with more images added when I have the time – and ultimately these image sketches will be replaced by more cleaned up pictures.

Some initial sketches for the Writing by Pictures blog

Some initial sketches for the Writing by Pictures blog

For the ‘slow‘ learning aspect, I decided to put together the ideas behind the Tactile Academia booklets and create a workbook for students. It is conceived as a start-to-finish journey throughout the essay writing process that the individual can work through on their own time. Most usefully while they are actually putting together an essay. This book, called Writing Essays by Pictures. After showing a draft to a number of colleagues and receiving very positive feedback, I took the plunge and decided to produce some ‘test copies’.

After running a successful  Kickstarter campaign  (thanks to all of you who pledged your support) to raise money for printing, I dropped off my artwork at the printers to make 130 copies (plus a Limited Artists Book edition of 13).

After only two short weeks, the printing was done and the copies were sent out to the backers. We also had a lovely launch event in Manchester at the end of July, where about a third of the backers got together, had a look at the book, picked up their own copies – and had some bubbly, tea, coffee and cake. It was a very nice afternoon, and not only did people seem very happy with the book (Yay!), they also made new connections with each other and I heard more than one person say that they picked up new ideas to try both during the new term and in their own creative practice.

A success all round!

(Thank you for Lucy and Kelly for the pictures from the launch party)

Since the feedback was so positive, I was looking for a publisher who would be able to do justice to this book on a larger scale and signed on with Innovative Libraries to revise an edition for a September 2016 release – and also a computer graphics wizzard who helped me translate the collages of the original into a somewhat new look, but still retaining what I initially liked about going down the ‘collage-way’.

It is done now and you can order it here.

If you want to find out more about this project, please email me at tactileacademia[at] with ‘Writing Essays by Pictures’ in the subject.


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