Ongoing Research Interests

Perspectives in Science Fiction and Cultural Narratives

What is it about? Science fiction narratives, and cultural narratives, are steeped in the Malthusian and Neo-Malthusian viewpoints. Szurmak and colleagues analyze the role of these perspectives and examine the place, and the future, of other perspectives in the genre, in culture and in the social sciences, including the evolution of scientific knowledge in affiliated fields.


  • Collaborating with Geloso and Desrochers on a presentation and a paper on Simon Ehrlich’s second bet and related topics.
  • Looking forward to the appearance of her solo book chapter in the forthcoming book A science fiction writer’s guide to science.

Publications / Presentations:

Geloso, V., Szurmak, J., & Desrochers, P. (4 April, 2016). The Second Bet between Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich. Presentation at APEE, Las Vegas, NV.

Szurmak, J. (forthcoming). Premises of science fiction: Neo-Malthusian and resourceship perspectives. In M. M. Wooster & S. T. Karnick (Eds.), A science fiction writer’s guide to science. (pagination TBD). Chicago, Il: The Heartland Institute.

Jane Jacobs’ Legacies in New Writing on Creativity and Invention

What is this about? Szurmak read and examined four of Steven Johnson’s books on creativity and invention and a number of works by and on Jane Jacobs in order to explore the impact Jacobs and her inductive research methodology had on Johnson and other writiers such as Mike Ridley.

Status: Co-author, with Pierre Desrochers, of a forthcoming journal article and a series of conference presentations.

Presentations / Publications:

Desrochers, P., & Szurmak, J. (forthcoming). Jane Jacobs as Spontaneous Economic Order Methodologist: Induction, Complexity and Inconsistencies. Cosmos & Taxis, (volume and pagindation TBD).

Desrochers, P., & Szurmak, J. (29 March, 2016). Jane Jacobs as spontaneous order theorist. Presentation at the AGM, San Francisco, CA.

Desrochers, P., & Szurmak, J. (4 April, 2016). Jane Jacobs as spontaneous order theorist. Presentation at the APEE, Las Vegas, NV.

Desrochers, P., & Szurmak, J. (19 January, 2016). Jane Jacobs as spontaneous order theorist. Presentation at the Toronto Mises Institute.

Desrochers, P., & Szurmak, J. (May, 2015). Jane Jacobs as spontaneous order theorist. Presentation at a Rochester, NY, seminar.

Creative Processes among Individuals Working in Libraries: A Narrative Investigation

What is it about? Szurmak’s research leave project takes aim at examining how people working in libraries see the landscape of creativity in their work. The focus here is on individual creativity, not institutional or group dynamics.

Status: Research ethics application being finalized.

Presentations / Publications:

Szurmak, J. (forthcoming on 31 May, 2016). Discovering, dissecting and describing individual creativity in the academic library through narrative interviews. Presentation at the CAPAL Annual Library Conference, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.

Szurmak, J. (forthcoming on 11 May, 2016). “No Recipe:” Characterizing Individual Librarian Creativity Using Narrative Methods. Presentation at the University of Calgary Conference on Postsecondary Learning and Teaching: Exploring Creativity in Postsecondary Learning and Teaching, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.

Szurmak, J. (29 January, 2016). Probing the Incubator: Learning to discover, dissect and describe individual librarian creativity. Preseantation at the OLA SuperConference, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto, ON.

The Use of Narrative by Academic Librarians

What is it about? Narrative offers a convenient way of “packaging” instruction, both the method and the content, into cognitive structures easily assimilated by the brain. Szurmak and Thuna investigate how librarians use narrative to teach.


  • Co-investigator with Mindy Thuna.
  • Submitted and received ethics approval through to February, 2017. Co-designed research question, methodology, e-mails to librarians, and interview questions.
  • Data collection is ongoing (setting up interviews, conducting interviews, and transcribing the data.

Publications / Presentations:

Thuna, M., & Szurmak, J. (14 June, 2015). Tell us your story: The use of narrative as a conceputal framework by academic librarians. Presentation at the Workshop in Instruction in Library Use (WiLU) 2015 Conference, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL.

Thuna, M., & Szurmak, J. (24 April, 2015). Crossing thresholds in teaching with narratives. Presentation at the OCULA Spring Conference, Jordan Village, ON.

Szurmak, J., & Thuna, M. (2013). Tell me a story: The use of narrative as tool for instruction. In D. M. Mueller (Ed.), Imagine, Innovate, Inspire: The Proceedings of the ACRL 2013 Conference. Retrieved from

Pivotal Moments, Bottlenecks and Thresholds in Discipline Selection in the Sciences

What is it about? This a narrative, interview-based study of the relevance of thresholds, pivotal moments, and “bottlenecks” in the process of discipline selection in the sciences.


  • Collaborating with Mindy Thuna and Marc Laflamme.
  • Submitted a full Research Ethics proposal in April 2016. The University of Toronto Research Ethics Board is reviewing the proposal.

Presentation / Publication:

Research Ethics application for the project titled “The Relevance of Thresholds, Pivotal Moments, and Bottlenecks in Discipline Selection in the Sciences: A Narrative Investigation.”

Project was approved by the REB on April 15, 2016.