Browsing the blog archives for September, 2012

Becoming a journal editor by Dr Tseen-Ling Khoo
Posted by atarrant

Dr Tseen-Ling Khoo blogs regularly for the Research Whisperer and is currently Senior Advisor in Research Grant Development at RMIT University. Prior to joining RMIT, Tseen completed research fellowships at Monash University (2004-2010) and the University of Queensland (2001-2004). She also convenes the Asian Australian Studies Research Network (asianaustralianstudies.org; 160 members), and was editor of the Journal of Intercultural Studies (Routledge; ERA A-ranked) which she reflects on in today’s post. 

There is no better way to fast-track your grasp of academic productivity and evaluation than becoming a journal editor.

A stint as an editor for a collection of essays in a book or the role of a guest-editor for a journal will give you taste of what it’s like, but nothing can prepare you for being an ongoing journal editor.

It’s not for everyone, and its rewards can be great.

What makes a good editor?

The qualities a good editor needs are:

  • The ability to make fast, good decisions about papers or issue proposals.
  • Thoroughness with processes and around reviews and revisions.
  • Good academic network, or the potential to grow one.
  • Tenacity about doing the job well, even though it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t often get concrete rewards. It’s also the kind of role where the recognition you might get never reflects the amount of time you’ve put into it.

Given this somewhat daunting list that nudges close to martyrdom, why would you do it?

  1. Being an editor of a good journal repays you with prestige points, and you get to list it on your CV as an ‘esteem factor’.
    With your name on the mast-head of every issue and on the publication’s website, it also helps with getting your name out there consistently.
  2. You get to grow a field in your own image. Sort of.
    With journals that cover more specific topic areas, you can often manage the content such that areas you feel are neglected get more love or, if you feel they’re overrepresented (over-saturated), these topics get ‘rested’. You can tap promising early scholars to submit and have your journal associated with their probable rise through the ranks.
  3. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to work with a good, tight editorial team.
    In my experience, if you couldn’t work well with your editorial team colleagues, life as a journal editor would be hellish. I was lucky enough to have a team with whom I loved working and could have a laugh. We also had a publisher who treated us to 3-course lunches once a year. This helped.

That’s all very well, and what many academic mentors may tell you, but here’s why I say you should do it:

  1. Being a journal editor gives you a crash course in high level, on-the-job professionalism.
    You think you have editing expertise? It’s not until you are editing a constant stream of papers, revisions, and whole special issues that you appreciate what ‘being an editor’ means.a) You get an intimate perspective on how your own work may travel through a journal’s processesand start to realise the profoundly unpredictable input and schedule that’s involved in just one paper’s review. The editing skills you pick up as a journal editor feedback, of course, into the quality of your own writing and how you may pitch proposals to journals or editors in the future. You will necessarily have picked up on what kinds of things slow or expedite work through the academic journal system.b) You realise what the time pressures really are in producing publications. I had always thought I was a fairly organised and efficient worker, but it wasn’t until I became a regular editor of publications that I realised I had a shallow idea of the intricate juggling process that gets a book or journal from go to woe. If you’re lucky, you’ll have an associate/assistant editor who also works on the journal and they may well take responsibility for the lion’s share of the proofing and stylistic aspects (all hail associate editors, I say!). Still, ensuring that the publication is consistent, each piece as intellectually exciting as possible, and any glitches are addressed and accounted for (with authors and publishers) is gruelling. As a guest-editor, it’s bad enough; for an ongoing editor, multiply this by at least four.
  1. You get to see the seedy and noble sides of your colleagues.
    It would only really make sense to take up big editorial duties with a journal if the publication was in your area and fed your critical and professional knowledge. When I say “professional knowledge”, I’m not referring here to the process of editing per se; I’m talking about how you get to know the academics in your discipline. Chances are, they’re your reviewers and contributors. How do they assess their peers or deal with criticism of their own work? As I’ve written about in more detail elsewhere, you can tell a LOT about your colleagues through how they review (and are reviewed). This kind of information pays dividends immediately in your broader academic life and ‘insider’ knowledge about the personalities at play in a given field.

For me, having been an editor in various capacities (including five years at the helm of a rapidly growing quarterly journal), the experience and insight I’ve gained is invaluable.

No doubt, the time that the editing gigs took up could have been channelled into a few more papers and chapters on my CV. But there is no way I would have known as much about the academic game, or as many players in that game, as I do now.

 

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How to be a Hackademic #3 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
Posted by atarrant

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost rethink academic life and writing productivity in this on-going series of hints, tips and hacks.

 GET A HOBBY. It might seem strange for us to suggest that you should take on more projects that might be potentially distracting to your primary professional focus; however, side-projects are necessary as an outlet for preoccupations that gobble up precious mental resources. For example, if you find yourself incessantly thinking about your garden every time you sit down to write, then go work on your garden for an hour and you’ll probably be more productive when you get back to your computer. Or find a hobby that clears your mind and refreshes you in between writing sessions. Sometimes making something and seeing it progress steadily can compensate for the frustrations of editing where it can feel like you¹re taking as many steps back as forwards.

Want more tips on Hackademic? Click here!

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#acwri live chat summary. Using Twitter for academic writing. Thursday 20th September 2012
Posted by atarrant

This week the #Acwri live chat was all about using Twitter for Academic Writing. This chat was well attended and lively and encouraged a lot of discussion. A written summary of the chat can be read in todays post but if you would like to read the chat in full, which includes the key Tweets from the discussion, you can view them on Storify.

The conversation started with some reflection on why academics are using Twitter. Responses ranged from finding relevant communities of practice, keeping in touch with people efficiently and quickly, keeping networks alive, reaching a bigger audience, making connections across space and between groups, to be social, to find out about things and stay up to date, to share #acwri outputs, and to be at the intersection of multi-disciplinary conversations relevant to individual work. These responses indicate the diversity of reasons for using Twitter as an academic.

Others also consider it good for practicing concise writing (in only 140 characters), setting goals and asking questions. One user even argued that they use Twitter as a way of keeping notes (@strictlykaren).  This led to some discussion about using Twitter to link to other content, such as blogs, where discussion can continue elsewhere.

A significant thread of conversation in the early stages of the chat was that many enjoy live Tweeting from conferences, but also have some concerns about it. People question when it is appropriate to do it and how often, during a talk for fear of taking over Twitter feeds.

Challenges with Twitter writing were also explored. Errors in spelling and grammar were commonly discussed. One Tweeter felt that tweets were less coherent and bitty, rather than an argument (@spani3l). Some did not like when people swear and rant, and others dislike when individuals write lots of Tweets one after the other. @helen_kara responded to this well saying “Don’t drink (much) & Tweet”. This led to a conversation about how Twitter is used. Many use it semi-professionally or professionally. Consequently developing an academic identity on Twitter is important. Many are aware of the public nature of Twitter content and therefore the need for appropriate conduct. There was a difference in opinion about using Twitter only for professional discussion and sometimes for including more casual talk. An interesting distinction was made between the use of Twitter for work and Facebook for personal interaction.

The conversation ended with some discussion of the use of G+ (Google Plus) rather than Twitter for academic writing and communication. Conversation was described as much more natural and substantial on G+, despite the fact that less academics are currently using it than Twitter. There is some resistance to being on another social network but @spani3l likes the fact that it can be used for multiple tasks such as video conferencing and having more sustained conversations.

What are your opinions on using Twitter for academic writing? Does anyone have any experience of G+?

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Publishing your Thesis as a Book: a Question of Planning. Part Two by Karen McAulay
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Todays post by Karen McAulay follows on from her first, and discusses her experiences of publishing her thesis as a book. At the end of Part One, Karen had received the contract for writing her book and Christmas 2011 had arrived. So what next? This is when the Planning, Prep and writing really began.

Planning and Preparation

Although I hadn’t been asked to rewrite anything, I wanted to go through the manuscript with a fine toothcomb, looking for anything too wordy, unclear, or where a footnote could be pared down or incorporated into the text.  Adopting the same approach that I’d taken with my thesis, I counted the chapters, introduction, appendices and bibliography, and allocated a set portion of time to each, with a bit more for the new chapter.  So long as I kept to my own deadlines, I knew I’d be fine.  To ensure I wouldn’t come unstuck, I booked a couple of weeks’ leave from the day-job, in the run-up to submission day.

Now, I know that sometimes one fixates on trivial details as a form of procrastination.  In my case, I awoke on 2nd January, after a dreadful night’s sleep, convinced of just one thing: I needed a new laptop.  Showing resolution over and above my customary bloody-minded determination, I went online, checked the PC World website, then leapt in the car and bought one.  (In my own defence, I have to explain that my very old PC had a couple of problems that I’d been unable to resolve.  USB drives and dependable internet connections are somewhat crucial when it comes to writing a book!)

And I treated myself to a new mug (featured in the image above): ‘Writer’s block – when your imaginary friends refuse to talk to you.’  I’ve often said that I know more dead people in Edinburgh than live ones.  Since they were all getting an honourable mention in the book, I decided my ‘imaginary friends’ might just as well sit right there on my desk with me while I wrote!  I only used that mug when I was working on the book, as a point of principle.  Don’t knock it: it worked for me!

That sorted, I was able to get on with the job in hand.  I started a blog (another blog) for the purpose of monitoring my progress, in the hope that friends and colleagues would occasionally murmur the odd word of encouragement.  ‘True Imaginary Friends’ has been a useful outlet.  It provided me with somewhere I could write informally, and jot down any problems I came up against.   Such as the day I realised that the new chapter was far from the walk in the park that I’d anticipated

On the whole, the existing chapters didn’t take long to tidy up, but I had to pare down the chapter that would precede the new one, add some of the pared material to the new chapter, and rearrange the entire new chapter to accommodate the work I’d done in recent months.  Apart from the intellectual exercise involved, it was also rather time-consuming.

Time

Having a full-time job places constraints on my writing time – I’ve become used to that.  I did my PhD part-time, after all.  I just book annual leave when the need arises.  Where I nearly came unstuck, though, was when I then got the opportunity to do a few lectures at another institution.  I was already committed to the book; and to writing and presenting two conference papers; and now I had lecture-plans to prepare.  There followed an invitation to speak to a local piping society.  (Bagpipes, that is. I’m not a piper myself, but my subject interests pipers.)  Could I say no?  Certainly not!  It’s all advance publicity for the book, after all.

Images, Maps …

Whilst I had no illustrations in the thesis, I thought a few well-chosen images would enhance the book.  One per chapter … so I scanned some of my Victorian song-collections.  The scans weren’t quite up to publication quality.  I ordered up the appropriate images from the uni library.  They, and another one, had permissions to be sought.  Gradually I whittled away at the list, until there was just one problem: finding a map.  I didn’t want just any old map – it had to have the names of various Hebridean islands and key Scottish locations, but nothing else.  If you want a map drawn, Daniel Dalet, c’est l’homme – he’s the French cartographer who runs D-maps.com.  And he’s very helpful indeed!

And an Indexer

As I worked on the manuscript, questions kept occurring to me.  One concerned the indexing.  Find out what your publisher prefers: I had the choice of having the indexing fees subtracted from my royalties; doing it myself using the facilities available on a pdf; or engaging my own indexer.  Conference networking proved its worth, when I was lucky enough to be put in touch with an indexer actively looking for indexing in my general subject area.

Looking Ahead

At the time of writing, my book has an ISBN; is in editorial/production; and is advertised on Ashgate’s website.  Oh, and it has a publication date: March 2013.  It’s really happening!   There’s only one problem: what shall I write about next?

Websites and Contact Details

  • Tweet me @Karenmca
  • Email: K.McAulay@rcs.ac.uk

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Vote for this week’s #acwri topic here
Posted by atarrant

Do you have a Twitter account? Are you interested in all things academic writing? Have you got any questions or concerns about your academic writing that you want some advice about? If any, or all of these questions apply to you why not take a look at the #acwri hashtag on Twitter? Making great use of the tag is a burgeoning community of writers all discussing their writing goals and ambitions, trails and tribulations. You can get great advice from individuals at all career stages about academic writing and really benefit from sharing your own experiences. To find out more about the #acwri initiative take a look at our Live Chat page.

As part of #acwri we also run a fortnightly live chat and the next one is taking place on Twitter this Thursday, 20th September, at 8pm UK time. Please do come along and take part. We like to ensure that the #acwri community has some say in what we discuss and you can now vote for your preferred topic in the Tweet Poll below. The topic that receives the most votes will be the one we discuss on Thursday.

If you can’t make it to the chat don’t despair! We also write a summary of each chat that is posted to this site so you can still benefit from the collective learning. You can check out previous chats now in the Live Chat tab Archive.

Hope to see/meet you soon!


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How to be a Hackademic #2 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
Posted by atarrant

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost rethink academic life and writing productivity in this on-going series of hints, tips and hacks.

DON’T WASTE. Make sure that what you do outside of your professional life is both a respite and also feeds your academic work. If an extracurricular project you’re working on is monopolizing too much of your time, find a way to elevate it to a serious component of your research. For example, if you are an English professor and find yourself spending too much time making self-produced b-movies with your iPhone, why not do some research on the history of low-budget filmic experimentation. Find ways to instantly apply new discoveries or re-purpose tasks to add value. If you have a pile of grading to do, why not create a quick project that allows you to reflect on assessment? Did you just write a new bio for a conference? Where else can you put that new bio? Have you had an article rejected? Can you turn at least some of it into a blog post for a site with a large audience?

 

Want to be a full-time Hackademmic ?Get on track and read this tips.

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5 tips for publishing a book from your dissertation by Gina Neff
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Today’s post is by published author Gina Neff. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University  of Washington. She is also a Chair of the Communication and Information Technologies Section, American Sociological Association and the author of Venture Labor: Work and the Burden of Risk in Innovative Industries. You can follow her on Twitter at @ginasue.

1. A dissertation is not a book. Figure out what makes your research useful, interesting, and relevant to your field. There are obvious differences between dissertations and books, of course, but when you start to “speak” like a scholar instead of a graduate student your work and your ideas will be heard differently. The wisdom of William Germano’s From Dissertation Into Book cannot be overstated.  Repeat: cannot be overstated. If you get a rejection notice (and expect to get one) that says you should read Germano, you’ve not done your homework.

2. Get advocates for your book. Books do not publish themselves (unless you’re thinking of self-publishing, and if you are thinking such silly thoughts as a junior academic then shame on you). Books, like all cultural and media products, are produced in social networks. Figure yours out and get advocates for your book who are established within that network or scholarly community. You already have advocates for your dissertation (presumably your chair, your committee, co-panelists from professional presentations). Figure out who will support you in revisions, proposal writing, picking the right press, finding the right series, etc.

3. Focus. This is advice for both you and your manuscript. Revising a dissertation into a book is hard. Figure out what you want to say to your field, what contributions you have, and focus that into a coherent manuscript. Along the way, you’ll need to find time to focus yourself – turn off the internet, step outside of the classroom, get to the library or shut your office door, and sit down and write.

4. Think about markets. Books are products. Even if you’re in a relatively small and specialized field (or perhaps because of it) you’ll need to think about who will buy your book and why. Your potential editors will be thinking these thoughts. Does your work speak across disciplinary lines? With a little work can you make your work relevant, readable, and intelligible to interested scholars in related fields? Thinking about how the book might be marketed shouldn’t be your first or primary consideration, but it should be one thing you consider when revising your dissertation.

5. Write your book. A first book is not for your dissertation chair, your department chair, or your tenure review committee chair. Those voices, or fears of those voices, may be in your head as you tackle the difficult job of revisions. But the book is yours—own it and advocate passionately for the ideas that lead you to pursue this work in the first place.

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How to be a Hackademic #1 by Charlotte Frost & Jesse Stommel
Posted by atarrant

[Photo by Flickr user fiddle oak]
http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/6908080437/

Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost rethink academic life and writing productivity in this on-going series of hints, tips and hacks. 

WRITE. Establishing a writing lifestyle is perhaps the most important step you can take in securing your successful academic career. If you devise a routine right from the start, it’ll seem like second nature. There are all sorts of ways of doing this, but suffice to say you must build writing into your working week. In fact, preferably, you should make writing a part of your daily routine. Once you’ve gotten into the swing of things, writing will no longer seem like a chore, your productivity will increase, and you’ll excel in your field. And it really can be as simple as just pulling up a chair and writing. In fact, we’re guessing there’s a writing project you should be doing right now, so our first tip is to stop reading this and write at least 250 words on any project you have underway. And, yes, we do mean right now! Want more tips on Hackademic? Click here!

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#acwri Twitter chat. Writing with others. Thursday 6th September 2012
Posted by atarrant

This week the #Acwri live chat was all about Writing with others. Contributors to the discussions had a varied amount of experience, sharing tips, asking questions and exploring the challenges of this kind of writing. A written summary of the chat can be read in todays post but if you would like to read the chat in full, which includes the key Tweets from the discussion, you can view them on Storify.

Discussions initially focused on the advantages and disadvantages of writing with others. Advantages included the quicker speed at which writing with others could result in a final draft; the fun and stimulating nature of writing with others; bringing different perspectives to the table; developing greater understanding of topics through learning from co-authors; getting the opportunity to see others write; boosting confidence; sharing the agony of getting first words in the page and developing good academic practice showing you can work as both a leader and a team worker.

Discussion of possible disadvantages and difficulties that emerged included letting go of possessiveness over ideas; ensuring the project is suited to multiple authorship; negotiating different writing styles; working with tardy authors or those unaware of deadlines.

These kinds of discussions led to tips abut what makes for a good process for writing with others and what makes for a good co-author relationship. In terms of valuing a co-author, traits including consideration of each others’ strengths and interests; writing with others equally committed to a project and compromising were all respected.

Good processes for writing with others included initial planning of who would be involved and what would be discussed in the project; considering the author order; deciding on the role of each author before starting and deciding on process. Many felt that assigning lead authors, editors and those giving feedback was important to the organization of collaborative piece.

We discussed differences between physically writing together and working across distance. Many felt that working together in projects in the same physical space was very helpful. Anyone working with more than 2 co-authors felt this raised its own challenges and is not always desirable.

Finally it was felt that co-authorship was only achieved if both authors did more than peer review the piece and finding a voice for a piece was deemed important for developing a coherent writing style throughout. Creating a voice was considered to be the role of the first author.

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Susan Nance, the Grad School Ninja talks book publishing with an academic press
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(C) http://www.flickr.com/photos/james_scott/

Today’s post, is the third in a short multi-authored series on PhD2Published where I have been collecting hints and tips from published academic authors, all about successfully getting an academic book published.  Today’s tips are offered by Susan Nance, an Associate Professor of US History and Affiliated Faculty with the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph. Her next book, Entertaining Elephants: Animal Agency and Business in the American Circus, is due out from the Johns Hopkins University Press in January 2013. For more information, you can visit her website.

My big five principles for getting a book out with an academic press:

1. Write your manuscript as a message to the best people in your field and for those who will accept the basic premise of what you’re trying to do, even if they might argue on the details and/or will learn something from your research. Do not write for people who don’t ‘get it’ about what your basic research assumptions are.

2.  Choose the right press for your needs. Just need to get tenure? Pick a no frills press that won’t make you do endless revisions. Do you want to sell books, for course adoption or trade audience? Pick an academic press with a strong trade title list since they have existing networks to market scholarly books to trade audiences. For example, the book I’m researching now I will try to publish with a Western US university press that has a robust trade list because I want my book to appear in all the touristy gift shops and the souvenir parlors of the national parks, historical societies and local history museums where lay history readers will find them.

3. When promising manuscript deliveries, don’t set self-imposed deadlines you can’t keep. We’ve all done it, but that doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t win friends at the press.

4. Realize that you are making a big investment in the press, not just that they are investing in you. So, you have a right to have them treat you well, keep you informed of staff changes at the press, not abandon you because your editor leaves the press, give you a cut of e-book sales, publish the ebook or paperbook promptly, give you a say in the book cover design, trust you about what your audience will expect to see in the manuscript, etc.

5. Always be patient and NICE to production staff. They have more power over your book than you realize and don’t probably get paid as well as they should.

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